We're still reveling in the best teen books of 2015, both award winners and our personal favorites, but 2016 YA lit is looking promising. It's almost impossible to cover them all, so first, a list of series continuations we're excited about (so far!):
Now that that's out of the way, read on for the most-anticipated 2016 YA books:
Passenger by Alexandra Bracken (Disney-Hyperion, 1/5)
The Darkest Minds author kicks off a new time-traveling series this month, starring a violin prodigy who suddenly finds herself on a wooden ship in the 1700s. She's carrying on the time-traveling legacy of her mother, Rose, who's on the run from a power-hungry, wealthy old man named Cyrus Ironwood who wants her to return something he believes she’s stolen. Read our interview with Bracken about Passenger.
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (Philomel, 2/2)
A new book from Sepetys is exciting for readers of all ages, not just teens. (Check out the February 2016 LibraryReads list!) Her new World War II drama spotlights the greatest maritime disaster in history—not the Titanic—the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German military ship evacuating civilians and wounded soldiers at the tail end of the war. View all our reviews of Sepetys' previous books.
Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina (Candlewick, 3/8)
Medina, author of the Pura Belpré Author Award winner Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, takes readers to New York City in the hot summer of 1977, full of blackouts and arson, when a serial killer named Son of Sam has been shooting young women on the streets. Medina grew up in Queens during this dangerous era, so we're excited for her to fill our minds with hazy days, disco and electrified feminism.
The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle (Simon & Schuster, 3/29)
Better Nate Than Never author Federle makes his YA debut with another story about a youngster who dreams of having his name in lights. Sixteen-year-old Quinn Roberts had plans for Hollywood before his sister, Annabeth, was killed in an accident. As sad as this sounds, we know Federle will take it in a direction that will have us laughing and dreaming those starry-eyed dreams.
This Is the Story of You by Beth Kephart (Chronicle, 4/12)
We fall in love with Kephart more and more every year, with novels like Going Over and Small Damages tapping into the joy and pain of the complex teenage experience. We're looking forward to her poetic writing and thoughtful plotting in this story of life after a superstorm destroys one girl's island home. View all our reviews of Kephart's previous books.
Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki (Roaring Brook, 4/19)
Tamaki is part of the team that brought us the Caldecott Honor and Printz Honor-winning This One Summer, which was one of our favorite YA books of 2014 and one of our all-time favorite YA graphic novels. In this new novel, 16-year-old outcast Montgomery, along with her two BFFs, creates the Mystery Club for investigating paranormal activity. View all our reviews of Tamaki's previous books.
The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight (Harper, 5/3)
McCreight (Reconstructing Amelia) was apparently inspired to write her YA debut as a warning to her daughters. This first book in a new series is about a troubled teenage girl trying to overcome her fears and find her missing best friend via some cryptic clues. View all our reviews of McCreight's previous books.
Whisper to Me by Nick Lake (Bloomsbury, 5/3)
The latest novel from Printz Award winner Lake is one girl's letter to the boy whose heart she broke, examining the summer when everything went wrong. Love is such a mess. Sing us the blues, Lake. View all our reviews of Lake's previous books.
Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley (Dial, 5/10)
It's like a recent offshoot of YA "sick lit": friendships and romances that feature one character who will not, or cannot, leave their house. They're agoraphobic, allergic to the sunlight, suffer from immune deficiencies, etc. Printz Award winner Whaley's new book features an agoraphobic 16-year-old who becomes the pet project of ambitious, wannabe psychologist Lisa. View all our reviews of Whaley's previous books.
Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, edited by Stephanie Perkins (St. Martins Griffin, 5/19)
Perkins (Isla and the Happily Ever After) brings together summery love stories from 12 bestselling YA authors, including Leigh Bardugo, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare and more. Summer reading has never sounded so fun.
