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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Class of 2013 YA Superlative Blogfest

Three years ago, Katy Upperman, Jessica Love, Alison Miller and I sat around in this posh wine bar slash library, talking about the evolution of literature and its role in society, when we had a brilliant idea for a literary sharing event. Or, you know, we were each sucking down boxed wine in our pajamas while emailing about YA books and high school yearbooks.

Point is, three years ago we came up with the idea for a blogfest that celebrates the current year’s new YA releases as if we were selecting our own yearbook superlatives. This, I guarantee you, is serious fun.

The Class of 2013 YA Superlative Blogfest will take place over four days, include more than 40 categories, and give you a chance to meet some really cool bloggers. If your TBR pile isn’t teetering by the end of this then ... you apparently read ebooks.

Here’s the deal, in bullet form for easy skimming:
  • Each themed day features a list of superlatives you will fill out with your books of choice
  • You don’t have to fill out every single category.
  • You don’t have to participate every day.

At the end of the blogfest we’ll be hosting a giveaway, featuring some of our favorite 2013 books. Mark your calendars for December 16 through 19, then take a look at the categories featured each day.

Favorite Dystopian
Favorite Science Fiction
Favorite Fantasy
Favorite Contemporary
Favorite Action/Adventure
Favorite Historical Fiction
Favorite Comedy
Favorite Mystery
Favorite Romance
Favorite Paranormal
Favorite Family Drama
Favorite Genre Bender

Choose characters who fit each topic from ANY 2013 YA book!
Class Clown
Most Likely to Become a Rock Star
Mostly Likely to Start a Riot
Biggest Flirt
Fashion King and/or Queen
Girl You’d Most Want For Your BFF
Boy You Wish You’d Dated in High School
Most Likely to Become President
Quirkiest Character
Villain You Love to Hate
Favorite Parental Figure
Coolest Nerd

Most Envy-Inducing Plot (Or, the plot you wish you’d thought of yourself.)
Most Formidable World (Or, the setting you definitely would NOT want to visit.)
Wanderlust-Inducing (Or, the setting you’d happily travel to.)
Loveliest Prose
Best First Line
Most Dynamic Main Character
Most Jaw-Dropping Ending
Best Performance in a Supporting Role
Best Use of Theme

Favorite Cover
Cutest Couple
Most Likely to Succeed (Or, pick a Printz Winner.)
Most Likely to Make You Miss Your Bedtime (Book you just couldn’t put down!)
Best Repeat Performance (Your favorite sequel or follow-up.)
Favorite Finale or End of Series Novel
Romance Most Worthy of an Ice Bath
Breakout Novel (Your favorite book by a debut author.)
Best Old-Timer (Your favorite read of the year, published BEFORE 2013.)
Book Most Likely to Make a Grown Man Cry
Most Pleasant Surprise (Best book you didn’t think you’d like, but totally did.)
Most Creative Use of a Love Triangle
Sleeper Hit (Book you found so awesome you wish it had been hyped more.)
Favorite Outlier (Your favorite middle grade or adult 2013 book)
Your turn! Pick your own superlative category and post it at the end this day’s list. Blog hoppers will be able to drop by and vote for their pick in the comments of your blog.

Grab our button (below) or banner (above) to promote the blogfest on your site. And make sure you’ve read all of the 2013 books you can!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bookanistas Review: Solving For Ex

Despite the fact that I vehemently believe math is the devil’s work, I 2(25 + 25) percent enjoyed SolvingFor Ex by Leigh Ann Kopans.

Ashley Price, former victim of bullying and current best friend to all-around nice guy Brendan, is a math nerd and otherwise friendless. But that’s okay with her. She has the Mathletes, which she knows she’ll dominate because, you know, she’s a genius. And she has Brendan, who she’s madly in unrequited love with.

Enter bombshell Sofia, who sinks her perfectly manicured claws into Brendan from the moment she and her hot brother Vincent walk into school. Ashley seems to be the only student who isn’t charmed by the siblings’ ritzy lifestyle and killer good looks. But when Brendan falls for Sofia—and puts his friendship with Ashley on hold to be with his new girlfriend—Ashely's small world crumbles. Lonely and upset, she gives in to Vincent’s flirtations. Chaos ensues.

Solving For Ex is a lighthearted, fun read that still manages to take on the aftereffects of bullying (though this isn’t what I’d consider a bullying “issue book”) without coming off as flippant. I loved being thrown into the world of Mathletes, who in this book are the cool kids in school, despite the fact that much of the math they perform looks like hieroglyphics to me. Like I said, I don’t partake in the devil’s work.

The romance was the perfect kind of sweet, but if I say any more I’ll accidentally give away which boy she ends up with. And that’s part of the fun—not so much guessing which guy Ashley will date, but determining whether Vincent is genuine or hiding nefarious goals.

One of my favorite aspects of the book, though, are the little notes Ashley writes with Vincent and Brendan, which sometimes appear at the end of a chapter. The brilliant way in which Kopans used math for laughs is so authentically teen (and, again, over my head). For example:

Adorable, right? Overall, if you’re looking for a fun YA contemporary (or a reimagining of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park), definitely preorder a copy of Solving For Ex. It releases Feb. 11, 2014.

