YA & MLK: Civil Rights and Acceptance

YA & MLK: Civil Rights and Acceptance Written by Grant Goodman, 1/19/2015

Today’s holiday is a moment that is marked by hatred and tragedy, triumph and persistence. The fact that human beings had to fight for their right to be considered equal to other humans is something that never ceases to sicken me. The fact that it still continues to this day is downright depressing.

There is hope, though. The idea of fighting for civil rights finds can be found all over the YA canon. The more we read about this topic, even in fiction, the less likely we are to continue the cycle in real life.

I’ll start with the Harry Potter series. In Harry’s world, there is a hierarchy of blood purity that some still follow. To these wizard, pure humans are, of course, the lowest form, but they still reserve their hatred for wizards who are born to fully-muggle parents. The slur word for them, “mudblood,” is one that cuts deep. While there is no de-facto protest movement in the Harry Potter novels, there is still the matter of these wizards standing up for themselves.

Since Mockingjay Part I is still in theaters, let’s go ahead and examine the Hunger Games trilogy. The citizens of Panem, those who reside in the poorer districts, are all enslaved. They are fenced in, cut off, under curfew, and subjected to cruel and unusual punishment by those in charge. Regardless of skin color, the residents of the lower districts are marginalized, demonized, and broken by the existing social structure of their world.

There are the people of Ishval in Hiromu Arakawa’s manga, Fullmetal Alchemist, whose homeland is taken over by a mighty military. The Smokies in Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies are yet another persecuted group. Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series has its skaa. And while few people have read it, I have always loved Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Eye of the Heron for its amazing story of a space colony caught up in its own civil rights movement.

The worlds of YA mirror our own in many ways. There are tales of oppression, messages about “the other” and the ways in which they are ostracized, stories of interplanetary love. They all come to the same conclusion: hatred for your fellow man (or alien or cyborg or ghost or robot) is one of the universe’s darkest traits. We will always explore these conflicts, because our own sad history is rife with them. One of the best ways to deal with it—to learn to move forward—is to familiarize yourself with the struggles of others so you can empathize with them. That way, when it’s time to figure out what is right, you’ll know where you need to stand.

VIDEO: Brandon Sanderson Wrote HOW MANY Novels Before He Was Published?????

It's a kind of a scary thought: Brandon Sanderson had written 12 full manuscripts before one of them was accepted and he became a published author. Thankfully, he broke through, and now book 2 of his phenomenal YA series is out.  (And go here to listen to an audiobook sneak-peek of FIREFIGHT.)

Check out this video and learn more about a talented writer who had to push on despite receiving mountains of rejection letters from publishers. The music is pretty cheesy, the words are great.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pLdI8f5BiI&w=560&h=315]

Seal of Approval - THE RISE OF AURORA WEST by Paul Pope, JT Petty, and David Rubin

Seal of Approval – THE RISE OF AURORA WEST by Paul Pope, JT Petty, and David Rubin Aurora-West-Paul-Pope-Main

Written by Grant Goodman, 1/7/2015

A few weeks ago I was awestruck by Paul Pope’s BATTLING BOY graphic novel. I was searching for the sequel, which I thought I had found when I came across THE RISE OF AURORA WEST. But something was different about it. Unlike the original comic, this one was the size of a manga. And the art was all black and white. And it turned out to be a prequel.

That said, AURORA is another great graphic novel work seeking out. It builds upon the world that Pope set up in BATTLING BOY and gives far more time for us to learn about the daughter of hero Haggard West.

Needless to say, Aurora is shaping up to be a character with depth. We learn about her family history, an invisible friend, and her insanely busy education and physical training schedule.

The honest criticism: this is not as good as BATTLING BOY. The art seems slap-dash at times and the story has a weird moment in which Aurora turns to one of her classmates out of nowhere and says something along the lines of, “Hey, can I trust you and tell you everything?” Then she brings him along on all of her investigations.

That said, it’s still a fun read. Plus, I really wanted to know way more about the worlds and the people Pope will be working with as he expands his main story and this provided some very cool insights (and plot twists!)

