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Someday

1 Sep

For me, Someday comes on Tuesday, when students arrive for a new school year. For Amelia Linehan, the protagonist of The Arrival of Someday by Jen Malone, Someday is the day she gets a liver transplant.

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Publisher’s Summary: Hard-charging and irrepressible, eighteen-year-old Amelia Linehan could see a roller derby opponent a mile away—and that’s while crouched down, bent over skates, and zooming around a track at the speed of light.

What she couldn’t see coming, however, was the flare-up of the rare liver disorder she was born with. But now it’s the only thing she—and everyone around her—can think about.

With no guarantee of a viable organ transplant, everything Amelia’s been sure of—like college plans or the possibility of one day falling in love—has become a huge question mark, threatening to drag her down into a sea of what-ifs she’s desperate to avoid.

Then a friend from the past shows up. With Will, it’s easy to forget about what’s lurking between the lightness of their time together. She feels alive when all signs point elsewhere.

But with the odds decidedly not in her favor, Amelia knows this feeling can’t last forever. After all, what can?

Narrated from Amelia’s POV – she likes to go by Lia – we get a unique perspective on the issue of needing a transplant, and what it is like to be on the receiving end of people’s good intentions.Yes, it is an issue book, but the story is very compelling and there is a smidge of romance and ROLLER DERBY!

In er author’s note at the end, Jen Malone talks about the importance of organ donation and the fact that she included names of donors and people she knows who have supported and raised awareness of organ donation.

Be sure you have a hanky handy; there are some tear-jerker moments when you will really want one.

Firebirds and Night Witches – a fiction/non-fiction pairing

26 Aug

I have a list of fiction/non-fiction pairings and have an idea for a project I would like my students to do someday. When I finally get it together, it will involve some sort of compare and contrast and maybe even a little fiction writing. The devil is, as always, in the details.

I am always on the lookout for good fiction/non-fiction pairings and recently found one in We Rule the Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett and A Thousand Sisters  by Elizabeth Wein.

Wein’s book is a non-fiction book about Soviet women pilots during WWII. Bartlett’s book is a fantasy novel inspired by the Soviet women pilots of WWII, but her pilots use magic as the Union battles the Elda. Both have strong female characters that find a way to use their talents.

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Publisher’s Summary: Seventeen-year-old Revna is a factory worker, manufacturing war machines for the Union of the North. When she’s caught using illegal magic, she fears being branded a traitor and imprisoned. Meanwhile, on the front lines, Linné defied her father, a Union general, and disguised herself as a boy to join the army. They’re both offered a reprieve from punishment if they use their magic in a special women’s military flight unit and undertake terrifying, deadly missions under cover of darkness. Revna and Linné can hardly stand to be in the same cockpit, but if they can’t fly together, and if they can’t find a way to fly well, the enemy’s superior firepower will destroy them–if they don’t destroy each other first.

We Rule the Night is a fiercely compelling story about sacrifice, complicated friendships, and survival against impossible odds.

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Publisher’s Summary: In the early years of World War II, Josef Stalin issued an order that made the Soviet Union the first country in the world to allow female pilots to fly in combat. Led by Marina Raskova, these three regiments, including the 588th Night Bomber Regiment—nicknamed the “night witches”—faced intense pressure and obstacles both in the sky and on the ground. Some of these young women perished in flames. Many of them were in their teens when they went to war.

This is the story of Raskova’s three regiments, women who enlisted and were deployed on the front lines of battle as navigators, pilots, and mechanics. It is the story of a thousand young women who wanted to take flight to defend their country, and the woman who brought them together in the sky.

Packed with black-and-white photographs, fascinating sidebars, and thoroughly researched details, A Thousand Sisters is the inspiring true story of a group of women who set out to change the world, and the sisterhood they formed even amid the destruction of war.

 

Art Saves Lives

29 Jul

I’ve been a little absent from this blog. It is not a sign that I haven’t been reading – just a sign that I am knitting like a madwoman and relaxing. I have read a number of really great things, but haven’t had the discipline to sit down and write about them. Such is the life of a teacher in summer.

A recent YA read I really enjoyed was Sorry For Your Loss  by Jessie Ann Foley. Recently, I was talking with a friend about the different ways people process grief, sharing how each of my siblings behaved differently following the death of my mother. Sorry For Your Loss tells the story of how a large Irish-American family deals with an unexpected death. As the youngest (by 4 minutes) in a family of five, I loved how Foley depicts the way birth order impacts your role in a family.

36137535Publisher’s Summary: As the youngest of eight, painfully average Pup Flanagan is used to flying under the radar. He’s barely passing his classes. He lets his longtime crush walk all over him. And he’s in no hurry to decide on a college path.

The only person who ever made him think he could be more was his older brother Patrick. But that was before Patrick died suddenly, leaving Pup with a family who won’t talk about it and acquaintances who just keep saying, “sorry for your loss.”

