Wednesday, June 29, 2011

This Week Only . . .

The Light and Round Project roundup will be moved to Friday. I'm out of town where a slow internet connection and sluggish laptop have conspired against me. Check back Friday for the latest recommendations!

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Peek at the Creative Space of Farhana Zia

Joining us today for Creative Spaces is Farhana Zia, the author of Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-Ji. (The illustrator of Hot, Hot Roti, Ken Min, shared his Creative Space earlier this year here.) Hot, Hot Roti, Farhana's picture book debut, earned a starred review from Kirkus who wrote, "Food, family and storytelling set irresistible hooks in this high-spirited double picture-book debut."

Farhana is an elementary school teacher in addition to writing children's books. Her stories blend humor and tradition, memories and contemporary moments. 

Visit this link for an excellent interview with Farhana Zia and here for a booktalk with both Farhana Zia and Ken Min.

Describe your workspace.

I do all my writing in my family room, which is just off my kitchen. I write in a deep leather side chair with the laptop on my lap and my feet up on the ottoman. If I need a pencil to scribble notes along the way, I keep it next to me, for lack of a better place to put it. I seem to always lose it and find it rolled into the sides of the chair. Very frustrating! The room is longer than wider. There is a leather sofa, brown leather reclining chair, TV, Yamaha console keyboard, and pictures of our kids and grandkids. From one set of windows, I can see the dense leaves of an oak tree in my backyard. From the windows of the adjoining room, I see the sky between more leaves. It is cozy where I sit and I can’t really imagine doing my writing anywhere else.

Describe a typical workday.

I am an elementary school teacher first, and my workday is primarily related to teaching fourth graders. I leave for work around 6:30 A.M. My students arrive at 8:20 A.M. And leave near 3 P.M. The time in between these hours is busy, invigorating and goes by in a flash. I return home at 4 P.M and begin my writing at 7. I generally write till 10 P.M. If I have a deadline to meet, I may go until 1 or 2 A.M. I do my writing with an eye on the news or whatever else my husband might be watching on TV.

List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

May I list four and categorize them as necessary rather than favorites? My laptop is the most invaluable. There would be no writing without it and as a writer I’d be completely lost.

The brown leather chair next to mine has great emotional importance. This is where my husband sits while I am doing my work. He sits in it and he reads while I sit in mine, and write. There is great comfort in this proximity.

The family photographs keep me rooted. I have photographs of my children, grandchildren, mother, and in-laws on the mantle, and on the walls.

The ottoman provides support and comfort for my feet.

Do you have any rituals in your work habits? If so, describe them. What do you listen to while you work?

I’ll combine two questions. . . The first thing I do is turn the TV on. I like to work with the TV going. The sound is never a distraction because I am terribly focused on my work. It more or less serves as white noise and it is soothing, and often necessary. I prefer not to work in quiet. This is just about the only ritual I have, other than the ritual of always beginning my writing after dinner.

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

I drink lemon flavored seltzer water when I am thirsty. If I am hungry, I might snack on chips or crackers or might even dip into some ice cream, now and then. I try not to, though, but never succeed.

What keeps you focused while you’re working?

My work keeps me focused. The deeper I am in my work, the more focused I get. If I have a deadline to meet, that keeps me focused. Generally though, to be focused I need to have the ideas flowing. It’s hard to write when there is nothing to write about. I sometimes run into this situation.

Do you write longhand, on a computer, or another way?

I do all my writing on my laptop. If ideas come to me in bed, I jot them down on scraps of paper to use later. I use long hand only when my laptop is not available.

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

My writing tends to fan out from a focal point. Once the initial idea is in place, it’s a matter of building, layering, and developing. It usually takes a lot of writing and rewriting until I get to where I want to be. I can safely say that I enjoy the revision part of writing the most.

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

I’d give up my workspace to my husband, if I had to, and move my writing over to the sofa, on the other side of the brown leather chair.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?

At the 2011 Winter SCBWI conference in N.Y, I heard a keynote speaker exhort aspiring writers to read, read, and read. I’d tweak this advice by saying that writers ought to read books that are well written, especially in terms rich language. You never know where you might pick up a nugget that will help you say what you want to say just so.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Roundup #2! (The Light and Round Project)

Welcome to the second weekly roundup of the Light and Round Project! If this is your first time hearing about it and you want to know more, visit this post for a full explanation or click on "Light and Round Project" under my header.

