Wednesday, August 8, 2012

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu!

Hello Readers,

Thank you so much for your loyal readership since I started this blog almost three years ago. Teen Book Festival has been an incredible part of my life for the past seven years, and writing this blog has made my experiences with TBF even more awesome. But alas, the time has come for me to retire.

I graduated from Nazareth in May, and am off to graduate school to pursue my doctorate degree. I'm so excited about my upcoming adventure, but it unfortunately means that I won't have enough time to give the blog the attention that my readers deserve.

You will still be able to read all of my previous posts, but comments will no longer be monitored regularly.

Please connect with Teen Book Festival via FacebookTwitter, and the TBF Teens Read blog to keep up-to-date on all the latest TBF news, and most importantly, keep reading and spreading the word about TBF!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

TBF 2012: Instagram Edition!

Hey Readers!

Well, the 7th Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival was last weekend and it was, of course, AWESOME. I guess what they say about "Lucky 7" is right, because I truly think this was our best TBF yet!

We all know that I'm obsessed with TBF, but I'm also obsessed with Instagram. In honor of these obsessions, I present a recap of TBF 2012 via Instagram pictures. It's the best of both worlds!

The crowds prepare for the authors arrival.

An awesome volunteer gets the crowd practicing their cheers for the authors' arrival.

The crowd goes wild as the author parade reaches the Schults Center.

A marching band led the parade again this year.

Authors (Inara Scott and Cinda Williams Chima) were transported by classic cars and limos. 

James Kennedy, Cat Patrick, and Gabrielle Zevin ride in style.

Nick Podehl and his wife Erin and Brent Crawford.

Laurie Halse Anderson curtsies in greeting her adoring fans.

Cat Patrick waves hello.

Julia DeVillers and Jennifer Roy arrive.

Jenny Han and Melissa Walker emerge from their car.

The Golden Flyer and a spartan (?) cheer on the authors.

The Mercy show choir provided pre-opening session entertainment.

Teens browse the Barnes & Noble bookstand.

TBF … where teens read EVERYWHERE!

Just a small section of the audience for the opening session.

The winner of the TBF t-shirt contest with her winning design and Stephanie, TBF founder and goddess.

A.S. King got her pants back!

Well readers, it was a GREAT year. And guess what? Only 359 days until TBF 2013 …

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Big Interview Post!

Hello Readers,

TBF is in less than 24 hours. I know! I can't believe it either! To celebrate, I present the big interview post! Five interviews by five awesome TBF authors. Are you ready???

James Kennedy

Last year you impersonated Audrey Niffennegger for charity. If you were going to impersonate an author who has attended or is attending TBF, who would you choose and why? What exactly would the impersonation entail?

Backstory: Audrey Niffenegger is the author of "The Time-Traveler's Wife" and other bestsellers. Like me, she lives in Chicago. We don't know each other. We were both invited to participate in a fundraising auction to help out a troubled Chicago-area library. She was auctioning off "an enchanting evening with Audrey Niffenegger," in which about a dozen lucky high bidders got to have a dinner party with her at a swank restaurant downtown.

Not to be outdone, I also auctioned off "an enchanting evening with Audrey Niffenegger (as played by James Kennedy)," at a decidedly less swank restaurant. The result was a ridiculous near-disaster which you can read about here, but there's pictures to show how close I got to the real thing:

As it turns out, Audrey Niffenegger was not amused. I ran into her at my neighborhood bookstore a few months later. It was awkward.

So whom will I impersonate from this year's TBF? I'm tempted to say Laurie Halse Anderson, since she threatened me with a shotgun at ALA 2010, but that seems too obvious. I would say Terry Trueman, but he's getting old and I don't want him to strain himself.

At TBF 2010, I was signing books next to Ellen Hopkins. A humbling experience: I signed for about 20 folks, but her line of admirers stretched out the door. Since I wasn't doing anything anyway, I decided to help Ellen out by signing books for her as "Another Ellen Hopkins".

But Ellen isn't coming to TBF this year. So maybe I'll just irritate Lyga. Yeah, let's say Lyga.

Based on the fan art that you post on your blog, I imagine that you get the coolest fan mail ever. What is the most memorable piece of fan mail that you’ve ever received?
This is a tie. I once received an email out of the blue from M.T. Anderson ("Feed" and "Octavian Nothing") who is hands-down one of my favorite modern authors, children's or otherwise. I didn't know him personally, but somehow he happened across The Order of Odd-Fish, and liked it, and actually took the time to write me an email saying how much he enjoyed my book. (It actually began with the line, "This is a fan letter.") This floored me. We're friends now, but I remember perfectly the thrilling feeling of my stomach dropping away when I read his email—and yes, I admit it, a small, tasteful turd dropping from between my quivering white buttocks. Hey! I'm not made of stone, people!

Anyhow, it's tied between that, and when I received this piece of fan art from Elise Carlson. It's a CAKE depicting the scene in "Odd-Fish" in which a giant fish vomits out a building.

Beautiful, astonishing, disgusting, terrifying, delicious!

Last time you were interviewed for the TBF blog, you told us a little bit about your work-in-progress "The Magnificent Moots." Do you have updates regarding "Moots" that you can share with us?

Yes! I finished "The Magnificent Moots." Then I hated it and threw half of it away. I should be finished with the new version at the beginning of the fall. If I have time, I will read from some of it at TBF!

It is far more insane and elaborate than The Order of Odd-Fish. In my first draft of "Moots" I tried to rein myself in and make the book more accessible. But that's why I ended up being dissatisfied with it. Now I see that the only way forward is to embrace the weirdness.
What books are on your list of “Top 5 Books I Couldn’t Live Without?” 
I have found that Terry Trueman's "Stuck in Neutral" makes excellent kindling.

