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Know Your YA History: Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Written by Grant Goodman, 4/8/2015 Dark YA starts with William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, the tale of a plane full of boys that crash-lands on an island. The only adult (the pilot) is killed on impact and the kids are left to fend for themselves. What follows is a tale of adolescents torn between holding onto order and letting themselves become wild beasts.

If you enjoyed The Hunger Games for its starkly brutal critique of what war does to children, then you’ll find yourself swept away by Lord of the Flies.

The boys make early attempts at sticking together. They try to establish rules and they try to look out for the youngest kids of the bunch. But the longer they are there, the more they give in to their darker urges. Their clans split and they find themselves in a power struggle with one another.

Packs of boys become hunters and they are overtaken by bloodlust. They paint their faces for the hunt and in doing so, they change into catastrophically evil versions of themselves. The peaceful kids are trampled on (figuratively) or outright murdered (literally).

Like many popular YA stories, (catching) fire plays an important recurring role. First, fire is a way of signaling for rescue. Throughout the novel, though, the fire goes out or it burns too low, which is a fantastic symbol for the boys losing their connection to the rest of human society. At the very end, fire is turned into a destructive force, meant to force one of the boys out of hiding and into the waiting ambush of those who wish to kill him.

While Lord of the Flies isn’t necessarily classified as YA, it’s a novel about young adults and their tendencies and urges. When it was first published, it pushed the boundaries of violence and despair and decades later it remains as a milestone moment for books about young adults.

Veronica Roth's Next Novel Series

According to the New York Times, Veronica Roth's next book series will see its first release in 2017! She reveals that the story will be in

 "'the vein of 'Star Wars' and will tell of a boy's 'unlikely alliance' with an enemy."

I know that many of you are pumped for the upcoming movie release of Insurgent and now you have even more to be excited about!

Here's the full article.

VIDEO: Adults Purchasing YA Lit

This news story investigates a fascinating trend: a lot of YA books are actually being purchased and read by adults. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQE-wMiO2Gw&w=560&h=315]

Report: YA in the UK, France

Written by Grant Goodman, 3/2/2015 Today I was wondering what the YA sales charts for Amazon look like in other countries.

I found the best seller page for teen Science Fiction and Fantasy on the Amazon US site, the Amazon UK site and the French site, too.

Let’s check out how they differ.

First, the US site:

028 image 1 US

It appears that people are really interested in finding out more about this mermaid’s sister. It’s a title I’m not familiar with…and, actually, I don’t recognize two, three, or four. Looks like I have some catching up to do.

My guess is that with the Insurgent movie only three weeks away, those books will all find their way into the top five.

Let’s look at what’s happening in the UK:

028 image 2 UK

It seems that in his native land, Harry Potter is still the king of YA literature. And it seems that they also have taken a shine to the mermaid and her sister. The Hunger Games is selling well and James Dashner has his Maze Runner finale in the top six. The UK site, however, also mixes in children’s books, which is why book number five seems very much out of place.

Finally, to France:

028 image 3 france

Suzanne Collins is dominating the charts, no question about it. In fifth place is Alain Grousset, a French sci-fi author with a novel about a boy who lives on a tower that is one hundred floors high. In sixth is Christian Grenier, whose book is about two warring clans: one that believes in screens while the other believes in reading and writing. (I hope both of these will make their way to American shelves!)

VIDEO: A Brief History of Young Adult Literature

EpicReads has posted this excellent video examining the roots of Young Adult (YA) literature and the influential titles that have popped up over the years. The Outsiders by SE Hinton gets a special mention that it rightfully deserves: that book is just as meaningful to teens today as it was when it first came out.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkdnKQmHsWA&w=560&h=315]

Lemony Snickett on Writing a Novel

Some of you out there are currently wading through National Novel Writing Month. One of my absolute favorite parts of this month is that the NaNoWriMo crew gets authors to write pep talks. A few years ago, they had some guy named John Green. They've had pieces from Neil Gaiman, Brandon Sanderson, and Veronica Roth.

The best one I've ever read, however, came from Lemony Snicket. It's full of biting snark and surprisingly touching wisdom about what books can mean to us.

Even if you're not in the midst of attempting to write 50,000 words this month, I think you'll find it inspirational.

Check it out by clicking here.

Sci-Fi YA and the Changing Tide

Sci-Fi YA and the Changing Tide Written by Grant Goodman, 10/28/2014

For the entirety of my teens, science-fiction was a term you simply didn’t say. It was social suicide. You were better off saying you were into picture books than sci-fi novels. Those were tough times.