If you would like to recommend books for teenagers that you think the average person would consider not too violent, dark, or edgy, please email me with your suggestions and links to reviews if you have them. (Or quotes about the books if you have thoughts you'd like to share.)

If you've reviewed one of the books mentioned in the archives and would like your review listed as well, please email me with the link.
Thank you to everyone who contributed this week. Once again, we have an excellent and varied assortment. (A lot of series in this roundup--18 entries but they represent over 40 titles.) Now on to the books!

As Easy As Falling Off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins. Recommended by Debra Bogart (Youth Services Collection Development Coordinator for the Eugene Library.)
“Fifteen-year-old Ry discovers his own resiliency and resourcefulness when he finds himself stranded and alone, with no cell phone coverage and hardly any money. A good Samaritan named Del becomes Ry's inspiration. Del is described as someone who dances to the beat of his own inner harmonica, and from him Ry learns the satisfaction of a noble act and the meaning of the word ‘impossible’. Adventure, resilience, and romance. . .”

Blood and Flowers by Penny Blubaugh, recommended by Jeannie Mobley of Emu’s Debuts. "From critically acclaimed author Penny Blubaugh comes this mesmerizing tale of family, faeries, and finding a place to call home."

Crosswire by Dotti Enderle, recommended by Jeannie Mobley of Emu’s Debuts. "With his family in turmoil and fence-cutters destroying his farm, thirteen-year-old Jesse faces more than the stifling drought of 1883. Dwindling water supplies have driven desperate cattlemen to snip fences in order to water their herds—targeting Jesse’s farm several times. When a lone drifter arrives in town, he’s quickly hired to work the farm. It should be a relief to have the extra help, but Jesse suspects the man is more than just a hired hand and is determined to uncover his mysterious secret."

Eyes of the Pharoah by Chris Eboch, recommended by Elizabeth Varadan. “. . . set in ancient Egypt during the reign of Ramses the Third.  This is a fast-paced adventure, with historical details that plunge you into the era, engaging characters that feel realistic, and tension that never lets up.”

Girl 15, Charming but Insane, by Sue Limb (one of 4 books in this series), recommended by Jen Simms. "Girl, 15, Charming but Insane, huge bum, massive ears, seeks ... Well, seeks Ben Jones, but failing that, large Muslim-type burka garment to cover her deformities."

Head Games by Keri Milkulski, reviewed by Ms. Yingling. "Loved the tight knit teammates on the girls’ basketball team. I will have to buy this series because I know a lot of girls who will like it. The social interactions also ring true."

Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan, recommended by Debra Bogart (Youth Services Collection Development Coordinator for the Eugene Library). “Three teens meet in NYC on 9/11, the day everything changed and love became more illuminated than ever.”

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco Stork. (My recommendation.) A beautifully written, page-turner of a book. I’d describe this as a cross between The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Life of Pi, and a legal thriller.

Milagros, Girl from Away by Meg Medina, recommended by Elizabeth Varadan. “Milagros means "miracle" in Spanish, and this is a story where the protagonist must make her own miracles.”

My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park by Steve Kluger, recommended by Debra Bogart (Youth Services Collection Development Coordinator for the Eugene Library). “Three teens experience coming of age in Boston from very different perspectives that culminate in firm friendships anyway.”

OyMg by Amy Fellner Dominy, recommended by Emily of Red House Books. “Jewish girl. Christian camp. Holy moly. Ellie Taylor loves nothing better than a good argument. So when she gets accepted to the Christian Society Speech and Performing Arts summer camp, she's sure that if she wins the final tournament, it'll be her ticket to a scholarship to the best speech school in the country.”

Pegasus by Robin McKinley, recommended by Debra Bogart (Youth Services Collection Development Coordinator for the Eugene Library). “Because of a thousand-year-old alliance between humans and pegasi, Princess Sylvi is ceremonially bound to Ebon, her own pegasus, on her twelfth birthday, but the closeness of their bond becomes a threat to the status quo and possibly to the safety of their two nations.”

The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot, recommended by Jen Simms. A 16-book series about an everyday girl who finds out her father is actually a prince. From Meg Cabot’s website: “I got the idea for The Princess Diaries when my mother, after my father's death in 1994, started dating one of my college professors. I began writing a book about a girl who is upset about her mother dating her Algebra teacher. I made the girl in the book a princess because my mom used to joke that when I was little, I thought my "real parents" were a king and queen who were going to come and take me away to live in a castle. I'm still waiting. . .” 

