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!

Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year, Steampunk Style!

I'm still steampunking around after our rgz Circle of Stars feature Scott Westerfeld back in March. So here you go, rgz. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

How are you ringing in 2011?

Happy New Year, Steampunk Style

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

Rgz Street Team: Olivia reviews The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June by Robin Benway

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, Olivia reviews The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June, by Robin Benway:

"The relatively normal life of the Stephenson sisters has started to spiral out of control. Their parents decide to separate. They have to move to a new city without their dad and attend a new school. And as if that wasn’t difficult enough, each sister has begun to develop a super power that had lain dormant since their childhood.

"April, the studious oldest sister, feels responsible for holding her family together, and is often wracked by anxiety. April finds even more to worry about when she develops the power to see into the future- through confusing visions accompanied by flashing red lights. She is especially concerned about what she sees in these visions, not just for the future of her sisters, but also because of a surprising development in her own love life: especially since her new friend Julian is present in some of her less-than-comforting insights into the future.

"May, the rebellious middle sister, is especially resistant to their new life and longs to live with her dad instead of her mom and sisters. She often feels ignored both by her family and peers, and soon develops the ability to actually disappear to the point where she is invisible to all those around her. While this might seem like a blessing in disguise for May, she must learn to control her power, as her disappearances are involuntary and occur at very inconvenient times. May also struggles with her failing grade in European History and her Stanford-obsessed tutor, Henry, with whom she does not get along well at all.

"June, the vain youngest sister, is definitely the most carefree of the sisters. However, she does have her own problems to deal with as a freshman in high school who is trying to finally become popular by winning the affections of one of the most popular girls in school, Mariah. Much to the horror of April, June decides to use her power, mind-reading, in order to manipulate Mariah and others to please them. April’s concern for June heightens when she experiences a frightening vision that makes her fear for June’s safety.

"Though The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June was narrated by a different sister in every chapter, each central character is so clearly defined that the reader hardly ever confuses the three. Benway does an admirable sister of assigning each sister a tone and narration style, and keeps these consistent throughout the story.

"While the story is primarily focused on the sisters and their struggles together, each also has an entertaining individual subplot. While April and her new friendship with Julian, and May and her tutoring with Henry are both engaging storylines, June and her journey to popularity is the most compelling. In the end, these subplots result in personal growth for each of the sisters as well as important lessons learned--but without a 'preachy' feeling.

"In fact, one of the most remarkable aspects of the book is that the author, Robin Benway, is able to become so in-tune with the emotions of teenage girls. The thoughts and feelings of each sister seem believable and relatable, as if they were penned by a teenage girl herself, instead of by an adult who might not be so connected to the thoughts and values of the youth.

"Overall, The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June is a very entertaining and humorous read. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed Benway’s other novel, or to anyone who enjoys the perfect mix between lightheartedness and complexity that Benway manages to achieve in this novel."

Thursday, December 30, 2010

rgz Circle of Stars: Nikki Grimes and A Girl Named Mister

I'm so excited to share the latest release from our own Circle of Stars, Nikki Grimes! She was last featured at readergirlz for her classic Bronx Masquerade.

Today we celebrate, A Girl Named Mister, a beautiful verse novel with a strong female protagonist. Here is the story of a fifteen year old girl, raised in the church, making choices she never expected. Within the main character Mary Rudine's journey is a book she reads which depicts the experiences of Mary from the New Testament. A Girl Named Mister shares the story of two teens facing unexpected pregnancies. The ancient story is a light of hope to the protagonist of today.

The weaving of the tales is handled deftly. One flows and mirrors the other like sun dappled rivers converging. None will be disappointed in Nikki's poetic language that lyrically depicts heartache, fear, and joy so vividly.

"Even through
my rayon-cotton blend
his touch
burned the world away."

Find A Girl Named Mister. Read these young women's thoughts, be moved, and then share this novel with another readergirl!

A Girl Named Mister
by Nikki Grimes
Zondervan, 2010

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

Story Secrets: DEADLY LITTLE GAMES by Laurie Faria Stolarz

We are very excited to host Laurie Faria Stolarz, author of the TOUCH series: Deadly Little Secret, Deadly Little Lies, and now the third book, Deadly Little Games, just released this week!

