Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Top Ten YA Book Covers

This post is based on a Top Ten Tuesday post from awhile ago, and showcases my favorite YA book covers:

1. SCARLET by Marissa Meyer

How great does this look? That red cape is so vibrant and eye-catching, and the font is amazing. This cover also does a good job of conveying the subject of the book. 

2. GOING BOVINE by Libba Bray

One look at this cover and I knew I wanted to read it. I mean...it's a cow holding a lawn gnome. What more do I need to say? The image really contrasts well with the simple background.

3. ALL YOU NEVER WANTED by Adele Griffin

The cover model's eyes are so striking and fascinating. I also like the vintage photograph aesthetic contrasted with the scrawled title font. 


I love the way the words in the title are the flame from the lighter. And it showcases the title, which was definitely something that drew me in.


I love the vibrant colors and the cartoony feel of the artwork. Guns are pointed at the silhouette of a girl with a gun of her own...I'm intrigued already.


I like the way this cover conveys a double meaning: the gas can is to fuel the car, but also with the word "flames" in the title, you get the sense that maybe arson was involved. Also the red of the gas can really stands out against the rest of the cover.

7. BEAUTY QUEENS by Libba Bray

A beauty queen wearing lipstick like ammo? Enough said.

8. CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein

This book has had a few covers, but this is the only one I like. The way these girls are grasping hands with their wrists tied together conveys the desperation and undying friendship in this novel. Also, the red "verity" really pops on this cover.


I love the smoke on this cover, and I like it without the candle, which was added later to avoid an endorsement of smoking. It conveys the darkness of the content in a really subtle way.

10. CROAK by Gina Damico

I love this cover. The scythe, the darkness around the girl's eyes, the smirk on her face, the skull instead of the "O," the red lettering. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

How a Book is Made: A Video Series

HarperCollins did this inaugural seven part video series about the making of Lauren Oliver's The Spindlers. The first two videos discuss the author's process, then it moves into editorial, art, managing editorial, production, and the author reading. I already know a lot about the process of writing and editing the book, but I found the part about the art and the physical printing of the book very interesting, because that aspect is not often discussed.

Here's episode 4, about the art:

Here's episode 6, about the production:

You can find the rest of the video series at this link.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Top 10 Auto Read Authors

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Again, I never do these when you're supposed to, but I still like these memes. It's supposed to be Top 10 Auto Buy Authors, although I'm going to change it to Top 10 Auto Read Authors.

Top 10 Auto Read YA Authors (in no particular order)

1. Gayle Forman. The first time I read her debut, If I Stay, I couldn't finish it. At that time in my life, it was too intense, too personal. I had to put it down. Several months later, I decided to try reading it again. I'm so glad I did because it was so heartbreakingly beautiful. When I heard she was writing a sequel, I was skeptical. But it was even better than the first book. And now she's come out with another "duet" as she calls it, Just One Day and Just One Year. Both of these duets feature a romance where the first book is from the girl's perspective and the second book is from the guy's perspective. I like that I don't have to commit to a whole series with her, but I also get a little more story than can fit in just one book. I also love her ability to write so realistically from different perspectives. I met her and she was a really great, funny, genuine person.

2. Adele Griffin. I picked up her book Amandine at the library on a whim when I was a teenager. It absolutely blew my mind. She writes these amazing thrillers (as well as a popular middle grade series) that continue to surprise and mesmerize me. I had the pleasure of meeting her not too long ago, and she was so gracious and lovely.

3. Courtney Summers. When I read Some Girls Are, something shifted for me. All of a sudden the rules changed. Girls didn't have to be nice in YA anymore. Well, it's not that simple, but it's such a refreshing change, it gives me hope for the future. It's okay for male characters to be lovable assholes, but when girl characters are written that way, people say, "No offense, but she's kind of a bitch. Can't you make her nicer?" Courtney Summers says no thank you sir, I will write my characters whatever way I want. Girls don't have to be nice.

4. Sarah Dessen. My favorite book of all time is her novel The Truth About Forever. I've read this book so many times I've lost count. Every time I read it, I just become completely immersed in the world of the novel which is populated by achingly real characters. I love her contemporary fiction because they are high-stakes even though they aren't high concept. Her books operate on the premise that just because your life doesn't seem exciting, it doesn't mean your story doesn't matter. Her last book, What Happened to Goodbye, disappointed me, not because it was a bad book, just because it paled in comparison to her previous novels. But you can't hit it out of the park every time, and I'm with Dessen for the long haul.

