Saturday, September 19, 2015

Sorry for the delay...

Hey strangers!

I just wanted to apologize for the slow-down in activity in September.

I initially had to wait to post anything new for a little bit, because Accio Lit was a school project and it needed to be graded. Then I got busy enjoying my two weeks off from school and felt I needed to take a break from writing constantly and, ya know, actually talk to my husband for more than 5 minutes before I fall into exhausted, grad school mania-induced sleep. And THEN I got an additional library job. Plus some other boring stuff happened that you won't care about. So it's been a busy month for me.

Anyway, I am BACK, though I will not be posting as frequently as I was when I was reading YA for class. I'm going to try to review one book a week. I'm pretty sure I can keep that pace up. So yeah, look out for some new reviews coming very soon. I am in the final pages of Golden Son, the second book in the Red Rising trilogy (zomgcannotwaittotalkaboutit) and I have the new A.S. King (which will be out on Tuesday) on deck for reviewing as well, so STAY TUNED.

Also, in a completely unintentional twist of fate, today is my favorite genius witch Hermione Granger's 36th birthday, so...


I'll have at least one review up by Sunday. See you then!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Saint Anything
by Sarah Dessen

Hardcover, 417 pages
Published on May 5, 2015 by Viking Books for Young Readers (First edition)
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Romance
Awards: Kids' Indie Next List Pick for Teens, Summer

MLA: Dessen, Sarah. Saint Anything. New York: Viking, 2015. Print. ISBN-13: 978-0451474704. Hardcover, $19.99.

Find it in your local library!

When her charismatic older brother Peyton’s delinquent behavior finally catches up to him, Sydney’s family is forced to deal with the fallout of his prison sentence and the consequences of the life he almost took in a drunk driving accident. Just when it feels like her parents will never truly see her from under the shadow of Peyton’s mistakes, Sydney meets the Chatham family, including quirky Layla and kind, handsome Mac, and they give her the acceptance she needs to carve out a life of her own.

Sydney Stanford feels like she’s always lived in her brother Peyton’s shadow. He’s brave and charming, and even when he made some serious mistakes, everything always seemed to go his way. Until one terrible night when it didn’t.

Sydney’s parents also live in Peyton shadow now – her mother doesn’t want to acknowledge that her son is in prison, so she treats him like a victim, and her father seems to go along with it to make life easier. Sydney, however, is not okay with letting go of the misery her brother caused, especially for the young teenager left paralyzed because Peyton got behind the wheel while he was drunk.

When she transfers from her fancy private academy to the local public high school to regain some normalcy, she meets the Chatham family, owners of Seaside Pizza. Quirky Layla Chatham quickly becomes her best friend, and Layla’s gentle, handsome brother Mac catches her eye even though Layla made it clear he’s off limits. But love has a way of finding us when we need it most, and the each of the Chathams help Sydney find her voice in Sarah Dessen’s newest novel, Saint Anything.

Here's the book trailer for Saint Anything:

Teen Talk

“I like realistic teen fiction because of the relatable characters, plus it’s easy to read, and never boring.” -Molly H., 18

These three qualities are what makes Sarah Dessen so enduringly popular among readers! 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki

This One Summer
by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki (Illustrator)

Paperback, 320 pages
Published May 6, 2014 by First Second Books (First edition)
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Graphic Novel
Awards: Governor General's Literary Award for
               Children's Literature (Illustration), 2014
               Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album, 2015
               Michael L. Printz Honor Book, 2015
               Caldecott Medal Honor Book, 2015

MLA: Tamaki, Mariko (writer) and Tamaki, Jillian (illus.). This One Summer. New York: First Second, 2014. Print. ISBN-13: 978-1596437746. Paperback, $17.99.

Find it in your local library!

Every year since she can remember, Rose and her parents trek to Awago Beach where they spend ten blissful days enjoying the last bright rays of summer sunshine as a family. This year, Rose and her summertime friend Windy find themselves entangled in the local teenagers’ drama as a means of avoiding Rose’s mounting family problems in this beautifully illustrated story about the perilous and thrilling journey from girlhood to grown-up.

