Mrs. Yusko's Instagram Feed

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Best Fiction Teen Feedback Session

One of the best parts of being on Best Fiction for Young Adults (BFYA) is the opportunity to hear from teens who have read the nominated books. In my school, this is an ongoing process throughout the year where kids fill out a bookmark-sized review form about nominated and eligible titles. As part of the committee meetings, this happens during the "Teen Session," a time where local teen book groups are brought in to give their opinions about the nominated titles.

I LOVE this two hour session at each conference, and am always madly taking notes on my iPad, trying to get down each and every word. Teens speak about their favorite books from all the nominated titles (you can find the current list here). One of the curious things this time were the books that the teens did not speak about: "What Happened to Goodbye" (Dessen), "The Last Little Blue Envelope" (Johnson), "Cryer's Cross" (McMann) are just a few top authors that none of the teens spoke about. After being surprised by this for a little while, I realized that it was probably because of the last minute publication date/nomination date of most of these titles. Students probably hadn't had the opportunity to read the books before the conference. I look forward to hearing teen comments on these titles at Midwinter in Dallas.

Here are some of the teen comments, as close to word-for-word as I could get. I have not included every book that the teens stood up to talk about, but the ones which teens were clearly passionate about. (Exclamation points are included where the decibal lev)el increased). As near as I could tell, all the teens that spoke were in high school.

"Strings Attached" (Blundell): This book stirred up emotions, had love, drama, suspense, and a heartbreaking ending. One of the best books they had ever read. (I'm actually glad to hear this comment, because while I personally enjoyed this book, I was really worried about teen appeal and who the audience for this book would be).

"Beauty Queens" (Bray): Really liked, funny, interesting, wasn't girly, hilarious, comedic, great one-liners. (Yeah! This is one of the books on my Summer Reading suggestions).

"Iron Thorn" (Kittredge): Had nightmares after reading this, dark, interesting, amazing, characters, full of secrets, good gothic fantasy.

"Absolute Value of Mike" (Erskine): Discusses big ideas, loved comedy throughout the book, strive to be your own person. (There was also discussion about how this book is shelved in the children's section of some libraries and the young-looking cover, which does not help with teen appeal).

"Where She Went" (Forman): Author tapped into emotions, lived up to expectations, well-written, different perspective from the first book, perfect ending.

"Exposed" (Marcus): Loved it, accurate description of relationships, not a cheesy ending, loved the poems and only the words necessary were used.

"False Princess" (O'Neal): Loved it!

"Anna and the French Kiss" (Perkins): Classic romance, really like the book. Liked the details about Paris, which helped shape the book. You feel like you are part of the book while you are reading.

"Delirium" (Oliver): Different, unique, shocking ending, stayed up late reading, amazing.

"This Dark Endeavor" (Oppel): Good twist on the Frankenstein story!

"Between Shades of Gray" (Sepetys): Wonderful, good flow, believable characters, loved this book, another side to the World War II story, making you a character through the protagonist, emotionally rattling.

"Running Dream" (Van Draanen): Really liked!

"Blink and Caution" (Wynne-Jones): Liked points of view, really liked book.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Laini Taylor's new book, "Daughter of Smoke & Bone," comes out in September and has already been nominated for Best Fiction.  Even though I haven't read it yet (because one of the teens in my neighborhood stole my advance copy), I am looking forward to reading it!

Last month, at the ALA Conference in New Orleans, Little Brown Books/Hachette Books threw a terrific "launch" party for this book which I was lucky enough to be invited to. It was a such a fun evening, complete with "smoke," masks, fortune tellers, and bone readers. New Orleans was a perfect setting for this event, and it was great to meet the amazing Laini Taylor!

The book promises to be a terrifically creepy read, set in a unique world. "Black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Karou fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out."

By the way, here is a picture of me in my mask from the event. Of course, my daughter confiscated the mask as soon as she found it in my suitcase, so I will never see it again. But it was fun while it lasted!

Have you read the book? I'd love to know what you think...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler!

In addition to reading MANY books as part of the Best Fiction for Young Adults committee, we also get the chance to hear from teens about the nominated books (more on that later). Before this year's BFYA "Teen Session" at the ALA conference in New Orleans, authors Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler entertained the teens (and committee members) talking about their newest book, "The Future of Us," which they co-wrote. Thanks to Penguin Teen for making this event happen!

