Friday Reads: EVERYTHING THAT MAKES YOU

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I got the chance to read another fabulous Fearless Fifteeners ARC this week! Seriously — y’all are in for a treat when 2015 rolls around and these books start releasing. I’ve now read 14 of my fellow debut authors’ books, and each and every one had something special to offer. I’m so proud to be a part of the Fearless Fifteeners!

everything that makes youUp this week: Moriah McStay’s EVERYTHING THAT MAKES YOU. This book tells two stories about the same girl. Fiona Doyle was in an accident as a kid that left half of her face scarred. Fi Doyle is the same girl, but that accident never happened. As a high school junior, Fiona is a shy bookworm who writes song lyrics she won’t let anyone see. Fi, meanwhile, is an outgoing star lacrosse player with her eye on an athletic scholarship. The two stories cover three years in the girls’ lives, and intersect in unexpected ways. Minor players in Fi’s story become major ones in Fiona’s, and vice versa. Fi and Fiona prioritize different things, and make different decisions, but there are still characteristics that make it clear they’re the same girl. And some things are the same in both stories; for instance, Fiona/Fi’s mom wishes both girls were girlier and is always trying to buy them frilly clothes. I enjoyed reading this book—which is really two stories for the price of one! If you’ve ever wondered “What if…?” you should pick this one up.

glory o'brienI’m currently two-thirds of the way through A.S. King’s GLORY O’BRIEN’S HISTORY OF THE FUTURE, which is completely and totally different! It’s about a girl whose mother killed herself and who worries that she’ll fall victim to the same depression—and who then gains the supernatural ability to see a dark and dangerous future and decides it’s her responsibility to try to change it. This book is gritty and painful and *weird* and probably not for everyone—but I’m curious to see where it ends up. And I want to pick A.S. King’s brain one day! She truly comes up with the most imaginative and unusual premises for her books.

That’s all for now. Anyone out there reading anything good?

~Kathryn

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Friday Reads: MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME

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My husband and I just got back from a wonderful trip to Paris, and while I brought several books with me, I actually didn’t end up reading as much as I usually do while traveling! It was a combination of trying to sleep on the plane (instead of reading), running around the city all day (instead of reading), and using our limited time at the flat we were renting to check in on email and social media (instead of reading). Luckily, one of the books I brought was perfect for that fragmented reading schedule: My True Love Gave to Me, an anthology of holiday YA short stories edited by Stephanie Perkins.

My-True-Love-Gave-To-Me-Various-AuthorsThe book features twelve holiday-themed stories by some of the Young Adult book world’s biggest names. As with any anthology, it’s a bit of a mixed-bag. My favorite stories were those by Rainbow Rowell (a series of New Year’s Eve snapshots as two friends realize they’re meant for each other), Stephanie Perkins (girl meets boy at a Christmas tree farm), and Laini Taylor (an otherworldly tale where the Dreamer, an ancient god, rescues a young woman from an awful future). That said, one of the coolest things about this anthology was how diverse it was: male and female narrators from various backgrounds, contemporary as well as fantastic settings, and diverse writing styles. If I wasn’t totally feeling one story, I didn’t have long to wait for something completely different. I would definitely recommend this book if you’re a sap around the holidays, and if you like any or all of the talented authors involved. It’s worth a read.

You didn’t think I’d mention Paris without sharing a photo, did you? On the holiday theme, here’s the Eiffel Tower lit up like a Christmas tree:

IMG_3901Happy Friday to all, and to all a good weekend! 😉

~Kathryn

Friday Reads: THE ONLY THING TO FEAR and WE ALL LOOKED UP

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After skipping a week of Friday Reads to celebrate my good news, I’m back to recommend two more books you might enjoy! The Only Thing to Fear is by my fellow YA Buccaneer Caroline Tung Richmond. We All Looked Up is by my fellow Fearless Fifteener Tommy Wallach. Both are awesome people as well as being awesome authors, and I’m thrilled to share their books here.

the only thing to fearThe Only Thing to Fear is a sci-fi alternate history. The premise: the Nazis genetically engineered super-soldiers that helped them win World War II. In the present day, the former U.S. is divided into territories run by the Axis powers. Sixteen-year-old Zara is a half-Japanese, half-American living in the Nazi-controlled Eastern territories. With her mixed heritage, she’s viewed as lower than low by the German upper class she serves. But she’s hiding something: not only is she connected to the Resistance that wants to overthrow the Nazis, she has a power of her own that could help turn the tide. This book was a fast read, moving from the day-to-day struggles of living in the Nazi regime to all-out rebellion in under 300 pages. Once the sparks of revolution ignite, it’s hard to put this book down. Yay, Caroline!