The Wallace family’s annual vacation to their cabin on Awago Beach usually means that Rose spends two blissful weeks swimming in the lake, collecting rocks with her parents, and riding bikes with her summer friend Windy. But this year is different.

Just going to the beach and lounging around with her family and Windy doesn’t seem to be enough for Rose anymore. The girls begin to notice the Awago townie teenagers in all their dramatic zeal, and spying on them suddenly becomes their summer mission. Rose and Windy are curious about scary movies and sex, and Rose doesn’t want to admit her crush on store clerk Dunc.

Meanwhile, Rose’s parents – affable Evan and increasingly withdrawn Alice – won’t stop fighting, and as Alice’s depression worsens, Rose is increasingly frustrated and angered by her behavior. Sweet, outgoing Windy, who is a year younger than Rose, occasionally seems a little too immature.

Everything about the summer looks the same but feels different, and as Rose flashes back to the simpler memories of her childhood on Awago Beach, she realizes that things will never be the same after This One Summer.


I don’t even know where to start with this gorgeous graphic novel. Everything about it, from the quietly heartbreaking story to the startlingly accurate tween dialogue to the seriously PERFECT illustrations just made me melt.

Let me begin with my favorite image from This One Summer:

Jillian Tamaki draws such organic and emphatic movement that I feel like these characters are real. The fluid motion of Windy’s dancing just totally filled my heart for some reason. I love Windy. I finished this book thinking, she’s going to be such an awesome grown-up someday. This spread really captures the joy of being young, of dancing to your own tune. I’m in love.

Rose’s best quality, and one of the many reasons she’s such a compelling character, is her curiosity, always making observations. Yes, she is good at being quiet and sneaking around to catch pieces of information. But she also pays such close attention to her surroundings. We could all stand to be a little more attentive to each other.

There’s this moment of realization toward the end of the book that the mothers know pretty much everything that has happened with the girls over the summer vacation, right down Rose’s new crush. It weirdly surprised me. Weirdly, because now that I’m (chronologically) an adult, I should obviously know that parents ALWAYS know what’s going on, even if it doesn’t seem like they are paying attention. But I became so wrapped up in Rose and Windy and watching their experiences unfold from a tween perspective that I was genuinely surprised that the moms knew what they were up to. That’s how well Mariko and Jillian develop this story – I was transported into the girls’ world so deeply that I forgot the realities of the adult world for a moment. And that’s the true gift of This One Summer.

As you can see from the description, This One Summer was nominated for a bunch of awards, including the Governor General's Literary Award for Children's Illustration, sponsored by the Canada Council for the Arts. Here's a video of Jillian Tamaki discussing the book upon winning the award.

I totally agree when she talks about writer and illustrator being "co-creators," in the instance of This One Summer especially. The text is occasionally sparse, allowing the illustrations to tell the story in a way that words just couldn't. When a bowl slips from Alice's frustrated hands and smashes into pieces on the floor, or when Evan carries Rose to the cabin at the beginning of the story, those moments are made so much more powerful because we can see them. Jillian has complete command of our attention through her illustrations, helping us see what moments are most important. Her beautiful art makes me wish I could draw, and I want to hang some of these pictures on my wall. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith

100 Sideways Miles
by Andrew Smith

Hardcover, 277 pages
Published September 2, 2014 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (First edition)
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Awards: National Book Award Longlist for Young
               People's Literature, 2014
               NPR Best Book of the Year for Young Adults,

MLA: Smith, Andrew. 100 Sideways Miles. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2014. Print. ISBN-13: 978-1442444959. Hardcover, $17.99.

Find it in your local library!

After a freak accident as a child involving a dead horse that killed his mother and left him epileptic and scarred, Finn Easton measures his life differently from other people – in distance instead of time. Over the course of his junior year, Finn ponders life and his future, falls in love, and takes a memorable road trip with his laid-back prankster best friend Cade Hernandez in this quirky coming-of-age novel about self-discovery.

Sometimes Finn Easton feels like his life isn’t really his own.

