Monday, March 31, 2008

Awesome reader review for Life as a Rhombus

Reader Elaina from Rhombus home-state South Carolina is taking The Shady Glade YA Lit Challenge* and just polished off Varian Johnson's My Life as a Rhombus. She wrote a very nice review.

"Rhonda's character was funny and witty, there are many parts when I literally laughed out loud. There were also a few parts that brought tears to my eyes. Varian Johnson did a fantastic job with this book and I plan on passing it on to my friends and family."

*Lots of blogs throw down the gauntlet with various "challenges." YA fiends seem to be particularly enamoured of this kind of thing.

Technical issues

Authors who are linking to cover photos on the Flux site are probably noticing some broken links this morning. We changed some things behind the scenes on the web site and this unfortunately means you'll have to relink to any photos on

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Congratulations Simone Elkeles!

The Romance Writers of America has named Simone's Leaving Paradise as a finalist for its RITA awards in the young adult category. Congratulations, Simone!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

More praise for The Shape of Water

Reading Rants, the review blog associated with Finding Wonderland recently reviewed Anne Spollen's The Shape of Water. And they liked it.

"A dark, quiet descent into one girl's private watery grave, The Shape of Water, takes a collage of losses and everyday aggravation and turns them into a surprising poignant hope that eventually, even the darkest water clears, and those who drown in the sea of grief can also remember how to swim and find their way back to solid land."
And, if you're familiar with, you might want to check out the little rejection story Anne posted. It must be rather sweet in light of the recent glowing reviews.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Two from Barbara Shoup

We're releasing two books by one author April and May, and I've got them both here on my shelf.

In April, we're releasing Barbara Shoup's latest YA novel, Everything You Want, which Barbara wrote on her PEN/Phyllis Nayolor Working Writer's Fellowship. It's a tremendously good YA about exactly how much happiness money can buy (and it will be of particular interest to those involved in the various college YA discussions presently going on around the interwebs).

The next book is remarkable for two reasons. 1) It's the first paperback edition of Shoup's acclaimed YA Wish You Were Here, which was voted the book teachers, librarians, and readers wanted to see back in print in a CBC/ALA poll. 2) It's far and away the orangest book we've ever published. Really. Line a bunch of 'em up in parallel lines on a football field and watch out for the 737s.
Check them both out.

Is nothing sacred?

Tell the bastards to leave my adolesence alone! Converse is releasing a limited number of Kurt Cobain shoes, complete with lyrics and drawings from his journals punkishly "scrawled" on Chuck Taylors, Jack Purcells, and One Stars. It's part of their 100th anniversary who-ha.

More details at AdAge and Gawker.

The New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age

For 79 years the New York Public Library has been publishing a list of "Books for the Teen Age." It's a list so old and venerable that it predates the radical fusion of "teen" and "age" into a single word (I have a sinking suspicion I made this joke last year). Actually, the published product is really cool and worth seeking out (they send a copy to every library in the country). From the NYPL's release:

"This year's edition features spicy teen book reviews, snappy author interviews with questions submitted by teens, and of course, cover art by a local teen inspired by technology of the moment."

Anyway, Flux is very proud to have three titles included this year:

Starcrossed by Mark Schreiber

The Second Virginity of Suzy Green by Sara Hantz

Hoops of Steel by John Foley

Congratulations one and all!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Jump the Cracks

Newbery winner Linda Sue Park has a round up of her recent reading on her blog, including some very nice comments about Jump the Cracks by Stacy DeKeyser. Check it out. As she says, Stacy "nailed it."

Cover for The Shape of Water

A number of people have complimented the wonderful cover design for Anne Spollen's The Shape of Water. It's definitely one of my favorites, and the art came from one of my favorite illustrators, Ken Wong. We first worked with Ken's art on the cover for Epoch by Timothy Carter, where we commissioned a demon from Ken, and one of our designers, Lisa Novak, put together an incredibly clever and irresistable final design. For The Shape of Water, we just plain got lucky. Lisa and I were looking through Ken's portfolio and we came upon the girl-with-the-fish image (Ken calls it "Blue"). I don't think we could have dreamed up a more apt interpretation of Anne's Magdalena if we tried (and at the time, Anne's book was called "Fish Dreams," so this seemed really right). It's kind of eerie for me to imagine that Ken and Anne were working on simultaneously and independently with such similar imagery.
Covers happen in all sorts of ways, and some process are more circuitous than others, but this one was smooth and the result is simply awesome.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Shape of Water earns a star!

Anne Spollen's stunning, subtle debut, The Shape of Water, has earned a starred review in Kirkus. You can read the full review at but here's the gist:

"Spollen interweaves elemental, evocative images of what is formless and boundless-water, air, grief, death-with what is solid and limited-earth, objects, human love and forgiveness. This enchanting novel starts quietly, draws the reader in and weaves a seductive spell that holds until the last page."

