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YA Author Rendezvous

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Anthem and City of Ember: A Comparison

The City of Ember by Jeanny DuPrau - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Tracy Lawson.

City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau is a perfect stepping-stone to prepare middle grade readers to embrace and appreciate Ayn Rand’s 1938 novella Anthem.

The main characters in both books seek light, though in Ember the literal search for light is necessary for survival, and in Anthem, the light is not as much about the electricity discovered by the young man Equality 7-2521, as the illumination of the mind and soul that comes with an intellectual awakening.

The underground city of Ember was created and stocked with supplies to last two hundred years, which its Builders assumed was long enough to protect its people from the fallout from a nuclear war. An escape plan was in place, but somewhere along the way, the instructions detailing exactly how to get out of the city were lost.

Now, the city has survived well past its life expectancy, and the citizens of Ember are running out of food, clothing and supplies. Their electric generator is slowly dying, and temporary blackouts become more and more frequent. A few people try to venture into the vast darkness beyond the lighted city, but return in defeat.

Life goes on within the city, and twelve year-olds are given their first work assignments. Lina is assigned to work below the city in the Pipeworks, while Doon draws the job of messenger. Paper is scarce, and messengers have the very important job of delivering verbal messages all over town. Both children are disappointed with their job assignments. First jobs are for a three-year period, and may be switched if the young worker shows more aptitude for another job. But Doon can’t wait that long. He knows that the light brought by electricity is essential to Ember’s survival, and he’s determined to find a way to make electricity that can be carried, so people can search for a way out of the dying city. He asks Lina if she’ll trade jobs with him, and she happily agrees.

Lina and Doon discover corruption within the government. The mayor has been keeping a secret stash of supplies for himself so that when everyone else runs out, he’ll still have food and light bulbs. But they also find the Instructions for Egress left by the original Builders. The instructions have been badly damaged, and they have to literally piece together what remains and solve the puzzle that will help them find the secret door out of Ember.

When they report the Mayor’s hoarding to the city guards, they are accused of spreading vicious rumors, and a warrant is issued for their capture. The only way to escape from the guards and save everyone in the city is to follow the Instructions for Egress, which leads them to the thing they most fear—the rushing Underground River.

City of Ember offers an introduction to many dystopian themes, including:

-corrupt leaders that cling to a crumbling society

-a system where individuals are assigned jobs with no regard for their aptitudes or preferences

-frustration for individuals who can make legitimate contributions to better society, but are turned away by those in power

-the freedom found in exile for those brave enough to seek it

Anthem by Ayn Rand - Young Adult Author RendezvousIn Anthem, as in City of Ember, there are secrets to be discovered and adventures to be had in the tunnels under the city streets. But Anthem paints a grim picture of a collective society that punishes any form of individual expression. Family units exist in City of Ember, but in Anthem, children never know their parents. They are raised by the state, educated by the state, and given life Mandates, assigning them to jobs when they are fifteen years of age.

Equality 7-2521, the protagonist in Anthem, desires more than anything to be assigned to the Home of the Scholars and to be allowed to study science. He hopes to advance technology beyond the latest invention, which was found only one hundred years before, of how to make candles from wax and string. When he is assigned to be a Street Sweeper, he is crushingly disappointed, but accepts the Mandate as a way to atone for his sins against his brothers. For any thought that does not consider everyone is a sin. But he is unable to keep his thoughts strictly collective.

He singles out one young woman, Liberty 5-3000, and holds her in higher esteem than any other woman, which is strictly forbidden. In his mind, he calls her the Golden One.

He collects things that interest him and hides them in a tunnel under the street. After two years of study he builds an electric lamp. He presents his invention to the Council of Scholars, but instead of being grateful for his service to society, the Council demands that the lamp be destroyed. He escapes with the lamp, but is damned to exile the Uncharted Forest. Two days later, the Golden One joins him in exile. After many days they come upon a house from the Unmentionable Times, and sets about learning the wonders of the civilization that has passed away.  They live as a young couple in love, and start a family. Equality 7-2521 takes the name Prometheus, who in mythology was the bringer of light, and renames the Golden One Gaea, after the mother of the earth.

In both City of Ember and Anthem, the main characters find freedom in exile, and plan to share the wonders of their new worlds with people who are trapped in the societies they left behind.

What Ember doesn’t, and shouldn’t, examine are the horrors of life in a totalitarian collective society that brainwashes its population with statements like, “What is not thought by all men cannot be true” and eliminates the singular pronoun from the language to deprive people of the sense of independent thought.

Ayn Rand states in her introduction to the 50th anniversary edition of Anthem that “reason is the property of the individual. There is no such thing as a collective brain.”

I’ve mentioned in other posts that the nucleus of the idea for COUNTERACT, my first novel, began as a writing prompt proposed by a student I was mentoring. His exact words? “What if everyone were on LSD and all thoughts were communal?”

If there is no such thing as a collective brain, collective thought would only be possible if it were coerced.

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Young Adult Book Heist Giveaway

Book Heist Giveaway Info - Young Adult Author RendezvousYoung Adult books come in all shapes and sizes. Some star werewolves or vampires. Some feature magic. Sometimes the world is new. Sometimes it’s a twist on everything you know. There is family. Friendship shows up in spades. Most of the time, you can be sure you’ll fall in love.

It’s a world of literature that so many miss out on because they think the name describes the reader’s age. In reality, YA books are for those who appreciate the wonders of youth. They strive for the optimism and the courage in the face of danger. Yes, teens read these stories in droves, but they aren’t the only ones who can learn from the perpetual hope these characters see. To see the world through the eyes of someone who wants to make it better is an astounding thing.