A bizarre accident, in which a dead horse tumbled from a knackery truck and plunged from a bridge to the ground below, killed his mother, leaving seven-year-old Finn with epilepsy and some majorly strange-looking scars on his back. He shares his name and scars and epilepsy with the lone survivor of a race of murderous winged aliens who invade earth to consume humans in his father’s wildly popular science-fiction novel, and he lives every day at the whim of floral-scented seizures that occur with very little warning. Plus, he’s a seventeen-year-old virgin.

Finn worries that he can’t control the trajectory of his own life, but he’s determined to try. With his wild and mischievous best friend Cade Hernandez at his side, Finn spends his junior year playing baseball, pulling pranks, and falling madly in love with Julia, the beautiful and mysterious new girl in town. Just as he finally starts to feel like he’s leaving the pages of his father’s book behind, Julia makes a decision that affects them both and launches him right back where he started. One fateful road-trip later, Finn realizes that sometimes life’s unexpected detours lead us to find our own roads to happiness.


I liked 100 Sideways Miles. I didn’t love it. That’s not to say that you won’t – it was nominated for the National Book Award, which is a Really Big Deal and is usually an excellent endorsement. But my feelings are lukewarm.

The good: the writing in 100 Sideways Miles is fantastic, and the non-linear plot filled with little digressions of daily life is compelling and meshes with the overall story. The weirdness of this novel really appealed to me, and I thought it was cleverly executed overall, especially the road-trip twist at the end. There’s a condom-buying scene that absolutely nails the awkwardness of being a hormone-ravaged teenager, and Finn’s contemplations on whether he’s ready to have sex are so funny and sincere that it hurts. I’m interested to read Andrew Smith’s other books. And how gorgeous is that cover?!

The biggest (though not the only) reason I didn’t love this book was the female characters. Let me explain.

First, on the subject of characters, I should say that Finn was deeply obnoxious to me through about the first third of the book. The smarty-pants “I count time in miles” shtick felt empty to me. But he did redeem himself through the second half of the novel when his normal teenage insecurities started to bring him back down to earth with the rest of us, and by the end he felt very real. Cade Hernandez is ridiculous and I couldn’t help but like him, even when I couldn’t stand him.

But to return to the female characters: the more minor of the two is a German exchange student named Monica who is, um, seeing? dating? Cade, the guy who according to Finn makes all females swoon. I honestly have no idea what to call their interactions. She apparently pays Cade to allow her to perform sexual favors for him in a shed by their high school, which I’m not gonna lie, makes NEGATIVE sense.

Like, I am more inclined to believe in the weird people-eating angel-aliens in Finn’s dad’s book than I am to buy that a teenage girl would ever suggest and then happily follow through with this arrangement.

There’s just no way. And then they hang out and go to a party kind of like they’re dating, and Cade misses her (I think?) when she moves back to Germany. Soooo… I really have no idea what to make of any of this, other than that Andrew Smith was trying to live out a high school fantasy through this totally implausible and mildly offensive relationship. Either way, she serves no purpose and has no personality to speak of.

It has been a few days since I finished this book, and as of the moment I type this I have already forgotten the main female character’s name. THAT is the extent to which she is one-dimensional and unchanging. (Okay, looked it up, her name is Julia.) Here’s the sum total of what I know about Julia: she is half black, she’s from Chicago, she is creative, her ex-boyfriend raped her and is currently in prison for it, and Finn is in love with her. Oh, and she drives a Mustang. I didn’t get any feel for her personality and I have no idea what Finn sees in her outside of this sudden overwrought love that came out of nowhere and seems to be driven largely by his desire to have sex with someone. I’m sure she’s a great girl with a life and friends and a personality, but our narrator Finn has filled us in on none of these things.

I went on this tirade in the Red Rising review, and it is even more blatant and frustrating here – rape is NOT a plot device. In 100 Sideways Miles, the assault is mentioned in any meaningful way exactly once to explain away Julia’s sudden arrival to California from Chicago, and then never again. That she is a rape survivor plays into the plot of the novel NOT AT ALL. You could remove this scene and the book would be totally unchanged. There’s just no reason for it to exist.

