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January 10, 2014
January 10, 2014

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Ringing in 2014 with Some Amazing YA Reads, Bookish Resolutions and, if You're Lucky, Above Zero Temperatures!

Happy New Year, Teenreads friends!

We hope that 2014 is off to a good start for you, even if, in most parts of the country, it has been an astronomically cold one! I couldn't feel my fingers after walking just five minutes between the subway and my friend's apartment three nights ago, even though I was wearing gloves (given they weren't very high quality...that's what you get for prioritizing silver sparkles over warmth when selecting winter wear). I don't feel right complaining, though, when so many of my friends still live in the Midwest and were homebound due to winter winds and temperatures as low as -50 degrees.

If there's one positive takeaway from the polar vortex, Chiberia or whatever your favorite catchy cold temperature name is (besides some amazing photographs, of course), it's the fact that frigid weather is the perfect excuse to get started on your TBR ("to be read") list, or whatever your bookish New Year's resolution of 2014 might be!

Personally, one of my book-oriented goals is to finally tackle the Lord of the Rings trilogy. My dad and I watch the movies almost every winter, but somehow, I've never read the books. While most of my reading time is dedicated to YA and middle grade novels just before they hit the shelves, I definitely want to make time to indulge in these classics in their original form. I'm going to try to write more, too --- I used to take creative writing classes in college and when I lived in Chicago, but I've put it on the backburner for awhile --- and maybe, just maybe, make the long-desired trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida...we'll see if it happens!

Let us know some of your own literary resolutions by voting in this month's poll! Or, if you're having trouble coming up with them, be sure to check out our Teen Board feature, where members of the Board told us the book-themed pursuits they were planning for the new year. Ideas ranged from reading more classics to tracking every book they read to reading 100 books...wish them luck!

Another bookish resolution we recommend is going to more literary events (I promise we think about more than resolutions, but come on, it's January! The month of reinvention!). I just went to the New York Public Library's exhibit The ABC of It: Why Children's Books Matter and I definitely recommend it. It was amazing to walk amongst original copies of my favorite books and learn triva about the way they came to be.

For instance, did you know that when writing MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS, Robert McCloskey kept live ducklings in his studio apartment bathtub so he could sketch their movements and anatomy? And FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER made New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art so popular that they had to set up a special hotline for children, who continuously called to ask if they could sleep over in Marie Antoinette's bed, just like Claudia Kincaid? (The answer, sadly, was no). I also didn't know that WINNIE THE POOH was based on stuffed animals that A.A. Milne gave his son (and that the original teddy bear was actually named Edward), nor that Dr. Seuss partially started writing as a direct response to the overly stodgy, perfect depictions of children in books like FUN WITH DICK AND JANE.

Aside from getting giddy over a galley copy of HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE and paintings that Eric Carle made in art school, though, the exhibit really did make me think about the point of reading as a child. For hundreds of years, children learned to read purely so they could meet an end goal. At first, they read THE NEW ENGLAND PRIMER so they could later read the Bible, and then philosophers like John Locke intervened because they thought reading should also teach the difference between right and wrong. Aesop's Fables have existed since 1476 and, while not always intended for children, were frequently published for kids because of their moral messages, and in the 1950's, the primer FUN WITH DICK AND JANE taught students across America not only how to read, but also showed them shining examples of excellently behaved, bland and homogenous children.

It was strange that I felt so opposed to these earlier works, considering I think one of the beauties of reading is that it does make people more empathetic and socially conscious. I suppose the difference now, though, is that authors aren't telling readers (children or adult) what to think. Yes, it is wonderful if books teach you more about yourself or about the world around you, if they make you contemplate the complexities of morality and reconsider assumptions you may have made about people from time periods, cultures, genders or sexual orientations other than your own, but children's and YA books today also emphasize beautiful writing, gripping plotlines and heartfelt characters for their own sake. Readers don't become more open-minded and empathetic because authors hit them over the head with alternate agendas --- it's because they get so lost in entertaining, compelling books that they can actually become a part of that world.

