Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I love Dark YA week 5: Waiting on Wednesday

I don't usually like to talk about books I haven't read yet, because then if I say I'm going to read them and don't blog about them, I feel like that looks like a negative review. Not that it matters right now, but fingers crossed it will one day.

That being said, I feel pretty safe tying into my first blogfest post, by revealing the startling confession that I'm chomping at the bit for the Divergent sequel. I'm pretty sure everyone I care about in that book will be too busy being awesome to worry about whether or not their semi-automatic weapons make them look fat, so I'll be shocked if it can't make the list.

I've really enjoyed this blogfest even if I didn't always post on time. I've been introduced to a lot of cool bloggers I never even knew existed, and I'm really thankful for that.

Happy last day of November!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I Love Dark YA Week 4: #YASaves

I'm late with the posting, but we've been traveling today and blogger doesn't like my phone, so it's late and it'll have to be short. Sorry!

For this post I picked Eating the Cheshire Cat, by Helen Ellis.  I guess it straddles YA and New Adult, because it follows the characters into college. I went to UA, where most of the story is based, and I feel confident in saying that the portrayal of sororities there was a mix of truth and fiction as any novel might be, but that wasn't really the part that got to me.

The thing is that a lot of ugly manipulation the villain uses was a mirror image of a the boy I was allowing to rule over me in a terribly unhealthy relationship. The thing about that kind of setup is it comes on gradually, and you find yourself doubting and rationalizing your concerns away until you're in so deep it becomes the new normal. Something about seeing it page after page for a couple hundred pages really helped crystallize the situation for me.

I'm not saying I read Eating the Cheshire Cat and immediately text message broke up, because that's not how life works. But it was the beginning of the end, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I Love Dark YA Week 3: Fun with Movies

I love this week's topic, because it gives me a reason to talk about a book I loved, but couldn't put on the Recommended Reading list.

Skinny, by Ibi Kaslik,is a brutally honest look at anorexia's impact on its victim and the loved ones of the person battling the disease. I found this novel extremely disturbing from page one, but I was never able to turn away. Kaslik manages to create a much more in depth and nuanced image of this tragic mental illness than I've seen in a lot of YA literature, while at the same time making the actual focus the family dynamics strained by mysteries of the past.

I would see the crap out of this if it was made into a movie. For some reason, I get a very REM vibe reading the book (Night Swimming specifically) and I'm thinking with their musical variety, you could probably keep them as the sole artists on the soundtrack.

Whenever the main characters have a scene at home, I'm always reminded of the cab scene at the end of Reality Bites so I'm pretty sure that kind of grainy nostalgic aesthetic would be the cinematography I'd go for. Sort of a constant mourning for a past that never really existed.

Now for the fun part: Casting!

Supporting Actors

Hollie: This is Gisele's little sister, and while she is an equal POV character, the story always revolves around Gisele so I still consider her supporting cast. Since their father's death, it's been her job to carry the family. She's strong, but beat down from the loss of her father and the technical loss of her sister. When the story starts we get the sense that she's still trying to carry on, but she's tired and she's going to crack any minute. For an actress who emanates strength, vulnerability, youth, and wisdom and could believably be cast as someone of Hungarian descent, I nominate...
Hailee Steinfeld of True Grit (photo by Nathan Blaney via Wikipedia). The Hunger Games people may have been too blind to cast her, but I sure as hell am not.

The Father: I know. I know. But my book is upstairs with my sleeping husband, Ibi Kaslik doesn't seem to have a website with this information, and if I don't do this now I never will. Anyway, he's dead already when the book begins but he's very involved with the present in that his emotional distance from Gisele and clear preference for Hollie continues to cause problems in their relationship and problems for Gisele in general. Her personal mission to figure out his preference is a large and compelling portion of the plot.

I have to go with Javier Bardem for this one. I'm thinking strong and silent type, but with charm. He wouldn't have to do much talking as it would be mostly soundless montage scenes, so I'm betting we could get him into a Hungarian accent for the few words he would have to say. And my wouldn't he be nice to look at as a break from all the intensity.

The Mysterious Fiance from Mother's Past: Again, I'm not good at names. But here we're looking for someone who is charming and attractive but with a dark side and the acting chops to be totally charismatic while still letting us know that try as we might he's just not the one. Clear choice: John Turturro. This is immediately where my mind went when I first read the book. And besides, this Turturro could probably convincingly star as the lead in a Shirley Temple biopic. He should really just be in everything.

Gisele's Boyfriend: I'm totally stumped here. I'm kinda thinking James Marsters for the dark and brooding, but somehow simultaneously joyful qualities. I sort of hate the boyfriend though, and I love James Marsters. Perhaps I could just go full on creep and hire the guy who played Barty Crouch, Jr. in The Goblet of Fire. (EDIT: It has been brought to my attention that this is David Tennant, which I completely missed. He creeped me out so bad in the B.C., Jr. role, that I managed to see right through his hotness and charisma. Which I guess just means he would rock this character.)

Mom: The mother character didn't leave a huge impression on me if I'm honest, but from what I remember she was fragile with oddly placed and usually useless bursts of big displays of strength and/or imagined power. Sort of a Ruth Fisher from Six Feet Under, but less dreamy and scattered and more just ineffectual and distant.

And the Role of Gisele Goes Too...

Zooey Deschanel!