Victimization is NOT THE ONLY WAY to give a female character depth – not that it gives Julia any depth anyway because she doesn’t seem to be affected by what happened to her. She does not grow or change. Julia’s only real point of existing in this book is for Finn to dream about sleeping with her and then fall hopelessly in love. I know this is crazy, but I felt so bad for this fictional character because her story wasn’t being told, and worse, because her own boyfriend didn’t seem to care enough to tell it.

I liked 100 Sideways Miles. It might sound like I didn’t, but I did. Just be warned: the character development outside of Finn and Cade isn’t just weak, it is non-existent, so read this one for the story and the accurate, occasionally quite funny depiction of dudebro friendship. Recommended for older teens 15+ because of language and sexual themes.

Here's author Andrew Smith discussing 100 Sideways Miles, wherein he covers a bunch of other stuff in the book that I didn't get to:

Too many fantastic quotes in this book not to make one, so stay tuned!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Impossible Knife of Memory
by Laurie Halse Anderson

Paperback, 416 pages
Published June 2, 2015 by Speak (First edition published in 2014)
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Social Issues
Awards: National Book Award Longlist, Young
               People's Literature, 2014

MLA: Anderson, Laurie Halse. The Impossible Knife of Memory. New York: Speak, 2015. Print. ISBN-13: 978-0147510723. Paperback, $9.99.

Find it in your local library!

Hayley Kincaid and her veteran father Andy have been running for too long, always trying to stay one step ahead of Andy’s crippling PTSD. When they attempt to settle in Andy’s hometown for Hayley’s senior year of high school, Hayley and Andy are forced to confront the demons that have plagued them for so long in this gripping tale about the searing pain of loss and finding the courage to face the dangerous memories that threaten to consume them both.

For the last five years, Hayley Kincaid and her father Andy have been on the run.

Andy, a decorated Iraq War veteran who spent four tours overseas before an injury ended his military career, suffers from crippling waves of post-traumatic stress disorder that crash into him without warning, making it difficult to keep a job or live a normal life. Hayley, his beleaguered daughter, lived nearly her entire adolescence at his side as he drove trucks across the country to keep them afloat and his demons at bay. Homeschooling herself from the passenger seat of a big-rig, Hayley always kept one eye on her unsteady parent to prevent him from drowning in his own terrifying memories.

When Andy decides to move back to his emptied family home to regain some normalcy for seventeen-year-old Hayley, she is thrust into senior year in a traditional pubic high school for the first time ever. Unused to the structure of classes and homework and unwilling to negotiate the social landscape of high school politics, Hayley allows her caustic observations and dark humor to eclipse the possibility of a fresh start. Her only friend, well-meaning Gracie, has problems of her own as her parents’ divorce gets increasingly contentious. When Hayley meets clever, persistent Finn, she falls hard despite her best efforts to avoid her feelings, and the two struggle to open up to each other.

Meanwhile, Andy’s half-hearted attempts to reintegrate into civilian society are becoming more difficult and less frequent as he turns inward, relying on drugs and alcohol to numb his pain. Hayley assumes more responsibility for her dad as his self-destructive behavior worsens and constant worry consumes her. She deftly navigates the minefield of her father’s PTSD, but the dangers are becoming impossible to avoid.
“The fear made me angry and the anger made me afraid and I wasn’t sure who he was anymore. Or who I was.”
The Impossible Knife of Memory explores the lingering trauma of war and its impact on a family whose abiding love for each other is the only thing keeping them together, even as they fall apart.


Anderson deftly tackles the effects of America’s most recent wars on its veterans and their families without taking a stance on the wars themselves, which in itself is an impressive feat. Hayley’s first person narrative is sprinkled with Andy’s italicized flashbacks, which are truly haunting and put his suffering into perspective. Watching Andy self-destruct is heartbreaking, and Hayley’s descriptions of her routines and acute observations of his behavior intended to keep him alive left me aching in sympathy.

On the subject of Hayley’s rebellious streak: many reviewers mentioned that she’s the textbook “angsty teenager,” but I didn’t feel that way at all, mostly because I related to her a great deal. Hayley’s clearly a smart girl. If she weren’t, she would be way further behind because she had no formal education for years prior to Belmont High. I was also a smart, snarky underachiever in high school.

