Last night, BookPage had the pleasure of attending the Penguin launch party for Out of the Easy, the second novel from best-selling author Ruta Sepetys! Out of the Easy hits bookstores next Tuesday, February 12.
Out of the Easy is the story of Josie Moraine, the daughter of a prostitute, who dreams of changing her stars and one day leaving the French Quarter of New Orleans for college—but a mysterious murder threatens her plans. Our reviewer wrote of Out of the Easy:
"Out of the Easy has a mystery at its center, but in many ways it’s a book about family and how the ones you’re born to aren’t necessarily your true tribe. Rough-edged and glamorous by turns, this is a wild ride worth taking."
Sepetys shared with us some fascinating (and dangerous!) stories from her research visits to New Orleans, including a trip to a legendary brothel. An upcoming edition of our Children's Corner e-newsletter will include a Q&A with Sepetys, so if you aren't already receiving our children's books e-newsletter, sign up here!
As fun as it was to chat with Sepetys, it was also wonderful to hear praise for the young adult genre as a whole. Penguin shared some heartening statistics about several YA favorites, including John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and Sepetys' first book, Between Shades of Gray.
The Fault in Our Stars has spent a whole year on the New York Times bestseller list, and it was named Time magazine's Best Book of the Year—not just in children's, but in all books. Between Shades of Gray spent 16 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and is quickly becoming required reading for high school students around the world.
Are you excited about Out of the Easy?
In our office we discuss and anticipate the announcement of the Newbery, Caldecott and Printz Awards with passion and glee—and let's just say that this morning there was a fair bit of squealing when the ALA named this year's recipients.
Perhaps most of all, we are thrilled that Jon Klassen was awarded the Caldecott Award for This Is Not My Hat, the story of a big fish in pursuit of a tiny thief. For the October 2012 issue of BookPage, Klassen hand-illustrated a Q&A for us. We loved the result (and of course we loved the book itself!):
We are also tickled that Katherine Applegate won the Newbery Award for The One and Only Ivan, which we reviewed in January 2012. Reviewer Keven Delecki praised this "brave, moving story" about the animals who live at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall.
The Printz Award went to In Darkness by Nick Lake, which BookPage reviewer Kimberly Giarrantano described as "an incredible novel." It's a harrowing and compelling story about a teen boy in the aftermath of the 2010 Haitian earthquake.
For more on these award-winning books—and other fantastic picks for young readers—subscribe to Children's Corner, our bimonthly e-newsletter. The next edition goes out Wednesday and will feature some very special interviews. (Hint, hint.)
And without further ado, here is a (partial) list of the 2013 Youth Media Award winners. Find the full list here, and click the links below to read coverage in BookPage.
2013 NEWBERY AWARD
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (HarperCollins)
2013 CALDECOTT AWARD
This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen (Candlewick)
2013 PRINTZ AWARD
In Darkness by Nick Lake (Bloomsbury)
For even more recommendations for fantastic children's and teen books, see our list of the Best Children's Books for 2012.
John Green's affecting The Fault in Our Stars has received almost non-stop attention since in publication in January of 2012—and even way before. It was a bestseller on Amazon and Barnes & Noble six months before publication, and its popularity has yet to lose momentum. It was a BookPage Best Children's Book of 2012, #5 on the Readers' Choice list of the Best Books of 2012 and called "damn near genius" by Time magazine.
Green's fourth book stars a 16-year-old girl named Hazel with stage-4 thyroid cancer and depression. At a support group, she meets a boy named Augustus, who has lost a leg to osteosarcoma. And so their love story begins as they explore the possibility of a relationship amid the unlucky world of the sick and dying. They dare to be witty, clever and courageous in the face of what could be insurmountable grief.
Loved The Fault in Our Stars? Check out these suggestions for what to read next.
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
The sharp edge of The Fault in Our Stars comes from how tragically young Hazel and Augustus are, and the notion of facing death in adolescence. In Walker's debut, 11-year-old Julia's coming-of-age coincides with the cusp of catastrophe, as she bears witness to the terrifying deceleration of the Earth. What kind of "growing up" is there at the end of the world?
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
The YA genre often gets slammed for featuring topics that are deemed too raw and too real for young readers. But teen novels are at their best when sensitively exploring tough issues, such as in Thirteen Reasons Why, the unflinching story of a teen girl's suicide and the seven cassette tapes she leaves behind to explain her actions. The listener is a boy named Clay, who had a crush on Hannah, and whose odyssey through the tapes reveals bitter truths about ourselves and our actions' unintended consequences. Not an easy read, but undeniably powerful.