What author are you most looking forward to meeting/seeing at the Seventh Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival?
It is always a treat to hang out with A.S. King. I feel a brotherly, non-creepy affection for her. I swear there is nothing creepy about my fascination with A.S. King at all. 

Susan Beth Pfeffer

You’ve been writing young adult fiction since the 1970s. What is your perception of how the young adult literature world has changed since the 70s?
That's a very sensible question, but I can't give a really educated answer, since I rarely read young adult literature (I rarely read adult literature either- I prefer non-fiction).

All fiction goes through stages. There have been years when young adult novels focused on highly realistic serious problems. Other times fantasy was what people liked reading the most.

But stages come and go. It's like my mother used to say- Keep all your clothes; they'll come back in fashion someday.

What got you interested in writing about the aftermath of the astronomical disaster as the heart of your “Moon” series?
I love writing about famlies going through difficult situations. It's the theme I return to on a regular basis. One of the great things about writing YA books, is I can use a teenager as my main character, and explore the family dynamic from that perspective.

I also love disaster movies, the world coming to an end, or a supervolcano erupting, that kind of thing. I watched one of those movies one day and after the movie ended, I asked myself what would it be like to be a teenager living through a worldwide catastrophe.

Since the theme played right into families going through difficult situations, I spent some time working it out, and ended up writing Life As We Knew It.

You’re currently working on a fourth book in the “Moon”series. Can you give a spoiler-free sneak peek at this new novel?
Well, I'm hoping to finish the first draft today, but if not, I'll finish tomorrow.

It takes about 3 years after This World We Live In, and Jon, Miranda's younger brother, is the main character. He's 17 now, and his teenage years have been completely different from Miranda's and Alex's.

You get to find out what became of Miranda, Alex, Matt, Syl, Dad, Lisa, and Gabriel (I think I got them all), but you see them through Jon's eyes.

What was your favorite book when you were a teenager?
I'm terrible at favorites. I never have one favorite anything.

I read a lot of plays as a teenager, and watched a lot of old movies from the 1930s and 1940s on TV. I learned a great deal about structure, characters, and dialogue from both the plays and the movies, although at the time I didn't realize that they were teaching me skills I'd end up using as an author.

What author are you most looking forward to meeting/seeing at the Seventh Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival?
I work alone, and I rarely get to meet other writers, so just saying hello to them will be fun for me.

I'm doing my programs with Megan Crewe. We've been exchanging emails, and she sounds wonderful, so I'm definitely looking forward to meeting her!

Megan Crewe

You’ve written in both the paranormal and disaster genres. Do you approach a story differently depending on the genre?
I did approach "The Way We Fall" somewhat differently from "Give Up The Ghost," but I wouldn't say it's because of the genre. I have a sort of general sense of how I want to structure a novel, and the character and story arcs within it, that influences every book I write. Then each book brings its own individual challenges that affect my writing process for that book. Those challenges, for me, haven't been about genre so much as the personalities of my main characters and the tone I want to get across. For example, while "Ghost" is told in a fairly traditional first person narration, where now and then several days or even a few weeks of Cass's life might be skipped to get to the next major part of her story, with "TWWF" I wanted to show the gradual day-by-day decline of Kaelyn's world, so I ended up using a journal format which divided the story into many small "scenes" that are rarely more than a day or two apart. And of course writing in journal format meant I had a whole new set of concerns to keep in mind while working out the story.

It might be different, though, if I was writing a genre more apart from what I'm already familiar with. Pretty much everything I've worked on since I first started writing novels in high school has fallen under the umbrella of speculative fiction, which includes all types of fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, etc. Even though those each have their own tropes and expectations, at heart I think they're similar types of stories, and so can be approached in very similar ways. I'd have to do a lot more thinking before trying to write, say, a contemporary YA with no speculative elements, and probably have to take a lot of factors I'm not used to into consideration.

Paranormal literature is all the rage right now. What is your favorite paranormal book that you’ve read lately?
I'd say my favorite paranormal-ish YA from the last year would be Nova Ren Suma's "Imaginary Girls."  I loved how subtle the supernatural aspects were (to the point that I've seen debates over whether it really was paranormal at all!), the haunting mood, the believable relationships between the main characters, and the fact that it takes off in a different direction from the ground many paranormal novels are already covering, which made it unpredictable and exciting. As a writer, you get to know a lot of the tricks of foreshadowing and set-up, which can ruin your experience as a reader to some extent because you pick up on what's coming so easily. So I always appreciate it when a book can surprise me.

Did you always want to be a writer? What was your journey to becoming a published author like? 
I've always loved writing and stories. When I was so young I didn't know how to print words yet, I used to dictate stories to my mom, who'd write them down for me so I could illustrate them. It wasn't until I got into upper elementary school, though, that it occurred to me that maybe I could actually make a career out of it. Writing had always seemed like something I just did for fun, but when my teachers and friends started getting excited about my stories, I realized I might actually be fairly good at it.

My journey to becoming published was relatively straight-forward. I wrote several novels before I tried to get one published, because I could tell after finishing or revising the earlier ones that they weren't quite up to parr yet. But with GHOST, I felt that this was The One. I queried agents, was offered representation, saw the book go on submission to publishers, and after a rather stressful year of uncertainty, had it sell, to my great joy. :)

What five books are on your list of “Books I Couldn’t Live Without”? 
Well, that would be a rather long list--I always find it hard to narrow down my favorites because there are so many books I love and I don't like to leave any out. Five that would definitely be included on it, that are among my long-time favorites, would be:

"The Witches" by Roald Dahl

"The Changeling" by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

"The Last Unicorn" by Peter S. Beagle

"The Pricess Bride" by William Goldman

"Watership Down" by Richard Adams

Which author are you most looking forward to meeting/seeing at the 7th Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival? 
I'd have to say Susan Beth Pfeffer, who I'm lucky enough to be presenting with at the festival. I love "Life As We Knew It," and it was one of the major inspirations for "The Way We Fall," so it'll be amazing to get to chat with her.

