Tuesday, July 31, 2012

3 Alex Sanchez on LGBTQ and Controversial YA

Today, we are excited to welcome Alex Sanchez to tackle challenging issues in young adult books. Alex is the award-winning author of many books that feature LGBTQ characters. His willingness to address difficult topics has earned him the reputation of being highly influential in YA.

A bit about Alex:
Alex wrote his first children's book in college. Later he received a master's degree in Guidance and Counseling. He went on to work with youth and families in the U.S. and overseas. The story of Rainbow Boys came to him at a time when he was struggling with his own coming out issues. It was his first novel. Since then, he's been writing about a book per year. You can visit his website or follow him on Facebook.

Why do you believe YA novels with LGBTQ content are deemed controversial by some audiences?
Some individuals have a bias against LGBTQ people, and therefore they have a bias against YA stories that present LGBTQ themes in a sympathetic light.

What compels you to keep writing when you know that a portion of readers may view some of the content as controversial (whether it’s LGBTQ content or anything else someone may take issue with)?
I don’t set out to create controversy. I write to communicate and connect. I don’t write to please or displease other people. Writing is my passion, meaning, and purpose in life. It’s unrealistic to expect that everyone will like what I write, but hopefully some people will. And if a few people are made uncomfortable by what I write, that only shows the power of writing: to evoke passion in others.

How has the public’s reception of your novels that include LGBTQ or other controversial topics changed over time, if at all?
Without a doubt, American society is becoming increasingly tolerant and accepting of LGBTQ issues. Among young adults, more teens are coming out at younger and younger ages. And more “straight” teens have LGBTQ people in their lives whom they love and care about. These teens are a powerful change agent in schools. And educators and parents are responding to them. Consequently, my stories elicit less and less controversy and have become more and more accepted.

In your opinion, why is it important for teens (and other readers, for that matter) to have access to books that include controversial content (LGBTQ, sex, drugs, violence, bigotry, etc.)?
It’s easy for us as adults to tell young people don’t smoke, or take drugs, or have sex, or hurt other people. But young people will have their own thoughts about issues, and such admonishments will have limited impact. I believe our responsibility as adults is better carried out not by teaching young people what to think but rather how to think. One powerful way to do that is through stories. In stories, a reader places him/herself inside the characters’ skin, and thereby experiences those characters’ choices and consequences. In the process, teens can decide for themselves what decisions they would make and develop their own views about issues. Stories can be a great way to learn both how to think and how to empathize.

Thank you, Alex!

We’d love to hear YOUR thoughts on controversial children’s/YA books. How have they shaped your life? Why do you believe certain topics are taboo? If you’re a parent, how do you handle books with controversial topics as your children select books to read? Go!

Friday, July 27, 2012

31 YA Books In Stores Next Week and WHAT'S LEFT OF ME Giveaway


This week's giveaway is VERY special. I have an ARC of WHAT'S LEFT OF ME by Kat Zhang that I'm going to have to pry out of my hands to slip into the envelope. This book is truly remarkable. While the characters are fascinating and the action doesn't let up, in the end, it is the premise and the world that I keep thinking about. What is a soul? What defines it and how much of our personality does it define? What happens to it when it is disconnected from the body? What would it be like to have no control over your actions or future? Kat Zhang took everything I thought I knew and made me reexamine it, all while I was immersed in her beautiful writing and turning pages as fast as I could. This is a book you won't want to miss!

To enter this week's giveaway, please complete the form at the bottom of the page. We'll announce the winners on 8/3, so please enter by midnight on 8/2. U.S. and Canadian entries only, please!

Happy Reading,


Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else—two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn’t…

For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she’s still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable–hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet…for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything.


Skylark by Meagan Spooner: WINNER -- DAWN MALONE

Sixteen year-old Lark Ainsley has never seen the sky.

Her world ends at the edge of the vast domed barrier of energy enclosing all that’s left of humanity. For two hundred years the city has sustained this barrier by harvesting its children's innate magical energy when they reach adolescence. When it’s Lark’s turn to be harvested, she finds herself trapped in a nightmarish web of experiments and learns she is something out of legend itself: a Renewable, able to regenerate her own power after it’s been stripped.

Forced to flee the only home she knows to avoid life as a human battery, Lark must fight her way through the terrible wilderness beyond the edge of the world. With the city’s clockwork creations close on her heels and a strange wild boy stalking her in the countryside, she must move quickly if she is to have any hope of survival. She’s heard the stories that somewhere to the west are others like her, hidden in secret – but can she stay alive long enough to find them?

You Can't Have My Planet, But Take My Brother, Please


Thirteen-year-old Giles is the last person anyone would expect to save the planet. he's not as charming as his little sister, and not as brainy as his goody-goody older brother. But when Giles witnesses an alien realtor showing Earth to possible new tenants, he knows he'd better do something.

With the help of an alien "attorney" and the maddest scientist in middle-grade fiction, Giles just might save humans from eviction from Earth. Let's hope so. The alternatives are...not so hospitable.

No Boyz Allowed by Ni-Ni Simone

True story: I’m Gem, G-E-M, like a precious jewel, and my life has been nothing like my name. I’ve been on my own since I was nine and now I’m sixteen. But so what. I’m good, and so is my little brother. So why the state won’t let us do our own thing is beyond me. Instead, we’ve been forced to live with a foster family who wants to love us, but I’m not beat—I’m just trying to do me.

To make matters worse, I’ve been checking for this guy, Ny’eem. But my new clique has an unbreakable rule—no boyz allowed to come between our friendship—which is forcing me to keep my relationship with Ny’eem a secret. Though not for long. . .because in high school secrets are always exposed, scandals always rewrite the rules, and friendships are never what they seem. . .

Destiny by Gillian Shields

Everything is connected. We weave in and out of one another's lives, like circles within circles, and everything is for a purpose.

Helen has always been the "crazy" one among the girls of Wyldcliffe, scarred by her bleak past and her troubled relationship with her mother, the former headmistress and leader of the Wyldcliffe coven, Mrs. Hartle.

But Miss Scratton promised Helen that a love "beyond the confines of this world" is waiting for her. Could this be Lynton, the mysterious music student who visits Wyldcliffe for his lessons? And what about the brooch her mother gave her--what can the Seal reveal about Helen's past and future?

Now that Miss Scratton is gone, life at Wyldcliffe takes an even darker turn. An unexpected threat arrives in the form of a new high master, whom Helen remembers from her unhappy childhood. Can Helen, Evie, and Sarah finally overcome Wyldcliffe's darkness? Will Lady Agnes come to their aid? And what sacrifices must they make to fulfill their destiny?

"Destiny" is the stunning conclusion to this gripping series about sisterhood, the circles of time, and love

Hide and Seek by Sara Shepard

(Frontier Magic)

My friends and I used to play lying games.

Now my twin sister is living one.

When I was alive, my family seemed picture-perfect. My adoptive parents adored me, and my little sister, Laurel, copied my every move. But now that my long-lost twin, Emma, has taken my place to solve my murder, we're both learning just how flawed my family really is.

Laurel is shooting Emma nasty looks and sneaking around with my ex-boyfriend. And it turns out my parents are keeping a huge secret--could it be the reason I'm dead?

How far would they go to keep the truth buried? No one can harm me now, but Emma is still fair game. And if she's not careful, she'll end up buried, too. . . .