we all looked upTommy Wallach’s We All Looked Up is a different kind of page-turner. It’s about four teens whose very different lives intersect when an asteroid threatens to destroy the earth in two months. In short, it’s The Breakfast Club set at the end of the world. What I loved about this book was how rich and real each teen’s response to the looming apocalypse was. Learning that the earth has a 66.6% chance of ceasing to exist makes some people jump at opportunities they’d never dared to pursue, while others fall victim to truly terrible decisions. Friendships and romances are formed and break apart. Dreams are realized. Lives are changed. I hope that doesn’t sound vague or trite, because this book is not either of those things. It’s moving and surprising, even as it hurtles toward some inevitable conclusions. Definitely recommend!

What have you been reading lately? 🙂

~Kathryn

So … I Have News!

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Perhaps you’ve been wondering what I’ve been up to lately. Why I haven’t posted much about writing in a while. Why I’ve seemed unusually busy and flustered and fuzzy-headed and overwhelmed for the past month or so. Why I haven’t been answering your emails and texts in a timely fashion.

I’ve been hard at work on … *drum roll* … MY NEXT BOOK!! 

I sold my second book over the summer, and have been busy finishing and polishing my first draft to turn in to my editor. Which I did, on Wednesday.(Cue the fanfare and confetti and imminent collapse from exhaustion in my messy apartment.) Now that the first draft is in my editor’s hands, I’ve been given permission to shout about the new book deal from the social media rooftops—and that’s exactly what I intend to do!

This calls for a gif:

dancedanceHere’s what you need to know about Book Two, which will be coming your way from HarperTeen in Summer 2016:

Everything’s Beautiful is about a 16-year-old ballet dancer, Sam, who struggles with body image issues. After suffering a severe panic attack before her studio’s spring concert, Sam is sent to an anxiety camp for elite teen artists and athletes to work through her issues with professional counseling and peer support. She initially resists treatment—in part because the camp conflicts with the summer ballet intensive she’s supposed to be attending. Then she hits it off with Andrew, a former college football player who is one of her camp counselors. But is the connection between the two of them just about therapy, or could it lead to something more? And if Sam can’t come to terms with the pain and anxiety she’s been feeling, is her dance career over before it even begins?

I’m thrilled to have Alexandra Cooper as my editor once again! Alex helped make The Distance Between Lost and Found into a finished product I am so, so proud of, and I know she’ll do the same with Everything’s Beautiful. And of course I have to give a shout-out to my agent, Alyssa Henkin, who believed in this project from the first time I mentioned writing a book about a ballet dancer who didn’t have the ideal body, and who encouraged me to discover the story I needed to tell.

So … that’s the exciting news I’ve been keeping secret for a few months! Yay! 🙂

~Kathryn

 

Friday Reads: THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT and SPIRIT’S KEY

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This was a good week for reading! And not only because I happen to know both of the authors whose books I read. Both The Girl at Midnight and Spirit’s Key were fast and engrossing books, and I am excited to recommend them here.

the girl at midnightThe Girl at Midnight is by Melissa Grey, and is coming to shelves in April 2015! (Yes, I read it as part of the Fearless Fifteeners’ ARC tour.) It’s a fantasy set in the present day, where two ancient races are seeking an end to the ongoing war between them. The Avicen are birdlike people with feathers for hair who live beneath the streets of New York City. The Drakharin have scales and the ability to command fire. Echo is the human teenager who gets sucked into the middle of their war, via a search for the mythical Firebird. If it sounds epic and complicated…it is. But Grey juggles the multiple points of view beautifully. I don’t want to give too much away here, but I will say, if you’re a fan of recent YA fantasies like the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series and the Grisha trilogy (of which I admit I have only read the first book!), you should pick this one up. I am already dying to read Book Two, and that one doesn’t come out until 2016!

spirit's keySpirit’s Key by Edith Cohn is a middle-grade fantasy/ghost story that has a classic feel. It’s about a twelve-year-old girl, Spirit Holden, who comes from a family that can read people’s futures by holding their house keys. When the book starts, Spirit hasn’t come into her gift yet — but that’s about to change. When the wild dogs that live on remote Bald Island start turning up dead, the superstitious islanders fear that they’re next. Then Spirit starts seeing the ghost of her own recently deceased dog, Sky. With help from Sky and one of the island’s few other preteen residents, Nector, Spirit attempts to solve the mystery of what’s happening to her beloved island home. This book was a definite page-turner! I wanted to know what was causing the mysterious illnesses on the island — whether it would turn out to be supernatural or human in origin — almost as much as Spirit did, and I loved how the whole thing played out in the end. Another solid recommendation for anyone who loves middle-grade fiction.

