Posts Tagged 'Maureen Johnson'

New YA Books

Since I’m the librarian who orders YA books at my library, I get to hear about great new books coming out.  I’ve been to a few workshops lately and read a ton of journals.  Some of the books I order are ones I have to because they’re popular author or celebrities and teens will read them (Tyra Banks, Hilary Duff, Twilight graphic novel).  But most times the books I order look awesome.  Here are some good ones that recently came out, from oldest to newest.

The Poisoned House by Michael Ford

Life can be cruel for a servant girl in 1850s London. Fifteen-year-old Abi is a scullery maid in Greave Hall, an elegant but troubled household. The widowed master of the house is slowly slipping into madness, and the tyrannical housekeeper, Mrs.Cotton, punishes Abi without mercy. But there’s something else going on in Greave Hall, too. An otherworldly presence is making itself known, and a deadly secret will reveal itself—a secret that will shatter everything Abi knows.

Just in time for Halloween, who doesn’t love a good ghost story.


The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

Twenty years after the start of the war that caused the Collapse, fifteen-year-old Stephen, his father, and grandfather travel post-Collapse America scavenging, but when his grandfather dies and his father decides to risk everything to save the lives of two strangers, Stephen’s life is turned upside down.

I heard the author speak at Anderson’s Bookshop’s YA Literature Conference last weekend and ended up buying a copy of the book.  I’m a fan of dystopian books, and this one sounds really good.  Plus, Suzanne Collins liked it!


Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs

As monsters walk the streets of San Francisco, unseen by humans, three teenage descendants of Medusa, the once-beautiful gorgon maligned in Greek mythology, must reunite and embrace their fates.

As soon as I heard that this is essentially Percy Jackson with a female twist, I wanted to read it.  Thanks to Rick Riordan, I am interested in Greek mythology, so I am on board with another book about it.  And it is supposed to be good, not just a Percy Jackson knockoff.


Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Willa is lucky: She has a loving blended family that gets along. But when a bloody crime takes place hundreds of miles away, it has an explosive effect on Willa’s peaceful life. The estranged father she hardly remembers has murdered his new wife and children and is headed east toward Willa and her mother. Under police protection, Willa discovers that her mother has harbored secrets that are threatening to boil over. Has everything Willa believed about herself been a lie? But as Willa sets out to untangle the mysteries of her past, she also keeps her own secret—one that has the potential to tear apart all she holds dear.

I wasn’t super-excited about this book at first; I think because I didn’t really know the plot, but I heard it booktalked and it sounds really suspenseful.  And we all know how Susan Beth Pfeffer can keep us hooked!  (Have you read Life As We Knew It???)

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit – more sparkly, more fun, more wild – the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.  When Cricket – a gifted inventor – steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.
Ok, you guys know how much we loved Anna and the French Kiss?  I loved Lola just as much, if not more(?).  Seriously, I’m not sure why I haven’t bought this book yet.
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it’s the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper in the autumn of 1888.  Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police now believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was with her at the time, didn’t notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? 
I got an ARC of this at ALA, but I didn’t have time to read more than the prologue.  From that though, I could tell that this is not MJ’s typical book.  Still I’m excited to read it as soon as I get the chance.
Crossed by Ally Condie
In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky – taken by the Society to his certain death – only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake.  Cassia’s quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander – who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia’s heart – change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever.
Woohoo, the sequel to Matched will finally be out on November 1!
Are you looking forward to any of these or others?
– Jill

Wall Street Journal wants you to be careful

…or you might start engaging in harmful behavior due to the “dark, dark stuff” in Young Adult literature.

In case you missed it, twitter exploded last night (or at least the YA community portion of twitter) after an article posted in the Wall Street Journal titled “Darkness Too Visible.”  Maureen Johnson and Libba Bray responded quickly on twitter.   Libba’s fast tweets were compiled, and Maureen started the #yasaves hashtag.   I encourage you to read the article for yourself before reading my response, which I hope is more logical than emotional – or at least attempts to strike a balance of the two…


So, contemporary fiction for teens is “Darker than when you were a child”?  Excuse my unprofessional, childlike vocabulary, but um, DUH.   The WORLD is a terrible, and I’d argue darker, place thanks to constant access to 24/7 news media. Books eminate from that and help teens make sense of it and find their place in it by telling them they are not alone.  Teens know more than you think. The NEWS shows graphic and terrible things. After Osama bin Laden was killed – and the way he was killed – was broadcast graphically on the news, two 7th graders mentioned it to me.  YA books emanate from real life.   Lately, any mention of war makes me want to head back to Mockingjay to attempt to find a meaning for it.  YA lit CAN help us make sense of it all.   They CAN and DO help teens (not to mention the rest of us) find their place in the world by telling them they are not alone.