When Pup excels at a photography assignment he thought he’d bomb, things start to come into focus. His dream girl shows her true colors. An unexpected friend exposes Pup to a whole new world, right under his nose.

And the photograph that was supposed to show Pup a way out of his grief ultimately reveals someone else who is still stuck in their own. Someone with a secret regret Pup never could have imagined.

 

Home going

11 Jul

I have a trip planned for August. Until then, I am enjoying being an armchair traveler- visiting various times and places through literature. Recently, two books stuck me because, in both, the main character travels back to a country in which they’d been born in an effort to make sense of the world.

In Forward Me Back to You  by Mitali Perkins, tells the story of two characters, one who is recovering from an attack and another who was adopted and an infant and is struggling with what to do after high school.

 

Publisher’s Summary: Katina King is the reigning teen jujitsu champion of Northern California, but she’s having trouble fighting off the secrets in her past.

Robin Thornton was adopted from an orphanage in India and is reluctant to take on his future. If he can’t find his roots, how can he possibly plan ahead?

downloadRobin and Kat meet in the most unlikely of places—a summer service trip to Kolkata to work with survivors of human trafficking. As bonds build between the travelmates, Robin and Kat discover that justice and healing are tangled, like the pain of their pasts and the hope for their futures. You can’t rewind life; sometimes you just have to push play.

In turns heart wrenching, beautiful, and buoyant, Mitali Perkins’s Forward Me Back to You focuses its lens on the ripple effects of violence—across borders and generations—and how small acts of heroism can break the cycle.

 

I received an ARC of Randy Ribay’s Patron Saints of Nothing at ALAMW in Seattle and only just got around to reading it.

 

Move over Buck Rogers, there’s a new girl in town

30 May

In case the title baffled you, Buck Rogers is a fictional character who first appeared in 1928. He lived in the the 20th century, but in most iterations of his story, he has an accident and is “preserved”, reviving in the 25th century. He began as a novella, then became a series of comic strips, movies serials, and radio & TV shows. He is early 20th century sci-fi, all ray guns and disintegrator beams.

But this is the 21st century and we need new heroes, weapons, and saviors of the galaxy. By Galaxy, I mean the Milky Way and by heroes, I mean Aurora, the eponymous hero of Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman.

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From the Author’s website: The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch . . .

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem–that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

NOBODY PANIC.

I listened to the audiobook and was enthralled from the beginning. As a fan of various sci-fi television series, most notably Star Trek, I recognized homage to some characters. Kaufman has created a new landscape and the characters feel fresh. The story is narrated by the six members of the squad and Aurora, each of home is voiced by a different narrator. This adds to the audiobook experience because it helps keep characters straight and you develop a different relationship with each in a different way that you might if you were reading the book. The book is set in space, but it is really all about the relationships – and the need to save the galaxy.

Even if sci-fi isn’t your thing, I encourage you to give Aurora Rising  a try.

A little YA historical fantasy this time

16 May

I make no secret that I love historical fiction.

Julie Berry’s newest novel, Lovely War, mixes two love stories set during the First World War with Greek mythology to come up with an amazing story.

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Publisher’s Summary: They are Hazel, James, Aubrey, and Colette. A classical pianist from London, a British would-be architect-turned-soldier, a Harlem-born ragtime genius in the U.S. Army, and a Belgian orphan with a gorgeous voice and a devastating past. Their story, as told by goddess Aphrodite, who must spin the tale or face judgment on Mount Olympus, is filled with hope and heartbreak, prejudice and passion, and reveals that, though War is a formidable force, it’s no match for the transcendent power of Love.

 

It might sound impossible to mix the two stories, but in doing so, Berry turns a good love story into something so much better.

I listened to the audiobook and it was fabulous. Whether you read the print version or listen to the audiobook, you will not be disappointed.

What is it about YA historical fiction?

13 May

There is a belief in publishing that historical fiction doesn’t sell in YA. When I look at my classroom library, I can see that my historical fiction section clearly has significantly more middle grade then YA.

Over the weekend, I finished Someday We will Fly  by Rachel DeWoskin, a work of YA historical fiction that shed light on a little know piece of history.

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I knew that many people had fled Russia during the Revolution, travelling through Siberia to take refuge in China. Shanghai became a refuge for many from Europe and that’s what this story is about.

Why didn’t I know about the Jews who fled to Japanese occupied Shanghai? Or the way in which the Japanese and Germans worked to ghettoize them after the bombing of Pearl Harbor?

I will say that I was slow to warm up to this book. The beginning is a lot of telling, rather than showing what is going on. I can see that it built background and helped get us and the characters to Shanghai, where the bulk of the story takes place, but it was a bit of a slog. If I hadn’t been interested in the topic, I don’t know that I would have persevered to the end.

Publisher’s Summary:

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