From Sara Shepard, the #1 "New York Times" bestselling author of the Pretty Little Liars books, comes a riveting series about secrets, lies, and killer consequences.

A Templar's Destiny by Kat Black

(The Book of Tormod)

The final book in Kat Black's historical fantasy trilogy!Tormod MacLeod's brother, Torquil, has been captured and locked in a dungeon hidden in the depths of the French royal castle. Tormod and Aine journey to France, hoping to save him, but the search is proving more difficult than they ever imagined--and getting out alive seems impossible. Meanwhile, they must stop the wicked plot that King Philippe le Bel has put in motion to destroy the Knights Templar from within. Their journey takes them all the way to the French court, where they meet the enchanting Princess Isabella. She has her eye on Tormod, and Aine notices. Their chances of accomplishing all they've set out to do while keeping the power of the Holy Vessel from being exposed to the world are slim, and in the end, Tormod has a devastating decision to make

The Invisible World by Suzanne Weyn

Suzanne Weyn brings her trademark mix of history, romance, and the supernatural to the Salem Witch Trials.

For 15-year-old Sarah Owen, having a scientist father is a blessing and a curse. He doesn't bat an eye at her pyschic abilities, since he researches them; and she knows more about the invisible worlds of microbes, electricity, and gravity than most girls in the 17th Century.

But when Sarah travels to the Americas with her father to do more research, she's shipwrecked and lands for a time on the Gullah Islands. Later, when the plantation owners find her and send her north to Salem, Massachusetts, her abilities get her into trouble. Can Sarah save herself when she's accused of witchcraft? Or will she and the rest of the innocents she's accused with be found guilty...and sentenced to hanging?

Someday Dancer by Sarah Rubin

A ballerina tale with a thoroughly modern twist!

Casey Quinn has got more grace in her pinkie toe than all those prissy ballet-school girls put together, even if you'd never guess it from the looks of her too-long legs and dirty high-top sneakers. It's 1959, and freckle-faced Casey lives in the red-dust countryside of South Carolina. She's a farm girl: Her family can't afford ballet lessons. But Casey's dream is to dance in New York City. And if anyone tries to stand in her way, she's going to pirouette and jeté right over them!

Casey's got the grit, and Casey's got the grace: Is that enough to make it in Manhattan someday? Or might the Big Apple have something even better in mind? When she meets a visionary choreographer she calls "Miss Martha," Casey's ballerina dream takes a thoroughly, thrillingly modern twist!

No Way Out by Peggy Kern

(The Book of Tormod)

Bluford High freshman Harold Davis is trapped. Medical bills for his sick grandmother are piling up, and a social worker has threatened to put him in a foster home. Desperate for money, he reluctantly agrees to work for Londell James, a neighborhood drug dealer. The choice leads him into a world of dangerous streets where no one is safe. Will Harold escape the violence that surrounds him, or will he become its next victim?

The Far West by Patricia C. Wrede

(Frontier Magic)

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Patricia C. Wrede, the fantastic conclusion to her tale of magic on the western frontier.Eff is an unlucky thirteenth child...but also the seventh daughter in her family. Her twin brother, Lan, is a powerful double seventh son. Her life at the edge of the Great Barrier Spell is different from anyone else's that she knows.When the government forms an expedition to map the Far West, Eff has the opportunity to travel farther than anyone in the world. With Lan, William, Professor Torgeson, Wash, and Professor Ochiba, Eff finds that nothing on the wild frontier is as they expected. There are strange findings in their research, a long prarie winter spent in too-close quarters, and more new species, magical and otherwise, dangerous and benign, than they ever expected to find. And then spring comes, and the explorers realize how tenuous life near the Great Barrier Spell may be if they don't find a way to stop a magical flood in a hurry. Eff's unique way of viewing magic has saved the settlers time and again, but this time all of Columbia is at stake if she should fail.(

Survive by Alex Morel

Hatchet meets Lost in this modern-day adventure tale of one girl's reawakening

Jane is on a plane on her way home to Montclair, New Jersey, from a mental hospital. She is about to kill herself. Just before she can swallow a lethal dose of pills, the plane hits turbulence and everything goes black. Jane wakes up amidst piles of wreckage and charred bodies on a snowy mountaintop. There is only one other survivor: a boy named Paul, who inspires Jane to want to fight for her life for the first time.

Jane and Paul scale icy slopes and huddle together for warmth at night, forging an intense emotional bond. But the wilderness is a vast and lethal force, and only one of them will survive.

The Waiting Sky by Lara Zielin

One summer chasing tornadoes could finally change Jane's life for the better

Seventeen-year-old Jane McAllister can't quite admit her mother's alcoholism is spiraling dangerously out of control until she drives drunk, nearly killing them and Jane's best friend.

Jane has only one place to turn: her older brother Ethan, who left the problems at home years ago for college. A summer with him and his tornado-chasing buddies may just provide the time and space Jane needs to figure out her life and whether it still includes her mother. But she struggles with her anger at Ethan for leaving home and feels guilty--is she also abandoning her mom just when she needs Jane most? The carefree trip turned journey of self-discovery quickly becomes more than Jane bargained for, especially when the devilishly handsome Max steps into the picture

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

11 WOW Wednesday: Marissa Burt on Revising with Anticipation

Our WOW guest today, Marissa Burt, writes MG fantasy and is represented by Laura Langlie of the Laura Langlie Literary Agency.  Her debut novel, STORYBOUND, is in stores now.  You can visit her online at www.marissaburt.com. 

Revising with Anticipation

by Marissa Burt

When I was in elementary school, I loved the concrete objectivity of arithmetic.  If I learned the math rules and thought about the problem logically, I could sort out the steps and arrive at the answer.  I liked that there was a clear end to the assignment.  Yes or no, right or wrong, math problems gave me the satisfaction of a job done correctly.  And a shiny gold star at the top of the page.

Not so with writing.  Sure, there are rules.  There are processes.  Some would say there are even formulas.  But there isn’t a “correct” way to write.  There isn’t a moment where a writing project is “done” and merely awaiting the gold star of approval.  This is never truer than with the revision process.  Perhaps you’ve written a lovely book.  Maybe you are out on submission and spend your days obsessively clicking on the e-mail refresh button.  Or you might have trunked a favorite novel, given up on the hope that it will ever be the “right fit”.  Wherever you’re at with your writing, I want to encourage you to carry on, and, most importantly, to get rid of the idea of a static project.  Embrace the revision process!

At any stage in the writing process, revision can give new life to your work.  I’m not sure why it is that, as a new writer, I shied away from revisions.  Sure, I didn’t mind tweaking things a bit, but I didn’t want to cut entire characters or rewrite scenes that I already liked just fine thank-you-very-much.  Maybe it was fear of messing with a good thing.  I think more likely it was – to say it bluntly – laziness.  I just didn’t want to do more hard work.  I wanted it to be good enough.  I wanted someone to put that lovely smiley face on my writing assignment and say: Great! Correct answer!  All finished.  Here’s your book contract. 

