Tag: hunger games

A grown-up’s guide to YA lit

Over the last two months, I’ve been working on a guest post for In the Library with the Lead Pipe about YA lit. It’s been a great experience (I’ve never had an editor before!), and I’m really proud of the final version of the article, “Are You Reading YA Lit? You Should Be.” Here’s the intro:

I’m a young adult librarian, but I didn’t read young adult lit when I was a teen myself. I was a precocious reader and desperate to be treated like a grown-up, so I read books for grown-ups because anything else was just too puerile for someone as obviously mature and sophisticated as I. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties, working on my MLS and realizing that I wanted to work with teens, that I discovered there was a huge, glorious world of excellent YA lit that I had completely missed. Now it’s almost all I read.

Outside of YA circles, I sometimes find myself having to justify my tastes to others. Yes, a lot of why I read YA lit is because I work with teens. But even if I were to switch careers, I would continue reading YA lit because it’s good. That’s not to say adult lit isn’t, of course, but YA lit has a freshness that I really enjoy, and it rarely gets bogged down in its own self-importance. YA lit is also mostly free of the melancholy, nostalgia, and yearning for the innocent days of childhood that I find so tedious in adult literary fiction.

I think the reason some grown-ups look down their noses at YA lit is because they haven’t read any of it recently, so they don’t know how good it’s gotten—or how different it is from what they might imagine it to be. While there are still books that deal with Big Issues, the “problem novel” of the ’70s and ’80s has been eclipsed by more slice-of-life contemporary fiction, romances, fantasies, mysteries, sci-fi stories, and genre-blending tales that defy categorization. For as much attention as the Twilight series has gotten, it’s certainly not all that’s out there.

I talk about what YA lit is and isn’t, how YA lit is similar to and different from adult lit, recent trends in YA lit, and grown-ups reading YA lit (plus some suggestions for adults who want to give YA lit a try). It’s kind of long, but I hope you’ll read it!

I want to say again how awesome it was to work with Lead Piper Brett Bonfield and my guest editors Candice Mack and Nancy Hinkel. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to write this piece with their insightful input and to be an ambassador for YA lit to a wider audience.

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5 Comments July 27, 2011

Miscellany: keeping books in libraries, celebrities tweet about THE HUNGER GAMES, the Phoenix Award, and more

Today I had a hair cut with a new stylist, Tom, and in the usual first appointment smalltalk, my profession came up. Tom confessed that he hasn’t been to a library since he was in college (and even then it was only because he was forced to use the microfilm reader, which was kept in a moldy basement), so I spent some time explaining to him what libraries are really like, the idea of the library as a community center, how libraries provide free computer and Internet access and why that’s more important every day, and generally what libraries have to offer beyond books.

But then tonight while I was working my way through my Instapaper queue (I am never going to see the bottom of that), I came across “Why have libraries?” (and “Why have libraries? part 2”) at Something Different Every Day. Long-time children’s librarian SD Lempke argues that while many libraries are sniffing at being “warehouses for books” and embracing leaner, hypercurrent collections, being a warehouse for books is part of what libraries are meant to do–and that we can and should still be cultural storehouses while also being community gathering centers. Rather than fearing for our survival and chasing after what bookstores are doing, we need to stay true to our missions and “cultivat[e] library collections with care and discernment.” What do you think? Can we keep our “old” values as we embrace new ones? Are libraries abandoning their missions in the name of reflecting current trends?

Speaking of current trends, EW’s Shelf Life collected a bunch of tweets by celebrities who love the Hunger Games trilogy. And while one of the Hunger Games fans is fifteen-year-old Jodelle Ferland (who played Bree in Eclipse), the other featured celebrities–Elizabeth Banks, John Gallagher Jr., and Melinda Doolittle–are all older than I am, providing more examples of adults reading YA.

The logo for the Phoenix Award, given annually by the Children's Literature Association

Elizabeth Bird of A Fuse #8 Production recently highlighted an award I’d never heard of (and you probably haven’t either, which is sort of the point of her post), the Phoenix Award. It’s given annually by the Children’s Literature Association to a book published in English twenty years ago that didn’t win a major award at the time of its publication–books like The Devil’s Arithmetic (which I was sort of weirdly obsessed with as a middle schooler), Weetzie Bat (ditto, but in high school), and Howl’s Moving Castle (which you absolutely must read). For as prestigious as the Newbery is, let’s be honest: there are plenty of past winners we’ve all kind of forgotten about. The age of some of the Phoenix Award winners is probably part of what contributes to the award not being well-known, but it’s such a great way to recognize great literature that slipped through the cracks–and also stood the test of time.