Laurie is here to chat about the secrets behind Deadly Little Games...

Welcome, Laurie!


High school juniors Camelia and Ben have discovered a powerful bond: they both possess the power of psychometry, the ability to see the future through touch. For Ben, the gift is a frightening liability. When he senses a strong threat or betrayal, he risks losing control. Camelia’s gift is more mysterious. When she works with clay, her hands sculpt messages her mind doesn’t yet comprehend. Before either one has a chance to fully grasp their abilities, a new danger surfaces, but this time, Camelia is not the target. Adam, a familiar face from Ben’s past, is drawn into a puzzle he can’t solve. . . and his life is on the line. As the clues pile up, Camelia must decide whether to help him and risk losing Ben or do nothing and suffer the consequences. But in these games, who can be trusted?

And here is an excerpt from DEADLY LITTLE GAMES:
With only a few minutes of class remaining, I close my eyes again, still picturing Adam’s mouth. I try to imagine what he would say if he knew what I was doing. Would he suspect that I was interested in him? Would he think it was weird that I remember so much detail about the moment that night inside his car? Would he tell Ben what I was up to? I take a deep breath and try my best to focus on the answers. But the only words that flash across my mind, the ones I can’t seem to shake, don’t even address the questions at all. “You deserve to die,” I whisper, suddenly realizing that I’ve said the words aloud.

Holly Cupala: I love to hear the stories behind the story – how did you come up with the idea?

Laurie Faria Stolarz: I wanted to write a story where the main character has to struggle with the idea of falling in love with someone who could potentially be dangerous. I tinkered with this concept in the first three books of my Blue is for Nightmares Series [(Blue is for Nightmares (Llewellyn 2003), White is for Magic (Llewellyn 2004), and Silver is for Secrets (Llewellyn 2005), as well as in Bleed (Hyperion 2006)]. In Bleed, in particular, there’s a young male character who was convicted for the murder of his girlfriend. His next relationship consists of pen pal letters he exchanges with a young girl while he’s in prison. Without giving too much away, the relationship is briefly pursued once he is released, and I wanted to bring this concept to another level.

Additionally, I wanted to continue experimenting with the supernatural (which I also use in my Blue is for Nightmares Series as well as in Project 17), showing how we all have our own inner senses and intuition, and how with work we can tap into those senses and make them stronger. I started researching different types of supernatural powers and discovered the power of psychometry (the ability to sense things through touch). The concept fascinated me, and so I wanted to bring it out in a character, showing how sometimes even the most extraordinary powers can also be a curse.

Lastly, I wanted to apply these concepts to be part of a series. I love the idea of growing main character over the course of several books.

Holly: What would you say is your biggest inspiration?

Laurie: I get my inspiration from all over – TV, magazines, news headlines, ideas and themes that interest me, lessons I learn, etc., etc. I’m always looking for something new and something deeply relatable for people. I got the idea for my novel Project 17, for example, when the newspapers in the surrounding towns were flooded with the news of the controversial teardown of an abandoned mental institution that was rumored to be haunted.

Holly: How have your life experiences helped you get to the heart of your story?

Laurie: I think what’s most important for me is that my stories are relatable in some way. Though there are definitely extraordinary things happening, I want my main character to be someone people can relate to. I try to tap in to my inner teen and remember what it was like to be a young person. I try to bring those emotions out in my work.

Holly: What do you most hope your readers will take away?

Laurie: First and foremost, I hope that my work is enjoyable to my readers – that it keeps them turning pages, anxious to find out what happens. I wasn’t a big reader as a young person. A book would have to be a real page-turner to keep me reading. When I started writing books for young people, I wanted to target teens who were like me in that respect – those who didn’t necessarily gravitate toward reading for pleasure. Secondly, though there’s a lot of dramatic action that takes place in my books, there are messages in there as well – lessons about forgiveness, forgiving oneself, moving forward, learning and letting go, etc., etc.

Holly: Any secrets you might be willing to share?

I once ate a maggot by mistake. It was in high school and I was on a date with a new guy that I really liked him. We stopped to get slices of pizza after a movie. After chatting, and laughing, and munching on my pizza, I suddenly noticed an odd gummy texture inside my mouth. I looked at the crust, noticing half a maggot, cooked and embedded into the crust (I’d obviously eaten the other half). I was so repulsed, but didn’t say anything, because I didn’t want to make a fuss. I would’ve done things differently now, but to this day I refuse to eat at that particular chain.