The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner, recommended by Maryanne Fantalis of The Writer’s Notebook. “I’m going to urge you to read The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whelan Turner.  In fact, I’m going to insist.  I might even beg. It’s that good. . . . The middle two books of the series--The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia--are two of the most perfect young adult books I have ever read. The characters are living, breathing people; the plots twist and turn with such clever mastery that you always feel surprised but never manipulated; the foreshadowing is subtle; the dialogue is realistic but just formal enough for you to believe that the characters are educated nobles in some far-off ancient land.”

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series by Ann Brashares, recommended by Jen Simms.
From School Library Journal: “A complex book about a solid group of friends, with each one a strong and courageous individual in her own right. They form a true sisterhood of acceptance and support, resulting in a believable and inviting world.”

This Girl is Different by J.J. Johnson. "Evie is different. Not just her upbringing--though that's certainly been unusual--but also her mindset. She's smart, independent, confident, opinionated, and ready to take on a new challenge: The Institution of School. It doesn't take this homeschooled kid long to discover that high school is a whole new world, and not in the way she expected. . . . Not one to sit idly by, Evie sets out to make changes. Big changes. The movement she starts takes off, but before she realizes what's happening, her plan spirals out of control, forcing her to come to terms with a world she is only just beginning to comprehend." 

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen. (My recommendation.) From Publisher’s Weekly: “Mclean Sweet, named for 'the all-time winningest basketball coach of Defriese University,' has moved four times in two years, following her father's job as a restaurant consultant. Each time she moves she reinvents herself, not so much to try on a new identity but to rid herself of the original one—only daughter of a couple whose divorce was an awful, public scandal. . . . As Mclean figures out how to make peace with her mother, she relies on friends made at both school and at the restaurant her father is trying to save.” 

“The Winnie Years” series (which includes Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, and Thirteen Plus One) by Lauren Myracle, recommended by Ms. Yingling. “Myracle's younger books are my new favorite-- they remind me a bit of Lenora Mattingly Weber in that they describe all of the things that are NEW about being an up-and-coming teenager. I wanted to check 11 and 12 out of the library, but they had multiple holds on them. Drat.”

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Peek at the Creative Space of Lisa Schroeder

Lisa Schroeder is the versatile author of young adult, middle grade, and picture book titles including Chasing Brooklyn (currently a finalist of the RWA Rita Awards--congrats, Lisa!); I Heart You, You Haunt Me; Far From You; It's Raining Cupcakes; and Chimp's Big Day. Her latest is the YA novel The Day Before which is publishing next week:

Amber's life is spinning out of control. All she wants is to turn up the volume on her iPod until all of the demands of her family and friends fade away. So she sneaks off to the beach to spend a day by herself.
Then Amber meets Cade. Their attraction is instant, and Amber can tell that he's also looking for an escape. Together they decide to share a perfect day: no pasts, no fears, no regrets.

The more time that Amber spends with Cade, the more she's drawn to him. And the more she's troubled by his darkness. Because Cade's not just living in the now--he's living like each moment is his last.

The Booklist review says, "Readers will find plenty of appeal factors in this outing. The basic frame is a sort of noir Ferris Bueller's Day Off, in which two teens decide to spend a perfect day together before their respective fates claim them."

Sprinkles and Secrets, a follow up to her middle grade novel It's Raining Cupcakes, will be published later this year in September.

If you're in the New York area, Lisa will be signing books at the awesome indie children's bookstore Books of Wonder with three other YA authors on June 30.

If you'd like to learn more about Lisa, visit her blog/website, follow her on Twitter, or "like" her author page on Facebook.  

Describe your workspace.

I use the designated office space in our home for working. Most of my writing is done in that room. Sitting down at my desk says to me--okay, time to get to work. Besides a computer desk, I have two book shelves, a rocking chair in case I feel the need to take a reading break or look up something in a craft book, and lots of pictures and knickknacks that make me happy.

Describe a typical workday.

I get the kids off to school then I spend some time answering e-mails, preparing mailings to go out, tweeting, doing promotional stuff if I have some, etc. Then I'll open the document and hopefully get a couple of hours of writing in. Sometimes my husband comes home for lunch, and if so, I'll take a break and eat with him. During the school year, I have to pick one of my sons up early every other day, so I do that if necessary, and then come back and try to write for an hour or so more. When I'm revising instead of drafting, I may go back to the computer later for more work. But I find with a first draft, 2-3 hours in a day is really all I can do. By 3:00 or so, I'm done so I can do things around the house, run to the store if I need to, walk the dog, cook dinner, etc.

