readergirlz is a literacy and social media project for teens, awarded the National Book Foundation's Innovations in Reading Prize. The rgz blog serves as a depot for news and YA reviews from industry professionals and teens. As volunteers return full force to their own YA writing, the organization continues to hold one initiative a year to impact teen literacy. All are welcome to "like" us on Facebook!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

If you couldn't publish, would you still write? asks Markus Zusak


I was just skipping around Amazon and bumped into this AMAZING video with Markus Zusak. They don't allow it to be uploaded elsewhere, but here is the link. Watch it! He gives the moving backstory for The Book Thief and asks that question: if your book would not be published, would you still write it? I join with him in saying, "Yes!"

I want to host Markus on rgz! Who's with me, ladies?

My website

June: Discussion Questions Roundup

Did you miss any of the discussions this month? Check out these posts and weigh in. The last was particularly strong! Thanks again, Sara! We heart you like a pink frosted cookie.

Welcome, Sara Zarr!
postergirlz June recommended reads
Sweethearts roundtable
June recommend: The Year We Disappeared
June Playlist
June recommend: Hold Me Tight
June recommend: Purge

Is there a limit to Loyalty?
Transforming yourself
Parents making mistakes
Do you use food for comfort?
Platonic friendships
Is there a Cameron in your life?
rgz LIVE! with Sara Zarr
Ditched by a friend
The controversial ending of Sweethearts
Thank you, Sara Zarr!

Thank You, Sara Zarr!

Here's a big merci to the awesome Sara Zarr for joining us at readergirlz this month! Sweethearts is a treasure of a book, and we'll be thinking about it for years to come. Plus, we can't wait for Sara's next book, coming this fall. It's called Once Was Lost (just look at that amazing cover!), and here's the description:

Samara Taylor used to believe in miracles. She used to believe in a lot of things. As a pastor's kid, it's hard not to buy in to the idea of the perfect family, a loving God, and amazing grace. But lately, Sam has a lot of reason to doubt. Her mother lands in rehab after a DUI and her father seems more interested in his congregation than his family. When a young girl in her small town is kidnapped, the local tragedy overlaps with Sam's personal one, and the already-worn thread of faith holding her together begins to unravel.

Having Sara here this month has been beyond awesome. Thank you, Sara, for spending time with readergirlz!

Monday, June 29, 2009

June: The Controversial Ending of Sweethearts

And finally, Sara asks, "The controversial ending: Love it or hate it? Discuss it! :)"

*Spoiler warning for the comments!*

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Little Willow's Book Bag

This Week's Picks
No Such Thing as the Real World, an anthology of 6 short stories by 6 different authors: An Na, M.T. Anderson, K.L. Going, Beth Kephart, Chris Lynch, and Jacqueline Woodson. My favorite in the batch was The Longest Distance by Beth Kephart!
Love & Lies: Marisol's Story by Ellen Wittlinger - Sequel to Hard Love

For Your Younger Sister
My Sister's Hair by Jane Cabrera

This Month's Spotlighted Title
Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

Friday, June 26, 2009

Cover Stories: Revenge of the Homecoming Queen by Stephanie Hale

Stephanie Hale's Aspen Brooks series is highly entertaining. I have to admit that I've only read the first one, but I loved it. I also happen to adore the books' covers, so I asked Stephanie if she'd give us some back story. She obliged.

hayden-panettiere.jpg "From the moment I sat down to write the first book of my Aspen Brooks series, Revenge of the Homecoming Queen, I had a very clear picture of who Aspen was in my head. She was smart, beautiful, and loyal. She also thinks she is better than cake and would not hesitate to crush anyone in her path at a Dooney and Bourke purse sale. The actress that kept popping into my head was Hayden Panettiere (this was way before her HEROES fame). If you aren't familiar with this actress, she's a BLONDE. There was no question that my Aspen was a blonde. Keyword: blonde, you will be tested later.

