What YA Writers are Reading this Summer

Columns

By Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

If you are an author, summertime is a time with deadlines looming in the far distance. A time to relax and to read a few books for the sheer pleasure of them.

I recently finished the final edit of my September true story, One Step At A Time (Pajama Press, 2012), which continues Tuyet’s experiences from Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan’s Rescue From War. I’ve begun writing the companion novel to Making Bombs For Hitler, but I’ve got ’til December. This means that I’ve had some time to read for pleasure (shhh, don’t tell my editors).

The novel I most recently enjoyed was Beth Revis’ Across The Universe (Razorbill, 2011). This fabulous first novel transcends all genres. I love the premise — Amy leaving typical teen life behind to be frozen and launched on a ship for 301 years of travel to an earth-like planet in a different galaxy. A second narrator — Elder — a young man destined to be the leader on this aircraft transporting Amy, her parents, and the other scientists and settlers for the destination planet. But much as this sounds like it would be all about transponder rings and metal hats, it isn’t. Against a backdrop of a believable future, we get nuanced characters, a murder mystery, lots of suspense, and a hint of romance.

Next up on my to-read-this-summer pile is Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens (Scholastic Press, 2011).

This got me to thinking. What are other young adult authors reading this summer? So I asked.

Maureen McGowan, author of Deviants, a young adult sci-fi novel coming in October, 2012 (Amazon Children’s Publishing) says, “I just finished reading Moira Young’s Blood Red Road (Doubleday, 2011) and it’s one of the best young adult novels I’ve read in a long time. The plot is tense and fast paced, but it’s complex and challenging both in its style and the subject mattter. I loved the author’s commitment to writing an unabashedly tough heroine and how, in this book, the girl saves the boys. My to-be-read pile is stacked very high right now, but I’m really looking forward to reading Diana Peterfreund’s latest young adult novel, For Darkness Shows the Stars (Balzer & Bray, 2012). It’s a loose re-telling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, set in a post-apocalyptic future and I’m hearing really great things about it.”

Cathy Ostlere, whose free verse novel, Karma (Razorbill, 2011), was shortlisted for the Canadian Library Association’s Young Adult Book of the Year, says, “I’ve just finished Lord of the Flies, Nobel Prize winner William Golding’s first novel, published in 1954. What I loved was the language!  Does anyone write like this anymore?  Lord of the Flies is a beautifully written book that provocatively challenges the reader with the question: What does evil look like?  Once I began I was trapped inside the rich, island world where the chant “Kill the beast!” made me shudder.  It’s a truly terrifying and absorbing read.  A must read for older teens.”

Ostlere’s summer reading pile includes verse novelist Helen Frost’s Crossing Stones (FSG Kids, 2009).  “I am a devotee of Frost’s work, particularly Keesha’s House (FSG Kids, 2003) so I’m looking forward to reading her accomplished, elegant poetry.”

Helaine Becker, author of the 2010 Libris Award Picture Book of the Year, A Porcupine in a Pine Tree (Scholastic, 2010), says, “I recently read and was blown away by Lena Coakley’s Witchlanders. Get a box of chocolates and a tall pitcher of something delish and prepare to settle in…”

Helaine wasn’t the only one to recommend Witchlanders. Valerie Sherrard, whose novel The Glory Wind (Fitzhenry & Whiteside 2010) won the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction last year, says, “Rapidly making its way toward the top of my TBR pile is Lena Coakley’s Witchlanders, which I’m very much looking forward to getting into soon.  I read an excerpt a while back and the prose was breathtaking, so I know this book is going to be exceptional.”

Sherrard recently read and fell in love with The Town that Drowned (Goose Lane Editions, 2011) by Riel Nason.

“It’s one of those stories with so much— rich, believable characters and an intriguing storyline. While the members of her community struggle to accept the scheduled flooding of their town, fourteen-year-old Ruby Carson has much more to deal with than the possible loss of her home. Ruby’s problems include frequently being made responsible for her autistic brother, a sudden ability to foresee tragedies, and difficulties with her peer group. This was definitely one of the best books I’ve read in the last year.”

