It is no secret that my favourite Teen book last year was Maggie Stiefvater's incomparable The Raven Boys, book one of The Raven Cycle. Full of male and female friendships, mysteries, magic, and the search for a Dead Welsh King, Stiefvater's characters and story lingered long after the last page. Within its lyrical prose are descriptions so visual that one could paint them and wit so sharp one could be cut on it. In between and beneath, is an exploration of privilege and what an imbalance of it can do to relationships. The Raven Boys is one of the few Teen books that I've read more than once; it's a book that felt perfectly, wholly written Just For Me.
That kind of love weighs heavy with expectation for the next book. The Dream Thieves, much like The Raven Boys, is a slower burn than other books in the Teen section. It gathers timber, arranges it strategically, and then the story ignites with a flash that leaves you devouring the second half of the book.
Expanding the mythology of The Raven Cycle, The Dream Thieves turns the spotlight on the previously inscrutable Ronan Lynch. While Ronan was not my favourite character in The Raven Boys, by the end of The Dream Thieves I not only understood him, but had an immense respect for him. Seeing the other characters through his eyes allows for insight and perspective that reveals more depth and complexity to their relationships. Privilege and power continue to be central to the story, but this second book also discusses brotherhood and family. (Plus more magic, more mystery, and even more kissing.)
If you're in the Calgary area on Thursday, Oct 24, then you should visit Indigo Cross Iron at 7:00 pm to meet Maggie Stiefvater. For the rest of us, please welcome her back to the blog to discuss one of my favourite books of 2013.
Indigo Teen Blog (ITB): The Shiver Trilogy, The Scorpio Races, and The Raven Cycle take place outside of bustling big cities. What draws you to writing about lesser known places? Is there something magical about small towns?
Maggie Stiefvater (MS): I think big cities are imaginary.
Well, maybe not. Maybe it's hard for me to see them. I grew up in the middle of nowhere and in small towns for the most part, and even though I'm now comfortable in big cities as well, I still tend to see them in sections. When I was writing SINNER, I knew it had to take place in Los Angeles — by all accounts a large and sprawling city. But LA is sort of divided up into rough neighborhoods, and I saw those divisions much more easily than the entirety of LA. Everything feels just like the place that you are when you're in it. It's just that in a big city, it keeps going on and on.
The one thing I will say about a small town is that I feel acutely connected to nature, and the one way to drain my battery is to keep me away from it. A small town can often manage to keep its fingers buried in feral soil, and that, to me, makes it slightly more conducive to magic.
ITB: Speaking of Big Cities, we can't wait to read Sinner! (Formally known on Tumblr as The White Pants Novel.) Did you find writing a standalone adventure about Cole and Isabel easy to separate out from the events of The Shiver Trilogy?
MS: I suspected it would be a simply thing to make it a standalone before I began. And then it surprised me by even more standalone than I originally thought. There wasn't just the geographical distance — there was the interpersonal distance. The events of the Shiver trilogy really do stay anchored in Mercy Falls, although the ripple effect makes it all the way out to California. Expect angst. Much angst.
ITB: Added anything new and interesting to your—we mean, Gansey's journal?
MS: It wretchedly went missing after a tour leg and I deeply suspect it was eaten by a haunted Las Vegas hotel. I can't bring myself to make another. My soul was in that one.
ITB: The relationships in The Dream Thieves are varied, complex, and heartbreakingly real. Do you think it's more difficult to be in a relationship when you're a teenager? Or is it just different?
MS: Something that readers sometimes tell me is "It makes me glad I'm not a teen anymore, because everything seemed to MATTER more then." Or "teens always have their feelings turned up to 11." Or "there was so much angst in this book, so very teen." I think possibly I am a bad person to ask about this, because I still feel this way. Does it normally change? I think it is harder to be in a relationship as a teenager because you have to ask for the car keys. But otherwise, so many of the things that we think are unique to a teen relationship — parental approval, figuring out who you are, misunderstanding each other — exist in every relationship everywhere for the rest of your life. Is it different? Sure. Because every relationship is different, or else I would be very bored writing them.
ITB: We love the Grey Man, and are really looking forward to seeing more of him. But can you give us a preview of any other new characters we're going to be meeting in the third book?
That is a summarized version of the sound I made when I thought you were seriously asking me for spoilers.
ITB: They were for the new Gansey Journal we want to make for you. *ahem* How many tweets does one have to send to get put in Twitter jail? (We're awfully sorry about that.)
MS: I blame you guys for this entirely. I never get put in Twitter jail left to my own devices, and I tweet a LOT. In fact, I just live-tweeted my first ever viewing of an episode of Supernatural and that was a billionty tweets in an hour. And still. No Twitter jail.
ITB: You have an event on October 24 in Alberta—home of the Calgary Stampede. Have you ever been to or participate in a rodeo?
MS: I have not been in a rodeo. But I used to ride horses in jumper and dressage, which is like a rodeo for people who like smaller saddles and horses that break more easily. Does that count?
ITB: You may have to ask the crowd on Thursday night to find out.
Thanks to Maggie Stiefvater and Scholastic Canada for arranging this Q & A. The Dream Thieves is now available.
