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November 22, 2013
November 22, 2013

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Read Your Way Through the Holidays with


My name is Shara Zaval, and I'm the new Editorial Manager at It’s a pleasure to “meet” all of you! I thought a brief question and answer section would be a great way to introduce myself…just imagine me (layers of necklaces, gold shoes and if I’m lucky a dress significantly out of my price range) sitting on a plush stool across from Oprah or Conan O’Brien…I’d take either.

What are your favorite books?

My favorite children’s book is definitely MATILDA by Roald Dahl…really anything by Roald Dahl, actually. I have read HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE by J.K. Rowling about 20 times (in my opinion, it’s the best in the series) and I also love love love THE BRIEF AND WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO by Junot Diaz. And then there’s THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green (an obvious answer, I know), THE HOUSE OF THE SCORPION by Nancy Farmer, FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER by E.L. Konigsburg, GEEK LOVE by Katherine Dunn…this question is too hard.

Did you always want to work with children's books?

Nope. I spent much of my childhood wanting to be a waitress at Friendly’s (free chicken fingers!) and for awhile, I wanted to be a journalist or work in the non-profit sector. After college, I realized that I definitely wanted to work with children’s literature in some capacity, as an editor, an agent, or something else all-together. Working at allows me to blend my interests seamlessly --- I get to write, edit, dream up fun features, attend book events, work with books published by multiple publishing houses, talk to authors and more. There are no free chicken fingers or ice cream sundaes, but I think it's a fair trade-off.

Favorite book genre?

Realistic YA fiction resonates the most with me. There can certainly be fantastical elements, but I’m always the most drawn to books with strong characters and a unique point of view. Even more than the plot, I think it's the people who make stories unforgettable.

What did you do before this?

I was a publicist at Trafalgar Square Publishing/iPg in Chicago, and helped books that were originally published in the UK and Australia get media attention in the US. It was a really fun job, and it’s funny to be on the other side --- now I’m the one deciding what gets reviewed! Oh, the power…

What do you like besides books?

I love fashion, and have a bit of a thrift shopping addiction, especially when it comes to jewelry. My grandma has an amazing collection of clunky costume necklaces and gold pins, which I supplement by poking around all the dollar stores and consignment shops I can find. I took a couple of metal-smithing classes in Chicago to try to make my own pieces,'s amazing how much work goes into it! I also love to bake (and eat!), write, and more than anything, explore. A perfect day would include wandering around a new neighborhood with a friend and unabashedly people-watching.

Now that that's over, feel free to shoot me an email introducing yourself! I would absolutely love to get to know your favorite books, what you'd like to see on our site and any fun facts you'd like to share.

In less self-centered pursuits, let’s move on to the books! To start off, we wanted to alert you to a book that’s not coming out until May 2014 --- WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart. Carol Fitzgerald, who owns, read it last month and has not stopped talking about it. I’m about halfway through it and find it nearly impossible to put it down, even on absurdly crowded subways. The novel follows Cadence, a girl from the perfect, wealthy, blond (albeit emotionally distant) Sinclair family, who always summers on Martha’s Vineyard. What happens on that island with her cousins and a friend one summer will keep you turning the pages. Lockhart writes WE WERE LIARS in an enchanting, lyrical style, and we think that this story of heart-wrenching suspense will resonate with many readers. Be sure to keep an eye out for it this spring! And remember you heard about it here first!

Also, we want to extend a huge congratulations to Cynthia Kadohata, whose book THE THING ABOUT LUCK won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature on Wednesday. (The award was presented by the afore-mentioned E. Lockhart, which was fun). I had a chance to see Cynthia read at the National Book Awards Teen Press Conference in Brooklyn on Tuesday morning, along with the other nominees. Hearing the authors read from their own works added so much to my appreciation of their writing. I especially loved it when Gene Luen Yang read both the dialogue and sound effects from his graphic novel BOXERS & SAINTS while showing the images from the book on the projector. It almost felt like listening to a radio play, and hearing him say "whack whack whack whack whack" as Vibiana was learning to chop wood was both illustrative and hilarious.

