Tag Archives: Young Adult Literature

“The Simpsons” Meets YA Lit

The Simpsons, Season 23: Episode 6: “The Book Job”
(Watch it temporarily on Hulu here)

In this spoof of the Ocean’s Eleven franchise, Homer, Bart, and a gang of Springfieldians plot to “gang-write” the next tween fantasy publishing sensation  so that they can strike it rich.  Featuring guest voices of Neil Gaiman and Andy Garcia, this episode layers laugh-out-loud YA lit references on top of the familiar heist setup from Hollywood.  In an all-too-real subplot, Lisa Simpson endeavors to write her own novel, but can’t get past the procrastination temptations of online word games and CD re-organization (NaNoWriMo much?)  This episode should be required viewing for anyone involved in YA lit who likes to laugh.  Two thumbs up!

Write your favorite moments in the combox below.

Homer: (After finishing writing the book) I just hope we put in enough steampunk…whatever that is.


Book Talk – The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Mini Booktalk on The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

I haven’t used this with teens yet, but feel free to use it in a library if you’d like.

Life isn’t easy on greasers, and greasers aren’t easy on life.  These teens throw punches at their friends for fun, and pull out switchblades and guns on their rivals, the rich kids in their town.  Ponyboy, yes that’s his real name, lives with his two older brothers, and the greaser life is all they know.

Late one night, a chance encounter with the rich kids will leave one rival dead, and two greaser friends on the run from the law.  Can Ponyboy handle the tough life, and can his brothers keep him safe?  To find out more about how these boys laugh at danger and live to tell the tale, read The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.

Busy Busy Busy

Oh my! It’s been awhile since I last posted.  I’m sorry!  My summer class on children’s literature, along with the move to my new apartment, has kept me safely away from blogging for too long.

The fall semester just started, and I’m settling in nicely to my new place.  This semester, I’m taking three courses:  management of school library media centers,  resources for the school curriculum, and young adult literature (this one with a particularly prominent player in the field).

Even though I’ve just begun the semester, I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of teen reads of note recently:

-The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins was phenomenal.
The Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, author of my beloved Shadow of the Wind, was alright but largely disappointing.
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, one of the new classics I somehow missed during adolescence.
Monster by Walter Dean Myers is shaping up to be the first audio book I’ve really enjoyed.  Most other audio books I’ve felt forced to finish, scarcely desiring to change the CD in my car.  This one, however, is most engaging.

For the YA Lit course, every week is dedicated to a different genre, and I get to choose the trade books I want to read from a list of a half dozen or so for each genre.  I like being able to choose what I like, especially in some genres that may have pronounced variation within them.  I plan to write miniature book talks for each, in order to remember what I liked best about them.  More to come soon….

Sharp North – Book Review

Sharp North
by Patrick Cave
First published in Great Britain in 2004 by Simon & Schuster UK.
Published in USA in 2006 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York.

Imagine a future in which the Earth has gone through drastic climate changes, and northern Europe is permanently covered in snow, and Mediterranean Europe is bone dry, save for the rising seas.  Human life becomes more difficult and uncertain, and few European settlements are still inhabitable.  Technological development, though advanced, has come to a standstill, as natural resources have become extremely scarce.

However, artificial genetic and reproductive technologies are still thriving, and serve as the backbone to this controlled modern Britain.  Conceiving a child has become a luxury only available to members of the Great Families or their wannabees, the upper class known as Visions…and natural conception is out of the question, a filthy and irresponsible alternative only undertaken by the low class Scroats.  Responsible families with enough money must first file applications with the Fertility Board, then get to choose the most attractive and advantageous genetic characteristics for their child.  Despite society’s unbridled affair with genetic manipulation, the state has put a ban on cloning, due to physical abnormalities that frequently were present in the experimental clones.  However, the Great Families see no reason to follow this statute, and they create clones to ensure the continuation of their power in the years to come.  These “spare” clones can come in handy as either a temporary replacement (in the case of injury or temporary amnesia a la Dave) or as extra body organs that are a perfect match.

Amid the wails of this disordered society are Mira, a plucky young woman chased from her isolated northern village, and Kay, the distracted and rebellious Scroat son of a powerful Saint family leader.  Mira witnesses a mysterious murder, and can’t ignore what she’s seen.  She vows to make sense not only of the crime itself, but of her friend Gil’s indifference to it.  Why was a woman from the South in her village, and what did she do to deserve such a cold death?  Mira’s insatiable thirst for understanding drives her to drastic measures and to a world she never knew existed.  Kay lives a life of privilege, separated from the gritty life all around him.  Like most teen lit rich kids, he longs to live a normal life, and to blend in with other Scroats like himself.  In Sharp North, Mira and Kay must push themselves further than they ever believed possible in order to answer their purpose that grows more concrete by the day.

Although I haven’t many novels about future dystopias since high school, but I found Sharp North to be a great combination of dramatic tension, fast-paced action, character development, soapboxing on issues, and interpersonal relations.  I enjoyed Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four and Huxley’s Brave New World, but I think that Cave adds an added portion of emotional relatability into his protagonist Mira.  Perhaps this can be attributed to the fact that she and I are both female, but I think that Mira’s quiet moments in her isolated, snowy village, endow her with a certain sense of country, if not old-world, charm.  Sharp North, though engaging, was a long read at more than 500 pages.  Some critics have complained that parts of the story move too slowly, but I enjoyed those sections that allowed me to really get to know the changes going on in the characters.  I highly recommend Sharp North for teen readers ages 14 and up and for adults, with warnings about the content (mentioned above) for younger readers.