From its gorgeous cover to its intriguing premise, Amanda Sun's Ink has worked its magic on us. The first book of The Paper Gods series introduces Katie Greene and Tomohiro, whose attraction to each other awakens powers that have been existing secretly throughout Japanese history. Sun presents a new interpretation of Japanese mythology using the simple elegance of Tomohiro's brush strokes, but what fills in the space between is a captivating tale of Katie's challenges of being a foreigner in Japan. From wearing the wrong slippers to joining the Kendo club, Sun turns ordinary experiences into adventures while explaining Japanese culture and language with an ease that makes Ink accessible to every reader.
Thanks to our friends at Harlequin Teen, we're pleased to welcome Amanda Sun to our blog tell us more about The Paper Gods and Japan.
Indigo Teen Blog (ITB): Did you find it difficult to balance Katie’s day to day experiences in Japan with the paranormal element of Tomo’s power? Or did they feel naturally connected while you were writing?
Amanda Sun (AS): I actually found that they worked together quite easily while I was writing. The moments with the ink or Tomo's nightmares can be intense and frightening, and after it's nice to have things sort of go back to normal through Katie's experiences. Many of the drawings Tomo does are in the Japanese calligraphy style, which is another aspect of the culture and helps the two sides blend together. I find Katie's day-to-day a lot of fun because I like to lead her around and introduce her to a lot of different parts of Japanese life--tea ceremony, school life, and, one of my favorites, Japanese food! At the same time, Tomo is bringing in the darker mythology of it all, as well as his everyday life which includes kendo and studying for entrance exams. I look for moments when the paranormal can creep in like a shadow before permeating the scene with ink, and so it seems to grow pretty naturally into the story
ITB: I love the Tanabata festival; it’s my favourite Japanese myth. Was there any special reason you wanted to include it in INK?
AS: I love the story of Tanabata too! There are many different version of the story, but in most of them the two lovers Altair and Vega are separated all year as stars in the sky, and only come together on the 7th day of the 7th month. At that time, a flock of magpies fly as a living bridge to unite the lovers for one day. On Tanabata in Japan, you write your wishes for the year on coloured paper and hang them on a bamboo tree. When I lived in Japan, my host family celebrated Tanabata with a sasa (bamboo) tree and tehanabi, tiny fireworks for the backyard like sparklers. It was a memorable event for me, and a real mark of Japanese summertime. Katie celebrates Tanabata in INK, and so it's very special that INK's launch will be on Tanabata weekend, especially since it's my wish coming true. ^_^
ITB: Reading INK is like watching an anime. Did anime influence your plot or pacing? (IE Do you think of each book as a season?)
AS: I love anime, but I'd have to say that J-dramas were the bigger influence on INK. I think what I've drawn from these inspirations is the influence on storytelling more than the pacing. What I love about animes and dramas from Japan is that outcomes aren't predictable. You won't necessarily get your happy ending. The lovers might not end up together, the protagonist might not win that contest she's entering, and so on. It's about dealing with heartbreak and loss instead of completely succeeding, and that's something that I've tried to incorporate into INK.
I do really love the visual emphasis in anime, manga, and some J-dramas, and that's something you'll probably notice in INK. I'm really interested in the cinematics of a scene and try to get an interesting and emotional "camera angle" haha. :)
ITB: What was it like to return to Japan to research INK after having lived there as an exchange student?
AS: Well, I actually lived in Osaka when I was in Japan, and Shizuoka is a very different city. I'd hosted students from Shizuoka before, and it was while visiting them and touring their high school that I'd started to realize it was the perfect setting for INK. It had a very genuine feel to it--large Japanese city but not as monstrous as Tokyo, just a little isolated with hardly any foreigners in site, and of course the castle and park in the middle of the city. It also had an archaeological dig under construction, a perfect secluded spot for Tomohiro to draw.
I returned after writing the first draft of INK and walked around the streets, looking in more detail at the places mentioned in INK. My first visit to Shizuoka had been in the summer, so this time I made sure to go during cherry blossom season. I walked from Katie's neighbourhood through Sunpu Park and toward the area her school would be in to get a real feel for what it would be like. It was a really interesting experience. I felt like Katie had taken over, and I was seeing it through her eyes. (I don't sound crazy, right? Fictional characters are totally real.) :D
When I got home, I rewrote those passages in detail, writing down what Katie had experienced. I hope that feeling of seeing it first-hand comes across. There's nothing like walking through that park with cherry blossoms drifting around you like snow. Very surreal.
ITB: You did an amazing cosplay from FF13 for Anime North. What’s your next cosplay?
AS: Thank you so much! This year I cosplayed as Vanille from Final Fantasy. I used over 1600 beads, more than 500 hand-painted and some handmade out of clay. I like a bit of a challenge, and it's great learning new skills that I haven't had a chance to try out before--sewing, painting, prop making, and so on. I have a few cosplays on my dream list for the next year. They are Sailor Venus, Gabrielle from Xena, and Demona from Gargoyles. I'm excited to try my hand at making wings! My 6-year-old daughter loves to cosplay with me, and she's handing me a list of requests as well. Her top choice is Princess Garnet's dress from Final Fantasy IX, so we'll see!