Two more awesome things: first, Portland’s Heathman Hotel has a library of about 4000 titles. This by itself isn’t particularly noteworthy, but the selection criteria for inclusion in this library is: the author must have stayed in the hotel. Many of the books are first editions and all are signed by the author. They have books by Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, John Updike, Stephen King, Art Spiegelman, Annie Dillard, James Patterson and Ian Rankin. But just having the books isn’t really enough–they need to be listed and to be accessible to readers, right? So even cooler, while the library’s existed since 1992, it’s finally getting some publicity and use:

Sophie Soprani, an English major and aspiring writer who attends Portland State University, was hired last month [in August] to pull books out of the locked cabinets for guests and to build a database so the hotel knows exactly what’s in the collection.

[…]

Soprani runs the library a few hours Monday through Thursday, starting about 5 p.m. She talks with guests about books and writing, and makes recommendations. Until about 18 months ago, hotel guests had to ask for a book at the front desk. Then the hotel rotated staffing among four people before hiring Soprani.

Sophie may be an aspiring writer for now, but I think we may make a librarian of her yet!

The cover of GUYS READ: FUNNY BUSINESS, edited by Jon Scieszka

And finally, Guys Read: Funny Business came out two weeks ago and if you don’t have a copy for your library yet, you gotta get one. Edited by Jon Scieszka, it contains contributions by Mac Barnett, Eoin Colfer, Christopher Paul Curtis, Kate DiCamillo and Jon Scieszka, Paul Feig, Jack Gantos, Jeff Kinney, David Lubar, Adam Rex, and David Yoo and is illustrated by Adam Rex. Adam also did the illustration for the cover. In another blog post, he shows off some of the ultimately rejected covers and talks about what went into the decision. And don’t forget this video wherein the contributors of Funny Business tell “The Joke”:

One more tiny piece of news: today I finalized the planning for the very first teen program I’ll do all by myself! I’ll write more about it after it actually happens, but man, I’m so thrilled to be doing exactly the work I want to be doing and taking the first steps in building an awesome YA program at my library.

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1 Comment October 5, 2010

Reading and re-reading: thoughts on MOCKINGJAY, CATCHING FIRE, and THE HUNGER GAMES

I know I’m a little late to the conversation, but after reading MOCKINGJAY last Friday, I needed some time to digest and reflect. I’m still not finished reading all of the MOCKINGJAY reviews and meditations on the blogs I follow, so apologies if I’m not linking to other relevant blog posts. And this will contain spoilers, so if you still haven’t read MOCKINGJAY (why haven’t you read MOCKINGJAY yet?!), mark this as unread or bookmark it for later.

Also this is super-long (sorry), but I think MOCKINGJAY–and the whole trilogy–really packs a lot in and I’ve had a whole week to think about everything. You’re lucky it’s not longer!

Hearing Suzanne Collins read
Last Friday I got to see Suzanne Collins read from Catching Fire and Mockingjay and get a custom-stamped book. I took pictures and was planning to include them in this post, but a cell phone mishap in the last week means they’re lost to the ether. But Jennifer of YABOOKNERD was there, too, so you can check out her post about the reading.

Anyway, hearing Collins read was especially interesting because she reads Katniss with a “futuristic Appalachian accent.” And you know, given that District 12 is what used to be Appalachia, that makes sense, but I hadn’t been reading Katniss’s voice that way, so hearing her with an accent subtly changed my perception of the character–and I like it. Fan opinion has been mixed and it’s interesting to see what connotations individual people assign to southern accents. For me, it emphasizes that Katniss is from somewhere remote and backward and makes her seem… not simple, but certainly not an intellectual. I like the extra dimension it gives her.

After reading the passage in Catching Fire where Katniss’s wedding dress burns away during her interview with Caesar Flickerman, revealing the black dress underneath and turning her into a mockingjay, Collins read the first chapter of Mockingjay and then started stamping books.

A photograph of the title page of Suzanne Collins's MOCKINGJAY. The page has been stamped with a custom design that includes a mockingjay, Collins's signature, and the words "MOCKINGJAY BOOK TOUR 2010"

Totally worth the wait!