Revenge_of_the_Queen.jpg "When I got an email in my inbox saying that it included my first cover I think I had some kind of a spastic fit around the house for a bit before I opened it. This was it. Official validation that I was really going to be an author. The story that I had poured blood, sweat, and tears (not really, okay, maybe the tears part on all my rejection letters) was going to be immortalized. In just a few moments I would know the images that would stare out from book shelves begging someone to read the pages I had written inside. I took a deep breath, double-checked on the attached document, and nearly had a stroke. I didn't see the adorable little frog with the crown on his head or the amazing, curly font (called hair spray, btw. How awesome is that?) that spelled out my name and title. I just saw a beautiful girl looking back at me. A beautiful brunette girl. Pop quiz: What color did I picture Aspen's hair to be? Answer: Not Brunette!

"The girl really resembled Julia Stiles. Except that hair. She was beautiful but also looked like she could hold her own. I knew that my cover girl wouldn't think twice about getting into a cat fight if it meant getting the last Dooney on sale. Then I noticed that adorable little frog and that awesome curlyque font. I loved that the girl looked dressed up for a formal occasion. Then I realized that it didn't really matter what color her hair was because she was perfect. Part of the fun of reading is using your own imagination to create the characters in your mind. I knew that everyone who read my book would have their own mental picture of Aspen. So I kept her hair blonde in my story because that is who she was to me.

twisted%20sisters.jpg "I found out later that the picture of the girl had been taken for an article in a teen magazine showing different ways to wear your hair for homecoming. The girl on my cover didn't even know she was on a cover until someone showed her. She found me on MySpace and I couldn't believe what a sweetheart she was. I was so excited when Berkley decided to use the same girl for my Twisted Sisters and Spring Breakup covers. She has changed since the first cover and so has Aspen. I love all my covers but I think Spring Breakup is my favorite. She looks very mischievous with her sunglasses pulled down. And I love the little high heel and the hot pink spine and back cover.

spring%20breakup.jpg "My editor never asked me for any input on my covers and I have to admit that I'm very happy. I never would have done them justice. Getting a new cover is still the most exciting/nerve wracking part of this whole process for me. I don't know if the cover gods will always shine on me but they have definitely done a good job so far!"

I totally agree--Stephanie's books always stand out to me, and I have yet to see that hair spray font elsewhere (so cute!). What do you guys think?

PS-Don't forget to enter our Harry Potter contest!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

June: Party It Up!

Sara Zarr gave us great suggestions on how to celebrate, Sweethearts style. So take notes and throw your own book club bash!

Invite: Heart-shaped cards if snail mail, pictures of cookie hearts, or heart-themed Evite

Food: Frosted heart cookies, NECCO sweetheart conversation candies, and French fries with fry sauce (a Utah specialty Jenna mentions - mix mayo and ketchup about 50/50 - yum!)

Décor: More hearts. T-shirts that say, "I survived childhood and all I got was this lousy T-shirt." Toy rings to honor the ring that Cameron leaves in Jennifer's lunch box.

Movies: Slumdog Millionaire (main character forges bond with girl through childhood, and devotes his life to finding her). Also, the TV show My So-Called Life was all about this teen girl shedding an old identity and looking for a new one, but people and things from her past self keep intruding on her efforts to be different.

And, may I just add the BEST. CLIP. EVER. from My So-Called Life? If you're unfamiliar, prepare to swoon:

Monday, June 22, 2009

June: Ditched by a Friend

In the book, Jenna's friend Katy complains that Jenna hasn’t been a very good friend since starting to date Ethan. Have you ever felt ditched by a friend who spends a lot of time with a boyfriend or girlfriend?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Little Willow's Book Bag

This Week's Picks
Breathing by Cheryl Renée Herbsman
Paisley Hanover Acts Out by Cameron Tuttle
Deep in the Heart of High School by Veronica Goldbach
Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger

For Your Younger Sister
National Geographic: How to Be an Egyptian Princess by Jacqueline Morley, illustrated by Nicholas J. Hewetson

This Month's Spotlighted Title
Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cover Stories: Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

This week brought us a brand new Sarah Dessen novel (yay!), and Sarah was kind enough to share her cover story on my blog last month. Of course I had to show it here too. Take it away, Sarah!

