New Extended TFiOS Trailer… I just love it.

 

I’m so looking forward to this! Anyone else? What do you think of the casting?

Catch A Falling Star by Kim Culbertson

catch a falling star

Kim Culbertson’s Catch a Falling Star is one of the best contemporary YA romances I’ve read so far this year. It has everything I want to see: a strong, relatable, intelligent protagonist, a swoon-worthy boy, great supporting characters (including good parents – YAY!),  a setting I’d like to spend time in, and a cute, cleverly written plot sprinkled with some humor and sweetness.

Carter Moon is happy with her life – she helps out in her parents’ deli, she’s about to graduate high school with some great friends, and she loves the small town of Little, CA. The problem? Well, there are a few. One, she’s so content with her current life that she hasn’t made any plans for beyond high school. Two, she takes on too much responsibility for her brother’s gambling addiction. And three, she’s completely unprepared for the impact the filming of a Hollywood movie in Little will have on her nice, quiet little life.

When Adam Jakes, current teen heartthrob and object of almost every teenage girl’s obsession, comes to Little for his next Hollywood movie, he’s in need of some positive PR. When Adam’s manager sees Carter and her small-town sweetness, he hires her to “date” Adam while he’s in town to build up his public image (Carter only agrees so she can use the money to help her brother).

Adam is not prepared for a girl who speaks her mind and seems immune to his celebrity status, and Carter is not prepared to actually find some depth and humanity behind Adam’s public persona. The result? A really, really cute story reminiscent of Jen E. Smith’s This Is What Happy Looks Like. I devoured this is a day and instantly wanted more of Carter and Adam’s story. I’d love to see these characters reappear in future Culbertson titles.

Also, though these characters are upper high school age, I was really pleased to see that the book was totally clean and appropriate even for my middle schoolers to read. It was also pleasantly surprising to see that Carter’s parents are really good parents, models for the kinds of parents I wish we saw more in YA titles. Culbertson is a refreshing new voice in the YA world – I’d love to see this book on a bestseller list (and it would be perfect for a movie, too).

Catch a Falling Star releases today, so grab your copy now! Find it here on Amazon or at your favorite bookseller.

YA Fiction: Who Is It For, Really?

I read a TON of teen fiction. I’m passionate about a well-told story that can teach a student more than I could ever hope to, like Divergent’s Tris in her sacrificial determination to save those around her, or The Giver’s Jonas in his refusal to sit back and let immorality rule, or The Outsiders’ Ponyboy in his effort to “Stay Gold.”

Fiction can be so powerful, and there’s nothing I love more as a teacher than seeing a student really connect with and learn from a character.

However, I’m noticing an alarming trend in YA fiction. More and more, I’ll get an advance copy of a book and wonder, as I start reading, WHO is this actually written for?

Shouldn’t that answer automatically be young adults? Teenagers? After all, that IS what YA stands for – Young. Adult. Now, though, it seems like there are tons of YA titles being published that are written FOR adults, though the characters happen to be teenagers.

What’s the difference? In books written for adults, there’s a feeling like the characters can do whatever they want because it’s all made up anyway, so the natural consequences of the world don’t matter. It’s like that creepy mom who tries to live vicariously through her popular daughter, sending her off to unchaperoned parties and indulging her every whim. It’s grown-ups trying to go back and live their teenage years the way they wish they could have spent them, without worrying about what will happen as a result. This is really disturbing.

While a fictional story is made up and can be a place to explore all kinds of dreams and hopes and wishes, however impossible they may be in real life, it’s also necessary to recognize choices that lead to heartbreak and rough adulthoods. As much as we might wish we could go back and have the party-filled, alcohol and vulgarity laced, sex and excitement ruled high school and college experience, there’s a reason we didn’t have that in the beginning: It’s. Not. Good. For. You.

And really, as authors, we have a responsibility to our readers. The best interests of teenagers should be at the forefront of our minds while we write. There should be some value to the reading experience – something to take away from it. That’s what I love about YA fiction; it’s a powerful avenue for teaching truths through the experiences of a fictional character.

On this site, I only highlight books that I feel are worthy of teens. The books I’d like to see my students reading. Otherwise, how can I call myself a teacher and a writer for young people?

From She Reads: The Divergent Trilogy

Divergent

This review originally posted on www.shereads.org last month.

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Veronica Roth’s DIVERGENT series has taken the YA literary world by storm, comparable to the popularity of TWILIGHT and THE HUNGER GAMES in previous years. Some readers are eager to jump on the bandwagon and experience the latest all-the-rage series, while others are left with questions:

  • Does it really stand up to the hype?
  • Could it really be as good as The Hunger Games?
  • Is it worth reading the book if I already saw the movie?
  • Can I go see the movie with young adults without feeling awkward?
  • Is the movie more than just a reason to go watch Theo James on the big screen for a few hours?

The answer is a whole-hearted YES on all counts.

