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Late April, 2015
April 23, 2015

Quick Links to Features on Gets Opinionated

Hi Teenreaders!

As someone who works in the book world, I'm exposed to people's literary opinions all day, every day. Sometimes, these opinions come from our reviewers, both in the actual language of their review --- like Teen Board member Cassandra H.’s assertion that ONE THING STOLEN by Beth Kephart “is written in watercolor; it’s beautiful, poetic and arresting” --- and in little notes just to me, like when Anita Lock excitedly declares “another 5 star book!!!!!!” in the subject of an email.

Other times, they slip into conversation at an author event or a publisher meeting --- in the book world, “What are you reading? What are you loving?” is as common a greeting as “Hi! How are you?”

Or I just see opinions floating around in the periphery, whether in professional newsletters that pop up in my inbox each morning, in press releases from publicists that are slipped into every book that makes its way through our office or in my constantly updating Twitter feed.

My very favorite opinions, though, come from you --- readers, YA fans, high school students, college students --- the people who the book is written for, in the first place. While sometimes your notes perfectly replicate a top critic’s opinion or the trending topic in the industry at large, you often offer insights that are way more fresh, surprising and thought-provoking. The industry claims the dystopias, books about mermaids, "fill-in-the-blank" is long since dead? You’re still clamoring librarians for more. Critics complaining that YA novels are exploring topics that are too dark? You want more gut-wrenching, tear-spilling tales --- teenage life is more than a first kiss on a beach with a well-timed shooting star.

One of my favorite recent examples of surprising reader feedback happened at a writing workshop I attended through Girls Write Now, a New York City-based nonprofit that matches professional writers with high school girls with a passion for the written word. The workshop’s theme was “book reviews,” and after a few hours of learning the ins and outs of this journalistic form, it was time for each of us to write and share our own reviews.

When the first teen started reading aloud, she did so with gusto. She had decided to discuss an author’s entire oeuvre, and let’s just say she wasn’t giving it “five stars” (followed by five exclamation points). Her tone was witty, smart and cutting, and you might guess my surprise when it became clear who she was talking about: the one and only John Green, hailed as “a teen whisperer” by Time Magazine and often credited with bringing contemporary realism to the forefront of modern YA.

I’m paraphrasing, here, but the teen reviewer essentially said that “the characters in all of his books are the same --- they have huge vocabularies and don’t speak like any ordinary teen, and they each have some strange ‘quirk,’ whether it’s being obsessed with famous last words or girls named Katherine. Real teens aren’t like that.” Her review spawned a discussion in our group, and I was even more surprised by the fact that the other teens adamantly agreed, exclaiming, “If Green is going to write for teens, he should talk like them!” and “No real teenagers have obsessions like that.”

I’m absolutely not trying to take down John Green here --- he has millions of diehard teen and adult fans (obviously), and I’ve personally fallen in love with several of his books. I'm just saying that it was refreshing to step out of my publishing bubble and hear opinions from adolescents who are going against "book industry" assumptions.

With that in mind (you knew I was getting at something, didn't you?), Teenreads is looking for your opinions on a really cool project we're doing. We’re hosting a YA fantasy cover survey (which you may have noticed in the last newsletter), and it's pretty much exactly what it sounds like --- a chance for you to offer feedback on the covers of 10 popular YA fantasy novels. Which ones do you absolutely love? Which ones make you want to buy the book? Which ones make the book look boring, dull, or nothing like a fantasy?

The cool part, though, is that your feedback may actually affect what book covers look like in the future. So much for that whole “publishing industry opinion vs. reader opinion” dichotomy, right? Your opinions are going to the very top of the food --- er, book --- chain.

Plus, if you answer, you are eligible to win one of 25 fantasy books or the grand prize: a gift certificate of $100 to the bookstore of your choice. So make sure to answer and pass this on to your friends who are between the ages of 12 and 29 and love sharing their literary opinions!

Also, be sure to check out the rest of the newsletter --- you still have time to enter the Spring Fling contest, and we gathered a great group of YA authors to divulge their favorite indie bookstores in honor of Independent Bookstore Day on May 2nd. Their choices take you from Just One More Page Books in Arlington, Virginia, which serves chocolate and wine, to Reading Reptile in Kansas City, Missouri, which hosts a "museum" of author DNA. With such an eclectic list, we’re sure you’ll be able to discover a gem in your own community.

And with that, happy reading, happy opining, and (because it is totally appropriate now --- this weekend I finally wore a dress without tights), happy spring!

--- Shara Zaval (

P.S. Children's Book Week is May 4th - May 10th, so be sure to check out local events in your area! I'm excited to kick off the week with the Children's Choice Book Awards, which happens to fall on my birthday; I can think of worse ways to ring in a new year than being surrounded by some of my favorite authors. Look out for more on that in the next newsletter!