Jocelyn Shipley, author of How To Tend A Grave (Great Plains Teen Fiction, 2012), recently read The Hangman in the Mirror, by Kate Cayley (Annick, 2011). “I loved this historical young adult book because it’s a gripping tale based on an actual story, it’s beautifully written and full of details that bring eighteenth century New France to life, and Françoise is a strong, gutsy and engaging protagonist, despite her horrible situation.”

On Shipley’s TBR pile is crush. candy. corpse. by Sylvia McNicoll (Lorimer, 2012)  “I really want to read this contemporary YA book because I’m a fan of Sylvia’s Beauty series, and her new book has a great premise, a great title and cover, and it’s getting great reviews.”

Sylvia McNicoll also had some suggestions. “I love the summer for catching up on backlist under a tree somewhere while my Jackapoo Mortie cools down. Sometimes a book comes along that’s just too good to be read only by the tweens and teens.  I stumbled on just such a novel: Glory Wind by Valerie Sherrard. The voice and the characters are so delightfully captivating, the story is reminiscent of the film My Girl or the story Bridge to Terabithea in that it captures a boy/girl friendship in its innocence and puts it through tragic stresses. I found myself lingering under the tree far longer than the dog wanted to and going to bed early just for the pleasure of reading this wonderfully written novel.”

Judith Robinson, author of Working Miracles: The Drama & Passion of Aimee Semple McPherson (James Lorimer & Company, 2006) says, “I loved Natalie Hyde’s Saving Armpit (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2011). Kids who read it will be encouraged and uplifted by the way the characters use their ingenuity to rescue a little league baseball team and a community post office. This book demonstrates a can do attitude that will brighten the spirits of anyone who reads it. As a teacher, I highly recommend it for middle grade use, and for reluctant readers at the high school level.”

Judith continues, “I’ve got a pile of books sitting on my desk waiting to be read. Jeanette Ingold, a feisty woman from Montana, has oodles of books published. Paper Daughter (Harcourt, 2010) is on my reading list because I love historical novels and it focuses on the plight of Chinese immigrants around 1900.”

Margriet Ruurs, author of A Mountain Alphabet (Tundra 1996) and dozens of other books, recommends The Winter Pony (Delacourt, 2011) by Iain Lawrence. It has “an interesting viewpoint. The main character is a pony accompanying humans on their quest to be the first to reach the South Pole.”

On Ruurs’ TBR pile is Rachel’s Secret a first novel by Shelly Sanders (Second Story, 2012). It’s a tale about Jews in turn-of-the-century Russia.

Shelly Sanders also has recommendations. “My most recent and memorable young adult read was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, which my eleven-year-old son encouraged me to read. I’m always drawn to Jewish historical fiction, with Jewish blood on my maternal side, but this book was by far the most intriguing so far, with death as the narrator and a compelling protagonist—Liesel—who retains her strength and hope in the darkest days through reading.”

“On my summer reading list is Enemy Territory by Sharon E. McKay about Palestinian and Israeli teen boys who must discard their differences in order to stay safe. Like McKay, I’ve seen the effects of religious animosity in Belfast, where my husband’s family resides. Seeing tanks with gunners poised in every direction has had a lifelong impact on me, and has deeply affected my own writing.”

GG-shortlisted Gillian Chan, whose upcoming novel, A Call To Battle: The War of 1812 (Scholastic, 2012) will be published in September, recommends Paul Yee’s Money Boy (Groundwood, 2011). “I liked it because of its unflinching description of life on the street for the protagonist who is thrown out when his father discovers he is gay. Ray Liu, the main character, is beautifully drawn in that the reader both feels sorry for him, coping with a new culture and a very traditional father, but also is aware and even irritated by him in that his attitude and poor decisions contribute to the difficult situation in which he finds himself.”