Charles Benoit

Your newest book will be debuting at the Teen Book Festival this May. What can you tell us about that new novel? 

It's a classic tale of boy meets girl, girl introduces boy to life of art theft, and it's quite exciting. But don't take my word for it - here's what Publishers Weekly had to say: "Benoit’s fast pacing, spot-on dialogue, and plot twists keep readers guessing about Grace (“Trust me.... You’ve got no idea what I’m thinking”), rooting for Sawyer, and pondering questions about freedom, choice, and integrity in human connections." Cool, huh? I don't even know them.

Before you wrote your first young adult novel, “You,” you wrote mysteries for adults. Now that you’ve written two books for teens and are currently working on your third, do you ever see yourself going back to writing for adults?
I don't see a big difference. I don't "dumb-down" my writing for teens or "spice-up" my writing for adults. I write the best darn story I can tell, and right now I like telling stories that involve teens and crime. Perhaps the biggest difference is that when I'm writing adult novels and I need a character to get from point A to point B at 3am, they just go. With teens as protagonists, I have a lot more restrictive realities to work within. But just like the real-life teen who needs to get from point A to point B at 3am (and you know who you are), I find a way to get it done.

What is your favorite part about being an author? Your least favorite part? 

No doubt about it, The Best part is meeting readers. And it's even better when they've read one of my books. Writing a book takes hundreds (if not thousands) of hours, and most of that is spent alone. Spending time with people who value and appreciate what you do makes it worth all the effort. And they don't even have to like my books--if they've read them and can argue about them--tell me what they liked and what they hated--I want to meet them. That's the best. The worst? You know that frustrating feeling you get when you've got a tiny part of a song stuck in your head but you can't think of the name or who sang it or how the rest of the song goes? Imagine having that feeling every day for months. That's what it's like when you're writing--you know the story is in there and you're this close to getting it out...and it slips away. That's my least favorite part.

What was your favorite book when you were a teenager? 

"A Princess of Mars" by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I loved that book, and every book in the series. I still have the copy I had when I was a teen. I dug it out a few months back and sat down to re-read it. I got half-way through the first chapter. Let's just say my tastes have changed.

What author are you most looking forward to meeting/seeing at the Seventh Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival? 

This is a trick question since you know I want to meet them all. But I agreed to answer so I will give you 3 (from my list of 30) who I want to chat with: Barry Lyga (his Fan Boy Goth Girl book is coming up soon on in my to-read pile), Brent Crawford (because Carter is a great character and I want to steal him), and Susan Beth Pfeffer (for her books, natch, but also because she says she had a brother who lived in Greece, NY and I want to see if I knew him).

Julia DeVillers

One of your books was made into a Disney movie and you made a cameo appearance. How much input did you have into the book to movie process?
I knew that the book would be changed, so my main hope amounted to “Please stay true to the positive message.” (And they did.) It turned out they were very receptive and kept me in the loop, which I appreciated.

And yes, I went to the set and had a cameo in the movie. Super fun, slightly embarrassing. The movie-Dad was trying to spice up his pizza place by inventing unique pizzas and he debuted his new creation: chicken feet pizza. And the prop was real chicken-legs embedded in a pizza (the crew was dying laughing at how wrong it was). It smelled rancid and I made a disgusted face. So my cameo is me looking like I’m going to throw up. (I thought the hair people did a nice job on my hair, at least.)

What is writing with your twin sister like? Who writes what? Do you alternate chapters, or do you both work on the same passages together?
We both also write our own individual books, and when we decided to write together I knew we'd either be completely in sync--the whole spooky identical twin thing-- or kill each other. We're both alive and just finished book #5 (yesterday!) so, there you go.

The series is told from the point of view of two characters, identical twin sisters with different personalities. We alternate writing chapters, then go over each other’s. Her changes always make my chapters sharper.

What was the last book that you read?
"Chicken Soup With Rice," out loud to my kids. Maurice Sendak passed away today [May 8], and that was my favorite of his books. RIP.

Which author are you most looking forward to meeting/seeing at the 7th Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival?
Well, not Jennifer Roy because we've been together 24/7 the past few weeks finishing our book together, so we're sick of each other. Not really! :)

I haven’t met Susan Beth Pfeffer yet. I recently unearthed our childhood copy of "Kid Power" in my mom's basement, a book that inspired Jen and me to start our own babysitting business. It was successful, too! More recently, her "Moon" series freaked me the heck out. I need to meet this person who could write such different books that affected me in obviously different ways.

Thanks to all the awesome authors who contributed to this post. We will see you TOMORROW!!!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Elyse Reads!

Hello Readers,

Today is the final day of guest reviews by Dr. Jones’ students. Today, I welcome Elyse who read “Something Like Hope” by Shawn Goodman!

Hi, everyone! My name is Elyse. I graduated from SUNY Oswego in 2010 with a degree in Adolescence Education (Social Studies 7-12). I am currently a graduate student at Nazareth College in the Literacy (5-12) program. If I were to choose which subject I would most like to teach I would choose U.S. Government and Politics. I love to read, although I have to admit I don’t often have the chance to sit down and read something for fun. Usually I read things for school, although this semester has been a lot different because I’ve had the chance to read for fun AND I have to do it for class. I haven’t heard about TBF until this year, but I’m definitely interested in seeing what it’s all about!