After thanking Collins and collecting a few more temporary mockingjay tattoos and the bag clip I’d won in a post-it-under-the-chair-style raffle, I made a trip to RJ Julia Booksellers, who’d sponsored the event. I was impressed with their selection of young adult and middle grade titles and bought more books than I probably should have! But I like the chance to support independent booksellers–especially ones who score such great author visits!

As soon as I got home, I dove straight in and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening and night reading. But before I talk about Mockingjay, I want to reflect a little on some thoughts I had while re-reading The Hunger Games and Catching Fire last week to get reading for Mockingjay.

The Hunger Games and Catching Fire
First off, I can’t believe how much of Catching Fire I’d forgotten! I’d started The Hunger Games one afternoon after class and stayed up super-late to finish it, but that didn’t compare with how I blazed through Catching Fire (hur hur) after receiving an ARC at ALA Annual 2009. I guess tearing through it that quickly really affected my retention. This time I read more slowly, thinking more about themes and watching common threads through the narrative.

The first time I read the first two books, I didn’t feel particularly interested in the Peeta-Katniss-Gale love triangle. I was much more interested in Katniss’s survival, in the upcoming overthrown of the Capitol, and in learning more about District 13. And I was also a little irritated that everyone I talked to seemed to think that Katniss had to choose one of them, because in the book she talks about how she never wants to get married and have children because she’d have to watch them go through the Reaping. Why couldn’t Katniss just choose herself and not be defined by the boy she picked? I think that Malinda Lo does a great job of making this point. When I was pressed, I would claim allegiance to Team Gale, because I wanted Katniss to be able to move on and have a life after the arena, and Gale represented the unspoiled part of her life to me. Gale also stood for the revolution, which I was excited about because revolution–successful or thwarted–is always the exciting part of dystopian lit.

But after rereading THG and CF one right after the other, I couldn’t believe how much my feelings about this had changed. I was still firmly on Team Katniss for all the reasons Malinda Lo outlined, but if she was going to wind up with one of the boys, I didn’t see how it could be anyone other than Peeta. I think Angie Manfredi’s argument that being on Team Peeta is a feminist statement is an interesting one (she also mentioned in an email to the YALSA-bk listserv that Peeta does stereotypically “feminine” things, whereas Gale does “masculine” things like mining and hunting), but for me it’s was more an in-world consideration of Katniss’s future. Especially with her nightmares and Peeta’s ability to comfort her, I don’t see how she could wind up with anyone who wouldn’t be able to understand her time in the arena, that part of her life that had so shaped who she was–and Peeta (and possibly Haymitch) is the only one who could ever understand that. Gale could comfort her and try to offer her normalcy, but being in the Games so changed her that I don’t think she could return to that normal life like I’d previously wanted for her. If it was going to be anyone, it was going to be Peeta.

The first time I read Catching Fire, I was caught by surprise at Katniss’s return to the Games. I’d been hoping for more on the mounting rebellion in the second book, and to have her return to the arena almost felt recycled. But after re-reading it (especially doing so immediately after finishing The Hunger Games), I was struck by how putting Katniss back in the arena did give us a chance to see the growing rebellion. Her preparation for the Games and then her time actually competing was markedly different because of the way the tributes were friends, acknowledged each other, and even stood in solidarity against the Capitol. The preparation and competition were peppered with incidents of teamwork and defiance–and really, these stories are told from Katniss’s perspective, so seeing small things like the tributes standing hand-in-hand after their interviews or the sacrifice that Mags made was a more realistic introduction to the rebellion than some sort of seismic political change or bloody invasion or whatever. In Catching Fire, we get a very local view of how everyday life is changing and how even big events seemingly entirely under the Capitol’s control are showing weakness.

I also think that sending Katniss back to the Games was a good way to make whatever happened in Mockingjay even more shocking and different. The Capitol’s grip on the population certainly wasn’t strong enough to have another round of the Games, and the danger Katniss was in after being snatched from the arena–and the unknown perils Peeta was facing since he wasn’t rescued!–was much more immediate than the relatively gentle cliffhanger at the end of The Hunger Games. After reading the first two books in the series, you know that whatever comes next in the third book was going to be different and much more dangerous.

Mockingjay
And was Mockingjay ever different! This was a very grim book. I mean, the subject material in the first two books is surprisingly heavy, but it had a dash of adventure to it with Katniss trying to fight for her life and survive another day, another minute. There was some excitement in the prospect of a rebellion against the evil Capitol. But in Mockingjay, we’re thrown into the dirty, gritty details of that rebellion, and there’s nothing adventurous or exciting about it.