This is Flux's first starred review, so double yippee!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

God save the Queen

From Friday's All Things Considered on NPR:

"British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is considering having teenagers pledge their allegiance to the queen, as part of an effort to encourage a sense of citizenship in culturally fragmented Britain."

Don't miss the whole piece. There's tons of good material.


The Public Library Association 2008 Conference is coming to town in two weeks. Flux will be there and I'll be there. If any readers are going to be in town, do let me know. And if anyone was looking for an excuse to come to beautiful Minneapolis in March . . . well, here it is.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


School Library Journal weighs in quite favorably on Brian Mandabach's Or Not. The takeaway line: "Librarians will want to slip this excellent and therapeutic selection to precocious early teens. . . . " Let's not put too fine a point on it, though. This is a book for anyone who's ever questioned whether to be or not . . .

The College Conundrum

If the character is in college, can it still be YA? This questions has come up on a few occasions, both in conversations with authors and in my dealings with salespeople, so I thought I'd give my two cents. Conundrum

If we're speaking only of what I think should be part of the collection of themes and devices that make up the YA genre, then I think college is a huge factor. It's impossible not to notice what a pervasive issue college admissions is for teenagers and how it seems to come into focus earlier all the time (I'm thirty and I really didn't give serious thought to what college I would attend before my junior year. Now, you hear stories about kids signing up with college admissions consultants in ninth grade). It affects decision-making on all manner of extra-curricular activities and its freighted with all sorts of financial consequences. In short, college is as big a deal for teens as prom, virginity, drugs, and your best friend (to name a few other members of the thematic pantheon). So, to me, it makes sense that not only the anticipation of college but the realization of college (at least freshman year) should have a place in fiction for young adults.

But, the reality of the situation is, in my experience, that bookstore buyers--the people who make the stocking decisions for independent stores and chains--are uneasy with YA extending beyond high school. It's not a hard and fast rule. For instance, Laurie Stolarz's Red is for Remembrance is set in college, and it's sold many tens of thousands of copies in the YA section. And, of course, John Green's An Abundance of Katherines is set in that extremely interesting summer between high school and college. Other examples are out there, but the key thing to recognize is that there's always something to mitigate or overwhelm the college concern. In the two examples I mentioned, the books were follow ups to successful titles whose stories were based in high school. We've also had success with books about post-high-school experience other than college (Barbara Shoup's wonderful Everything You Want is a case in point). Other examples of mitigating factors might include a really strong subgenre angle that has widely acknowledged YA appeal (if you had a really commercial dark fantasy werewolf novel, it probably wouldn't make much difference whether the heroine were 18 or 19, a senior in high school or a college freshman). But if you're trying to sell me a debut coming-of-age story about a girl from Minnesota in her first year at Swarthmore, that's going to be a very tricky proposition for me.

A couple caveats. This is my experience with Flux, only. I haven't made a study of this with other editors. I'm also sympathetic to the buyers' positions. Realistically, they have to draw a line somewhere. Shelf space is not infinite.

In short, it's best to give this issue a lot of thought.

UPDATE Brian Mandabach's comment is too good to go unnoticed:

"Just because it's not likely to find a spot on the shelf in the teen zone doesn't mean it won't find a shelf somewhere else. One idea is to not think of your book as YA or anything else--just think of it as your novel, the story that you want to tell. Make it as great as you can, then think about selling it. I would say don't listen to death knells from the market--listen to the story in your head and heart!!"

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Illinois Author of the Year!

According to the Illinois Association of Teachers of English, Simone Elkeles is the Illinois author of the year. Congratulations Simone! It's unclear to me whether this means she beat Barack Obama, but regardless, she's clearly awesome. She'll be giving an address at the association's annual conference this fall. 400 English teachers aren't going to know what hit them.

(The best part of this is that Simone is so driven that I wouldn't put it past her to move to Wisconsin now so she can win there next year.)

Monday, March 10, 2008

What it is.

I thought I already posted this link, but apparently not. Oh well, it's even better now, in light of recent discussions. Here's Brian Mandabach on YA.

College Athletic Scholarships

Regular readers will know that accurate depiction of the college application and financing process in YA fiction is a mini-crusade of mine. It's not because I think fidelity to reality is important per se (it's not), but because I think that reality in this case is vastly more interesting than the worn-out cliches that sometimes stand in its place in some novels.