Nineteen young adult authors have banded together to show their little corners of the world, their hope and courage and optimism. It is shown through the actions of teenagers who are ever changing. They love with the same fierceness that they hate and forgive easily. They believe they can do anything. Who doesn’t want a piece of that?

When you enter our giveaway, you not only have a chance to win a Kindle Paperwhite, but so many more prizes from paperbacks to swag. Every entrant will also receive five FREE eBooks. You can sign up nineteen different ways.

Book Heist Giveaway - Young Adult Author RendezvousBy entering, you are also helping each author donate books to The Lisa Libraries. It’s an organization that provides books to people in underserved communities who may not otherwise have them. They supply youth centers, women’s shelters, and so much more.

Like our Facebook page where you can learn more about us and where we’ll announce our winners throughout the giveaway! You can also click the link below to be taken directly to the giveaway page.

https://gleam.io/dt2Mj/book-heist-kindle-giveaway

Introducing our mixed bag of authors!

Michelle Lynn – Dystopian
Rebecca Jaycox – Fantasy
Michelle Bryan – Dystopian
Gina Azzi – Contemporary Romance
Melissa Craven – Paranormal
Kelly St. Clare – Fantasy
Susan Faw – Fantasy
G.K. DeRosa – Paranormal
T.D. Shields – Dystopian
Patrick Hodges – Contemporary
Amalie Jahn – Science Fiction
Claire Luana – Fantasy
K.J. McPike – Paranormal
Michael Bailey – Superhero
J.A. Culican – Fantasy
Elysabeth Eldering – Paranormal Mystery
Rita Goldner – Children’s
K.R. Conway – Paranormal
T.L. McDonald – Fantasy

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A Review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Written by Lauren Mayhew

***I’ve tried my hardest not to put any spoilers in this, but if you don’t want to know anything about this play, it’s probably best not to read my review!***

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling - Young Adult Author RendezvousHarry Potter and the Cursed Child – J.K. Rowling – 4 Stars

Blurb: It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

I was so excited to read this, and though I tried to hang on in the hope that I’d see it on stage first, I couldn’t. Tickets are almost impossible to get, and when it comes to Harry Potter, I have no willpower.

The fact that I managed to read this in the space of a few hours is a testament to how good it is. I couldn’t put it down – I just had to know how it would end.

I’m not going to spoil anything, so this may be a bit of a cryptic review.

However much I loved this play, I couldn’t give it 5 stars. It had nothing to do with the format, I quite enjoy reading plays. You get to skip a lot of unnecessary description, and the story moves along a lot quicker.

It was the actions of certain characters that docked a star. I won’t name names, don’t worry. One character in particular, one of my favourites, seemed very dumbed down and a bit of a loser. This was not what I was expecting from them and I was disappointed that my favourite character had changed so much.

A few other events take place with two other characters that were so unbelievable to me. I refuse to believe that one of the most good-hearted characters would ever turn bad. I can’t think of a way to describe the other characters’ actions without giving anything away.

I loved the appearance of the original Harry Potter characters, even though a few of them seemed a little different than before. I especially loved Draco’s appearance in this. He’s still the same old Draco, but there’s definitely some good in him too.

Overall I loved it, and would definitely recommend it to anyone who can’t make it to see it performed on stage. Hopefully I can get tickets one day!

Now I live in hope that J.K. Rowling will write something about the Maurauders. I’d love to know what they got up to at Hogwarts!!

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Learning Through Books For All Ages

Rita Goldner - Learning - Young Adult Auhor RendezvousWritten by Rita Goldner.

A friend recently shared with me this quote, from T. H. White, The Once and Future King:  “The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds.  There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”

My friend meant it as a general “life-advice” thing, but since I am an obsessed author/illustrator I interpret it in the context of my writing, reading, researching, publishing and marketing world. My current opportunity, shared with all my fellow authors, is to present that remedy for “being sad”, the “thing that never fails” to our reading audience. Before anyone assumes that the learning has to be sophisticated and profound, be aware that in my case, the audience is 5-8 years old. This group, usually with an adult reading to them, seems fascinated with dinosaurs, construction equipment, and underpants.  I recently bought the trifecta to read to my grandson: a picture book about dinosaurs, in their underpants, operating cranes and bulldozers. Needless to say, a big hit.

In my own reading escapes, I’m only looking for entertainment, but the unintended byproduct is learning “why the world wags and what wags it”. I never liked history or geography presented academically in school, but since I’m a fan of James A Michener, I couldn’t help but learn about Hawaii, Texas, Colorado (Centennial) Chesapeake Bay (Chesapeake) and Israel (The Source).

Since I’m now immersed in researching children’s literature, I’ve come to realize that for the little ones,  the learning isn’t just about the subject matter, it’s about the power of communication, the whole palette of adventures they can explore, how the world works, and even their own self-worth.  It’s a humbling and very exciting challenge for me!


Rita’s blog and website can be found here.

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1984 and Little Brother: A Comparison

1984 by george orwell young adult author rendezvousWritten by Tracy Lawson

This was a difficult post to write. It’s been on the to-do list for months while I ruminated. And hedged. And procrastinated.

1984 is one of the big boys in the dystopian genre. I assume that most of you have read it, or are at least familiar with its theme.

1984 by George Orwell (1949) and Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (2008) are inextricably linked by their subject matter. Both serve as warnings. Both have the power to mesmerize and horrify the reader. Both should make us think. But today, I’m asking you to read Little Brother and think long and hard about what it has to say.