Yet it is also possible—indeed, likely—that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures.

How many of these dark books that depict “kidnapping and pederasty and incest and brutal beatings” are portrayed in a positive way?   I admit I haven’t read every YA book that was published, but in the ones I’ve read with suicide, anorexia, cutting, and other harmful behavior due to awful situations, the harmful behavior was NOT the protagonist. Rather, the protagonist harmed themselves or knew someone who harmed themselves until they could get the help they needed or BECAUSE they couldn’t get the help they needed.

The article also confuses a parent’s self-selection of a book for his/her child with censorship.

 Yet let a gatekeeper object to a book and the industry pulls up its petticoats and shrieks “censorship!”

It’s not the gatekeeper’s objection to the book that’s necessarily the issue; it’s that they want to prevent EVERYONE ELSE from reading it.   Not appropriate for your child?  Ok fine.  Not appropriate for everyone else’s child?  Not your call.

The bookstore that “created a special ‘PG-15’ nook for older teens” might seem like an OK idea on the surface.   YA books are incredibly different from one another, and teens do need help wading through them and finding what they may want.  BUT is this new area labeling teens who venture into it?  Is the store preventing younger teens from buying those books?  Yes, some younger teens may not be ready for tougher, more graphic YA fiction, but some are.  And some of those younger teens may NEED it.  Instead of trying to label books and teens, why not have someone who is educated in them help teens choose what to read?

Contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity. Why is this considered a good idea?

That’s the tagline for this article.  Just a look at a few of the tweets hashtagged with #yasaves can answer this.  The responses remind me of ways YA lit is amazing.   It DOES help teens learn about other people different from them so that they may grow up to be more tolerant of others they don’t agree with.

As it happens, 40 years ago, no one had to contend with young-adult literature because there was no such thing.

I’m happy that now, 40 years later from when the author says YA lit began (YALSA was founded in 1957), we DO have a wide range of YA lit to “contend with”.   I can learn what it’s like to live with a devestating secret without having to endure a traumatic experience, and it gives me a fraction of the experience which can help me have compassion for others.

But don’t forget that contemporary fiction for young adults is more than what was mentioned in the article.  Lighter, funnier books do exist for those who want them.   Meg Cabot!   Ally Carter!   That mother must not have looked very hard if she couldn’t find books by these and other best-selling authors, just to name two off the top of my head.   Maybe she should have stopped in a library first.  Any librarian could have given her some suggestions.

The last sentence of the article is unforgettable for me.

No family is obliged to acquiesce when publishers use the vehicle of fundamental free-expression principles to try to bulldoze coarseness or misery into their children’s lives.

It sums up everything that is backwards and wrong about the article.  I’m considering making it my screensaver so I’ll remember to continue fighting for teens and the books they read.

– Jill


The Last Little Blue Envelope!

There are at least 2 exciting books that come out today. One is Meg Cabot’s new YA novel Abandon, which from what I can tell is a retelling of Persephone.  But this post is unfortunately not about that book because I haven’t read it yet.

The other exciting book that comes out today is The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson!

It’s the sequel to 13 Little Blue Envelopes, and if you haven’t read that yet, I recommend skipping this post and going to read it ASAP.

Ok, everyone who has read 13 Little Blue Envelopes still with me?  Good.  So if you remember from that book, Ginny’s aunt Peg recently passed away and she sent Ginny a package of 13 letters taking her on a European adventure following specific rules and getting her out of her shell.  And you may remember that as Ginny went through her aunt’s letters that the final letter was stolen.  Well, in The Last Little Blue Envelope, you guessed it, she gets it back.