Katniss is a broken shell of her former self, haunted by nightmares and a directionless anxiety. She’s having a hard time getting by on a day-to-day basis, and her relationships are fractured. Life in District 13 isn’t some sort of paradise where refugees from District 12 are living happy lives–it’s strictly-regulated with daily schedules, brutally-enforced portion control at meals, and plenty of knowledge available only on a need-to-know basis. Life–and the narrative of that life–feels hopeless and dark and relentlessly soul-crushing.

But as strictly-regulated as life in District 13 is, there’s also a certain lack of structure in that no one knows what the future holds. In the earlier books, there was structure for both the characters and the readers in the rituals around the Games. But in Mockingjay, there are no Games and all of the previous structure provided by life in the oppressive grip of the Capitol are gone. There’s less direction, less certainty, less assurance that things will go as planned–or that there will even be a world left in which things and plans exist. The rebels might win against the Capitol, but they might be utterly crushed, and even if they did win, at what cost would that victory come?

The horrors of people’s lives up until that point–being in the Games or being firebombed out of District 12–and the strain of the rebellion and the integration into District 13 and the fear and uncertainty of the future take their toll on everyone. Katniss struggles mentally to hold together the pieces of her life, but so do lots of other people around her. The survivors of the Games are the worst off, and it seems like everyone is on the brink of insanity. This is a very psychological story. Katniss is literally unable to function in certain situations, and other characters make progress only to be shattered again by a simple reminder of the horrors of the past. Everyone is constantly revisiting their own worst moments, unable to escape them. I really can’t talk enough about how dark and anxiety-filled this story is.

That emotional trauma and brokenness and the horror of war seem to be the focus of Mockingjay. The first two books certainly dealt with the perverted pleasure our society takes in violence, and with violence as a means of control, but all of that is turned up to 11 in Mockingjay. Not only is the Capitol bombing hospitals as a form of psychological warfare, the rebels themselves are torturing prisoners, developing weapons that target the weak, and using propaganda to rally citizens in every district. Especially by the end, we see that Coin is no better than Snow–and is maybe even worse. This isn’t a simple story of good versus evil, or the citizens versus the government, or hope versus oppression. It is just violence against violence, inhumanity against inhumanity, with no end in sight.

And Collins creating this world of violence and darkness doesn’t come from nowhere. The rebellion seems like it’s especially violent and the Capitol especially evil, but I think there are real parallels to our world now. Especially for teens who have grown up with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and who have maybe had older siblings or cousins or parents go and fight and maybe return or maybe not (or for those actual young adults who have been to war), I think the scenes of walking through the deserted streets of the Capitol, wary of the traps the government has left that might at any moment kill some or all of them must seem especially real. Is there any real difference between the Capitol’s pods and roadside bombs in Afghanistan? Is our bombing of weddings all that different than the Capitol’s bombing of a hospital?

And that kind of darkness seems to reside in individual people as well. In the previous books, Katniss was confronted with her own brutality as she realized that she was utterly focused on survival, whereas Peeta was trying to retain his humanity in the face of the Games. She didn’t understand that idea at first when they sat on the roof together before their first time in the arena, but she later saw what he was saying, that she didn’t want to just be another piece in the Capitol’s games. And in Mockingjay, she’s again confronted by her own inner darkness. We’re not just talking a little character flaw here: there’s a real cruelty inside Katniss that she often has to fight against. She worries about using people in her own games and at the end when the rebels have successfully overthrown the Capitol, she votes to have a final Hunger Games with children of the Capitol to rub their faces in their defeat. And the final act that allowed the rebels to triumph was the bombing of children and then the medics who tried to save them–and I do think that it was the rebels who set off those bombs and not the Capitol. It seems that Collins is saying that within all of us–both in our characters and in our psyches–there is a darkness capable of incredible cruelty and destruction.