"I knew I wanted my cover to reflect at least one of the major themes of the book: either something involving the night, or bicycles. Maybe even both. Most of all, though, I wanted it to look as summer-esque as possible. Like the kind of book I'd want to take to the beach with me.

"My editor and I discussed a few options. We liked the idea of a diner, or some kind of cafe, at night. The fabulous art designer at Penguin read the manuscript so she had a few ideas as well. The title was in flux at the same time, though, so after we decided on Along for the Ride, we decided to go for the bike thing. It just fit better.

"This was actually the very first time we had a photo shoot specifically for one of my covers. We just couldn't find a shot with a bike that everyone liked. Also I think since some of my other cover images have popped up other places Penguin wanted to be sure this one would be ours alone.

"When I saw the cover, I loved how it captured the idea of summer so perfectly. Because I am a stickler for things matching, though, I was a bit hesitant about the pink dress on a red bike. I was always taught those colors don't go well together.

"There were a LOT of phone calls and emails back and forth between myself, my editor, my agent, and the art department. Everyone had a different opinion, but we all know how important a good cover is. It is worth the stress.

"[The art department] is always really patient with me when it comes to the covers, because they know how important it is to me that the book look just right. They actually did a bunch of comps with the bike and dress different colors, and I realized that the pink on red actually looked best. They were right, it just popped. And now, I can't imagine it any other way.

"I'm really, really pleased with this cover. It just captures that feeling of summer that I was going for. And I love that pink dress. I WANT that pink dress!"

I agree with Sarah! The cover has such a summer feel, and the pink dress looks like it's organza, perfectly blowing in the ocean breeze. What do you guys think?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Title news from diva Holly

Hey, readergirlz! This is just a little post to tell you about some book news in Holly's corner: her debut novel (due out in 2010) has an official title now!

Want to know the secret? Go on over to find out!

June: A Cameron in your life?

Sara asks, "Have you ever had a Jenna or a Cameron in your life? Are you still in touch?"

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

rgz LIVE! with Sara Zarr

Welcome to rgz LIVE! Welcome to our chat with Sara Zarr.

Chat with Sara Zarr TONIGHT!

Come back here to the the readergirlz blog TONIGHT, Wednesday, June 17th at 6 PM PST/9 PM EST for a live chat with author Sara Zarr!

While you're here, take a minute to read and consider the Bully Bust post, then enter to win a free T-shirt!

See you at the chat tonight!

Bully Bust 2009 T-Shirt Giveaway and STAND UP Pledge

Last month, I learned about Bully Bust 2009 and posted about it at my blog immediately. This month, it's the featured outreach program in the June 2009 issue of readergirlz.

Bully Bust 2009 is a "community-led concerted effort to reduce bullying in schools" sponsored by the Center for Social and Emotional Education and Boy Meets Girl. Bully Bust encourages people to speak up when they see bullying happening in their schools, in their neighborhoods, or online.

We have a very special giveaway connected to Bully Bust - but before I tell you about that, I want you to really consider what bullying does to a person, how often it happens, and what you can do to help stop it.

Turn the Statistics Around!

CSEE offered the following facts, then added, "Make a difference to turn the statistics around."

* Schools are the 3rd most common location for hate crimes.
* Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT youth reported being verbally harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation.
* For every 25 middle school kids, an average of 2 kids are harassed daily.
* 1 in 4 students say they are unsure of their safety at school.
* When there is a school-wide commitment to end bullying, it can be reduced by up to 50%.
* Suicide remains among the leading causes of death of children under 14.

