Racist comments from fans of Hunger Games a big disappointment and begs the question – are we addressing race in YA novels enough?

I have to say, I was shocked to read some of the Twitter comments by fans who watched the Hunger Games movie and disapproved (and that’s putting it nicely) of Rue and Thresh being cast as African American (see story here). I was stunned for two reasons – I never pictured them as anything else (Collins clearly describes them as dark skinned in the book), and secondly, and I really thought we were better than this! We have such a multi-ethnic country, and because Panem is based on a futuristic North America , the fact that so many of the characters are white should be more surprising.

This opens the door for discussion of larger issues. Are teen novels doing enough to integrate race (and especially interracial relationships) into the mainstream? Is describing someone as dark skinned enough? How else was Collins supposed to emphasize that these characters were not white (because in a futuristic society, the term African American might not be a racial designation)? How clear do authors need to be?

In my new book, Danny’s best friend, Reggie Allen, is black. I try to clarify this on several occasions. This creates some uncomfortable situations throughout the trilogy. First of all, the mob is not known for its lack of racism, which makes the relationship between Reggie and Danny’s godfather, Gino, pretty strained. I don’t try to sugarcoat it, although I probably could have explored it even further. Also, Reggie has the biggest conscience of Danny’s group of friends, always reminding Danny of the “right” thing to do. In fact, when Danny wonders how Reggie knows who the district attorney is, Reggie first jokes that it was because he got in trouble, and then when Danny takes the bait, he then explains he actually met him through a debate competition. In this way, I had hoped to shed some light on how our minds work. Stereotypes can only survive as long as we let them. And apparently, people are still letting them.

Long story short, the comments on Twitter were a deep disappointment for me. No one can argue that racism no longer exists in this country if people are still saying things like this.

Speak out.

Isn’t she beautiful? Amandla Stenberg did a bang up job as Rue!


Hungry for Hunger Games (Oh come on, it was just too easy!)

Totally loved the book and am starving for the movie! Gotta find a babysitter so I can see this! The series ended a little dark for me, but the first installment was fantastic. If the Twilight thing was a bit melodramatic for you, you’ll love the toughness of this heroine!

And I’m just admitting now I’m a total Peeta fan.


Shelter – Harlan Coben’s first Mickey Bolitar Novel thrills, captivates, and charms

Okay, so I have a soft spot for the paranormal, but because I enjoyed writing a series based on reality (check out www.teenmobster.com), I knew I had to expand my reading to include books that go beyond vampires, ghosts, and time travel. I can only tell you that reading Shelter by Harlan Coben was definitely a step in the right direction.  I’m happy that it sounds as though he’ll be using the same cast of characters he developed in this book for an entire series. In fact, I’m so impressed with Coben’s ability to create a suspenseful page-turner that I may even check out his mainstream novels. That is, if I ever get through the pile of YA still sitting on my Kindle!!!

If others have read this book, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the the characters. Another thing I liked is the trailer for this book (check it out on http://www.harlancoben.com/). As a former recording arts major, this nailed it for me.

Okay, so it’s a bit of a lovefest for this book, but I’m a novelist, not a critic. Happy reading!

Love or hate the love triangle in a novel? Vote now…

Another Faust is another kind of YA novel

As I was finishing up Another Faust by brother and sister team, Daniel and Dina Nayeri, I was struck that I probably should have spent more time familiarizing myself with the Faust legend before consuming this novel. Sure, I knew the guy had sold his soul to the devil for worldly pleasures/knowledge, but now that I’ve taken time to look into the story again, I’m amazed at the shear number of works based on the tale. The Nayeris have now added another, a story about teenagers who have sold their souls in exchange for specific gifts. The rest is, well, slightly unnerving and ultimately intriguing.

The novel is the opposite of upbeat, and yet, one point made by the authors was something that stuck with me–the fact that in order to sell your soul to the devil, you have to do it everyday. You can back out. This for some reason, was strangely refreshing and perhaps an important message woven in a tale that might just give a reader the creeps. In our society where people like to explain why they’re victims, this book seems to say, “You make your own choices.”

So check out the authors and books here. There are additional books in the Another Series, which are, according to the authors’ websites, “classic works re-imagined at the elite Marlowe School, where characters of the past take on new life, in a modern New York.”

Can the genre-divide be crossed? J. K. Rowling’s new venture raises the question of whether YA and adult mainstream novelists can dabble in both

The big discussion last month was J. K. Rowling’s announcement that she will be writing a novel for the adult crowd. The question was whether her larger-than-life Harry Potter series would eclipse any future attempt by her to create a compelling story and cast of characters. But she’s not the first YA novelist to try a new market. Stephanie Myer released The Host last year, and Judy Blume has several adult novels available, which seem to appeal especially to those who grew up reading her numerous books geared for a younger crowd. Anyone know of others?

As for crossing the other direction, James Patterson, John Grisham, Harlan Coben, and Lauren Conrad are just a few big names in publishing who are now trying their hand at YA fiction. Having read Coben’s Shelter, I can give him a thumbs up and hope to see more. I haven’t read the others yet, but word on the street (or in some author chat rooms) isn’t pretty. However, I’ll reserve judgment, as always, until I can give them a whirl myself!