You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina LaCour (St. Martin's Griffin, June 7)
Levithan seems to always be whipping up something great with other authors (John Green, Rachel Cohn), and we're ridiculously excited to see that he's collaborating with LaCour. Told in alternating points of view, You Know Me Well is the tale of an unlikely friendship between two high-schoolers who have sat next to each other all year but never spoken, until one fateful night.
This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab (Greenwillow, 7/5)
Schwab kicks off a new series with this high fantasy, set in the city of Verity, which has been overrun with monsters, born from the worst of human evil. Schwab has said it's the "strangest book [she's] ever written." Sign us up. View all our reviews of Schwab's previous books.
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (Little, Brown, 9/27)
Originally announced on Taylor's website as a standalone titled The Muse of Nightmares, this new book will be the first in a duology about a war between gods and men, mythic heroes and epic librarians, alchemy and monsters and magic. View all our reviews of Taylor's previous books.
Heartless by Marissa Meyer (Feiwel & Friends, 11/8)
Meyer wrapped up her Lunar Chronicles with Winter last November, though she's releasing a selection of Lunar Chronicles stories in February, titled Stars Above. Coming next fall, Meyer's first standalone YA novel is being called a prequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, with a young Queen of Hearts who just wants to fall in love.
Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Riggs (Dutton)
Ahead of Tim Burton's film adaptation of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Riggs will publish a new illustrated collection of fairy tales set within the world of the bestselling Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series.
What YA books are you most looking forward to this year? Share in the comments below.
There's something about January that invites reflection. So this month, I decided to reflect on how three high-intensity, highly trendy topics are treated in YA lit. Here’s a look at the past, present and future of each of these topics.
Todd Strasser published Give a Boy a Gun in 2000, just after the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. What stands out about Strasser’s novel—other than now-quaint references to video rental stores and minutes-based cell phone plans—is its multivocality. In the sometimes-conflicting voices of students, parents, teachers, administrators and the shooters themselves, we hear how bullying drove two desperate students to a school dance where ultimately their lives—but no one else’s—ended. No single voice is “better” or more accurate than another . . . except maybe the voice of the author himself, adding real-world quotes and statistics as footnotes.
Violent Ends, published in 2015, takes the multivocality idea to another level: Seventeen YA authors, including one team, each pen a chapter. The shooting itself (in which five students and a teacher are killed) is never actually described. Instead, we hear from students who were in the bathroom or under the bleachers, or for one reason or another weren’t in school that day. We learn a lot of backstory that might (or might not) explain the shooter’s motivation. We also never hear the shooter’s own voice—although we do, hauntingly, hear the voice of the gun that he uses.
Maybe there’s something, well, fractured about school shootings that makes multiple points of view almost a requirement. This year’s much-anticipated This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijcamp uses this technique, too, although it limits its narrators to four teens. Most of the story takes place during the shooting itself. There’s a significant body count, a diverse cast of characters . . . and the author’s voice has entirely disappeared. We’re left on our own to ponder unanswerable questions. This intensity, authenticity and diversity build on the past while blazing new ground in treatments of this difficult topic.
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly (2010) is one of my favorite YA books of all time. As teen musician Andi grapples with her brother’s recent death, she discovers the diary of Alexandrine, a teen swept up in the drama of the French Revolution. Maybe Andi travels back in time; maybe she’s just overwhelmed by too much stimulation one night. Either way, what Andi discovers in the streets of Revolutionary Paris turns out to be exactly what she needs to resolve problems in the present day. Another treatment of time travel, 2011’s Ruby Red and its sequels by Kerstin Gier, doesn’t view time travel as a way to solve present-day problems. Instead, it’s a family affair that teenage Gwen is drawn into whether she wants to be or not.
The Yearbook by Carol Masciola (2015) expands on the idea of time travel as a balm for present-day problems. Orphaned Lola, who lives in a group home and has little to look forward to other than her fast-food job, discovers a portal that connects to her high school as it was in 1923. In the ’20s, Lola makes friends, finds a loving family and even acquires a beau. What will she do, though, when she’s dragged back into her own unhappy time?
