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YA A to Z: Siobhan Vivian

I read and reviewed Siobhan Vivian’s Same Difference for Booklist the year it was released. I was struck – I still am – by the book’s slow, deliberate unfolding of the story mirroring the unfolding and growth of the main character. I was surprised by the character, just as she was surprised by what she was growing into.

Siobhan Vivian has never shied away from these types of characters: young women who know themselves, and stretch to know themselves better. What I find really wonderful about this is that these are not easy characters to write. It’s easy to find teen characters who learn and grow – it’s kind of a thing in YA lit – but finding teen characters who are conscious of their growth, interested in stretching beyond the boxes that they have been placed in by their age, their gender, their social groups, or their society, and realistically self possessed as they do so. I love that her characters feel so real because they, like all of us, are complicated. They have dark sides, they want things they’re not supposed to want, they think things that “nice girls” don’t talk about, but they’re people we cheer for because this realness makes us know them.

Vivian is a New York native, an editor and teacher in addition to her novel writing. She can be found online, and is active on Twitter, but fun fact: there’s no Wikipedia page about her yet. So someone get on that, ok?


  • A Little Friendly Advice
  • Same Difference
  • Not That Kind of Girl
  • The List
  • Burn For Burn (with Jenny Han)
  • Fire With Fire (with Jenny Han)
  • Ashes To Ashes (with Jenny Han)

Join the conversation!  Share a post about your favorite author OR tweet us your favorite author with the tag #YAAtoZ. While we’re sharing our favorite authors, we would love to hear about yours. We all might find some new authors we haven’t heard of before. And the more authors we share, the more comprehensive and diverse the list becomes. On Twitter, we’re @TLT16, @boothheather, @robinreads, and @citesomething.

#YAAtoZ Schedule: Week 1 4: A ; 5: B ; 6: C ; 7: D  Week 2 10: E ; 11: F ; 12: G, H, I ; 13: J, K ; 14: L  Week 3 17: M ; 18: N, O ; 19: P, Q ; 20: R, S ; 21: T  Week 4 24: U ; 25: V, W ; 26: X ; 27: Y ; 28: Z

Take 5: R is for Revenge

Earlier today I reviewed The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine. In this book, there is a nice little revenge subplot. It reminded me that I wanted to finish up this post about books that have revenge themes. So here are 5 more YA titles that deal with revenge. We all want a little revenge at some time in our life.

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Publisher’s Description:
What if you’d been living your life as if you were dying—only to find out that you had your whole future ahead of you?

When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, her prognosis is grim. To maximize the time she does have, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs—however she sees fit. She convinces her friend Harvey, who she knows has always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that’s as much about revenge (humiliating her ex-boyfriend and getting back at her archnemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger). But just when Alice’s scores are settled, she goes into remission.

Now Alice is forced to face the consequences of all that she’s said and done, as well as her true feelings for Harvey. But has she caused irreparable damage to the people around her—and to the one person who matters most?

Julie Murphy’s Side Effects May Vary is a fearless and moving tour de force about love, life, and facing your own mortality

Karen’s Thoughts:
This is a really well written book where a lot of interesting things happen, including some very good character development and issues.  The idea of getting revenge on those who have wronged you as part of your bucket list was very interesting. And then – Alice goes in to remission and has to face the consequences of what she has done. SEMV is also very interesting because it explores the concept of the very angry young woman. There are lots of great Angry Young Men books – including Reality Boy by A. S. King – and it was interesting to explore the psyche of the angry young woman, especially when it is done in such a well developed way. You may not like Alice (though I actually did), but her story is compelling. You can read my complete review here.

Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

Publisher’s Description:

Postcard-perfect Jar Island is the kind of place where nobody locks their doors at night, where parents can sleep easy, knowing their daughters are tucked away safe and sound in their beds.

But bad things can happen, even to good girls . . . and sometimes, the only way to make things right is to do something wrong.

Lillia used to trust boys, but not anymore. Not after what happened this summer. And she’ll do whatever it takes to protect her little sister from the same fate.

Kat is over the rumors, the insults, the cruel jokes made at her expense. It all goes back to one person–her ex-best friend. Someone needs to teach her a lesson, and, with Lillia and Mary behind her, Kat feels up to the task.

Four years ago, Mary left Jar Island because of a boy. But she’s not the same girl anymore. Now that she’s got friends who have her back, he’s going to be in big trouble.

Three very different girls who come together to make things right. Will they go too far?

Karen’s Thoughts:
I loved the setting of this story and the way that Han and Vivian weave some paranormal elements into this tale of revenge. It’s the first book in a series, Fire with Fire is the second. As revenge stories go, this is highly entertaining and has a lot of dynamic relationships and tension. Very enjoyable and definitely recommended. I am looking forward to the next book in the series Ashes to Ashes, which comes out in September. 

Marie Antionette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender

Publisher’s Description:
Colette Iselin is excited to go to Paris on a class trip. She’ll get to soak up the beauty and culture, and maybe even learn something about her family’s French roots.