Chan also recommends Silence by Michele Sagara (DAW Books, 2012), a “paranormal thriller, the first in a trilogy, and it was great to get away from the whole vampire schtick to something original and quirky. Emma is grieving the death of her boyfriend when a chance encounter in a cemetery awakens her power to not only speak to the dead, but to draw upon them in order to do magic, making her a necromancer. Of course, she has no idea that this has happened, nor in fact that there is another secret organization dedicated to stopping necromancers, killing them if necessary. How Emma comes into her powers and refuses to use them for evil makes an interesting read. Sagara’s great strength is creating interesting characters so that all Emma’s friends are well rounded and believable.”

Karen Krossing, author of The Yo-Yo Prophet (Orca, 2011) recommends Pat Bourke’s novel for children ages nine to fourteen, Yesterday’s Dead (Second Story Press, 2012). She says it “is a perfectly paced historical fiction with finely crafted, likable characters. Set in 1918, it’s about thirteen-year-old Meredith, who travels from small-town Port Stuart to Toronto to work as kitchen help in a doctor’s home to help support her family. She hopes to train as a teacher one day, but when Spanish Influenza invades Toronto, Meredith may have to give up that dream forever.”

Krossing is currently reading Richard Ungar’s Time Snatchers (G.P. Putman and Sons, 2012), which she calls “a deliciously creative time travel story with unique characters and a plot that never slows its pace. Set in 2061, Caleb is a time snatcher ‘adopted’ by Uncle to steal priceless artifacts from a range of time periods. When Uncle plans to kidnap innocent kids to grow his business, Caleb starts to think about getting out. Richard is a Canadian author, although the publisher is American.”

Rina Singh, author of Nearly Nonsense: Hoja Tales from Turkey (Tundra 2011) says, “I finished reading Home of the Brave (Square Fish, 2008) by Katherine Applegate and just had to read it again to soak in all the poetry. It’s a novel in verse about young Kek, who escapes the brutal conditions of a Sudanese refugee camp to come to Minnesota in the dead of winter. He has never walked on snow and ice before and he falls. He wonders if he can ever call ‘this America’ home where even the ground cannot be trusted. Beautifully written. There are no wasted words or metaphors in this book. Through vignettes of small scenes, Kek’s world comes alive for us.”

Singh says, “I’m also planning to read Identical by Ellen Hopkins (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2008) and Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral (Razorbill, 2012). Chopsticks has been called a provocative tale of forbidden love and madness. It also comes as an app – an interactive, electronic version. Excited!”

Rebecca Upjohn, who has a book coming out in September called The Secret of the Village Fool (Second Story Press, 2012) recommends Brian Selznick’s Wonderstruck (Scholastic Press, 2011).

“I knew nothing about it (or the author) when I picked it up at the local library. The book tells two stories set fifty years apart, one in illustration and one in text. Each story is about a different character and the two weave back and forth until eventually they come together in one timeline. The book is about deaf culture, museums and family. What I found intriguing was how much sense it made to tell a story about a deaf character in illustrations. The book kept me guessing, most of the way, about how the two stories were connected. The book grew on me the further I went.”

Rebecca is also looking forward to reading Mercy: The Last New England Vampire, (Islandport Press, 2011) a novel for readers twelve+ by Sarah L. Thomson and inspired by a true incident. “There has been a glut of vampire books in the last few years but refreshingly this one is based on a real incident that took place in 1892. I’m interested to see how the author weaves together history with popular culture, if in fact she does!”

From this eclectic variety of books, you can see that Canadian young adult authors are as passionate about the books they read as they are about the ones they write. Enjoy!

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Youthful Appetite

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch


Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch's fifteenth book, Making Bombs For Hitler, appears on Feb 1, 2012 with Scholastic Canada.

Copyright 2010 Great Plains Publications/Enfield & Wizenty

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