BONUS POST: Audiobook Clip from FIREFIGHT by Brandon Sanderson

Written by Grant Goodman, 1/6/2015 Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite authors. His YA novel, STEELHEART, was easily in the top 5 YA titles I read in 2014. It was a fast-paced, emotionally charged romp through a world full of superheroes gone bad. You can check out a more in-depth review HERE.

Today is the release of the sequel: FIREFIGHT.

The kind people at Audible have offered me and my readers a sample clip of the audiobook release. Give it a listen!

[embed]https://soundcloud.com/audible/firefight[/embed]

The Always Insightful Words of Neil Gaiman

When Neil Gaiman writes a New Year's wish on his blog, it's always golden. (If you haven't read CORALINE or THE GRAVEYARD BOOK or STARDUST or ODD AND THE FROST GIANTS, fix that immediately.) Here's the link to this year's journal post, which highlights all of the others he's written throughout the years.

I particularly love 2010's:

"I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something."

A Reader's Resolution

A Reader’s Resolution Written by Grant Goodman, 12/31/2014

This year I will go on a thousand adventures. I will travel across countries, through space, and all throughout time. I will partake in daring rescues and tragic failures. I will be a part of star-crossed romance and the kinds of deep friendships that we should all be lucky enough to have.

I will discover twenty new sentences that give me chills. I will find a new author whose words give my world more meaning and color.

I will do what I can to deal with the fact that there will always be more books than I have time for.

I will stop losing so many bookmarks.

This year I will turn more pages, tame more dragons, and solve more mysteries.

This is a year for reading.

5 More Amazing Sentences from YA Novels

In case you missed the first installment, check it out HERE. 1. “This is the first kiss that makes me want another."

--Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

2. "Too late, I found you can't wait to become perfect, you got to go out and fall down and get up with everybody else."

--Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes

3. “We are not always what we seem, and hardly ever what we dream.”

--Peter Beagle, The Last Unicorn

4. "...there's something about a girl and a night and a beach."

--Cory Doctorow, Little Brother

5. “Autumn has a hungry heart.”

--Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

SEAL OF APPROVAL: BATTLING BOY by Paul Pope

Seal of Approval: BATTLING BOY by Paul Pope Written by Grant Goodman, 12/24/2014

This is the first graphic novel I’ve reviewed for the site and, wow, this one is awesome.

Acropolis is under siege by monsters. Their only hero is Haggard West, who has used scientific research to design a way to fly AND (of course) to build himself a pretty sick gun that causes targets to burst into flame. Unfortunately, the Ghoul Gang (a cross between ninjas, mummies, and cobra commander) has a plan for Haggard West.

On a different plane of existence, Battling Boy is rounded up by his brute-force, monster-slaying god of a father and sent to Acropolis to battle its monsters and gangs. It is a coming of age process that all 12 year-olds go through.

I love the creativity at work here. There are spiders who weave armor. Cthulu can be found hanging out in the villains’ bar. The mayor has a PR team to manage Battling Boy’s image.

The artwork is explosive and brilliant. Pope’s linework is manic, his monsters are Ralph Steadman versions of nightmare kaiju. Battling Boy’s super-macho father is a hilarious spectacle of muscle and violence. The color symbolism is clear: the Ghoul Gang is dressed in dark clothes, Battling Boy wears all white.

There’s also the matter of Aurora West, daughter of Haggard. She doesn’t get much panel-time in this volume, but all of it is fascinating. The second volume of the story is titled THE RISE OF AURORA WEST and I suspect it will shine much more light on her and her life. I can’t wait to read it!

Laurie Halse Anderson on Nightmares, Writing, and Teen Audiences

Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Speak, offers some amazing insights in this brief interview. She discusses how a nightmare influenced her story, how an editor told her that "teens don't read," and how surprising it was when Speak became an award-winning novel.

This is good stuff, people.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJU7b3C8QMk&w=420&h=315]

5 Amazing Sentences from YA Novels

5 Amazing Sentences from YA Novels Written by Grant Goodman, 12/16/2014

I was recently given the link to Buzzfeed’s 51 of the Most Beautiful Sentences in Literature. It’s a wonderful collection. I thought that YA novels deserve the same treatment. So over the next few months, as a recurring feature, I’ll be collecting and sharing my picks for Amazing Sentences in YA.