5. Gabrielle Zevin. Her book Elsewhere blew my mind, and she's been an auto read author ever since. Her new series, which begins with All These Things I've Done, is amazing. I went to an event where she was interviewing Jasper Fforde, and I went up to her afterward and was like, Yeah I really came here to see you, and started telling her how much I love her books and gushing about the Dickensian influences in her new series and she told me a little bit about what's in store for the third book in the series. Such a fangirl moment.

6. E. Lockhart. Her Ruby Oliver series is still one of my favorites. I just wanted to be friends with Ruby, and I love the way Lockhart portrays all the different ways members of the opposite sex can come into your life as a teenager. It's not always as a boyfriend. Sometimes, it's that guy who ogles you in class, that guy your parents made you go on a date with, that guy you thought you were going out with, that guy you were going out with who then just stopped talking to you, and on and on. It's laugh out loud funny, but it's emotional as well (Noel/Ruby OTP). She also writes great stand alones, and Frankie from The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is an example of the kind of female character I'd like to see more of in YA. I just want to help her take down a secret society, and then maybe have tea.

7. Jaclyn Moriarty. I don't know why she isn't more popular in the US, because she's really popular in Australia. She's written four contemporary novels that take place in the same town, so they're not sequels per se, but the characters in her different novels tend to have mutual friends or know each other. They're all epistolary, told in emails, letters, notes, scraps of paper, etc. I've never read anything like her books. There's no one else out there who writes like she does. She absolutely amazes me. The perks of being an intern allowed me to get my hands on the manuscript for her upcoming novel, which is non-epistolary. I'm so excited to read it I can't even explain it in words.

8. Lauren Oliver. When I read her debut novel, Before I Fall, I knew I had found a new favorite author. Her writing is so lyrical and she's not afraid to put her characters in difficult situations and ask the really hard questions. I was surprised that her next project was a dystopian trilogy, but Oliver quickly put my doubts to rest. I can honestly say that my most anticipated read this spring is the conclusion to the Delirium trilogy. REQUIEM COME TO ME.

9. Lauren Myracle. I first read her TTYL series, where the stories are told entirely through instant messages sent between three friends. Some people saw this as a gimmick, and the books as being somewhat shallow. I think this is a total misjudgment. The format of instant messages was the perfect medium to depict the dynamic between three friends. Sometimes they all chatted together, but sometimes just two of them would chat, and say things to each other they didn't share with the other friend. Or would they would talk about that other friend. All of her books deal with the fragility of friendship and its shifting dynamics, and she always executes it beautifully. Most recently, she wrote a book called Shine which I still think about. It broke my heart and put it back together. It's not for the faint of heart, but it's such a worthwhile read.

10. Ned Vizzini. The only problem with Ned Vizzini is that he's not as prolific as I would like. I waited faithfully for his latest novel for six years. SIX YEARS. He's so funny, and it's clear he can so accurately translate what he observes in life onto the page. His dialogue is pitch perfect. I first read his book of semi-autographical essays entitled Teen Angst? Naaah. So funny. I follow him on Twitter as well, he's hilarious. He tweeted back at me a couple of times, and I almost died. If I met him, I think I would just babble about how much I love him. He also writes for Teen Wolf, interestingly enough. 

As a bonus, here are a few authors that will become auto buy authors for me, but have currently only written one book or series:

1. Rae Carson. I cannot say enough good things about her debut, The Girl of Fire and Thorns. A fantasy trilogy that has Spanish influences? Yes, please. I love desert based worlds. There's political intrigue, romance, coming of age, magic, murder, fighting, kidnapping, and everything else you could possibly want. The sequel, The Crown of Embers, was so beautiful and heartbreaking I just hugged the book afterward, knowing I would have to wait for the conclusion. When I get The Bitter Kingdom in my clutches, I am going to lock myself in my room over a weekend so no one will disturb me. Or see my tears. *Ahem* She's also got plans to write a new trilogy about a girl with the magical ability to find gold during the Gold Rush. Whatever Carson writes, you can sign me up.