ITB: I spent most of INK envisioning the drawings of CLAMP or maybe Sugesaki Yukiru. Who would be your dream artist for a manga adaptation?
AS: Those are both great choices! I can certainly see how those styles would suit INK. My favourite manga artist is Watase Yuu. She drew the beautiful series Fushigi Yuugi and Ayashi no Ceres, both of which I really enjoyed. I love the elegance of her drawings, so I think she would be my dream choice! :)
ITB: What’s it like to know your book could be sitting on someone’s shelf next to John Green’s titles?
AS: Wow. Thrilling and surreal. Very surreal. I've actually been into the bookstore a few times now to take a peek at my "book neighbours," and I'm excited about the shelf neighbourhood I'm in haha. ^_^ Eve Silver, Margaret Stohl, Laini Taylor...I'm really honoured to have INK sitting in between them! To have my book in the bookstore with my heroes like John Green, Patrick Ness, and Neil Gaiman...and even more, in someone's home...well, that's the greatest privilege I can imagine. What I want more than anything through my books is to connect to the reader, to have that sentence where we feel we're not alone in the world, and that we're understood. And that is the greatest gift I can experience as an author and a reader.
Thanks again to Harlequin Teen and Amanda Sun. Don't miss your chance to meet her at Indigo Yorkdale on Saturday, July 6 at noon. She's also a part of the Harlequin Teen YeahYA tour stop at Chapters Brampton on Sunday, July 7 at 2:00 pm.
Aliens are invading the Teen section. Unlike a certain two-hearted bowtie-wearing alien doctor, the extraterrestrial visitors of Margaret Stohl’s Icons and Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave mean us harm. Not only will both titles make you want to build a tin foil hat and prepare your emergency kit, they also release on the same day. How do you choose which one to read first?
Icons is Margaret Stohl’s solo debut; it’s the easy first choice for fans of the Beautiful Creatures series. Instead of a complex world in and beneath tiny Gatlin, Stohl builds a complex world in post-invasion Los Angeles. I loved seeing familiar landmarks like the Griffin Observatory transformed. I also enjoyed the insertion of research documents or transcripts in between chapters, as it reminded me of video games where you hunt for scraps of the history as you play through the present storyline. Too many details would give things away, but Stohl has obviously given considerable thought to how the history of her world has shaped its present.
The biggest draw of Icons is the concept of the Icon Children. Read a little deeper and you can see their group dynamics as an exploration of how emotions work within our psyches. Similar to the Casters (from Beautiful Creatures) and their individual powers, the idea of what being a Weeper, Rager, Lover, or Freak means and how it affects every aspect of that character’s life is fascinating. Thus, the book is far more about the characters of Dol, Ro, Tima, and Lucas than it is about the aliens who conquered their world.
In Icons, the future is occupation and oppression. The aliens may not walk among us, but no one forgets the hold they have over Earth. As the story happens after the invasion, the world you see is the result of years of servitude. Because society has returned to a status quo, Icons reminds me of classic science fiction like John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids.
Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave is a book so gritty you feel sand crunch in your teeth. Yancey drops you into the invasion, as The 5th Wave could happen tomorrow—and the immediacy of that dread is heavy in the air. Described as both “Ender's Game meets The Passage” and “Dark Inside meets The Host,” The 5th Wave is a must-read for all fans of Divergent and The Hunger Games.
Extermination is the modus operandi of the aliens in The 5th Wave. Grief and loss saturates this world—it is survivalist, militant, dark, and violent. Within the first hundred pages, Yancy grounds the tale in realistic details so you feel the isolation of the woods and that quiet stillness that happens when you leave the hum of the city. Only this silence blankets the entire earth.
Both Icons and The 5th Wave have romantic subplots. Both explore the ideas of family and loyalty. Both feature strong characters learning to be emotionally vulnerable and emotionally vulnerable characters learning to be stronger. But Icons is a tighter, more character-driven story, and The 5th Wave is an ambitious, more plot-driven story. Icons made me believe any of us could save the world from aliens; The 5th Wave made me believe it needed saving from aliens.
Read Icons first if: You’re a fan of Beautiful Creatures. You like stories that start smaller and build to big emotional climaxes. You want a story balanced between light and dark moments, with lots of science fiction references and jokes. You like anime. (Especially if you like Sailor Moon.) You get excited about Doctor Who.
Read The 5th Wave first if: You want a gritty, Christopher Nolan-like approached to alien invasion. You loved Divergent. You can’t wait to watch Ender’s Game on the big screen. You play Halo. You want tons of action. The more plot twists a book has, the more you want to read it.
"And I'll be Bobo Fett...I'll cross the sky for you." That was the moment that I fell in love with Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park...
So, you know at school when everyone sort of crushes on the same guy or girl? I think that I can safely say that Team Teen is currently crushing on the same book. Here are just some of our deep deep feelings towards it.
Mel: I want to hold this book’s hand and take it to a Smith’s concert.
Nat: Hand-holding so hot you’ll be weak in the knees.