Obviously! Who else? This would be the perfect break out gritty role for her do something besides be professionally adorable. I'm seriously not trying to be snarky here, I really do like her. It just always feels like the troubled roles usually go best when it's someone you've come to identify in a different light.
And that's a wrap. I can't wait to see what everyone else is doing.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Recommended Reading: Divergent

October was a whirlwind and as such my poor blog has been sorely neglected. However, I've got a nice long backlog of books to recommend and the motivation to get to back to blogging since I've joined YAtopia's I Love Dark YA Blogfest!

For the post, the participating bloggers are supposed to talk about their favorite dark YA book(s) which is just about all I do here so that's kind of a lucky break for me.

Currently, my favorite dark YA book is Divergent by Veronica Roth.

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself. 
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her.

I love every page of this book. I'm not even sure where to start about why it appeals to me, mostly because there are so many twists and turns that everything I could say would be a total spoiler.

On a thematic level, I am always intrigued by self-segregation and the logical extensions thereof when one tries to build a society around that type of thinking. The notion that we can all be confined to small boxes where we are only this or only that has never made any sense to me, yet it pops up again and again in our cultural messages and the way we organize our society. I have no idea if she was looking at that specifically, but that's what it reminds me of.

I've also always been really drawn to YA books that show teenagers having to make high stakes decisions about their lives. I think the opinions and experiences of young people are often unreasonably dismissed even in a lot of contemporary YA, so that may be why I'm more into darker books with teens who are forced to rise to the occasion.

This is my favorite Q&A from Veronica Roth's blog:
What faction would you choose?

Despite my intense fear of heights, bugs, flocks of birds, speed, scaling rickety structures, and ordering meat at the deli counter, I would choose Dauntless, because I think courage, particularly courage that empowers a person to act for the good of others regardless of the consequences, is important. Also, I own a lot of black clothing.

Trigger Warning: There is serious violence in this book including at least one incident of attempted sexual assault.  It is all integral to the plot, but if you're upset by that kind of thing this one isn't for you.

Recommended Reading is a recurring feature on this blog. I'm doing this in an effort to build a list of YA books that I believe are both great stories and treat people's bodies in a sensitive and respectful manner. I will do my best to point out things about books I suggest that might be triggering even if I feel the book as a whole is worthwhile. If you have suggestions for future recommended books or comments/criticisms of books I write about please feel free to leave them in comments.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Crimson Pact Volume 2 is on the virtual shelves

The anthology that I'm all up in the middle of has been released. I was one of the proofreaders so I've already read the whole thing, and I am so excited to be included along with so many amazing stories. The Crimson Pact Volume 2 is on sale at B&N, Amazon, and the Crimson Pact website.

From the Amazon description:

Read 28 original stories (over 500 pages in print!), including many sequels to stories in volume one. Suzzanne Myers’s powerful flash fiction piece, "Withered Tree" continues with the exceptional short story, "Seven Dogs." Chanté McCoy’s "Inside Monastic Walls" is followed by the literally gut-wrenching follow-up short story, "Body and Soul." Urban fantasy mayhem is off the charts with rising star Patrick Tomlinson’s "Monsters in the Closet" and D. Robert Hamm’s "Karma." Steampunk your thing? EA Younker’s steampunk apocalypse tale "Stand," Sarah Hans’ sequel about professor Campion, "A More Ideal Vessel," and Elaine Blose’s steampunk Western "Wayward Brother" will whet your appetite. The dark fantasy and adventure continues in "Dark Archive," Sarah Kanning writes how Danielle from "Hidden Collection" must deal with the lingering effects of being possessed by a demon. Volume two mixes sequels from Gloria Weber, Justin Swapp, and Isaac Bell with new stories from Lester Smith, K.E. McGee, Adam Israel, Valerie Dircks, T.S. Rhodes, Elizabeth Shack, Daniel Alonso, and Nayad Monroe.

New York Times Bestselling author and Campbell award nominee Larry Correia presents an exclusive short story, "Son of Fire, Son of Thunder" co-authored by Steven Diamond, about an FBI paranormal investigator and a bad ass marine who knows the exact moment of his own death. Travel to the alternate history Earth of the "Red Bandanna Boys" by Patrick M. Tracy and find out how ruthless you have to be to survive the slums of St. Nikolayev. Follow "The Trail of Blood" by Alex Haig, a horrifying Western about a bounty hunter who wants vengeance, not money. Hunt for Nazis in a disturbing 1950’s America in "Hunters Incorporated" by Kelly Swails. Patrol the steaming jungles of Vietnam with a squad of soldiers in Lon Prater’s "Last Rites in the Big Green Empty." Then enter the mind of a godlike demon in Donald J. Bingle’s ambitions tale, "Dark Garden," or visit the creepy shadow world created by Richard Lee Byers in "Light and Dark."

It's a really fun read, and a great deal at only $5.49 for the special edition with eleven bonus essays.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Recommended Reading: The Dark Guardian Series

I've been wanting to post about Rachel Hawthorne's Dark Guardian series of novels for a while now, but I keep missing out on book 3. As it stands, I've read books 1,2, and 4 and as far as I know book 4 is the last of the series. I hesitate to post about a series without having read all of it, especially because I know that book 3 centers on a character who (for valid reasons) is obsessive about their exercise regime. The motivations aren't problematic so it could be fine, it's just difficult to imagine a focus like that not taking on a damaging vocabulary when written by someone who is human and in America. But I've grown impatient, so I'll just have to update this post whenever I get to read book 3.

Moving on, the Dark Guardian series is a collection of books that brings us into the world of "Shifters" or people who can change into animal form, in this instance all the characters can turn into wolves though we are told that there are other clans that can shift into different animals. The series is comprised of four books, Moonlight, Full Moon, Dark of the Moon (which I haven't read), and Shadow of the Moon.

