Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Cindy Crushes Programming: Virtual Author Visits, by Teen Librarian Cindy Shutts

We, at the White Oak Library, have had two virtual author visits, one by local author, Diana Estell, and Alex Sanchez last Saturday. Having author visits virtually is a lot of fun and something we look forward to doing again. Faith Healy, our Crest Hill Branch Teen Librarian, hosted them. I invited her to give us some tips.

  1. How do you set up author visits?

Well, each author visit was a bit different. The first one was a local author, Diana Estell, who reached out to me and I thought it would be a good virtual program to offer our teens to see how someone from our area can be an author. The local author was happy to do the event for free, so I definitely recommend that if you know of local authors, reach out  to them.  The other, Alex Sanchez, I reached out to. A co-worker had told me he did a few virtual visits for libraries and I should reach out. I was excited especially when I realized he had written one of my favorite GN that I have read in 2020. You Brought Me the Ocean.  From there, I emailed him not thinking I would hear back at all, but got an email the next day. We worked out dates, prices, times. I tried to make it as easy for him as for me. He was great to work with and always got back within 24 hours.

  1. We use Zoom, What setting do we use to help keep the authors safe from Zoom bombing?

For Zoom we used the webinar setting, not my favorite setting, but authors tend to prefer it. It allows for them to be the viewpoint without a bunch of cameras distracting the audience. My issue with it is that it fails to notify you when the audience enters. When we first did it, we were casually talking until someone typed in chat that they could see us. I always do Zoom events with at least one other co-worker. One person focuses on talking to the author, the other can look over chat and kick out anyone who is being negative.  Make sure when in the webinar you make the second person your co-host so they have that power.

  1. What types of questions do you like to ask? Do you go over them with the author beforehand? 

Coming up with questions is the worst part about doing author visits, at least for me. You want to do interesting questions, but keep them relevant to the author, but have them be interesting to the audience. You don’t want to be intrusive at the same time. You are trying to get them to open up.  A lot of authors do so many of these events that you want some questions about the writing process, but you don’t want every question to be one they have heard before. I saw so many articles and websites about what questions to not ask authors and what are interesting author questions.

One thing that helps me is finding articles/interviews that the author did and seeing what questions they gave really in depth answers, one or more that is vague and use that as a starting point to build off of. You want questions about the writing process, but also questions that help the audience know that person. Even something silly like their favorite beverage is a good ice breaker. I also always send off the list of questions to the authors so they have a chance to come up with answers or have an idea about what to talk about as well as let me know if they are uncomfortable with answering any questions. I always put the author’s comfort level first. Don’t forget you always have audience questions. If you feel like a topic was so heavy and want to lighten it up, go to the audience for any questions. This is where having 3 people is useful if you don’t have a responsive audience, that third co-worker can help by typing in a question.

  1. What is the most rewarding part of having an author visit virtual?

The audience response. For each author visit we always had one or more teens that this really left a definite impact on. For our local author, we had a teen interested in writing their own book in the future and it opened up the possibility for them, they asked so many questions. For Alex Sanchez, we had a fan who was grateful to get the opportunity to thank Alex for his books that help them. Small or large audience, if it made an impact on just one person it is worth it.

  1. Did you have any tech mishaps?

Our local author was my first time doing the webinar format and I had no idea what I was doing or why. At one point there were three people named Faith Healy in the event to my utter confusion. Plus as mentioned before we had no idea that there was no wait room like when doing a webinar. Before your webinar you can practice, which I think is a must for you so you know where everything is plus you can test your internet connection. We almost lost our author for a few seconds,  it was just a weak connection thankfully.

  1. What are your big tips for having virtual author visits?

Reach out to those super cool authors that you think you could never get. With virtual visits it makes the cost so much less, plus authors love libraries and are always willing to do it at a lower rate if possible. Instead of an hour, then you ask if they can do 45 minutes for less. For our program with Alex we offered a free copy of You Brought Me the Ocean as a raffle prize and incentive, I did ask Alex if he would mind sending a signed note or something simple. He sent an awesome bookplate with his signature and the illustrator’s too. I was so thrilled and happy to show it off at the program. Don’t expect freebies from the author though. I made sure Alex knew that he could say no and I would not be insulted. If you are not comfortable asking an author for more than the visit don’t. Be at your comfort level.

Also I would script out an introduction. Let the audience know who the author is, why they are important and show off some of their books, especially ones in the collection. I made a powerpoint slide to show those off since I am a more visual person and to let Alex know we love his books! I only showed it as an introduction  and then took it down so we can focus on Alex. Instead of lecture format, I would do a more Q&A type of deal. Our audience enjoyed it when it flowed like a conversation rather than a lecture plus it was easier for us to input audience questions when it flowed that way. Some authors might be more comfortable with a lecture format though it all depends. I hope this helps, I think virtual visits are one of the few good things to emerge from the pandemic.

Thank you Faith for your time! I LOVED WORKING WITH YOU ON OUR AUTHOR VISITS. It was so much fun!

Cindy Shutts, MLIS

Cindy is passionate about teen services. She loves dogs, pro-wrestling, Fairy tales, mythology, and of course reading. Her favorite books are The Hate U Give, Catching FIre, The Royals, and everything by Cindy Pon. She loves spending times with her dog Harry Winston and her niece and nephew. Cindy Shutts is the Teen Services Librarian at the White Oak Library District in IL and she’ll be joining us to talk about teen programming. You can follow her on Twitter at @cindysku.

2021 YA Books To Have On Your Radar (part two)

Have you looked at what’s coming up in the rest of 2021? So many excellent books!

This list is heavy on the contemporary fiction. It’s what I like best. I’m not saying there are no good fantasy or sci-fi or whatever books—this is just my personal list of anticipated reads. I scrolled through various lists for a looong time and eventually decided I had to stop adding things to my list and seeking out more information. I’m sure I missed plenty of things that I, personally, would be very excited about. Thank goodness the internet and publishers will make sure I don’t overlook great books as release dates get closer! Hop on over here to see the list from the first half of the year.

Hop in the comments or catch me on Twitter @CiteSomething and tell me what you are excited to read in the rest of 2021!

All descriptions from the publishers or Goodreads summaries.

Blackout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, Nicola Yoon (ISBN-13: 9780063088092 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 06/22/2021, Ages 13-17)

Six critically acclaimed, bestselling, and award-winning authors bring the glowing warmth and electricity of Black teen love to this interlinked novel of charming, hilarious, and heartwarming stories that shine a bright light through the dark.

A summer heatwave blankets New York City in darkness. But as the city is thrown into confusion, a different kind of electricity sparks…

A first meeting. 

Long-time friends. 

Bitter exes. 

And maybe the beginning of something new.

When the lights go out, people reveal hidden truths. Love blossoms, friendship transforms, and new possibilities take flight.

Beloved authors—Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon—celebrate the beauty of six couples and the unforgettable magic that can be found on a sweltering starry night in the city.

This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron (ISBN-13: 9781547603909 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 06/29/2021, Ages 13-17)

Darkness blooms in bestselling author Kalynn Bayron’s new contemporary fantasy about a girl with a unique and deadly power.

Briseis has a gift: she can grow plants from tiny seeds to rich blooms with a single touch.

When Briseis’s aunt dies and wills her a dilapidated estate in rural New York, Bri and her parents decide to leave Brooklyn behind for the summer. Hopefully there, surrounded by plants and flowers, Bri will finally learn to control her gift. But their new home is sinister in ways they could never have imagined—it comes with a specific set of instructions, an old-school apothecary, and a walled garden filled with the deadliest botanicals in the world that can only be entered by those who share Bri’s unique family lineage.

When strangers begin to arrive on their doorstep, asking for tinctures and elixirs, Bri learns she has a surprising talent for creating them. One of the visitors is Marie, a mysterious young woman who Bri befriends, only to find that Marie is keeping dark secrets about the history of the estate and its surrounding community. There is more to Bri’s sudden inheritance than she could have imagined, and she is determined to uncover it . . . until a nefarious group comes after her in search of a rare and dangerous immortality elixir. Up against a centuries-old curse and the deadliest plant on earth, Bri must harness her gift to protect herself and her family.