That’s all for now! Anyone else reading anything good these days?

~Kathryn

Friday Reads: PLAYLIST FOR THE DEAD by Michelle Falkoff

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Just a quick Friday Reads today, to give a shout out to another of my fellow Fearless Fifteeners! Michelle Falkoff’s PLAYLIST FOR THE DEAD comes out on January 27th, and I got to read it a week ago as part of the Fearless Fifteeners ARC tour. I really enjoyed it!

playlistPLAYLIST FOR THE DEAD is about Sam, whose best friend Hayden commits suicide and leaves behind a playlist of songs that he says will explain everything. Of course, to Sam—reeling from losing his best (and only) friend and feeling tremendous guilt about what happened the last time they spoke—the playlist doesn’t really explain much at all. That doesn’t stop him from becoming obsessed with it. But when he meets a girl he didn’t know Hayden knew, Sam starts to discover what life without Hayden might be like. He also learns that there are things Hayden wasn’t telling him—and that Sam isn’t the only person feeling guilty and responsible for Hayden’s death. This book is part mystery, as the events that led up to Hayden’s decision are gradually revealed. But it’s also a portrait of grief and recovery. It’s a story of how you can be best friends with someone and still not know everything about him or share everything about yourself, and it’s a story about how you can learn to move on when that person is gone.

To keep things light (haha!), I picked up Ian McEwan’s ATONEMENT next, and I spent the week marinating in his prose. I’d seen and loved the movie, so I knew the plot; I just wanted to read it in his words. And wow, this book did not disappoint. Its glacially paced, artfully rendered opening chapters. Its raw, visceral depictions of a world at war. Its unflinching portrayal of a young girl’s lie, and the pain and loss that result from that lie. And its ending, with that young girl now an old woman reflecting on the past and still trying to atone for the trouble she caused. If you haven’t read ATONEMENT yet (or, I suppose, seen the movie…), definitely pick it up.

Are you reading anything good right now? I want to hear about it! 🙂

~Kathryn

Friday Reads: THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES and WHEN REASON BREAKS

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Happy Friday! After a brief blog hiatus (I have been revising my new book like a fiend, y’all!), I am back to recommend two absolutely wonderful books.

worse than witchesLauren Magaziner’s middle-grade debut THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES is a hilarious, magical read. It’s touted as being reminiscent of Roald Dahl, and that’s completely accurate. A young boy, Rupert, is being tormented by his evil teacher, Mrs. Frabbleknacker. When he sees an ad in the paper to become a witch’s apprentice (his town is famous—and infamous—for the witches that live there), he can’t resist applying for the job. But his new boss, Witchling Two, is barely older than Rupert, and is pretty much hopeless at magic. I know this phrase is overused (including by me…), but: hijinks ensue. And they are so, so funny. Lauren’s writing, like Dahl’s, is made to be read aloud. I know several middle-graders and soon-to-be middle-graders in my life who will be getting this recommendation.

when reason breaksOn the opposite end of the spectrum is Cindy L. Rodriguez’s Young Adult debut WHEN REASON BREAKS. (I read Cindy’s book as part of the Fearless Fifteeners ARC tour. This book comes out February 10, 2015—one week before mine!) WHEN REASON BREAKS is about two girls who are both having a hard time dealing with what life throws at them. Goth-girl Elizabeth has anger-management issues and a problem with authority. Popular and sweet Emily is struggling to balance friendships, a new boyfriend, and her overbearing conservative politician father. By the end of the book, either Elizabeth or Emily will attempt suicide. Both are in Ms. Diaz’s English class, learning about the life and poetry of Emily Dickinson, and one of the things I loved most about this book was how Dickinson’s work and life reverberate through the text. The book handles tough and sensitive subjects with compassion and care, and the writing is beautiful.

Have you read anything great lately? Tell me about it in the comments!

~Kathryn

Friday Reads: YA Buccaneers’ Summer Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

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It’s the end of the summer! (Boo, hiss.) And I completed the YA Buccaneers’ Summer Reading Challenge! (Yay!) I did it by the skin of my teeth. But I did it!