Chandra: I want to hold a boom box up to this book’s window and play it love songs all night long. (Translation for anyone under 20: I want take my iPod and wireless speakers to this book’s house and play it MP3s all night long.)
We wanted to share our love with you by asking the author of Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell, about all the things she crushes on, her favourite kinds love stories, and the sights and sounds of the 1980s.
Indigo Teen Blog (ITB): Who is your favourite book or comic hero and why?
Rainbow Rowell (RR): Hmmm. It's really difficult to choose just one. I guess my favorite comic book character is Dr. Henry McCoy, Beast from the X-Men. I love him because he's super-smart and really funny and extremely ethical. Hank is usually the guy encouraging the other X-Men to do the right thing – but he's so kind and charming all the time, nobody resents him.
I think it's hard for comic book characters to be portrayed consistently— because the writers and artists are always changing. But everybody writes Hank with a good heart and a smart mouth. I think the Marvel writers must love him as much as I do.
I also have soft spots for Hermione Granger (smart and proud of it), Ramona Quimby (she feels so much!), Adrian Mole (self-centered and hilarious), Tiny Cooper (made of gold), Jamie Fraser (dreamy) and Thursday Next (heroic reader).
ITB: Who has given you the best advice in your life so far and what was it?
RR: Hmmm. Well, this doesn't sound like much, but my literary agent is one of my best friends, and
whenever I get confused or discouraged, his advice is always the same: "Finish your next book."
I feel like this idea is much bigger and better than it seems. It's not just about writing books –it's about staying focused and moving forward. Are you feeling bogged down? Are you feeling aimless? Think about the next thing you want to accomplish and then move toward it. Move. Make things happen.
ITB: What are your favourite kinds of love stories and why? How did this enhance your understanding of how Eleanor and Park's relationship evolved?
RR: Great question! I love love stories where you actually get to see the characters fall in love. The step-by-step process of it. When a fictional relationship happens too quickly—or when it happens off screen or during a montage—I just don't feel invested in the story. I want to fall in love with the characters. I want to take that journey with them.
So when I was writing Eleanor & Park, I tried not to fast-forward through their fall. I tried to make all the small things –the phone calls and hand-holding—feel as big as they do that first time you experience them. And I tried to show how the two characters fell in love, what it was they saw in each other. How Eleanor makes Park feel bold, how Park gives Eleanor faith...
I also wanted to show how love changes the way you see someone. The way that person comes into focus and starts to shine, the more that you care about him or her. (There's a scene where Park tries to remember what Eleanor looked like before he fell in love with her -- and he can't.)
I don't know if I actually achieved any of this -- but it's what I was thinking about when I was writing.
ITB: There is a trend for characters in teen books to be rich or look super pretty or handsome, but you crafted two characters who were pretty "normal" but with qualities the represented the "other" in society, such as being part of a minority group or being overweight with red hair. This is such an integral part of their story and the novel overall. Perhaps you can comment on this observation and if this was taken into consideration when writing Eleanor & Park.
RR: I didn't intentionally make Eleanor and Park unconventional ... They kind of came out of my head that way. But those are the sort of characters who appeal to me. In books. In TV shows. In movies. I like characters who become attractive to you because of who they are. When a book has to tell me how attractive a character is –when that's one of the first things a book tells me –I lose interest. I imagine the people whose photos come in picture frames. Generically symmetrical pretty people. Boring.
As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't matter whether Eleanor and Park are conventionally attractive. What matters is they they're wildly attractive to each other. That's what attraction is –the specific magic that happens between two people. You don't have to be the kind of beautiful that everyone can agree on. If the right person finds you beautiful, you win. You win forever.
I've written a longer piece on this topic. You can read it here:
ITB: Sometimes authors of YA stray from historical fiction –what was it about this story that had you place it in the 1980s? What were some of the questions you asked yourself as you approached some of the cultural, musical, and political characteristics of the period while trying to make it relevant for today's audiences?
RR: The simple answer is: I set the book in the '80s because I grew up in the '80s.
I think it's common for authors and artists to revisit their own adolescence in their work. It's such an intense time in your life, and when you're inside it, you're too busy growing and changing to make sense of what's happening. There's this urge to recreate the world the way that you remember it. (Think George Lucas and American Graffiti, Stephen King and Stand By Me. Paul Feig and Freaks and Geeks.)
I'm a little bit younger than Eleanor and Park, but I can remember 1985-1990 so much more vividly than any other time in my life. It's like you have more nerve endings when you're 15; I can remember what 1988 smelled like. I can definitely remember what it sounded like...
Another reason I chose the '80s was because I wanted to write about the way alternative music crept into the American Midwest during those years. New Wave. Punk rock. MTV. When Park gives Eleanor a Joy Division song, it's like nothing she's ever heard before – it makes her whole world feel bigger. I wanted to write about that feeling.
I tried not to over-think whether people born in the '80s –or later! – would want to read about that time period. When I was in high school, I read everything. I wasn't troubled by the historical references in Little Women.