I am thrilled to write a review of “Something Like Hope” by TBF author, Shawn Goodman, to share with all of you. This book was chosen for me to read and review, but it also happens to be my favorite so far this semester. Although the main character’s experiences are vastly different from my own, I found that I was able to relate to her more than I originally thought I would. Some of the emotions she experienced throughout the book are pretty common despite her extraordinary situation.

“Something Like Hope” is told from the perspective of Shavonne. She is 17 years old and has lived through some awful things. Her mother — in pursuit of cocaine to satisfy her addiction — neglected Shavonne and her younger brother, Marcus. Shavonne was abused throughout numerous foster care placements, had a baby at 16 while she was locked up, and faces a future overshadowed by the threat of an extension of her time in prison.

Time is running out for Shavonne, who is only months away from her 18th birthday. She begins meeting with a new psychologist at the Center, Mr. Delpopolo, whom she would like to trust but finds it difficult to do so. Through her experiences, she has learned not to trust anyone. Talking to this psychologist seems like her last chance to try to figure out how to get past her issues and change her life for the better so that she might avoid an extended sentence in prison, and maybe even find her little brother who was separated from her years ago. Will she be able to work with Mr. Delpopolo to find a way out, or will she allow her past to determine her future?

“Something Like Hope” is a heartbreaking and honest look at of some of the cruelty and unfair treatment that many people similar to Shavonne have to live through. From abusive guards who are not held responsible for their actions, to support staff and mental health professionals who are careless and corrupt, a place like the Center can be as harmful to the people held there as the places they came from on the outside.

Through all of the difficulties, Shavonne fought to get her life back. She was fortunate enough that there were a few honest and kind people around to help her through the obstacles. Not everyone in facilities similar to the one in the book would be able to say the same. This book definitely raises awareness of some of these very real issues. It seems so genuine. It is incredibly sad, so I would advise anyone who decides to read the book to have some tissues ready to go. For all of these reasons, I think this book is 100% worth taking the time to read! I even read it twice!

I recommend it to everyone, and I can’t wait to see Shawn Goodman at TBF!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Elyse! I agree that “Something Like Hope” sounds incredibly powerful – I’m adding it to my “to read” list!

Casey Reads!

Hi Readers,

The guest blogging continues! Today Dr. Jones’ student Casey takes the stage …

Hi readers! My name is Casey; I am an English teacher in the RCSD and am working on my Masters degree in literacy at Nazareth College. I love to read! My favorite genres are realistic fiction, historical fiction, and magical realism. Though I love reading now, when I was in middle and high school, I did not. I think it’s because my teachers never gave me books to read that interested me or related to what I was going through. If one of my teachers handed me Matt De La Pena’s “We Were Here” and engaged me in it, it just may have inspired my love for reading much sooner.

Matt De La Pena’s “We Were Here” falls into the realistic fiction genre, that being one of the reasons I chose to read it, the other being that I seek out books by Latino authors (Latino literature is written by individuals who were born in the US, but are of Hispanic descent). I find I am continually drawn Latino literature because of a common theme that weaves through the stories. It is a theme of searching for or connecting to an inner self, and often having to forge many identities into one. De La Pena did not let me down! “We Were Here” definitely deals with an inner struggle of identity and a search for personal meaning.

The book is narrated by the main character Miguel’s journal entries; it is his voice that carries us along through the book. While writing in his journal, which he was ordered to do by the court, Miguel describes his recent past: a tough and gritty, impoverished but sunny, and often happy life in Stockton, California. Nostalgic memories of his mother “moms” and older brother “Diego” inhabit this life in Stockton, but we quickly realize Miguel is not in Stockton anymore, and the happy times with his “moms” and Diego are long gone.

Miguel is in “juvi” and being sent to a group home for boys with criminal pasts because of something he did, something so bad he will not even write it in his journal for us to know. What he does tell us in his journal is how alone he feels. How he remembers the way his mom wouldn’t even look at him or speak to him, even to say goodbye as she left him on the front stoop of the group home, his new home for a while.

Miguel tells it how it is. He is not too happy to be at the group home and he demonstrates it through his writing and his actions. His first fight occurs not even a day into his stay at the group home. His journal entries are filled with honest and heart sinking insights into how much he really believes that life has given up on him, and how he is not sure he even cares at all that it has. He decides that one night when he wakes to see the kid he fought standing above him just watching him. At first he feels fear, but then he calms and realizes when you feel like you aren’t even alive anymore, when you feel like an empty shell nothing can hurt you anymore, and that is how he feels. The thing is the whole time that we are getting to know Miguel we know he is smart! He reads voraciously while at the group home: Walker Hurston, Salinger, and others. His mind works and works exploring existential questions of existence like what is the point of all of this? Of living? Of life? Demonstrating that as much as he wants to believe he is giving up, he can’t. He is too smart.

Though Miguel does isolate himself from the others in the home, he is approached by Mong, the fearless and chillingly detached Chinese kid Miguel fought on his first day, and asked to escape the home. I think Mong chooses him because he sees the same detached apathetic attitude that he himself has. The duo quickly turns into a trio when they are joined by Miguel’s roommate Rondell: an illiterate, deeply religious, phenomenal basketball player, who can go from calm to a violent fighting rage at the drop of a hat. Mexico is their destination, where they hope a future awaits them: a chance to start over.

As they embark on a journey down the California coast Miguel begins to learn about who he is and who is “friends” are. Though walking for miles and miles each day, the journey contains a poetic quality. This occurs because the coast is always there. The ocean waves beat steadily against the shore day and night, and each evening the sun sets on the horizon. The endless shore and the ocean waves and the beauty of it all that assists Miguel in pondering the significance of it all: his crime, his life, death, and why bad things happen.