But if we want that kind of gold star reward, we’d be better off swapping our works in progress for a workbook of long division problems.  My debut novel STORYBOUND had been through quite a few “not right for us” and “no thank you” passes before my now-editor Erica Sussman asked if I’d be willing to do an exclusive revision with her.  To be honest, I was so thrilled an actual editor was willing to work with me on my book that I didn’t give much thought to the amount of work it would take.  Then came the phone call with general editorial notes.  And a huge revision which rearranged POVs, slashed characters, and reworked the plot.  At that point, I was ready for the gold star.  Instead I got a twelve-page editorial letter and another revision, after which came line edits.  And another revision.  A few more tweaks and we were ready to acquisitions.  After Harper acquired the book, we went through four or five more revisions.  I don’t need to tell you that it was a lot of work – both for me and the lovely team at HarperCollins. 

But do you know what I found?  With each stage of revision, I could see that the manuscript was so much stronger.  I would look back at the old version and think: How could I ever have submitted that?  Yes, it was sometimes hard to cut characters.  There were a few scenes I cut from one spot, saved in a separate document, and found a clever way to reinsert later on.  Still, there are little darlings I hope see the light of day in some other book.   But such is the nature of writing. 

The process doesn’t end with the gold star and a book deal.  STORYBOUND is out on shelves now, and I guarantee that if I read through it today, I’d discover things I want to change.  Since creativity is unlimited, the amount of potential in a creative work is also limitless.  A story can always be better.  Now at some point, we must say, ”This is a good story.  It’s ready.”  But the truth is that the gold star for writing isn’t finishing a project.  The gold star is becoming a better writer.

Revisions flex those muscles for us and help us hone our craft.  Don’t be afraid to revise dramatically!  Look with fresh eyes at an old manuscript and try writing from a different angle.  Find someone you trust and beg them to be brutal.  If you are asked to make a revision, try out each suggestion.  You may not like them at first, but surely it’s worth an attempt.  Why not?  There’s nothing to lose!  You can always change something back, though, in the end, I’ve rarely wanted to.  Instead, I discover that revising boldly changes things for the better.  The wonderful thing about writing is that there is no scarcity of creativity.  The well doesn’t have a bottom, as if it will run dry at some point - something that may be true of all creative pursuits.

I once saw an interview with Ian Holm (think Bilbo in the Lord of the Rings) where he described this approach to his film roles: for each take of a scene, he would adopt a fresh angle.  The lines were the same.  The settings were the same.  But he always tweaked his delivery to see how it could be different.  His words remind me to approach each revision with curiosity and a sense of anticipation.  I expect to make big changes, and I trust that revisions will take the story in new directions.  I might have traded in my gold stars, but in return, I’ve found a different kind of satisfaction, one that realizes the process is worth it, even if the outcome is mysterious.

What about you?  How do you tackle revisions?  What is one thing that you’ve found to breathe new life into your writing? 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

11 Julie Anne Peters on LGBTQ and Controversial YA (Plus Winner of CRANK announced!)

Today, we’re welcoming the incredibly kind and talented author Julie Anne Peters. When we first worked with her for our “In Stores This Week” feature, she was amazingly sweet and personable. That’s why for today, she seemed like just the person to break down a difficult subject matter—controversial topics in young adult books, specifically those that include LGBTQ themes. Her interview is candid and thought-provoking. And just like the last time we had her on the blog, she was a joy to work with!

A little bit about Julie:
Julie Anne Peters is the critically-acclaimed, award winning author of more than a dozen books for young adults and children. Her book, Luna, was a National Book Award Finalist; Keeping You a Secret was named a Stonewall Honor Book; Between Mom and Jo won a Lambda Literary Award; and Define “Normal” was voted by young readers as their favorite book of the year in California and Maryland. Julie’s books have been published in numerous countries, including Korea, China, Croatia, Germany, France, Italy, Indonesia, Turkey, and Brazil. She is a member of The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, PEN America, Colorado Authors League, and The Author's Guild. Julie loves writing because she gets to be her own boss and doesn't have to work in an office cubicle. It's hard to think outside the box when you work in a cube. She lives in Lakewood, Colorado, with her partner, Sherri, and far too many cats. The cats are under the impression that they're creative geniuses, since they spend a majority of their day walking back and forth across her computer keyboard. They probably generate more words per day than she does, but who can read cat gibberish?

Find her online at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Why do you believe YA novels with LGBTQ content are deemed controversial by some audiences?
Even though society has progressed to the point where LGBTQ issues are out in the open, support and acceptance of "difference" or diversity is not universal. Messages are still being sent that being gay is sinful or wrong and those who choose to live as openly gay are condemned. Too many people believe that being gay is a choice.

What compels you to keep writing when you know that a portion of readers may view some of the content as controversial (whether it’s LGBTQ content or anything else someone may take issue with)?
I know how comforting and self-affirming novels with LGBTQ characters are for people who are just coming to terms with being gay and needing to fit in with the world at large. Feeling that you're normal, and that you have a community that loves and embraces you for who you are, provides the kind of emotional well-being that we all need to survive and thrive.

How has the public’s reception of your novels that include LGBTQ or other controversial topics changed over time, if at all?
I used to get at least one letter a week from a mother (usually) calling me a pervert and accusing me of turning her daughter into a lesbian. I even have a file folder labeled "Not a Fan." Those letters have decreased over the years, and now I can't remember the last time I got one. So I'm assuming Jane/John Q. Public are more on board with diversity or finding other outlets to express their rage. Thank God.

In your opinion, why is it important for teens (and other readers, for that matter) to have access to books that include controversial content (LGBTQ, sex, drugs, violence, bigotry, etc.)?
When people don't talk about their feelings or what's happening to them, they become isolated and estranged from other people. Harassment and fear eventually turn to depression, which leads to many young (and old) people taking their lives. Books are a safe place to explore topics that may be taboo in a particular culture, including one's own home, school or church. A subject may be uncomfortable to read or talk about, but consequences and choices can be life-changing. It's vital for people to consider options and to see how someone else might cope with a situation that may seem hopeless in real life. Books provide those avenues for alternative solutions to problems.

Thank you, Julie!

As promised, we have a copy of Ellen Hopkins' CRANK coming to...


We’d love to hear YOUR thoughts on controversial children’s/YA books. How have they shaped your life? Why do you believe certain topics are taboo? If you’re a parent, how do you handle books with controversial topics as your children select books to read? Go!

0 July 1st 5 Pages Workshop 2nd Round Revisions Are Posted

Come join in, everyone! Read below to see how the workshop participants are coming along with their first five pages, and share your own opinions of their work. Be kind, but do be honest. How are these critical first pages of their manuscripts working? Do they reel you in? Make it impossible to keep from reading on? How is the reading style? The characterization? The plot? Is this an idea that intrigues you? Please take the time to let the writers know.

And if you are a writer yourself with a WIP, consider joining our August workshop, which will be open for entries beginning at noon on the first Saturday of August.

Our guest mentor for August is going to be the fabulous Leah Cypess, author of MISTWOOD and NIGHTSPELL. These are two of my all-time favorite YA fantasies. (And no, I'm not kidding, they ARE that beautiful!). Check here for the workshop rules, or find more information about Leah and her writing here.

18 1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Hollinbeck - Rev 2

Rosi Hollinbeck
Middle Grade Historical Fiction
The Incredible Journey of Freddy J.

Chapter One
Big News

Freddy’s mother turned her face toward the sun.

“Read one more chapter, Freddy.”

Treasure Island was a favorite of them all. Trudy put the wooden egg into another sock and threaded a thick needle with grey yarn. Emmi brought a bowl of potatoes, sat on the edge of the porch, and began peeling.