From Hawthorne's website:

Moonlight Book 1 in the Dark Guardians series
Kayla has always felt a kinship with nature. Adopted as a child, Kayla has no idea that she’s inherited the gene that will turn her into a wolf. She can’t understand why she’s so drawn to distant, aloof Lucas...

As the leader of the Dark Guardians, a pack of werewolves that gather in the national forest, Lucas must watch Kayla until she discovers her destiny as his perfect other half. Just when Kayla finally begins to understand her fate, a new danger that threatens their very existence.
Full Moon Book 2 in the Dark Guardians series
Lindsey has always known that Connor was her destined mate, but this summer as her full moon approaches, she finds herself dreaming about darkly handsome and silent Rafe. When the others are captured by their enemies, she and Rafe must work together to save them. As they spend time together, Lindsey will come to realize that some dangers come from within as she is forced to face her true feelings for Connor and Rafe. One is a friend. The other is her true love. But listening to her heart could cost her everything. 
Dark of the Moon Book 3 in the Dark Guardians series
Brittany has never had a guy declare her as his mate, so she faced her full moon alone. But she has always loved Connor from afar. When they are imprisoned by their enemies, they must depend on each other to survive. But Brittany harbors a dark and dangerous secret that could destroy them both.
Shadow of the Moon Book 4 of the Dark Guardians series
HAYDEN was born a werewolf, a Dark Guardian. But her ability to sense the feelings of fellow werewolves has made her life unbearable. She runs away, only to be tracked by charming, mysterious Daniel, a newcomer to their pack and the one Shifter immune to her powers.  As she reluctantly follows him home, Hayden finds herself falling dangerously in love…
But even as her feelings for Daniel deepen, Hayden begins to wonder if he is who he claims to be.
Shadow of the Moon actually depends very little on the other three books. It was the first one I read, and I picked it up randomly  not even realizing it was part of a series. It's my favorite of all the books, so if you're going to read just one I'd go with it. I think it's probably my favorite because it spends most of the narrative in Wolford, the Shifters home base as it were, and you get a more in depth look at their society and at how outsiders might be viewed in a place that is largely insular.

The books are remarkable to me, because they are quick and easy reads that also manage artfully done, complex world building and three dimensional characters. That's a tricky balance.  In addition, especially in Shadow of the Moon, Hawthorne is great at building the heat in a romance without any romantic physical contact to speak of between the characters. So if you or your kid like a good romance without any overtly sexual displays, this would be a series to get into.

The only thing that gets a bit tiresome is the whole "alpha male" possesiveness of women thing. Hawthorne explains it as being modeled on wolf society, and there are other things that explain this dynamic that I can't discuss here without spoilers, but it can still grate a little. Especially if you've had a bad experience with a possessive or overly jealous/suspicious partner.

Also, apparently it has been optioned for television so if you don't want pop culture to flood you with spoilers, get to readin!

Recommended Reading is a recurring feature on this blog. I'm doing this in an effort to build a list of YA books that I believe are both great stories and treat people's bodies in a sensitive and respectful manner. I will do my best to point out things about books I suggest that might be triggering even if I feel the book as a whole is worthwhile. If you have suggestions for future recommended books or comments/criticisms of books I write about please feel free to leave them in comments.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Recommended Reading: Devilish and Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

A little while ago, I read two books from Maureen Johnson (Suite Scarlett and Devilish) because I'd heard they were good but also because one is urban fantasy and one is straight up contemporary, and since I have similar aspirations I wanted to see what that looked like in a published Young Adult author.

I was super impressed with both books, and if you've read Suite Scarlett it's pretty easy to see how Johnson could write in either genre. She makes perfectly earthbound events and places seem somehow otherworldly, but still highly relatable.

I'm also impressed by how different the voice is from Scarlett of Suite Scarlett to Jane of Devilish. A lot of the writers I've read--for better or for worse--seem to find a main character voice and largely stick with it throughout their body of work. To my mind, these are completely different characters and I think that's awesome.

In short, whether you're primarily a contemporary or a fantasy fan, I think you'd like both of these books.

From Maureen Johnson's website:

Suite Scarlett

Scarlett Martin is the third of the four Martins. Scarlett is fifteen, blonde, and broke. Her friends are gone for the summer. And she’s got this one curl that exists just to stab her in the eye and blind her. Welcome to her life.

Before the summer is over, Scarlett will have to survive a whirlwind of thievery, Broadway glamour, romantic missteps, serious mishandling of unicycles, and theatrical deception. And every element and person in Scarlett’s life will converge in one night that will make or break them all . . .
The show, as they say, must always go on.


It’s Jane versus the demons, and nothing is what it seems. There will be perfume bottles, dogs, explosions, dancing, death, badly misused textbooks, ex-boyfriends, very long falls, unusual weaponry, and lots of sugary snacks before it’s all over.
Hey, you do what you have to do. Everyone knows high school is hell.
I read these a few weeks ago, but I remember specifically thinking that there wasn't anything triggering so if there is it can't be too out there. Scarlett is slightly self-conscious about being generally larger than her older sister, but that isn't played up in an unrealistic way, nor are we led to believe that that actually makes Scarlett deficient in some way.

Recommended Reading is a recurring feature on this blog. I'm doing this in an effort to build a list of YA books that I believe are both great stories and treat people's bodies in a sensitive and respectful manner. I will do my best to point out things about books I suggest that might be triggering even if I feel the book as a whole is worthwhile. If you have suggestions for future recommended books or comments/criticisms of books I write about please feel free to leave them in comments.