1984 is a classic cry against totalitarian government. It’s easy to assume that Orwell was railing against the post-World War II spread of communism, but he was also warning countries like England and the United States against believing that they could save freedom and democracy by continuing an arms race to find a stable “deterrent.” Orwell asserts that freedom cannot continue to exist in a world preparing for nuclear war.

In a world punctuated by war, oppression, deprivation, loneliness, paranoia, and despair, Winston reaches out for truth and love. And pays a terrible cost.

Little Brother relays an updated message: freedom cannot exist in a world that has given in to little brother by cory doctrow young adult author rendezvousthe fear of terrorism. Marcus Yallow (online handle W1n5t0n) is a hacker and a gamer who loves to outsmart surveillance technology. While skipping school one afternoon, he finds himself near the epicenter of a terrorist attack on San Francisco’s rapid transit system. Within minutes of the attack, Marcus and his three friends are taken prisoner by “military looking guys in coveralls.”

“Hey,” I said to the soldiers. “Hey, listen! We’re just high school students. I wanted to flag you down because my friend was bleeding. Someone stabbed him.” I had no idea how much of this was making it through the muffling bag. I kept talking. “Listen—this is some kind of misunderstanding. We’ve got to get my friend to a hospital—“

Someone went upside my head again. It felt like they used a baton or something—it was harder than anyone had ever hit me in the head before. My eyes swam and watered and I literally couldn’t breathe through the pain. A moment later, I caught my breath, but I didn’t say anything. I’d learned my lesson.

Who were these clowns? They weren’t wearing insignia. Maybe they were the terrorists! I’d never really believed in terrorists before—I mean I knew that in the abstract there were terrorists somewhere in the world, but they didn’t really represent any risk to me. There were millions of ways that the world could kill me—starting with getting run down by a drunk burning his way down Valencia—that were infinitely more likely and immediate than terrorists. Terrorists kill a lot fewer people than bathroom falls and accidental electrocutions. Worrying about them always struck me as about as useful as worrying about getting hit by lightning.

Marcus soon learns he’s been detained by the Department of Homeland Security as a person of interest in the terrorist attack.

“You think I’m a terrorist? I’m seventeen years old!”

Just the right age—Al Qaeda loves recruiting impressionable, idealistic kids. We googled you, you know. You’ve posted a lot of very ugly stuff on the public Internet.”

”I’d like to speak to an attorney.”

Severe haircut lady looked at me like I was a bug. “You’re under the mistaken impression that you’ve been picked up by the police for a crime. You need to get past that. You are being detained as a potential enemy combatant by the government of the United States. If I were you, I’d be thinking very hard about how to convince us that you are not an enemy combatant.”

Despite the threats made by his captors, Marcus refuses to unlock and uncrypt his cell phone, or give any information to them. He feels that he is a citizen who loves freedom, which makes him the patriot and his captors the traitors. He is detained for five days, and released when he agrees to sign papers that declared he had been held for voluntary questioning. He is then released and told to say nothing of what has happened to him to anyone, even his parents. He is told that he will be under constant surveillance.

When he returns to school the following week, he finds things have changed since the terrorist attack. The school board has installed closed circuit televisions in every classroom for the students’ protection.

Why did we have cameras in our classrooms now? Terrorists. Of course. Because by blowing up a bridge, terrorists had indicated that schools were next. Somehow that was the conclusion the Board had reached anyway.

I stuck my hand up.

”Yes, Marcus?”

“Ms. Galvez, about this note?”

“Yes, Marcus.”

“Isn’t the point of terrorism to make us afraid? That’s why it’s called terrorism, right?”

”I suppose so.” The class was staring at me. I wasn’t the best student in school, but I did like a good in-class debate. They were waiting to hear what I’d say next.

“So aren’t we doing what the terrorists want from us? Don’t they win if we act all afraid and put cameras in the classrooms and all of that?”

There was some nervous tittering. One of the others put his hand up. It was Charles. Ms. Galvez called on him.

“Putting cameras in makes us safe, which makes us less afraid.”

”Safe from what?” I asked, without waiting to be called on.

“Terrorism,” Charles said. The others were nodding their heads.

“How do they do that? If a suicide bomber rushed in here and blew us all up—“

“Ms. Galvez, Marcus is violating school policy. We’re not supposed to make jokes about terrorist attacks—“

“Who’s making jokes?”

“Thank you, both of you,” Ms. Galvez said. She looked really unhappy.

Marcus is watched and followed in the days to come. When he finally tells his parents what really happened to him, they are horrified at his ordeal, contact an investigative reporter, and from that moment on, Marcus is in danger. He organizes an event that will bring the overreaching arm of the DHS into the public eye, and things go horribly wrong, causing Marcus’ worst fears to be realized.

Both 1984 and Little Brother serve as warnings. In the Afterword to Little Brother, Andrew Huang asks whether the terrorists have already won:

“Have we given in to fear, such that artists, hobbyists, hackers, iconoclasts or perhaps a group of kids playing Harajuku Fun Madness could be so trivially implicated as terrorists?” He goes on to say that “technology is no cure for paranoia. Coercing millions of people to strip off their outer garments and walk barefoot through metal detectors everyday is no solution, either. It only serves to remind the population that they have a reason to be afraid, while in practice providing only a flimsy barrier to a determined adversary.”

We are fond of slogans like “Freedom isn’t Free.” We must remember that we win freedom by having the courage to live every day as free people—no matter how big the threats on the horizon.

Please don’t give in to fear and paranoia. Don’t forget to be brave. Don’t believe that the things the government does to take away our freedoms are merely a small price to pay for our safety.

http://cg68doc.newsvine.com/_news/2013/08/06/19885640-exclusive-us-directs-agents-to-cover-up-program-used-to-investigate-americans

Tracy’s original post can be read here.