Freddy read, but it wasn’t long until Momma’s eyes began to close.

“Momma needs to go in, Freddy,” Emmi said. “Trudy, can you turn down her bed please? My hands are messy.”

Freddy helped Momma up. When she laid her hand on his arm, it was as if a dry autumn leaf had landed there. Sometimes he thought he should carry her, but she was so fragile; he was afraid she would break or fly away on a puff of wind.

Freddy searched his memory, trying to figure out when she had first gotten sick. It was a few days before Christmas. Now in August, she still stayed in bed most of the day.

He helped her lay back against the pillows, then lifted her feet onto the bed. “You rest now, Momma. Maybe Walter or Karl will stop by today,” he said. Their grown brothers usually visited after work once or twice each week. Everyone was so worried about Momma. Freddy laid a soft afghan over her, tucking it around her feet.

Voices floated through the window.

“Hey, Freddy!”

“Shhhhh, Rudy. Our mother is resting.” Emmi scolded.


Freddy reached across Momma and smoothed the afghan.

“Freddy, you go,” Trudy whispered. “Play with your friends. It’s a little while before Poppa comes.”

“You sure?”

“Ya. Ya. I sit with Momma. You go.”

Freddy lowered the shade on the west-facing window before slipping out the door. Rudy waited by the alley gate.

“C’mon. The guys are waitin’ on the corner. We got us a stickball game.”

They played hard for awhile. The hot afternoon sun made the street shimmer. After hitting a ball over the cemetery wall for a home run, Freddy penguin-walked to the base and back, twirling the stick, just like Charlie Chaplin twirling his cane in The Goldrush. The boys guffawed and Rudy fell off the curbstone, he laughed so hard. Freddy grinned.

In the distance, Freddy heard the streetcar bell and his grin disappeared. “Rudy, meet me by the car barn after supper, will ya?” he called.

He ran to the front porch and grabbed the tin pail. The buttons on his knickers were loose, and the heavy cuffs flapped against his shins. He might only be ten, but Poppa wouldn’t like it if Freddy looked like a bum. The car was still a block away. Dropping the pail, he buttoned his knickers below his knees.

Squat, brick tenement buildings and a rusty overpass carrying busy Chicago traffic stood across from him. Someday he would design beautiful bridges and elegant skyscrapers like those in the Loop. Someday. If he studied hard in school. And he would. No dirty factory work for him.

Poppa stepped from the streetcar and handed Freddy a quarter. “No vasting time. Ve got some tings to talk about. Come straight home from de Schenke.”

Poppa turned and walked away.

“Well, that don’t sound like good news,” Freddy muttered as he walked to the speakeasy behind the grocery store. Prohibition had sent all the bars into back allies.

He had seen the back of Poppa’s hand enough times to know not to make him wait.

Freddy pushed through the heavy door, and put his pail on the bar. He could barely see over the tall counter, but Otto knew who he was and what he wanted. And he knew better than to give Freddy a pail of foam.

“How you doin’, kid?” Otto smiled down at him. “Got a quarter today?”

Freddy slapped the quarter down and watched Otto fill the pail and scrape foam off with a knife before settling the lid. The Cubs game blared from the radio behind the bar. Grover Cleveland Alexander was pitching against the Boston Braves, and the Cubs weren’t doing too well.

“Stupid Cubs! When’s the last time they had a real team?” some guy at the bar growled.

Someone answered, “Got Alexander and Lefty Tyler in 1918 and dat was sposta do it. It’s been eight years and nothin’!” He slammed his mug on the bar and pointed to it, letting Otto know he wanted another.

“Hey!” Freddy said. “Alexander’s a great pitcher. If anyone can help the Cubbies pull this out, it’s him.” Freddy didn’t like hearing guys talk bad about the Cubs. He loved them and would like to hang around to listen to the game but didn’t dare.

Otto pushed the pail across, shook his head slightly, and said, “Don’t you know bein’ a Cubs fan is gonna break your heart, kid?” All the men laughed.

Freddy walked as quickly as he could without sloshing. It was only two blocks to home, but the heavy wire handle cut into his hands. His arms ached by the time he set the pail on the sink-board. He pumped cool water to help work the kinks from his fingers.

When he turned around, Poppa loomed over him. Poppa had changed out of his dirty work clothes and was ready for his beer. He lifted the lid on the pail and nodded with a satisfied look. “No vasteful foam. Das ist gut. And you didn’t spill none. Ya. Sehr gut.”

Good he got it right. Sometimes it seemed he couldn’t do anything to please Poppa.

Poppa took a heavy glass mug from the cupboard and dipped it into the beer. He drained the mug without a breath and filled it again. Sitting heavily at the kitchen table, he kicked another chair out from under it.

“Come. Ve talk.” He nodded toward the chair.

A whisper of feet shuffled behind the partly-closed door to the hallway. His older sisters peeked between door and frame. Emmi crouched down so Trudy could see over her, and Emmi wiggled her forefinger at Freddy as if waving hello. Freddy crossed his eyes and made a face. Emmi covered her mouth, but Trudy shook her head.

Freddy sat. His feet didn’t quite reach the floor, and he swung them without thinking.

Poppa drank another half glass of beer and wiped flecks of foam from his bushy mustache. His sharp blue eyes drilled through Freddy and pinned him there.

“Momma been getting sicker and sicker. Doctor says she needs more medicine and food. More meat and such. You vant Momma to get better, don’tcha?” Poppa said.

“Of course, Poppa. We all want Momma to get well.”

Poppa picked up the salt shaker and sprinkled some in his beer. “Dey are cutting back hours at da factory. Dey only gonna pay us to vork ten hours each day and only half a day on Saturdays.” He stared at the table top, then picked up the glass and drained it again. “You’re gonna need to go, Freddy. Ve can’t afford to keep you.”

Freddy heard a quiet sob from behind the door. When he looked, Trudy was gone, but Emmi remained, her eyes wide and full. Freddy swallowed hard.

“What do you mean go, Poppa? Go where?” Freddy tried to look into his Poppa’s eyes, but Poppa wouldn’t look at him. Poppa took his jackknife out, opened the little blade, and started to clean the black from under his cracked, blunt fingernails.

Poppa wouldn’t look up. “Ve don’t got enough. You’re a man now. You need to go.”

“Poppa,” Freddy said, almost a whisper, “Please, Poppa. I don’t know where to go. I can find milk bottles and turn ‘em in. Or carry shopping for rich ladies. I have to get your beer every day. The girls can’t do that. Maybe Otto down at the bar will lemme sweep and mop. I won’t eat much. I can —”

“Stop!” Poppa thundered, his fist hitting the table hard. The salt shaker fell over, spilling on the table top. Freddy stared. That was bad luck. He should throw some over his shoulder, but he couldn’t move.

Poppa stood and walked to the sink-board to fill his glass.

Freddy stared at the pail. His eyes stung and a growing lump in his throat burned. It had cost a quarter. A QUARTER! And Poppa had one every day. But he couldn’t afford to keep his son.

