Monday, March 31, 2008
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Thursday, March 20, 2008
"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 VerlaKay.com, 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
"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."
Hoops of Steel by John Foley
Congratulations one and all!
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Monday, March 17, 2008
"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
"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.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
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
(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
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
Thursday, March 6, 2008
In Mesa, AZ , students protested a no-hugging rule with a hug-a-thon.
Don't miss the video.
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."
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.)