Fortunately -- for me, as an author -- a lot of the cultural things I refer to in the book are actually more popular now than they were at the time. The X-Men. Watchmen. The Cure. More people know about The Smiths now than in 1986. (I specifically chose '86 because that's when Watchmen came out, and I knew I wanted to use it as a framework for the story.)
My perspective on those references is that they make the story richer if you get them, but they're extra; the setting isn't the point of the story. The point is Eleanor and Park–and what they're feeling is, I hope, timeless.
ITB: If you could hold anyone's hand in history who would it be?
RR: My husband's. I'd like to travel back in time with him and hold his hand in every era.
Team Teen thanks Rainbow Rowell, Macmillan U.S., and Raincoast for their help with this Q&A.
YA literature has a long history of thought provoking coming-of-age novels that are a reflection of the deeper philosophical, spiritual, and political questions that teens ask themselves.I believe that the power of teen fiction is rooted in the author’s ability to connect with the idea of the first time--first love, first kiss, the first time we are confronted with something that completely shifts our world view.
This week Team Teen honours the contemporary fiction books that we are obsessed about, books that ask real questions in a real world experience. Here are some of my personal favourites.
John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. As I said in my review, this is definitely the kind of novel I would have loved as a teen, because Green subverts the often melodramatic teens-dying-from-a-terminal-illness genre and with compassion and humour. Hazel and Augustus’s love story contains all of passion of first love, but with an awareness of the importance of being present.
Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park. This one is quickly becoming a Team Teen obsession and with John Green’s latest endorsement, it won’t be long until this will be yours, too. The perfect love stories are the ones where both characters make the journey to find something new within themselves, and Rowell completely understands this. The strength of this novel not only comes from its liquid poetry, but also from the Eleanor and Park’s emotional evolution to accepting love.
Jenny Downham’s Before I Die. With only a few months to live, sixteen-year-old, Tessa, has a bucket list that seems important and trivial at first, but when she falls in love with her next door neighbour, everything in life has more resonance. Downham examines the idea of what it means to be present, to live authentically, and with an awareness of the preciousness of the moment—even if we are afraid to journey through it.
Lauren Myracle’s Shine. Myracle crafts a tragic setting of a poverty stricken Southern U.S. town reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird and a reflection of the contemporary economic realities. When a young man is beaten because he’s gay, his traumatized best friend, Cat, sets out to find out want happened. This book tackles homophobia and abuse while questioning the systemic nature of hate in society where everyone around you encourages the same world view. It may begin with darkness, but Shine is more about the willingness to look at things differently, and to be brave enough find one’s inner light.
What fiction novels are you obsessed about? Let us know via Twitter with the #getobsessed hashtag.
It’s hard to say whether Ally Carter or Toronto gives the warmer welcome as she takes the stage at Indigo Yorkdale. "Hello, Canada! I feel like a rockstar," Carter says to a cheering crowd, who have gathered to meet the author of two best-selling Teen series: The Gallagher Girls and the Heist Society novels.
Part thriller and part mystery—with a dash of romance—Ally Carter's novels are all adventure. They're the kind of books you pick up and don't put back down; the kind that make you feel like our world is as mysterious and exciting as any found in a fantasy or science fiction title. Carter builds books around the troupe of teenagers taking on more than they can handle, and as a result her plots are driven by smart young women who get themselves in and out of trouble. "I write about teenagers. Those are my people," Carter says. "No one is more underestimated than a teenage girl."
The Heist Society series follows the daring adventures of Katarina "Kat" Bishop, whose family business is long cons and expert fakes. Think Ocean's 11 with teens, and you're headed in the right direction. Full of twists, double-crosses, and mysteries, the Heist Society novels are brainy good fun. Enjoyable because the reader is immersed in Kat's world, and even Kat doesn't always know who to trust.
"I like the idea of not everything being spoonfed," Carter says. "I write spies and thieves. I'm a covert kind of girl."
Given this love of action, it's no surprise that Carter's current book obsession is Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games. Like Carter's characters, Katniss Everdeen also proves the dangers of underestimating teenagers. Carter found The Hunger Games as a whole to be "so perfect" that she would've been satisfied with the story without reading Catching Fire and Mockingjay. (Of course, she has read the entire trilogy.)
As Carter signs copies of Perfect Scoundrels, the latest Heist Society book, we discuss how Collins so successfully told a story about war and its ramifications. Carter notes how the returning champions in Catching Fire—the movie due out this November—represent a wide variety of people, but all of them have been damaged by their time in the Arena. “If you go to the Hunger Games, it’s going to ruin your life,” she says. “You’re going to die or wish you’d died.”
While Mockingjay emphasizes how damanging the Hunger Games and war are to everyone involved, that message was often overshadowed in the lead up to the book's release with readers asking each other "Team Peeta or Team Gale?". Carter is facing a similar situation. While working on the final Gallagher Girls book, she has had the frustration of readers asking which guy Cammi, the main character, will be paired off at the end. One reader, in particular, was very opinionated about it and told Carter so on Twitter.
“It bothers me as a writer and as a woman,” she says, “when a character’s story isn’t over until she’s married with a baby.”