From the bestselling author of Cinderella Is Dead comes another inspiring and deeply compelling story about a young woman with the power to conquer the dark forces descending around her.

Summer in the City of Roses by Michelle Ruiz Keil (ISBN-13: 9781641291712 Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated Publication date: 07/06/2021, Ages 14-17)

Inspired by the Greek myth of Iphigenia and the Grimm fairy tale “Brother and Sister,” Michelle Ruiz Keil’s second novel follows two siblings torn apart and struggling to find each other in early ’90s Portland.

All her life, seventeen-year-old Iph has protected her sensitive younger brother, Orr. But this summer, with their mother gone at an artist residency, their father decides it’s time for fifteen-year-old Orr to toughen up at a wilderness boot camp. When their father brings Iph to a work gala in downtown Portland and breaks the news, Orr has already been sent away against his will. Furious at her father’s betrayal, Iph storms off and gets lost in the maze of Old Town. Enter George, a queer Robin Hood who swoops in on a bicycle, bow and arrow at the ready, offering Iph a place to hide out while she tracks down Orr. 

Orr, in the meantime, has escaped the camp and fallen in with The Furies, an all-girl punk band, and moves into the coat closet of their ramshackle pink house. In their first summer apart, Iph and Orr must learn to navigate their respective new spaces of music, romance, and sex-work activism—and find each other before a fantastical transformation fractures their family forever. 

Told through a lens of magical realism and steeped in myth, Summer in the City of Roses is a dazzling tale about the pain and beauty of growing up.

Radha & Jai’s Recipe for Romance by Nisha Sharma (ISBN-13: 9780553523294 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 07/13/2021, Ages 14-17)

To All the Boys I Loved Before meets World of Dance in this delectable love story that combines food, dance, and a hint of drama to cook up the perfect romance.

Radha is on the verge of becoming one of the greatest kathak dancers in the world . . . until a family betrayal costs her the biggest competition of her life. Now she has left her Chicago home behind to follow her stage mom to New Jersey. At the Princeton Academy of the Arts, Radha is determined to leave performing in her past and reinvent herself from scratch.

Jai is captain of the Bollywood Beats dance team, ranked first in his class, and is an overachiever with no college plans. Tight family funds means medical school is a pipe dream, which is why he wants to make the most out of high school. When Radha enters his life, he realizes she’s the exact ingredient he needs for a show-stopping senior year.

With careful choreography, both Radha and Jai will need to face their fears (and their families) if they want a taste of a happily ever after.

Vampires, Hearts & Other Dead Things by Margie Fuston (ISBN-13: 9781534474574 Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books Publication date: 08/24/2021, Ages 12-18)

In this heart-wrenching debut YA novel that’s The Coldest Girl in Coldtownmeets They Both Die at the End, a teen girl takes a trip to New Orleans with her estranged best friend to find a vampire to save her dying father.

Victoria and her dad have shared a love of the undead since the first vampire revealed his existence on live TV. Public fear soon drove the vampires back into hiding, yet Victoria and her father still dream about finding a vampire together. But when her dad is diagnosed with terminal cancer, it’s clear that’s not going to happen. Instead, Victoria vows to find a vampire herself—so that she can become one and then save her father.

Armed with research, speculations, and desperation—and helped by her estranged best friend, Henry—Victoria travels to New Orleans in search of a miracle. There she meets Nicholas, a mysterious young man who might give her what she desires. But first, he needs Victoria to prove she loves life enough to live forever. 

She agrees to complete a series of challenges, from scarfing sugar-drenched beignets to singing with a jazz band, all to show she has what it takes to be immortal. But truly living while her father is dying feels like a betrayal. Victoria must figure out how to experience joy and grief at once, trusting all the while that Nicholas will hold up his end of the bargain…because the alternative is too impossible to imagine.

Your Life Has Been Delayed by Michelle I. Mason (ISBN-13: 9781547604081 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 08/24/2021, Ages 12-17)

Past and present collide in a captivating YA debut about a girl who takes off on a flight and lands . . . twenty-five years later.

When Jenny boards her flight back from New York, the biggest things on her mind are applying to Columbia and reuniting with her brand-new boyfriend. But when she and the other passengers disembark in St. Louis, they’re told that their plane disappeared-twenty-five years ago. Everyone thought they were dead.

The world has fast-forwarded. Three of her grandparents are gone, her parents are old, and her “little” brother is now an adult. There’s so much she’s missed out on, not the least iPhones, social media, and pop culture. When some surprising information comes to light, Jenny feels betrayed by her family and once-best friend. She’s also fighting her attraction to Dylan, a cute and kind classmate who has an unusual connection to her past. And then there’s the growing contingent of conspiracy theorists determined to prove that Flight 237 hides a sinister truth. Will Jenny figure out how to move forward, or will she always be stuck in the past?

Debut author Michelle I. Mason offers a smart and funny high-concept debut about the most unbelievable of life changes-and the parts of yourself that can always stay the same.

We Are Not Broken by George M Johnson (ISBN-13: 9780759554603 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Publication date: 09/07/2021, Ages 14-18)

George M. Johnson, activist and bestselling author of All Boys Aren’t Blue, returns with a striking memoir that celebrates Black boyhood and brotherhood in all its glory.

This is the vibrant story of George, Garrett, Rall, and Rasul — four children raised by Nanny, their fiercely devoted grandmother. The boys hold one another close through early brushes with racism, memorable experiences at the family barbershop, and first loves and losses. And with Nanny at their center, they are never broken.

George M. Johnson capture the unique experience of growing up as a Black boy in America, and their rich family stories — exploring themes of vulnerability, sacrifice, and culture — are interspersed with touching letters from the grandchildren to their beloved matriarch. By turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, this personal account is destined to become a modern classic of emerging adulthood.

The Jasmine Project by Meredith Ireland (ISBN-13: 9781534477025 Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers Publication date: 09/07/2021, Ages 12-18)

Jenny Han meets The Bachelorette in this effervescent romantic comedy about a teen Korean American adoptee who unwittingly finds herself at the center of a competition for her heart, as orchestrated by her overbearing, loving family.

Jasmine Yap’s life is great. Well, it’s okay. She’s about to move in with her long-time boyfriend, Paul, before starting a nursing program at community college—all of which she mostly wants. But her stable world is turned upside down when she catches Paul cheating. To her giant, overprotective family, Paul’s loss is their golden ticket to showing Jasmine that she deserves much more. The only problem is, Jasmine refuses to meet anyone new.

But…what if the family set up a situation where she wouldn’t have to know? A secret Jasmine Project.

The plan is simple: use Jasmine’s graduation party as an opportunity for her to meet the most eligible teen bachelors in Orlando. There’s no pressure for Jasmine to choose anyone, of course, but the family hopes their meticulously curated choices will show Jasmine how she should be treated. And maybe one will win her heart.

But with the family fighting for their favorites, bachelors going rogue, and Paul wanting her back, the Jasmine Project may not end in love but total, heartbreaking disaster.

The Lost Girls: A Vampire Revenge Story by Sonia Hartl (ISBN-13: 9781645673149 Publisher: Page Street Publishing Publication date: 09/14/2021, Ages 14-17)

Getting over Your Vampire Ex is as Easy as Killing Him and Stealing His Girlfriend

Holly Liddell has been stuck with crimped hair since 1987 when she agreed to let her boyfriend, Elton, turn her into a vampire. But when he ditches her at a gas station a few decades into their eternity together, she realizes that being young forever actually means working graveyard shifts at Taco Bell, sleeping in seedy motels, and being supernaturally compelled to follow your ex from town to town—at least until Holly meets Elton’s other exes.