Holly: What’s up next for you?

I’m currently working on Deadly Little Voices, the fourth book in the Touch series. I’m also writing the third book in The Amanda Project.


Thank you for dropping by readergirlz, Laurie!

~Holly Cupala

Win Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick!

One of our featured titles this month, Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick, has a fantastic trailer. Watch it below, and then head over to melissacwalker.com for a chance to win the book!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cover Stories: Hold Still by Nina LaCour

I think Hold Still, which is a beautiful book and was a Featured Title in November, has gotten two great covers (hardcover and paperback) so I had to ask Nina LaCour about each one. Here she is:

"I was super worried about my cover. My mom used to be a graphic designer so I grew up a little bit of adesign snob. My biggest worry was that the art team would make the book look to girly, or too light, that they would strike a tone that didn't suit the story. So when I heard that Mia Nolting (who had been writing out the journal entries in the novel since before I even had an agent) was going to do the cover art, I was thrilled and relieved. I love Mia's work. It's clean and delicate and has this awesome current, indie quality while still being poignant and honest and really moving. Plus, she's my friend. I loved the first concept she came up with: a girl in jeans with a camera around her neck, a strip mall behind her, a layer of text (below). The concept evolved from there to include a girl's face with the camera raised in front of it and another girl spinning in the distance, and I liked this idea of overlapping images.
hold still illo.jpg
"Then, I got a call from my wonderful editor, Julie Strauss-Gabel, who told me that people at Penguin were getting excited about the book, and what we thought was going to be a pretty quiet book was actually going to be a 'big' book for the fall season. I was thrilled to hear this news, but bummed to hear that it meant we were moving in a different direction with the cover. Mia's drawings were no longer going to be on it--instead we would be going with a photograph.

"The next cover I saw was a complete departure. It was a photograph of a mournful-looking girl with a large shadow hovering behind her. The photograph was black and white and the title was written in a red computer font. I did not like this cover. The girl was too glamorous and it felt so oppressively sad..."

Read the rest of Nina's Cover Story at melissacwalker.com.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Compassion & Converse

While discussing this month's theme, Compassion, with three readergirlz, we realized that their outfits had a common theme: Converse sneakers. Say hi to Natalie, Tate, and Arielle -- at least, say hi to their shoes.

Arielle was previously seen in last week's rgz vlog. She was also one of the readergirlz (and boys) who finally met John Green and David Levithan in person this past summer, an event which was captured on video - and then the footage was lost. (Woe!) The point is, Arielle wanted to have the authors sign her Converse sneakers, but such a thing wasn't permitted. Maybe next time...

Monday, December 27, 2010

Special Holiday BONUS Edition: Featured Title Redux and NYC Host End-of-Year Roundup!

Hi all! I hope that everyone's enjoying a relaxing holiday season and looking forward to all good things in the New Year!

Mondays at Readergirlz are Featured Title day, but today's Featured Title is actually an encore presentation of Little Willow's December Community Service Spotlight. Read all about it here, and check out YES YOU CAN: Your Guide to Becoming an Activist for information on getting started with your own community service outreach. 'Tis the season, after all!

In other news, some of you eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that since taking on my role as Author Liaison here, I've slipped a bit in my duties as NYC Host. If only there were two of me, or twice as many hours in a day! But no matter; the end of the year is the perfect time, in my humble opinion, to catch up on all of the recent goings on about town in my very busy city. Bear with me - it's been hectic....

In October, I attended the NYPL's Teen Author Reading Night at Jefferson Market, featuring, among others, Samantha Schutz reading from her new verse novel, You Are Not Here. Later that month I attended Sam's book release party (along with fellow diva Melissa), where I got to hear her read again, this time with the bonus thrill of snacks! Here's a shot of Sam and Brother Dave, another of my fave YA-types, with good reason, toasting YANH at Book Court in Brooklyn.