Teen series readers are known for their passionate opinions on whom should end up with whom—which may have begun with Twilight, and is now a part of the reading experience for most of the popular series in the section. While it creates an easy way for readers to connect with the books and each other, it can also create unfair expectations for authors. Obsessions have a dark edge, after all; they can make us lose sight of things.
"You don't get to make a threat to get the ending you want," Carter says. "You should be surprised by the ending of your favourite book."
She explains that part of the success of series like The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and Twilight is that fans didn’t know how they were going to end and had to keep reading to find the answers. I have to agree; what makes me hungry for more Heist Society novels is the greater mystery around Visily Romani—or at least who is currently using his identity. (Is it Uncle Eddie? Someone we haven't met yet?) Sparks fly between Kat and Hale, and I'm definitely invested in seeing how that works out, but it's the adventure and intrigue that grabbed a hold of me in Heist Society, kept me turning pages in Uncommon Crimminals, and had me counting down to the release of Perfect Scoundrels.
But I'd be lying if I denied being obsessed with learning what the W's in W. W. Hale the Fourth stand for. When the mic passes to a reader in the crowd who asks if we'll ever find out, Carter smiles and replies she’s having too much fun keeping Kat—and us—guessing.
Requiem is the fitting finale to Lauren Oliver’s Delirium trilogy, an ode to the things lost and found by Lena and really, everyone, as we enter adulthood. All of Oliver’s books are beautifully written; their lyrical prose pulls you through the story and into this future world where love is a disease—dangerous, illegal, and much harder to extinguish than anyone thought.
Told in alternating POVs, Requiem moves between Lena in the Wilds, as she fights for the resistance and against her feelings for both Julian and Alex, and Hana in Portland as she navigates her post-cure life and upcoming marriage to Fred Hargrove. It’s interesting how Lena and Hana went in opposite directions as they grew, and I enjoyed Hana's comments on this in Requiem.
Oliver’s trilogy is a superb example of how a talented writer can use setting as metaphor, allowing the outer world to convey the inner world of her characters. In Delirium both Portland and the Wilds took turns acting as an idyllic world, but as the story progressed both places are shown to be full of as much darkness and strife as they are joy. One of the things I respect this trilogy for is its honesty about what escaping civilization would really be like. I also love how this series is distinctly not-paranormal but Oliver ties the delira together with the idea of vampires or other monsters, showing how in this future society the idea of love has been transformed into the monsters of our horror stories.
Within Requiem are many of the needed confrontations and reconciliations between characters. Both Lena and Hana have some choices to make, and they both struggle against different obstacles to find the courage to seize control of their lives and futures. We’ve been hearing from some readers that Requiem wasn’t what people expected, but when you consider what the trilogy set out to do, I think Oliver has accomplished it magnificently. (There was a similar response to Mockingjay, after all.)
The final scene of Requiem, which I can’t say much about without spoiling, is perhaps the most poignant section of the series. It uses a metaphor that Oliver has presented again and again throughout the trilogy, neatly tying together the underlying message of the importance of love in all its forms. I can’t wait to see where Oliver takes us in whatever she writes next.
We’re talking about our book obsessions for the next few weeks here on the blog. I enjoy many books, and I love several, but the ones I will glady confess to be my obsessions are in a different league. They're the can't-put-them-down and stayed-up-all-night-to-finish ones. (Like that time I accidentally read Sarah Rees Brennan's Unspoken in a single sitting.) I mean the books that feel like they were written just for me; the ones filled with places I long to visit and characters so real that they become friends. While I’ll read a little bit of everything, most of the titles that I feel this way about are paranormal books.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that I love Beautiful Creatures. This gorgeous Southern Gothic weaves magic into a rich setting and has a cast of characters who feel like family. I read each book in the series the instant it was in my hands and then read them again to prepare for the release of the final book, Beautiful Redemption.
In the Beautiful Creatures series the magical world is intimately intertwined with our day-to-day lives—thriving in our sleepy small towns and running beneath our feet through Caster Tunnels we could spend several lifetimes mapping. The book begins with Ethan dreaming of finding his life far from Gatlin, but he comes to understand that belonging has to do more with people than places.
That’s another of the strengths of paranormal—it’s about characters who love across cultures, religions, and ethnic divides. What makes Ethan Lawson Wate and Lena Duchannes’ love so epic is that it is attainable. Easy? No, but possible. And that affirmation is important.
I guess you could say that The Caster Chronicles was my first love in the Teen section, so I was a bit concerned as it wrapped up that I wouldn't find something else I felt as passionately about.
It was a short-lived worry, because I am head over heels for Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys. It felt like it was written just for me. I wanted it from the moment I read about its announcement in Publisher's Weekly. Blue lives in a house full of psychics; Gansey spends his spare time searching for a sleeping Welsh King. What's not to love? While I adore the adventure and quest element, what pulls me through the book is the created family of The Raven Boys—Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Noah—and how their dynamic changes once Blue joins their group. This is a book about seeing yourself, your friends, and your world differently than you had.
All of the paranormal titles are about worlds hidden within our own, secret worlds with action-packed battles that happen when we aren’t looking. These books invite us to be a part of struggles that are bigger than the ones we may face, but still feel familiar. Tessa Gray and Sydney Sage can do things that we can’t, but they want the same thing we do—to find their place and be accepted. (Also to hang out with Magnus Bane.)