It seems that Holly isn’t the only girl Elton seduced into this wretched existence. He turned Ida in 1921, then Rose in 1954, and he abandoned them both before Holly was even born. Now Rose and Ida want to kill him before he can trick another girl into eternal adolescence, and they’ll need Holly’s help to do it. And once Holly starts falling for Elton’s vulnerable new conquest, Parker, she’ll do anything to save her.

To kill Elton for good, Holly and her friends will have to dig up their pasts, rob a bank, and reconcile with the people they’ve hurt in their search for eternal love. And to win the girl, Holly will have to convince Parker that she’s more than just Elton’s crazy ex—even though she is trying to kill him.

Things We Couldn’t Say by Jay Coles (ISBN-13: 9781338734188 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 09/21/2021, Ages 12+)

From one of the brightest and most acclaimed new lights in YA fiction, a fantastic new novel about a bi Black boy finding first love . . . and facing the return of the mother who abandoned his preacher family when he was nine.

There’s always been a hole in Gio’s life. Not because he’s into both guys and girls. Not because his father has some drinking issues. Not because his friends are always bringing him their drama. No, the hole in Gio’s life takes the shape of his birth mom, who left Gio, his brother, and his father when Gio was nine years old. For eight years, he never heard a word from her . . . and now, just as he’s started to get his life together, she’s back.

It’s hard for Gio to know what to do. Can he forgive her like she wants to be forgiven? Or should he tell her she lost her chance to be in his life? Complicating things further, Gio’s started to hang out with David, a new guy on the basketball team. Are they friends? More than friends? At first, Gio’s not sure . . . especially because he’s not sure what he wants from anyone right now.

There are no easy answers to love — whether it’s family love or friend love or romantic love. In Things We Couldn’t Say, Jay Coles, acclaimed author of Tyler Johnson Was Here, shows us a guy trying to navigate love in all its ambiguity — hoping at the other end he’ll be able to figure out who is and who he should be.

You’d Be Home Now by Kathleen Glasgow (ISBN-13: 9780525708049 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 09/28/2021, Ages 14-17)

From the New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Pieces comes a breathtaking story about a town, its tragedies, and the quiet beauty of everyday life.

For all of Emory’s life she’s been told who she is. In town she’s the rich one—the great-great-granddaughter of the mill’s founder. At school she’s hot Maddie Ward’s younger sister. And at home, she’s the good one, her stoner older brother Joey’s babysitter. Everything was turned on its head, though, when she and Joey were in the car accident that killed Candy MontClaire. The car accident that revealed just how bad Joey’s drug habit was. 

Four months later, Emmy’s junior year is starting, Joey is home from rehab, and the entire town of Mill Haven is still reeling from the accident. Everyone’s telling Emmy who she is, but so much has changed, how can she be the same person? Or was she ever that person at all? 

Mill Haven wants everyone to live one story, but Emmy’s beginning to see that people are more than they appear. Her brother, who might not be “cured,” the popular guy who lives next door, and most of all, many “ghostie” addicts who haunt the edges of the town. People spend so much time telling her who she is—it might be time to decide for herself.

Inspired by the American classic Our Town, You’d Be Home Now is Kathleen Glasgow’s glorious modern story of a town and the secret lives people live there. And the story of a girl, figuring out life in all its pain and beauty and struggle and joy.

Why We Fly by Kimberly Jones, Gilly Segal (ISBN-13: 9781492678922 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 10/05/2021, Ages 14-17)

From the New York Times bestselling authors of I’m Not Dying with You Tonightcomes a story about friendship, privilege, sports, and protest.

With a rocky start to senior year, cheerleaders and lifelong best friends Eleanor and Chanel have a lot on their minds. Eleanor is still in physical therapy months after a serious concussion from a failed cheer stunt. Chanel starts making questionable decisions to deal with the mounting pressure of college applications. But they have each other’s backs—just as always, until Eleanor’s new relationship with star quarterback Three starts a rift between them.

Then, the cheer squad decides to take a knee at the season’s first football game, and what seemed like a positive show of solidarity suddenly shines a national spotlight on the team—and becomes the reason for a larger fallout between the girls. As Eleanor and Chanel grapple with the weight of the consequences as well as their own problems, can the girls rely on the friendship they’ve always shared?

You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith (ISBN-13: 9781335405685 Publisher: Inkyard Press Publication date: 11/02/2021, Ages 12+)

No one ever said love would be easy…but did they mention it would be freezing?

Adam Stillwater is in over his head. At least, that’s what his best friend would say. And his mom. And the guy who runs the hardware store down the street. But this pinball arcade is the only piece of his dad that Adam has left, and he’s determined to protect it from Philadelphia’s newest tech mogul, who wants to turn it into another one of his cold, lifeless gaming cafés.

Whitney Mitchell doesn’t know how she got here. Her parents split up. Her boyfriend dumped her. Her friends seem to have changed overnight. And now she’s spending her senior year running social media for her dad’s chain of super successful gaming cafés—which mostly consists of trading insults with that decrepit old pinball arcade across town.

But when a huge snowstorm hits, Adam and Whitney suddenly find themselves trapped inside the arcade. Cut off from their families, their worlds, and their responsibilities, the tension between them seems to melt away, leaving something else in its place. But what happens when the storm stops?

You’ve Reached Sam: A Novel by Dustin Thao (ISBN-13: 9781250762030 Publisher: St. Martin’s Publishing Group Publication date: 11/02/2021, Ages 12-18)

If I Stay meets Your Name in Dustin Thao’s You’ve Reached Sam, a heartfelt novel about love and loss and what it means to say goodbye.

How do you move forward when everything you love in on the line?

Seventeen-year-old Julie has her future all planned out—move out of her small town with her boyfriend Sam, attend college in the city, spend a summer in Japan. But then Sam dies. And everything changes. Desperate to hear his voice one more time, Julie calls Sam’s cellphone just to listen to his voicemail. And Sam picks up the phone.

What would you do if you had a second chance at goodbye?

Filled with a diverse cast of characters, the heartache of first love and loss, and the kind of friends that can get you through anything, plus a touch of magic, You’ve Reached Sam will make an instant connection with anyone looking for a big emotional romance of a read.

A Universe of Wishes: A We Need Diverse Books Anthology by Dhonielle Clayton (Editor) (ISBN-13: 9781984896209 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 12/08/2020, Ages 14-17)

From We Need Diverse Books, the organization behind Flying Lessons & Other Stories, comes a young adult fantasy short story collection featuring some of the best own-voices children’s authors, including New York Times bestselling authors Libba Bray (The Diviners), V. E. Schwab (A Darker Shade of Magic),Natalie C. Parker (Seafire), and many more. Edited by Dhonielle Clayton (The Belles).

In the fourth collaboration with We Need Diverse Books, fifteen award-winning and celebrated diverse authors deliver stories about a princess without need of a prince, a monster long misunderstood, memories that vanish with a spell, and voices that refuse to stay silent in the face of injustice. This powerful and inclusive collection contains a universe of wishes for a braver and more beautiful world.

AUTHORS INCLUDE: Samira Ahmed, Jenni Balch, Libba Bray, Dhonielle Clayton, Zoraida Córdova, Tessa Gratton, Kwame Mbalia, Anna-Marie McLemore, Tochi Onyebuchi, Mark Oshiro, Natalie C. Parker, Rebecca Roanhorse, V. E. Schwab, Tara Sim, Nic Stone

Book Review: Love & Other Natural Disasters by Misa Sugiura

Publisher’s description

This delightfully disastrous queer YA rom-com is a perfect read for fans of Jenny Han, Morgan Matson, and Sandhya Menon.

When Nozomi Nagai pictured the ideal summer romance, a fake one wasn’t what she had in mind.

That was before she met the perfect girl. Willow is gorgeous, glamorous, and…heartbroken? And when she enlists Nozomi to pose as her new girlfriend to make her ex jealous, Nozomi is a willing volunteer.

Because Nozomi has a master plan of her own: one to show Willow she’s better than a stand-in, and turn their fauxmance into something real. But as the lies pile up, it’s not long before Nozomi’s schemes take a turn toward disaster…and maybe a chance at love she didn’t plan for.