Funday Thursday

So I missed Funday Monday by a lot, but that's because I've been busy with happy shiny things like this.


So I'm participating in a sweet contest over at YAtopia, where agent John Cusick has challenged writers to provide a three sentence synopsis of their novel for the chance of winning a full or partial request. I don't know how well mine came out. I always feel like I'm making it seem over-simplified when I do short summaries, but I think it does a good job of capturing the main plot.

Yay! Let's all eight of my readers cross our fingers shall we?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Unofficial Recommended Reading: Twenty Boy Summer

If you haven't already heard, Sarah Ockler's Twenty Boy Summer has been banned from libraries in the Republic, MO school district on the grounds that the content is not age appropriate for high school students. The committee went so far as to say that it "sensationalized sexual promiscuity."


I think that there's a real problem in the world when a girl who is an upperclassman in high school making a considered decision to have sex once with someone she likes is considered "sensationalizing promiscuity" just because the girl does not regret her decision. I mean, there are even other characters who make a different choice. Plus, as I've hinted at, it isn't even the damn main plot arc of the book.

I'm against censorship in general, but anyone promoting the notion that teens are just oblivious to sex, drinking, or (gasp!) lying to their parents until they read some dirty dirty book about a teen who has sex once and sneaks out occasionally and is sometimes in the vicinity of alcohol is either being deliberately disingenuous or just mind-bogglingly stupid.

Ockler has an awesome response here, but this is my favorite part.

Not every teen who has sex or experiments with drinking feels remorseful about it. Not every teen who has sex gets pregnant, gets someone pregnant, or contracts an STD. Not every teen who has sex does so while in a serious relationship. Not every teen who has sex outside of a relationship feels guilty, shameful, or regretful later on. And you can ban my books from every damn district in the country — I’m still not going to write to send messages or make teens feel guilty because they’ve made choices that some people want to pretend don’t exist.

I can't put Twenty Boy Summer on the official list due to the fact that it does have a couple of occasions of talking about fat as a bad thing that to my mind are completely gratuitous. It's not that the conversations in which this occurs are atypical of teenagers (or most people in our society), it just doesn't do anything to develop a character or move the plot forward. It's not especially vicious or anything, but it's there. It's enough if you're having a fragile day.

Otherwise though, it's a fun and emotional read with well developed characters. I would especially recommend it if you wanted a book that talked about the concept of virginity in a sensible way. And, it's a good example of a girl character being proactive about her sex life while still representing the complex emotions that guide that decision making process for a lot of teens. But again, read the cover blurb because that's not even what it's about.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Funday Monday! T-Rex is my spirit guide

This is my favorite Dinosaur Comic of all time. I read it for the first time over two years ago and the last panel still pops into my head and sends me into spontaneous giggle fits. It references pretty much everything in the world that makes me laugh. If you don't think this is at least a little funny, I'm afraid we just can't be friends.

As always, this is the genesis of Funday Mondays.

Monday, July 18, 2011

First Inaugural Funday Monday

So I've been thinking of weekly features to help me get into a better blogging rhythm and I figured a Funday Monday was in order. Most people do fun Fridays, but I think it's important to keep Monday light to start of the week with a bounce. To that end:

And yes fellow nerds, I am extending the sincerest form of flattery to Day 9 by starting this up.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Recommended Reading: Wicked Lovely

So I know I'm totally late in boarding the Melissa Marr train, but wow is she a crazy amazing writer. I was 100% glued to this book from start to finish. It's the first time I've ever read about fairies without rolling my eyes every few pages since I was like eleven.

Not that I dislike fairies. I'm very into folklore. The novels surrounding them just always seem obnoxiously overdone with regard to either dialogue or world-building or both. I usually can't read the story without hearing the author screaming "DON'T FORGET FAIRIES ARE SUPER BADASS AND DIFFERENT FROM AND MOSTLY BETTER THAN US!"

After reading Marr's take on the subject, I'm quite sure I'm going to have to give fairy stories another shot. Especially the sequels in this particular series. Here is the synopsis of Wicked Lovely from Melissa Marr's website:

Rule #3: Don't stare at invisible faeries.
Aislinn has always seen faeries. Powerful and dangerous, they walk hidden in mortal world. Aislinn fears their cruelty—especially if they learn of her Sight—and wishes she were as blind to their presence as other teens.

Rule #2: Don't speak to invisible faeries.
Now faeries are stalking her. One of them, Keenan, who is equal parts terrifying and alluring, is trying to talk to her, asking questions Aislinn is afraid to answer.

Rule #1: Don't ever attract their attention.
But it's too late. Keenan is the Summer King who has sought his queen for nine centuries. Without her, summer itself will perish. He is determined that Aislinn will become the Summer Queen at any cost—regardless of her plans or desires.

Suddenly none of the rules that have kept Aislinn safe are working anymore, and everything is on the line: her freedom; her best friend, Seth; her life; everything

I know, right? Intriguing. As far as trigger warning goes, there is a spot very near the beginning where Aislinn refers to a heavy guy but for me it's more description than judgment. I'll allow that it's extremely possible I'm just making excuses because the book is such a good read otherwise though.