YA Fantasy Cover Survey --- Weigh In and Win!
In this survey, we’re looking for thoughts on 10 YA fantasy book covers from readers aged 12-29. Once you’ve completed the survey, you’ll be eligible to win either one of 25 copies of a fantasy book (we’ll surprise you with the title) or our Grand Prize: a $100 gift certificate to the bookstore of your choice! We’re looking forward to seeing the results, which could influence how covers of YA fantasy titles will look in the future. Thanks for sharing your opinions!

Click here to take the survey!

Authors Reveal Their Favorite Indie Bookstores
May 2nd is one of the coolest literary holidays of the year --- Independent Bookstore Day! This day honors all of the awesome indies across the country and everything that they do for us, whether that's giving us access to great books and knowledgeable booksellers, hosting amazing events or providing a community space for book lovers.

At Teenreads, we decided to celebrate by asking YA authors to tell us about their favorite indie bookstores. See their answers, and be sure to check them out if you live nearby, on May 2nd and throughout the year!

Click here to read the feature!

Spring Fling Contest! Enter Now to WIN BOOKS!

Spring is finally here, and with it comes warmer weather, blooming flowers...and the chance to win some great new YA books! From now through Monday, May 4th at noon ET, readers will have the chance to win one of our five Spring Fling prize packages, which includes one copy of each of our featured books and a signature tote bag.

Our featured Spring Fling titles are:

  • 99 DAYS by Katie Cotugno
  • I WAS HERE by Gayle Forman
  • LIES I TOLD by Michelle Zink
  • THE ORPHAN QUEEN by Jodi Meadows
  • THE PROMISE OF AMAZING by Robin Constantine
  • THE SECRETS OF ATTRACTION by Robin Constantine
  • VANISHING GIRLS by Lauren Oliver
Click here to enter our Spring Fling giveaway! Ultimate Reading List - 2015 Update!

The Ultimate Reading List is one of our favorite features on --- it's a list of more than 400 titles that we think make perfect pleasure reading for teens. Our criteria: We looked for books that were compelling, beautifully written, pure fun, thought-provoking or edge-of-your-seat gripping; books that we would hand to someone and say, “read this!” We hope that you will use the Ultimate Reading List when selecting books for independent reading, and that schools will consult it when making suggestions for their students for summer reading.

Each year, we spend hours/days/weeks going through the list with fresh eyes, culling some titles and adding others. The latest update features titles through February 2015.

Click here to see the Ultimate Reading List.
Click here to see a PDF of each title.
Click here to see a PDF of each title with ISBNs and book descriptions.


Bookshelf: 20 Novels in Verse to Celebrate National Poetry Month!
Poetry comes in all sorts of different forms --- there are pithy limericks, romantic Shakespearean sonnets, epics that span hundreds of pages, and even slam poems, specifically designed to be spoken aloud.

At, we’re particularly partial to the verse novel, which encompasses all of the best things about standard novels --- strong characters, interesting plot lines, beautiful description --- but does so with spare, rich verses, rather than with prose. Poetry lovers can find their niche here, as can reluctant readers, as can those who simply want a wonderful story.

We’ve rounded up 20 of our favorite young adult and middle grade "verse" novels that have been published in the past few years, those addressing a specific moment in history like SILVER PEOPLE: Voices from the Panama Canal by Margarita Engle, to those delving into deeply personal issues like RUMBLE by Ellen Hopkins. Whether poetry is your favorite genre or you’d rather read your parents’ tax forms, we guarantee you that you’ll find something you love in this bookshelf.

Click here to see the bookshelf!

On the Blog
Authors Unlimited - Author Events, Behind the Scenes: Librarian Michael Buono tells Teenreads what it takes to plan a YA festival.

The Photo That Inspired it All --- Guest Post by GAME SEVEN author Paul Volponi: Learn how a photo of a 1959 Buick floating into Key West, Florida inspired author Paul Volponi's newest book.

EARLY DECISION --- Putting College in a Different Perspective: Teen Board member (and high school junior) Alison S. decided to read the adult satire EARLY DECISION for a little bit of light-hearted fare on a semi-daunting topic.

Click here to read the Teenreads blog!

Teen Board

Teen Board Question: April 4th is "tell a lie day," but we twisted it to "untell a lie day," and asked our Teen Board members to confess a lie they told about a book. We had a lot of great answers --- Kate F. told a friend THE FAULT IN OUR STARS "wasn't really all that sad" to get her to read the book, and Aliza M. secretly finished the Harry Potter series before her dad! Click here to read all of their answers!

Reviews: The Teen Board members loved their recent round of books. Katherina T. said THE TRUTH COMMISSION by Susan Juby "is one of those stories that will grab you from the first page." Cheritta J. said that KISSING TED CALLAHAN (AND OTHER GUYS) by Amy Spalding is "thoroughly entertaining and everyone should read it," and Cheyenne C. said "the characters of FIG by Sarah Elizabeth Schantzwill have readers invested in the novel until the last page."