After the readings, the teens in attendance asked the authors questions, leading to tidbits that will serve well in a future edition of Trivial Pursuit. For instance, I learned that Kathi Appelt wrote THE TRUE BLUE SCOUTS OF SUGAR MAN SWAMP in response to an email from a friend, who requested that she write something funny (and she thinks that raccoons and hogs are funnier than people). Meg Rosoff, author of PICTURE ME GONE, said that she loves dogs and considers herself a little more “animal” than a lot of other people, and Tom McNeal said that he wrote FAR, FAR AWAY in the voice of Jacob Grimm instead of the young Jeremy Johnson because he felt like he had “more in common with a 200-year-old ghost than a 14-year-old boy.” Wish you could have been with me to ask questions!

Our staff has been to a few other book-related outings in the New York area over the past couple of weeks, as well. I attended the YA Great Adventures Panel at the bookstore Books of Wonder, where young adult and middle grade fantasy authors read from their newest releases. Beforehand, T.A. Barron (ATLANTIS RISING) and Heather Terrell (RELIC) and their editors went into depth about the writing and editing process, and some of their comments really resonated with me. Heather mentioned that writing a book is a bit like an archaeological excavation, which I thought was a great concept (and she might write a blog post about it, soon!) and Tom said that writing fantasy is a fascinating exercise in using both the right and left sides of your brain, balancing dreams and logic. I’m generally more into realistic fiction, but this panel definitely made me want to go out and get all of these books, especially Amy Herrick’sTHE TIME FETCH --- she read with so much expression that I was thoroughly transported to the world of her book.

Emily from 20SomethingReads went to a HarperTeen author dinner last Wednesday where they shared Lauren Oliver’s PANIC, Melissa Kantor’s MAYBE ONE DAY and Katie Cotugno’s HOW TO LOVE. Not only did she get to bond with Katie over MFA programs, but she also started a riveting conversation at her table about how it was difficult to get through HOW TO LOVE because it resonated so much with her own first love story. In a recent 20SomethingReads blog post, she writes, “I think that’s part of the power of good YA fiction --- it gets at those early transformative experiences in a way that’s completely sincere and indulgent and moving. I also think that's part of why adults are so drawn to these stories that are intended for young(er) adults. And it’s a testament to these authors that they can capture all that --- the whole storm in the bottle --- so wonderfully.” Well said!

We’re all thrilled about the Catching Fire movie (Emily got to see a sneak peak yesterday…so lucky! She said it was AWESOME and that her mom, who hadn’t read the books, kept calling Catniss “Catnip.” Classic.) I’m going on Saturday in Boston (my hometown) as I am going to be attending the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE (ALAN) Conference. I can’t wait to see the movie with an entire room full of librarians and English teachers. Will there be a quiz afterwards? Monday and Tuesday I am going to be spending the day hearing YA authors present their books. I will be taking notes to report back to you; my version of being in class!

We also have plenty going on on the website right now, which you can learn about in more detail further down in the newsletter. First, there’s the Holiday Bundle of Cheer contest --- you could win up to SEVEN free books, candy and other goodies (Carol got carried away candy shopping) if you enter by December 19! And there's the amazing opportunity to help select the finalists for the Children’s Book Council Teen Choice Book of the Year. You can choose your five favorite 2013 YA books, and the titles that get the most votes will move into the final round. Show your favorites some love and vote today!

Lastly we have our latest reviews, a sneak peek at next month’s features and some info on Miami’s Book Fair this weekend (deep breath) --- so you have quite a bit to read up on!

Thanks for reading, and, as mentioned earlier, please feel free to email me to say hello! I am so excited to be working with all of you avid YA readers, whether you're a teen, a librarian, a parent, a 20-something, a teacher or anyone in between.

And Happy's to 4.5 days of reading in between eating turkey, pies and hanging out! And Happy Hanukkah for those of you who, like me, are celebrating!