Like Andi in Revolution, Etta in Alexandra Bracken’s newly released Passenger is also a musician. And like Revolution, Passenger is really two stories in one. But this time, the two protagonists actually meet . . . and more. Like in Ruby Red, time travel complicates Etta's contemporary life instead of simplifying it, and she and her new companion Nicholas aren’t limited to just one time or place.
But the time-travel read that I’m most looking forward to in 2016 is Janet B. Taylor’s Into the Dim. It combines features from these other titles but reworks them in new ways: Narrator Hope has present-day issues to resolve, the past offers an intriguing love interest and time-hopping is a family legacy. Time-traveling readers, set your dials to March 2016 for this one.
When Julie Anne Peters published Luna in 2004, told from the point of view of the younger sister of a transgender teen, it was a groundbreaking work. But it wasn’t until 2007’s Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger that YA literature got its first story narrated by a trans teen himself. Parrotfish also normalized trans teens by focusing on other aspects of Grady’s life—including his family’s annual Christmas play and his interest in becoming a filmmaker—not just on his gender.
I.W. Gregorio’s None of the Above, about an intersex teen, builds on the ground established by Luna and Parrotfish. Like Parrotfish, we hear Kristin’s story from her own point of view. The past two years have also brought two middle grade novels, Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky and George by Alex Gino, told from the perspective of elementary and middle-school girls born into boys’ bodies. All of these books are realistic fiction, but 2015’s Lizard Radio by Pat Schmatz features a non-gender-binary main character in a semi-futuristic dystopian setting. And taking the normalizing idea from Parrotfish even further, protagonist Kivali’s gender identity isn’t the main issue of Schmatz’s book. Instead, it’s just one aspect of a story that includes mystery, romance, spirituality and teens’ struggles against a conformist culture.
Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin is high on my to-read list for 2016. It features a genderfluid teen, Riley, whose anonymous blog provides a safe space for identity and community . . . until it’s discovered by someone who threatens to reveal Riley’s secrets. Twelve years after Luna, the time seems right to expand how gender identity can be explored in YA lit. I’m looking forward to seeing many more examples of this in the coming year and beyond. (Look for a review of Garvin's book in the February 2016 issue of BookPage.)
What trends are you noticing in YA literature? Are any YA books about these—or other—high-intensity topics on your 2016 to-read list? Share in the comments below!
Locker Combinations is a Book Case feature by BookPage contributor and young adult (YA) literature expert Jill Ratzan. Using a variety of literary, cultural and educational perspectives, Jill guest blogs about the latest in YA lit and the general direction, trends and changes of the field. When she's not reading, Jill matches readers with books in a small library in southeastern Pennsylvania. Read more BookPage reviews, interviews and posts by Jill here.
The Porch, founded in 2015 by Katie McDougall and BookPage's new Lifestyles columnist Susannah Felts (look for her first column in the upcoming February issue!), is a Nashville-based nonprofit focused on providing writers with classes and resources in order to help them connect and better their work, both artistically and professionally.
The Porch is holding its second annual fundraising event on February 6. Last year's event, featuring the two Tim O'Briens, was a night to remember and we suspect this year's will be, too. If you're interested in seeing acclaimed writer Mary Karr perform some of her original songs—yes, she's a songwriter, too!—with Rodney Crowell and supporting a literary organization, to boot, then this is an event for you.
Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.
And if you're curious about Karr and Crowell's 2012 album, KIN, take a listen here.
With so many fascinating books scheduled for publication this year, it wasn't easy to pare our list of highly anticipated titles down to 15. Here are the books that our editors—and readers everywhere—will be most eager to get their hands on.
The mother of Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold tells her family’s story in full for the first time. Drawing on her own journals and her son's writings and videos, Klebold reconstructs the events leading up to the horrific 1999 school shooting and its aftermath. Profits from the book will be donated to mental health research and charitable foundations.