Lord of the Flies and Gone: A Comparison

Lord of the Flies - Tracy Lawson - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Tracy Lawson.

Lord of the Flies (1954) and Gone (2008) share a common theme: that the human impulse toward civilization is not as deeply rooted as the human impulse toward savagery.  Both novels explore what happens when children are left without any adult supervision.

In Lord of the Flies, a planeload of English schoolboys crashes on an uninhabited tropical island. All the adults are killed in the crash, and the boys attempt to govern themselves while they wait for rescue.

In Gone, everyone fifteen and older in Perdido Beach, California mysteriously vanishes one morning, leaving the young teens, children, and babies trapped inside a mysterious, impenetrable force field with no adult supervision, no working technology, and no way to get help.

In my last post, I suggested that teens that had read Matched by Ally Condie would be familiar with the themes of censorship and oppressive societal organization, and therefore well-prepared to recognize those themes in classic dystopian novels like Fahrenheit 451.

Gone is more than just a warm-up read to prepare for the themes in Lord of the Flies. A Voice of Youth Advocates review of Gone suggested “if Stephen King had written Lord of the Flies, it might have been a little like this.”  Be warned. Gone is scary.  Gone has its tender moments and the occasional laugh, but it’s every bit as scary as Lord of the Flies—and perhaps more so, as today’s teens would be more likely to identify with Sam, the reluctant leader who teams up with Astrid, the brainy and unattainable girl in his class at school, than they would with Ralph, Piggy, Jack and the other prep school boys who are stranded on the island.

Lord of the Flies uses the children’s fear of the Beast, a supernatural being that they believe haunts the island, as a metaphor for the evil that lurks within each of us, but the supernatural force in Gone is not merely symbolic. Perdido Beach was struck by an asteroid fifteen years before, and now freaky things are happening. Some of the characters develop unusual powers, and are hunted, used, and persecuted for their dangerous, deadly talents.

The boys in Lord of the Flies immediately set up a hierarchy—they elect Ralph leader, and place Jack in charge of hunting and keeping the signal fire going. The older boys fail to keep watch over the youngest children, the “littleuns,” who run naked and wild through the woods. The hunters let the signal fire go out and miss an opportunity for rescue. Soon most of the boys shirk their responsibilities, revert to superstition and ritual, and lose their civilized selves.

They eventually revert to their basest selves, and, in a moment of superstitious terror, murder their classmate, Simon, by tearing him to pieces with their hands and teeth. Even Ralph, who has struggled to maintain their civilization, takes part in the ritual killing of Simon, who was goodness and innocence, now lost.

The kids in Gone are stranded in their home town, but still flounder without the technology and the authority figures that defined and controlled their society. They push Sam to be their leader, and right away Sam realizes he’ll have trouble from a group of bullies. The teens set up a plan for caring for the youngest children (called the prees) and distributing food. Astrid wonders why they see no soldiers, or scientists, or news crews on the other side of the barrier.

Many of the girls in Perdido Beach assume the roles of healer, mother, teacher, and even love interest— perhaps that is why their society functions longer, and at a higher level, than the one in Lord of the Flies.  But the girls are not all stuck in traditional roles—some of them are spies and warriors, too, when the time comes.

Astrid’s autistic brother, Little Pete, lives in his own world, though Astrid is able to reach him sometimes, through rituals they developed during their life with their parents. Little Pete is a symbol of innocence, yet he wields a power that might just eclipse all the others’.

Soon another threat becomes apparent. The rich kids from Coates Academy, the private school on the hill, roll in to town in a convoy of expensive cars. They say they want to team up with the Perdido Beach kids until help arrives, but that turns out to be far from the truth.

In both Lord of the Flies and Gone, the antagonists are bullies whose attacks escalate until very few remain strong enough to resist them, and the final conflicts are battles to the death.

The naval officers who rescue Ralph and the other survivors in Lord of the Flies are symbols of civilization, of good. They cannot be blamed for abandoning the boys.

The adults in Gone have all vanished. Where are they? Have they died? If not, could they help what happened to them? The children wish to be reunited with their family members, but they also fear the unknown. As Sam nears his own 15th birthday, he learns that adults are not all-knowing, and are not to be blindly trusted.

Lord of the Flies is complete in one volume, but Gone is the first in a series of five novels, so be forewarned–you must read on to learn what happens to Sam, Astrid, and the others.

I found my husband’s bookmark in my copy of Gone this morning, and I remembered that he’d stopped reading the book because it upset him too much. I think he could’ve powered through and enjoyed it. I hope he’ll try again.


Tracy’s original post can be read here.

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Fahrenheit 451 and Matched: A Comparison

Fahrenheit 451 - Tracy Lawson - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Tracy Lawson

Today I’m comparing two books that, at first glance, might appear to have nothing in common. And I’m going to try to do it without spoilers…we’ll see how it goes.

As I wrote in an earlier post, I believe YA dystopian literature can serve as a bridge to the classics in the genre. Introducing young teen readers to books with social commentary in a YA setting better prepares them to accept and appreciate adult novels with similar themes.

Both Fahrenheit 451 and Matched illustrate how societal organization can easily become oppressive and regimented, and both focus on the evils of censorship.

The main characters in both novels live in restrictive environments, but nonetheless are expected to go through a “period of curiosity.”

Guy Montag, the protagonist in Fahrenheit 451, has been a fireman for ten years. Firemen in his society burn books, yet Montag has a secret cache of books he’s taken from various fires. When he’s discovered with the contraband, his supervisor gives him one day to read them, to satisfy his curiosity and help him see just how worthless and confusing books are.