Beyond that, it's smooth sailing as far as I noticed. In particular, if you're looking for a good illustration of a dude behaving like an evolved person instead of a baboon with regard to the development of a sexual relationship, this book is for you.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Note on Recommended Readings

Hey Y'all,

So I know that as of now Recommended Readings is looking pretty white and hetero-centric as well as mostly sticking to Contemporary. I'm planning to change that soon, but for right now I'm having to read books that are similar to my own first novel so that I will have comp titles for when I begin querying in earnest (fingers crossed by the end of this month). Unfortunately, this time around I'm not venturing too far from home in those regards with the exception of a small LGBT subplot.

However, I've just started work on an historical F/F interracial romance novella with fantasy elements (that sounds snarky, but I swear it's 100% true). The story came to me organically, and it's practically jumping onto the page and I couldn't be more excited.

Also, I've recently finished Melissa Marr's first book in the Wicked Lovely series and it definitely makes the list I just have to post about it. I also have a fantasy trilogy lined up to read that I have a lot of faith in, and as soon as the query train starts I can start to branch out even more. So don't give up on me early readers. I'm aware of the homogeny so far, but I truly aim to fix it.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Recommended Reading: The Thing about Georgie

The Thing About Georgie, by Lisa Graff, is actually a kids book and not really geared toward young adults. The protagonist is only eight years old and the specific problems he faces are typical young children. However, I'm including it here for three reasons.
     1) The writing is exceptional. It's engaging from the first page to the last page and I strongly feel that any age reader would get something out of it.

     2) Georgie is a little person. Not only are dwarf protagonists few and far between, but the way in which a person's feelings about their body impacts the way they experience the world around them is prominently featured in this book.

     3) The generalities of Georgie's problems, (stage fright, interpersonal conflict, infatuation) are problems that are common to teenagers, and indeed all of us.

From Lisa Graff's website:

The thing about poodles is that Georgie hates to walk them.

The thing about Jeanie the Meanie is that she would rather write on her shoe than help Georgie with their Abraham Lincoln project.

The thing about Georgie's mom is that she's having a baby—a baby who will probably be taller than Georgie very, very soon.

And the thing about Georgie . . . well, what is the thing about Georgie?
I first found this book on the same list as Accidents of Nature and Saffy's Angel. Another thing I enjoyed was that a number of the families that figure into the plot are non-traditional and even the secondary characters are fully developed. I can't think of any parts that would be particularly triggering for anyone. It's just a nice, light, interesting read.

Recommended Reading is a recurring feature on this blog. I'm doing this in an effort to build a list of YA books that I believe are both great stories and treat people's bodies in a sensitive manner. I will do my best to point out things about books I suggest that might be triggering even if I feel the book as a whole is worthwhile. If you have suggestions for future recommended books or comments/criticisms of books I write about please feel free to leave them in comments.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Dear handful of appreciated readers,

I have not abandoned you, I've just been hella busy. Also, I've been reading my little(ish) tail off and have found only one more book that is marginally appropriate for the recommended reading list. I hope to post on it shortly, but it's about an 8-year-old so it isn't really a YA book. I just think the subject matter is such that anyone would find it an interesting read and it does deal with what it's like to have a body that doesn't quite fit a socially constructed ideal.

I've read a couple of books now that I had high hopes for because they had protagonists with different body shapes, but I've been let down by the way that the authors have the characters "overcome" their bodies rather than embrace them. I've also been disappointed by the fact that even after these characters evolve, they persist in making snarky comments about the bodies of others as though this is an acceptable way to behave.

It isn't.

This stuff hurts all of us, and I won't present it like a sympathetic role-modelish character should get a free pass for furthering the system just because they have a body that looks like mine. I'll admit that when I was a teen who was completely unaware of fat acceptance or body politics in general I would've loved these books. I was that desperate to see someone I could relate to in contemporary literature. But I can't even give them the Courtney Summers treatment and make them unofficial recommended reading while listing the caveats. They're cute books with cute stories. They aren't heartbreakingly beautiful prose.

However, the book I'm currently reading is a brilliantly written YA fantasy that--100 pages in--totally fits Recommended Reading criteria so I'm very excited. Hooray Books!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Do Fat Kids Deserve Books?

I've been very lucky this week. Not only did I get to keep all my loved ones, I'm on sort of a roll when it comes to my writing life as well.

The editor's notes on my first short story to be published are turning out to be super easy fixes. I just got an e-mail letting me know that the proposal for another short story I submitted to a different anthology has been accepted. And because my entire college town being decimated gave me a case of life-is-short-itis, I decided to send of a query letter to one of my top choice agents before it had been critiqued by the site I sent it off too.

I expected to wait two weeks and receive a form rejection, but instead she responded an hour later asking me to send the full manuscript! Now the odds are still incredibly small that she'll actually sign me, but just getting the request is super encouraging.

Plus, it really took the sting out of the TERRIBLE review of my query that the critique site gave me. I mean, I expected to be made fun of because the letter was far from perfect and ridicule is kind of his shtick, (It's why there wasn't a very long line.) but it still smarts a little. I don't blame him though. Behind the barbs there were some helpful suggestions that I am grateful for and I'm only bringing it up here because he includes an attitude I'm likely to come up against a lot in his notes.

The bad news is that the only people who'll buy the book are fat high school kids. The good news is, pretty much all high school kids are fat these days.

Putting aside the fact that neither of those statements are accurate, I'm not sure why it would be bad to have a target audience. There are a lot of commercially successful ventures that cater almost exclusively to fat people, and I would count myself extremely fortunate to be the Lee Lee's Valise of publishing.

The only thing he could bet thinking is that I would be embarrassed or something for fat high school kids to want to read my books. But I definitely hold the belief that fat kids are a tragically under-served market, and it is absolutely my intention to put out more material that they can read and relate to.