One day, as Ginny is back home, wondering what’s up with her sort-of boyfriend Keith and contemplating what to do with her life post-high school, she gets an email from a guy named Oliver claiming to have her last letter.  So Ginny decides to go back to England over her Christmas break, get the letter, and visit Keith.  Unfortunately things don’t go as she imagined.  The final letter takes her on a new journey across Europe with Keith and two more…hmm…I’ll just go with companions.

I was lucky enough to read The Last Little Blue Envelope thanks to NetGalley.  And I LOVED it!  I honestly think it is even better than the first one.  The first book left us hanging.  I could not stop thinking about what was in the last letter.  We finally get to find out in this book, and it is so fulfilling.  I don’t want to say too much because I’ll spoil a wonderful book, but I can say there are new people and new adventures that invoke all kinds of emotions.  So go read it and then let’s talk again.  🙂

– Jill

BEDA Intro for Lindsay

Name:  Lindsay

Age:  24 (but soon to be 25!  Yes, I like to countdown far in advance!)

Where I live: Nashville, TN

Where I call “home”: Bettendorf, IA although Nashville is starting to feel more like home every day.

Why I blog: Mainly the same reason Jen and Jill cited.  Because I can keep up with my fellow nerdgirls!!  Also it’s fun and gets me in a writing mood.

What part of BEDA I’m most excited about: Trying to write a blog post EVERY DAY!!  Also hearing from Jen, Jill and Amber everyday (hopefully)!    

Why I’m doing BEDA: I want to discipline myself and get into a mode where I can sit down and write every single day.  Also so I could challenge Jen, Jill and Amber. 🙂

How I first discovered Maureen Johnson/BEDA: Browsing through the YA shelf at my local library!  I saw the cover for Devilish and I thought it was cute!  Then I googled Maureen and found her blog and was hooked after one post.  From then I’ve devoured everything she’s written in book or blog form.  Spread the MJ LOVE!

Something other BEDA people might not know about me: I’ve been down in Nashville for almost 2 whole years now and I still don’t own a pair of cowboy boots.  Although that is to be rectified as my friend (Nashville Jen) promised to take me boot shopping soon!  I will post a picture of them when I get them!  

Another blog I follow: Hyperbole and a Half  I could read Allie Brosh’s blog for just the pictures, but luckily there is always awesome writing to go with the pictures!

A writer (of any kind) who inspires me: This is a super hard one as I admire so many!  So how to choose just one?  I’ll go with Ally Carter, because not only are her books superb, but she is super sweet too!

A YouTube channel I love:  I don’t follow any channels either.  In fact, YouTube has me a little frustrated lately because it’s decided that I’m not worthy enough to click buttons.  But I’m with Jen – usually if I’m on YT it’s for a kitten video. Or Lady Gaga music videos (speaking of which, anyone see the Telephone video?  I don’t understand it, but I like it).

A favorite quote: “…I mean there’s nothing better than being an American…..[…]… If you don’t love it, leave it. U.S.A. number one!”  Ricky Stanzi.  I am….an Americanzi.

Also, one of the best things I’ve ever said:

My friend (Kelly E.): Hell, I’d do him(Dan Radcliffe). He’s 17. That’s legal in England isn’t it?
Lindsay: He’s legal in the wizarding world.

I’m just proud my brain was functioning quickly that night of HP Book Club (OMG I MISS HP BOOK CLUB!!!)

<3, lindsay

BEDA Intro for Jill

Name:  Jill …and various nicknames including (in my family) Iowa Jill  🙂

Age:  24

Where I live:  Des Plaines, IL — NW of Chicago

Where I call “home”:  a tiny town in southern IL.  I think Iowa City will always feel like home to me too.

Why I blog:  “It is a great way to stay in touch with my fellow nerdgirls.”  Ditto, Jen.

What part of BEDA I’m most excited about:  Hearing from my nerdgirls so frequently.  Sometimes we all get busy and don’t blog for awhile – except Jen, who’s fabulous at blogging a lot – so I’m excited to get to stay in touch and find out what they’re all up to when I don’t get to see them so often.

Why I’m doing BEDA:  “Because Lindsay is making me  :)”  Haha, ditto that too.  Lindsay, this is a great idea!  I’m loving it so far!