Click here to learn more about the Teen Board!

Now in Stores: EDEN WEST by Pete Hautman
EDEN WEST by Pete Hautman (Young Adult Fiction)

Tackling faith, doubt and transformation, National Book Award winner Pete Hautman explores a boy’s unraveling allegiance to an insular cult.

Twelve square miles of paradise, surrounded by an eight-foot-high chain-link fence: this is Nodd, the land of the Grace. It is all 17-year-old Jacob knows. Beyond the fence lies the World, a wicked, terrible place, doomed to destruction. When the Archangel Zerachiel descends from Heaven, only the Grace will be spared the horrors of the Apocalypse. But something is rotten in paradise. A wolf invades Nodd, slaughtering the Grace’s sheep. A new boy arrives from outside, and his scorn and disdain threaten to tarnish Jacob’s contentment. Then, while patrolling the borders of Nodd, Jacob meets Lynna, a girl from the adjoining ranch, who tempts him to sample the forbidden Worldly pleasures that lie beyond the fence. Jacob’s faith, his devotion and his grip on reality are tested as his feelings for Lynna blossom into something greater and the End Days grow ever closer. EDEN WEST is the story of two worlds, two hearts, the power of faith and the resilience of the human spirit.

Click here to learn more about the book


Now in Stores: MAPMAKER by Mark Bomback and Galaxy Craze

MAPMAKER by Mark Bomback and Galaxy Craze (Youth Fiction, Thriller)

When Tanya Barrett takes an internship at MapOut, she expects emotional landmines. Her father cofounded the digital mapping company, and he died for it --- on a cartographic expedition he didn’t even need to take. Her father’s business partner and his son, Connor, welcome her to the job with open arms. And being with Connor, an old childhood friend, turns out to be the only thing that makes Tanya feel normal again.

Soon she’s spending every moment she can with Connor. But when they sneak into her father’s old office late one night, they stumble across a deadly secret. The next day Connor disappears.

Tanya isn’t just bereft; she’s terrified. It’s clear that people at MapOut are willing to kill for what she and Connor discovered. Alone again --- and on the run --- Tanya must rely on her wits to find out what happened to him and stay a step ahead of MapOut. But in the world they envision, no one stays lost for long.

Click here to learn more about the book


Books On Screen
This April, fall in love with the story of Luke and Sophia in The Longest Ride. Based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks, this movie spans generations to show two intertwining love stories. Sophia, a young artist, and Luke, a former bull riding champion, meet an old man whose deep romance with his beloved wife inspire the young couple.

And if you're feeling humor more than romance? Make some popcorn, get in your pajamas and watch Paddington, the story of the hilarious, accident-prone bear that is now available on DVD.
Click here to read our Books on Screen feature!

April's Cool and New Roundup

Our April roundup includes CHALLENGER DEEP by Neal Shusterman, which deftly delves into the mind of a teenage boy with schizophrenia; I WILL ALWAYS WRITE BACK: How One Letter Changed Two Lives by Martin Ganda, Caitlin Alifirenka and Liz Welch, a true story about a six-year epistolary correspondence between a girl from the United States and a boy from Zimbabwe; and AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir, a debut dystopia inspired by ancient Rome where a slave becomes a spy in order to save her brother.

Among the paperback titles released this month, we have POPULAR: How a Geek in Pearls Discovered the Secret to Confidence by Maya Van Wagenen, where a middle school girl followed a 1950s popularity guide for a year to see if the advice would work in the 21st century; OPENLY STRAIGHT by Bill Konigsberg, a “coming-out-again” story where Rafe, who wants to be more than his sexuality, initially hides the fact that he’s gay from his new boarding school classmates; and THE ART OF SECRETS by James Klise, in which Saba’s classmates rally around her after her apartment burns down, but a mysterious painting changes everything.

Click here to see April's Cool and New roundup!

Check Out Our Latest Reviews!

New! 99 DAYS by Katie Cotugno (Youth Fiction, Romance)

Molly Barlow is facing one long, hot summer --- 99 days --- with the boy whose heart she broke and the boy she broke it for...his brother. --- Reviewed by Aspen R., Teen Board member.

New! LAST OF THE SANDWALKERS by Jay Hosler (Youth Fiction, Graphic Novel)

Nestled in the grass under the big palm tree by the edge of the desert there is an entire civilization --- a civilization of beetles. In this bug's paradise, beetles write books, run restaurants and even do scientific research. But not too much scientific research is allowed by the powerful elders, who guard a terrible secret about the world outside the shadow of the palm tree. --- reviewed by Charles Payseur.