--- Shara Zaval (

Happy Holidays...or Cheerful Holidays?

The holiday season is officially upon us (well, it will be on Thursday, anyway), so now it's time to bring on the presents! In our Holiday Bundle of Cheer contest and feature, five lucky readers will win a copy of each of the below titles, along with some surprise festive goodies. What better way to ring in the holidays?

To enter, fill out this form by noon EST on December 19. Good luck!

THE DREAM THIEVES by Maggie Stiefvater
MAYBE ONE DAY by Melissa Kantor
THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner
PAWN by Aimee Carter
PUSHED by Corrine Jackson
THE REGISTRY by Shannon Stoker
SIX MONTHS LATER by Natalie D. Richards

Click here to enter our Holiday Bundle of Cheer now!

THE THING ABOUT LUCK by Cynthia Kadohata

The National Book Awards are one of the most prestigious literary awards in the United States, and we are happy to share that Cynthia Kadohata's June book THE THING ABOUT LUCK won the 2013 title (although all of the books were fantastic...sometimes I wish they could give five awards instead of just one). When accepting the award, Cynthia said, “I didn’t write a speech because I thought it would be bad luck. I guess it worked out.” She also had some other great quotes and shared some interesting facts at the Teen Press Conference, which I mentioned earlier. Here are a few:

  • Cynthia named the protagonist “Summer” because she always wanted that name as a child (and her editor said that the name she had initially chosen was too old-fashioned).
  • Cynthia got the idea for THE THING ABOUT LUCK while at a ceremony in Kansas for another book she'd written. Someone off-handedly mentioned custom harvesters, and she immediately became fascinated. "I love the idea of being on the road," she said, because it seems like "a very hopeful way of living."
  • Cynthia decided that the custom harvesters should harvest wheat, rather than another crop, because it seemed universal. "It's used all over the world."
  • Cynthia wanted to create the character of Jazz (Summer's little brother) because she has a little brother, too. She was protective of her own brother, and wanted to create a character who was the same way.

Here is a bit more about the book:

Summer knows that kouun means “good luck” in Japanese, and this year her family has none of it. Just when she thinks nothing else can possibly go wrong, an emergency whisks her parents away to Japan --- right before harvest season. Summer and her little brother, Jaz, are left in the care of their grandparents, who come out of retirement in order to harvest wheat and help pay the bills.

The thing about Obaachan and Jiichan is that they are old-fashioned and demanding, and between helping Obaachan cook for the workers, covering for her when her back pain worsens, and worrying about her lonely little brother, Summer just barely has time to notice the attentions of their boss’s cute son. But notice she does, and what begins as a welcome distraction from the hard work soon turns into a mess of its own.

Having thoroughly disappointed her grandmother, Summer figures the bad luck must be finished --- but then it gets worse. And when that happens, Summer has to figure out how to change it herself, even if it means further displeasing Obaachan. Because it might be the only way to save her family.

Click here to see our book page on THE THING ABOUT LUCK

Teen Choice Book of the Year Award --- YOU Get to Choose Who Gets Nominated!

You may have seen our newsletter last week announcing a very special opportunity --- has teamed up with the Children’s Book Council (CBC) and Every Child a Reader (ECAR), and we're giving YOU a chance to choose the five nominees for this year's Teen Choice Book of the Year award! Was there a book you read this year that you couldn't put down, even while walking down the street or eating dinner? Or was there a book that you told all of your friends to go out and buy immediately? If so, this is your chance to show it a bit of love!

All you have to do is fill out this form between now and January 31st, 2014 at noon EST selecting YOUR favorites. Your selections may come from the list we’ve provided on the website, or you can vote for titles not on the list.

Important Note: If you choose to add a title for nomination that is not on our list, please be sure that the book(s) released for the first time in 2013; this means that paperbacks originally published as hardcovers prior to 2013 will not be accepted. If you’re uncertain about a book’s release date, we suggest you search for that title on, or

Happy voting!