Amanda’s thoughts

Will I ever get sick of the “fake dating” trope? Nope. Never. There’s just so much room for so many things to go wrong with this probably pretty awful idea. And in this book, things both go as planned and hoped for and in completely surprising (to the characters) directions.

Nozomi, who is queer and Japanese American, is excited to leave Illinois for the summer and spend it with her uncles in San Francisco, helping out at the museum where one of her uncles works. It’s a chance for a summer of transformation, where no one knows her and she can be/become whoever she feels like being. And after she meets Willow, who’s devastated from a recent breakup, the person Nozomi decides to become is Willow’s fake girlfriend. Maybe they can make Willow’s ex, Arden, realize what she’s missing out on. Except, uh-oh, Nozomi actually super likes Willow and hopes that the fake dating will lead to real dating. Definitely a great plan when the girl you’re fake dating is obsessively sad about her ex, right? Right….

Meanwhile, there’s a lot of other things going on. Nozomi’s parents are divorcing and there’s a lot she doesn’t know and a lot she needs to process. Her grandmother, also in San Francisco, is dealing with increasingly bad dementia and the family is trying to convince her to move to an assisted living complex. Nozomi loves her grandma but also knows that her grandma has held incredibly homophobic views and Nozomi worries she will never be able to let her grandma know her full self. And then there’s Dela, a surly teenage artist who Nozomi ends up spending a lot of time with after she accidentally ruins some of Dela’s art installation. Oh, and Dela is now dating Arden, Willow’s ex. Got all that?

The “natural disasters” part of this title is apt. So much of this book is like watching something bad coming from far away and being like, come on, you see this thing is going to come stir everything up or knock things over, get to safety! But instead of safety—making reasonable choices like not desperately hoping a girl hung up on her ex will like you—the characters just walk right into the oncoming storm. And you know what? That’s adolescence, right? And for a while things go okay. And even unexpectedly great. Maybe. Kind of. Because a weird thing that happens when you get excited because no one knows you and you can be anyone, the funny thing that you end up learning is that it’s always best to be yourself. That being who other people try to make you or pretending doesn’t feel good. Nozomi has to grapple with understanding what she actually wants. She has to think about how to be the best version of herself. And, most importantly, she learns that it’s okay to follow your heart, even when that path changes, and not to give up on people. Things don’t always go how you think they will and love doesn’t always solve everything. A great read with lots of depth, humor, and heart.

Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780062991232
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/08/2021
Age Range: 13 – 17 Years

New Horror to Read This Summer; By Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

Here’s a look at some horror published in 2021 that you may want to check out. I’m a fan of some good horror and mystery/thriller/suspense, so I thought I would share some things on my TBR list.

The Woods Are Always Watching by Stephanie Perkins

A traditional backwoods horror story set–first page to last–in the woods of the Pisgah National Forest in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Two girls go backpacking in the woods. Things go very wrong.

And, then, their paths collide with a serial killer.

This one comes out on August 3, 2021

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould

The Dark has been waiting for far too long, and it won’t stay hidden any longer.

Something is wrong in Snakebite, Oregon. Teenagers are disappearing, some turning up dead, the weather isn’t normal, and all fingers seem to point to TV’s most popular ghost hunters who have just returned to town. Logan Ortiz-Woodley, daughter of TV’s ParaSpectors, has never been to Snakebite before, but the moment she and her dads arrive, she starts to get the feeling that there’s more secrets buried here than they originally let on.

Ashley Barton’s boyfriend was the first teen to go missing, and she’s felt his presence ever since. But now that the Ortiz-Woodleys are in town, his ghost is following her and the only person Ashley can trust is the mysterious Logan. When Ashley and Logan team up to figure out who—or what—is haunting Snakebite, their investigation reveals truths about the town, their families, and themselves that neither of them are ready for. As the danger intensifies, they realize that their growing feelings for each other could be a light in the darkness.

This title also comes out on August 3, 2021

Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart

Divided by their order. United by their vengeance.

Iraya has spent her life in a cell, but every day brings her closer to freedom – and vengeance.

Jazmyne is the Queen’s daughter, but unlike her sister before her, she has no intention of dying to strengthen her mother’s power.

Sworn enemies, these two witches enter a precarious alliance to take down a mutual threat. But power is intoxicating, revenge is a bloody pursuit, and nothing is certain – except the lengths they will go to win this game.

This one came out in April 2021 and it’s a dark fantasy

The Mary Shelley Club by Goldy Moldavsky

New girl Rachel Chavez is eager to make a fresh start at Manchester Prep. But as one of the few scholarship kids, Rachel struggles to fit in, and when she gets caught up in a prank gone awry, she ends up with more enemies than friends.

To her surprise, however, the prank attracts the attention of the Mary Shelley Club, a secret club of students with one objective: come up with the scariest prank to orchestrate real fear. But as the pranks escalate, the competition turns cutthroat and takes on a life of its own.

When the tables are turned and someone targets the club itself, Rachel must track down the real-life monster in their midst . . . even if it means finally confronting the dark secrets from her past.

Editor’s Note: I just listened to this on audio and it’s really good. Lots of discussion of horror movies and horror tropes. Please note, it does deal with sexual assault for those who need to know.

This one came out in April 2021

The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur

Hwani’s family has never been the same since she and her younger sister went missing and were later found unconscious in the forest, near a gruesome crime scene. The only thing they remember: Their captor wore a painted-white mask.

To escape the haunting memories of this incident, the family flees their hometown. Years later, Detective Min—Hwani’s father—learns that thirteen girls have recently disappeared under similar circumstances, and so he returns to their hometown to investigate… only to vanish as well.

Determined to find her father and solve the case that tore their family apart, Hwani returns home to pick up the trail. As she digs into the secrets of the small village—and reconnects with her now estranged sister—Hwani comes to realize that the answer lies within her own buried memories of what happened in the forest all those years ago.

This one cam out in April 2021

Frank Morelli’s Playlist for his Novel, On the Way to Birdland

As the release date approaches for my new young adult novel, ON THE WAY TO BIRDLAND, I keep getting asked: what inspired you to write this book?

The truth is, any time you string close to one hundred thousand words together into a cohesive story, the avenues of inspiration must be innumerable. In fact, there were so many streams of experience, knowledge, empathy, and emotion flowing through me as I wrote the first draft of ON THE WAY TO BIRDLAND that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to be completely conscious of all of them.

I can tell you, however, that my strongest source of passion for the literature I was composing at the time came in a language many of us may consider universal: the sweet, poetic symphony of music.

To do that I have to take you back a few years to 2005. That’s when I moved from New York City to my adopted hometown of High Point, North Carolina and found out, through some sheer act of fate, that this small, random furniture town in the rural South happened to flow with the same air once breathed by jazz legend John Coltrane. I knew right away I wouldn’t be able to rest until I dove headlong into the history and the music of such an essential, American icon, and I wanted to see if I could understand what it was, if anything, about what at first glance appears to be a pretty bland and generic town that may have inspired an artistic genius to move closer to his creations.

Not only did the process help me gain a visceral appreciation for an artist I now see as nothing less than a musical genius and a modern prophet, but his sound also allowed me to see patterns I never would have noticed before in the collective harmony of American music. And I found solace in the realization that it is in our music where we reflect all of the qualities that make us unique, both for better and for worse.

The following playlist is by no means an exhaustive list or an official soundtrack, but it captures the essence of the music I came in contact with time and again during my process, and that continued to play through my head as I wrote the initial draft of ON THE WAY TO BIRDLAND. I hope you’ll give it a listen as your eyes peel across the pages of my new novel.

1. Dream a Little Dream of Me – Doris Day

There’s an obvious dreamlike quality to this song that brought me directly into the reeling mind of my protagonist, Cordell Wheaton, a sixteen-year-old boy on a journey to find his estranged brother, Travis, as he struggles to suppress the reverberating memories of a traumatic event.