Take the STAND UP Pledge

Support those around me who are being bullied or victimized
Tell a friend, teacher or parent when I see someone being bullied
Ask myself, "How would I want to be treated?"
Note where and when bullying occurs (bathroom, playground, online) and
Do something when I see someone being bullied – be an UPSTANDER

Understand why bullies bully
Practice being a good role model for my fellow students and share "STAND UP to bullies" strategies

Visit BullyBust.org today to sign the STANDUP pledge, consult valuable resources, and discover the 10 ways to be an upstander. You may also join Bully Bust on Facebook.

T-Shirt Giveaway

Bully Bust sent readergirlz a STAND UP T-shirt designed by Stacy Morgenstern Igel, the founder of the clothing line Boy Meets Girl. This limited edition shirt is made out of 100% organic cotton. (Woo hoo!) It is a white T-shirt, size medium.

Want to win the shirt? Leave a comment below with your email address. That's it! One lucky winner will be selected at random and get the shirt for free.

Update: The contest is now closed. Congratulations, Charley! Thanks to everyone who entered.

You can see the shirt in this video featuring teen actress Sammi Hanratty, the spokesperson for Bully Bust.

Books About Bullying

Looking for a book about bullying, gossiping, or peer pressure to discuss in class or in a book group? Try one of these titles:

Suitable for high school:
Looks by Madeleine George
Read My Lips by Teri Brown
Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson
Walking Naked by Alyssa Brugman
Shattering Glass by Gail Giles
Breaking Point by Alex Flinn
Crimes of the Sarahs by Kristen Tracy (quirky and comedic)
Good Girls by Laura Ruby (content for older teens)
Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr (content for older teens)

Suitable for middle school or upper elementary school:
The Girls by Amy Goldman Koss
Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee

- and this is just the tip of the iceberg. For more books about bullying, peer pressure, and other such topics, consult my Tough Issues for Teens booklist.

Share the Love

Send the Bully Bust link to your friends and family members and encourage them to sign the STAND UP pledge. If you're a teacher or a librarian, I hope you'll tell your students and patrons about it, too.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

June: Sarah Darer Littman

I can't tell you how thrilled I was when I heard that the postergirlz recommended my most recent novel, Purge, to accompany Sara Zarr's Sweethearts. I'm a huge fan of Sara Zarr, both as a writer and as a person. As someone who is passionate about the subject of body image, her blog post on being unwillingly Photoshopped by a photographer is a must read.

Like Jenna in Sweethearts, Janie [the protagonist in Purge] has a complicated relationship with food, and there is a strong emotional component to her eating - when she is bingeing she is eating without enjoyment, but rather to fill what she calls "the black hole" inside.

My mom was taking her old pictures out of albums and scanning them onto the computer and she sent me this picture of myself on a Caribbean holiday when I was 14.

Looking at it as a woman with two kids in my mid-forties, my first thought was: "Wow, I had a nice figure!" But it only took a second for the voice of the girl in the picture to start up in my head - the one that told me she was fat and ugly. I started thinking about how throughout my life how much time and energy has been wasted obsessing about food and body image and feeling bad about myself - and, ultimately, being bulimic for six years as an adult - and I wanted to write a story that might help others avoid making that same mistake.

I'm so excited and grateful to be in such great company. I know E. Lockhart from our NYC Teen Author Drinks Nights and adored The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and now have a great list of other books on my always growing "must read" list.

Thank you, readergirlz and postergirlz!

~ Sarah Darer Littman

Purge is one of the additional titles recommended in the June issue of readergirlz. Here's the summary from the jacket flap of Purge:

Janie Ryman hates throwing up. So why does she binge eat and then stick her fingers down her throat several times a day? That's what the doctors and psychiatrists at Golden Slopes hope to help her discover. But first Janie must survive everyday conflicts between the Barfers and the Starvers, attempts by the head psychiatrist to fish painful memories out of her emotional waters, and shifting friendships and alliances among the kids in the ward.

June: Platonic Friendships

Jenna and Cam's relationship isn't really romantic, and it isn't really platonic. Sara asks, "What is challenging about that kind of friendship?"

Monday, June 15, 2009

Harry Potter Giveaway!!