As a fat teen (and while most teens are not fat, a hell of a lot of them feel fat in a negative way), I basically got shut out of YA reading specifically because there was nothing for me there.

Even though I could usually identify with the main character through universals, there was always so much fat shaming that it made it difficult to get to the end without feeling personally picked on. I couldn't really win. If there was a fat character, they usually hated themselves and either lost weight and became an amazing person or didn't lose weight and remained an object of hate or pity. I suppose there was also the wild card fat character who lost weight as part of a dramatic bitter revenge plot, but that's not someone you really want to be either. So I could chase the carrot, or be ashamed. Mostly, I just ended up feeling erased.

My entire family is supportive but thin, so they didn't really get it. I mean they tried, but they still bought into the notion that thin is just empirically better and would tell me that I could do and be anything while at the same time talking about how they couldn't do this or that until they lose five pounds (which never got easier to listen to) so there wasn't really anyone around to show me. I would have given anything for a Mercedes Jones or a Lauren Zizes* as a teen. Any possible glimpse of the notion that I could just be the person I wanted to be instead of putting life on hold so I could lose "the weight" and then become that person.

And the thing is that at one point I actually did lose a lot of weight and got the opportunity to test out my very own Fantasy of Being Thin, and it is just that. I was still exactly the same person, save for I was slightly less self-conscious in public situations. And it wasn't until I realized how truly boring it is to obsess about everything that goes into your mouth and exercise for four hours a day that I could see what a ridiculous Sisyphean climb it all really is.

I mean, by the time I lost weight I had already lived on three different continents and visited lots of other countries. I spoke three languages and had personally made a difference in a number of peoples' lives. I had already met the love of my life. And somehow I kept telling myself that as long as I was fat, I wasn't living up to my potential and I just never should have felt that way.**

So yeah, if I can have a career where a bunch of fat kids (or fat adults for that matter) read my books and it helps them feel less alone or more powerful or like maybe they can be fat and exactly who they want to be all at the same time, I'll never consider that "the bad news."

* I freely admit Glee often misses the mark on fat issues, but I love them anyway because those characters are awesome and at least they're trying.

** I'm not actually as in love with myself as that makes me sound, but I have had the opportunity to do some cool things and I spent the first twenty-three years of my life not appreciating that at all because I was bummed about my jeans size. I don't want that for anyone else.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Recommended Reading: Accidents of Nature

Another book I got from the same list as Saffy's Angel, is Accidents of Nature by Harriet McBryde Johnson. It's told from the point of view of a girl with cerebral palsy who is attending a camp for kids with special needs for the first time.
It's the summer of 1970. Seventeen-year-old Jean has cerebral palsy, but she's always believed she's just the same as everyone else. She's never really known another disabled person before she arrives at Camp Courage. As Jean joins a community unlike any she has ever imagined, she comes to question her old beliefs and look at the world in a new light. The camp session is only ten days long, but that may be all it takes to change a life forever.

It's a little slow to start, but once you get past the basic character introductions it becomes a fascinating and quick read. I was especially touched by how the author explored societal views on "overcoming" various disabilities and the demeaning nature of a lot of supposedly helpful fund raising events. And I liked how Sarah and Jean navigate what it means to accept yourself as you are, without considering it some sort of failure not to live up to a prescribed arbitrary norm.

As a warning, Jean does express an initial distaste for some of the bodies around her at Camp Courage. She also struggles with her own body image, vividly comparing it to that of a female counselor who she perceives as representing the ideal. This could make some people uncomfortable, but I felt that it was a realistic portrayal of someone who had spent their entire lives being praised for their ability to "fit in" and who is therefore hesitant to identify with anyone other than the "Norms."

Recommended Reading is a recurring feature on this blog. I'm doing this in an effort to build a list of YA books that I believe are both great stories and treat people's bodies in a sensitive manner. I will do my best to point out things about books I suggest that might be triggering even if I feel the book as a whole is worthwhile. If you have suggestions for future recommended books or comments/criticisms of books I write about please feel free to leave them in comments.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Ways to help Alabama

I don't live in Tuscaloosa anymore, but I went to school at UA for my undergraduate and graduate degrees so I was there for a number of years. Many of my friends still live there and a lot of my family lives in other affected areas of north Alabama. I have been very lucky this week in that as of today all of my friends and family are accounted for and uninjured. Some are homeless now, but most escaped with only the temporary loss of their electricity. Even their pets are all safe and sound.

It breaks my heart that there are so many people who cannot say the same. I cannot even imagine how it must feel to send your baby off to school, only to have them killed or to lose entire groups of friends or family members all at once. The most recent statement just from Tuscaloosa is that there are 40 confirmed deaths and around 340 are still missing. Tuscaloosa is not that big y'all.

There are a number of ways to help even if you are not local.

1. Text SABAN to 90210 and $5.00 will be donated to the Red Cross from This will not come out of your bill (except of course whatever your text messaging agreement with your provider is), the website is making the donations. I originally found this in the comments on Legislative Barbie, but I've looked around and it seems to be legit.

2. Go to Animals Lost and Found in Alabama Tornadoes and look through the lost and found photos. There have already been reunions due to people from out of state matching up photos from each group. If you live in any of the surrounding states, they are also looking for volunteers to do some portions of driving as they try to find foster homes for all these lost pets.

3. Donate to the United Way of Central Alabama or any of the other local organizations helping out.

The outpouring of support has been amazing, but there is still a lot that needs to be done. I know only a handful of people read here right now, but posting makes me feel a little less helpless.