Here’s what the other Bookanistas are reviewing today: 

Monday, November 18, 2013

YA Book Club Review: Allegiant

Welcome to the YA Book Club! Today we’re talking about Veronica Roth’s Allegiant. If you’ve read the book and posted a review of it on your blog, be sure to link to it below. And if you don’t have a blog, get ready to discuss the book in the comments.

There are a lot of things that I could say about Allegiant and the Divergent trilogy as a whole, but I don’t intend to turn this review into a thesis and I’m positive you’ll be thankful for that. So I’m going to focus on the ending. But first:

If you have not yet read Allegiant, please take a detour to some other location on the Internet. THIS REVIEW CONTAINS THE MOST SPOILERY OF SPOILERS.

Do we need another warning?

I assume you’ve been thoroughly warned. Moving on: That ending.

One of the reasons I read is to escape. When my EM is flaring and my feet are engulfed in burning pain, I open a book and slip into someone else’s life. There’s this idea that as readers looking for escape we deserve happy endings. The Man is adamant about this fact and loudly disapproving of movies and books in which a main character dies. I agree—to a point. There have been times I’ve watched a movie that kills main characters for no other reason than shock value, and that’s frustrating. But a main character’s death can also be a powerful thing.

I almost always prefer a happy ending in contemporary romances. That’s not saying the characters must live (see The Fault in Our Stars) but that I prefer the love interests to end up together. 

I don’t feel the same about other genres. The Divergent trilogy never was about the romance, though that became a larger part throughout the novels and especially in this last book. No, the books were about strength and truth and sacrifice and fear and a hundred other things that had nothing to do with girl + boy = love. And I think, looking at the events surrounding the last dozen or so chapters, the ending Veronica Roth chose is the only ending that fits.

Do I wish Tris lived and her and Four had a happily ever after in new Chicago? Of course. But had Tris let Caleb die for her, she wouldn’t be Tris. She’s not the girl who let’s her brother make a sacrifice to end his guilt—even if he betrayed her. Fact is, she’s stronger than Caleb and I would have been disappointed in her had she not stepped up.

It’s one thing to give readers the ending they want. A lot of times that’s enough. But in this case, I think the book and the series as a whole was more powerful because Roth gave readers the ending they deserved—the only story that made sense for these characters.

Consider Tris in Divergent, torn between the selfless girl she was brought up to be and the fearless one she’s trying to become. In this book, in her final sacrifice, I think she found the best possible fusion of the two. What she did was selfless, but brave. And not brave in the Dauntless sense of the word, where bravery is doing daring stunts for a rush or fighting fear to be stronger, more powerful. No, she used her bravery in her selfless act and in that I think she got at what the point of her actions were: to create a world where people aren’t divided by factions or left factionless, but a happy medium. It’s the idea that humans are better with a mix of virtues and vices than stripped down.

It also, I think, show’s Roth’s bravery. It has to be a tough choice, as an author as famous and adored as she is, to kill a character you love and in doing so possibly deliver an ending everyone won’t agree with.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What's Up Wednesday: In Which I'm Doubly Inspired

What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk for likeminded writers to meet and encourage one another. Everything you ever wanted to know about it (now, with 50 percent more!) is right here.

What I’m Reading: If you’re new to my blog (or if you missed the announcement), the YA Book Club is reading Allegiant this month. Which means I am reading Allegiant because I’m the supreme ruler of the book club and yada yada yada.

If this were a YA book, I would corner you in the cafeteria and, with the help of a menacing loner or douchebag jock, force encourage you to join. Because I am grown up and mature and all that, I’ll just let you know that I’d love for you to join. Also, it’ll look really great on your college applications.

You can learn more about the YA Book Club here. And if you’re up for discussing Allegiant with us, the fun happens Monday, November 18.

What I’m Writing: A whole lot of nothing. But that’s because I’m revising.

[Cue the chorus of heavenly angels!]

Um, right. Because revising means good things for my mental health. (Remember?) The good news is that the revisions are actually going well. I jumped in right after I finished writing, so this is more of a rough revision. Once I’m done and consider the story a work of genius I plan to set it aside for a week or two so that when I return I can experience the full range of horror at its terribleness.

Of course I don’t think that right now. Right now I’m inspired. Right now the clues and red herrings are fitting together like a jigsaw puzzle so the mystery actually seems mysterious. I’ve added in new scenes that make me love my world and characters even more, and I think, well, even if this love for my WIP is short lived it’s a pretty awesome feeling.

What’s Inspiring Me: If you haven’t already, you need to drop what you’re doing and read this article by YA author Matt de la Peña on the affect reading and writing can have on a person. It’s a beautiful, moving account of the way a single book can change a person’s life and why it’s not always the most obvious teens who are writers. Expect tears.

His article brought me back to the reason I’m trying to get published in the first place. During revisions I’m easily caught up in the craft of it. I get a bit tunnel-visioned and all I can see are WORDs, TERRIBLE WORDS, OKAY WORDS, BEAUTIFUL WORDS and plot and character and all of these little pieces that form a book.

But de la Peña’s article speaks to the heart of writing for young adults. That feeling, to know a teen is reading your book and maybe feeling more self-confident or aware because of your book? That makes the endless days of revision and the rejection and fear completely worth it.

What have you been up to?