2. Little Birdie – Vince Guaraldi Trio

As a young boy, I used to roll my eyes every time my father played a song on the radio that was older than two weeks, which included jazz music in any form. Writing ON THE WAY TO BIRDLAND forced me to reflect on my own listening experiences with America’s most hallowed music creation, and I realized that the first time I ever recognized a jazz song it was while watching a Peanuts cartoon. Yes, kind of childish, but I was an actual child at the time…and this happened to be the song that welcomed me into the fold of jazz appreciation.

3. Colors – Black Pumas

This is my favorite band to come out in quite a long time, and I think it’s because I love how the Pumas are able to connect through the ages with their music. They provide listeners with a sound that is uniquely suited for the present, while reaching right back into the soulfulness of a Marvin Gaye or an Al Green.

4. My Favorite Things – John Coltrane

This old standard comes to life through the mouth of Coltrane’s saxophone in a way that no other song remake ever can. Compared to some of Coltrane’s later, more experimental music, which takes a bit of a trained ear to truly appreciate, this song grants the casual music-goer with an all-access pass to Coltrane’s musical genius. It also happens to be a song that represents the tight bond between my protagonist in On the Way to Birdland and his missing brother.

5. One More Night – Michael Kiwanuka

Another one of those recent musical artists who seems to be able to reach back into the ages of sound and filter back harmonies that fit the resounding rhythms of the moment.

6. Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag – James Brown

The Godfather of Soul has always spoken to me just as much as he seems to speak to one of my favorite characters in ON THE WAY TO BIRDLAND, a kind-hearted truck driver who goes by the road handle ‘Cowbird’ and helps Cordy Wheaton find a new direction in his life.

7. Crazy – Patsy Cline

Not only did this song help me to empathetically develop the fragile mental state of my protagonist, but it also served as inspiration for the creation of a struggling country music artist named Lula McBride, who’s just one of the many important mentors Cordy Wheaton meets on his journey.

8. Chasin’ the Bird – Charlie Parker

This playlist would be incomplete without a proper tribute to Charlie “Birdman” Parker, one of the greatest jazz artists of all time, a mentor to John Coltrane, and the impetus behind the famous Birdland Jazz Club in New York City.

9. Coat of Many Colors – Dolly Parton

I love how well this song captures an underlying theme in ON THE WAY TO BIRDLAND about the hidden trials and tribulations we all have hidden just under the surface and how our differences actually make us stronger.

10. Bye Bye Blackbird – Miles Davis and John Coltrane

Even if you claim to not be a fan of jazz, I dare you not to like this legendary jazz standard played side-by-side by John Coltrane and one of his most important mentors, the illustrious Miles Davis.

11. On the Road Again – Willie Nelson

This song is Cordy Wheaton’s general anthem as he completes his Odyssey-like journey up and down the East Coast of the United States.

12. Take Me Home, Country Roads – John Denver

Like most of us, Cordy Wheaton wishes he were anywhere on Earth besides his hometown. But, as Cordy learns on his journey, sometimes it takes a few outside experiences to help us appreciate the treasures we have sitting right in our own backyards. It’s a lesson that just sounds better when John Denver sings it.

13. That Was Yesterday – Leon Bridges

Another present-day musical genius, this Leon Bridges song–both lyrically and harmonically–captures Cordy Wheaton’s ultimate realization as he approaches the end of his journey. To Birdland.

14. A Love Supreme, Pt. 1 – John Coltrane

This is the first part of Coltrane’s most widely celebrated and possibly most enigmatic jazz suite of the same name. It is a piece of music so far-reaching that it once inspired the creation of a church dedicated to its worship, and it remains to be one of the most revered pieces of music of all time as consistently cited by leading scholars on jazz. To me, it signifies the importance of spirituality in John Coltrane’s life, and it provides us with a window into the man’s devotion to studying and appreciating the common threads that bind together most of the world’s religions. It’s a piece of music that cements John Coltrane’s legacy as one of history’s great uniters.

15. Carolina in my Mind – James Taylor

This is the song that kept popping into my mind when I envisioned the closing credits beginning to roll if I’m ever lucky enough to see ON THE WAY TO BIRDLAND up on the big screen. It’s a song that brings Cordy Wheaton right back to where he started, but with a new way of looking at the world around him, and a new way of valuing himself.

Meet the author

Frank Morelli is the author of the young adult novels On the Way to Birdland (2021) and No Sad Songs (2018), a YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers nominee and winner of an American Fiction Award for best coming of age story. His fiction and essays have appeared in various publications including The Saturday Evening PostCobalt ReviewPhiladelphia Stories, and Highlights Magazine. A Philadelphia native, Morelli now lives in High Point, North Carolina with his best friend and their four rescued fur babies.

Social Links:

@frankmoewriter on Twitter
@frankmorelliauthor on Instagram
frank.morelli.96343 on Facebook

Frank Morelli’s YouTube Channel

frankmorelliwrites.com – author website

Frank Morelli on Goodreads

fowbooks.com – publisher website

About On the Way to Birdland

Self-proclaimed teenage philosopher Cordell Wheaton lives in a sleepy, southern town where nothing ever happens; not since his hero, jazz musician John Coltrane, left some seventy years earlier to “follow the sound.” Cordy’s life has been unraveling since the night his father and his brother, Travis, exploded on each other. The night Travis’s addiction transformed him from budding musician into something entirely different. The night Travis took his saxophone and disappeared. When Cordy’s father falls ill, the sixteen-year-old vows to reunite the Wheaton family. He embarks on a modern-day odyssey with forty bucks in his pocket and a dream to find his brother and convince him to be Travis again—by taking him to a show at Birdland Jazz Club in New York City, and reminding him of the common bonds they share with their legendary hero. Cordy’s journey is soon haunted by ghostly visions, traumatic dreams, and disembodied voices that echo through his mind. He starts to wonder if the voices are those of the fates, guiding him toward his destiny—or if he’s losing his grip on reality.

ISBN-13: 9781947886056
Publisher: Fish Out of Water Books
Publication date: 06/08/2021
Age Range: 14 – 17 Years

Life-Altering Stories: That book that got us thinking differently about fiction, Featuring Megan Freeman, Kalena Miller, Andrea Wang & Anuradha Rajurkar

We all have that one book. The one that cracked the world open, made you feel seen. The one that showed how inventive, deep, and powerful stories can be. The one got you dreaming about writing your own stories one day.

The Class of 2k Books chatted about that singular title that set us on the path of chasing our writerly dreams. Check out the conversation below with Megan Freeman (Alone), Kalena Miller (The Night When No One Had Sex), Andrea Wang (The Many Meanings of Meilan) and Anuradha Rajurkar (American Betiya, Knopf). 

Megan Freeman: Reading Karen Hesse’s verse novel Out of the Dust was life changing for me. I was teaching middle grade English at the time and was looking for books to include in our curriculum. I had never read a novel in verse before and even though I had been a poet for years, the idea of writing an entire novel in poetry had never occurred to me. I still think of it as a touchstone book and a shining example of how just a few carefully chosen words can have an enormous impact and provide everything a reader needs to enter a world and have their heart broken open.

Kalena Miller: When I finished reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, I immediately sat down to write. As a teenager, I was a voracious reader, but it was The Book Thief that made me realize I needed to be a writer, too. The prose itself was so magical and powerful that I was filled with the desire to play with language myself. Over the years, I’ve discovered many books that similarly demonstrate the limitlessness of storytelling (We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata, and Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng are recent examples), but The Book Thief was the first one that made me realize I needed to write fiction for young readers.

Andrea Wang: The Joy Luck Club blew me away. I hadn’t read a book with so much Chinese and Chinese American representation in it before — and with eight distinct points of view, too! I finally saw that I could be a writer and write about my own life experiences. It also opened my eyes to writing stories about my parents’ generation, about the love and loss they experienced in a different country. I love the idea of intersecting, intergenerational stories where the characters’ lived experiences can both harm and heal each other.