This book truly takes you places as you read it. It makes you furious, it makes you question your own life and circumstance, it makes tears stream down your face, and most of all, it makes you want to read it again!

Wow, Casey. What a great review! “We Were Here” is one of the Matt’s books that I haven’t read yet, but I definitely want to read it now!

Katie Reads!

What’s up, readers?

I’m INSANELY busy right now with graduation from college (!) and getting ready for TBF 2012! So it’s a good thing I have some guest bloggers to pick up the slack for me – enjoy this post by another of Dr. Jones’ graduate students, Katie!

My name is Katie Navarro and I am a graduate student at Nazareth College. I am taking a course in young adult literature, and have really been enjoying the opportunity to read some fantastic authors who will be at the Teen Book Festival! I teach in the Fairport School District, and although I have taught at many different grade levels, middle school is my favorite! One of the first novels I read for class was “The Candidates” by Inara Scott. I am a big fan of the “Twilight” series, and this novel has a similar feel which is why I would love to share more about it!

Have you ever felt like you wanted to go to a school where you could just start over and be yourself without so many complications or secrets? Delcroix Academy gives that opportunity in Inara Scott’s novel “The Candidates.” The main character, Dancia Lewis, quite frankly, feels like … a loser. From the very beginning of this novel, we learn quite a bit about Dancia, but there is still a lot to discover.

Here is what we do know:
1. Danca Lewis is a 14-year-old girl
2. Her parents died when she was young
3. She lives with her grandmother in a small two bedroom house
4. They do not have a lot of money
5. She has no friends
6. A school called Delcroix Academy is trying to recruit her, but the school is only for rich students with special talents
7. The student recruiter is "hot" (according to Dancia)
8. She has some sort of special power where she hurts people who are being rude to people she cares about
9. She is worried that the school may know about her power

This novel is exciting and keeps the reader guessing! I found myself asking question after question! What exactly is her power and how does it work? How did she even get a "power" in the first place? Is she going to go to the school? What would happen to her grandmother if she did go to school? Will she make friends? What about the “hot” student recruiter she met?

Dancia may have escaped the “every day” issues of being a teenager in school, but Delcroix Academy has brought on a whole new list of issues for Dancia to face. Her new friends and love interests are just a small part of Dancia’s journey! This is the first novel in a trilogy and is the start to an exciting new series!

I would recommend this novel to readers who also like “Twilight” and “Harry Potter.” The mystery and romance will keep the reader engaged and on the edge of their seat! Enjoy!

Thanks so much for stopping by Carly Reads, Katie!

Caitlin Reads!

Hi Readers!

Dr. Laura Jones’ students are back and guest blogging again! Meet Caitlin and enjoy her review of “The Orange Houses”!

Hi Readers! My name is Caitlin Thomas. I am currently attending Nazareth College in pursuit of a Masters Degree in Literacy Education. Although it may sound as though I want to teach at two very different levels, I would love to teach for kindergarten or Middle School. I would really enjoy educating students in History, as it was one of my majors during my undergraduate career. During this semester at school I have had the opportunity to read a ton of great young adult literature. As the 2012 Teen Book Festival approaches I find myself most looking forward to meeting Paul Griffin, author of “The Orange Houses.”

I loved reading Griffin’s “The Orange Houses”! It was a beautiful, heart-wrenching tale about the friendship between three characters, whose lives intersect as a result of unique circumstances. Each chapter is told from the perspective of one of the three characters. Jimmi Sixes, also known as “Crazy Jimmi,” is a street poet and military veteran, dealing with the demons of post war in the Middle East through drug addition. Fatima, a 16-year-old illegal refugee from Africa, wants nothing more than to leave the hardships of her past behind, and to bring her sister by her side in America. Tamika Skyes, also known as “Mika,” is a too-smart-for-school hearing-impaired 15-year-old, who constantly tries to shut out the world around her.

“The Orange Houses” reaches out and grabs you, transporting you on a wild ride through immigration scares, drug abuse, bullying, and artistic beauty up until the traumatic and climatic hanging of Jimmi Sixes. The theme resonates throughout the text in that friendship is the most important thing in the world. This is displayed as each character is willing to risk everything for each other, despite the consequences.

I believe that teens will be able to relate to the real world issues identified throughout the text. The struggles of each character clearly mirror the struggles of everyday teens. Reading the text opened my eyes to the realization of teen violence and bullying. I found it extremely scary to read certain parts of the book. Tamika’s ultimate run in with gang violence forced me to see that bullying is truly a problem both in and out of schools. Such issues as this, as well as immigration and addiction, resonate throughout society. I think that it is important for teens to encounter such text and see it as an opportunity to connect with the world around them. Because of this, “The Orange Houses” could easily be incorporated into a classroom curriculum. It represents real issues and struggles that teens everywhere face. It encourages discussion and the use of critical thinking in asking students what they would do if placed in one of the character’s shoes.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to just about anyone! It is truly a suspenseful, heart-pounding story intertwined with artistic beauty, allowing the reader to look at the world a bit differently when finished.

Thanks so much for blogging, Caitlin! After reading your review, I can hardly wait to read “The Orange Houses”!

Jamie Reads!

Hi Readers!

Remember last year when TBF committee member Dr. Laura Jones had her students write guest blog posts for me here at Carly Reads. Well, they’re back! Help me welcome a whole new batch of guest bloggers. First up is Jamie!

Hello readers! And thank you to Carly for this guest blog spot! :)

My name is Jamie; I’m a certified teacher through the sixth grade, after receiving my bachelor’s degree from SUNY Brockport in Arts for Children and elementary/special education. I currently am a graduate student studying literacy education at Nazareth College; I anticipate completing the program this summer and would be interested in becoming an elementary classroom teacher, or literacy/reading teacher.