1.  I feel such a tenderness for these vulnerable night-time conversations, the way the words take a different shape in the air when there's no light in the room.

-David Levithan, Every Day

2. Moonlight can reveal the truth of things.

-Joseph Delaney, The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch

3. Life is short, but it's wide.

-Wendy Mass, Every Soul a Star

4. The world was collapsing, and the only thing that really mattered to me was that she was still alive.

-Rick Riordan, The Last Olympian

5. There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.

-Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

Click HERE to read 5 MORE Amazing Sentences from YA Novels!

Margin Notes: THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING by Catherynne M. Valente

Margin Notes: THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING by Catherynne M. Valente Written by Grant Goodman, 12/9/2014

The Quote:

When you are born…your courage is new and clean. You are brave enough for anything: crawling off staircases, saying your first words without fearing that someone will think you are foolish…But as you get older, your courage attracts gunk and crusty things and dirt and fear and knowing how bad things can get and what pain feels like. By the time you're half-grown, your courage barely moves at all, it's so grunged up with living.

The Notes:

Life wears you down. That’s the truth for most of us. You want summers and sandy beaches and ice cream and smiles. Maybe, for a few weeks in a row, you get that. Then that other stuff happens. The sleet, the flat tire, the rust. They come in many forms. Illness, exhaustion, too much homework, your parents’ divorce.

No matter the age you are, you know what I’m talking about. There’s stuff that slows you down and saps your energy. It’s terrible. (And for those of you who may think that adults have it all figured out, I’m sorry to tell you that we’re just as lost as you are. There’s no magic button that we suddenly press when we’re 22. It’s probably better you find out now.)

The passage above is gorgeous because of its ability to capture all of those aspects of life and turn them into a small work of art.

Those of you who are in school, you know what it’s like to deal with the fear of what others will think of you. Others can be cruel. Plenty of people tell you to speak your mind, but the reality is that so many people are afraid of being judged. Your courage, indeed, can get all gunked up.

In Fairyland, you can have your courage scrubbed clean. It’s a physical act. Sadly, we don’t have that luxury here on Earth. We have something close, though. It varies from person to person. There’s something for each and every one of us that restores us.

Maybe it’s the alchemy we call cooking, maybe you need to breathe in the deep, green scent of the woods in the spring. Perhaps you pick up your paintbrush and capture your heart’s desire that way. Some of us get lost in the rustle of paper pages and find that little piece of us that somehow went missing.

Whatever it is, it won’t scrub you sparkling clean again. It will, however, fill you up with sunlight again and remind you that you can still glow.

From there, it’s up to you to deal with the shadowy stuff.

It’ll be easier, though, even if only a little.

Book Trailer: THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING by Catherynne M. Valente

I am only fifty pages into this fairytale novel and I am completely in love with it. Clever times a million, whimsical times a billion, spellbinding times a trillion. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. Watch the trailer and then purchase immediately.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HU4q8dpKhDY&w=420&h=315]

Destiny and Prophecy in YA

Destiny and Prophecy in YA Written by Grant Goodman, 12/2/2014

A recurring feature element in fantasy literature is the prophecy. You know how it goes. Some soothsayer foretold a terrible fate or a cataclysmic event and then the heroes set out to prove that prophecy isn’t guaranteed.

Rick Riodan’s series all rely on prophecy to fuel them. In Riordan’s defense, the Greeks and Romans actually relied on prophecies. They had their oracles who communicated mysterious messages from the gods. They also had augurs to read the signs of nature. (This is evident in Homer’s Odyssey, when a pair of eagles swoop out of the sky to attack a crowd of people. A resident interprets their actions as a sign of Zeus’ displeasure.)

One of my favorites, Cirque du Freak, involves several characters who can see through time and a series of prophecies about the fall of the vampires. The main character, Darren, is always pursued by the nagging possibility of “what if” and the consequences of failure.

Even Harry Potter contains a prophecy that surfaces (in full) in The Order of the Phoenix. It is the driving force behind Voldemort’s obsessive hunting of Harry.