Anuradha Rajurkar: Andrea, The Joy Luck Club was so impactful to me, too, for so many of the same reasons. If I had to choose just one, the book that changed my worldview was Another Country by James Baldwin. The way he wrote about his intersectionality as a gay Black man in Harlem was unpredictably relatable to me, a brown girl of South Asian descent coming-of-age in the 80s in the Midwest. With searing prose and pitch-perfect dialogue and characterization, he handled the betrayals within our closest relationships in a way that made its delible mark upon my soul. This book revealed how to write about love, race, and culture in a way that felt honest, and got me dreaming about writing my own story one day. Another Country will forever be a part of me, undoing me in the very best of ways, even all these years later.

What story impacted your life and got you thinking differently about fiction? We’d love to add it to our TBR!

With love,

The Class of 2k Books

Buy links and more

Anuradha Rajurkar, author of American Betiya

Website: https://www.anuradharajurkar.com/

Purchase: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/607776/american-betiya-by-anuradha-d-rajurkar/

Andrea Wang, author of The Many Meanings of Meilan

Website: https://andreaywang.com/

Pre-order: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/635269/the-many-meanings-of-meilan-by-andrea-wang/9780593111284

Kalena Miller, author of The Night When No One Had Sex

Website: https://www.kalenamiller.com/

Pre-order: https://bookshop.org/books/the-night-when-no-one-had-sex/9780807556276

Megan Freeman, author of Alone

Website: https://www.meganefreeman.com/

Purchase: https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Alone/Megan-E-Freeman/9781534467569

HOW CLASSICAL MUSIC PLAYS A VITAL ROLE IN EVERYWHERE BLUE, a guest post by Joanne Rossmassler Fritz

Music often plays a role in MG or YA novels. The music is nearly always new, whether it’s pop or rock or rap. A singer might be mentioned in the text itself, like Beyonce in FAT CHANCE, CHARLIE VEGA by Crystal Maldonado. Or the characters in a novel might audition for a Broadway musical, as in BETTER NATE THAN EVER by Tim Federle, or a school musical, as in CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY, by Steven Salvatore.      

        

Many novels have a playlist, a list of tunes that inspired the author, music they listened to while writing the book. Afterward, they share the playlist with fans.

My MG debut novel in verse, EVERYWHERE BLUE, takes a different approach.

Twelve-year-old Madrigal Lovato, nicknamed Maddie, loves music, math, and everything in its place. She is growing up in a musical family. Her mother teaches opera, her father is a piano tuner by day and a composer by night. There is always music in the house. And it’s always classical.

In EVERYWHERE BLUE, music represents emotions.

When Maddie’s beloved older brother, Strum, walks away from his college campus and vanishes, Maddie’s well-ordered world splinters apart. Her parents are always distracted by the search for Strum, and her sixteen-year-old sister Aria reacts by staying out late.

Maman stops humming and singing, Daddy stops playing classical records. The house falls silent.

Maddie continues to practice her oboe in her room alone. She plays the oboe in her school orchestra and music is her world. This is why I opened the book with Maddie walking to her after-school music lesson. The story begins in November, when darkness comes on early. Maddie also has seasonal affective disorder, so early darkness makes her sad. The music I mention reflects those feelings.

I tried to infuse every part of my novel with a piece of classical music, including “Morning Mood” from Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 by Edvard Grieg, “Largo” by Antonin Dvorak, “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber, “Ode to Joy” from Symphony No. 9 by Ludwig Von Beethoven, and more.

I describe how the music makes Maddie feel, so even if the reader doesn’t know the piece, they’ll know just how it can affect people. Whether it’s “the most haunting music I’ve ever heard” (“Adagio for Strings”) or “the brightest, most jubilant music I know” (“Ode to Joy”), music is a metaphor for Maddie’s emotions.

Readers may not be familiar with all the classical pieces I mention in the book. But many readers should know Peter and the Wolf, a musical composition by Sergei Prokofiev. He called it a “symphonic fairy tale for children.” It teaches young people the different instruments in an orchestra, by assigning them to characters in his tale. Peter is represented by the strings, his grandfather by the bassoon, A clarinet represents the cat, a flute represents the bird. And three French horns represent the wolf.

Finally, the oboe represents a duck, because, yes, an oboe sounds a lot like the quacking of a duck.

I played the oboe in junior high school. We even performed a student version of Peter and the Wolf and I had a brief solo. It’s been a long time, but I can still remember the crushed-leaf taste of the reed.

As I wrote and revised EVERYWHERE BLUE, music became more and more important to my theme. I realized the French horns’ forbidding, ominous music in Peter and the Wolf was perfect for Maddie’s concern over her missing brother, Strum, and could also symbolize her undiagnosed anxiety.

With each revision, I drew more and more on this recurring theme. Strum’s disappearance throws the family into chaos. Maddie realizes at one point, while listening to the violins play Peter’s theme, that Strum could be Peter. And she hopes he will escape from the wolf of whatever’s troubling him. 

French horns are mentioned throughout the novel, and they’re always forbidding, until Part 4, February, when Maddie begins to feel there is hope for finding Strum. Maddie longs for more daylight, and by February, the days are becoming longer. As she listens to Ravel’s Bolero, she realizes the French horns in that piece are not at all forbidding. They don’t threaten. They rise and swell. They lift her up.

Near the end of the novel, Maddie is getting ready for the school concert. And the verse and the music are full of hope.

Music in books can be healing. Music can soothe the soul. Music, in fact, can be a form of salvation.


Meet the author

Joanne Rossmassler Fritz grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, surrounded by books and music. She has worked in a publishing company, a school library, and the Children’s Department of a large independent bookstore. She’s been writing most of her life, but didn’t get serious about it until after she survived the first of two brain aneurysm ruptures in 2005. She and her husband live outside West Chester, PA, and are the parents of two grown sons.

Twitter: @JoanneRFritz

Instagram: @JoanneRossFritz

Website: https://www.joannerossmasslerfritz.com/

About Everywhere Blue

A brother’s disappearance turns one family upside down, revealing painful secrets that threaten the life they’ve always known. 

When twelve-year-old Maddie’s older brother vanishes from his college campus, her carefully ordered world falls apart. Nothing will fill the void of her beloved oldest sibling. Meanwhile Maddie’s older sister reacts by staying out late, and her parents are always distracted by the search for Strum. Drowning in grief and confusion, the family’s musical household falls silent.

Though Maddie is the youngest, she knows Strum better than anyone. He used to confide in her, sharing his fears about the climate crisis and their planet’s future. So, Maddie starts looking for clues: Was Strum unhappy? Were the arguments with their dad getting worse? Or could his disappearance have something to do with those endangered butterflies he loved . . .

Scared and on her own, Maddie picks up the pieces of her family’s fractured lives. Maybe her parents aren’t who she thought they were. Maybe her nervous thoughts and compulsive counting mean she needs help. And maybe finding Strum won’t solve everything—but she knows he’s out there, and she has to try.

This powerful debut novel in verse addresses the climate crisis, intergenerational discourse, and mental illness in an accessible, hopeful way. With a gorgeous narrative voice, Everywhere Blue is perfect for fans of Eventown and OCDaniel.

ISBN-13: 9780823448623
Publisher: Holiday House
Publication date: 06/01/2021
Pages: 256
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years

Three Novels, Three Responses to Anti-Asian Racism, a guest post by Misa Sugiura

My third book, Love & Other Natural Disasters, is being published this month. In my preparations for launch day, I’ve been thinking about my goals as a writer over the course of my career: what’s changed, and what’s stayed the same. I realized that I’ve unpacked a different version of what it means to be Asian American with each book, always with the goal of offering a new angle into the experience and of pushing back against racist or lazy stereotypes. As a former high school teacher, it has been my constant hope that each book will provide a welcome home for some readers, and an eye-opening education for others.