Sequel AND Prequel – in one volume (yep!):
Blown Away: British title, originally published in 2006
The Selected: Published in 2010
(According to author Patrick Cave’s website, Blown Away is book two in the series and The Selected is book three.  However, according to every other bibliographical resource I’ve looked at (Novelist, WorldCat, etc), they are the same book, although they have different titles and different covers.  If anyone has read them and knows, please do comment below.  I ordered Blown Away from inter-library loan, as I don’t really like the typeface in The SelectedSharp North used “Bembo” font; I liked that quite a bit.)

American Born Chinese – Graphic Novel Book Review

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
Color by Lark Pien

Yang creates a mini, modern-day epic about the experiences of Jin, a boy born in American from Chinese immigrant parents.  American Born Chinese garnered many awards, including the American Library Association’s Michael J. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature, and appears on many YA top ten lists.

The reader follows him from his first day at a new elementary school through the awkward middle school years. Jin is ostracized by his young classmates because of his race and doesn’t make a true friend until he meets a new classmate, Wei-Chen Sun, who has just immigrated from Taiwan.  Jin struggles with trying to fit into the white culture, especially after he discovers he fancies a white girl named Amelia.  To his dismay, no matter how hard he tries, Jin can never change what skin he’s in.

Parallel to Jin’s story are two other threads in American Born Chinese: a retelling of a popular Chinese folktale about the Monkey King, and look at the life of a white teenager named Danny who endures humiliation every year when his stereotypically off-the-boat cousin Chin-Kee visits from China.  Though disparate in time and place, the three stories all offer characters that are unhappy with who they are born to be, and go to measures to try to reinvent themselves.

American Born Chinese tells a universal story of coming to terms with one’s heritage, and all the baggage that comes along with it.  Moreover, it does it in such a way that is realistic, easy to sympathize with, and sometimes poignant.  Yang and Pien create an inspired combination of text and visuals that literally breaks the barriers of the frames to enhance an already excellent storyline.

This graphic novel is highly recommended for young adult readers.  It was a very quick read (I’m an adult and it took me about an hour to 90 minutes to read), and kept my attention nicely.  The racist remarks may be something to weigh when considering for younger readers, but these comments serve to exaggerate and dispel stereotypes, not to perpetuate them.

Gutter Geek did a thorough review of American Born Chinese here.

Have you read American Born Chinese? What did you think?

No Flying, No Tights

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Sorry I’ve been MIA for awhile from my little blog – but I do keep up with my google reader, at least.  I’ve been busy with my first annotated bibliography for my Fundamentals of Library Science summer course, and I’ve let my meager writing fall by the wayside.

My topic of research is graphic novels, and how they can be used in libraries to support literacy.  If you know of any cool websites, please write a comment about it; it would be most welcomed.

A librarian coworker highly recommended this awesome site called No Flying, No Tights, which includes great recommendations of graphic novels, based on age and genre.  I’ve explored it only a little, but so far, it looks like a great readers’ advisory (and personal reading) tool.  Tell me what you think.

Chinese Cinderella – Book Review

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Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter

by Adeline Yen Mah


The original Cinderella story dates back to China’s Tang dynasty (618-906) Ye Xian tale.  The heroine was an unwanted stepdaughter who escaped the clutches of her evil stepmother thanks to her own hard work and perseverance.

Like Ye Xian, Adeline (her Chinese given name is Jun-ling) received no tenderness or compassion from her family; both of “their stories may be perceived as talismans against despair” (p. 197).  This autobiography follows Adeline’s personal history beginning with her birth, through her years of emotional abuse in her family’s home, to her adolescent years living as the lone one of her boarding school classmates who receives neither letters nor visitors.  As a child, she didn’t look for pity, she sought only to live unnoticed by her classmates rather than reveal the sad realities of her home life.  Yen Mah intertwines some of her native China with this retelling of her life story: the significance of the Chinese pictorial written language, how children are given names in Westernized Chinese families, and the internal tension experienced by Adeline as a speaker of both English and Chinese.

Chinese Cinderella was written for young adult readers and uses straightforward language and storytelling techniques, albeit with a somewhat formal vocabulary.  The author’s reminiscences of her unhappy childhood awake sympathy in the reader; young readers are drawn to her story, sharing in her hope of a better life as she grows up.  I highly recommend Chinese Cinderella to pre-teens, teens, and adults alike, for Yen Mah’s inspiring personality that radiates from the pages.  Personally, I enjoyed reading Yen Mah’s story thoroughly and I could hardly put it down.  I’m looking forward to reading her full biography, Falling Leaves: The Memoir of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter, found in adult libraries.

For more information about Adeline Yen Mah and her great work, visit her official web page here.  There, you can find links to her books, letters from fans, biography, and more.


Yen Mah, A. (1999). Chinese cinderella: the true story of an unwanted daughter. New York: Dell Laurel-Leaf.

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