I guess that’s the answer to my obsession, really. I love the idea that the world we think we know can still evoke wonder and awe—we just need to (re)learn to see it.
Check out all of the titles we're obsessing over, and #GetObsessed with us on Twitter!
Get Obsessed: Melissa de la Cruz
Get Obsessed: Fairy Tales & Fantasy
Get Obsessed: Meeting Cassandra Clare
Get Obsessed: Guest Post: Marissa Meyer
Get Obsessed: Mysteries & Thrillers
Get Obsessed: Contemporary & Real World Fiction
Williams-Garcia is the author of nine novels, including the upcoming P.S. Be Eleven, the multi-award-winning gritty YA novel, Jumped, and many short stories. Her novel, One Crazy Summer won a number of accolades including, Coretta Scott King Award Winner, Newbery Honor Book, Scott O’Dell Prize for Historical Fiction and was a National Book Award Finalist. As you will see from our Q&A below, this author shows much wisdom with suggestions on how we can write truthful stories that speak to our multi-faceted experiences.
IndigoKids Blog (IKB): As you are often asked to discuss Black History Month, what are some of the themes that you find you are always coming back to and why? Do you ever find a rekindled interest in themes that you hadn’t considered before?
Rita Williams-Garcia (RWG): The same historical, cultural, and political themes have always shaped Black History Month. In my novel Jumped, Trina talks about adding colour to the same boring posters of Black History mainstays, Dr. Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X. There, my character unwittingly warns us that these figures and their significance may fade into the background of social relevance because of the ubiquitous presence during this month. But what if each year a main theme was voted on (by social media?) and emphasis was placed on that theme in history, art, politics, etc.? For example, what if the theme was economic empowerment? We’d see a rotation of figures—historical and current—who’ve made achievements and innovation in that area. Seminars on economic empowerment zones could be held in meeting places such as churches and libraries. Students could compete in projects or fairs that encouraged them to learn about economic development and demonstrate their knowledge. I’d love to see themes that inspire a call to action for all peoples out of the African and Caribbean diaspora.
IKB: One Crazy Summer (and its upcoming sequel, P.S. Be Eleven,) takes place during the 1960s, a tumultuous time in Black history, what were some of the questions that you had while writing these novels about this particular period and were they answered? What are some of the questions that you hope to leave with the reader?
RWG: I’m afraid, my questions while writing OCS had more to do with petty details, such as mapping out West Oakland, the prices of food items, the type of printing press Cecile was likely to own, the colours of patrol cars and their flashing lights. I knew the era as a girl and used this to filter the historical and cultural information down to what was essential to tell the story. It’s tempting to delve more into the times and the movement, but I kept the focus narrow and was able to tell a child’s story about a complicated piece of history.
I hoped to inspire young readers to wonder what part children played in that particular revolution or during other times of struggle. What was it like to be a child of a revolution or cause? How did it feel to have your home under surveillance or your parents arrested for political reasons? Did parents or grandparents witness a part of history? More importantly, I wanted children to think about the events that they are now witnessing and to record their thoughts and impressions. Today’s current events are tomorrow’s history.
IKB: Do you see areas of Black Cultural History that needs more attention? If so, why?
RWG: What a big, big question! Name an area and it needs more focus. Many students in the States were unaware of the number of Blacks who had crossed the border into Canada as runaway slaves or as free people until they read Christopher Paul Curtis’ Elijah of Buxton. There’s very little written about the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era, a period that saw many Blacks take political office. Jewel Parker Rhodes’ forthcoming Sugar will shed some light on post-Civil War life. But there’s a rich, co-mingled Black and First Nations history that has yet to be written about, and for that matter, there’s very little fiction and non-fiction for teens and young readers about relations between the people of the African and Caribbean diaspora. The stories are plentiful.They just need to be written.
IKB: Are there novels and history books for children and teens that have inspired you to see Black History in a different way?
RWG: I read a lot of biographies as a child because there was very little fiction for children with Black characters. But as a child, I had no awareness of Black History Week or Month. It wasn’t until my college years where we celebrated Black Weekend that I learned of Carter G. Woodson who established Black Week, the precursor to the month-long celebration. It was during my college years that I found Lerone Bennett, Jr.’s historical opus Before the Mayflower. This book had a profound impact on my awareness of the contributions of people out of the African and Caribbean diaspora from early civilization through the twentieth century. I watched as we went from Black Weekend in college to Black History Month being celebrated through North America. Real progress, however, would remove the need for a special month to raise awareness of our histories and cultures because these contributions would be recognized and included in the mainstream throughout the year. We’re still a ways from that, so I’ll take Black History Month for now! Without the scheduled emphasis, including Black history and culture within school curriculums and in the mainstream media would always be a challenge.
IKB: Have you noticed any similarities and differences in how Black History Month is commemorated in other countries? Do you notice any particular themes or events that are focused on depending upon the country?