Over the past two weeks, I reread Jane Austen’s PERSUASION—my favorite Austen novel—to fill the “classic” category. Then, I beta-read a friend’s middle-grade manuscript that happened to be set on Sanibel Island, in Florida, which counted as my book set at the beach. And finally, this week I worked my way through ADAM OF THE ROAD, to fulfill the “book I disliked as a kid” category. Honestly, I don’t remember reading ADAM OF THE ROAD, much less disliking it, but when I asked my mom for recommendations, this was the one that came to her mind! So how did it hold up? It was a bit slow, and you can definitely tell it’s 70 years old…but I didn’t hate it. Would I recommend it to a kid today? Perhaps, if the child in question was really into history, especially medieval history. Would I read it again? Probably not. Can’t win ’em all.

Summer Reading 8-29

Here’s the final rundown, with links to my original post about each book:

Biography or memoir: WILD by Cheryl Strayed

Non-YA book: LANDLINE by Rainbow Rowell

Classic: PERSUASION by Jane Austen

Debut author: BEHIND THE SCENES by Dahlia Adler

Book with ‘summer’ in the title: THE SUMMER I WASN’T ME by Jessica Verdi

Book published the year I was born: THE BFG by Roald Dahl

Male protagonist: VICIOUS by V.E. Schwab

FREEBIE: FIRE WITH FIRE by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian, THE STORYSPINNER by Becky Wallace, SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo, and many more!

Book I disliked as a kid: ADAM OF THE ROAD by Elizabeth Janet Gray

Old favorite: THE HISTORY OF LOVE by Nicole Strauss

Book that’s been on my TBR a long time: OCD LOVE STORY by Corey Ann Haydu

Printz Award winner: JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta

Book set at the beach: TURTLE TRACKS by Stefanie Wass (read in manuscript form)

Book with LGBT characters or themes: SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA by Becky Albertalli

Book of poetry or novel in verse: CRANK by Ellen Hopkins

In total, I’ve read 26 books since we kicked off the Summer Reading Challenge! Not bad at all. As we go into the fall, I’m going to shift back into writing about and recommending books on a less formal schedule—but I promise not to stop Friday Reads entirely! And who knows…maybe I’ll find time to blog about some other things, as well…

Hope everyone has a lovely Labor Day weekend!

~Kathryn

Friday Reads: “In a World Just Right,” “Written in the Stars,” “Jellicoe Road,” and “The BFG”

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I feel like I read ALL THE THINGS this week! I can’t remember the last time I plowed through four books in seven days. But they’re all awesome books, all page-turners…and having sent my new manuscript off to its first few beta-readers, I had a little more time on my hands than usual.

Here’s the scoop:

In a World - Written in the Stars

I ended up with two more Fearless Fifteener ARCs this week: Jen Brooks’ IN A WORLD JUST RIGHT and Aisha Saeed’s WRITTEN IN THE STARS. Both were wonderful, and you should buy them in 2015. (That’s going to be a theme whenever I comment on upcoming Fearless Fifteener releases going forward: buy them! Support talented debut authors!)

IN A WORLD JUST RIGHT is about a boy, Jonathan, who can create new worlds at will. As a high school senior in the real world, Jonathan is a loner, disfigured by a facial scar and generally ignored by his peers. In his favorite alternate world, he still has the scar, but he’s dating the most popular girl in school, runs track, and has friends. One day he accidentally tries to kiss the real Kylie Simms, instead of the version that’s his girlfriend, and the two Kylies begin to merge, taking on each other’s characteristics. In order to save them both, Jonathan has to figure out the truth behind his world-building abilities. This book has a plot that twists and turns, keeping you guessing until the very end. Great for fans of sci-fi/fantasy and contemporary stories alike!

WRITTEN IN THE STARS is about a Pakistani-American, Naila, whose parents want her to have an arranged marriage. The problem is, Naila has fallen for a classmate, Saif, and she’s been hiding her relationship from her parents. When they find out about her boyfriend, Naila’s appalled and disappointed parents whisk her off for a “vacation” in Pakistan—and it soon becomes clear that they have bigger plans for her. I couldn’t put this book down. Naila’s journey from fairly typical American teen (despite being the child of conservative immigrant parents) to unhappy seventeen-year-old bride is wrenching and powerful. The ending made me cry. I highly recommend this book!

Next, I crossed two more books off my YA Buccaneers Summer Reading Challenge bracket:

Jellicoe - BFGThey’re both rereads: Melina Marchetta’s JELLICOE ROAD for my Printz Award Winner and Roald Dahl’s THE BFG as my book published the year I was born! I read JELLICOE ROAD several years ago, and I have to confess that I found it hard to get into at the beginning. Then, the ending blew me away. Upon rereading, I was hooked from page one. The story is really two stories intertwined: in present-day Australia, Taylor Markham is competing in a territory war at her boarding school against the local Townies and the Cadets who visit each summer. Taylor was abandoned on the Jellicoe Road by her mother years ago, and was raised by Hannah, a mysterious and sad woman who lives near the school grounds. Hannah, meanwhile, is writing a novel that tells the story of five friends dealing with heartbreaking loss two decades prior: Narnie, Webb, Tate, Jude, and Fitz. I don’t want to spoil the way these two tales intersect, other than to say that if the start of the book doesn’t hook you, keep going. It’s well worth it.