Reading YA lit has been a fun adventure, so far. Because of my elementary education background, YA lit is not something I have focused on in quite some time. Since I am a certified teacher through the sixth grade, I am glad I have recently been able to dig into YA lit. Some of my favorite YA books I would recommend include “Stargirl” by Jerry Spinelli, and “A Northern Light” by Jennifer Donnelly. I’m also really looking forward the 2012 Teen Book Festival—this will be my first year attending! I’m most looking forward to meeting Laurie Halse Anderson. I recently read her book, “Fever 1793”; I’m eager to check out her other books!

I have also recently read “How My Private, Personal Journal Became a Bestseller,” a novel by Julia DeVillers, another 2012 TBF author. This was a book that I wish I had read in or right before high school. I was shocked when I went to the library, and they had to get this book sent to me from a different library! After reading it entirely, I know it really should be everywhere. So, here's to spreading the word on this book... :)

Jamie Bartlett became a famous author (pretty much overnight!), all because she accidentally handed in her own journal as her English assignment. After being fed up with rude popular and picture perfect girls, her journal demonstrates a story made for all teen girls—which is based off of Jamie’s true reality as a freshman in high school. The boys, cliques, popularity, family members, they all play a huge role in the lives of everyday teen girls. I don't think people tend to understand the kinds of pressure teen girls are under in our society, at times.

Her main character Isabella transforms into Is —a super girl with superpowers, and it changes everything. A simple motion of a 'flick' can create a balance between her friends and her vs. the Evil Clique of Populors.

Everyone (mainly teen girls – but everyone) goes crazy about this book; even everyone in Jamie’s school. It is top rated, number one! You'd think that Jamie had it all. She was flying to Hollywood and New York City; meeting celebrities, making appearances, doing interviews, and signing books. But, everyone expected Jamie to BE Is. How will she handle this situation?

This book is made for all girls (and boys!), but it really does send a great message. Believe in yourself, stop putting yourself down, try and be positive, be you FOR you. I hope you find this book as enjoyable as I did!

Thanks, Jamie. Hey readers? If you loved Jamie’s review, be sure to check out her blog by clicking here!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Carly Finally Posts It (the interview with Brent Crawford, that is)

Hey Readers!

Do you guys remember when I raved about the hilarity of “Carter Finally Gets It”? Today I have an interview with Brent Crawford to share with you. Enjoy!

Carly Reads: Your first novel, “Carter Finally Gets It,” is so realistic that I have to ask, is it autobiographical?
Brent Crawford: Unfortunately, yes. Cut and pasted, directly from personal experience or stolen from one of my close friends.

CR: Although “Carter Finally Gets It” is hilarious, I also interpreted it as being very much about how hard it is to grow from a boy to a man in today’s society. What advice do you have for teenage boys stumbling through adolescence on their way to adulthood?
BC: I think what Carter is trying to communicate is that failure is good thing. Apathy and laziness will get you nowhere. It's only by trying and risking failure that can you really achieve or at least figure out who you are and what you want. I have to remind myself of this all time.

CR: You also have a background in acting. Does your acting career influence your writing career? Or vise versa?
BC: Yeah, they're different forms but ultimately I just like telling stories. When I act, I'm just helping someone else tell their story and it's like the cherry on top of the sundae ... so much fun. But when I write, it's my world and get to do exactly what I want. I also only seem able to write from one character's perspective and that's just character study... and that's just acting... but, like, a lot more typing.

CR: What was the last book that you read for pleasure?
BC: Sigh... I'm currently reading “The Help” (chick lit... love it). Just finished “The Autobiography of Fredrick Douglas.” I don't think that counts as "pleasure reading" but no one forced me to read it and it's so good/awful that it made me want to vomit a bunch of times.

CR: What author are you most looking forward to meeting/seeing at the Seventh Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival?
BC: I'm looking forward to meeting them all, but if I had to pick one... Brandon Mull! I dig “Fablehaven”!

Brent, I loved “The Help,” too! And I thought the movie was pretty great too. (And I NEVER say that.) Thank you for taking the time to answer these interview questions for me and my readers!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Terry Trueman Week - Day 3

Hi Readers,

Sarah is back again guest blogging today! On Wednesday, we heard her thoughts on “Stuck in Neutral.” Today, she’s hear to share her thoughts on “Cruise Control.” (Teachers and teachers-to-be, take note of Sarah’s final thoughts!) 
So without further ado …

“Cruise Control” by Terry Trueman is a very touching story about a character that appears to have it all. Paul McDaniel is blessed with brains, popularity, and athletic skill, but in reality, he is suffering tremendously on the inside and tries to conceal his hurt from everyone. Paul is a star athlete on his school’s basketball team with big dreams of leaving home to attend college by earning an athletic scholarship. However, his brother, Shawn, is severely disabled and cannot communicate or control his body. When their dad abandoned the family, Paul felt obligated as “the man of the house” to care for not only his brother, but his mother and sister as well. Paul resents his father for putting him in this situation and feels trapped. Paul must control his anger and break free of his own feelings of guilt in order to control his own life. Trueman does an excellent job of creating a believable character that readers can relate to.

Having read “Cruise Control” prior to reading “Stuck in Neutral” my perspective of this story is somewhat different than most. If I had read “Stuck in Neutral” beforehand, I think my opinions about the characters and the overall story would be somewhat different. I believe Paul embodies many of the characteristics that many teens demonstrate. As a reader, I was able to get into his head and identify with him. In many ways he is the average teenager who feels as though no one understands him and believes that the world is against him. This story took me back to my own teenage years. It is easy to relate to the feelings and emotions that Paul demonstrates as he completes high school.