How I first discovered Maureen Johnson/BEDA:  Lindsay “introduced” me and said her books were fabulous.  Then I started following MJ on twitter.  Then she agreed to Skype with my library.  woo!

Something other BEDA people might not know about me:  One of my favorite things about living where I live is that I’m so close to O’Hare Airport.  I love seeing the planes coming in close for a landing or getting higher after take off.  It’s exciting.  🙂

Another blog I follow:  jobonga!!!

A writer (of any kind) who inspires me
I’m very sorry to go with the obvious, but I’m picking Meg Cabot.  Reading PD #9 (Princess Mia) especially was therapeutic and inspirational.  And Allie Finkle #3 (Best Friends & Drama Queens) was therapeutic and inspirational for the 11-year-old in me who remembers the crappy friends I used to have.

A YouTube channel I love:  I don’t spend too much time on YouTube.  I’m not a big fan of watching videos on my computer.  BUT if I am watching a video on YouTube, it’s probably by the vlogbrothers.

A favorite quote:  “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; That is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden

BEDA Intro for Jen

My lovely friend Catagator pointed me to Becky Jean’s blog Life in Denim and Flip Flops where she has a great way for bloggers participating in BEDA to introduce themselves.  So here is my intro for those of you who don’t already know me.

Name:  Jennifer or Jen

Age:  28

Where I live:  Small town Iowa near Iowa City

Where I call “home”:  Scranton, Iowa or Nevada, Iowa, or if I’m dreaming, London

Why I blog:  It is a great way to stay in touch with my fellow nerdgirls.

What part of BEDA I’m most excited about:  Hopefully I will get much quicker at making blog posts….for some reason it takes me FOREVER to do one post, which is kind of ridiculous.  Maybe doing 30 posts in a month will help me get faster.

Why I’m doing BEDA:  Because Lindsay is making me  🙂

How I first discovered Maureen Johnson/BEDA:  I followed her on Twitter for a wee bit and also stalked her a tiny bit at LeakyCon (she signed my book!!!)

See! Maureen Johnson and I are best buds!!

Something other BEDA people might not know about me:  I have a birthmark on my knee that is shaped like a tree….or Hawaii depending on how you look at it.  Or if you want something less obscure….I am the only children’s librarian at a teeny tiny library.

Another blog I followAbby (the) Librarian!!!!

A writer (of any kind) who inspires me:  Mo Willems because he is just damn cool at everything he does.  He is one of the .0001% of people in the world who truly loves his job and is fantastic at it.

A YouTube channel I love:  Hmmmm, I don’t really watch specific YouTube channels…..but I do love funny cat videos!

A favorite quote:  “One does not like to generalize about so many people all at once, Mr. Knightly, but you may be sure that men know nothing about their hearts whether they be six and twenty or six and eighty.”  from Emma by Jane Austen


2nd post in 2 days!  I am a rockstar!  Because I’m  pretty sure the last time I posted before yesterday was in 2009.  Oh man, that’s so sad.  Luckily, you all have had the more dependable nerd girls Jen, Jill and Amber to keep you entertained.  I know they have definitely kept me entertained!  I especially love it when Jen does book posts.  I have so many books added to my to read list because of her.  

But back to the reason for this post!  It is almost April, you guys!  And you know what that means in the blogging world?  BEDA!  Or for those of you not in the know – Blog Every Day in April!  This phenomenon was started by the formidable Maureen Johnson (one of my most favorite authors EVER!) and tons of people joined in last year.  There was even a ning started (I think a ning is like a website that keeps track of a bunch of blogs.  I THINK.  I don’t know.  My goodness you guys are lazy, why don’t you just google it already?).  

So I am throwing down the gauntlet to my other nerdgirls!  

That's right, I threw a BUNCH of gauntlets down!

Jen, Jill, Amber.  I challenge you to join me in BEDA!  If we all did it, how awesome would that be!?  4 posts a day for the entire month of April!  Granted, I’m pretty sure a very few select people would read them (and that’s because only you are truly truly awesome), but that’s ok!  And even if we don’t post every single day, we could probably get to the point where there is at least one new post every day!  What say you fellow nerdgirls?  Are you in??

<3, lindsay