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, August 27, 2013

Cover Stories: Sophie's Mixed-Up Magic by Amanda Ashby

Amanda Ashby has been here before to share stories about her covers, and she's back today with the story behind the Sophie's Mixed-Up Magic covers, her first middle grade series.

"I’ve been lucky with my covers and I’ve loved them all, but without a doubt the covers for my Sophie’s Mixed-Up Magic series are my favorite! And I’m not just saying that because they are my first covers to have a head (though heads are cool!) but it’s rather because as soon as I saw them, I just knew that the girl on the cover 'was' Sophie!!!! From her straight blonde hair, her expressions through to the clothes that she was wearing, it was all the Sophie of my mind!

"Sometimes I get asked if I have any thoughts on the cover, but this time I wasn’t and I hadn’t even realized that there was even a shoot until after it was all over..."

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

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Cover Stories: Surrender by Elana Johnson

Elana Johnson was here last year to share the very cool cover for POSSESSION (read that Cover Story), and she's back to talk about SURRENDER, the second in this series.

"Honestly, my first thought when I saw the cover was 'No. No, that can’t be the cover!' The POSSESSION cover was so perfect, with the butterfly in ice. The SURRENDER cover seemed so pedestrian in comparison. I lovingly call it 'when taxidermists make mistakes.'

"My editor and agent and I had quite the discussion about the cover. Everything from the color of the hummingbird to the shape of the jar. It’s a fascinating process, this cover making. But... the cover you see now is the same one I was sent in January..."

Read the rest of Elana's Cover Story on melissacwalker.com.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Cover Stories: Being Friends With Boys by Terra Elan McVoy

Terra Elan McVoy has been here before to share her adorable covers for Pure and After the Kiss (read those Cover Stories), and now she's here to talk about Being Friends With Boys. How great is that title? Here's more about the cover, from Terra:

"I never have any idea about my covers; I’m so lucky to have been assigned to such smart, clever, amazing people at Simon Pulse to work on them. This team does such an incredible job, and I figure it’s best to leave that work in their capable hands!

"Admittedly, my very first thought when I saw the cover was, 'But there aren’t any coffeehouses in the book! They never drink coffee!' Very quickly though, I realized that was a pretty lame and limiting response.

"My editor was incredibly patient with me and let me just sit on my first reaction until I came to my senses and realized this was perfect.

"The cover did change, in one important way..."

Read Terra's full Cover Story at melissacwalker.com.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Cover Stories: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

Morgan Matson is here! You know I love her, and this is her latest book (out in paperback this summer) so we must read it asap. Also: The Cover. Here she is to tell its tale:

"I had absolutely loved my cover for Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour [read that Cover Story here]. I wasn’t worried about how the cover for the second book would turn out. I was still in the midst of writing the first draft of the book when my editor asked me what I had been thinking about for the cover.

"I mentioned that since the book takes place in a summer lake community, with a dock being a very important part of the story, maybe there could be a dock featured somewhere.  An initial idea I’d had was two sets of bare feet on a dock, or hanging over the edge and skimming the water.  And then I basically just gave her vague, summer-conjuring words – pine trees! Mountains! Lake!

"By the time I saw the first cover proof, we’d actually been going back and forth a lot on the title.  I tend to pick long, not-particularly-evocative-titles, and then cling to them stupidly...."

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

Too Cool for This School by Kristen Tracy

Looking for a fun book to read as summer winds to a close? Here's a recommendation for our younger readergirlz: Too Cool for This School by Kristen Tracy!

Lane's sixth grade year isn't quite going how she planned it. When her same-age cousin Angelina unexpectedly comes to stay with Lane and her parents for a month, she totally disrupts everything at home and at school. Within days of her arrival, Angelina destroys one of Lane's favorite shirts, clashes with Lane's friends, and clicks with Lane's crush and sort-of boyfriend. Angelina decides to go by her middle name, Mint. Lane tries to give her cousin advice on how to blend in, but Mint doesn't take it. Soon, pretty much everything Mint does or says rubs Lane the wrong way.