But a series of gruesome murders are taking place across the city, putting everyone on edge. And as she tours museums and palaces, Colette keeps seeing a strange vision: a pale woman in a ball gown and powdered wig, who looks suspiciously like Marie Antoinette.

Colette knows her popular, status-obsessed friends won’t believe her, so she seeks out the help of a charming French boy. Together, they uncover a shocking secret involving a dark, hidden history. When Colette realizes she herself may hold the key to the mystery, her own life is suddenly in danger . . .

Acclaimed author Katie Alender brings heart-stopping suspense to this story of revenge, betrayal, intrigue — and one killer queen.

Karen’s Thoughts:

Ghosts often want revenge and I love a good ghost story. And this one is more fascinating to me because the ghost is Marie Antoinette. I liked the ghost story aspect of the story but didn’t love other elements. But teen readers looking for a fun ghost story won’t be disappointed. 

The List by Siobhan Vivian

Publisher’s Description:
An intense look at the rules of high school attraction — and the price that’s paid for them.

It happens every year. A list is posted, and one girl from each grade is chosen as the prettiest, and another is chosen as the ugliest. Nobody knows who makes the list. It almost doesn’t matter. The damage is done the minute it goes up.

This is the story of eight girls, freshman to senior, “pretty” and “ugly.” And it’s also the story of how we see ourselves, and how other people see us, and the tangled connection of the two

Karen’s Thoughts:

This is a really well done look at the high school pecking order. I highly recommend it. If I am remembering correctly, Vivian based it in part on some true events that were covered in the news. Told from alternating points of view, The List will remind anyone out of high school why they never want to go back. And teens who are trying to run the gauntlet that is high school right now will definitely identify and want to discuss. This is a must read.

Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke

Publisher’s Description:
From international phenomenon Cornelia Funke, the bestselling author of Reckless and Inkheart.

Eleven-year-old Jon Whitcroft never expected to enjoy boarding school. Then again, he never expected to be confronted by a pack of vengeful ghosts, either. And then he meets Ella, a quirky new friend with a taste for adventure…

Together, Jon and Ella must work to uncover the secrets of a centuries-old murder while being haunted by terrifying spirits, their bloodless faces set on revenge. So when Jon summons the ghost of the late knight Longspee for his protection, there’s just one question: Can Longspee truly be trusted?

Karen’s Thoughts:
More vengeful ghosts! Technically, this book is MG lit. I checked it out but haven’t read it yet, oops. Publisher’s Weekly said, “Despite the book’s length, the story moves quickly, filled with daring midnight expeditions and close calls with death.” (Publisher’s Weekly 3/19/2012).

Now it’s your turn to share: What are your favorite revenge stories? Please leave a comment and let others know. We’re all looking for a good revenge story to read.

Top 10 Tuesday: Body Image and Eating Disorders

Yesterday we talked about The List by Siobhan Vivian.  One detail that didn’t come fully to light in our coverage is the story of Bridget, who develops an eating disorder.  Her description on the “list” says this: what a difference a summer makes.  What they don’t know is how she lost that weight over the summer, and how that statement affects her downward spiral.  I felt that Bridget’s story, her story of how she counted calories and avoided food, was a thoughtful depiction of anorexia that rang true.  So today, in honor of The List by Siobhan Vivian, and in honor of teens everywhere trying to learn to love their bodies, we have put together this Top 10 List of books on Body Image and Eating Disorders.  Click the book cover and it will take you to the books Goodreads summary or TLT review.

“Dead girl walking,” the boys say in the halls.
“Tell us your secret,” the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.
Bridget Honeycutt –
What a difference a summer can make
“My subject will be shame.”
“She was fat. Worse than that, she was a monster. A five-foot-four-ninety-eight-pound monster.” Chap. 1, p. 10
“There’s this part in the book, the first time he trhows up, where Charlie is just miserable. And I remember while I was writing that, that he just wanted relief, even if it was temporary, of the pain he was dealing with, specifically his ever eating, generally his life, and suddenly I knew how Charlie was going to deal with all of it.” – Jenny Torres Sanchez
“I am the middle sister. The one in between. Not oldest, not youngest, not boldest, not nicest. I am the shade of gray, the glass half empty or full, depending on your view. In my life, there has been little that I have done first or better than the one preceding or following me. Of all of us, though, I am the only one who has been broken.” 
“Anorexia . . . is not something to be ashamed of. It’s not something to be proud of. It isn’t anybody’s ‘fault.’ It’s an illness – a life-threatening illness – and it’s treatable.” – afterword
Do you ever get hungry? Too hungry to eat?
For more books on Body Image and Eating Disorders, check out the user created list at GoodReads or the Bare Bones list at Reading Rants! Out of the Ordinary Booklists.
Be sure and leave us a comment telling us what you think about these books, or share a book you think we missed.