Asher ("Thirteen Reasons Why") and Mackler ("Tangled"), are each well-known authors with a LARGE fan base, but you might be surprised to discover that they did not know each other before they decided to write this book together. "The Future of Us," set in 1996, takes us on a journey with two teens, neighbors Emma and Josh who discover that they can see their future through a crazy application that has taken over Emma's computer...Facebook. What if you could see your future, who you were going to marry? On Facebook? Before Facebook was invented?

The book is AMAZING (my review will follow), and what follows is some notes I took on the talk the authors gave about how they wrote this book.

I was surprised to learn that they did not know each other before this project. One email from Carolyn to Jay led to many email conversations about books they like and don't like, and eventually to this idea to "share the creative space." When they felt safe to be themselves, they decided on the concept and the characters.

Both wanted to capture the feeling of the highs and lows of the teen years, much like a John Hughes movie (of which, they are huge fans). They both wrote the book, not one particular character, writing chapters together (back and forth via email) until it "felt right." Asher and Mackler told stories of times where they would tell the other "Oh, you're so smart, I'm so glad you wrote that scene" or "I'm sorry, but I have to take that out now" and then discovering that they had actually written it.

In the book, Emma discovers that she is not happy in her future and wants to change it. Josh, however, discovers that he has married the hottest girl in school and doesn't want Emma to mess with anything! It is really about the small choices that you make and how that affects your future.

After talking about what it was like writing the book, the authors took questions from the teen audience. Here are some of their answers:

Did you have a favorite character in this book?Both: Did not have a favorite character, but both liked the secondary characters and where they ended up going and how they evolved and grew.

How long did the process take?It was about a year for the whole process...nine months to write the book, plus extra time for edits.

How did you choose the character names?Jay: Very scientific about it and looked at the census data for that year to find out most popular names.
Carolyn: Picked based on feeling, and what felt right.

What were your favorite books growing up?Jay: "Bridge to Terabithia" (Paterson) was his favorite as a kid, and then he stopped reading as a teen except for required reading. In 2000, he read "Stotan" (Crutcher) and became a fan.

Carolyn: Loved Judy Blume books as a kid. Reading "Tuck Everlasting" was the first time she felt "deep." In this new book, Emma's favorite books on Facebook are listed as "Tuck Everlasting" and "Harry Potter."

What do you like about the other's writing?Jay: Loves Carolyn's characters. Her books are easy to read, the words are exactly what they need to be. She is the modern Judy Blume.
Carolyn: Loves the tension Jay creates. She didn't move from the time she started "13 Reasons Why" until she finished it. Likes that he thinks about what will keep the reader reading.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How long did it take you to become published? Do you have any suggestions for teens who want to write?Jay: Wrote a "horrible" book about the Easter Bunny which we will never have to read. There were 12 years of rejection until "13 Reasons Why" was published. He kept writing, and now 13 Reasons is going to be a movie.
Carolyn: Always loved reading, and didn't write until later. She wrote in journals at first. Now she throws away a lot, and does much rewriting. Aspiring writers should read and write what you like to write, what keeps you excited! 

By the way, Jay shared a story that should make fans very happy. While in New York, celebrating the completed novel with each other and their respective families, Jay received a phone call alerting them that the film rights to "The Future of Us" have already been sold!

The book comes out in November, so make sure to get on your library hold list now. If you are an EJH student/community member, I have an advance copy, so please comment here to be next in line (after several readers in my neighborhood...both teens and adults)!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Summer Reading...

August is just around the corner and it feels like forever since I have posted here. There are good reasons, including a lovely vacation to the East Coast (where, unlike Seattle, they have been having a summer), and the fact that my computer has been having "issues." As much as I love my iPad, it just doesn't let me access the blog to post, so I haven't been able to let you know about all the great books I've received and have been reading.

But, much like the Seattle summer, which has suddenly arrived (hopefully for longer than 78 minutes)...I'm hoping that my computer is finally working again! And there is much to catch up on! So, stay tuned...

Friday, July 1, 2011

Free Audiobooks for Summer!

Traveling to the beach this summer? Visiting grandparents? Forced to ride in the car with your family to a destination far, far away? Than you need audiobooks...and some good headphones.

Each week, from now until August 17th, you can download two totally FREE audiobooks through
SYNC. Though you've missed some great titles that were available during the first few weeks (sorry for not reminding you sooner!), there are still terrific titles to be had!

Anyone can participate, there's no required sign-up or personal info or credit card needed, the titles are in MP3 format compatible with ANY digital player or computer. The choices each week are one top Teen book and one top Classic. All the directions on how to download the files are on the website, including a "how-to" video.

If you take advantage of this, let me know what you think!

blogger templates | Make Money Online