The boy wizard is in paperback! Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final chapter in Harry Potter’s adventures, will be releases in paperback July 7th! It all comes down to this - a final face off between good and evil. You plan to pull out all the stops, but every time you solve one mystery, three more evolve.

* We're hosting a contest here at readergirlz right on this very blog post. To enter, just be a follower of the blog and comment below to tell us when you read your first Harry book... or admit that you haven't picked them up yet (anyone? anyone?). *

In three weeks, we'll choose five winners to receive a paperback prize pack of:
Book 5: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Book 6: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Book 7: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows!

Good luck, everyone!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Little Willow's Book Bag

This Week's Picks
It's Not You, It's Me by Kerry Cohen Hoffmann
Mare's War by Tanita S. Davis

For Your Younger Siblings
How I Survived Middle School series by Nancy Krulik

This Month's Spotlighted Title
Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

Friday, June 12, 2009

June recommend: Hold Me Tight



"In Miami, Florida, ten-year-old Essie has trouble finding the strength and courage to overcome her feelings of fear, guilt, and shame when her father abandons their family, a classmate is kidnapped, and then a family friend molests her." Annotation from Barnes & Noble

Lorie Ann here! I have to thank the postergirlz for recommending my most recent novel, Hold Me Tight, to accompany Sara Zarr's Sweethearts. It is such an honor!

Like Cameron's disappearance, Chris in my novel disappears. My main character, Essie, is left wondering what has happened and where Chris is.

Essie seeks to define herself in the midst of her trials as Jenna has worked so hard to do by the opening of her story. Both girls experience abuse from adults and try to manage it. Both have childhood sweethearts. Yes, I see the similarities!

Here are a few facts that are little known about Hold Me Tight:

* Essie is mostly me.
* My brothers really are named Dale and Kevin.
* I did know a boy in 5th grade who sat in front of me and was kidnapped. He was shot, stabbed, and left for dead in the Everglades.
* I saw Chris, as an adult, on Oprah and Dateline.
* A reporter was able to reconnect us when my book launched.
* Chris' daughter wrote me when she was 10 and thanked me for writing about her father's experience as it gave her more understanding. (How full circle is that?)

Thank you, postergirlz, for the nod for Hold Me Tight! I'm so touched to be among your amazing June recommends!

Rgz Street Team: Sarah reviews Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

The rgz Street Team is a group of teens who bring YA reviews to our blog, led by Postergirl Miss Erin. Find out more.

Today, Sarah reviews Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler:

"Anna is going on a trip with her best friend, Frankie, to Zanzibar Bay. Frankie thinks that it will be the perfect time and place for a summer romance, a quick and harmless fling. During swimsuit shopping, Anna and Frankie come up with a plan for the Absolute Best Summer Ever. The plan is to see who can get the most guys in twenty days. The problem is that Anna isn't over Frankie's Brother, Matt, who died suddenly in a car crash. So Anna is holding on to that time with Matt and hiding the secret from Frankie.

Twenty Boy Summer had an amazing setting. I felt like I was in California and feeling the sunshine when I read it. Anna was true to herself. Her relationship with Matt appeared to be honest and sincere. There were a few things that I didn't like about Frankie in the beginning, but she seemed to grow up and be more honest. Ockler does and amazing job creating a well woven story that digs in to your heart. You will cry, laugh, and fall in love with the characters and the storyline. Ockler has an amazing debut of love lost and living every moment of your life to the best you can. I loved this book and could fangirl it for quite bit longer. I recommend this book. --Sarah

PS-Sarah Ockler just started a "20 things in 20 days" scavenger hunt on her blog! Check it out and learn how you can earn points toward winning a Grand Prize.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

June: Do you use food for comfort?

Jenna uses food for comfort when she's anxious or unsure. Hence, the cover of Sweethearts. Is this something that you do or have done?

June: Things to Know About Featured Author Sara Zarr

The incredible Sara Zarr, author of Sweethearts, has shared a few things about herself with us:Link

Favorite bookstore: The King's English in Salt Lake City - comfy store, great selection, amazing staff.

