YA Reading Wishlist

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday asks what we would make authors write about if we had that power.  I have very strong opinions about this topic as you can see from how much I feature on the Reader/Blogger Wishlist tumblr. I mostly read YA lit, and I have a teenager who mostly reads YA lit, so I decided to devote my wishlist to what I want to see in YA lit.

I want to see the following:

  • books featuring middle class black teens as the main character(s)
  • teens struggling with anxiety or other mental illnessesTop Ten Tuesday
  • teens in recovery from alcoholism/addiction or who have friends/family members in recovery from alcoholism/addiction
  • nerdy/quirky teens who are not ashamed of their quirky/nerdy interests and don’t feel a need to breach the “popular” crowd (whatever that means)
  • nerd competitions such as Odyssey of the Mind, robotics clubs, math team, etc.
  • any kind of specialized summer camp (daughter attends Duke TIP, has friends that go to dance camp, theater camp, Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts camp, computer camp, etc.)
  • teens in Boy and/or Girl Scouts
  • involved parents
  • teens with non-visible or non-obvious disabilities
  • teens who try their best and fail
  • pregnant teens and teen parents
  • regular teens doing regular things (i.e., dealing with friend, family, and school drama)
  • teens that don’t live in the city but still live in apartments
  • teens whose parents aren’t rich or who aren’t the only “poor” teens in their school  (in quotation marks because ya lit poor isn’t usually real people poor)
  • teens whose parents are struggling with money so the teens can’t do everything they want to do
  • interracial adoption
  • religious teens/teens questioning religion (not just Christian, and I’m not talking about Christian fiction, which is its own genre)
  • teens that go on vacation and don’t have a romance

I want the books my daughter reads to reflect her reality, basically.

That’s way more than 10, I know, but I still feel like I missed some. Tell me, readers: what would you add to the list?

Connections: The One and Only Ivan

Trying out the new review format! Let me know what you think.

Somehow I knew that in order to live, I had to let my old life die. But my sister could not let go of our home. It held her like a vine, stretching across the miles, comforting, strangling.

We were still in our crate when she looked at me without seeing, and I knew that the vine had finally snapped.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine ApplegateWhen I read the above quote from The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, it reminded me of a talk Nikki Giovanni gave at the local university. In her talk, Giovanni said that the only way man would successfully travel to (and possibly live on?–I don’t know; it was two years ago) Mars would be to understand how Africans brought over during the slave trade managed to survive the journey from Africa to the Americas without losing their minds. (Her argument was that the Africans pretty literally arrived in a new world with no connection to the old and absolutely no way to conceive of how to get back to where they came from. The first map on this page shows the many, many different routes Africans were possibly taken during captivity. The journey itself created a complete disconnect with their home.) How did they do that, she wondered, without losing their minds?

Before Ivan tells the story of his childhood, the little elephant Ruby who is also part of the circus, asks Ivan to tell her a story about when he was little. His response is “I don’t remember things.” After he tells Ruby some stories from when he was little, he’s unable to sleep and says, “For perhaps the first time ever, I’ve been remembering.”

Also, early in the story, Ivan and Stella (another elephant) have this exchange:

“You know I can’t remember much,” I say.

“There’s a difference,” Stella says gently, “between ‘can’t remember’ and ‘won’t remember.'”

“That’s true,” I admit. Not remembering can be difficult, but I’ve had a lot of time to work on it.

Remember means to have or keep an image or idea in your mind, to keep information, to not forget, to bring to mind or  think of again (source).

To have or keep an image or to bring to mind or think of again are deliberate actions. Ivan doesn’t remember things. That’s very different than saying he forgets things.

(Forget: to be unable to think of, to fail to remember, to stop thinking or caring about.)

Ivan chooses not to think of his past as a means of survival. He chooses to let his old life die because memories can be “comforting,” but they can also be “strangling.” (Strangle: to kill by squeezing the throat, to stop from growing or developing)

But he doesn’t forget. He doesn’t fail to remember. The memories are always there. He also doesn’t stop caring about his past or his home. The story shows how much he loved and cared for his family in the jungle. He just knows that remembering things from before captivity, that recalling them is worse.

How could the African captives hold onto a place they might never see again if to do so would most certainly mean death or a loss of sanity as it does for Ivan’s sister?

Laurie Halse Anderson did an interview with EW to talk about her latest book, The Impossible Knife of Memory (which I have not yet read and which deals with PTSD), and this quote reminded me of both Ivan’s experience in the story and Giovanni’s question:

I had a great childhood, so when things fell apart for my family, it actually became incredibly painful to remember those great days. I can remember actively praying not to remember them. Because when I would think of how lovely it had been, it made the pain of that present moment almost unbearable.

Again, remembering becomes a deliberate act as does not remembering. To remember happier times for Anderson means the present situation would have been that much more unbearable–exactly what happens to Ivan. Applegate imagines Ivan must have deliberately not remembered to endure what he expected to be a lifetime of captivity.

Is that, perhaps, the same technique the African captives used?

As for the story, I thought it was just lovely.