DIVERGENT is a dystopian trilogy taking place in a far-future Chicago. War has left the city in disrepair, and in an effort to keep peace people are divided between five factions: Abnegation (the selfless), Candor (the honest), Amity (the peaceful), Erudite (the intelligent), and Dauntless (the brave). When the story opens, the main character, Beatrice (Tris) Prior is preparing for the test that will help her choose which faction she’ll enter for her adulthood: Abnegation, which she was born into, or one of the other four. The drama begins, though, when Tris’s test results are inconclusive and she has to navigate society as one who doesn’t fit with just one faction; she is what they call Divergent, and that makes her a target of society leaders.

As a writer, Veronica Roth is incredibly talented. She has created a future world that is fascinating and believable, yet far-fetched enough that it feels not like home. There are references to known Chicago landmarks, making the setting recognizable and relatable. Her characters, while futuristic, are also completely relatable – it only takes a few pages to get drawn into Tris’s story, which starts in DIVERGENT, continues in INSURGENT, and resolves in ALLEGIANT. I’m also intrigued by the fact that she started writing this in college and, even now, with three books out, a major motion picture, and a fourth book coming soon, is only twenty-five years old. That’s crazy!

I saw the movie on opening night, and it was great. Really. But, it didn’t get anywhere near the level of detail that you find in the books. I know that’s a common complaint with movies based on books, but in this case it’s not just a casual observation about the movie; it’s a compliment to the depth of Roth’s writing. I love the way she has broken people down into factions to describe personality types and how that forces you think about human nature as you read. I love that there’s plenty of romantic appeal in Tris’s relationship with Four (played by Theo James, as seen in the movie poster) and that their relationship is supportive and exciting without being sexual. I love the suspense and intrigue that keep you reading without being able to stop – I blew through all three books in a week and just couldn’t get enough.

Basically, I just love this trilogy. This is one case where, whether you see the movie before or after reading the books, you really need to read the books. I won’t say they’re an easy, lighthearted read – the emotional rollercoaster is a wild one, and the characters and storyline will dominate your thoughts even while you’re not reading – but I will promise that they’re worth your time!

How I Got Skinny, Famous, and Fell Madly In Love by Ken Baker

how i got skinny

 

 

In How I Got Skinny, Famous, and Fell Madly In Love, we follow sixteen year old Emery Jackson’s journey from an overweight, outspoken, sarcastic, binge-eating girl to a healthier, mature, still outspoken and sarcastic young lady. It’s definitely an addicting read in that her family is pretty much a train wreck that you can’t help but stare at. In an effort to save the family house, which is in danger of foreclosure despite the fact that Mr. Jackson is a former NBA player and now healthy-living life coach, the Jacksons sign up for a “reality” TV show which will shower them with a million dollars… IF the star, Emery, can manage to lose fifty pounds in just fifty days.

There are some things about this book that I really enjoyed. One, Emery is a great character. She’s sassy and smart, but her one big flaw is not being able to control her weight or her food intake. She feels completely out of place in her family (which, with a perfectly gorgeous and thin sister named Angel, it would be hard not to). She deals with crap at school resulting from her appearance. She suffers from depression, though she wouldn’t admit it. Through it all, though, she’s not like a “woe is me, I give up on life” kind of character. She’s funny, and though things don’t seem to be going her way, she’s tough and she’ll get through it. I was surprised at the realness of her and the spot-on inner workings of a teenage girl mind given that the author is a guy, but good for him!

Another thing I enjoyed was the supporting characters, some of which I would have strangled if I could, but they were all well-written and, unfortunately, realistic. The premise behind the book was cool, too, and afforded the reader lots of behind the scenes looks at reality TV shows and how they manipulate reality. As the show went on, Emery’s well-being became less and less important until Emery stood up and made it important.

So, while there was a lot here that I liked, I can’t say that I really loved the ending. Without giving anything away, because it’s quite a surprise, it did make me proud of Emery for doing what was best for her. As a reader, though, it left too many loose ends. There were some big things that didn’t resolve enough for me. Maybe Baker plans on writing a sequel, but I don’t know. It probably resolves enough to satisfy most people, but I’m a needy reader.

I think Emery’s story will be especially valuable for teenage girls who struggle with body image. Her journey to healthy living is nothing if not inspirational!

How I Got Skinny, Famous, and Fell Madly In Love is available this Tuesday! Find it here on Amazon, or at your favorite local bookseller.

 

What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick

what i thought was true

 

I have to start by saying that I’m in love with Fitzpatrick’s cover, AGAIN. Her first book, My Life Next Door, was hands-down one of my favorite covers of the past few years.

Anyway, it’s not just pretty on the outside. Huntley Fitzpatrick’s writing is beautiful through and through. While I didn’t get to preview the whole of What I Thought Was True, the little snippet I got to read was full of promise, depth, and the beginnings of a gorgeous romance.

What I Thought Was True releases TODAY, so check it out! I’m betting it’ll hit the Bestseller lists. Find it here on Amazon or at your favorite bookseller.