For instance, I'm always vexed to find references to "full-ride scholarships," especially to small, division III NCAA schools. No such thing exists. I believe there's one in Chris Crutcher's latest, Deadline. I don't mean to lay all this on Crutcher's book (which deserves to be widely and thoughtfully read, as all of his books do), but the example is a good one. The small town quarterback on the perennial underdog team gets a ticket to bigger things in the form of a scholarship. Crutcher's coach says, commenting on the possibility of a miraculous undefeated season:

"... Scouts at every game. He should probably come out of this with a full ride. Your brother's probably never going to be pro, but he can be a hell of small-college quarterback and he can get a good education in the bargain. I know your parents are going to be strapped sending the two of you off next year. Cody shows his best stuff these last games and there are books and tuition for one."
Actually no, there won't be. This makes for a great story (obviously, since it's a very well-worn device), but it's just not true. The reality, as this article in the New York Times points out, is vastly more complicated. For instance, the average football scholarship for NCAA divisons I and II is just under 13,000 or about two-thirds of annual tuition, room, and board. The average scholarship for any sport is well short of the actual cost of tuition, room, and board to almost any college in a position to give an athletic scholarship (if you're actually interested, ice hockey is your best shot for close to a true full ride). The article suggests that if you total up the cost of what it took throughout high school to have a shot at a college athletic scholarship, you'll find that the math makes no sense. You'd be better off putting a small fraction of that money in a good test-prep program and going for the more abundant academic scholarships.

Beyond this, the very notion of the full-ride athletic scholarship at any level is largely a creation of popular culture. There's no such thing as a four-year guaranteed athletic scholarship; all scholarships are renewed (or not) annually. If Cody from Deadline blows out his knee in the first game at college and can't make the team the following season, his scholarship won't be renewed. Hardly a "good education in the bargain."

Far from threatening the time-honored place of college-sports anxiety in YA fiction, I'd say the article is full of material for new motivations for characters and story lines for books. I'd love to see authors making use of it.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Paranoid Park

I've been meaning to read this book, and now I really want to see the movie, given this review. I think this also speaks a little to yesterday's discussion of categories, etc, don't you think?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Ah, to be young and outraged now that spring is here

You know, if someone were to put together a service that emailed me one of these stories everyday, I think I'd be a happier person. I love high-school protests.

In Mesa, AZ , students protested a no-hugging rule with a hug-a-thon.

Don't miss the video.

Carrie Jones, case in point

Man, this is why I love Carrie Jones. She's a category killer.

Not only is she a rock star in Maine this week, but Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend is also the recipient of much YA-blog-review love from Boys Blogging Books (featuring thrilling action shots of guys reading books!) and of an award nomination from the Romance Writers of America (the Gayle Wilson Award for Excellence).

Let's leave this with a quote from Kurtis, the blog reviewer: "This book was completely inspiring to me. Carrie Jones has a way of making you rethink how you see people who live life in a way that might not be your ‘normal’. I couldn’t put this one down."

Duck and cover

Everybody's favorite bow-tie-wearing polemicist is at it again (and thank goodness, life was getting dull). Do check out Roger Sutton's latest on his Horn Book blog. The killer quote: "Whatever whoever chooses to read is their business, of course, but adults whose taste in recreational reading ends with the YA novel need to grow up." (Please read the rest of the piece, though. He makes some interesting observations before he tosses his grenade.)

For my part . . . Sure, fine, whatever. I finally got around to Zadie Smith's On Beauty (liked it, as I have her others), so I guess my grown-up card is stamped for a while. But, Roger, aren't you assuming that "YA novel" has some objective, useful meaning for readers beyond a bookstore and library category? I think this assumption is both faulty in practice (as evinced by the number of books whose YA labels are gained or lost according to where they're sold, e.g. Markus Zusak) and dangerous in principle because it casts readers as passive, uncritical recipients of categorized books (like Moby Dick is a fish story; Jane Austen is the first romance novelist). No thanks. This is a dumb, reductive way to read. Genre and age category labels exist largely for shopping and shelving convenience. Beyond that, readers should forget about them and consider only the personal "aesthetic bliss" each book offers.

(It's interesting to imagine what Roger Sutton's 18th century antecedent might have written in a similar circumstance. I suspect you could simply substitute "novel" for "YA novel" in the quote, as the prose novel category was considered lightweight popular entertainment, certainly not suitable for the bulk of an educated person's serious reading. History hasn't been friendly to these kinds of generalizations. They simply give too much credence to category and genre labels and ignore individual talent.)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Congratulations to Carrie Jones!

Andrew's usually on top of these things. But given that he's a new dad and swamped with work upon return and no doubt getting no sleep at night, it falls to me to extend congratulations to Carrie Jones whose debut novel, TIPS ON HAVING A GAY (EX) BOYFRIEND just won the 2008 Maine Literary Award in the Young Adult Category.

Carrie is very much looking forward to attending the awards ceremony in April when former Maine governor Angus King will be reading a passage from the book (you'll have to ask her why that's so significant).
In related news, Carrie's follow-up book, LOVE (AND OTHER USES FOR DUCT TAPE) came out just this month and is enjoying a love fest by all who read it.

Monday, March 3, 2008