I was also given a sneak peek at the cover reveal for Sweet Valley Confidential, a follow-up to the ever-popular Sweet Valley High series which I've talked about with you all before. Two months later, I don't know that this can still be considered a "reveal," but if you want to keep up with the Wakefield twins before their release this spring, head on over to the site and sign up for news and updates! Team Elizabeth! Team Jessica! Team Sweet Valley!

In November, I was off to Books of Wonder to hear a panel of National Book Award Finalists read. That's my former workshop advisor/eternal mentor and inspirer-of-awe, Rita Williams Garcia, holding court, and running down the line, you might recognize such literary heavyweights as Paolo Bacigalupi, Walter Dean Myers, and Katheryn Erskine (who took home the medal for Mockingbird).

Which brings us to December at last! Brother Dave and I kicked off the month at Temple Emanu El in Edison, NJ, where we held a talk about our novel, So Punk Rock, as part of their Jewish Book Month celebration and book fair. The participants were super-enthusiastic (and very well-read), and Dave and I had a blast!

Meanwhile, authoress extraordinaire Judy Goldschmidt has officially been dubbed Lady Literati. She's now got a column on Miss Literati where she's answering all of your questions about writing! Swing by, say hello, and take a listen to what she has to say. Full disclosure: Miss J. has, in her day, edited yours truly, so I speak from experience when I wax rhapsodic about her editorial prowess.

And finally finally, my dear friend and the original Creative Girl herself, Katharine Sise, held a reading from her career guide for sassy gals like all of us, Creative Girl. I adore Katharine and her message of creativity so much that we've featured her before, so if you haven't checked her (or her gorgeous jewelry designs) out yet, now's the time!

Phew! Well, that's it for me! Have a wonderful New Year's - read something good! - and next week, come back for our regularly scheduled Featured Title post.

Happy happy happy, readergirlz!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Cover Stories: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Kiersten White's Paranormalcy has a gorgeous, dark cover with lots of movement. Here she is to tell the story of how it came about:

"I went in knowing that authors don't have much say in covers so I really didn't have anything specific in mind. In fact, my editor asked me for ideas and I was like, 'Wait, what?? I have no ideas!' I didn't want to get attached to an image and then be disappointed in what ended up being used.

"That being said, I did have several things I didn't want. My greatest fear was that the cover would be hot pink and feature a headless torso.

"The one idea I had was two arms crossing the cover and holding hands in the middle--one glowing slightly, and one a nearly invisible outline, to represent the two main characters. I'm really, really glad they didn't listen to that. I also suggested a hand rising out of a grave and a pink booted foot standing on it, but it was way too Buffy-esque, and I'm again glad they didn't even consider it. At one point they told me they were playing with an extreme close up of eyes, which I liked because eyes are very important in the book.

"All along the way I was really hoping that my cover wouldn't feature a model..."

Read the rest of Kiersten's Cover Story at melissacwalker.com.

PS-Here's the trailer, which makes me need it NOW.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Little Willow's Book Bag

This Week's Picks
The Reinvention of Bessica Lefter by Kristen Tracy
Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell
Penny Dreadful by Laurel Snyder

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Story Secrets: ICE by Sarah Beth Durst

Happy Holidays, everyone!

In honor of the ice and snow (or maybe rain or sunshine, depending on what part of the country you are in!), I'm thrilled to welcome Sarah Beth Durst - Sarah Beth and I met at the winter SCBWI conference the year of her debut novel, INTO THE WILD, and we've been fast friends ever since. Here she'll share some of the story behind the story of her third YA fantasy, ICE. What better novel to read this blustery, wondery holiday?

Welcome, Sarah Beth!


ICE is a YA fantasy novel set in the present-day Arctic. It's about a polar bear, true love, and one girl's impossible quest across the frozen North.

I wrote this book as a love letter to my husband. It's about true love... the kind of love where you'd go east of the sun and west of the moon for each other. So this novel is very closed to my heart.

It's also about polar bears, one of the coolest animals ever. No pun intended.

Besides being really excited that it's you (I confess, I'm already a SBD diehard fan), I was thrilled to hear you were inspired by East of the Sun, and West of the Moon. How did the tale influence your story?

I love fairy tales. I think they have tremendous power. For many of us, they're among the first stories we ever hear, and as such, they help form our understanding of what story is. Plus they are a huge part of our culture, and everyone brings such emotional baggage to them. These things make them a great tool for a writer.