2. Marissa Meyer. Her series of fairy tale retellings is truly masterful. Hello, cyborg Cinderella? I love that she was inspired by the strong female friendships in Sailor Moon, and that she wanted to write four different characters who had their own stories and problems, but who would unite and form friendships along the way. Scarlet, the followup to Cinder, was just as good, if not better, so I cannot wait to read Cress, the third installment. I also was lucky enough to have cupcakes and champagne with her, and she's funny and down to earth. Her husband also goes on tour with her, and they're adorable together.

3. Beth Revis. I just finished her sci-fi trilogy which begins with Across the Universe. I waited so long to read it, and I wanted to smack myself when I realized what I'd been missing. I really hope she's going to make hard sci-fi cool again in YA. I gave these books to my dad and uncle to read as well, and they loved them. Despite taking place on a multi-generational space ship, the characters and their fears feel real. Revis has her characters face extremely difficult choices, and on every page, I felt like nothing was sacred. Anyone could die, and anything could happen. So good, and I can't wait until her next trilogy!

4. Jess Rothenberg. Her debut, The Catastrophic History of You and Me just devastated me. And then it lifted me up. And devastated me. And lifted me up. Again and again and again. When I finished it, I just lay on my bed clutching the book. I highly recommend it to everyone; her next book can't get here soon enough.

5. Gina Damico. The first book in her series, Croak, has a great combination of things I love: grim reapers, quirky characters, a new world to explore, a snarky protagonist, and the fate of human souls hanging in the balance. There have been two books so far, and I'm eagerly awaiting the third installment.

6. Jandy Nelson. Why has she never published anything after The Sky is Everywhere?? That book absolutely blew me away. Lyrical, heartbreaking, and heartwarming at the same time, she took what would be a simple story in someone else's hands and made it absolutely incredible. Her next project on Goodreads has been sitting there with no release date for way too long.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Tropes Aren't Always a Bad Thing

This post on YA Highway made me reflect on my favorite tropes. Here is a list that is in no way exhaustive. It includes tropes I like in YA fiction as well as things I'd like to see. A lot of these are from TV shows, as I am unapologetically a huge fangirl when it comes to TV. If I were an agent, these things would make me very inclined to request more:

1. Road trips
2. Summer
3. Couples that start out hating each other
4. Unlikely friendships
5. Friendships like Shawn and Gus from Psych
6. Characters who reject fate and destiny
7. Parental substitutes; Giles from Buffy, Bobby from Supernatural
8. Wanderers
9. Characters that usually play the field falling in love
10. Tarot
11. Estranged brothers getting to know each other again (a la Stefan and Damon from Vampire Diaries or Sam and Dean from Supernatural)
12. Characters getting to know each other through dance
13. Characters making music together
14. One character being in unrequited love with another, then later the dynamic flips
15. Evil uncles
16. People who used to be friends but fell apart
17. Stories that take place over one day or night
18. Forbidden love
19. Love story that's not romantic: friends, parent/child, siblings, etc.
20. Fantasy or sci-fi from non-Western cultural perspectives
21. Teenage private detectives

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Misguided YA Novel Adaptations: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

So apparently the YA novel If I Stay by Gayle Forman is becoming a movie. It gives me pause that it's being described as a "supernatural music pic" and the article says it "revolves around the relationship between a femme classical musician and her indie rock-star boyfriend." That is just...completely not what the book is about. Yes, the main character is a classical musician and she's dating a boy who's in a rock band on the verge of huge success, but the story is about her decision whether or not to stay living despite how much she's lost. I love this novel, and I just don't want to see it ruined. I mean, I'm glad the author gets paid for the rights, but I don't know if I can see the movie unless I see proof that it's going to be anything resembling faithful to the original story.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Top Ten Books on my Spring TBR List

This list comes from the Top Ten Tuesday meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. But I never get around to doing this stuff on schedule.

Top Ten Books on my Spring TBR List

1. Requiem by Lauren Oliver. I'm so excited for this conclusion to the Delirium trilogy, I'm almost afraid to read it.

2. Pretty Sly by Elisa Ludwig. I liked the first book a lot more than I expected. I like books that are fun but have depth. I thought it was going to be a stand alone, but the ending had me screaming, "WHAT?!" So I'm really excited for this sequel.