More than anything, the exhibit made me appreciate how far children's literature has come over the past several centuries (and even decades), and look forward to what is sure to be an exciting future in the industry. If you're in the New York area, I highly recommend it! Check out the photos on the top --- the photo on the right features the original WINNIE THE POOH stuffed animals, and the photo on the left highlights some stunning illustrations from the 1972 edition of AESOP'S FABLES by Nancy Southworth.

And now, (because smooth transitions are overrated) things on Teenreads! Be sure to check out our special feature of PHOENIX ISLAND by John Dixon, which inspired CBS's new series "Intelligence" starring John Holloway (I'm excited...I always rooted for Sawyer on "LOST"). We got to go behind the scenes and talk to Dixon about everything from the inspiration for his book to his role in developing the show.

We also have some great reviews of two books everyone's been waiting for --- THE IMPOSSIBLE KNIFE OF MEMORY by Laurie Halse Anderson and THIS STAR WON'T GO OUT: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl by Esther Earl. The latter doesn't go on sale until the 28th, but we know reviewer Caroline Osborn's rave comments will make you put the release date on your calendar!

And then there are plenty of things you can vote on, because we love to hear your opinions. Our He Said/She Said poll on THE WELL'S END by Seth Fishman is still up, so be sure to weigh in on whether the cover makes it look like a book for boys, a book for girls or a book for both.

A VERY important date to note. You also have until January 31st to nominate the finalists for CBC's Teen Choice Book of the Year award, so make sure you show your favorite authors and books some love!

Later in the newsletter, you can find info on more reviews, new features we're planning for Teenreads 2014 (I told you January was all about self-improvement) Cool & New, Books on Screen, Teen Board info and more, so read on!

So happy happy belated New Year, and have a lovely month full of books and (fingers crossed) above-zero temperatures, until we talk again!

--- Shara Zaval (

Special Feature: PHOENIX ISLAND

Being sent to a military-style detention center would be hard enough --- intense physical labor, rigid schedules and hardcore discipline --- but what if that was the least of your worries, because there was something dark and sinister going on in the background? Just ask John Dixon, whose book PHOENIX ISLAND explores this very premise. In our special feature, you can find an excerpt of the book, a review and an interview with John, in which he talks about everything from his personal opinions on boot camps to PHOENIX ISLAND's transformation to the small screen.


First in a trilogy, John Dixon's Survival Series is part "Prison Break," part LORD OF THE FLIES. When 16-year-old boxing champion Carl Freeman is sent to an isolated boot camp for orphans, he’s determined to tough it out, earn a clean record, and get on with his life. Instead, he soon realizes Phoenix Island is actually a Spartan-style mercenary organization turning “throwaway children” into killers, Carl risks everything to save his friends and stop a madman bent on global destruction. But as the prisoners' lives spiral out of their control, so does their grip on humanity, until the lines of "us against them" disappear altogether.

Click here to read the excerpt

Click here to read the interview

Click here to read the review



Click here to read the special feature!

Best Books of the Year! Our Reviewers/Teen Board Give Their Two Cents

Sure, 2014 has already started, but that doesn't mean you should abandon all of the gems that came out last year! If you're looking to add to your TBR list, click here to see what books our reviewers and Teen Board members loved the most in 2013 and why.



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

We talked about this in our last couple of newsletters, but remember, you still have time to make sure that your five favorite books of 2013 get nominated for the Teen Choice Book of the Year award, which the Children’s Book Council (CBC) and Every Child a Reader (ECAR) hosts each May.

All you have to do is fill out this form between now and January 31st, 2014 at noon EST, selecting YOUR favorites. You can choose books from the list we provide, or add another title. Once the votes are tallied, the five books with the most votes will become the official Teen Choice Award nominees! So make sure to vote, and tell your friends and classmates to do the same! We can't wait to see the results.

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

Congratulations Kate DiCamillo!