So I knew I wanted to work with a fairy tale, but I didn't want one where the girl just slept for the entire tale. Or was stuck in a tower. Or was dead.

I fell in love East of the Sun, West of the Moon because it's about a fearless girl who saves an enchanted prince, instead of vice versa. In the original tale, she's asked multiple times, "Are you afraid?" And the answer is always, "No, she wasn't." That little exchange was the spark that became ICE.

From there, I veered rather far from that original spark. My fearless girl became the daughter of an Arctic research scientist, and my prince became a kind of Angel of Death for polar bears.

Did it take you anywhere unexpected, either in writing or in real life?

Yes, it took me to the Arctic. Not literally. (I really, really don't like being cold. Or hot. I prefer to be temperature regulated.) But I buried myself in research, and I was able to live vicariously through Cassie as she treks across the frozen sea, the tundra, and the Canadian boreal forest.

I think one of the best things about being a writer is that it lets you live other lives and go to places that you'll never be able to go to in real life. It's the ultimate in armchair – or more accurately, desk chair - traveling.

I love to hear the story behind stories. So what's the real story behind ICE? Any secrets you might be willing to share?

Raisinets. That's the secret to writing. I keep a bag next to me while I write to keep me going.

Seriously, the secret is to find what keeps you going. I strongly believe that the key to being a writer is perseverance. So whether it's a quote next to your computer, a person who cheers you on, a set of songs that puts you in the mood, or a particular food, use whatever works for you and don't give up!


For more info about ICE, visit Sarah Beth's website, and check out Melissa Walker's ICE Cover Story here.

Suggest Songs for Our January Playlist

Hey rgz!

We are building the playlist for January. Our theme is Hope. Give me your suggestions in the comments below, and I'll create the playlist!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Matthew Quick on Compassion and Kindness

Featured author Matthew Quick left this comment on the previous post, and we felt the need to highlight!

"Amber does have faith in her god, although it is somewhat nontraditional in nature. But I think much of her strength comes from action. She puts herself into the world the best she can, shows compassion through her deeds, and helps to make the lives of those around her better, which in turn makes Amber stronger and her life richer. Her attitude is important; it's what buoys her. For Amber, compassion is synonymous with action.

"My wife (novelist Alicia Bessette) and I run a blog called Quest For Kindness. Each Thursday we publish an essay on the subject of kindness. As you might imagine, the topic of compassion comes up quite a bit. Many authors--including YA writers Francisco X. Stork, Lisa Schroeder, and Beth Kephart--have already added their voices. We invite all of you to read and submit."

Thanks, Matthew!

Sorta Like a Rock Star: Amber's Hope and Compassion

Matthew Quick's Sorta Like a Rock Star introduces us to Amber Appleton, a contagiously upbeat protagonist who lives with her alcoholic mother in a school bus. She has a lot going on in her world, though, and her hope manages to shine through, even when tragedy strikes.

For those who've read the book: What did you think of Amber in terms of this month's theme of Compassion? Where did her well of Compassion come from?

And, what other books have you read that include a protagonist who manages to let hope rise to the surface, even in dark situations?

Want to share how you are showing compassion this season? Anything special, or just the daily walk to think of others kindly and act when you can? 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cover Stories: Stalker Girl by Rosemary Graham

Thumbnail image for stalkergirl final.jpg
Rosemary Graham's Stalker Girl intrigued me instantly. I wouldn't quite use the "s" word about myself, but it wasn't far off at certain low points in my life, relationships-wise. Anyway, this isn't about me. It's about that compelling cover (and how you can win a copy of the book!).

Here's Rosemary:

"There were three versions of the cover prior to the final one. Or maybe I should call it the final final one because the very first cover I was presented with was deemed 'final' (right). I absolutely loved this first one from the moment I saw it even though it didn't actually make sense in terms the Stalker Girl plot. I loved how it suggested a New York skyline. I loved the knowing look in the girl's eye and a really loved her dress.

"Two months after this cover was presented to me as final, my editor wrote to say that sales and marketing people were having second thoughts. They felt that the girl looking right into the camera was wrong for the story, that there needed to be a sense of people being watched without knowing it.
cover two.jpg
They also felt strongly that there should be a couple in the camera lens because in the story the stalker is stalking her ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend. I completely understood and accepted the reasons for the change. However, I was not happy with the new image (left).