Click here to vote for your favorite books of 2013 for the CBC Teen Choice Book of the Year Award!

Win One of 13 Amazing Books: Answer the 10-Minute Cover Survey Before Saturday, November 30th!

You have JUST ONE MORE WEEK to complete our 10-minute cover survey! Everyone says not to judge a book by its cover, but let's be real, here...when you go into a bookstore, that's the first thing that catches your eye. We'd love to know what you like and don't like on your book covers --- how important is cool typography? Would you rather see a character from the book on the cover, or a more conceptual design? Let us know what you think! And be sure to keep going to the end...we love seeing your answers to all the questions. We're learning a lot about you as we read them, so be sure to weigh in!

Fill it out before the deadline (Saturday, November 30th) and you'll have the chance to win one of the below young adult books. Here is the (truly excellent) list:

STEELHEART by Brandon Sanderson
THE EYE OF MINDS by James Dashner
TEARDROP by Lauren Kate
ERAGON 10th ANNIVERSARY EDITION by Christopher Paolini
THE LIVING by Matt de la Pena
FATES by Lanie Bross
TWO BOYS KISSING by David Levithan
ALLIANCE by Mark Frost
ACID by Emma Pass
ENDERS by Lissa Price

Click here to take our 10-Minute Cover Survey!

If You Live in Miami, It's Time to Get Literary!

The 30th Annual Miami Book Fair International is in full swing, and the street fair extends from today (November 22nd) through Sunday, November 24th.

If you're lucky enough to live in the area (where the temperatures have likely not dropped to the 40s), you should definitely stop by Room 8201 on Saturday afternoon, where YA greats Lauren Oliver (REQUIEM), Holly Black (THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLD TOWN), Kami Garcia (UNBREAKABLE: The Legion) and Alex Flinn (BEWITCHING: The Kendra Chronicles) are talking about their latest books.

If you're interested in graphic novels, head to Room 1164 to hear National Book Award nominee Gene Luen Yang (love him) talk about AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER with his editor, Joan Hilty. Should give some interesting insight into how graphic novelists and editors work together, plus they'll be giving away free comics.

On Sunday afternoon, Holly Black, (DOLL BONES) Conor McCreery (KILL SHAKESPEARE VOL 3: THE TIDE OF BLOOD) and Amy Herrick (THE TIME FETCH) are reading from their books, and as mentioned in the opener, Amy was fantastic at Books of Wonder last weekend. She's definitely worth seeing live!

AND at 3pm, Benjamin Alire Saenz presents from ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE (I read that book a couple of months ago and adored Ari's quiet voice, and his complex relationship wtih Dante), and M Evelina Galang shares ANGEL DE LA LUNA AND THE 5TH GLORIOUS MYSTERY. We just posted a very positive review of this on --- our reviewer called it "engaging, visceral, compassionate and heartwarming." We highly suggest checking this one out!



Click here for teen and graphic novel programming at the Miami Book Fair!

Apply to be on the January-June 2014 Teen Board!

Have you ever heard someone say that they're on "the board" of an organization, and wonder what that means? It sounds so sophisticated and mysterious, doesn't it? Well, we're giving you the chance to not only sound super elite, but also to put your love of reading to good use!

The Teen Board gives you the chance to review books, write blog posts, fill out special surveys, and be's eyes and ears on all things YA that are happening in your community. You get to read books before they come out, and have the chance to share your opinion with all of our readers --- pretty fancy, if I do say so myself.

Applications for the January - June 2014 term are due on December 9th (we've extended the deadline a bit since our last November newsletter). We'll review your applications by December 16th. For more details, click here!

If you're interested in last semester's teen board, click here to learn more about them. If you click on members' individual names, you'll see their full contributor profiles.


Click here to apply to be on the January-June 2014 Teen Board!

Catching Fire Premieres Today!