Roll Tide.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Recommended Reading: Saffy's Angel

I came across this list of characters with disabilities on a guest post at YA Highway, and decided to give some of the books a read. I've finished two of them so far, and I wasn't disappointed.

The first book I read was Saffy's Angel by Hilary McKay.
The four Casson children, whose mother, Eve, is a fine-arts painter, have all been given the names of paint colors. Cadmium (Caddy), is the eldest; then Saffron (Saffy); Indigo, the only boy; and Rose, the youngest. When Saffy discovers quite by accident that she has been adopted, she is deeply upset, though the others assure her that it makes no difference at all. Saffy is the daughter of Eve's twin sister, who lived in Siena, Italy, and died in a car crash. Grandad brought Saffy, as a very small child, back from Siena.

At Grandad's death he leaves something to each of the children. To Saffy, it is "her angel," although no one knows its identity. How Saffy discovers what her angel is, with the help of an energetic new friend, lies at the heart of this enchanting story. Unforgettable characters come alive in often deeply humorous and always absorbing events to be treasured for a long, long time.
Sarah is the "energetic new friend". She has a lot of trouble walking due to a childhood illness and therefore uses a wheelchair. I feel like McKay does a great job of bringing Sarah to life without making it seem like she has anything to "overcome". You don't ignore Sarah's disability, but you don't ever find any spots in the narrative where you'd pat yourself on the back over your pity and understanding. She's just a fun kid who has a distinctive trait like just about everyone does.

It's a nice, quick read that I thoroughly enjoyed at the age of twenty-nine. I'm not sure if it would have resonated with me as an older teen, but I know I would have been all over it anytime before I turned fifteen. This seems appropriate since Saffy and Sarah are about thirteen during most of the story. McKay has several other Casson family books that apparently involve Sarah and I can't wait to read them.

P.S. Also, it's set in England so you get to have a fun accent in your head while you read it. Unless you already have an English accent in which case you'll just have to settle for liking the story.

Lets all hug and jump up and down

A short story I submitted a while back is going to be published!

The editor had some minor notes and he feels the ending needs to be "more satisfying" but overall he said I have the skills to be an excellent short story writer and he's really interested in working with me.

I like the ending, but I wouldn't take my ball and go home over it. And it will be great for me to have something to put in the writing credits section of my novel query letters. Plus, now I have something to prop up my fragile ego if my test readers tell me the novel sux.


Saturday, April 23, 2011


I've been working on my query letter as an alternative to e-mailing my test readers every five seconds. I'm happy to say I think I've got a reasonable draft that I've just now sent to a query letter critique site that I frequent. I'm pretty sure this won't be a final draft, but I'm at an end as to how I should proceed so here's hoping for some constructive feedback.

Also, I've got two new books to add to Recommended Reading and when I get back in town I plan to pick up at least a couple of the suggestions in the comments from the Courtney Summers post from the library where I've got them on hold. So both the list and the journey to publication are well under way.

Good job team.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


You guys Courtney Summers totally looked at my blawg! Then she sent me a really kind e-mail about the post and offered a book suggestion.

As you might expect, I peed a little.

Then it took me considerable effort to figure out how to sign-off my return e-mail.

Yep. Giant Nerd.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Unofficial Recommended Reading with Extreme Caution

Okay I've gone over this and over this and I just can't think of any better solution.

I love Courtney Summers' work so much it makes me want cry. If I could, I'd sleep with her books under my pillow on the minute chance I might absorb some of her brilliance while unconscious and hallucinating. In fact, it was a really bad idea for me to read Some Girls Are the day after I surrendered my manuscript to test readers. What was, "Hey, needs a little work but I think it might really be something." became in less than 24 hours, "Oh God! What have I done? Why couldn't I use some those words? Why did I have to use my stupid words? I suck!"

Alas, I just can't rationalize including her on the official Recommended Reading list because that's for people who don't want to feel like they're being punched in the face every few chapters and both  Some Girls Are and Cracked Up to Be are rife with the fat bashin' and body snarking. I haven't read any of Summers' other novels, but I plan to fix that.

Now, the thing about both of these books is that the main characters are fundamentally unlikeable. Not in an evil but charming way either. They suck. A lot. But it's so well written that you still care very much what happens to them and pretty much you're chained to the book until it's over and you're left sitting there mourning the fact that there's not more to read.

I think that's a pretty daring route to take and not one that you see very often, but the downside is that characters like that and the people they hang around, particularly in a high school setting, are gonna have crap things to say about other people, especially those peoples' bodies because that's where most of our insecurities lie.

So, the writing is amazing, the stories are incredibly engaging, and the body snarking that is in there to me feels faithful to the characters and not like the author trying to incorporate her own prejudices into the story. (And believe me, there's a difference. I told a friend of mine the other day that for this one book I was reading I could just see the author flipping through the manuscript and musing, "You know, there's just not enough fat jokes in here.") But ultimately, both books just use up way too many Sanity Watchers points to make the official list. If you've got the points to burn though, it's totally worth it.

Also, POSSIBLE but not really SPOILER trigger warning:

Both have very graphic (necessary, not gratuitous) descriptions of sexual assault that are stuck in my head forever and I used to work in domestic violence and am not usually fazed by such things.

Friday, April 15, 2011

I thought American Idol couldn't repulse me more.

I was wrong.