"For one thing, I felt like the urban feel of the first was lost. That couple might have been walking along Fifth Avenue, in front of Central Park, but there was nothing to strongly indicate an urban setting. Also? As a friend of mine said, it was 'a bit hair swingy.' Also? The girl was wearing a bright pink shirt and since my second novel's hardback cover had been very, very pink, I was hoping to avoid pinkness and the whole chick lit question this time around...."

Read the rest of Rosemary's Cover Story, and enter for a chance to win the book, at melissacwalker.com.

Arielle Discusses Compassion

When asked to define and discuss this month's theme, Compassion, here's what readergirl/high school student/Nerdfighter/Doctor Who fan/all-around awesome Arielle had to say:

Monday, December 20, 2010

Featured Title: SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR, by Matthew Quick

When I heard that the postergirlz had picked Sorta Like a Rock Star as a December Featured Title, I was immediately intrigued. What can I say? I'm drawn to books that reference rock in their titles. But, you know, maybe that's just me. 

Besides - this book has WAY more to offer than just a rad title. My oh my, was I in for a treat! Here's what Booklist has to say about SLARS

Although Amber and her single alcoholic mother are currently homeless and have been secretly crashing in a school bus, the 17-year-old remains a self-proclaimed princess of hope. And why not, when she has an adorable rescued dog and fellow socially challenged friends in the Franks Freak Force Federation? She is teaching English after school to Catholic Korean women, the Korean Divas for Christ, through classic R & B music; she is learning the art of haiku from a once-reclusive Vietnam vet; she is the reigning champion in a weekly word battle against a Nietzsche-loving senior at the Methodist Retirement Home; and she lives according to her tremendous faith. Her world and faith shatter, however, when her mother suffers a violent tragedy, and afterward, Amber struggles to reclaim her belief in God. This memorable teen’s fresh voice and uplifting spirit will endear readers (word!), while a bring-down-the-house ending will inspire them to find the best in humanity (true!). 

Amber's voice is fresh, quirky, and unique - I'd direct any aspiring writers to SLARS pronto for a lesson in crafting authentic, original characters. Unsurprisingly, just as unique is her creator, Matthew Quick, who's here to wax contemplative on this month's theme, Compassion: 

When I started writing SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR, the first-person voice of my protagonist, Amber Appleton, just sort of popped into my head. Part of me worried Amber’s voice was too intense, too Amber. Should I really be writing from the POV of the opposite gender? Did Amber talk about God too much? Would readers tolerate her quirks and catchphrases? But the more time I spent with Amber, the more I grew to love her, until I knew I had to complete her story.

I wrote SLARS during a happy period in my writing life. I felt good about who I was. I felt confident about my writing. This is not always the case. But at the time, I was strong enough to allow Amber to exist on the page exactly how she wanted to exist. I felt strong enough to offer my character, story, and myself compassion.

Since SLARS was published, many people have also fallen in love with Amber Appleton, quirks and all. I’ve received e-mails from teenagers who wish Amber were real, because they want to hang out with her. Some people have told me that Amber makes them aspire to be a better person. Others have proudly told me that they know someone who is very much like Amber Appleton. A few have said that SLARS got them through a tough time. And some have simply said that Amber makes them happy.

And so Amber and I are glad to bring you this story and hope that it will lift your spirits—or at least make you smile.  And we, of course, hope you’re having a great day.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Matthew! You can definitely add me to the list of people who'd kill to hang with Amber. And as much compassion as you showed her (and yourself!) during the writing process, as a reader I'm impressed with Amber's continued compassion and empathy for others despite her own difficult circumstances. 

So, readers - have you read Amber's story, and did it inspire you to show more compassion to others? Is there an Amber in your life? 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cover Stories: Girl Stolen by April Henry

April Henry's Girl Stolen is about a girl who's asleep in her mom's car when the car is stolen, with her inside. Also, she's blind. Stakes? HIGH.

Here's April to talk about the cover:

"I have to confess that I am not good at visualizing covers for my own books. I love book covers and am also married to a graphic designer who asks for feedback, but that's more reacting than acting, so I did not give any input.