My first book, It’s Not Like It’s a Secret, stuck closely to my personal experience as a child of Japanese immigrants in the Midwest, and as a high school teacher in ethnically diverse Silicon Valley. In it, Sana Kiyohara moves from Wisconsin to California and befriends a group of Asian American girls, which helps her move from ambivalence to celebration of her Asian-ness. At the same time, she falls in love with a Latinx girl and comes to terms with her sexuality. I wanted my book to show Asian kids in ways hadn’t yet been deeply explored in YA: kids who were consciously and unambiguously proud of being Asian American; a teenage Asian lesbian; Asian kids who might be high achievers but who weren’t necessarily nerdy brainiacs who stayed home every night; and anti-Asian racism (and homophobia) as a collection of micro-aggressions that might not seem harmful to others. Kids had conversations about race on the page, and made all kinds of mistakes; my hope was that this would provide readers with a way to talk about race and racism in their own lives.

In my second book, This Time Will Be Different, I chose to dig past the micro-aggressions and directly confront racism (particularly anti-Asian and anti-Japanese racism) on a broader scale: its history and how past injustices like the Japanese American incarceration during World War II can echo through the years in ways that still affect us today. In This Time Will Be Different, CJ Katsuyama goes to a school named after the racist family who used the chaos of the internment decades ago to cheat her family out of nearly everything they owned. To contextualize CJ’s story, I included chapters that stepped outside of the main narrative to educate readers on the history of anti-Asian racism in the United States, and the history of the model minority myth. Because I wanted to push back harder on the stereotype of Asian Americans as the Model Minority, I made CJ an academic underachiever who gets high, has sex, and doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life—because those Asians exist, too! And as before, I had characters openly discuss race and racism on the page so that readers would learn how to talk about it themselves.

Four years after It’s Not Like It’s A Secret was published, we still live in a world where, as a character in that novel joked, “Asians aren’t lesbians!” This is one reason why I decided to add another story to that very small (but growing!) group of books featuring queer Asian girl protagonists. In my third novel, Love & Other Natural Disasters, instead of examining and analyzing Asian and queer identity as I have in the past, I celebrate and normalize it by putting queer Asian girls at the center of a story that leans heavily into popular romantic comedy tropes (Fake dating! Enemies to lovers! Rowboats, bicycle rides, and ice cream parlors!); I’ve focused thematically on personal and family issues, rather than social issues like race and sexuality. And while I’ve steeped the overall plot in broadly popular conventions, I’ve tried to keep the details specifically Asian, so that Asian kids can continue to have the joy of recognizing themselves or their family members in a book.

But wait! There’s more! I’ve written three stories that show three different ways to be Asian American—three different attempts to push back against anti-Asian racism. But Asia is a massive continent, made up of 48 sovereign nations and roughly 2300 distinct, living languages. And there are many Asian authors with an enormous variety of stories to tell. Authors like Randy Ribay and Riley Redgate (Filipino), Lori Lee (Hmong), Thanha Lai (Vietnamese) C.B. Lee and Julie Dao, (Chinese/Vietnamese), Sara Farizan and Abdi Nazemian (Iranian), Sabina Khan (Bangladeshi), Tanaz Bhathena (Indian), and more offer valuable perspectives on what it means to be Asian in ways that extend far beyond my stories. By introducing our kids to this rich diversity of characters and stories, you join the fight against the reductive and destructive forces of racism. I hope that you will consider including all kinds of Asian stories in your collections, regardless of whom you serve, so that your readers—both Asian and non-Asian—will get to see that there are as many ways to be Asian American as there are Asians in America.

Meet the author

Photo credit: Pamela Garfield

Misa Sugiura’s ancestors include a poet, a priestess, a samurai, and a stowaway. Her debut novel, It’s Not Like It’s A Secret, won the APALA Award for YA Literature, and her critically acclaimed second novel, This Time Will Be Different, made the “Best of 2019” lists of the New York Public Library, the Chicago Public Library, Kirkus, and YALSA. Her latest book, Love & Other Natural Disasters, and has been praised in SLJ as “an adorable rom-com” and “a fun romance that engages with deeper issues.” Booklist describes it as “hilariously awkward” and “honestly poignant,” while Kirkus calls it “a laugh-out-loud, tender, and wholly satisfying read.” Misa lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, two sons, and three cats.

Links:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/misallaneous1/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/misallaneous1

Website: http://www.misasugiura.com/

About Love & Other Natural Disasters

This delightfully disastrous queer YA rom-com is a perfect read for fans of Jenny Han, Morgan Matson, and Sandhya Menon.

When Nozomi Nagai pictured the ideal summer romance, a fake one wasn’t what she had in mind.

That was before she met the perfect girl. Willow is gorgeous, glamorous, and…heartbroken? And when she enlists Nozomi to pose as her new girlfriend to make her ex jealous, Nozomi is a willing volunteer.

Because Nozomi has a master plan of her own: one to show Willow she’s better than a stand-in, and turn their fauxmance into something real. But as the lies pile up, it’s not long before Nozomi’s schemes take a turn toward disaster…and maybe a chance at love she didn’t plan for.

ISBN-13: 9780062991232
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/08/2021
Age Range: 13 – 17 Years

Publishing is a Journey, a guest post by Claire Andrews

Publishing a novel can be daunting, especially once you realize that writing the book isn’t even the hardest part. There are lots of comparisons between publishing and marathons, and they are pretty correct. The only sprint you’ll find might just actually be in completing the first draft, and that would best be done only when you’re on deadline. Otherwise, take your time and do it right, or you’ll be eating every word you typed up later.

My own publishing journey was definitely of the marathon variety. It felt endless, the goalpost a mere illusion at times. I’m not saying this to deter anyone, but I do feel that it should be said. The stories we often hear are of authors with big, quick success stories, the ones with agents and deals snapped up within months. This isn’t the case for 99% of authors, and it is definitely not my story. But I don’t want to bore you with the details of my slog to the finish line. For reference, here’s my own timeline:

  • First query sent for a (now) shelved project – Summer 2013
  • Finished DoS – Summer 2015
  • First DoS query sent – August 2015
  • Signed with first agent – Spring 2016
  • Left agent – Spring 2018
  • Revised DoS
  • New agent – Winter 2018
  • Went on submission – March 2019
  • Sold DoS – July 2019
  • PUBLICATION – June 2021

That’s EIGHT years to publication. I don’t know about all of you, but most marathons are shorter than eight years. Again, I’m not putting this on the internet to deter you. I am hoping to encourage you when the publishing slog feels eerily similar to Sisyphus and his boulder. Or, because my book is releasing soon, like Daphne’s seemingly endless quest to save Olympus from itself. Poor girl just can’t catch a break.

First things first, the place to start – once you’ve finished writing and revising your novel, of course – is to start drafting that query letter. I’m including my query letter below (which might be embarrassing someday) because it was, ultimately, successful.

Dear Amy,

Seventeen-year-old Daphne has spent her entire life honing her body into a weapon, her heart and mind into stone, to be accepted by the unyielding people of ancient Sparta. When the goddess Artemis holds Daphne’s brother for ransom, she must leave behind her family, friends and Sparta to travel across the dangerous and unforgiving world of ancient Greece. 



In return for her brother’s life, Daphne must find and return mysterious objects stolen from Mount Olympus. With each step of her journey she battles foes from the ancient myths of Greece alongside her guide, the enigmatic and flirtatious god Apollo, who has a secret agenda of his own. Her heart is torn between worry for her brother and a growing attraction to her companion, and her nights are haunted by a shadowy specter seeking to bring her mission to an untimely end. A mere pawn in the games of the gods, the true weight of Daphne’s task to restore the waning power of Olympus is revealed when she uncovers a plot to ignite war between Olympus and the world of men. 

A reimagining of the classic Greek myth of Daphne and Apollo, OLYMPUS RISING is a 97,000 word Young Adult Historical Fantasy that explores female empowerment and acceptance, as well as Greek mythology and history. The first in a proposed trilogy, this novel will appeal to fans of Madeline Miller’s unique Greek retelling and determined, self-sufficient heroine in CIRCE, and to those who love the sweeping adventure and ancient folklore of Adrienne Young’s SKY IN THE DEEP. Based on your MS Wishlist, your interest in voice-driven and female-centric historic fiction, and I believe that this novel will pique your interest. 