Imagine April Ludgate in high school. That was me.
Full disclosure: I spent every summer of junior and senior high school doing “mandatory community service” (which, as Hayley rightly points out, is incredibly hypocritical) to make up for all the detention I got throughout each year. I wasn’t a bad kid; I never got into any real trouble. I just really, REALLY hated high school. At the time, all the trappings of high school felt very juvenile and “beneath” me. I am a little ashamed to admit all of this now, and I don’t recommend going through your teen years as surly as I was. But I get it.

When you’re dealing with adult issues (like Andy’s PTSD) that are beyond what your teenage responsibilities should be, the seven hours a day you spend in high school can seem like a giant waste of time. Other people’s relationship drama and the cliques and politics of adolescence just aren’t that important. Hayley is clearly irritated and impatient with all of this because her troubles are so much bigger. I’m not saying she handles this appropriately. I’m just saying I understand.

The problem is, Hayley knows how to be a caretaker, basically parenting her father in dangerous and uncharted waters with little help from adults, but she doesn’t know how to be a teenager. Lurking under the surface of Anderson’s narrative is the knowledge that Andy’s PTSD must remain a secret if Hayley wants to avoid the foster system and surrender her dad to his demons. This would be terrifying for anybody, but especially a teen whose stability has been ripped out from underneath her so many times. Hayley must learn to trust and share her secrets in order to avoid becoming a casualty of her own internal war.

Recommended for teens 14 and up, especially fans of realistic, gritty fiction that depicts the hard realities that many teens face every day.

Below is an NPR Weekend Edition podcast interview with Laurie Halse Anderson about The Impossible Knife of Memory:

Here's the book trailer:

Laurie Halse Anderson is active on Twitter, and her website features a list of the rest of her (all awesome) books and her bio.

Teen Talk

“[Realistic YA] appeals to me because it is a way of reassurance when no one else around you in your life feels the same way.” -Samantha K., 17

Laurie Halse Anderson is the queen of hard-to-talk-about subjects in YA lit, and The Impossible Knife of Memory, along with other books like Speak and Wintergirls, are wonderful for giving readers an outlet for their own struggles so they know they're not alone.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Red Rising by Pierce Brown (Red Rising #1)

Red Rising
by Pierce Brown

Paperback, 416 pages
Published July 15, 2014 by Del Ray (First edition published in January 2014)
Genre: Science Fiction, Adventure
Series: Red Rising Trilogy #1
Awards: Goodreads Choice Award for Best Debut 
               Goodreads Author, 2014
               Alex Awards Nominee, 2015

MLA: Brown, Pierce. Red Rising. New York: Del Ray, 2014. Print. ISBN-13: 978-0345539809. Paperback, $14.00.

Find it in your local library!

When Darrow, whose lowborn caste mined the underground depths of Mars for generations with the promise of a better future on the terraformed surface, discovers that his entire life has been a lie, he must decide whether to continue toiling as a slave or risk his life to infiltrate the upper class and incite a revolution.

Humanity has long ago conquered the stars. Earth lost a violent civil war against the pioneers of Luna, and humans have finally made it to Mars. In this new reality, democracy is abandoned for a more rigid social caste system of haves and have-nots, coded by the colors of the Earth they have long since left behind. Powerful families of Golds rule with an iron fist, while for centuries the Reds are born and bred to slave away in the dangerous mines under the Martian crust, clinging to the Golds’ promise of a future in which they will inhabit the terraformed surface.

Problem is, that future is already here. The Reds just don’t know it.

The best Helldiver in his mining colony, sixteen-year-old Darrow works hard at the hazardous mining trade to support his loving, idealistic young wife Eo, though the inequitable compensation he receives is as unfair as the oppressive decrees under which the Reds live. Darrow certainly recognizes the system’s injustice, but unlike Eo, he finds a way to reconcile his frustration with the mostly happy existence they have created for themselves. When Eo sacrifices her life in a small but momentous act of defiance against the Golds, Darrow’s carefully constructed world is shattered and replaced with grief and hollow rage. He buries Eo’s body in his own act of rebellion, and like his wife, he is sentenced to death.