The author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand makes a much anticipated return and branches out into historical fiction, with stellar results. It's the summer of 1914, the last peaceful summer that Europe would see for many years, but the tiny village of Rye is more shaken up by the arrival of its first female Latin teacher. Simonson's comedy of manners charms with its lovable and very human characters, as well as its wry wit and wisdom. (read more)
A jazz musician as well as a memoirist (The Color of Water) and National Book Award-winning novelist (The Good Lord Bird), McBride idolized Brown in his youth and was puzzled to see the multi-million-selling soul singer fade into musical history soon after his death in 2006. This biography/cultural journey seeks to right that wrong and place Brown's life and music in the broader context of the South's racial struggles.
Saying that a DeLillo novel is his "wisest, richest, funniest and most moving" in years is a strong claim, but the early buzz for this new book, the author's 17th, backs up his publisher's assertion. Though a somewhat typically surreal work that contains DeLillo's signature ruminations on humanity and its foibles, the book is also a thoughtful exploration of the relationship between a father and a son—and of our responsibilty to future generations. It's sure to be one of the most talked-about releases of the year.
Hamilton presents the inspiring true story of what happened to Scottish track star Eric Liddell after the events depicted in the Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire (Liddell refused to compete in a Sunday race at the 1924 Olympics, citing his Christian beliefs). Like his parents, Liddell went on to become a missionary in China. During World War II he was captured by the Japanese and held in an internment camp, where his grace and unselfishness became a source of support to his fellow internees. The book is being compared to another moving WWII story, Unbroken.
The Revolutionary War appears to be the hot “new” topic for authors of popular history. Exhibit A: this gripping depiction of the relationship between Washington and Arnold, by the author of Mayflower and In the Heart of the Sea. Contemporary readers will find some familiar elements in this 18th-century story: corrupt politicians and a dysfunctional Congress, both of which played into Arnold's fateful decision to switch sides.
The Twelve—the initial clutch of scientifically created vampires who infected the world in The Passage—have been defeated, but danger still lingers in this 600-page-plus finale to the bestselling Passage series, which promises thrills and chills, plus some resolution to the stories of Amy, Peter, Alicia and Michael. The first two volumes in the trilogy have sold more than 1.2 million copies, and a Ridley Scott-helmed movie version is in production.
What happens to the 1 percent when the U.S. economy takes a serious tumble? Lionel Shriver investigates in her new novel, which follows the youngest generation of an American dynasty after the dollar plunges and pulls their cushy inheritances with it. This won't be the first time that Shriver, a National Book Award finalist, has skewered our society through fiction, and we can't wait to see her let loose on the foibles of the rich and mighty. (read more)
An Atlanta attorney writes about his father’s defense of a black man charged with raping a white woman in Alabama in the 1930s and draws parallels between this true story and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Lee reportedly acknowledged some similarities between this real case and her fictional one in a letter to the author.
Australian author Moriarty is setting American bestseller lists aflame with her irresistable novels, which combine page-turning plots with pinpoint-accurate observations on the absurdities of modern life. Hollywood stars like Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon count themselves among her fans; filming for an HBO limited series of Moriarty's second U.S. bestseller, Big Little Lies, began this month.The only details available so far about her seventh novel come from Moriarty herself: In an interview she revealed that "it's about the consequences of something that happens at a neighbourhood backyard barbecue."
Woodson, whose books for young readers have sold more than a million copies, folllows up her National Book Award-winning Brown Girl Dreaming with her first novel for adults. Set in 1970s Brooklyn, it's a story about "the promise and peril of growing up" that begins when August finds long-buried childhood and teenage memories emerging after a surprise encounter with a long-lost friend. Friendship and coming-of-age are common themes in Woodson's work; seeing how she reframes them for an adult audience is something to look forward to indeed.
