Carrie Jones, will you be my best friend? Author of Need Series captivates with humor.

I’m a sucker for humor. But I’ll admit, I wasn’t prepared for the tongue-in-cheek writing that greeted me in Need, Carrie Jones first novel of the same-named series. By the second book, I was a total fan, and now on book three, I’m craving it. I need more Carrie Jones.

Before I continue with this author-on-author worship, let me explain that I’ve been reading my share of the lastest and greatest YA novels, and some are terrific, but generally, quite serious. For instance, Divergent, The Book Thief, Matched, Delirium, Before I Fall, Lament, and Starcrossed are just a few recent reads. This is good stuff, but sheesh, the drama is taking it’s toll.

And then I open Need and am treated to an exciting story, but one that has no problem making fun of itself. I thought I couldn’t handle any more vampire-type novels for a while, but Jone’s take on the whole pixie situation is hilarious. Oh, and werewolves. Where would we be without those? Not nearly as entertained, that’s for sure.

So Carrie Jones, you’ve won me over. I love the fact that I can read something exciting and romantic and still laugh every other page (or every page). Sometimes we just need to take things a little less seriously, you know?

Check out her website–it’s funny too!

Living in a dystopian wonderland. Is futuristic discontent replacing the vampire?

 

Twilight, Vampire Diaries, and Blue Bloods are just a few of the many, many YA series based on the supernatural creature that have glutted the market. Publishers and agents everywhere swore off wanting to see any more Twilight-type manuscripts, and yet, it seems that these books kept popping up everywhere.

But although vampires themselves boast immortatilty, their characters may be reaching the end of their life-span as the go-to YA theme. Enter dystopia.

Hunger Games. Matched. Delirium. These are just three of the popular series that feature a dystopian society. If you don’t know what Hunger Games is about, you must have been stranded on a desert island for the past few months. As for the other two series, they both focus on a controlled society that makes decisions for the population about love and marriage. And for what it’s worth, they’re both beautifully written.

I love all three of these series (well, I’ll admit some disappointment in the Hunger Games ending, but I’m one of a few). I guess the books feel so different from all the contemporary and paranormal series out there.

The question is, do editors want more of the same? Or something else? The million dollar question is, what’s the next big thing?

I’m hoping it’s mobsters😉

Falling for Oliver’s Before I Fall

Lauren Oliver is another YA author  to expound on the dystopian theme, with the popular Delirium and recently released Pandemonium. However, the first book I got my hands on was her debut novel, Before I Fall, a present day, stand-alone book.

At first I hated the characters. I’ve been racing through so many novels on my Kindle that I hadn’t exactly read the synopsis for this one. I thought it was some kind of ghost story, and in the first few pages, I felt frustrated. I wasn’t one of those girls in school. I was never an outcast, but I was nice, and most of my friends were of the nice variety as well. I wasn’t sure I could relate to Oliver’s Samantha Kingston.

But before throwing in the towel, I went back to read the book blurb. Ahhh–I didn’t realize this girl was going to get the chance to live her last day seven times. After that, I was hooked. Don’t ask me what flipped the switch in my brain–it just flipped.

I will tell you that I felt this story very powerfully. I don’t usually cry for books and movies, but this one definitely contributed to some waterworks. This author writes very artisitically for sure, but it was the journey for this bitchy high-schooler that really had me believing that Oliver has “the stuff.”

Utopia gone bad – The Matched Trilogy is a gentler but more subversive take on the popular dystopian theme

Thank goodness there’s one more book in the Matched Trilogy by Allie Condie. Matched and Crossed will go down as two of my favorite YA novels thus far. The ideas behind this series about a dystopian society reminds me of the concepts put forward in Ira Levin’s This Perfect Day, with the-world-is-hunky-dory concept getting blown to bits in the first book. Of course, the ever popular Hunger Games makes no bones about its dystopian world, but I like Condie’s gradual revelations even better.

The question I pose is, how important is the disscussion of dystopian themes in todays’ society? It’s not a new idea by any means (see list here), but conspiracy theorists and doomsday preppers aside, how complacent are we, and can dystopian fiction make us any more aware of giving up the freedoms we cherish?

Oh–and I love Condie’s use of the Dylan Thomas poem “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night.” I think it’s a good reminder.

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!

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!

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.”

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