Except Darrow does not die. A subversive rebel group known as the Sons of Ares rescues Darrow and offers him the chance to seek justice for his people. They show him the beautiful surface city full of wealth and excess, built on the broken backs of Darrow’s ancestors. They ask him to transform himself into a Gold, to become in body the kind that heartlessly stole from him his only source of happiness, so that he can enter the world of the Gold elite and destroy their society from within. Eo’s dream becomes Darrow’s single-minded purpose, and the painstaking process begins to turn him into the thing he hates the most.

Dismantling the Golds will take every ounce of Darrow’s strength, and he believes he’s ready. But does a lowly Red have what it takes to bring them to their knees?


For the most part, this book was awesome. There was a lot of hype around Red Rising when it first came out about it being the next Hunger Games, Ender's Game, and even Lord of the Flies. Sure, there were recognizable moments that recalled the games in The Hunger Games and (much to my delight) the sorting hat in Harry Potter, but they were just moments -- Red Rising stands firmly on its own two feet.

I can't say too much about what happens after my booktalk ends because spoilers (it might seem like I said a lot here but the author covers a lot very quickly to set up the story that follows), but if this book seems to start out slow, it picks up significantly after the events described above. The world-building is fantastic, and even though the author's writing is clean and simple, it packs an emotional punch when it matters most. The secondary characters are fleshed out enough to make you really care about them, and Darrow himself is not a perfect hero, which is refreshing. I am also a sucker for a good political drama, and Red Rising definitely hit the mark.

There's a lot more I could say about this book that I loved, but I want to cover one major issue here, and that is the treatment of women in Red Rising.

First of all, Darrow's wife Eo literally exists to be a catalyst to spur him into action. Her death feels sudden and unnecessary until you realize that she died so that Darrow might get angry enough to take action against the way his people are treated. I don't really understand why Eo couldn't have been the hero of the story, given that Darrow doesn't seem to have anywhere near the backbone she does until she basically commits suicide to make him angry (smells a little sexist, though I don't think that was the author's intention). A lot of bloggers seem to agree with me on this point, and the next.

Briefly: rape as a plot device is not okay. As readers, we need to be paying attention to characters for who they are, not just what happens to them, and turning female characters into victims to push the story forward is both misogynistic and lazy storytelling. I understand the situation in which this type of violence occurs in the book and recognize that, in the context, it makes some small amount of sense to include it.


Women should NOT be made into victims solely to give a male character something to fight against. The physical and emotional fallout of sexual assault is not given any voice in Red Rising outside of how Darrow feels about it, and frankly, I do not care how Darrow feels about it. Men should not pat themselves on the back because they are horrified by or would never commit rape -- we ALL should be horrified, and to make basic human decency a "heroic" quality is wrong. I definitely wouldn't not read or recommend this book for this reason, but it gave me pause enough that I felt it should be mentioned.

That said, I just got the second book in the trilogy, Golden Son, in the mail and I'm really excited to read it. Hopefully the author rectifies the misogyny as the series continues, because it really was my only complaint about this book (though not a small one). Recommended for older teens (15+) because of the violence and aforementioned themes. Dystopia and sci-fi fans especially will find Red Rising a very worthy member of the canon.

There's a song in Red Rising called Persephone's Song that is REALLY important to the plot, especially in the beginning. Author Pierce Brown singled out this version on Facebook, and it's very much the kind of folk tune that I imagined as I was reading:

This Tumblr titled Red Rising Reminds Me is pretty hilarious, as it makes comparisons between Red Rising and other books, movies, TV shows, history, etc. This is one to look at after you're done reading -- not that there's really any major spoilers, but it won't make sense until after you finish the book. Definitely worth checking out though, I lol'd.

Finally, the Red Rising website, which is pretty cool in itself, features a "draft" to determine which house you would be in (I'm in house Juno).