The only debut on our list was acquired by legendary editor (and novelist!) David Ebershoff at the 2014 Frankfurt Book Fair, and buzz has been building ever since. When Jonde, an African immigrant, gets a job driving for Clark Edwards, a Lehman Brothers executive, he believes he's on his way to achieving the American dream. He and his wife become more and more invested in the lives of the Edwards family, even as the economic collapse of 2008 hovers on the horizon. Mbue, a Cameroonian writer living in Brooklyn, is already being compared to novelists like Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie and Jhumpa Lahiri.
Nashville's own Ann Patchett returns this fall with a seventh novel, her first since the 2011 bestseller State of Wonder. The story centers on a two families "broken apart and brought together by marriage and divorce," according to the deal announcement. Patchett has written at least one moving essay about her own marriage; we bet that her fictional take on the topic will be equally perceptive and engaging.
Author image courtesy of Parnassus Books.
Foer's third novel—and his first in 10 years—is sure to be one of the literary events of the season. Though the plot description ("a Jewish family with three sons falls apart after the parents’ marriage falters") and setting (Washington D.C., where Foer himself grew up with two brothers) makes the novel sound autobiographical, Foer has long used the personal as a jumping-off point for stories that end up being completely original (see Everything Is Illuminated). His editor at FSG likens the book to Portnoy's Complaint. All we know for sure is we can't wait to read it.
We loved The Love Song of Jonny Valentine, a humorous yet heartfelt story of a teenage heartthrob, so news of Wayne's third novel was extremely welcome. The title refers to David Federman, a high school outcast who hopes that he'll find his tribe at Harvard. Instead, he becomes obsessed with a smart, popular and beautiful female classmate, and his pursuit of her takes over his life and school career. S&S promises that the book "turns the traditional campus novel on its head"—we're intrigued.
In his novel Thomas Murphy, Roger Rosenblatt eloquently explores the life of an aging Irish poet. Our reviewer writes that Thomas Murphy is "a brief but lovely rumination on one man’s irresistible impulse to savor life’s riches, even as losses mount and the ravages of age take their relentless toll." (Read the full review.)
We asked Rosenblatt to tell us about three books he's been reading lately.
These days, I read as much for usefulness as for pleasure, trying to pick up as many valuable literary qualities as I can—shoplifting, while avoiding grand theft. Two older books I've reread recently are Lolita and Seamus Heaney's Opened Ground. A newer book is Carl Phillips' The Art of Daring. Please don't be put off by my larcenous motives in reading these books. Their authors were writing for sane, sensible, decent citizens, not other writers.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Lolita stuns me every time (I've gone to it a lot more than once), principally because Nabokov makes a thoroughly immoral man admirable, to the edge of being likable, by applying controlled intelligence to uncontrollable—not to say illegal—passion. Humbert Humbert is twice a criminal, his lesser crime being murder, yet the way he thinks his way through his story—without explaining or excusing himself—makes his crimes understandable, if not forgivable. Forgivable? Humbert could not care less whether we forgive him, and he lives on too high an intellectual plane to forgive himself. Here is a hero in charge of a wholly unique realm of thought and action. That such a man should be undone by an over-sexed teenager who in the end seeks regular old American normality, not Humbert, makes for a loud, bitter laugh. Also, Nabokov writes like a dream. It's one thing to write without waste, another to make every word something strange and beautiful. No one but Nabokov has ever met anyone like Humbert Humbert. He can tell you his mad story again and again, forever.
Opened Ground by Seamus Heaney
Heaney's Opened Ground represents 30 years of selected poems, all of which one can nearly taste. Sometimes the taste is fresh-mowed grass, sometimes dirt, plowed and unplowed. In my novel, Thomas Murphy, the hero is a poet who says a poem should consist of two parts rock, one part daisy. This is the gift Heaney had—of disclosing the beauty poking its head out of the hardness of things. I did not read Opened Ground from front to back when I first read it, and I do not reread it that way now. Rather, I stroll into the poems, looking here and there, as I imagine Heaney looked around Ireland, letting the power of what I see flow through me, and come and go. Like Heaney, I think with my senses as a writer, though not as well as he. But I do understand how one may leap from the sight of a horse shying in a field to the memory of a gate or of a love, and how all the disparate images live together covertly in one's soul. I keep Heaney close for his soul.