As you may have read, Kate DiCamillo will be named the fourth national ambassador for young people's literature by the Library of Congress on January 10. Kate has written some of our favorite children's books, including the Newbery Medal-winning THE TALE OF DESPERAUX, THE MAGICIAN'S ELEPHANT and FLORA & ULYSSES, and she plans to use her position to promote her community reading platform "Stories Connect Us," which was inspired by a New York Times study that said people who read literary fiction perform better on tests measuring empathy.

As Shelf Awareness reported, she told the New York Times, "It wasn't until my fifth or sixth book where I realized I'm trying to do the same thing in every story I tell, which is bring everybody together in the same room. That's the same thing that I want here: to get as many different people into the room as I can. I don't know that I will resonate with a particular group of kids, but I want to get as many kids and as many adults together reading as I can."

You can find more information on Kate's appointment (and learn the subtleties of headline writing) by reading one of the following articles:

- New York Times --- Newbery Winner to Promote Her Genre

- Publishers Weekly --- Kate DiCamillo Named Next National Ambassador for Young People's Literature

- School Library Journal --- Kate DiCamillo is New National Ambassador for Young People's Literature

- The Los Angeles Times --- Kate DiCamillo: New National Ambassador for Young People's Literature

- Washington Post --- Kate DiCamillo, author of "Because of Winn Dixie," named children's literature ambassador



Now in Stores: THE IMPOSSIBLE KNIFE OF MEMORY by Laurie Halse Anderson
THE IMPOSSIBLE KNIFE OF MEMORY by Laurie Halse Anderson (Families, Loss, Romantic, Social Issues, Fiction, Mental Health, Relationships, Young Adult 12+)

For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.

Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? THE IMPOSSIBLE KNIFE OF MEMORY is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.

Click here to learn more about the book.

Click here to read the review!

Coming Soon: THIS STAR WON'T GO OUT by Esther Earl

THIS STAR WON'T GO OUT: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl by Esther Earl, Lori Earl and Wayne Earlwith introduction by John Green (Memoir, Nonfiction, Young Adult 12+, Youth Fiction)

A collection of the journals, fiction, letters, and sketches of the late Esther Grace Earl, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 16. Photographs and essays by family and friends will help to tell Esther’s story along with an introduction by award-winning author John Green who dedicated his #1 bestselling novel THE FAULT IN OUR STARS to her.

Click here to learn more about the book.




Click here to read the review!

January's Cool & New Books Roundup

Our January roundup includes several books that we've all been looking forward to! We have HOW I DISCOVERED POETRY by Marilyn Nelson, a thought-provoking civil rights era memoir told through 50 inspiring poems; EVERTRUE by Brodi Ashton, the conclusion to the Everneath trilogy where Nikki, Jack and Cole try to destroy the underworld once and for all; and the first book in Chris Lynch's new World War II series, THE RIGHT FIGHT.

Among the paperbacks released this month we have THE ARCHIVED by Victoria Schwab, a thriller where the dead rest on shelves like books, and only Librarians can read their stories; and THE LAST GUARDIAN, the final installment of Eoin Colfer's beloved Artemis Fowl series.



Click here to see all our January Cool & New picks!

Teen Board

We are still in the process of selecting our newest members of the January-June 2014 Teen Board, and we can't wait for them to get started!

We decided to already get our returning members busy, though, by asking them to tell us about their bookish New Year's resolutions. Check out their answers, here!

Also, keep an eye out for several Teen Board member blog posts coming out later this month!

Books on Screen
Happy New Year, books on screen lovers! We’re starting 2014 off strong, in the movie theater, on TV and in your DVD player. If The Desolation of Smaug whet your appetite for epic creatures, then go get your dragon fix at Seventh Son, based on the Orson Scott Card novel of the same name, or watch Dr. Frankenstein's creation, Adam, as he finds himself in the middle of a world-destroying battle in I, Frankenstein. If you're in the mood for a dark family drama, consider watching the Lifetime movie Flowers in the Attic, based on the cult novel of the same name. Or for lighter fare, pick up Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 on DVD, but make sure you have plenty of snacks by your side or you're sure to get hungry!

Click here to visit our January Books on Screen.