"My agent had a comp in hard copy and mine hadn't arrived yet. She told me she loved it. I was dying of curiosity! She managed to take a slightly blurry photo of it with her camera phone and then emailed it to me. When I saw it, I fell in love, too.

"My editor and I discussed little changes. For example, the girl is wearing fingernail polish on the cover. In the book there is no mention of her wearing fingernail polish, but I decided it was something Cheyenne might do to fit in, so I suggested adding a line about it.

"Initially, the polish looked a little uneven, so it was plausible that a blind girl had done it. Then they decided to scuff up her nails so that they looked more like she had been fighting (she's been kidnapped). The cover designer told me that all the fingernail polish, in whatever state, was added in Photoshop.

"We also discussed whether there should be any punctuation on the cover, and I was presented with two covers to choose from..."

Read the rest of April's Cover Story, and peek at some early cover ideas, at melissacwalker.com.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Little Willow's Book Bag

This Week's Picks
Bone: Quest For the Spark, Book #1 by Tom Sniegoski, illustrated by Jeff Smith
Dear America: The Fences Between Us by Kirby Larson

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Story Secrets: FALL FOR ANYTHING by Courtney Summers

Have you ever noticed a book popping up over and over in the book blogs you read? Not necessarily the splashy one, but the one everybody keeps saying is So Good.

That's what I kept seeing about Courtney Summers' book, SOME GIRLS ARE. I read it. And it was so good. She has a way of capturing power dynamics and making them an intense, heart-wrenching experience - not to mention a page-turner.

So I'm really looking forward to her latest, FALL FOR ANYTHING, which comes out December 21st! (You can preorder it on IndieBound or Amazon.) And even more, I'm thrilled to welcome Courtney Summers to the blog today to chat about her story secrets...

Welcome, Courtney!


FALL FOR ANYTHING is about a girl who is consumed by the question of why her (ex) famous photographer killed himself. She meets Culler Evans, a former photography student of her father's, and an instant and dangerous attraction begins. Culler just might hold the key to the mystery surrounding her father's death... but are some questions better left unanswered?

Holly Cupala: We'd love to hear the story behind FALL FOR ANYTHING. How did you come up with the idea?

I've always been fascinated with grief and loss, particularly now that I've lost people who I've been extremely close to in my life, so that's pretty much where the idea stemmed from. I wanted to explore the space that kind of loss leaves behind and the lengths we'll go to so we can feel whole again.

Click here for more about Courtney and FALL FOR ANYTHING...

~Holly Cupala

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Love is the Higher Law: The Personal Side of Huge Events

David Levithan's Love is the Higher Law tackles the tough subject of September 11, 2001 in a very personal way—through the lives of three teenagers who happen to live in New York City on that day. Their individual experiences come together to create the picture of a city in crisis, and the compassion that can arise out of unthinkable tragedy.

For those who've read the book: What is it about David's way of telling this story that puts this huge-scale event in a very personal light?

And, what other books have you read that deal with something on a grand scale -- war, a big historical event, etc. -- and also manage to make the characters' stories shine through?

Also, if you were born, where were you that day?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Novel Gift Reminder #novelgift

125,000 books to low-income teens!

Checking in with everyone! Out there shopping, sipping eggnog lattes, and wrapping gifts? Fantastic!

If you happen to cross paths with anyone who works with low-income teams, get them over to First Book to register to receive awesome YA lit this holiday season. We are talking community groups, church groups, detention centers, schools, libraries. You get the picture.

Play Santa with A Novel Gift! Twitter, twitter, twitter it around the globe! Here's the tiny url: http://tinyurl.com/2a5mwpj Thanks for your help this week!

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

Cover Stories: Matched by Ally Condie

Ally Condie's Matched was just named #1 on the Winter 2010/2011 Kid's Indie Next List. And its cover is up there among the best of the year too, so I asked Ally to tell that tale, and here she is:

"I didn't have anything in mind for a cover. I'm not a very creative person visually. I certainly appreciate it in others--my mother is a professional artist, and I have grown up appreciating visual art in its many forms--but my mind doesn't seem to work that way. So, I was just excited to see what the designers had in mind!