List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

My dear friend, Lisa Madigan, made me a card to celebrate the release of my first novel, I Heart You, You Haunt Me. 

She also made me a picture "It's Raining Cupcakes" to celebrate my middle grade novel by the same name. Lisa, as many know, passed away in February from pancreatic cancer. I miss her every day. She was a good friend and also gave me good advice when it came to my work. Sometimes it feels a bit like I'm writing without a right hand, not having her to bounce things off of or to read my work. So I'll look at the things she gave me and I draw strength from them. She would want me to keep going, to dig deep and do my best, even when it's hard.

The third item is a jar of buttons that belonged to my grandma Ellamae. I used to sit and play with the big box of buttons she had. It reminds me to never forget to be childlike with my writing--to play and have fun and to trust that part of the writing process is discovering things as you go along. I try to remember that we can't know everything going in to a story, and that's okay. In fact, it's not just okay, it's wonderful! Discovering hidden gems that make their way into the story is one of the best things that can happen as we write.

What do you listen to while you work?

Sometimes nothing. Sometimes a song or two that make me feel the way I want my reader to feel when they read my book. For me, it's all about the emotions the music brings out in me. When I was writing The Day Before, I listened to "Glitter in The Air" a lot as well as some music by Schuyler Fisk.

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

Tea for sure. When I'm revising, I crave diet coke too, in the afternoons, even though I'm trying not to drink the stuff. On the really hard days, I give in. It's like I bribe my muse--okay, you can have some if you give me some good stuff this afternoon. Promise? You do? Okay, I believe you.

What keeps you focused while you’re working?

Haha--focus? What IS that? I don't know if I have a good answer to this question. Mostly I think I give myself mini-deadlines. Write for an hour, then I can check e-mail and twitter. It's a beautiful thing when a scene sucks you in and you get lost in it and look up hours later and can't believe how much time has passed. I wish that would happen more often!

Do you write longhand, on a computer, or another way?

On the computer. I type really, really fast, so when I'm in the zone, I can get a lot of words down quickly. I write longhand for working out plot problems and other things. When I'm working on a book, I'll have pages of notes in a notebook, where I've written down thoughts, questions, etc.

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

I start with what I call a few seeds of ideas, and then I plant them and see what happens. Usually I can tell a few chapters in if I have enough of a story to "grow" a whole book. Each project is different in terms of how I approach it. Sometimes I have some thoughts jotted down, sometimes I go in with nothing. Often, about halfway through the book, I do have to stop and take a close look at how my plot is developing and if I have all the necessary elements there. My friend, Lindsey Leavitt (author of Princess for Hire series) shared this link with me, and I find it really helpful when looking at how a plot should go: It's written for screenplays, but I think it applies nicely to books as well.

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

I'm gonna go with Sarah Dessen. She blogs a lot about TV shows and movies she likes, being a mom, and all kinds of things and I've always felt like if she lived next door, we'd be best friends. I'd love to share a workspace and find out if I'm right!

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?

Lisa and I went to a book signing with Markus Zusak a few years back and she asked him for his best writing advice in five words or less. He said, "Don't be afraid to fail." And I really think this is so important. We often hesitate to write that idea down in our head because we're afraid it won't be as good as how it is in our head. It probably won't be. But we have to try, and if it doesn't go the way we hoped, oh well. I think it also applies when we're wondering about trying something new--we often give up on ourselves before we even try, afraid of failing. But I always tell myself, how will I know unless I give it a shot?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Roundup #1! (Light and Round Project)

Welcome to the first weekly roundup of the Light and Round Project! If this is your first time hearing about it and you want to know more, visit last week's post for a full explanation or click on "Light and Round Project" under my header.

People, thank you for the warm response you've given this idea! This project is all about showcasing the diversity that can be found in books for teens today, and I think our first roundup does exactly that. I was surprised that I didn't receive a single repeat suggestion--everyone suggested unique titles. Another testament to the variety of books being published today.

I hope I didn't let any suggestions fall through my email cracks--If you contacted me and don't see your title on this list, please contact me again so I can add it.

I'm already compiling the roundup for next Wednesday, so if you would like to recommend books for teenagers that you think most people would consider "light and round" please email me with your suggestion and links to reviews if you have them.

If you've reviewed one of the books mentioned today and would like your review to be linked in the archives up above, please email me with the link.