The Feminist in Me by Siobhan Vivian (guest post)

High school can be cruel.  Everyone wants to put a label on you: Jock, Geek, Loner, Stoner, Prep.  There are even school sanctioned labels: Most Likely to Succeed, Prom Queen.  Labels, sometimes, can make or break us.  How do we live up to them – or live them down?  Today we are honored to have a guest blog post by the talented ya author Siobhan Vivian.  What label does she give herself? And how did you she come to write the amazing THE LIST?  Read on to find out.
I am a feminist.
And though that facet of my personality might not be the first thing you pick up on when you meet me, I do hope it’s a theme you see present in all my young adult novels. Real girls, real problems. That’s always been my inspiration, where I set my moral compass as a writer. And in my new novel, THE LIST, it is front and center.

THE LIST takes place at a typical American high school called Mount Washington, where they have an annual tradition. Every year, on the Monday before homecoming, an anonymous person hangs a “list” all over school. Copies are stapled to locker doors, hidden in homeroom desks, hung on bathroom mirrors.
On this list are the names of eight girls…those deemed to be the “prettiest” and the “ugliest” of each grade.

But let me rewind just a bit.

It was 2009, and I came across a news story on Good Morning America, about a high school in New Jersey not far from where I grew up. The media had found out about a tradition, one that had gone on for years and years and years, where a secret group of senior girls would make a list targeting the freshmen girls.
This had gone on for about fifteen years without much in the way of authority intervention. But someone leaked this particular years’ list to the media. And they jumped all over it. No matter how hard the principal of the school tried, he could not get any of the girls to give up who, exactly, had written this list.
This particular list at this particular school was more sexual in nature. And, it’s important to note that the things these senior girls were writing were completely made up. Some of the digs were terribly mean and cruel. But some were a little more flattering, if you can imagine. Think about the way some girls use the word “slut” as a term of endearment.
Obviously, it’s no surprise that girls can be cruel to each other. But what really struck me were the reactions to this media scrutiny from the girls at this high school. They flooded the comments sections of these articles. Some were happy that people were finally bringing this terrible tradition to light. Others thought this was a big fuss about nothing.
And then I spotted this comment. 
“I know a lot of girls were upset because they weren’t on the list.”
That to me showed a real power; that the judgments of a group of anonymous people could hold so much sway. Some girls were so desperate to be seen, to be singled out in any context was something to aspire to.
Now, I had already written about the judgments that teen girls face in regards to their sexuality in NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL. But there was something really interesting and sticky about this story. I couldn’t let it go.

And, when I thought about it a bit more, I noticed that though this particular list was billed as a “slut list’ it was actually based more on appearances. “Pretty” girls had kind things written about them, “ugly” girls had mean, jokey things written about them.

So I made up a character named Jennifer, who’d basically been called ugly her whole life. I wanted her to have been put on the yearly list, named the ugliest girl in her class for four years straight. And then, for senior year of homecoming, that something similar might happen to her.

I pitched it to my editor, David Levithan, who loved it.

But then he said, “Well…what about the other seven girls on the list? What’s their story?”

And suddenly, my very small book became a lot bigger.

My book features eight girls. The novel follows each of them for one week in their lives. It’s basically eight short stories. And to make these girls real, I realized I would need to go beyond Jennifer’s experience and dig into my own issues with beauty and identity.

As much as I was accepted in high school (I was loud, I was funny) I was also very much an outcast.

The more I thought about my own high school experience, I realized that there were so many times where the difference between feeling pretty and ugly was so precariously thin.
I’ve always been inspired by THE CHOCOLATE WAR. It’s a wonderful book and very, very, accurately captures the struggles of peer pressures on young men.

To me, the war that girls are facing today is the pressure to be considered beautiful.

They are looking for a definitive answer. One that would dictate who they are and how they should feel about themselves.

We’ve always been told that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The girls of today are seeking validation. To be considered beautiful equaled permission to be confidant, to be proud, that you have worth.

I am hoping that my book can start a dialog that brings them to understand that it can’t be a random survey. It can’t be something we seek outward.

Ultimately, I want my readers to end THE LIST and think about the impact that these issues has on their lives. Are they the ones who judge? And are they also judged? And how does that affect them?

If we are able to reinforce girls from the inside out, we make them more powerful. And as a feminist, I couldn’t imagine a better outcome.

About Siobhan

Siobhan Vivian was born in New York City on January 12, 1979 . . . which might sound like a long time ago, but really isn’t. She grew up in Rutherford, NJ, where she got into trouble for such things as constantly talking out of turn, bringing a stray dog into school in a stolen shopping cart, passing notes to her friends, telling jokes, sneaking out, and not doing her homework.

Siobhan attended The University of the Arts, where she graduated with a degree in Writing for Film and Television. She received her MFA in Creative Writing: Children’s Literature from The New School University.

Siobhan has worked as an editor of several New York Times best-selling novels at Alloy Entertainment, a scriptwriter for The Disney Channel, and she currently teaches Writing Youth Literature at the University of Pittsburgh.  Visit Siobhan at her webpage or follow her on Twitter @siobhanvivan.  Be sure to check out her other ya titles A Little Friendly Advice, Same Difference and Not That Kind of Girl.