12 July 1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Koon - Rev 2

Author: Shelley Koon (Revision 2)
Genre: YA/ Dystopic
Title: Axiom

Imp reached back and slid the stealth suit’s probe into the port at the base of her neck. Grabbing her long dark hair she twisted it into a ponytail, pulled the stealth suit hood over it and tucked her hair inside. She adjusted her headset and then slid her hand across the C-port embedded in the sleeve to activate the suit. Black and charcoal poppies of color bloomed across the suit, growing and bleeding into one another until it was a perfect match to the bleak backdrop of the forest. Data, collected from sensors embedded in the fabric, surged through her nervous system carrying with it the across the exposed skin of her face and hands turning them a mottled ashen grey. Imp held her hand out and wriggled her fingers, straining to see them against the ground.

“Whoa,” she said, drawing the word out more exhaled than exclaimed.

She took a few quick steps to test the feel of the data as it changed in relation to her surroundings. The muscles in her back tensed as the flow ran down her spine. Her nervous system tingled and it felt as if her whole body was laughing. A grin slid across her lips, not that anyone could have seen it in her currents state, as she broke into a sprint.

The suit shifted colors rapidly to match the passing scenery. Imp’s heart beat sped up rapidly as if to keep time as the data flow throbbed through her body. The exhilaration of the tingling gave way to the unnerving sensation of a thousand tiny rats gnawing on the tender threads of nerves. Imp pushed harder, hoping to outrun the pain until the world began to dim at the edges of her vision.

She stopped and lurched over, palms resting against her thighs and gulped in air. It tasted stale and stung her nose but the coolness displaced the burning in her lungs and seemed like a fair trade to her. After a moment the lightheaded feeling began to slip away and, confident she wasn’t going to pass out, she began negotiations with her stomach about the fate of her breakfast. This wasn’t exactly how she had envisioned starting her stealth suit training.

Once Imp and her stomach had reached an agreement she stood. She stepped forward gingerly as if checking to make sure the ground was still solid and finding it sound took another step. Pacing herself this time to allow her body to adjust to the data flow, she made her way through the petrified trees.

She tried to imagine what the transfer would’ve felt like when the forest had been alive. She’d seen pictures of the world before when it was lush and green, spotted with every hue of the spectrum. She shuddered at the thought of that running through her body. But the world she lived in was void of color, the forest nothing more than a negative of itself. But the landscape was just one more casualty of the Great War and the only time the forest ever looked green to her was in the dark, through her night vision contacts.

Lightning lacerated the sky above her, followed by the heavy rumble of thunder. The storms came more often these days, but they never brought rain. Even if they had, Imp wasn’t sure the ground was capable of being fruitful anymore. There wasn’t much that thrived outside the base nestled inside the mountain. Except the variants she had been trained her entire life to hunt.

Imp reached up and flicked her headset on and a series of numbers and letters streamed across her retina display.

“Janip, you there?” Imp asked.

“Where’ve you been?” Janip’s voice came from the headset. “The other Slayers stats are coming in already. We fell down the ranking, to third,” Janip said, the last sentence taking on a shrill tone that Imp recognized as panic.

“Relax, I’m just giving them some leeway before I annihilate them. I’m nice like that.”

A loud thumping came over the headset; Imp cringed and pulled it away from her ear.

“Ow, seriously Janip what the hell?”

“Just checking the connection. I think there’s something wrong with it, it sounded like you said you were nice.”

“Funny,” Imp said.

“So what’s the plan?”

“Bigger trees, bigger numbers.”

“You were told to stay low and take it slow. If you turn back now down, you’ve still got time to get a few good merges in and…”

“No. We were told not to go high. I’m not going high, just midway up the hill where the trees are a little bit bigger,” Imp said and then added with a snicker, “I promise to walk there slowly.”

“You’re impossible.”

Imp picked a rock up and rubbed it on her mic, “What I can’t hear you there’s a lot of static today.”

“Touche,” Janip sighed.

Imp hit her mute button and jogged up the hill. As she ran she ticked through combat stances in her head, a trick she had learned in survival training for externalizing pain. That seemed to help keep her mind off the data flow and the queasiness stayed at bay. Several feet up the hill she made a quick right and headed toward a small grove of trees she had noticed on the map. As she neared it, she caught a fleeting glimpse of something from the corner of her eye. A ripple against the backdrop of the forest. She whipped her head towards the movement, her breath catching in her lungs. She dropped to the forest floor and kneeled, her hand fluttering to the empty holster on her belt. It took a moment for the void there to register. She had left her gun in the arsenal, as had all the Slayer trainees, at the request of their commanding officers.

“Jan, did you see movement near me on your display?” Imp whispered.

“No why?”

“I saw a…” she stopped mid sentence and frowned. She hadn’t really seen anything. “Like a ripple.”

“A ripple?” Janip questioned.

“Yeah. Like when you see a reflection in water and poke the surface and the image ripples.”

Shifting her weight from one foot to the other to change her perspective, Imp continued to stare towards the space where she had seen the ripple. The swooshing sound of her blood pounding in her ears all but drowned out the thunder overhead. She scanned the area for anything she could use as a weapon. Her gaze fell on a jagged rock within arms length. She reached towards it, catching it with the tips of her fingers and pulling it closer until she was able to grab it. The sharp edges bit into her skin as she gripped it tighter and braced herself for an attack. While she had a great respect for her commanding officers confidence that the training zone had been swept of variants and locked down, she had an even greater respect for her own intuition. And right now hers was screaming that she wasn't alone.

“Someone’s probably having trouble with their stealth suit. The system’s been kind of glitchy today and a couple of suits that aren’t reliably tracking. I don’t see anything near you on the map,” Janip said.

“Nothing breached the zone?” Imp whispered, her eyes wide and locked straight ahead.

“Checking,” Janip said. A pause followed that was in reality no more than wnty seconds but seemed like an hour to Imp. “Nope, no zone breaches.”

Some of the tension relaxed from Imp’s body but her hand left hand still rested on the empty holster and her right gripped the rock. Over the past year five Slayers had disappeared while on duty, the most recent being Larkin. Imp had no plans for being number six.

She stood and headed back toward the grove, pausing a few times to check behind her, unable to shake the feeling she was being trailed. She ignored it and pushed it away. Janip was the best navigator she knew and if she thought it was just a glitchy suit that had passed by, then that was good enough for her.

Imp stopped just short of the grove as if she had hit an invisible wall. Brow furrowed she stared mouth agape at the grove. She had assumed the large dark spots on the map indicated trees that were larger than those on the forest floor. But now, standing before them she could see that wasn’t the case. These trees, though much smaller, were positioned so closely together that it was difficult to distinguish one from the next. Their branches entwined, twisted by the ancient winds and froze in time by petrifaction. They reminded Imp of a group of survivors, clinging to one another for safety. She supposed in some ways they were.

“Is your camera on?” Imp asked Janip.

“Are you seeing these?” Imp asked Janip.

“Yeah and you’re crazy if you want to try to do a merge to that. I mean maybe we can give it a try when we’ve gotten more practice in…”

“I was fine on the way up here,” Imp lied, thankful she had waited to turn her headset on, “We’re doing it now.”

“No way. Anything happens to you and it’s my ass that’s in trouble. Well, yours and mine but yours will be dead, so I’m more concerned about mine.”


“Why would you even want to try that?”

“There has to be eight to nine trees in that formation, the data stream is going to be gigantic. This one merge will give us at least double the points the other teams get. You were the one bitching about rankings earlier. Are you in or not?”