In Matched, 17 year-old Cassia Reyes has just been assigned her ideal mate. Cassia notes that indiscretions among newly Matched teens are common, as the Officials expect the teens to experiment a bit with other partners before they settle into their assigned marriages at the age of 21.

The characters’ curiosity may be expected, but it is not tolerated. Montag’s own wife turns him in for having books in his possession, and Cassia’s Infraction is a kiss, shared with a boy who is not her Match.

The people in both societies exist under a Mask of Happiness.  The oppressive societies, developed for the comfort of the people, have rules and regulations that eliminate ideas. Without ideas, everyone conforms. With conformity, everyone is equal, and therefore everyone should be happy. The governments in both novels assert that when books and new ideas are available to people, conflict and unhappiness occur.

Montag’s fire captain, Beatty, tells Montag that because each person is angered by some kind of literature, it is best to get rid of it all. He described how books were burned first by minorities, each ripping a page or paragraph from this book, then that, until the day came when the books were empty and the minds shut and the libraries closed forever.

In Cassia’s world, Selection Committees scaled down the number of books, paintings, and songs in the Society to 100 each. The remainder are forbidden and destroyed. Cassia’s father is a Restoration supervisor whose job is to oversee the incineration of the contents of libraries.

In both Fahrenheit 451 and Matched, characters memorize the written word to battle censorship and literally give life to books.

Both novels describe societies that are terrifying to imagine, but not as far-fetched as we might believe.

But there is hope because these books have been written. As I put the finishing touches on Counteract, I feel humbled to join the ranks.


Tracy’s original post can be read here.

Miss last week’s post? Check it out here!

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Are you a teenager or know a few who love to write? Our Flash fiction contest is now open. Find out how to enter to win some great prizes. Contest details.

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The Year of My Dystopia

Dystopian Young Adult Fiction - Young Adult Author Rendezvous - Tracy LawsonWritten by Tracy Lawson

I spent seventh grade in a dystopian haze, haunted by thoughts of totalitarian regimes, privations, curtailed personal freedoms, ubiquitous surveillance technology, and nuclear war.  Oh, and those awful utilitarian jumpsuits everyone had to wear.

And why, you ask? Well, it was like this…

Back in the 70s, young adult fiction as we know it did not exist. I read series like Trixie Belden and Sweet Valley High, which meant I was one step off from reading books about bunnies and rainbows.

But that year in English class, we were assigned Fahrenheit 451, 1984, Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, On the Beach, Fail-Safe, Brave New World and Flowers for Algernon, the bulk of the classics in the dystopian genre, with a science-fiction chaser and a couple Cold War propaganda novels and their film versions thrown in for good measure.  (Thank God they didn’t assign Clockwork Orange until high school.)

I was twelve, and I was terrified by what I read. I’d never seen a scary movie in my life. I had no frame of reference for the suffering in those books, didn’t connect with the characters, and found it hard to imagine societies and worlds so different from my own. I didn’t see these books as social commentary, as warnings, or as calls to arms. They were English assignments, and dreaded ones at that.

Years later, I choose to write in the young adult dystopian genre. Because now I get it, and I can tell an exciting story to share what I think. Frankly, writing YA dystopian fiction…rocks.

I’ve been re-reading the classics with great interest, and I’ll be taking a look at old v. new dystopian fiction in future posts.

Some of my new favorites:

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Matched by Ally Condie

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

The Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix

The Farm by Emily McKay

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

Gone by Michael Grant


Tracy’s original post can be read here.

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Are you a teenager or know a few who love to write? Our Short Story contest is now open. Find out how to enter to win some great prizes. Contest details.

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Please Don’t Make Me Read a “Real” Book

Young Adult - Kindle vs Paperback BooksPlease Don’t Make Me Read a “Real” Book, by T.D. Shields.

Don’t misunderstand me, I love books. I mean, I REALLY love books.

I read at least a few books a week, and on a really good week, I might read a dozen or more. I love to fall into a new story and lose myself in the author’s world. Some books are so magical that you can barely pause for sleep or work… some books are less transporting, but still a fun break from everyday life.

So I love books… but I don’t love “real” books. I’ve heard many people say (or post on Facebook, which is totally the same thing) that they just don’t like e-books. They prefer the smell of a real book and holding it in their hands and the whole tactile experience. I’m not going to argue – who am I to tell them what they should prefer? But here are a few thoughts from the other perspective.

“Real” books are heavy.

Does that make me sound like a complete wimp? It does, doesn’t it? Still, it’s true. One paperback doesn’t weigh a lot, but the weight adds up quickly when you read as much as I do. I remember a LOT of vacations in the years before e-books when I had at least one bag devoted entirely to bringing along enough books to make it through the trip. A big tote bag stuffed with books is hard to lug around! With my e-reader, I can bring dozens – or hundreds! – of books everywhere I go for less than a pound.

“Real” books are harder to hold.

This might just be my thing, but it’s a real factor for me. I have a touch of arthritis in my hands and wrists, and something about holding a book and closing my hands correctly to hold the pages open creates massive hand cramps. My e-reader can lay flat on my hand or on the arm of my chair and I never have to worry about the pages flipping and losing my spot because of a stray breeze.

“Real” books need bookmarks.

And speaking of losing my place in the book… whenever I’m reading a print book and need to take break, I have to find a bookmark. I cannot tell you how many bookmarks I have bought or picked up as a freebie over the years, but I can tell you that when I need to mark my spot I can never seem to find any of them. They disappear into the world of lost socks and disappearing remotes and I end up marking my place with any scrap I can find. Sure, it works, but it’s frustrating to me. I love the fact that my e-reader automatically brings me back to the right page with no effort required from me.