Source: Library

Adventures through Awkwardness: 1/12

Goals for 2014

I just wrote over 700 words of boring boringess about how I find my blog and reading boring and need to jazz both up. It was getting tl;dr for me, and I was writing it, so I deleted all of that wordy wordiness and offer up the following in summation:

1. I don’t have to, nor will I, blog every single book I read. I’ll blog a book if I have something to say about it.

2.  I’m going to vary my review format and try some different ways of relating my experience reading a book instead of just saying what I did and didn’t like about it.

3. I’m going to participate in a handful of challenges* so I can, you know, challenge myself and diversify my reading to get out of my reading slump.

4. I’m going to change my blog theme so it’s more fun to look at.

5. I’m also going to look into self-hosting again, so I can add more visual features to my blog that aren’t available when I host on WordPress.

6. I’m going to spend even less time trying to get into a book. Is ten pages enough? Twenty-five? Something like that. If a book ain’t getting me, I need to move on. I feel like I spent more time almost finishing books than finishing them last year.

7. I’m going to make every effort to actually read and finish the books chosen for my book club(s), which may be counterintuitive to number six, but I do want to actively participate in the club(s).

8. I’m not making it a practice to request/accept review copies. I rarely, if ever, like the book, and I always feel bad about it. Not to mention, reading becomes a chore if I feel like I have to read a book, and I already have too much to do. (I don’t request that many ARCs nor do I get asked to review a lot of books, but even the, like, three I did this year were too much pressure for me.) (There may be exceptions if I’m really excited about book, obvs.)

9. I’m going to reread more books this year. I reread a couple of favorites this past year, and I can’t believe I fell out of the rereading habit. REREADING IS GREAT. More of that, please.

10. I really want to read more middle grade and chapter books.

(Also, it’s not Tuesday, and I wasn’t sure what shape this post was going to take, but there are ten items and this was the Top Ten Tuesday topic this week, so appropriate link/credit is appropriate.)

*2014 Reading Challenges

Last year I took a break from challenges because I failed spectacularly at them in 2012. However, I want to challenge myself to read different types of books, and not only will participating in reading challenges push me to do so, they’ll also help connect me to other books I may not have heard of or considered. So! These are they and I’m definitely planning some overlap between challenges.

Adventures Through Awkwardness

Because I want to read more middle grade, duh.

Books read:

January: Contemporary — The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
February: Fantasy — The Quantum League #1: Spell Robbers by Matthew J. Kirby
March: Mythology — The Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda
April: Historical — P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia
May: Reader’s Choice — Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
June: Male Main Character — Saving Baby Doe by Danette Vigilante
July: Classic — Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
August: Graphic Novel — A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel adapted by Hope Larson (by Madeliene L’Engle)
September: Magic — The Red Pyramid: The Graphic Novel by Rick Riordan
October: Dystopian — The City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau
November: Female Main Character —  Zora and Me by Victoria Bond & T. R. Simon.
December: 2014 Debut — All Four Stars by Tara Dairman
Other middle grade books read:
  • Cleopatra in Space #1: Target by Mike Maihack
  • The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place
  • Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
  • A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry
  • The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson
  • The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
  • The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan

2014 Chunkster Challenge

Because I am going to read Roots by Alex Haley this year, dammit.

Date finished: Nope. (Though I did read some other books that qualify for this challenge, I didn’t read the one I said I was going to, so…I’m marking this one as a no.)


No joke, I had seriously decided in November or so to look through my Norton Anthology of African American Literature (nerd alert!) and find some authors/books from this era to read. So, clearly, this challenge and I were MFEO. I’m doing the New Negro (1-5 books) level.

Books read: None.

Diversity of the Shelf

OMG, I loved the POC Reading Challenge so much and then it went away, and I was sad. Since this new challenge was inspired by that old challenge, I can be happy again. It’s the little things, I swear. This is one of those challenges that isn’t so much about pushing myself as finding out about books I may not have heard of and discovering other bloggers. Did I mention I’m happy this challenge is back? SO HAPPY. I’m doing the 5th Shelf (25+ books) level.

Books read:

  1. Boxers by Gene Luen Yang
  2. Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
  3. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
  4. The Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda
  5. P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia
  6. Zora and Me by Victoria Bond & T. R. Simon.
  7. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
  8. Dangerous by Shannon Hale
  9. If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth
  10. Pointe by Brandy Colbert
  11. Saving Baby Doe by Danette Vigilante
  12. The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson
  13. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
  14. Cleopatra in Space #1: Target by Mike Maihack
  15. The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang
  16. Americana by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  17. I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister by Amélie Sarn
  18. The Red Pyramid: The Graphic Novel by Rick Riordan
  19. Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
  20. The Girl Friends #2: Do the Right Thing by Nicole Grey
  21. The Girl Friends #3: Deal Me Out by Nicole Grey
  22. Tina’s Mouth by Keshni Kashyap
  23. Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
  24. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
  25. The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan
  26. Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
  27. Playing Keira by Jennifer Castle (short story)
  28. The Throne of Fire by Rick RIordan