I would like to be represented by Dystel Goderich & Bourret LLC because your agency strives for quality, has a stellar client list producing excellent literature, and promotes long fruitful careers. I am a graduate of the University of Alaska Southeast with a degree in Social Science, with an emphasis in history, archaeology and anthropology. Inspired by my research as an undergrad, I have sought to breathe new life in the forgotten women of ancient Greece. Below, please find the first 25 pages of my manuscript. I look forward to hearing from you. 

Thank you for your time and consideration. 

Claire Andrews



I had multiple offers because of this query letter, and I think that boils down to three things: a good pitch, doing my research, and following guidelines. What worked in my query letter? The fact that it underwent countless drafts, for starters. Have your friends and critique partners look it over, get opinions. Does it make them want to read the book? That’s the point if they do. If they don’t? Well, time to figure out why not. What else worked? My comps were relevant. I made sure to pick out books that had released recently and were also popular. This showed that I knew both the genre and the market, and that my book had the potential to cater to fans of those books. One thing I cannot stress enough, though, when writing your query: do your research! Make sure you research the agent your querying. How many pages will they want for their sample? What are some of the other books they like and represent? MSWL and Manuscript Wishlist are great sites for really learning what the agent likes and is hoping to read. It’s also important to research what the agent does NOT want. Some agents may be interested in fantasy, but don’t want to read historical fantasy and may only want to read paranormal. Some agents may want fantasy sometimes, but at the time of querying the agent may only be interested in non-fiction. I’d also like to point out the wee grammatical error in the query, which just goes to show that agents are more interested in the big picture things. Don’t stress if you’ve sent your query and realized you made a mistake.

Thus, querying becomes your first of many lessons in persistence. Even when on submission with your agent, there will be a lot of waiting by your phone and obsessively refreshing your phone. This business takes a lot of perseverance, and gumption. There will be times, even after you’ve sold your novel, that you’ll want to crawl under a rock because guess what’s next? More waiting.  But don’t turn away from the process and please don’t let this deter you. I want to read your story, and I know a lot of agents and editors out there want to as well! Just remember to tighten those laces and charge your phone, because you’ve got a long hill to climb and a long wait at the top. In Daughter of Sparta, Daphne is faced with a choice: return to Sparta or continue on her journey and do everything she can to return power to Olympus. There might be times when the finish line seems farther, but you’re a champion for even beginning the race.

Meet the author

Claire M. Andrews was raised in both Alaska and Scotland, but currently lives in Vermont; when not writing, she can usually be found outside swimming, skiing or hiking across the state’s famous green mountains. Daughter of Sparta is her debut novel. She is a 2014 graduate of the University of Alaska Southeast.

Social Media links:
https://www.pinterest.com/cmandrews4/
https://www.instagram.com/cmandrewslit/
https://twitter.com/cmandrewslit
https://clairemandrewsbooks.wordpress.com/
https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/50123234

About Daughter of Sparta

In this thrilling reimagining of ancient Greek mythology, a headstrong girl does whatever it takes to rise up and become the most powerful fighter her people have ever seen.

Seventeen-year-old Daphne has spent her entire life honing her body and mind into that of a warrior, hoping to be accepted by the unyielding people of ancient Sparta. But an unexpected encounter with the goddess Artemis—who holds Daphne’s brother’s fate in her hands—upends the life she’s worked so hard to build. Nine mysterious items have been stolen from Mount Olympus and if Daphne cannot find them, the gods’ waning powers will fade away, the mortal world will descend into chaos, and her brother’s life will be forfeit.

Guided by Artemis’s twin—the handsome and entirely-too-self-assured god Apollo—Daphne’s journey will take her from the labyrinth of the Minotaur to the riddle-spinning Sphinx of Thebes, team her up with mythological legends such as Theseus and Hippolyta of the Amazons, and pit her against the gods themselves.

A reinterpretation of the classic Greek myth of Daphne and Apollo, Daughter of Sparta by debut author Claire Andrews turns the traditionally male-dominated mythology we know into a heart-pounding and empowering female-led adventure.

ISBN-13: 9780316540070
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 06/08/2021
Series: Daughter of Sparta Series #1
Age Range: 14 – 18 Years

Book Review: We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Publisher’s description

A wedding harpist disillusioned with love and a hopeless romantic cater-waiter flirt and fight their way through a summer of weddings in this effervescent romantic comedy from the acclaimed author of Today Tonight Tomorrow.

Quinn Berkowitz and Tarek Mansour’s families have been in business together for years: Quinn’s parents are wedding planners, and Tarek’s own a catering company. At the end of last summer, Quinn confessed her crush on him in the form of a rambling email—and then he left for college without a response.

Quinn has been dreading seeing him again almost as much as she dreads another summer playing the harp for her parents’ weddings. When he shows up at the first wedding of the summer, looking cuter than ever after a year apart, they clash immediately. Tarek’s always loved the grand gestures in weddings—the flashier, the better—while Quinn can’t see them as anything but fake. Even as they can’t seem to have one civil conversation, Quinn’s thrown together with Tarek wedding after wedding, from performing a daring cake rescue to filling in for a missing bridesmaid and groomsman.

Quinn can’t deny her feelings for him are still there, especially after she learns the truth about his silence, opens up about her own fears, and begins learning the art of harp-making from an enigmatic teacher.

Maybe love isn’t the enemy after all—and maybe allowing herself to fall is the most honest thing Quinn’s ever done.

Amanda’s thoughts

Rachel Lynn Solomon is an auto-read for me. Did you know she also wrote an adult book, too? Just as great as her YA. I’m glad she’s so prolific because I just adore her writing.

There is so much to like about this book. Newly graduated Quinn isn’t sure what she wants to do in college/for her grown-up life. But she does know she doesn’t want a future working for her family’s wedding planning company. She just doesn’t. But her parents have it all planned out for her—major in business, work for them, everything’s taken care of! And though Quinn doesn’t want that, she doesn’t know how to tell them that. She’s also worried that bailing on the business will upset the balance of their family and not give her the connection she loves having with her older sister.

One more summer of working weddings puts her back in the orbit of Tarek, son of the caterers who usually work with her parents. After she confessed her crush to him last year, he ghosted her, which is a pretty rotten move for a super romance-obsessed guy who loves grand gestures. Predictably, and thankfully (because they’re so cute together and their banter is A+), they get together, but it’s not smooth sailing. Quinn’s having a Big Summer. She’s grappling with what her future holds, how to please her family, the idea of her best friend moving across the country for college, and more. So dating her crush while simultaneously not believing in love or romance or relationships is… a lot.

The tension between Tarek and his belief that love is all about destiny and big gestures and “meant to be” stuff and Quinn and her totally cynical and guarded approach to relationships makes for an interesting story. As an adult, I read this thinking, “Quinn, come on. You’re doing all the relationship ‘stuff’ but are just too scared to call it that and feel the feelings!” But the teen stuck inside of me was like, “Yesss, Quinn, I feel you. Hide from those feelings. Blow things up yourself before you can get hurt or disappoint someone!” Especially because Quinn has anxiety and that good ol’ anxiety brain loves to churn everything around until everything seems fraught with peril and sure to implode.

Tarek and Quinn’s relationship has lots of ups and downs, which, again, feels so realistic and makes for a great read. They go from surface level friendship to a deeper and true friendship to so much more.

I also love how mental health is dealt with in this story. Quinn has OCD and generalized anxiety. Tarek has depression. They talk openly about medication, therapy, being diagnosed, the hard days, symptoms, and getting better. We love to see it!

Full of humor and heart and, yes, love, this is a fantastic story about being brave, being imperfect, learning, trying, changing, growing, and taking chances. An excellent look at vulnerability, trust, and self-exploration.

Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781534440272
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date: 06/08/2021
Age Range: 12 – 18 Years