He Said/She Said: Cover Survey for THE WELL'S END

Stereotypically, girl books are pink, have a girl on the cover and are FILLED with sickeningly sweet romance. Boy books, on the other hand, are darker, have blood dripping or something more creepy on the cover and there are NO girls to be found. But we all know this isn't true, right? There are books that boys AND girls love!!!'s “He Said/She Said” feature aims to highlight a book each month to discuss its guy and girl appeal. Each month, there will first be a cover survey to ask YOU what you think of the cover. After that, we'll reveal the results of the poll along with the reader responses from a Teen Board boy and a Teen Board girl --- but they never saw the cover, title or author's name!

This month, our poll for THE WELL'S END by Seth Fishman is still running. Tell us...does the cover of the book make it look like a book for boys, a book for girls or a book for both? Click here to take the survey!

If you're interested in seeing what our Teen Board members Patrick and Pranshu of our last He Said/She Said book --- WHEN I WAS THE GREATEST by Jason Reynolds --- click here.

New Reviews!

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

NO ONE ELSE CAN HAVE YOU by Kathleen Hale (Mystery, Youth Fiction)
A quiet town like Friendship, Wisconsin, keeps most of its secrets buried . . . but when local teen Ruth Fried is found murdered in a cornfield, her best friend, Kippy Bushman, decides to uncover the truth and catch the killer. But Kippy soon discovers, if you want to dig up the truth, your hands have to get a little dirty, don'tcha know.

GOING ROGUE by Robin Benway (Spy fiction, Young Adult 12+)
Being permanently based in a local New York City high school as an undercover operative has its moments, good and bad, for 16-year-old safecracker Maggie Silver. But when Maggie's parents are falsely accused of stealing priceless gold coins, Maggie uses her safecracking skills to try and clear their names. Too bad it only serves to put her and everyone she loves in danger.

A BREATH OF FROST: The Lovegrove Inheritance by Alyxandra Harvey (Fantasy, Science Fiction, Youth Fiction)
A thrilling, breathtaking new series from fan-favorite author Alyxandra Harvey about young witches in Regency London.

DIAMONDS & DECEIT by Leila Rasheed (Romance)
The colorful cast of the At Somerton series returns in this enthralling sequel about class and fortune, trust and betrayal, love and revenge. Rose still feels like a servant dressed up in diamonds and silk, and only the young Scottish duke Alexander Ross treats her like a friend. She knows better than to give her heart to an aristocrat with such a reputation, but it may be too late. Meanwhile, Ada is engaged to a handsome man who shares her political passions and has promised to support her education, but still feels hollow inside, and Sebastian is out of his mind with worry for his former valet Oliver, who refuses to plead innocent to the murder charges against him.

TAKING THE HIGH GROUND by Amy Alessio (Mystery, Young Adult 13+)
Having a cop for an uncle was like having a Big Brother in the 1984 sense; he was always watching. Troy already called the house this morning to ask Mom if I'd written everything down for the police report. I knew if I didn't get something down soon he'd come over here to "help." It was hard to know where to start. I never thought I would have to explain how I helped catch a murderer or how I almost got killed myself.

VITRO by Jessica Khoury (Science Fiction, Young Adult 12+)
On a remote island in the Pacific, Corpus scientists have taken test tube embryos and given them life. These beings --- the Vitros --- have knowledge and abilities most humans can only dream of. Sophie Crue is determined to get to Skin Island and find her mother, a scientist who left Sophie behind years ago. In a race for her life, Sophie is about to discover what happens when science stretches too far beyond its reach.

MINDERS by Michele Jaffe (Mystery, Science Fiction, Young Adult 12+)
Sadie Ames is a type-A teenager from the wealthy suburbs. She's been accepted to the prestigious Mind Corps Fellowship program, where she'll spend six weeks as an observer inside the head of Ford, a troubled boy with a passion for the crumbling architecture of the inner city. There's just one problem: Sadie's fallen in love with him.