“Real” books get lost.

I admit to being ridiculously absentminded. I can rarely find my keys or wallet when I need them. My long-suffering husband often has to search the house to help me locate something I’ve misplaced. Just today I had to enlist the help of my husband and all the kids to track down my cell phone. (It was next to the couch – where I remembered leaving it as soon as someone else found it.) So I have OFTEN been in the middle of a great book and suddenly been cut short because I couldn’t find the book anywhere. It’s terrible! Sure, I can switch to a new book until I stumble across the missing tome, but again, the frustration looms large. I love the feature on my e-reader that lets me go to my computer and set off an alarm that helps me track down the e-reader. I need this feature for pretty much everything in my life, including keys, glasses, remotes, single shoes, the Pepsi I started drinking an hour ago, and anything else I might have touched today.

“Real” books are expensive.

It costs a lot to get a new print book; anywhere from 2x to 10x as much as the same book in e-book format. There are so many authors out there who I might have never read if I was limited to print books, because I can afford to spend 99 cents to try a new author, but $5 or more is just not in my budget. (Again, consider how many books I read in a week.) And yes, I am aware of the wonders of the library and have spent a lot of happy hours there. I love the library! But it comes back to that ‘books are heavy’ argument when I’m leaving the library with a stack of books so tall that I can barely see over it. (I’m actually not exaggerating with this description. The trick is to limit yourself to a stack no taller than your chin – then you can use your head to hold the wavering stack in place on your way to the car. Or you could be more prepared than I usually am and remember to bring a book bag to the library. Either way, still heavy.) By the way, the library has e-books, too.

“Real” books make you wait.

I’ve never grown up enough to get past the need for instant gratification – at least not when it comes to books. Is there anything worse than reaching the end of a book only to discover a major cliff-hanger? When I hit that, I want the next book immediately. As in, it’s two a.m. and I should definitely go to bed, but I wonder if the 24-hour Wal-Mart carries the next book? With e-books, if the next book has been released, I can get it RIGHT NOW.

 

So you can go ahead and enjoy your “real” books all you like – after all, the point is to relax with a good story and you should do whatever works best for you. And I freely admit that I still have a large library of print books – they are my backup in case of power outage or dystopian apocalypse.

But for the most part, I’m going to be over here happily enjoying my e-reader (with an enormous library at my fingertips). And if you have a new book to recommend, please point me to the download link.


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YA Authors to Check Out

Sonya Sones Contemprary Young Adult BooksYA Authors to Check Out, by Beth Rodgers

I love reading young adult novels. There’s really no other way to say it. It’s a fact. Even though I have a special leaning toward contemporary novels, I have found that young adult genres such as fantasy, paranormal, and dystopian can fascinate me as well – albeit not quite as much. This is likely why I myself gravitate toward writing in the contemporary genre. It just rings truer and more realistically to me, and therefore, it is easier to write in that vein.

There are several contemporary young adult authors who stick out in my mind as the cream of the crop – but take note that despite my love of the genre, I have not read every book out there (I’m trying, though!), and therefore there must be more authors who will one day fall into this category for me. For now, I’d like to give you a sampling of some of my favorite contemporary YA authors.

Sonya Sones. My novel, ‘Freshman Fourteen,’ thanks Sones in the acknowledgments for being one of my inspirations for making writing seem so effortless and for helping me maintain my focus, energy, and love of writing through her words. She writes spectacular novels-in-verse that are not only fast and easy to read, but that connect readers through creative and metaphorical ways with words. Start with ‘What My Mother Doesn’t Know’ – it’s the one that pulled me in and got me so invested in finding and flying through the rest of her novels!

Meredith Zeitlin. I have only come to know of Zeitlin and her novels pretty recently, but she has quickly become one of my all-time favorite YA contemporary authors. She writes in much the same manner that I feel I do, with a female protagonist who is not quite sure of herself all the time, but finds strength in her convictions when necessary and finds herself in predicaments that are annoying to her, yet humorous to readers. Her writing is crisp and clear, and always has me eager to read more. Check out her novels, ‘Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters’ and ‘Sophomore Year is Greek to Me’ – you’ll be hooked in no time!

Alyson Noel. I first found one of Noel’s books at a local library book sale. The title was ‘Kiss & Blog,’ and I thought it sounded right up my alley. Besides being a fast and fun read, it spurred my interest in reading more of her novels – I’ve read six of hers in total so far. She captures teen life in a way that has more sex, drugs, and other not-so-wholesome issues included, but she does so in a way that doesn’t detract from the innocent values that her main characters still find a way of exhibiting. Even though my novel, ‘Freshman Fourteen,’ is more wholesome overall, reading about the troubles and indecision of teens who are not so much like my main characters still resonates with me and allows me to think about how I might incorporate different values and lessons into my own writing.

YA Author Rendezvous (YAAR). This fabulously gifted group that I am lucky to be a part of (and whose website you are reading this blog post on) includes some of my favorite new authors. With genres ranging from contemporary to paranormal, dystopian, science fiction, fantasy, and mystery, there is something for everyone. I highly encourage you to pick up some of the books mentioned on this website. You won’t be sorry you did. They are compelling in so many ways – motivationally, metaphorically, and because all the novels by authors in this group are written with the reader in mind (I’m sure the other authors mentioned above do this as well!). As readers ourselves, we take pride in providing you with what you want, because it’s what we want too!