I believe this story will appeal to teens. I think Trueman has created a character that embodies many of the problems and situations that teens deal with daily. The character is very relatable. The book also contains quite a bit of humor which, makes it appealing.

In the classroom, this book can be used to discuss a multitude of sensitive topics that correspond to issues people deal with on a daily basis and that teens need to be aware of. Disability is a huge theme in this story. Teachers can discuss the stereotypes associated with disability, or raise awareness about the treatment of these people. It is also necessary to challenge the perceptions we all have about people with disabilities. Another topic to be discussed is separation and divorce. Many families are broken in today’s society and many children have difficulty dealing with the separation of their parents. Thirdly, bullying is addressed in this novel. It is critical that teachers discuss this in their classrooms, because it has become a major issue in schools today. I would absolutely use this book in my classroom.

Sarah, thanks so much for guest blogging not just once, but twice!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Terry Trueman Week - Day 2

Hi Readers!

Terry Trueman Week continues with another guest post … Sarah is a graduate student at St. John Fisher college and she is graduating this spring with a Master’s degree in Literacy Education. She hopes to teacher 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade. Her favorite YA books are the books in “The Hunger Games” series – a friend recommended them to her last summer and she loved them. (And is anxiously anticipating the release of the movie!) Sarah is most looking forward to meeting Terry Trueman at TBF.

Today, Sarah shares her thoughts on Terry’s first novel, “Stuck in Neutral.” (And to any of my readers who are teachers, or any of my teen readers who would like to become teachers, check out the last paragraph of Sarah’s review.)

“Stuck in Neutral” is a compelling story. The main character, Shawn McDaniel, is misunderstood by everyone. To the world, Shawn is physically disabled, unable to control his physical movements and unable to communicate. He also suffers from mass seizures several times a day. However, unbeknownst to world, Shawn is a genius. He has an incredible memory in which he can recall every word from conversations around him. He even remembers experiences as far back as his childhood. He is able to read and understand what people say about him. He is just like every other teenage boy in that he has favorite foods and music and even likes girls. As the story develops, readers begin to notice the relationship between Shawn and his father is very complex. Shawn’s father loves Shawn so much that he even considers putting Shawn out of his “misery.”

Reading this text challenged my own bias and assumptions. Just because an individual is unable to communicate or control his or her body, does not mean they are incapable of thoughts and ideas. I think this is an assumption that many members of society make. As a teacher, it is important to discourage these assumptions and biases. One day we may have a student like Shawn in our classroom.

I believe this book would appeal to teens. Shawn’s thoughts demonstrate that he is just a normal teenager on the inside. He is relatable to most teens. Trueman also uses humor in his writing, which adds another component to the story. Additionally, the author uses suspense, which keeps the reader engaged, and coming back for more.

This text could be incorporated into the classroom curriculum. It touches on many controversial issues. It promotes critical thinking. What would individual students do if they found themselves in Shawn situation? Students also have to challenge some of the assumptions and biases they may hold against disabled individuals. This book also connects text to real world issues that they may encounter. Euthanasia is another example of a controversial issue that could be debated in the classroom after reading this book. This novel promotes higher levels of thinking and encourages discussion.

Sarah, thanks for sharing your thoughts on “Stuck in Neutral” with us!

Readers, Friday will be the final week of Terry Week – don’t miss it!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Terry Trueman Week - Day 1

Hi Readers!

Welcome to Terry Trueman Week! This week on Carly Reads, I will be featuring posts about our TBF mascot. Our first post is from guest blogger Jessica. Jessica is a graduate student at St. John Fisher College. She is a certified teacher and is currently finishing her Master’s degree in Literacy Education. When she’s not in school herself, she’s a substitute teacher in Webster. Her favorite YA book is “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold (a cross-over book!). When she read it in high school, it helped her realize who much she loved reading. Jessica is most looking forward to meeting Laurie Halse Anderson at TBF 2012, as she really enjoyed “Speak” and “Wintergirls.”

Here are Jessica’s thoughts on Terry’s novels “Stuck in Neutral” and “Cruise Control”:

Though everyone has family tribulations, many families that have a lot more issues than what people see on the exterior. Terry Truman illustrates this in the two young adult books, “Stuck in Neutral” and “Cruise Control.” The Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature Honor book, “Stuck in Neutral,” was told from the point of view of a 14-year-old boy who suffers from cerebral palsy. The young boy, Shawn McDainel, is non-verbal and paraplegic, but the author illustrates Shawn to understand the world around him though he has never been able to communicate. Shawn’s family has been affected by his condition in different ways. His father left his wife and three kids because he never was able to handle the situation. His father, Sydney McDaniel, is a writer who has won a Pulitzer Prize for a poem about Shawn, seems to believe that Shawn is in pain and he is fixated on the idea of euthanasia. This disturbs the whole family and the father’s controversial thoughts leave him on the verge of killing Shawn, or not, and so transmits his inner debate to readers.

Though his father believes in “ending Shawn’s pain,” his brother tries to protect Shawn in any way he can. In the book “Cruise Control,” Paul, a high school senior who seems to live a complete opposite life of Shawn, is the narrator. Paul is a basketball star and seems to do well in high school; the problem he faces is the embarrassment of having a brother that he refers as a “Veg.” The thought of himself embarrassed by having a brother with this condition frustrates Paul because he feels ambivalence towards him. His father, Sydney, seems to bring out the worst in Paul, which creates a lot of hateful anger. The book shows Paul go through many different feelings and the hardship of having a family member who requirement so much attention, Paul seems to come in terms with what he really feels by the end of the book.