Gold by Chris Cleave
Gold received lots of attention when it came out last July—it was the much anticipated new novel from the author of Little Bee, and it was also the book to coincide with the 2012 Summer Olympics. And while the competition between friends and Olympic cyclists Kate and Zoe is fierce, the strand that binds them is Kate's 9-year-old daughter Sophie, who goes to great lengths to hide the toll that leukemia is taking on her little body. Gold is as much about cycling and competition as it is about the sacrifices made for family.
The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon
The "impossible love" story is a song older than Romeo & Juliet, and there are millions of great ones to choose from. In this novel, a white woman and an African-American man are not only in love in 1968, but they both suffer from disabilities: Lynnie has developmental disabilities that leave her with limited speech, and Homan is deaf and mute. Lynnie is also pregnant with Homan's child, and together, they escape from the deplorable conditions of the Pennsylvania State School of the Incurable and Feebleminded. When Lynnie is caught, Homan flees, and an epic, emotional tale of longing and hope continues for the next 30 years.
The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier
Brockmeier's look at human suffering has a magical realism twist: One Friday night, every person's wounds begin to shine, emitting a strange, shimmering light. Six novella-length chapters starring six strangers, linked by a private journal of love notes written by a husband to his wife, explore the phenomenon. The result is a novel of immense beauty, as Brockmeier slowly reveals the quiet intimacies of a happy marriage, as well as the bonds and shared pain between the six strangers.
Every Day by David Levithan
Young love is love at its fiercest and blindest, and the story of A, the genderless teen consciousness who inhabits a different teenager's body every day, and the girl A falls for, is one of the most unique young loves I've ever read. Can a love between a bodiless soul and a real human possibly work? The reader will dare to hope.
Readers: What books would you recommend for fans of The Fault in Our Stars?
Sometimes, it seems like the phrase "YA trend" is an understatement. Topics don't just become popular or frequent in teen lit—they explode.
It's like a game of musical chairs, and when the music stops, everyone wants the same chair. Lately, that chair is the thriller chair, with a dash of paranormal. A paranormal seat cushion, if you will.
It's not as dramatic or strange as vampires and dystopias, but a sizeable chunk of current YA could be categorized as "psychic thriller." The deluge of murder-plus-magic makes the rare realistic thriller stand out even more.
(Why the constant mash-ups in YA? Are teens so disillusioned that authors think they can't write a thriller without the protagonist seeing ghosts, having visions or predicting the future? Is the need for escapism that great? Am I thinking about this too hard?)
Here are a few YA thrillers—paranormal and realistic—to watch for:
Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff
Someone in Hannah's peaceful suburban neighborhood is killing girls, but that's not all she's dealing with. Her best friend Lillian, who died six months ago, is still hanging around as a ghost. She also won't stop pressing Hannah to investigate the string of murders. Coming in January.
The Believing Game by Eireann Corrigan
No spooks in this one; it's all psychological. When Greer Cannon is sent off to a rehab center for troubled teens, she falls hard for handsome Addison Bradley. However, Addison's mentor Joshua is unbelievably creepy, but he makes Greer feel understood—until things go completely out of control. Coming December 1.
What We Saw at Night by Jacquelyn Mitchard
Three teens with XP (an allergy to sunlight) spend all their time roaming around town at night, and when they start practicing Parkour, they accidentally spot what appears to be a murder in progress. Coming in January.
Beautiful Lies by Jessica Warman
These twins with an Escape to Witch Mountain-esque bond can feel each other's pain, so when one of them disappears, the other knows something is horribly wrong. The twins can't trust anyone except each other, and our reviewer warns this "might not be a book to read when one is alone in a lonely, dark house."
One of the biggest complaints I hear about YA is that parents have no idea what to expect from a book, whether they'll find it appropriate for their teen or not. These crossover writers are a safe bet (and create potential lifelong readers for that author).
Said James Patterson in a New York Times interview, "The reality is that women buy most books. . . The reality is that it’s easier, and a really good habit, to start to get parents when they walk into a bookstore to say, ‘You know, I should buy a book for my kid as well.’ ”
Harlan Coben's Mickey Bolitar novels pick up where the Myron Bolitar novels left off. Mickey has a lot in common with his Uncle Myron—tall, likes basketball, has great sidekicks, solves thrilling mysteries, etc.—except that he also deals with high school, crushes and bullies. Read our review of the first Mickey Bolitar novel, Shelter.
Have you noticed this trend? Why do teens need a dash of the paranormal with their thrillers?
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
Philomel • $17.99 • ISBN 9780399256929
On sale February 12, 2013
When we blogged about Sepetys' new book a month ago, BookPage readers were so excited. So, in honor of Teen Read Week (October 14-20), we're reading her upcoming novel, Out of the Easy, set in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1950.