3. Fox Forever by Mary E. Pearson. I know other people weren't really into the second book in this series, The Fox Inheritance, but I liked it. This series really makes me think and I'm excited for this next book. I like that each book kind of stands on its own while still exploring the same story.

4. Invisibility by Andrea Cremer and David Levithan. David Levithan is an auto buy author for me, and I'm really interested to see what his take on a story with spellcasters will be like, as he traditionally writes thought experiments that seem magical but still count as YA contemporary fiction. 

5. The Lives We Lost by Megan Crewe. I was so captivated by the first installment in this series about an island quarantined due to a strange sickness. I'm interested to see what direction this story will take in this sequel.

6. The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson. I really enjoyed the first book, and although I've heard mixed reviews about the sequel, I'm still excited to read it. 

7. Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Search - Part 1 by Gene Luen Yang. Does this count as YA? I don't even care. I MUST FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED TO ZUKO'S MOTHER.

8. If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin. I love the cover for this book, but I also love stories about people who used to be inseperable but are now estranged.

9. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys. Historical YA set in New Orleans during the 50s? Sold.

10. The Summer I Became a Nerd by Leah Rae Miller. I like stories about people learning not to be afraid of who they really are. And I also like comic books. And I'm just jazzed that YA contemporary fiction seems to have a lot of promising debuts in 2013.

Monday, February 25, 2013

What Makes a Story Compelling: An Intern's Perspective

For those wondering about what makes a great story from an agent's perspective, this post from the Greenhouse Literary blog as well as its second part are a great read. The author of the posts breaks down how she knows when she's reading a submission if she's got something she wants to take on, both something that's a great story and something that's going to sell. Because make no mistakes, publishing is a business and anyone who doesn't treat it as such is going to get burned.

I agree with her wholeheartedly on all her points. If a manuscript isn't making me want to know what happens next, I already know I'm going to reject it. If I get interrupted after twenty pages and I come back to it and think, "Eh, if I didn't finish this, I wouldn't really care," that's a problem. I can't agree more with her points about the emotional resonance and themes of a novel being so important. Oftentimes when I can't put my finger on what's wrong with a manuscript at first, it's that the characters don't feel real. Their struggles don't resonate with me emotionally. I want the author to convince me to care fiercely about these characters. For me personally, plot can always be fixed, but characters are so important and hard to get right. And if you have well-developed characters, the plot will follow from putting them in challenging situations.

I like that she points out that the stakes can be high even in contemporary stories. Just because it's about a high school girl living in an ordinary town doesn't mean the stakes can't be high. What does she want most? Put that in jeopardy. And likewise, just because a story is set in a world alien to our own doesn't mean it doesn't need to feel real. For example, Marissa Meyer's Cinder sounds absolutely insane: a retelling of Cinderella where she's a cyborg in future Beijing, oh yeah and there's a race of people that live on the moon. But our protagonist wants what we all want: acceptance, freedom, love. She wants to move out on her own, away from her stepmother who hates her. She wants desperately to help her stepsister when she gets sick. She decides to try to help the prince even though it might mean revealing herself as a cyborg in a society where her kind are reviled.

Oftentimes, I read something and think, what is the point of this manuscript? The author introduces all these themes or motifs but doesn't say anything about them. To use another YA example, Across the Universe takes place in a setting alien to our own: a giant, self-sustaining spaceship. Many people dismiss science fiction stories as "not good literature," but the best science fiction stories are about what it means to be human (see The Twilight Zone if you want some amazing examples). And the Across the Universe trilogy (without giving too much away) explores what it means to be human when you've never lived on a planet. How much of our humanity comes from living on Earth? Can we still be human in an artificial world? How will a person who has only known life on a planet react to this spaceship? It also explores secrets and knowledge. The whole trilogy is like an onion, peeling back layers of secrets to get to the truth. When is it okay to keep secrets for the greater good? Do people always deserve the truth? Can you really love someone when you have no other options? In the face of unspeakable atrocities, how do you go on? Can you maintain hope and faith even when everything inside you wants to give up? I could go on and on about this novel, but I'll stop here.

I think something important to think about when writing is what makes you as a reader, engaged in a story? What about those characters and plots keeps you turning the pages? Use those techniques to construct your story, while adding an element that is completely your own.