GOOD KINGS BAD KINGS by Susan Nussbaum (Fiction)
This powerful novel invites us into the lives of a group of typical teenagers --- alienated, funny, yearning for autonomy --- except that they live in an institution for juveniles with disabilities. This unfamiliar, isolated landscape is much the same as the world outside: friendships are forged, trust is built, love affairs are kindled and rules are broken. But those who call it home have little or no control over their fate.

EVERTRUE: An Everneath Novel by Brodi Ashton (Youth Fiction, Mythology)
Inspired by the Persephone myth, this stunning conclusion to the EVERNEATH trilogy --- whose captivating first book earned a VOYA Perfect Ten of 2011 and a Whitney Award --- explores the resilience of the human spirit and the indomitable power of true love.

FIRE STORM by Andrew Lane (Mystery, Youth Fiction)
Young Sherlock's friend and her father have vanished. Their house looks as if nobody has ever lived in it; the neighbors claim never to have heard of them. Sherlock begins to doubt his sanity, until a clever clue points him to Scotland. Following that clue leads him into a mystery that involves kidnapping, bodysnatchers and a man who claims he can raise the dead.

FIVE, SIX, SEVEN, NATE! by Tim Federle
In the sequel to BETTER NATE THAN EVER, Nate Foster’s Broadway dreams are finally coming true --- he's about to start rehearsals for E.T: The Broadway Musical. But as thrilling as Broadway is, rehearsals are nothing like Nate expects, and the countdown to opening night is starting to feel more like a time bomb. Nate is going to need more than his lucky rabbit’s foot if he ever wants to see his name in lights --- he may need a showbiz miracle.

ATLANTIS RISING by T.A. Barron (Fantasy, Mythology, Young Adult 10+)
In a magical land called Ellegandia, a young boy named Promi scrapes by, stealing pies, cakes and sweets to survive. But little does he know that his country is a pawn in an ages-old war between good and evil, battled both in the spirit realm and in the human world.

This Month's Poll

This is the time of year for New Year's resolutions! Did any of these make your list? (Check all that apply!)

  • Read books from a genre you don't normally read
  • Read more books, period!
  • Find more time each day for reading for pleasure
  • Keep a list of the books that you have read
  • Join (or start) a book club
  • Volunteer at a library
  • Volunteer at a literacy nonprofit
  • Go to more book-related events
  • Do more personal writing

To take our poll, click here!

And for the results of last month's poll, click here! We asked you to compare your year to a book, and the book with the most votes (24%) was OUT OF MY MIND by Sharon Draper --- "you spent a lot of time feeling like an outsider in 2013." Number two was ALLEGIENT by Veronica Roth --- "2013 was dark and dismal...thank goodness 2014 is just around the corner!" Yikes! Luckily it's a new year, and we wish you all the very best.

Looking Ahead: Teenreads 2014

New year, new Teenreads! OK, not quite. But we are working on a few features that we're quite excited about! Learn more, below.

Career Panel - We know you love to read, but have you ever considered working with books as a career? If so, there are tons of options to explore. With this feature, we'll introduce you to book editors, librarians, booksellers, children's literature professors, book cover designers, publicists, professional reviewers and more. Through interviews, guest posts and sometimes inside peeks at their offices, we'll take you into their worlds so you can learn a bit more about the book industry --- and see if it is something that you want to explore!

Side by Sides - We know that every book is original, but one thing we love at Teenreads is trends! It's fascinating to see how two books might tackle the same topic (reality television, PTSD, soccer) but approach it in completely different ways. In this feature, we'll ask authors whose books cover similar themes to answer the same set of questions, and list the results side by side. Sometimes the authors might even interview one another about their books, and we'll print their conversation.

Teen Board Question of the Month - Our Teen Board has been very helpful in writing book reviews, writing blog posts, participating in features and answering surveys, but we want to put them more front and center! Every month, we'll ask our teen board members to answer a specific question, and we'll post their answers on the site. This is a great way to see what other teens from across the country are thinking about books and bookish culture!

We're sure there will be others to come, too, but we were just too excited to keep these to ourselves!


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