Sepetys made major waves with her first novel, Between Shades of Gray, the story of a teenager named Lina in 1940s Lithuania. Lina and her family are forced by the Soviet secret police to leave their home and travel in a miserable, crammed train car to labor camps in Siberia. In an interview, Sepetys shared why she felt the world needed to learn about the Baltic deportations during Joseph Stalin's regime:
“It’s as if the voice of an entire generation was swallowed. . . . The story sort of went dark and now the people that still have ties to it are in their late 80s. A whisper is left and we’re just about to lose it.”
Sepetys has made a home of edgy historical fiction with Out of the Easy, the story of plucky, resourceful Josie Moraine. She's the daughter of a brothel prostitute, and she dreams of getting out of NOLA for good. However, a murder leaves Josie scrambling for someone to trust. Atmospheric, clever and sharp, Out of the Easy is the rich follow-up we all hoped Sepetys would deliver.
Dive into the first chapter, when Josie flashes back to her first day in New Orleans:
My mother's a prostitute. Not a filthy, streetwalking kind. She's actually quite pretty, fairly well spoken, and has lovely clothes. But she sleeps with men for money or gifts, and according to the dictionary, that makes her a prostitute.
She started working in 1940 when I was seven, the year we moved from Detroit to New Orleans. We took a cab from the train station straight to a fancy hotel on St. Charles Avenue. Mother met a man from Tuscaloosa in the lobby while having a drink. She introduced me as her niece and told the man she was delivering me to her sister. She winked at me constantly and whispered that she'd buy me a doll if I just played along and waited for her. I slept alone in the lobby that night, dreaming of my new doll. The next morning, Mother check us into our own big room with tall windows and small round soaps that smelled like lemon. She received a green velvet box with a strand of pearls from the man from Tuscaloosa.
"Josie, this town is going to treat us just fine," said Mother, standing topless in front of the mirror, admiring her new pearls.
Are you one of the many BookPage readers who look forward to Out of the Easy?
Also, be sure to check out our four favorites for Teen Read Week.
Author/illustrator/greeting card writer/all-round creative genius Sandra Boynton stopped by the BookPage offices Tuesday during a break from her latest project — recording an all-country album of children's songs. In her 30-year career, Boynton has sold a bazillion copies of beloved children's books like Moo Baa La La La and Blue Hat, Green Hat but music is her true love these days. Boynton tells us she's having an "amazing" time producing her new album in Nashville with some of country music's top recording artists.
Frog Trouble, a CD and illustrated songbook, will be released simultaneously next fall by Workman Publishing and Warner Music. Boynton co-wrote the songs with partner Mike Ford and is producing the recording sessions on Music Row, with many of Nashville's "phenomenal" musicians adding their talents to the project. Alison Krauss, Brad Paisley, Dwight Yoakam and Sheryl Crow are among the 12 artists contributing vocals.
"People kept asking me when I was going to do a country album," says Boynton, whose previous musical projects include Rhinoceras Tap, Dog Train and the Grammy-nominated Philadelphia Chickens. Though she grew up in Philadelphia, Boynton felt an affinity for country music since her childhood days of watching cowboy shows on TV and listening to rockabilly stars like Buddy Holly. "I'm going back to my country roots," she says (only half-joking), describing the songs on Frog Trouble as "retro country, somewhere between old country music and the current sound."
Boynton's approach to children's music is unique: "If you hear it, you shouldn't know it's for kids," she says. Judging from the samples we've heard, Frog Trouble hits the nail on the head with sweet country melodies and Boynton's trademark humor.
WIN SANDRA BOYNTON'S NEW BOOK: While music is her "favorite" activity of the many creative endeavors she's involved in, Boynton definitely hasn't given up on books. Her latest, Christmas Parade, is out this week with an animal marching band that takes to the street to ring in the holiday. We have one copy of Christmas Parade, signed by Sandra Boynton, to give to a Book Case reader.
To enter, leave a comment with the title of a country song you'd like to write. We'll choose a winner on Monday, October 8 at 5 p.m. Download the contest rules here.
It's not often that I get to sit and talk with an author face-to-face without some kind of external pressure, something that creates a subtle tension that can be tough to break. Usually, there's the gaze of a camera, or the formality of an official event (or, if it's a dinner, the delicate balance of maintaining interest in both the author and whatever is suspended on your fork), or the particular strangeness of a phone interview, when all nuances are lost to the void.