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The YA Guide to Book Awards: The Alex Awards

Welcome to the second post in the YA Guide to Book Awards series. Just a reminder of what these posts all about:
Over the next few weeks, I'll be doing a rundown of several different book awards, what they mean, who decides which books receive them (and a few examples of which books have), and why you should pick them up next time you’re in search of a new favorite book.
Last time we covered the Michael L. Printz Award, and this week we'll be talking about YALSA's Alex Awards.

I wanted to discuss this one in particular for two reasons: first, in my conversations with teens over the last few weeks, I've been reminded that that teen reading interests are diverse and not limited to YA. I've talked to readers of Nicholas Sparks and Jodi Picoult and fans of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, among others. As a matter of fact, weirdly enough, the people I know who read the most YA (or read it most often) are actually adults, not teens. So there's that.

Second, the next Accio Lit review will be for Red Rising by Pierce Brown. This book is a perfect example of how confusing the categorization of fiction can be. I think that very often an author writes a book because they have a great story to tell, and they don't really consider an "intended audience." So when a publisher snags it, they want to market the book to whoever they think will be most likely to buy it. If that group is teens, then YA it is. If it's not, then it gets classified by genre in regular fiction.

Anyway, Red Rising fits into that weird in-between category. In fact, Red Rising was an Alex Award nominee in 2015. It's got a teenage protagonist but it deals with more adult-oriented themes than the average YA dystopian novel, and the style is a bit more literary. And even though it was technically not marketed toward teens, I mean, look at this cover compared to other dystopian teen novels:

So I guess the lesson to be learned here is to always remember that good books come in all kinds of packages (and in all sections of the bookstore or library), so don't be afraid to explore to find something you like.

I bring you another YALSA award:

The Alex Awards

What is it?

According to YALSA:
The Alex Awards are given to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18. The winning titles are selected from the previous year's publishing. The Alex Awards were first given annually beginning in 1998 and became an official ALA award in 2002.
The Alex Awards are sponsored by the Margaret A. Edwards Trust. Margaret Alexander Edwards (called "Alex" by her friends) was a librarian at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Maryland who led the library field in administering young adult programming for over thirty years. She set high standards for other young adult librarians at Enoch Pratt, insisting that they read over 200 books for young adults before they were allowed to interact with young people, She felt that the best way to reach the young adult audience was to make them a part of the library community; she went into high schools and booktalked (unheard of back then) and created a version of the modern-day bookmobile to make sure young adults who were unable to get to the library would have the opportunity to read books from the collection she spent years developing. Perhaps most importantly. Edwards alerted the library profession to the importance of young adult literature and library services.

The Alex Award is given to identify those adult titles that have the most interest and appeal to teens (ages 12-18).
The Alex Committee considers any title from a publisher's adult list in the calendar year prior to the announcement [...] Books published outside of the United States are not eligible unless a U.S. edition is available. Works of joint authorship and editorship will be eligible. Titles that are self-published, published only in eBook format, and/or published from a publisher outside of the US will not be considered eligible until the first year the book is available in print or distributed through a US publishing house. 

Who decides?

In 2002, the ALA gave the Alex Awards its own committee, who publishes not only the ten winning titles, but also a vetted list of nominated titles each year. The committee consists of nine librarians who are also members of YALSA, and they serve a one-year term that begins or ends at each ALA Midwinter Conference. Like the Printz award, the Alex committee also includes a consultant from the ALA book review publication Booklist (who doesn't vote). Librarians (and teens!) can nominate books for the Alex awards each year, and if you've read a book recently that fits these qualifications, you can suggest nominations here.

2015 Winners:


Why should you care?

I think it's important to occasionally read outside of your comfort zone to get familiar with the variety of genres and types of books that are out there. The Alex Awards give readers of YA a chance to read the kinds of stories that they love, but that cross generational, thematic, and complexity bounds into books that have more characteristically adult themes or writing. Personally, I own four of the ten titles listed above just because I read the blurbs and thought they sounded appealing. (I'm especially looking forward to Wolf In White Van because the author John Darnielle is the lead singer of the Mountain Goats, who I LOVE).

In the next few weeks I'll pick a few more awards to cover, so stay tuned!