I hope this listing of authors gives you a basis of where to start. And please note that this list is not by any means all-inclusive. There are so, so, so many authors and books out there that are begging to be read that can easily fall into the category of greatness. However, knowing what you’re looking for and what/who you already like in terms of your favorite genre or writing style will help you figure out new potential reading interests that much quicker. Good luck and happy reading!


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The Fate of Ten – Pittacus Lore

The Fate of Ten by Pittacus LoreThe Fate of Ten – Pittacus Lore – 5 Stars, by Lauren Mayhew

Blurb: For years the Garde have fought the Mogadorians in secret. Now all of that has changed. The invasion has begun. If the Garde can’t find a way to stop the Mogs, humanity will suffer the same fate as the Lorien: annihilation.

There is still hope. When the Elders sent the Garde to Earth, they had a plan-one which the Garde are finally starting to understand. In the climax of The Revenge of Seven, a group of the Garde traveled to an ancient pyramid in Mexico known to their people as the Sanctuary. There they awoke a power that had been hidden within our planet for generations. Now this power can save the world . . . or destroy it. It will all depend on who wields it.

I cannot even begin to explain how much I love these books! As far as I can remember, I have been reading them since the first one – I am Number Four – came out, so I’ve had a lot of patient waiting to do. And guess what… It’s still not finished!

I don’t mind there being another book because I’m really not keen for this series to be over, I just can’t believe the cliffhanger that it ended on.

I think I was supposed to be a bit more upset than I was at the ending of this book, but the character that we say goodbye to just seemed to be a bit of a spare part to me. I’m more worried about the impact this is going to have on a certain other character that I love!

This book was action packed from page 1. This one didn’t swap between too many different characters either, it was only John, Six and Ella occasionally. It made it a lot easier to read because I wasn’t having to try and remember which font applied to which character! The previous books had a habit of doing this and it got really confusing.

I think the whole book takes place in about 48 hours or so and a LOT happens in that time. I really don’t want to give too much away with this one, unlike some of my other reviews.

I’m loving the development of humans getting Legacies, though I do see this backfiring at some point. Maybe I’m too sceptical.

It was interesting to see some of the back story of Setrakus Ra. And one of my favourite lines during this sequence came from Six to the big bad himself – I would write it here, but it’s a little bit rude!

Ella really grows as a character in this one and I love her to pieces. There was a heart stopping moment involving her in this one. I’m not even joking, if Ella doesn’t make it, I will not be happy. Same goes for Sam, Marina and John. Six too. And Nine. Basically, no more Garde are allowed to die – apart from Five. I still haven’t quite figured him out.

I’m eagerly awaiting book 7. Hopefully it doesn’t take longer than a year.. This is definitely going onto my all time favourite books list.

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Are You Genre-Phobic?

Young Adult Books Genre PhobicAre you genre-phobic, by T.D. Shields.

Are you a genre-phobe? Do you love to read fantasy but avoid romance like the plague?

Sci-fi flips your switch but horror makes you flip out?

I’m right there with you. Through the years I’ve had many genre phobias, but I notice that mine tend to shift over time.

When I was a teenager, I couldn’t get enough of romance novels. I loved to read about people older than me living exciting lives where I could picture myself as part of the adventure. Now that I am the older person, I love to read Young Adult fiction for stories about people younger than me living exciting lives while I imagine being part of the adventure.

I tend to avoid horror and zombie books because of the gore… yet a serial killer thriller is a must-read in spite of the gore. Inconsistent, I know.  But I branch out occasionally and recently I even read a few zombie stories that I really enjoyed. (Married With Zombies; Eat, Slay, Love; and The Zombie Whisperer by Jesse Peterson – with titles like that, you can see why I had to give them a try.)

I never used to want to read anything non-fiction because I was in it for the exciting escapism. Now I enjoy biographies, memoirs, and the occasional non-fiction explainer. Bill Bryson is fantastic for that sort of thing.

So I’ve learned to be a little less genre-phobic these days and try a lot of new authors and styles. Sometimes it’s a bust, but often I find a great new book.

How about you? What are your genre phobias? What books have you found that break through your genre lines?

Come over to Facebook and tell me all about it! (You know you want to be my friend! https://www.facebook.com/tdshields.author/)

What does ‘Young Adult’ mean?

What does Young Adult MeanWritten by Michelle Lynn

An age old question – you’ll get my pun in a moment – about the Young Adult genre has had people baffled for years. What does Young Adult mean? Does it describe the age of the readers? The age of the characters? Or something else entirely? The genre takes on many forms and different people describe it differently. Some people include middle grade fiction and even down to children’s fiction in this category. Others don’t.

I am one of the latter. I read a ton of YA books – dystopian, contemporary, paranormal – you name it. I also write YA – dystopian. I’m no expert. We all have our own way of looking at the genre. But I am opinionated – boy, am I opinionated. So, bear with me while I talk about what I think as if it’s fact (I tend to do that a lot).

In YA, the characters are young adults. There, simple enough for you? They’re teenagers or early twenty somethings. YA carries the stigma with it that it is literature for teenagers. Books like Twilight perpetuated the stereotype while books like The Hunger Games broke it. The HG brought us an uber-popular YA book that was now being read by all ages. I am twenty-seven which some people say is past the target for YA. Well, I say bull shit (pardon my French).

It may be a little strange when I’m crushing on these teenage boys (I have a habit of falling in love with the men of the books I read) and wanting to be friends with the strong female leads that YA seems to get right over every other genre, but I don’t care anymore.