RWG: I can’t really comment on how Black History Month is being celebrated in other countries because I always thought of Black History Month as a North American celebration up until the last two years. I reflected the narrow view of Black History in a short story, “Make Maddie Mad” for Donald Gallo’s First Crossings anthology where a Haitian teen writes a report on Toussaint L’Ouverture for Black History Month in a New York City high school, only to be “corrected” by her Haitian-American tutor and nemesis. Undaunted, the Haitian student tells her tutor that even little Haitian children know who the great liberator was. Underneath this message there is the idea that Black History extends beyond an African-American view of it. (Ahem, author, teach thyself first!) But if we time travel back to the ideas of Pan Africanism, espoused by those such as W.E.B. DuBois, unity and commonality among nations and people of the African diaspora isn’t a new notion. Just one that bears reinforcing.
I’m learning something new as I go along. Who knew Black History Month was celebrated in the UK during October? I stumbled upon this while looking for information about Caribbean immigrants in the UK during WWII. I also discovered a thriving Black artistic population in the Netherlands, so a celebration of history and culture seems only right. Whether suppressed or expressed, wherever people go, they take their culture and their history with them in one form or another.
It may be a blustery afternoon outside, but it’s warm and friendly inside Indigo Yorkdale, where YA readers have gathered to meet Melissa de la Cruz at the Toronto stop of her Gates of Paradise Tour.
This tour is special for two reasons: de la Cruz’s fans helped to determine which cities she would visit through online voting, and Gates of Paradise is the finale of her New York Times bestselling Blue Bloods series.
When I ask if her fans have been more excited about choosing the locations or the series finale, de la Cruz says it was a little of both—but the finale is the bigger draw.
“There’s definitely a different feeling of excitement,” she tells me. “It’s been very celebratory.”
Part of how de la Cruz has been celebrating is sharing the history of her Teen paranormal series. The Blue Bloods began with a phone call from her agent asking if de la Cruz would be interested in writing something darker than her popular Au Pairs series. The idea thrilled de la Cruz, as she’s always been obsessed with vampires—and loves novels by Stephen King and Anne Rice. Beneath her fashionable exterior, she jokes, is “a big geek.”
A firm believer in outlines, de la Cruz originally planned nine books for the series. While she worked on the first one, Blue Bloods, another book called Twilight hit the shelves. Vampires were suddenly everyone’s obsession. When Blue Bloods joined the teen section in early 2006, it was perfectly timed to help sate readers’ hunger for more. And the rest is history.
The Blue Bloods series comprises seven novels, a companion book and a Valentine Day’s collection. The series has been described as "Gossip Girl with vampires," but that simplification doesn’t give credit to the historical, mythological, and location research that has gone into de la Cruz’s books.
However, she is a Gossip Girl fan. While we discussed whether The Carries Diaries might be the next big thing, de la Cruz admits she doubts that there will ever be another Gossip Girl. Her reasoning being that the Gossip Girl TV phenomenon began in the late 90’s, a different era from today.
“Culturally, we’ve moved on,” she explains. Citing shows like Revenge and Downton Abbey, she points out how our view of the wealthy has changed from debutante balls. TV now shows us the rich “as they are.”
I ask her if this tendency to downplay glamour is also evident in young adult fiction and she agrees.
“Fantasy is grittier,” she says. “People are drawn to more realistic stories.”
For example, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, which was undoubtedly the biggest Teen book of last year. (It made both the Indigo Teen Blog and the Indigo Best of 2012 lists.) When asked about Green’s novels, de la Cruz says she enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars but her favourite is Looking for Alaska.
But her current book obsession is the adult novel, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It’s “well-plotted” and “the writing is very literary.” Not just a compelling read, de la Cruz adds that a writer can learn much from Flynn in “how she [tells] the story” and “surprises [the reader].” The book is deeply immersive, de la Cruz explains, a “full experience.”
Watching as reader after reader at the event approaches the signing table with the entire Blue Bloods series, it’s evident de la Cruz has managed to create her own “full experience” for her fans.
The final book of the Blue Bloods is definitely not the end of this experience. A gorgeous graphic novel adaptation of the first novel released the same day as Gates of Paradise. Also, her popular adult spin off, The Beauchamp Family series, has a new installment coming in the summer. Lifetime recently picked-up the TV adaptation of first book, Witches of East End.
Looking forward, de la Cruz has a new Teen book coming out this fall. FROZEN is the first book set in a post-apocalyptic ice-covered world. When I ask her if she means winter in Canada, she laughs and says “no.”
FROZEN takes place in an ice-covered Las Vegas. She and her husband/writing partner, Mike Johnston, describe the new series as “The Lord of the Rings in reverse.” Their series will explore a world where science and technology have broken down and magic is returning.
“It was fun to go completely into fantasy,” she says. While she enjoyed imagining “our broken world,” she assures us that “Vegas is still Vegas.” To keep that sense of realism, she did a lot of research on casinos and gambling so she could write her new main character: a young Black Jack dealer with a dark secret.
Ice-covered Las Vegas? Magic? Sounds like we’ve found a new obsession.
Thank you to Melissa de la Cruz, and our friends at HGB Canada for organizing the interview time. The Blue Bloods series is available in-stores and online.