The Art of Daring by Carl Phillips
The Art of Daring by the poet Carl Phillips is new to me, though not Phillips poems, which I’ve long admired. This is not a book of his own poems, but rather a book of poems and writings of others that illustrate the art of choosing to dare in life. Technically, the essays here are on discrete facets of fiction, nonfiction and poetry, every piece containing at least one touch of brilliance. More than that, though, the book is a primer on artistic and spiritual restlessness, the nerve it takes to let the creative mind wander everywhere, especially into the dark. Sometimes Phillips is an advocate of shape and order, sometimes of shapelessness and wonder. Every choice demands its own courage. What comes through most strongly in the book is the poet's own confidence in his lack of confidence, his violating inviolable truth. The glaze on the duck is that he wishes the same daring for the rest of us.
(Author photo by Chip Cooper)
What happens to the 1 percent when the U.S. economy takes a serious tumble? Lionel Shriver investigates in her new novel, coming from Harper on June 21, 2016. The Mandibles: A Family, 2029–2047 follows, well, the Mandibles, an American dynasty (think the Vanderbilts or Hiltons) led by a 97-year-old patriarch. With cushy inheritances ahead, most of the Mandible clan haven't bothered to worry about finding practical or lucrative employment. But when the dollar falls, they have to start making some changes.
This won't be the first time that Shriver, a National Book Award finalist, has skewered our society through fiction. Novels like So Much for That and Big Brother showcase her ability to make discerning and, at times, scathing, observations on human nature. She also has a deep understanding of family dynamics, a strength that should be on full display in a family saga like The Mandibles. Anyone else looking forward to this one?
This week, the Library of Congress appointed graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang as the 2015-2016 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. The son of Chinese immigrants, Yang is the first graphic novelist to hold the position since it was created in 2008. Yang's 2006 graphic novel, American Born Chinese, received the Printz Award, an Eisner Award for best graphic album, and was the first graphic novel to be a finalist for the National Book Award.
It seems so fitting that Yang would hold this position of encouraging kids all over America to read, at a time when graphic novels are finding more and more recognition as a credible literary form and as a useful way to encourage young people to read. We spoke with Yang about his platform Reading Without Walls, the future of graphic novels, book recommendations and much more.
Congratulations on being named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature! What does this position mean to you?
Thank you! I’m so excited and honored to be appointed the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature! I’m now a part of a larger mission. The Library of Congress, Every Child A Reader and the Children’s Book Council want to get more kids reading and kids reading more. The post is a part of that mission. My predecessors Kate DiCamillo, Walter Dean Myers, Katherine Paterson and Jon Scieszka have established a legacy. I’m going to do everything I can to carry on that legacy.
What is your personal goal as ambassador? What will be your greatest challenge?
I have two goals. First, I want to encourage kids to explore the world through reading. Second, I want to figure out how to use technology to promote reading.
I’m not sure what my greatest challenge will be. This first year, I’m sure everything will be a challenge.
Tell us a bit about your platform "Reading Without Walls."
Every ambassador chooses a platform. A couple months ago, I met with First Second Books and the Children’s Book Council. Together, we came up with the platform “Reading Without Walls.” We want kids to go outside their comfort zones.
For a kid who doesn’t read for fun, this means picking up a book and giving it a try.
For kids who are already reading, we want to challenge them in three ways. First, pick a book with someone on the cover who doesn’t look like you or live like you. Second, pick a book about a topic that you find intimidating. I’m actively pushing STEM-related books. I think stories are a great way to introduce STEM to kids. And third, pick a book in a format you’ve never tried before. If you only read prose novels, give a graphic novel a try. If you’re the opposite, if you only read graphic novels, give a words-only book a try.