The YA film adaptation of the season is finally here! Some of you may have already seen it in special viewings, but the rest of us will have to wait until 8pm to follow Katniss and Peeta as they travel to each district on the Victor's Tour and enter the dreaded arena once more for the Quarter Quell. As you wait, here are some links to great recent articles about all things The Hunger Games to hold you over:

- TIME Magazine imagined potential rides at the (possibly) upcoming The Hunger Games theme park here

- Entertainment Weekly interviewed the Catching Fire stars about their favorite YA series here (so many of our favorite things coming together!)

- Hypable posted the soundtrack for Catching Fire, so at least your ears can experience the movie, for now!

- Buzzfeed posted 25 DIY projects for an at home Catching Fire celebration, including cupcakes and origami mockingjays (although you'll have to make a mocktail for #13)

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth and Philip Seymour Hoffman
Director: Francis Lawrence
Distributor: Lionsgate
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Release Date: November 22nd
Based on: CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins

Click here to visit our November Books on Screen.

New Reviews!

We just posted some of these reviews on our site. Check them out!

LOUD AWAKE AND LOST by Adele Griffin (Young Adult 12+)
There was an accident. Ember knows at least that much. She was driving. The car was totaled. She suffered back injuries and brain trauma. But she is alive. That's the only thing left she can cling to. She can't even remember the six weeks of her life leading up to the accident. Where was she going? Who was she with? And what happened during those six weeks that her friends and family won't talk about? Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon.

Angel has just lost her father, and her mother's grief means she might as well be gone too. She's got a sister and a grandmother to look out for, and a burgeoning consciousness of the unfairness in the world --- in her family, her community and her country. Reviewed by Anita Lock.

KETCHUP CLOUDS by Annabel Pitcher (Young Adult 12+)
Zoe has an unconventional pen pal --- Mr. Stuart Harris, a Texas Death Row inmate and convicted murderer. But then again, Zoe has an unconventional story to tell. A story about how she fell for two boys, betrayed one of them, and killed the other. Reviewed by Sabrina Abballe.

THE SNOWMELT RIVER by Frank P. Ryan (Fantasy)
On the summit of the fabled mountain Slievenamon in Ireland, there is a doorway to an ancient land of terrible power. The gate of Feimhin has lain closed for centuries, the secret of its opening long lost. But now four orphans drawn together by Fate must pass through the portal to face their destinies. What they find beyond is the enchanted but war-ravaged world of Tír, a strange land peopled by beings of magic. Here death waits at every corner and they must learn to fight if they are to survive. Reviewed by Caroline Osborn.

BATTLING BOY by Paul Pope (Graphic Novel)
With great power comes great responsibility. With a great Paul Pope superhero book comes a whole lot of fun. Reviewed by John Hogan.

This Month's Poll

November and December are HUGE months for movie adaptations of YA books!

Which of the following books have you already read --- or do you plan to read --- before seeing the movie?

THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak
CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins
ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card
THE HOBBIT by J. R. R. Tolkien
HOW I LIVE NOW by Meg Rosoff

Which of the following movies do you plan to see?

THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak
CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins
ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card
THE HOBBIT by J. R. R. Tolkien
HOW I LIVE NOW by Meg Rosoff


Click here to answer the poll!

Coming Soon on!
While we're excited about all of our November content, we can't wait for what's on board for December 2013! Here are a few features to look forward to:

- FAVORITE BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Our reviewers and Teen Board members will share the most unforgettable books that they devoured in 2013. We're sure you'll find some gems that you might have missed!

- GREAT BOOKS TO GIVE AND GET: Is anyone bugging you about what you want for the holidays? ("Bugging" might be the wrong word, here...I LOVE when people want to give me presents!) Next time they ask, you can include some of the books we feature on this list!

- HE SAID/SHE SAID: We'll finish off our WHEN I WAS THE GREATEST poll, AND we'll move on to our next book, AVALON by Mindy Arnett.

And, as always, check out our Coming Soon page to read up on some of the new releases we're excited about for next month (and beyond!)

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