I think that the love triangle–or what remained of it in Mockingjay, since Katniss is completely incapable of dealing with other people in any way–embodies the essential, overarching struggle in this whole trilogy. Peeta represents retaining our humanity, compassion, and having limits to what we’ll do to get what we want, even to survive. For Peeta, the ends do not justify the means. Gale, on the other hand, is single-minded in his drive to overthrown the Capitol. He is willing to kill children and medics to win. He doesn’t understand Katniss’s compassion for her prep team; for him, they’re simply part of the Capitol’s machine. And in Mockingjay, it seems like Gale is going to survive and that Peeta is not. Peeta is presumed dead, Peeta seems to have capitulated to the Capitol, Peeta is so completely no longer himself that he wants to kill Katniss, Peeta is a broken shell of his former self that cannot tell reality from propaganda. But by the end, while Gale has a fancy new job assigned to him by the rebels, Peeta has regained his humanity and it is with him–with that recognition of maintaining our compassion and our ability to empathize and know when we are fighting evil with evil–that Katniss lives out the rest of her life. Readers who are still upset that Katniss didn’t wind up with Gale miss the entire point of the trilogy.

Katniss’s struggle against being another piece in the Capitol’s games at first brought to mindTally’s struggle to write her own story in the Uglies trilogy. Throughout each of the books, it seems like she’s a pawn in someone else’s powerplay, and the final scene in the book is about her finally being able to take charge of the direction of her own life, to be her own person. It seems hopeful. But even though Mockingjay ends with relative peace, with Katniss returning to District 12 and restarting a life there, with her and Peeta together, and even–in the future–with children, I didn’t feel that sense of hope at the end. Even though she was moving on, it seemed like she was irrevocably broken and the best she could hope for was that her children would have a whole and happy life. Katniss might be able to go on and live a life with Peeta, but she’s never going to get a fresh start. She’s always going to carry with her what happened–what she saw, what she did, what happened to all of the people that she lost. When I finished the last sentence of Mockingjay and closed the book, I still felt haunted by what had happened. I felt such heartbreak over everything that had happened, over the brokenness in everyone’s lives, and all the pain they’d experienced. How could anyone ever be whole again after that?

I think, too, that Prim’s death is especially heartbreaking because it comes at the very end, it’s senseless, and she seemed to have been doing okay. It seemed like Katniss was going to be forever broken, but that Prim might have some hope because of Katniss shielding her, that she might become a doctor and have a better life than she would have in District 12, despite everything that happened to get her there. But then her death is part of an especially heinous act on the part of the group that seemingly gave her those opportunities. What I think is really interesting, though, is that I was so emotionally invested in her and her future that her death was heartbreaking–but children being sacrificed for no good reason (for evil, even) is exactly what had happened every year for the last 75 years in the Hunger Games. I guess it can be easy for all of those children who died in the arena to just become numbers, but Collins makes sure you get the emotional impact of a character being senselessly cut down in her prime at least once. You take that emotional devastation and extrapolate over generations to see the brutality of the Huger Games–and then extrapolate again to our own world, to our own wars, to our own cruelty.

Some final thoughts
I think Mockingjay is absolutely the most powerful of the trilogy. In it, we get more: more information about the world in which Katniss lives, more violence and survival, more confrontation of the darkness within and around us, and more wrestling with man’s inhumanity to man. But it’s also very different than the first three books, and I can certainly imagine readers walking away from Mockingjay feeling betrayed or disappointed or hurt. I don’t really see how the series could have ended any other way, though.

I was sort of surprised that I didn’t hate the epilogue. I really hated the epilogue in the last Harry Potter book; it felt like a fanfic where everything turns out just! fine! and look! at all! the extra! good! stuff! The epilogue here seems similar at first blush–Katniss and Peeta living together in District 12 with babies!–but it doesn’t carry a happy ending feel. It still feels like Katniss is broken and the only real hope is in future generations who won’t know the devastation that she did. That’s a very removed sort of happy ending! And while I’ve heard some cry foul over Katniss settling down, losing her fire (or something like that), and having children, I think that change in her character–that she’s not out crusading in another district like Gale, that she finally acquiesced to having children–shows that her experiences have changed her, and illustrates that tenuous hope for the future. It felt like it fit.

I’ve seen a short-hand summary of all fantasy novels that goes something like “good triumphs over evil, but not without cost.” In general I think that’s actually pretty accurate, but with the Hunger Games trilogy more than any other book, I feel like the good has never been so tenuously surviving and the evil so insidious and the cost so high. There’s no clear-cut good and evil here, but there is the idea that sometimes fighting evil requires too much darkness of yourself and that the ends don’t justify the means–and this is the idea that I think triumphs in Mockingjay. Our humanity is the only thing that keeps us from being monsters, but holding on to that humanity can seem hopeless, and it may feel like we’ve lost it already. But by propping each other up even when we feel we’re broken, by recognizing the humanity of even our enemies, by not answering violence with violence, we can maybe repair ourselves and our world. Maybe.