How do you think your ambassadorship will affect the future of graphic novels and comics?
The fact that they were willing to consider a graphic novelist for the post shows how far comic book culture has come in America. When I was a kid, graphic novels were hard to find at my local library. We were never allowed to read them in class. Now, librarians and teachers are using graphic novels to engage students. They recognize the value of the medium.
My hope is that this just the beginning. Actually, it’s not just a hope. I KNOW this is just the beginning of a wonderful, fruitful era for American comics.
What books do you most often recommend to young readers?
I recommend a lot of different books for a lot of different readers. Here are some of my favorites:
For young readers, any words to live by?
Read. Write. Draw.
Ree Drummond's incredibly popular food blog, The Pioneer Woman, launched her culinary career, and now she's one of America's most beloved cooks. Her fourth cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime is our January Top Pick in cookbooks for it's wealth of comforting family meals like this Broccoli Cauliflower Casserole.
BROCCOLI CAULIFLOWER CASSEROLE
MAKES 4 TO 6 SERVINGS
The most tremendous veggie casserole in the history of veggie casseroles! I started making it around Thanksgiving as an alternative to broccoli-rice casserole, but it has slowly crept into other meals throughout the year. It’s irresistible.
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. Using your hands, break the cauliflower and broccoli into very small florets. Place them in a steamer and steam them over simmering water until slightly tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Set them aside.
3. Melt 6 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour, stirring it into the onion mixture and cook it for a minute or so. Pour in the broth, stirring continuously and cook the sauce, stirring occasionally, until it begins to thicken, about 3 minutes.
4. Add the cream cheese and stir until it melts completely. Then stir in the seasoned salt, kosher salt, pepper and paprika. Turn off the heat and set the sauce aside.
5. In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and the remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter and blend with a fork.
6. To assemble, butter a small (2-quart) casserole and add half the broccoli-cauliflower mixture. Pour on half the sauce, top with half the cheese and sprinkle on a little paprika. Repeat another round of the veggies, sauce, cheese and paprika . . . then top the casserole with the buttery breadcrumbs.
7. Bake the casserole for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are golden and the casserole is bubbly around the edges. Serve it nice and piping hot!
The casserole can be assembled and stored in the fridge, unbaked, for up to 24 hours. Allow 10 minutes extra cooking time if baking straight out of the fridge.
This recipe can easily be doubled!
Use all cauliflower or all broccoli, if you prefer.
Use sharp Cheddar cheese instead of Monterey Jack for a slightly different flavor.
Sauté 8 ounces sliced mushrooms with the onions and garlic.
Matt Marinovich's cool thriller hands a murder scene to a not-too-happy young couple, and delightfully, they use this opportunity to make many, many bad decisions. Scott and Elise are staying in the Hamptons, which is practically deserted in wintertime, as Elise handles the affairs of her dying father. It all begins innocently enough for Scott—he fills some of his ample free time by snooping around the empty next-door summer house. When he and Elise try to rekindle things in one of the guest bedrooms, things go from bad to worse. Watching this husband and wife steadily get in deeper and deeper is almost as thrilling as trespassing.
Then I heard a noise, upstairs, and I swear, for three or four seconds, my heart didn't even beat. I didn't even swallow the alcohol left in my mouth. The small snifter stayed frozen in the air, as if I were toasting someone. I pictured some man coming down the winding staircase, tying some silk belt around a silk robe as he made his way toward me.
I think I waited a minute, but there were no more sounds. I decided not to push my luck. I told myself that this was far enough. I could always come back.
I had entered mumbling to myself, still pretending I was someone else, but I left without saying a word. I just closed the door and calmly walked away. Looking back, I realize I hadn't changed yet. It was too early for that. But there was something natural about the way I walked away. Upright, unhurried, aware. It's the way intruders walk, and I swear, you either have it or you don't. It can't be taught.
What are you reading today?