For the record, I said it anyway. I found my tribe eventually and we had plenty of great times discussing ENDER’S GAME and DUNE.

But now, due to the rising trends of YA fiction, sci-fi is getting a new spin. As more teens dive into sci-fi novels like DIVERGENT or Marissa Meyer’s LUNAR CHRONICLES series, they grow up with a strong love of sci-fi.

What’s the appeal, then?

I’ve asked my students and the answers they provide tend to be along these lines:

1) They don’t know what their own futures are going to be like, so they like reading about other futures.

2) They love new technology. (Fairly obvious, right?)

3) They are beginning to understand politics and the fact that these dystopian settings are based on the idea of government gone wrong.

Science-fiction provides them with a strong “what if?” that is sometimes only one step away from the world they inhabit. Sometimes it casts them into deep space, sometimes they get to step sideways into an alternate version of Earth.

No matter what, it makes me incredibly happy to see so many sci-fi titles making it in the mainstream. I’ve always felt that science-fiction shows us that no matter how far we travel (distance or time), we can never escape human nature.

These tales force us to look at who we are and how we treat each other—and the more people who are reading them, the better.

Feminism in YA: Tris Prior (DIVERGENT Only)

Feminism in YA: Tris Prior Written by Grant Goodman, 10/17/2014

NOTE: Full of spoilers for DIVERGENT

Beatrice Prior’s story follows the traditional tropes of teenage rebellion: when given the chance to pick a lifestyle, she completely rebels from her family’s traditions of being bland and selfless (Abnegation). Her pick is Dauntless which emphasizes combat-readiness and mental fortitude. With this change of identity, she also changes her name to Tris and—of course—gets tattooed.

What does it mean to be a strong woman in Tris’ world? If you’re a member of Dauntless, you jump out of moving vehicles, you leap off of rooftops, you let a hot guy throw knives at you, and you engage in full contact hand-to-hand combat. In Tris’ case, finding access to this strength means casting aside her family and her old lifestyle.

In fact, as she continues to grow, she loses more and more. Tris chooses her own path and in doing so she is sexually assaulted, shoots one of her friends (the circumstances are extenuating) and gets both of her parents killed. That’s a heavy message there.

Yes, she does find a way to express who she is. She has a smoldering relationship with Four and she finds a small core of people who want to be around her. Yes, she makes decisions on her own and literally confronts her own fears. The cost, though, is exorbitant.

Tris is a fascinating character, without a doubt. I’m honestly torn on how to reach a conclusion on whether or not she’s a strong role model for girls. Her intentions and her thirst for independence are admirable. The message about what you need to go through in order to succeed, though, is terrifying at times.

I’d love to know your thoughts. Let’s discuss this further in the comments section.

Veronica Roth Writes to Music (and Maybe You Should, Too)

Veronica Roth to Writes to Music (and Maybe You Should, Too) Written by Grant Goodman, 10/11/2014

It has been a little while since Veronica Roth wrote about the music she listens to while she writes. (Check here, here, and here.) Even so, it’s a window into the craft of writing from one of the most influential writers in the YA scene.

Writing is all about channeling emotions and music is perhaps the most pure, direct artistic translation of emotion. One of my all-time favorite passages from Pat Rothfuss’ novels is as follows: Music touches [people’s] hearts directly no matter how small or stubborn the mind of the man who listens." And he nailed it, because if you can find a song that somehow embodies the overall flow of the scene you’re writing, it will lock you in and keep you focused.

So let’s talk about Veronica Roth’s picks, shall we?

She mentions Mumford and Sons’ “Timshel,” a song that is not only hushed and beautiful, but also connected to John Steinbeck’s novel, EAST OF EDEN. That’s a double-literary bonus right there, for super-effective double damage.

She also gives a nod to Mumford’s “White Blank Page,” which swells and churns and honestly ranks among the best build-up songs ever written (according to me, that is.)

The band Now, Now was a part of her writing INSURGENT. I love their album, Threads, and I’ve seen them twice. Their concert performances have been nothing short of fantastic. Roth leans toward “Giants.” If I had to pick a writing song from them, I’d go with “But I Do.”

It’s fun to listen to the songs she listed and then try to pair them with the scenes from her novels.

Do you write while listening to music? Chime in with your top songs in the comments section. We'll trade picks.