Anyone who is or has been 11 to 13 years old can tell you a horror story or two about their social life during middle school. Some kids stress out about fitting in, while others stand out for any number of reasons, whether they want to or not. While Lane thinks Mint is eccentric, other classmates embrace Mint's exuberance. Likewise, some readers will probably think Mint's outfits are zany while others will applaud her daring-do. As in her previous middle grade stories The Reinvention of Bessica Lefter and Bessica Lefter Bites Back, author Kristen Tracy reminds us of our best and worst moments in middle school, handling both the triumphs and the mortifying moments with just the right mix of surprise and worry. 

Click here to read the rest of my review!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

rgz Seattle HOST: Stephanie Guerra interviews Jennifer Bradbury

A MOMENT COMES by Jennifer Bradbury (Atheneum, 2013) is hands-down one of the best young adult historical fiction novels I’ve read. Set in 1947 during a bloody moment in India’s history, the novel traces the intersecting lives of three teens: Tariq, a Muslim working as translator for a British cartographer; Margaret, the cartographer’s daughter; and Anupreet, a lovely and wary Sikh girl who is one of the cartographer’s domestic staff.
The Partition of India, or the division of the subcontinent along sectarian lines, was a turbulent divide which produced the predominantly Muslim Pakistan and the majority Hindu Republic of India. The three main characters are placed squarely in the crux of this struggle, fighting for their own and their families’ safety as India boils to a fever pitch around them.
Tariq is driven by dreams of Oxford—and a forbidden admiration for Anupreet, whose people are the enemies of his own. Margaret is chafing under oppressive heat and an oppressive mother, and finds Tariq’s good looks a welcome distraction. And Anupreet is hiding painful secrets as she endures the daily violence of her surroundings. Although each character is representative of a larger class in conflict, they are finely drawn, believable people with distinct and engaging voices. Margaret’s wry, humorous personality brings many laugh-out-loud moments which contrast nicely with the suspense unfolding around her.
The focus of the story is never didactic, and remains squarely on the entangled lives of the three characters—but it also illumines an important and often unknown (in our country) event in history. The ending was delicate, satisfying and thought-provoking, and left me with a sense of the tremendous impact of Partition on human history.  Also important for me as a reader, the danger and tension of the setting were captured masterfully without devolving into graphic violence. And perhaps most important of all: despite the themes of political turmoil, the mystery and depth and aching beauty of India were captured with clarity and affection by an author who has clearly lived in the country and loved its people.
Jen kindly agreed to share some insights about her inspiration for telling a story set during Partition, her research process, and what we can look forward to next. I hope you’ll check out A MOMENT COMES and Jen’s other acclaimed works, SHIFT and WRAPPED. Here’s Jen:

The story started for me in 2005 when I was teaching on a Fulbright Exchange in Chandigarh.  Chandigarh was created post-partition to serve as capital of both Punjab and Haryana and is full of people with vivid recollections of partition.  I was very lucky in that the friends I made and the students I taught were kind enough to answer my questions and share some of their stories with me.  But the more I learned, the more I wanted to know. I was sort of stunned by how little I knew about the roots of the conflicts between Pakistan and India.  The partition still stands as the greatest human migration in history, and some estimates at the loss of life rise as high as two million.  Those staggering numbers, and the fact that more people don't know about them, still surprise me. 

Years later, when the seeds of the story still hadn’t left me, I began writing the book as a means to try and find my way to a better understanding.  A few books were really helpful in that process—Alex von Tunzelman's Indian Summer and Pammie Mountbatten’s India Remembered: A Personal Account of the Mountbattens During the Transfer of Power are two that come to mind.  I was also able to get copies of Margaret Bourke White's Life magazine pictorials.  She was the field photographer for Life during the time the book takes place, and the images are haunting and powerful.
Since finishing the research and rewrites on A Moment Comes, I’ve been happily tramping about in 1838.  My next book, tentatively called Giant's Coffin, is set inside Mammoth Cave at the tuberculosis hospital that was established inside the cave.  There are mysteries, adventures, odd medical cures and river pirates.  I’m very excited about it both because it is my first middle grade novel and because it’s my first set in my home state of Kentucky.  It should be out in the next couple of years. 

Thanks, Jen - and thanks, Stephanie, for a great piece!