The Terry Truman books “Stuck in Neutral” and “Cruise Control” are great young adult books, particularly for students who have a difficult time expressing their feeling toward family members that have complex circumstances. The books are well-written and easy reads for middle and high school students. I took pleasure in reading both the books.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jessica!

Readers, come back on Wednesday for another guest blogger’s perspective on Terry’s novels.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Miranda Reads, Too!: Alumni Edition with Simone Elkeles

Hi Readers,

Today, Miranda is back at Carly Reads with a review for Carly Reads: Alumni Edition of Simone Elkeles’ “Chain Reaction.” Read and enjoy!

Hey readers!

When I’m not reading a current TBF author, I’m usually reading a TBF Alumni. It gives me a chance to see what they’ve been writing these days. Simone Elkeles, our 2010 alum, released her latest novel, “Chain Reaction”, the third book in the Perfect Chemistry series. 

Luis Fuentes has always been sheltered from the gang violence that nearly destroyed his brothers’ lives. But that didn’t stop him from taking risks — whether he’s scaling a mountain in the Rockies or dreaming of a future as an astronaut, Luis can’t stop looking for the next thrill. Nikki Cruz lives her life by three rules — boys lie to get their way, don’t trust a boy who says “I love you,” and never date a boy from the south side of Fairfield. Her parents may be from Mexico, but as a doctor’s daughter, she has more in common with her north-side neighbors than the Latino Blood at her school. Then she meets Luis at Alex’s wedding, and suddenly, she’s tempted to break all her rules. Getting Nikki to take a chance on a south-sider is Luis’s biggest challenge, until he finds himself targeted by Chuy Soto, the new head of the Latino Blood. When Chuy reveals a disturbing secret about Luis’s family, the youngest Fuentes finds himself questioning everything he’s ever believed to be true. Will his feelings for Nikki be enough to stop Luis from entering a dark and violent world and permanently living on the edge?

Simone Elkeles is known for her incredible romance novels. Her first book was “How to Ruin a Summer Vacation.” The Perfect Chemistry series is one of her best works. In the first book, “Perfect Chemistry,” readers get to meet the oldest brother in the Fuentes family, Alexander. She continues the series by introducing the second brother, Carlos, and later on Luis, the youngest. These brothers are equally handsome, charming, have a bad boy demeanor and a soft heart. They are stuck in a rough Mexican gang but that doesn’t stop them from reaching for a brighter future.

When I first met Simone Elkeles, she was energetic and funny. Surprisingly, she said that she hated writing so much that she refused to write an essay to get into college. She admitted that those cheap and cheesy romance novels got her started to write. I admire her choice to choose to give writing a second chance. Her decision really paid off in the end. She is now a New York Times bestseller.

Lesson of the day: give things a second chance. It may be worth it in the end.


Thanks for another great post, Miranda!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Good Morning Readers!

Laurie Halse Anderson and TBF go WAY back. All the way back, in fact, to the very beginning. Laurie was one of our first 11 authors featured at TBF, and she’s made several reappearances at the festival. She’s also attended a TBF Read-a-Thon and always spreads the TBF love. Laurie was kind enough to take time out of her VERY busy schedule to answer a few questions for me, and today, I’m going to share her answers with you!

Carly Reads: Your young adult realistic fiction deals with a number of tough issues, including eating disorders, suicide, rape, and teenage pregnancy. What role do you think books can play in helping teens deal with these issues and other struggles?
Laurie Halse Anderson: Teenagers are young enough that the harsher realities of the world can shock and hurt them, and old enough that they want to understand those realities. Even kids who haven't been through the struggles of the characters in my novels want to understand what the characters are experiencing. Readers who have dealt with tough realities want solace and hope. Books give us information, insight, and empathy. They also save lives. I've had countless letter and emails from readers who, after reading one of my books, found the courage to speak up and get help.

CR: You also write historical fiction for younger audiences, how does writing for this age group differ from writing for young adults? Do you prefer writing for one group over the other?
LHA: In the early stages of a writing project, I don't think about the audience at all. I focus on character's voice and listening to her story. It will take two or three drafts for me to get the structure and imagery of the story in place. Then I begin revising; that's when I consider my audience. For my YA novels, I make sure that the pace of the novel moves smoothly, that there is humor and the wide range of emotions that teens are swamped with every day. For my younger readers, I make sure that scenes are described well so that they can clearly picture where the characters are and what is going on around them. This is especially important in a historical novel because the world of 250 years ago was quite different than our world today. I really enjoy writing for both age groups!

CR: Have you always known that you wanted to be a writer? Was your journey to getting published like, and what advice do you have for aspiring writers?
LHA: I never thought about being an author when I was a kid. I was a reader, first and foremost. After several years of being a journalist, I decided to try my hand at writing books for children. It seemed to be a more positive way to make a contribution to the world than writing another story about city budgets or Santa visiting the mall. I was a fairly awful writer when I started and have hundreds of rejection letters to prove it. After a few depressing years, I embraced the concept of revision and my books started - gradually - to become less bad. My first published books were picture books. Then I wrote “Speak” and my life changed completely.

CR: What five books are on your list of “Books I Can’t Live Without”?
LHA: 1. The Oxford Unabridged Dictionary 2. The Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963 3. Blueberries for Sal 4. The Collected Works of William Shakespeare 5. Weetzie Bat

CR: What author are you most looking forward to meeting/seeing at the Seventh Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival?
LHA: One of the many wonderful things about the Teen Book Festival is that is has become another home on the road for our wandering bands of motley YA authors. It has become part of our community. So I am looking forward to seeing old friends, like Terry Trueman, and to hanging out with new friends, like Brandon Mull.

Laurie, thank you so much for answering these questions for me! I’m looking forward to seeing you again in May!