So why does this happen so often? What appeal does this plot trope have to a YA audience?

I think it has something to do with offering young readers an idea that is slowly dying in their realities: that there is a set, stable, predictable future. Or, the opposite: that despite the path you’re set on, you can fight to change it.

Just think: you’re 14 years old. The world is brimming with possibility, but you’re also realizing its horrible, horrible flaws. All of the values you were spoon-fed as a child are beginning to unravel: there is not always justice, the greedy often triumph over the selfless, war is never-ending, there was never a Santa Claus or a tooth fairy or anything magic.

In the midst of this turmoil, you can turn to a story in which the future is not a roiling mass of chaos. There are rails. There is an order to things. If you follow steps A through C, you can succeed and save the world.

The opposite is just as powerful: you may feel like you have been set upon the rails. But there are stories out there that constantly hammer upon the idea that the future is malleable. You can change course if you fight. You aren’t doomed to the fate of your parents.

The prophecy trope is going to be around for a long time. It’s a classic story element and its appeal has lasted thousands of years.

What are some of the other prophecy novels you’ve read? List ‘em in the comments section and let’s discuss!

NaNoWriMo: The End. A Final Peptalk Link

Not everyone reaches the words "THE END" on November 30th. Even though it's the last day of National Novel Writing Month, some of you are realizing that you still have 25,000 words to go. Or 50,000. Or 100,000. That's why I'm linking to this pep talk from the exceptional Marie Lu (writer of LEGEND and more). It's an extra push to keep on going. Yes, 30 days in a row of writing is exhausting. But most of the time, it isn't nearly enough.

Read this, find your fire, and move forward!

Three Books I'm Thankful For

FAHRENHEIT 451, for being a cornerstone of my life. For the constant reminder that language is magic. For the message that misery comes in many forms, that darkness can be created by fire, that sometimes the only to move forward is to destroy almost everything that was behind you. For the never ending inspiration. FEED by M.T. Anderson, for its discussion of materialism and how easily some of us would sell our lives in exchange for constant entertainment. For reminding me of the difference between access to information and knowledge.

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins, for pointing out that so many countries sacrifice their children to war and think little of it. For criticizing our ridiculous celebrity culture. For making my heart rate reach unhealthy levels.

AUDIO BOOK PREVIEW: SKIN DEEP by Brandon Sanderson (Courtesy of Audible.com)

Hey everyone! One of my favorite authors, Brandon Sanderson, has a new story coming out! As of today, it is available as a FREE AUDIOBOOK release from Audible.com. Follow this link to download your copy! Here's a 5 minute sample, narrated by the fantastic Oliver Wyman:

[embed]https://soundcloud.com/audible/legion-skin-deep/s-7sgzP[/embed]

Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite authors (see my review of STEELHEART here) and this new novella about a detective and his ghostly companions is sure to be another amazing tale.

Thank you to Esther Bochner of Audible for making this sample clip available.

Book Trailer: THE BLOOD OF OLYMPUS by Rick Riordan

Book Trailer: THE BLOOD OF OLYMPUS by Rick Riordan I am always fascinated by how marketing teams use different covers for their novels. This book trailer from Puffin UK not only gives a great summary of the final book from Riordan's latest series, but it also gives you a glimpse of the cover art chosen for the UK release of the novels.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_yxiXCinJ8[/embed]

Maryland’s Black Eyed Susan Reading Program 2014-2015: Part II

Maryland’s Black Eyed Susan Reading Program 2014-2015: Part II Written by Grant Goodman, 11/16/2014

Part I of this article series is available here.

Today I’d like to focus on one of the ten chosen Black Eyed Susan novels for this school year.

The book in the spotlight is POISON by Bridget Zinn.

This review is going to be different from most reviews I write…mainly because I haven’t read this book yet. That being said, this book did something amazing this year, which makes it easy for me to recommend.

In order to fairly distribute my BES books, I raffle off my classroom library copies, since I only have one copy of each novel. When the winner of the POISON raffle finished reading the novel, he told me, “Mr. Goodman, I sat down on Saturday and read about 100 pages of the book without stopping…I haven’t done that in a long time.”

Isn't that the best praise a YA novel can get?