Also, coincidental to the timing of the recent "Is YA too dark?" conversations, but timely nonetheless, YA author Jennifer Ziegler wrote an excellent essay for Hunger Mountain on embracing her reputation as a writer of "light" fiction. I loved this line: "After all, it’s the sunshine that creates the shadows—not the other way around."

Enjoy this week's roundup!

Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson, submitted by Meg of Meg Writes! “Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour is an engaging, touching and ultimately hopeful novel centering around one broken girl and the adventure that begins to heal her.”

Best Friends Forever by Beverly Patt, recommended by Rosanne Parry. "After her Japanese American friend, Dottie Masuoka, and her family have been sent to 'Camp Harmony' following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, fourteen-year-old Louise Krueger dedicates herself to keeping a journal that she will be able to share with her best friend when she returns. The items in the scrapbook—from newspaper clippings, to hair ribbons, to letters from Dottie—are beautifully illustrated within Best Friends Forever and are accompanied by both heartwarming and heartbreaking journal entries by Louise."

Brain Jack by Brian Faulkner, submitted by Robin of robinreadsnwrites. “I liked the thriller feel to it; I loved the computer jargon.”

The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder, submitted by Robin of robinreadsnwrites. “The story and characters find their way into your heart as you read.”

Cinderella: Ninja Warrior by Maureen McGowan, recommended by Emily of Red House Books. "I have always loved Cinderella as a character. . . Now take that classic tale and turn said stepmother into a powerful evil magician, turn Cinderella into a kick ass ninja and replace the glass slipper and ball with more excitement (think actual true love and a magic completion). Win!"

Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have and My Life, The Theater, and Other Tragedies by Allen Zadoff, recommended by Deena at Author 2 Author. (A great interview with Allen Zadoff in addition to the reviews at that link.) “Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have (Egmont), had me laughing out loud (you must read the soccer scene!), and I obviously wasn't the only one; it was the winner of the Sid Fleischman Humor Award in 2010.”

The Fourth Wish by Elizabeth Varadan, reviewed by Michelle Fayard of Bird's-Eye View. "While on their way to see a magic show, Melanie, Cory, Erin and Arthur help a stranger pick up the spilled contents of a shopping bag. What the four don’t realize is the stranger, who introduces herself as Mrs. Seraphina, is the one who really is magic."

Good Enough by Paula Yoo, recommended by Christine. “A Korean-American girl whose parents are obsessed with her acceptance into HarvardYalePrinceton. Squeaky clean, light romance, very funny.”

Haunting Charles Dickens by Lewis Buzbee, recommended by Elizabeth Varadan. "Take an unexplained disappearance. Bring in a ghost who points the way. Add Charles Dickens, who knows London’s troubled neighborhoods only too well. Stir in a plucky, thirteen-year-old girl who will let nothing stop her from tailing a dangerous kidnapping gang. . ."

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch, recommended by Rosanne Parry. "A comic book about a troll-fighting 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl."

The Hidden Gallery (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book 2) by Maryrose Wood, recommended by Rebecca from The Reading List. “The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place books are spoofs of classic governess novels (such as Jane Eyre) and poke a lot of fun at Victorian life and culture, and this second book in the series certainly delivers on those counts.”

The Mermaid's Mirror by L.K. Madigan, recommended by Rosanne Parry. From Booklist, *Starred Review* “With highly imagistic descriptions and savvy dialogue, Madigan offers a rewarding and credible story that uses fantasy elements to bare truths about family ties.”

Mind Blind by Jennifer Roy, recommended by Rebecca from The Reading List. “Nathaniel is fourteen years old, enjoys video games and The Amazing Race, and plays keyboards in a band with his best friend and the girl he adores. He is also a homeschooled university graduate, very skilled at mathematics, and has Asperger syndome. . . . Thoughtful, humourous, illuminating, and highly recommended.”

The Mozart Season by Virginia Euwer Wolff, recommended by Rosanne Parry. "Allegra Shapiro decides to enter a prestigious competition for young musicians, but ends up spending the summer doing more than practicing the violin. She learns important lessons about her family and herself, in this novel by the author of the National Book Award-winning True Believer."

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger, recomended by Kerry Mockler of The Moving Castle. “Normally, I am not very sentimental, and my preferences tend to veer away from romance-driven plots, or any book featuring adorable small children. But somehow, Kluger's book (which is about both romance and an adorable small child) just worked for me. It is delightful. It was a joy to read. At one point, fairly late in the book, I had to go get some food; as I set the book down, I said [out loud, to an empty room] ‘I love these people!’ ”

Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt, suggested by Suzanne Morrone. "I actually read it because my 21 year old grandson recommended it. I had a few second thoughts [about recommending it for this list] since there is an abusive father and cancer both as part of the story. It is so uplifting, though, and the message to me was so positive."