New! DIARY OF A WAITRESS: The Not-So-Glamorous Life of a Harvey Girl by Carolyn Meyer (Youth Fiction)

It's 1926 and one spunky girl, Kitty Evans, joins thousands of well–trained waitresses providing first-class service in Harvey House. As Kitty writes about her escapades, a loveable teenager emerges; she embraces adventure, independence, her position as a Harvey Girl and a freelance writing career. Reviewed by Sally Tibbetts.

New! THE TRUTH COMMISSION by Susan Juby (Youth Fiction)

Open secrets are the heart of gossip --- the obvious things that no one is brave or tactless enough to ask. Except for Normandy Pale and her friends. They are juniors at a high school for artists and have no fear. They are the Truth Commission. Then, one of their truth targets says to Normandy: “If you want to know about the truth, you might want to look a little closer to home.” This dryly funny, knife-sharp novel, written as "narrative nonfiction" by Normandy herself, features footnotes, illustrations and a combination mystery/love story. --- Reviewed by Katherina T., Teen Board member.

New! FIG by Sarah Elizabeth Schantz (Young Adult Fiction)

FIG is the story of a girl who grows up under the shadow of her schizophrenic mother in rural Kansas. This coming-of-age story tracks Fig from age six to age 19 --- the age she fears she might inherit her mother's disease. Fig employs magical thinking as a means to avoid this fate, but in turn develops OCD. In the end, she must learn to separate her identity from the identity of her beloved mother. --- Reviewed by Cheyenne C., Teen Board member.

New! THE BULLIES OF WALL STREET: This Is How Greed Messed Up Our Economy by Sheila Bair (Nonfiction)

In 2008, America went through a terrible financial crisis. Many families and businesses were struggling and we are still suffering the consquences. The former head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Sheila Bair, describes the many ways in which a broken system led families into financial trouble. She also explains the decisions being made at the time by the most powerful people in the country --- from CEOs of multinational banks to heads of government regulatory committees --- that led to the recession. --- Reviewed by Lynn W., Teen Board member.

New! I WILL ALWAYS WRITE BACK: How One Letter Changed Two Lives by Martin Ganda, Caitlin Alifirenka and Liz Welch (Nonfiction)

In this compelling dual memoir, Caitlin and Martin recount how they became best friends --- and better people --- through their long-distance exchange. --- Reviewed by Maya B., Teen Board member.

New! THE REVELATION OF LOUISA MAY by Michaela MacColl (Youth Fiction)

With her mother leaving for the summer to earn money for the family, Louisa is to be in charge of the household. But before long, Louisa finds herself juggling her temperamental father, a mysterious murder, a fugitive seeking refuge along the Underground Railroad and blossoming love. --- Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin.

New! ONE THING STOLEN by Beth Kephart (Youth Fiction)

Something is not right with Nadia Cara. While spending a year in Florence, Italy, she's become a thief. She has secrets. And when she tries to speak, the words seem far away. Nadia finds herself trapped by her own obsessions and following the trail of an elusive Italian boy whom only she has seen. Can Nadia be rescued or will she simply lose herself altogether? --- Reviewed by Cassandra H., Teen Board member.

New! KISSING TED CALLAHAN (AND OTHER GUYS) by Amy Spalding (Young Adult Fiction)

NICK AND NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST meets Easy A in this hilariously realistic story of sneaking out, making out and playing in a band. After catching their bandmates in a compromising position, 16-year-old Los Angelenos Riley and Reid become painfully aware of the romance missing from their own lives. And so a pact is formed: they'll both try to make something happen with their respective crushes and document the experiences in a shared notebook. --- Reviewed by Cheritta J., Teen Board member.

New! SEED by Lisa Heathfield (Young Adult Fiction)

All that Pearl knows can be encapsulated in one word: Seed. It is the isolated community that she was born into. But the arrival of a new family --- particularly the teenage son, Ellis ---into the Seed community complicates Pearl's life and lifestyle. As Pearl digs to the roots of the truth, only she can decide what she will allow to come to the surface. --- Reviewed by Alison S., Teen Board member.


April Poll

April is National Poetry Month. Which kind of poetry would you rather read?

  • A novel in verse --- It perfectly balances lyrical language with great characters and plot development.
  • A pithy limerick --- Who doesn't like a little humor with their poetry?
  • A classic epic poem --- You could analyze "The Odyssey" and "Paradise Lost" for hours and still find more to unpack.
  • A clever rhyme --- Who doesn't love Dr. Seuss?
  • A Shakespearean sonnet --- The master of love poetry is perfect if you feel like daydreaming about your crush.
  • Slam poetry - Why read poetry when you can listen?

Last month, we asked which fictional locations would you most like to visit. Diagon Alleycame in at number one, with 35% of the votes, while Middle Earth and Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory tied for second with 23% of the votes! To see the full results of the March poll, click here.

Click here to take our poll!

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