Imp crossed her arms and looked further up the hill as she waited for her Navigator’s response. Her headset remained silent. She noticed a smaller grouping of three trees a few yards away and crossed the short distance to get a better look. The branches of this group were also entwined but, unlike the larger group their trunks were spaced further apart, allowing just enough room for Imp to wriggle between them. A grin spread across her full lips. Being the smallest of the Slayers had its advantages.

8 1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Cook-Raymond Rev 2

Name: Sarah Cook-Raymond
Genre: YA urban fantasy
Title: The Defenders

Chapter One

Irony: the opposite of what you’d expect—with a twist.

Before today the only irony I knew was being the tallest boy in class but sucking at basketball. But that’s the twist. The day your life changes forever begins like all the others. It’s just the ending that’s changed.

Chapter Two: Before

I turn my boxers inside out, grab a hoodie, the same jeans I wore yesterday, and hurry downstairs to the kitchen for breakfast.

“Hey Big Shot,” says Dad, looking up from the Washington Post. There’s a stack of five other papers beside him, all already read.

“Hey,” I echo. I don’t contest the nickname. He’s spent my entire life trying to get it to catch on. No need to stop now.

The coffee pot dings. Dad smiles and stands up from the table. His massive frame is draped in his uniform: dark suit, shiny shoes, crisp shirt. I see a small splash of coffee still in his cup as he goes over for a refill—meaning this is the second pot of the day.

I look over and see Mom leaning against the counter typing away feverishly on her Blackberry, a half-eaten piece of toast balanced between two fingers. “Here,” Dad says, moving across the kitchen and sliding a steaming mug of coffee in her direction. She looks up and their eyes meet. “Thanks,” she says with a crescent smile. She puts the Blackberry down and takes a sip. As she does, her shoulders rise and fall into a relaxed soft sigh.

“Toby!” yells Shelly, bursting into the room. She’s wearing a backpack so full it’s amazing she doesn’t buckle under the weight. “Let’s go. We don’t want to be late for school.” Shelly’s two years younger than me but you’d never know it.

“Speak for yourself,” I say, grabbing one of the strawberry Pop-Tarts in her outstretched hand. I take a satisfying bite. “I swear if it wasn’t for you, I’d never eat,” I admit.

“I heard that,” says Mom, though she doesn’t contest it. “I have an open house to prep for,” she says, turning to Dad.

“I wanted to take them to school anyway.”

“Fabulous.” She reaches down and throws a purse onto the counter so large it looks like she’s checking luggage. She shuffles papers around. “Ah, here’s the address,” Mom says softly to herself, but still waves the piece of paper in the air for us all to see.

“So you excited about that English test today?” Dad asks.

“Excited? You can’t get excited about a test.”

“Toby,” he pauses. “Life is a test.”

“Alright, alright!” claps Mom. She hoists the purse onto her shoulder and Shelly strides up beside her—her own little mini-me.

“So Big Shot,” Dad says, turning to me. “We still on for tonight?”

Tonight is fantasy football draft night. I’m the defending champ.

“You bet. But be ready, old man!” I say to him, closing the house door behind us. “You’re gonna need some luck.”

* * * * * * * * * * * *

There was one word that I couldn’t get right on my English test. One word I swore I knew but couldn’t remember: precipice.

I turn into the driveway and I see it: Mom’s car in the driveway uncharacteristically early. A cool shiver spiders its way up my back. Something’s not right.

Cautiously I tip toe up the steps and place my hand on the door. All the hairs on my body stand on end. “Mom?” I say as I push my way in.

I hear her before I see her.

She’s curled up on the floor, her knees hugged up tightly to her chest. Her clothes tangle up around her. She just looks like a pile of laundry thrown on the floor. A mess of snot and tears stream together down her cheeks, pooling on the floor.

It unnerves me in the same way horror movies do. It’s that sensation where I want to cover my eyes but can’t because something—compulsion or curiosity—stops me.

“Mom?” I ask again. Cautiously I cross the room towards her. I don’t see Shelly walk in but hear the squeak of her sneakers on the freshly-waxed floor as she stops abruptly.

Mom looks up at us from under red-rimmed eyes, her whole demeanor as fragile and breakable as ever. “Your father—” she eventually chokes out but breaks off. All that follows are blubbered incoherent words coupled with bouts of hyperventilation.

And then it comes to me. The two definitions collide: Precipice (n). A cliff or a situation of great peril.

“He’s dead?” I whisper. I only meant to think it. But then she nods…

My knees buckle and I collapse next to her. Shelly does the same. We’re just one big pile of bodies like football players in a heap only no one attempts to move and we don’t have any padding to cushion the blow.

6 1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Lawson, Rev 2

Name: J. Lawson
Title: Nooks & Crannies
Genre: Middle Grade Historical Mystery
First Five Pages:

Just past three o’clock in the afternoon, when schools across South London were releasing much-adored children by the bucketful, Tabitha Crum was let into the cold as well. The cobblestone streets of Village Wiltingshire were made eerie and muted by thick November fog, and clip-clopping carriage horses snorted up and down the road, emerging and fading within moments. Almost like ghosts, Tabitha mused. She made her solitary walk home, kept company by giddy, nervous thoughts of the delivery that had come to Miss Morrow’s classroom minutes before the final bell.

She clutched and rubbed the pretty envelope, letting one fingernail linger at the seam. The two recipients had been given strict instructions by the hand messenger not to open them, but to pass the envelopes to their parents. The glue was of a stubbornly good quality and Tabitha’s nails were of a woefully short length.

That, of course, did not keep her from an innocent scratch or two as she passed the candle shop, two newspaper sellers barking excitedly about something or other, and the sweet scent of the corner bakery.

“It’s as though they’ve sealed it with spite,” Tabitha muttered to herself, earning an offended glance from a passing elderly lady. Whether it was the remark, her outgrown uniform, or a combination, Tabitha couldn’t be certain. Perhaps the woman was offended by children as a whole. Rather like her mum and dad.

Licking chapped lips, Tabitha felt a stirring inside her belly unrelated to having eaten a flimsy lunch of broken crackers and watery juice. Ludicrous or not (after all, one doesn’t find a cheerier life beneath maroon wax seals embossed with duos of swans), it was impossible to ignore the tiniest possibility that the envelope might contain… a small bit of light.

Hands shaking from chill and an unfamiliar amount of hope, she lifted the envelope to her nose and took a long sniff. It smelled faintly of flowers.

A summons from Scotland Yard to become an Inspector-In-Training.
An invitation from King Edward to attend a horse race.
Notification from a long-lost relative that actually wants me around and waxes poetically about how I will be seen only as a child with merit, never as an imposition.

All unlikely scenarios, but enough to resist temptation of ripping into the paper and ruining the illusions with a tooth powder advertisement. Barely, though. More helpful in distraction was the vulgar bellow behind her. A passing bicycle veered close and sprayed Tabitha with filthy water left by a midday storm.

“Your envelope is bound to be a mistake—there’s no way she’ll let you in!” yelled a horrid voice.

Wafting alongside the insult were the hideous scents of burned toast and rotting cinnamon. There was only one boy at St. Augustine’s who wore such pungent odors. Sure enough, Tabitha turned to see Barnaby Trundle pedaling a slow circle in the absence of traffic.