Favorite library: The Salt Lake City Public Library, main. (Named 2006 Library of the Year! Booya!)

Pets: One very talkative parakeet named Peanut.

Dream book tour: The Lake District in the UK, Venice, and then a special appearance on a cruise ship going up the Inside Passage to Alaska...

Favorite outfit: Jeans, sneakers, comfy shirt.

Laptop or longhand? Laptop, usually.

Stilettos or Uggs? Actually, I pretty much never take off my ecco sneakers!

Next up: A short story in Geektastic this summer. Then, my third novel, Once Was Lost, coming in October.

I could hang out with Sara all day long, in jeans (Sweetheart jeans from Old Navy, in fact, are a favorite of Sara's) and a t-shirt. She's the coolest. I want to know: What can Peanut say? Find out more about her on readergirlz.com!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Fantasy Road Trip Contest!

Listening Library is sponsoring the Fantasy Road Trip Contest, challenging teens ages 13-18 to create videos based on an imaginary road trip with characters from one of three great fantasy series. The series include the works of Libba Bray, author of the Gemma Doyle Trilogy (A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing), Tamora Pierce, author of the Beka Cooper series (her current series, so far it includes Terrier and Bloodhound), and Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series (including the latest, The Last Olympian).

Your short film should answer the questions, “If you could go on a road trip with a character from your favorite audio series, where would you go? What would you do along the way? How would you travel?”

Visit fantasyroadtripcontest.com to watch a video about how to enter, see video requirements and find out lots of information about the authors and their books. Authors will judge the videos, each picking a winner (for a total of three), who will receive an 8GB iPod Touch and a collection of signed audiobooks.

The contest runs from June 1-August 17. Get creative, readergirlz!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

rgz LIVE! with diva Melissa Walker


Come celebrate Lovestruck Summer with rgz, postergirlz, divas, and diva Melissa Walker! The chat will begin at 6:00 Pacific. Here's to a great kickoff for your upcoming summer!

rgz LIVE! Chat Tonight at 9pm EST/6pm PST

We'll throw a little confetti because diva Melissa Walker's Lovestruck Summer is here, we'll discuss the merits of iced coffee, sparkly shoes and good jukebox lists... or whatever you're feeling.

Join us tonight, here at the readergirlz blog, for rgz LIVE! at 9pm EST/6pm PST. Bring questions, deep thoughts and knock knock jokes. We hope to see you there!

Monday, June 8, 2009

June: Parents Making Mistakes

In Sweethearts, Jenna's mom makes some mistakes when it comes to dealing with Jenna's past and current issues. What do you wish parents would do differently when you confide in them?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

What a Girl Wants at Chasing Ray

This week, Colleen Mondor of the fabulous blog Chasing Ray will launch a series of posts featuring writers whose YA novels feature strong female characters. This endeavor, aptly titled What a Girl Wants, will include authors Margo Rabb, Sara Ryan, Jacqueline Kelly, Loree Griffin Burns, Zetta Elliott, Beth Kephart, Laurel Snyder, Mayra Lazara Dole, Melissa Wyatt, Kekla Magoon, Jenny Davidson, and our own Lorie Ann Grover! I really look forward to seeing what these ladies have to say. Go, Colleen.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Little Willow's Book Bag

This Week's Picks
Broken by Alyxandra Harvey-Fitzhenry

For Your Younger Siblings
Juicy Gossip by Erin Downing
Julia Gillian (and the Quest for Joy) by Alison McGhee, with art by Drazen Kozjan

This Month's Spotlighted Title
Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

Friday, June 5, 2009

readergirlz summer poster

Check out this amazing poster for our rgz summer reads created by readergirlz diva Holly Cupala! You'll want this up on the wall of your room or library to remind you of sizzling summer ahead with readergirlz.

Diva Dia

June: Transforming yourself

Between 4th grade and high school, Jenna transforms herself into a different person physically and socially. Have you ever wished you could reinvent yourself? Why?