The Opposite of Invisible by Liz Gallagher, recommended by Roseanne Parry. "In a bright debut novel set against the lively backdrop of Seattle, Alice must learn the difference between love and a crush, and what it means to be yourself when you're not sure who that is yet."

Possibilities of Sainthood by Donna Fritas, recommended by Roseanne Parry.  "Antonia Lucia Labella has two secrets: at fifteen, she’s still waiting for her first kiss, and she wants to be a saint. An official one."

The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polishner, recommended by Emily of Red House Books. "I absolutely loved the interconnectedness of this story. So many great little pieces all fitting together in just the right way. Family love and loss, unfaltering friendship, first loves, dying wishes, Star Wars and Steinbeck. Everything fit perfectly!"

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen, recommended by Abby the Librarian. “If I were to describe this book in one word, it would be "uplifting".  Jessica's story is one of hope, of friends and family coming together to help, and of possibilities.  It's about small victories and large victories and making the world a better place.”

Sass and Serendipity by Jennifer Ziegler. "This book is a tribute to two women: Jane Austen and my sister, Amanda."

Second Fiddle by Rosanne Parry. “If we had known it would eventually involve the KGB, the French National Police, and the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, we would have left that body in the river and called the Polizei like any normal German citizen; but we were Americans and addicted to solving other people’s problems, so naturally, we got involved.”

Science Fair Season: Twelve Kids, A Robot Named Scorch . . . and What it Takes to Win by Judy Dutton, recommended by Abby the Librarian. “Judy Dutton interviews eleven competitors with projects ranging from nuclear reactors to equine therapy programs to solar-powered heaters constructed from old car radiators and soda cans. Their stories will move and impress you - these are teens who are changing the face of science as we know it!”

Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag by Gordon Korman, recommended by Kerry Mockler of The Moving Castle. “The funniest book I have ever read.”

Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer by Maureen McGowan, suggested by Emily of Red House Books.  "Vampires are cool if done right and while the vampires in this story aren't the blood thirsty ruthless killers that vampires are suppose to be :) they are still pretty darn cool."

The Six Rules of Maybe by Deb Caletti and Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott, recommended by Kate of Author2Author. “I grew up near the beach so I have lots of teen beach memories, which translates to ideas about beach books. I fully expect to write one someday, although my beach ideas haven't made it to the top of the queue yet. In the meantime, here are some beach books I read recently that made me feel less homesick.”

Steinbeck's Ghost by Lewis Buzbee, recommended by Elizabeth Varadan. "Reminded me all over again how much I love libraries, books, and John Steinbeck (not necessarily in that order). Buzbee captures that feel of how an author can send you to another world. . ."

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han, submitted by Meg of Write Meg! “Told in flashes between summers past and present, The Summer I Turned Pretty well captured the joy and pain of first love — and those crushes that just won’t quit.”

Tortilla Sun by Jennifer Cervantes, recommended by Elizabeth Varadan. "Tortilla Sun is a beautiful story of a young girl’s search for wisdom and truth and her discovery of her culture. The book moves at a leisurely pace that gathers in momentum and mystery with a touch of magic. The characters are richly drawn and the village blossoms with life. Izzy is a sympathetic protagonist, entirely believable."

Top 8 by Katie Finn, submitted by Meg of Meg Writes! “. . . light and highly entertaining look at life for high school junior Madison MacDonald, a whip-smart girl with a bevy of close friends and a gorgeous new boyfriend, Jason. Fresh from a vacation in the Galapagos Islands, Madison returns stateside only to discover someone has hacked into her Friendverse (read: Facebook, MySpace) profile and completely changed her profile. And broken up with her boyfriend. And said terrible things to her ‘friends,’ who promptly unfriend and alienate her.”

What I Saw, and How I Lied by Judy Blundell, recommended by Teacherdance. “It’s an excellent mystery, showing well the challenges of a young girl growing up and discovering the realities of her family life as well as that which is most important in life.”

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan, recommended by Katherine. "Two Will Graysons? How can this be? One night in Chicago Will Grayson and Will Grayson find out when they find each other. . . And both end up with  roles to play in producing the first one hundred percent fabulously gay high school musical."