I'm really glad Ashley decided to speak up about her mistreatment. I think a lot of girls would have been too embarrassed to say anything because of the pervasive cultural messages that other people's crap behavior is some sort of reflection on you.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


I just finished revisions on my novel! At least I think so. I'm going to send it off to test readers this weekend. Still, major victory. Woot!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Run, do not walk to Shakesville and read this post about the new twitter hashtag #thingsfatpeoplearetold if you want a clear explanation of why I feel it is important that I pay attention to the body issues our readers are facing. Here's a taste.

Totally aside from whatever factors underlie Teh Dreaded Fat—which may in some cases include a lack of exercise, for a multitude of reasons, one of which might be physical laziness—being fat, living the life of a fat person, is not a life for a lazy person. It is hard work to move every day through a world that hates you.

Facing each day of one's life knowing that what awaits is navigating a sea of prejudice squarely rooted in the basic assumption that one is less than, a disgusting, shameful figure symbolizing sloth and avarice, too contemptible to even warrant pity no less dignity and respect, is not for the lazy, nor the faint of heart, nor the weak.
Then, as long as you're ready to be pretty depressed head on over to #thingsfatpeoplearetold and read the stories being shared there. It may make you feel less alone. It may make you more aware of the way life actually is for fat people. Regardless, these are stories that are not normally told in the mainstream and I think the more we have this conversation the better.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Recommended Reading: Something, Maybe

Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott is one of my favorite YA books. The main character is extremely likable. Anyone who has ever felt out of place (i.e. everyone) can relate to her. The voice in this novel is spectacularly authentic. You really feel like a sixteen-year-old is sitting in front of you telling you what happened.

It's a familiar story framed in an unlikely way. Taken from Elizabeth Scott's website:

Everyone thinks their parents are embarrassing, but Hannah knows she's got them all beat. Her dad made a fortune showing pretty girls--and his "party" lifestyle--all over the Internet, and her mom, who was once one of her dad's girlfriends, is now the star of her own website. After getting the wrong kind of attention for far too long, Hannah has learned how to stay out of sight...and that's how she likes it.

Of course, being unknown isn't helping her get noticed by gorgeous, confident Josh, who Hannah knows is her soul mate. Between trying to figure out a way to get him to notice her, dealing with her parents, and wondering why she can't stop thinking about another guy, Finn, Hannah feels like she's going crazy. She's determined to make things work out the way she wants....only what she wants may not be what she needs.
Obviously, with the Playboyesque theme running through it there is some talk about the value of certain types of bodies that some could find triggering. But I didn't feel that the reader was supposed to infer that these attitudes were absolutes, rather that these are the prevailing attitudes in pop culture. There is a lot of diet talk, but it is framed as not worth pursuing.

One of the things I especially like is that throughout the book it is clear that various people find Hannah attractive even though she doesn't wear make up or dress up. And there are no yucky makeovers.

Recommended Reading will be a recurring feature on this blog. I'm doing this in an effort to build a list of YA books that I believe are both great stories and treat people's bodies in a sensitive manner. I will do my best to point out things about books I suggest that might be triggering even if I feel the book as a whole is worthwhile. If you have suggestions for future recommended books or comments/criticisms of books I write about please feel free to leave them in comments.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Two Things

First, I just registered for my first writer's conference! I'm super excited even though I'm not sure if I'll get much out of it. I was too late to grab a slot for an agent critique or pitch session so all that's left is the workshops, the panels, and the social event.

I'm really hoping the workshops and panels are more useful than a lot of people make them out to be because I'm awful at mingling so I don't expect to get much networking done at the social event. One on one I'm fine. Speaking in front of a large group is not problem either. But dump me in a hotel bar with no friends in sight and I'm sunk.

I blame it on the fact that I've had the same friends pretty much forever. I just don't know how to meet new people anymore.

And the second thing is that I've discovered it's even kind of depressing just to look for body acceptance friendly novels. I mean to begin with there's the dearth of self-acceptance novels that don't involve changing oneself to gain that self-acceptance. But then, the few mentions of books with fat people who don't lose weight (first of all they're apparently termed "obesity novels" which really pisses me off like that's all the book's about or something) always make sure to wave the OH BUT IT'S TOTALLY UNHEALTHY DON'T FORGET flag which, um, just no. The whole thing makes me all stabby.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Recommended Reading: The Hunger Games Trilogy

The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mocking Jay are the books by Suzanne Collins that make up the Hunger Games trilogy.

I cannot stress enough what a fantastic read these books are. Even without the extraordinary circumstances, Collins does such a great job of making the characters compelling that I'd read a full length novel about one of them brushing their teeth.

Body Acceptance: Neutral

There is often a correlation made between weight gain and food consumption, but it's based solely on the perspective of a person used to going without and gaining weight from her point of view is usually meant in the way of becoming stronger. Most of the emphasis on bodies is framed as appreciation for what the body is capable of doing rather than the way it looks.

It's one of the few instances where you have a larger than life female character who isn't defined by her bra size. In fact, while she probably is very pretty it is mentioned several times by other characters that she "isn't that pretty." By framing it this way, I feel like Collins addresses the fact that women, no matter their accomplishments, are still judged on their looks without condoning it or preaching about it.

There is also a mention of weight-loss dieting being part of the superficial and strange culture of the Capitol.

Recommended Reading will be a recurring feature on this blog. I'm doing this in an effort to build a list of YA books that I believe are both great stories and treat people's bodies in a sensitive manner. I will do my best to point out things about books I suggest that might be triggering even if I feel the book as a whole is worthwhile. If you have suggestions for future recommended books or comments/criticisms of books I write about please feel free to leave them in comments.