THE BFG was one of my absolute favorite books as a kid. I have vivid memories of reading favorite passages over and over and laughing until I cried. The snozzcumbers! The whizzpoppers! The way different people from different countries have different flavors! (People from Turkey taste like turkey, while people from Greece taste greasy and people from Panama taste of hats.) When I discovered that this book was first published in 1982, and thus fit into one of my Summer Reading Challenge categories, I knew I was due for a reread—and rereading just cemented how much I can’t wait to share this book with my own kids one day.

Summer Reading 8-15

Only three squares to go! (I still can’t think of a book I disliked as a kid… I remember devouring just about everything! Mom? Help!)

What are you reading this week?

~Kathryn

 

Friday Reads: Heavy Issues Edition

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I didn’t plan this, but the past week’s reads all ended up being about heavy subjects. In a nutshell: September 11th, depression, suicide, and meth addiction. But don’t run away yet! The books that covered these dark topics ranged from compelling to uplifting to heartbreaking to downright beautiful.

20344662I received two Fearless Fifteener ARCs at the end of last week, both very high on my “can’t wait to read this” list. Kerry O’Malley Cerra’s JUST A DROP OF WATER is a middle-schooler’s-eye-view of the events surrounding September 11th. As the school year starts, Jake’s biggest worry is beating his cross-country rival and securing a coveted Team Captain armband. But after September 11th, everything changes. Jake lives in Florida, far from the attacks, but he feels the repercussions in a very real way. His mom becomes fearful and paranoid. His best friend, Sam, gets beaten up for being Arab-American. Sam’s father is detained and questioned by the FBI. Jake struggles to determine what’s right in an incredibly hard situation. He doesn’t always make the right choices, but he learns a lot. His story will give today’s middle-schoolers insight into a historical event that happened just before they were born and shaped the world they live in. Although the descriptions of the day itself were hard to read, as someone who remembers that day all too well, the rest of the book was a compelling page-turner. I highly recommend this one, which comes out in just a few weeks.

18336965Right after that, I started Jasmine Warga’s MY HEART AND OTHER BLACK HOLES. This book is about a depressed teen, Aysel (pronounced like gazelle), who enters into a suicide pact with a boy who’s wracked with his own grief and guilt. But as Aysel gets to know Roman and finds herself opening up to him, she discovers that she wants to live. The concept might sound dark and sad—and it is. But this book is also profoundly hopeful. Aysel’s journey is heartbreaking and difficult, and yet it also manages to be uplifting without minimizing the serious issue of depression. Part of what keeps the book from feeling unrelentingly bleak, especially at the beginning, is Aysel’s wonderful voice. She’s funny and snarky, and she peppers her narration with references to physics, her favorite subject. As she finds herself falling for Roman, there’s a sweet vulnerability, as well. Really, I can’t say enough about this book—and I don’t want to say much more, for fear of spoiling the experience of reading it. MY HEART AND OTHER BLACK HOLES comes out a week before my own book, in February 2015, and you should definitely buy it.

270730For the YA Buccaneers’ Summer Reading Challenge, I read Ellen Hopkins’ CRANK, a novel-in-verse that’s based on Hopkins’ daughter’s descent into meth addiction. Hopkins is well-established on the YA scene at this point, and I’d never read any of her books (which are all written in verse), so this seemed like the time! What I liked most was the verse itself. Hopkins is a skilled poet, crafting poems within poems that contradict or elaborate on what’s being said on the surface. She lays the words out on the page in ways that enhance the text, as well. And by telling Kristina’s story in verse rather than using traditional narration, Hopkins is able to keep the story focused on raw, visceral emotion. My criticism would be that Kristina’s voice didn’t always feel authentic to a teenaged girl fighting a losing battle against “the monster” of meth. There were times I felt Hopkins—the adult author and mother of a girl very much like Kristina—intruding into Kristina’s thoughts. But if you’re interested in seeing how verse can propel a story forward in nontraditional ways, check this one out.

That’s all for now! Next week, I’ll have to try to read something a little more upbeat… Anyone have any beach book recommendations? 🙂

Summer Reading 8-8 ~Kathryn