Where do we go from here
The Huffington Post featured six children’s books to read after finishing Mockingjay, and that list has been met with widespread derision because it includes–no, seriously–Amelia Bedelia. Is Peter Steinberg high? This list must have started out as his favorite children’s books and then an editor was like, “Hey, Mockingjay, that’s a kid’s book, right? That’s a big deal now, so let’s tie your list in with that!” because there’s no way that someone who’s just finished Mockingjay and is asking for more is going to be satisfied with an Amelia Bedelia book.

In response, a number of bloggers have made lists of their own, and you’re going to be much happier with their suggestions. Here’s a selection:

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4 Comments September 3, 2010

MOCKINGJAY countdown: one and a half hours left!

The cover for the third book in the Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay, which will be released in August 2010. The cover depicts a purplish-grey bird with wings spread over a blue background with an abstract design of breaking rings and lines. The title and the author's name, Suzanne Collins, also appear on the cover.

MOCKINGJAY is officially available (in the Eastern time zone at least!) in just an hour and a half. It seems like a lot of places (shame on you, LA Times!) are breaking the street date, so I’m going to be mostly off the Internet until Friday.

Friday?

Yes, MOCKINGJAY comes out on Tuesday and as much as I wanted to go to a midnight release party and spend all night tonight reading, when I found out that Suzanne Collins would be visiting an independent bookstore not super-far from where I live, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go see her read and get a custom-stamped book! (She’s not signing because of a hand injury, but the stamp she’s using is a custom MOCKINGJAY stamp that won’t be used outside of this promotional tour.)

So I have to wait. I may post reviews for a couple of books I read over the weekend, but I really want to have a spoiler-free experience. We’ll see if I can manage that for three and a half days! I hope you all get copies soon and read it and love it and aren’t too sleepy at work the next day–because you know you’ll be up all night the day you get it!

And for those of you who have copies on hold at a library or might have to wait to read it, too, here’s a video of Collins reading the first chapter of MOCKINGJAY:

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Leave a Comment August 23, 2010

MOCKINGJAY countdown: just 22 days left!

The cover for the third book in the Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay, which will be released in August 2010. The cover depicts a purplish-grey bird with wings spread over a blue background with an abstract design of breaking rings and lines. The title and the author's name, Suzanne Collins, also appear on the cover.

It’s August and it’s just over three weeks until Suzanne Collins’s MOCKINGJAY, the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy, is released.

I was originally planning to find a bookstore that would be doing a midnight release and camping out to get a copy, but then I got word that Suzanne Collins would be visiting a bookstore not too far from me to do a reading and stamping (rather than a signing, due to a previous injury) a few days after the book comes out, so as much as it’s going to kill me to wait all day Tuesday, all day Wednesday, all day Thursday, and all morning Friday that week (I might have to just stay off the Internet entirely!), I’m going to wait. It’ll be worth it!

Dystopian stories are my favorite, so I’m predisposed to like the Hunger Games trilogy anyway, but I think Collins does a great job of building a whole and complete fantasy world that’s internally consistent in its history, politics, and mythology. I also love the way she gives you just enough of that history to hint at a bigger picture we don’t know yet. And it’s not just in the Hunger Games books that she does this: the Underland Chronicles, which follow the adventures of Gregor the Overlander and are for younger readers, have that same kind of detailed world-building that makes for a successful sci-fi or fantasy book. Anyway, while I’m really on Team Katniss more than I am Team Peeta or Team Gale, I’m really excited to see more of the world Collins has created in MOCKINGJAY and to finally get some answers about District 13!

In the meantime, School Library Journal has an interview with Collins and Michelle of Galleysmith kicks off the 13 District MOCKINGJAY Blog Tour with her post representing District 1. She’s giving away a boxed set of the trilogy, so make sure to enter the contest! Doug of ScifiGuy.ca represents District 2 and will be doing his post this Wednesday.