“Best to stay home, Drabby Tabby! I’ve heard the place is haunted, and the spirits are hungry for filthy, ratty girls like you.” Barnaby stuck his tongue out as far as it could go.

Tabitha flushed and thought of exactly seven things that she would like to do to her classmate, one involving a rather nasty collision with a refuse wagon. Wiping a brown streak from her face as though it were a harmless butterfly, she forced a smile. “Believe me, Barnaby, I won’t be staying home. I rather think you should, though. I’ve heard most spirits have a fondness for repulsive idiots with no manners, an excess of their father’s hair crème, and an obscene amount of aftershave. I’m afraid they’ll smell you out in a minute.”

Barnaby frowned and took one hand off the handlebars to smooth his locks before disappearing into the fog.

So, he’s opened it. Even soaked as she was, a flutter of excitement coursed through Tabitha’s body. According to Barnaby, her envelope was a mistake. Based on the boy’s foul nature, the contents were sure to be something quite good (despite the silly mention of vengeful spirits). Well done, Detective Crum.

What could it be? A place owned by a woman. Haunted, he’d said, though that bit was clearly rubbish. Hmm…it would be easy enough to find out.

There was a moment, one brief moment, where the act of disobedience hung in the air like a cupcake, waiting to be fetched and gobbled up. The envelope lifted, as though on its own accord, and Tabitha saw her finger rise. Carefully, deliciously, she held her breath and began a tiny tear at the corner.

And stopped.

She sighed, dropping the note to her hip.

Tabitha Crum, she scolded herself, you are incorrigibly, incurably good. You must either learn to be sneaky or not mind being caught. A second voice crept into her mind, scolding back. But they’ll never grow to love you if you can’t even obey simple rules.

Tabitha reluctantly agreed with both of the voices and peered through the mist, occasionally testing it with her free hand, pressing and flicking at whiteness that always seemed to be just a step ahead.

It’s almost like something in a Professor Pensive novel. And next, a woman will appear, begging me to solve the mysterious disappearance of her second cousin’s potting shed.

Professor Pensive always knew the answers to puzzling questions. ‘Every curious situation leaves signs of its origin, Tibbs’ he was known to say to his portly partner, Timothy Tibbs. He always did his deducing in a corner booth of his favorite pub, sipping port and chewing pensively on his pocket watch chain. Tabitha had no desire to drink port and no money to buy a pocket watch, but a warm seat and fresh pastry would be awfully nice.

As though agreeing with the thought, Tabitha’s breath sent scone-shaped puffs into the air. She saw Mr. Willoughby, who was seated in his usual spot at the front window table of Puddles Confectionary. He always seemed to be somewhere along her path to school. She waved with her enveloped hand and he raised his eyebrows in concern as two passing men thoughtlessly bumped her aside.

“Two more are floating around somewhere!” one of them said. “Can you imagine? And children, of all people…”

Tabitha picked herself up, slightly rattled. Mr. Willoughby stood, as though to rush outside and help, but she shook her head and kept walking. Nodding, he returned to his biscuit, though his eyes lingered on the sidestreet for a moment.

Tabitha sighed at the dismissive bumper and at the memory of Barnaby’s last words. She was filthy. Skinny and filthy and knobby-kneed and wearing a raggedy coat, which probably placed her in the street urchin category to the general public.

At precisely half past three, Tabitha found a curious sight outside her home. Her father’s briefcase, her parents’ traveling trunks, and a jewelry case crowded together. Before she could analyze what it might mean (and why none of her things were among the pile), Tabitha heard a squeaky-wheeled cab lurching down the road in her direction. Cabs were not a regular occurrence on Belcher Street. Gripping the envelope closer, she was horrified to feel only fingers rubbing together. Heart plunging all the way to her numb toes, Tabitha looked down.

The envelope was no longer there.

It must have fallen when I got knocked! Turning in haste, she bumped into a tall figure. She stared a moment, astonished, before remembering her manners.

“Oh, hello, Sir. Pardon me, but how do you know where I live?”

Friday, July 20, 2012

17 YA Books in Stores 7/23 - 7/29 - Plus A Giveaway and Winners


To enter this week's giveaway, please complete the form at the bottom of the page. (If you already commented on the Skylark post on Tuesday, your name is already automatically entered for that book only.) We'll announce the winners on 7/27, so please enter by midnight on 7/26. U.S. and Canadian entries only, please!
Skylark by Meagan Spooner

Sixteen year-old Lark Ainsley has never seen the sky.

Her world ends at the edge of the vast domed barrier of energy enclosing all that’s left of humanity. For two hundred years the city has sustained this barrier by harvesting its children's innate magical energy when they reach adolescence. When it’s Lark’s turn to be harvested, she finds herself trapped in a nightmarish web of experiments and learns she is something out of legend itself: a Renewable, able to regenerate her own power after it’s been stripped.

Forced to flee the only home she knows to avoid life as a human battery, Lark must fight her way through the terrible wilderness beyond the edge of the world. With the city’s clockwork creations close on her heels and a strange wild boy stalking her in the countryside, she must move quickly if she is to have any hope of survival. She’s heard the stories that somewhere to the west are others like her, hidden in secret – but can she stay alive long enough to find them?

You Can't Have My Planet, But Take My Brother, Please

by James Mihaley

Thirteen-year-old Giles is the last person anyone would expect to save the planet. he's not as charming as his little sister, and not as brainy as his goody-goody older brother. But when Giles witnesses an alien realtor showing Earth to possible new tenants, he knows he'd better do something.

With the help of an alien "attorney" and the maddest scientist in middle-grade fiction, Giles just might save humans from eviction from Earth. Let's hope so. The alternatives are...not so hospitable.


Infamous by Sherrilyn Kenyon -- WINNER, DIANE SWANSON

Go to school. Get good grades. Stay out of trouble. That’s the mandate for most kids. But Nick Gautier isn’t the average teenager. He’s a boy with a destiny not even he fully understands. And his first mandate is to stay alive while everyone, even his own father, tries to kill him.

He’s learned to annihilate zombies and raise the dead, divination and clairvoyance, so why is learning to drive and keep a girlfriend so dang hard? But that isn’t the primary skill he has to master. Survival is.

And in order to survive, his next lesson makes all the others pale in comparison. He is on the brink of becoming either the greatest hero mankind has ever known, or he’ll be the one who ends the world. With enemies new and old gathering forces, he will have to call on every part of himself to fight or he’ll lose everyone he cares about. Even himself.

Blood Sun by David Gilman -- WINNER, HEATHER BINGHAM

Death has come to Dartmoor High. A student at Max Gordon's boarding school is found bloodied and lifeless in the London Underground. The dead boy was carrying an envelope with Max's name on it . . . an envelope that contains a mysterious clue about Max's mother's death.

Max has to find out the truth.

His search takes him from the desolate hills of England to the endangered rain forest of Central America, where drug smugglers, deadly crocodiles, man-eating snakes, and flesh-stripping piranhas wait at every turn. But Max can't--won't--quit now.

The answer Max Gordon is willing to die for lies deep within the heart of the dangerous forest. Will he stay alive long enough to reach it?

Extraordinary by Adam Selzer -- WINNER, ANDREA MACK

(The true story of my fairy godparent, who almost killed me, and certainly never made me a princess)

Jennifer Van Der Berg would like you to know that the book ostensibly written about her—Born to Be Extraordinary by Eileen Codlin—is a bunch of bunk.