If you are one of those people who refuse to read Young Adult books because they are “too young” for you, then I’m sorry. You are missing out. No other genre exhibits the heart and soul of YA. We get to see characters grow and change and become who they are meant to be. We see first loves and new experiences. We see people overcome all the odds to save the world – or even just save the ones they love.

Reading is like nothing else. It’s an amazing experience that lets you see the world differently. Reading YA is even better. It lets you feel the world differently.

My name is Michelle Lynn. I read Young Adult. I write Young Adult. I am not a Young Adult.

5 Things Every Bookworm Loves to Hate

5 Things Bookworms Love to Hate

Written by Kelly St. Clare

1. The E-reader

How many times have you heard the phrase “There’s nothing like holding a book in your hands.”? As e-readers take over the world faster than Taylor Swift’s latest tweet, it is all we bookworms can do to hold on to the traditional form of a story.

But you have to admit…

Taking your entire library with you to Hawaii is oddly convenient. And reading a romance book without having to flash the mandatory hot guy on the cover to everyone on the train is a nice change. Then there’s the fact that books are cheaper…

But whatever. Print is better. So e-readers will remain something I love to hate and hate to love.

2. The Merciless Author

Dear JK Rowling,

Why do you kill everyone I love? And why do I still love you? You are the serial killer of the book world and seemingly hold no remorse for your actions. You made unicorns cry when you killed Snape. And Fred. And Dobby. Even Harry for a little bit, somewhere in there.

You cold soul.

P.S. Please keep writing books.

Twilight Love Triangle3. The Love Triangle

I estimate around 50% of people will hate that I have this here #sorrynotsorry. And I agree the ol’ LT sucks…except when it doesn’t. There is nothing like a love triangle that is served cold with a slice of lemon. When you genuinely cannot guess who the main character will end up with. But you need the Author to pick the person you’ve fallen in love with. They have to! Because if they don’t….you will have one serious grudge toward the writer. Forever. And you may not tell them. But hell if they won’t be able to feel your glare from across the world.

Conclusion: I hate them. But I love them.

book hangover4. The Book Hangover

Definition: The aftermath of an uncontrollable urge to continue reading past your bedtime, occassionally days long. Often associated with extreme emotion and/or lack of hygiene and sudden ravenous hunger.

You are so tired! So emotionally wrung out. That last book is haunting you, to the extent you feel unable to start another! You sludge through school or work. It’s horrible. But would you change it? Would you rewind life, stop on the second-to-last chapter and put that book down? Not for a second! A true bookworm has their priorities straight. Book Hangovers are a burden every reader must bear.

cliffhanger5. The Cliffhanger

[DISCLAIMER: I have a 100 percent cliff-hanger ending rate. I apologise to Bookworms world-wide. Don’t hate me.]

For the most part, I don’t believe the majority of Bookworms mind them. I know I know, a lot of authors do them and it’s refreshing to read the occasional stand-alone. And really, if I think about it, hanging off the side of cliff must be quite unpleasant. Especially if you have to dangle there for a year until the release of the sequel.

But then…

…there’s that brain frenzy after a good cliffhanger! It’s addictive, teasing, frustrating! What’s going to happen next? Bookworms need to know the character’s problems will be resolved! In this day and age of instant gratification, the suspense is like sleeping with sunburn.

The relationship is bittersweet. The plight is real.

There you have it. My top five reading annoyances that I love to hate and hate to love.

But here is my question to you, fellow Bookworm: Out of the five things listed above, which do you love to hate?

Movies Are Never Like the Books!

Written by Melissa Craven

And they shouldn’t be. I know we love our YA books, and the movie and TV series adaptations leave us trembling with excitement for premier day, but there’s always a let down after that first viewing. “It didn’t follow the book!” We say. I’ve found myself muttering these same things (admittedly, sometimes there is wailing too).

But in reality, there are so many reasons why a movie or TV series has to deviate from the books we loved so much. The newest adaptation of The Mortal Instruments, City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare is a great example of successful deviation from the books. Shadowhunters just premiered on ABC Family earlier this month and I immediately took to Twitter to see what the general reaction was after the first episode. Opinions were all over the place, especially in regards to the way the series deviated so much from the original storyline.

The Institute from the 2013 City of Bones movie set.
The Institute from the 2013 City of Bones movie set.

The unsuccessful big screen adaptation of City of Bones in 2013, just didn’t do it for fans of the series, so I was extremely excited for this reboot on the small screen. Considering the first book was released nearly a decade ago, I thought the visual and technological updates, such as the hub of the Shadowhunter Institute, was a great way to bring a fresh, contemporary look to the story we love.

The Institute from the 2016 Shadowhunters set.
The Institute from the 2016 Shadowhunters set.

With that one change, everything changed. Visually, the story leaped forward from 2007 to 2016. The bump in ages from sixteen to eighteen, also brought a nice change to the storyline. A slightly older Jace and Clary, Simmon and Izzy (or Clace and Sizzy… and Malec! I can’t forget to mention Alec and Magnus!) elevated the story in a great way.

Many fans were disappointed in the changes, but I say, we’ve already read the books and we saw the movie, but with Shadowhunters, don’t we still want to be surprised? After two episodes, the show has accomplished that and then some.

Another view from the 2016 Shadowhunters set.
Another view from the 2016 Shadowhunters set.

The characters exude everything we loved about them in the books (and made up for the things many of us hated about them in the movie) but there is new life here. I’m looking forward to the rest of this season because I know the spirit of the story and the creativity of Cassandra Clare’s world is still there and it’s in good hands. And Jace… TV Jace has it in a way movie Jace never did.

So it’s not exactly like the books, but sometimes I’m okay with that.

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