"My publisher asked for ideas, and I didn't really have any suggestions for them.

"Honestly, when I first saw the cover I wanted to cry. Tears of joy. I thought it was perfect. The model is just how I pictured Cassia looking, but I like that she's in profile so we can imagine her features. The dress is beautiful and has significance to the story, as does the bubble/glass world and the color green. And that particular shade of green they selected is beautiful. I am also a fan of very clean design, and this cover has that in spades. Theresa Evangelista was the designer for the cover and she is amazing.

"Before this cover, there was another concept that Penguin had that we didn't use. It was also beautiful, but this one is even better..."

Read the rest of Ally's Cover Story at melissacwalker.com.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Featured Title: LOVE IS THE HIGHER LAW, by David Levithan

Happy Monday, and happy holiday season, readergirlz! It seems to me that our theme for December, Compassion, is perfectly suited for this time of year, and more than that, this week's featured title, Love Is the Higher Law, is a book that perfectly embodies that theme.

First there is a Before, and then there is an After. . . .

The lives of three teens—Claire, Jasper, and Peter—are altered forever on September 11, 2001. Claire, a high school junior, has to get to her younger brother in his classroom. Jasper, a college sophomore from Brooklyn, wakes to his parents’ frantic calls from Korea, wondering if he’s okay. Peter, a classmate of Claire’s, has to make his way back to school as everything happens around him.

Here are three teens whose intertwining lives are reshaped by this catastrophic event. As each gets to know the other, their moments become wound around each other’s in a way that leads to new understandings, new friendships, and new levels of awareness for the world around them and the people close by.

David Levithan has written a novel of loss and grief, but also one of hope and redemption as his characters slowly learn to move forward in their lives, despite being changed forever.

Some readers who come to LITHL may not have actually lived through 9/11, which makes this book important in how it communicates the ways that the powers of kindness and compassion helped New Yorkers -- and those who weren't physically here on that day -- move beyond the terror and incomprehension of the attacks. For those of us who were here, and who recall the aftershocks all too vivdly, Levithan's testament to human generosity feels refreshingly -- and reaffirmingly -- accurate. 

"This, I think, is how people survive: Even when horrible things have been done to us, we can still find gratitude in one another." 

That's a quote from Claire, one of the three protagonists of the novel. Last week, when I put out the question of other examples of compassion in the book, our own divas had this to say: 

There's compassion (and shock, and sympathy, and empathy, and disbelief) in Love is a Higher Law from the beginning. For example, flip through just the first chapter and look at that scene where Marisol grabs Claire's hand. (Little Willow)

I love the Travis show scenes in LITHL... the compassion in a room of strangers. And I just happened to be at that show, too. Extra special! (Melissa)

Do you have your own favorite examples of compassion from LITHL? Or even real-life examples of unexpected compassion from others? We'd love to hear 'em! 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cover Stories: She's So Dead to Us by Kieran Scott

The fantastic Kieran Scott is here to talk about title changes, taglines and Tiffany blue on the cover of her latest novel, She's So Dead to Us (I've heard her read from it, and in case you're not familiar with her books, Kieran -- who also writes as Kate Brian -- pens a great novel).

Here she is:

"The story of my cover is all tied up with the story of my title. When I first pitched the idea that eventually became SHE'S SO DEAD TO US, it was titled RETURN TO ORCHARD HILL. In my mind it was a coming-home story wrapped up in a romance. I had all these thoughts of Dawson's Creek-style, sepia-toned images of autumn trees and quaint neighborhoods. It was all very romantic and dreamy.

"Unfortunately, my publisher didn't love the title. It sounded too old-fashioned and literary. They wanted something more immediate. Something that would grab the reader, rather than lull them into a state of nostalgia. So I went back to the drawing board. I came up with lists and lists of potential titles. I brainstormed with my agent and I brainstormed with my editor. I even brainstormed with my sister and my best friend. But somehow, we couldn't all get on the same page. There was one title we all liked, but we already knew there were going to be three books, and we couldn't come up with accompanying titles that made sense. We went back and forth about this for weeks, until it was basically do-or-die time. Catalog copy had to be set. Covers had to be made. We were playing with fire..."

Read the rest of Kieran's Cover Story at melissacwalker.com.