Yes, she had a fairy godparent mess with her life, but no, she was not made into a princess or given the gift of self-confidence, and she sure as hell didn't get a hot boyfriend out of it.

Here's the REAL scoop . . .

The MIGHTY Miss MALONE by Christoper Paul Curtis -- WINNER, BETSY ICKES

"We are a family on a journey to a place called wonderful" is the motto of Deza Malone's family. Deza is the smartest girl in her class in Gary, Indiana, singled out by teachers for a special path in life. But the Great Depression hit Gary hard, and there are no jobs for black men. When her beloved father leaves to find work, Deza, Mother, and her older brother Jimmie go in search of him, and end up in a Hooverville outside Flint, Michigan.

Jimmie's beautiful voice inspires him to leave the camp to be a performer, while Deza and Mother find a new home, and cling to the hope that they will find Father.

The twists and turns of their story reveal the devastation of the Depression and prove that Deza truly is the Mighty Miss Malone.

The Girl in the Park by Mariah Fredericks - WINNER, NAZAREA ANDREWS

When Wendy Geller's body is found in Central Park after the night of a rager, newspaper headlines scream,"Death in the Park: Party Girl Found Strangled."

But shy Rain, once Wendy's best friend, knows there was more to Wendy than just "party girl."

As she struggles to separate the friend she knew from the tangle of gossip and headlines, Rain becomes determined to discover the truth about the murder.

Written in a voice at once immediate, riveting, and utterly convincing, Mariah Frederick's mystery brilliantly exposes the cracks in this exclusive New York City world and the teenagers that move within it.

The Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hiranandani -- WINNER, KATHRYN ROBERTS

After her father loses his job, Sonia Nadhamuni, half Indian and half Jewish American, finds herself yanked out of private school and thrown into the unfamiliar world of public education. For the first time, Sonia's mixed heritage makes her classmates ask questions—questions Sonia doesn't always know how to answer—as she navigates between a group of popular girls who want her to try out for the cheerleading squad and other students who aren't part of the "in" crowd.

At the same time that Sonia is trying to make new friends, she's dealing with what it means to have an out-of-work parent—it's hard for her family to adjust to their changed circumstances. And then, one day, Sonia's father goes missing. Now Sonia wonders if she ever really knew him. As she begins to look for answers, she must decide what really matters and who her true friends are—and whether her two halves, no matter how different, can make her a whole.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio -- WINNER, BEN LEE

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be.

The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. W

ith wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.

Uglies: Shay's Story by Scott Westerfeld and Devin Grayson -- WINNER, SARAH NICOLAS

“This whole game is just designed to make us hate ourselves.”—Shay
Uglies told Tally Youngblood’s version of life in Uglyville and the budding rebellion against the Specials. Now comes an exciting graphic novel revealing new adventures in the Uglies world—as seen through the eyes of Shay, Tally’s rebellious best friend who’s not afraid to break the rules, no matter the cost.

A few months shy of her sixteenth birthday, Shay eagerly awaits her turn to become a Pretty—a rite-of-passage operation called “the Surge” that transforms ordinary Uglies into paragons of beauty. Yet after befriending the Crims, a group of fellow teens who refuse to take anything in society at face value, Shay starts to question the whole concept. And as the Crims explore beyond the monitored borders of Uglyville into the forbidden, ungoverned wild, Shay must choose between the perks of being Pretty and the rewards of being real.


Red Heart Tattoo by Lurlene McDaniel

At 7:45 a.m. on the day before Thanksgiving break, a bomb goes off at Edison High. Nine people die instantly. Fifteen are critically injured. Twenty-two suffer less severe injuries. And one is blinded. Those who survive, struggle to cope with the loss and destruction. All must find new meaning for their lives as a result of something they may never understand.

Lurlene McDaniel's signature expertise and finesse in dealing with issues of violence, death, and physical as well as emotional trauma in the lives of teens is immediate and heartrending.

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

The year is 1876, and there’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia…

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper—

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor…from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including their maddeningly stubborn yet handsome inventor, Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance

Cold Fury by T.M. Goeglein

Jason Bourne meets The Sopranos in this breathtaking adventure

Sara Jane Rispoli is a normal sixteen-year-old coping with school and a budding romance--until her parents and brother are kidnapped and she discovers her family is deeply embedded in the Chicago Outfit (aka the mob).

Now on the run from a masked assassin, rogue cops and her turncoat uncle, Sara Jane is chased and attacked at every turn, fighting back with cold fury as she searches for her family. It's a quest that takes her through concealed doors and forgotten speakeasies--a city hiding in plain sight. Though armed with a .45 and 96K in cash, an old tattered notebook might be her best defense--hidden in its pages the secret to "ultimate power." It's why she's being pursued, why her family was taken, and could be the key to saving all of their lives.

Action packed, with fresh, cinematic writing, Cold Fury is a riveting and imaginative adventure readers will devour

The Triumph of Death (Alex Van Helsing) by Jason Henderson

Within months of discovering he’s next in a long line of vampire hunters, Alex Van Helsing has already defeated two powerful vampire leaders. Not bad for a fourteen-year-old.

But when a newly risen vampire queen threatens the fate of the world, Alex faces his deadliest challenge yet. Teaming up with a motorcycle-riding witch, Alex jets between Switzerland, the UK, and Spain in a frantic race to prevent the queen from unleashing a curse that will plunge the world into darkness.

With the clock ticking, Alex barely has time to breathe, let alone see his friends, and he’s beginning to wonder if being a vampire hunter is worth all its sacrifices. In this thrilling finale to the action-packed series described as “James Bond meets Dracula,” everything — Alex’s future and, ultimately, that of the world — hangs in the balance

Drain You by M. Beth Bloom

Every night I'd lie there in bed and look out at the hills behind our house, listening. I knew there'd be consequences.

Actions meant reactions. Sunrises meant sunsets. My fear was too permanent, lasting longer than eyeliner, something I wore every day and didn't wash off.

Quinlan Lacey's life is a red carpet of weird fashions, hip bands, random parties, and chilling by the pool with her on-and-off BFF Libby. There's also her boring job (minimum wage), a crushed-out coworker (way too interested), her summer plans (nada), and her parents (totally clueless). Then one night she meets gorgeous James, and Quinn's whole world turns crazy, Technicolor, 3-D, fireworks, whatever.

But with good comes bad and unfortunately, Quinn's new romance brings with it some majorly evil baggage. Now, to make things right, she has to do a lot of things wrong (breaking and entering, kidnapping, lying, you name it).

There's normal, and then there's paranormal, and neither are Quinlan's cup of Diet Coke. Staying sane, cool, in love, and alive isn't so easy breezy.

Guitar Notes by Mary Amato

A heartwarming story about an unlikely friendship forged between a straight-A, classical musician and a bad-boy guitar player told through notes, lyrics, texts, and narration.

Endlessly by Kiersten White

Evie's paranormal past keeps coming back to haunt her. A new director at the International Paranormal Containment Agency wants to drag her back to headquarters. The Dark Faerie Queen is torturing humans in her poisonous realm. And supernatural creatures keep insisting that Evie is the only one who can save them from a mysterious, perilous fate.

The clock is ticking on the entire paranormal world. And its fate rests solely in Evie's hands.

So much for normal.