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1 Comment August 2, 2010

Miscellany: authors vs. works, dystopian YA lit at the New Yorker, and online reputation management

Wired’s Mr. Know-It-All argues for differentiating the author from the work in a recent column and also touches on how hard it is to keep kids from reading what they want:

The bottom line is that many a great author has been a lout. Yes, it’s disappointing to learn that one of your literary idols doesn’t share your values. But that doesn’t negate his talent for mixing philosophical heft with orbital bombardment. And besides, any ban you impose will likely backfire. Kids dig anything that’s taboo, and books are pretty easy to obtain. (At least until the firemen come.)

The first statement in the Library Bill of Rights says in part, “[m]aterials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.” I struggle with this sometimes because as an informed consumer, I don’t want my money to support things with which I don’t agree, but as a librarian I understand that we need to be able to differentiate the work from its creator.

Since I was a teen myself, dystopian novels have been my favorite, so it’s been exciting to see so many–and so many good ones–published in the last few years. Laura Miller’s article today in the New Yorker, “Fresh Hell,” she discusses the “recent boom in dystopian fiction for young people,” pointing to the Hunger Games trilogy (just 71 more days until MOCKINGJAY comes out!), the Uglies trilogy, THE MAZE RUNNER, INCARCERON, THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH, LITTLE BROTHER, FEED, and THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO as examples. She recognizes that dystopian lit has been part of the YA landscape for decades (specifically naming THE HOUSE OF STAIRS–one of my favorites as a teen!–and THE GIVER) but writes, “The world of our hovered-over teens and preteens may be safer, but it’s also less conducive to adventure, and therefore to adventure stories,” and wonders if this is the reason dystopian lit is seeing a surge in popularity. Miller notes that YA dystopian lit tends to be less soul-crushing than dystopian novels for adults, and using THE HUNGER GAMES and UGLIES as examples, draws parallels between YA dystopian narratives and the adolescent experience. It’s an interesting read and is also another example of how adults are noticing–and reading–more YA lit than ever before.

A graph showing what percentage of respondents said they took steps to limit the information about them that appeared on the Internet, sorted by age. Young people are the most likely to do so and seniors are the least likely.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has another report out on young adults and tech; this one finds that young adults (actual adults ages 18-29 in this case, not teens) are the most likely of all age groups surveyed to actively manage their online reputations. (The graph I’ve included here is just one dimension of online reputation management.) We change privacy settings, we Google ourselves, and we limit who can see our profiles. A lot of the time when we talk about teens and tech, we talk about making sure they’re safe online, but it sounds like seniors are the ones we need to be talking to about online reputation management: just 20% of respondents ages 65+ take steps to limit what information about them appears online.

And finally, another post from Offbeat Earth that shows some really amazing art made with books and pages from books. The one with the octopus is my favorite!

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2 Comments June 14, 2010

Hunger Games book 3 cover announced (and more on book covers)

The cover and title for the third book in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy, MOCKINGJAY, was announced today!

The cover for the third book in the Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay, which will be released in August 2010. The cover depicts a purplish-grey bird with wings spread over a blue background with an abstract design of breaking rings and lines. The title and the author's name, Suzanne Collins, also appear on the cover.

I was a little disappointed with the second book, but I’m really excited to see how the trilogy wraps up. I like that the three covers tell a story themselves of darkness, rebellion, and… hope? victory? but I’m not sure about the color. It seems a little too cheerful, and I wonder if the cover as a whole will look girly to teen boys. In any case, though, I am super-pumped for the end of August to arrive! (There won’t be ARCs at Annual because Scholastic doesn’t need to promote the book or the series–at least, that’s what Dean Irwin reported to us after going to Midwinter.)

I’ve been thinking about book covers a lot recently. There was a lengthy discussion on the listservs recently about the whitewashing of covers at Bloomsbury, there was a recent post over at The YA YA YAs about that mentioned dystopian novels having covers with girls’ hair flying around on them, and last spring I came across a blog post by the person who designed the cover of THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ISLAND talking about his thought process during the design and showing some of the ideas he didn’t use. And of course, there’s always Jacket Whys for frequent pictures and thoughts on children’s and YA book covers.

Books circ better when they’re displayed face-out (this comes up a lot in class discussions when someone mentions bookstores) because people do judge books by their covers, and seeing the cover lets you get to know the book better than just seeing the spine. But beyond that, I’m interested in what about book covers makes a book more popular, or more likely to get checked out, or just more likely to catch someone’s eye, and how those characteristics have changed over time (remember all those horrible “realistic” covers on historical fiction from the 80s and 90s?).

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1 Comment February 11, 2010


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