So it was a special pleasure to sit down with David Ezra Stein, author/illustrator of Caldecott Honor-winning Interrupting Chicken, while I was in Anaheim, CA for ALA 2012. We hung out for about 30 minutes at his hotel's pool deck and flipped through his new book, Because Amelia Smiled, talking about his original illustration style ("Stein-lining") and the motivation behind the book:
“Say somebody does something bad to you,” Stein explains, “like you’re trying to cross the street and they cut in front of you and won’t let you cross—which happens in New York all the time. So you can either carry that with you, carry that little scribbly cloud over your head for the rest of the day, or you could decide to go back to a few seconds before it happened, where you were just grooving along, having a good day, and then carry that energy forward instead of this grouchiness that affects everyone else you meet.”
Readers, what was the most fun you ever had talking to an author?
These days, tales of mermaids in young adult fiction are a far cry from The Little Mermaid. Mermaids are more like monsters than princesses, and their stories are some of the most violent and graphic in the teen genre. Nevertheless, it's clear readers love them, because the wave of mermaid YA shows no signs of slowing.
However, I've noticed a slight transition in the sea creature trend, and it might give mermaids a run (swim) for their money—the selkie. Based in Scottish and Irish folklore, selkies appear as seals in water but can also take human form. In some myths, if you hide the selkie's seal skin, it belongs to you and cannot return to seal form.
So as we head into 2013, I'm wondering who will win in this throwdown: Mermaids vs. Selkies.
Below, the contenders.
Fathomless by Jackson Pearce
This re-imagined Little Mermaid introduces Lo, a creature of the sea who still clings to her remaining human life. But in order to be human again, she must convince a boy to love her—and then steal his soul.
Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz
Rudy and his family move to a remote island to save his sick younger brother—an island where the fish have strange healing properties. He spots a merman (well, merboy) off the coast, learns that the fish-kid's name is Teeth and discovers that Teeth has creepy, violent secrets. Look for it in January.
Plus, a few others: Wrecked by Anna Davies, Of Poseidon by Anna Banks, Sarah Porter's Lost Voices series and Tera Lynn Childs' Fins series.
The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan
In this dazzling book (our Children's Top Pick for September), all of the women on Rollrock are seal-women. The witch Misskaella uses her connections with the seals to introduce the men to seal-women. There are few YA books—whether about selkies, mermaids or something else—that better capture the sea than this one from Printz Honor-winning Lanagan. Read our review.
And a quick peek into the children's books coming out in 2013 proved that the selkie myth is no one-hit wonder—and I predict I'll stumble across a few more before its June pub date:
Tides by Betsy Cornwell
This debut from Cornwell tells the story of high school senior Noah and his adopted teenage sister, Lo (probably not the same Lo from Fathomless . . .). Noah tries to save a girl from drowning, and she probably turns out to be a seal-woman, or something like that.
Okay, readers: How do you feel about the new nature of mermaids in teen lit? And in the battle of selkie vs. mermaid, which sea creature wins? What makes the better YA novel?
Try saying that three times fast!
Today, Publishers Marketplace announced that Newbery Medal-winning author Kate DiCamillo's next book will come out on September 26, 2013. Titled The Illuminated Adventures of Flora and Ulysses, PM reports that it's about "joy and laughter, about moving away from grief and turning toward love—additionally, it is a book about seal blubber."
DiCamillo is beloved for her wonderful children's novels like Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux. In a BookPage review of The Magician's Elephant, Sharon Verbeten wrote: "DiCamillo has long been a word virtuoso, and this novel solidifies that role. Everything about this story is masterful." I know readers will expect to see the same classic prose and feel the same heart-tugging emotions when they read Illuminated Adventures next year.
Clare Vanderpool won the 2011 Newbery Medal for Moon Over Manifest—her debut novel. On January 8, 2013, readers can buy her follow-up: Navigating Early. I love the equation-style plot description on Vanderpool's website:
One boy from Kansas
+ one boy from Maine
+ one boat on the Appalachian Trail
+ a search for a great bear
+ 3.14 (pi)
= The journey of a lifetime
If that's not enough good news, prolific Newbery Honoree Gary Paulsen also has a book out on January 8, 2013. It's called Road Trip and it's about a dad, a boy and a dog who go on a crazy trip.
In addition to the books listed above, I can't wait to read two new novels from Nashville authors: The 13th Sign by Kristin O'Donnell Tubb (author of Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different and Selling Hope) and Out of The Easy by Ruta Sepetys (author of Between Shades of Gray). More on those later!
The Diviners by Libba Bray
Little, Brown • $19.99 • ISBN 9780316126113
On sale September 18, 2012
Ages 15 and up
With the recent news that Baz Luhrmann's take on The Great Gatsby (Fitz, help us) has been pushed back to Summer 2013, you'll need something to tide you over until then. I know you've already purchased your flapper dress and bedazzled your dancing shoes, but you can still go crazy about the Roaring Twenties with the help of Printz Award-winning author Libba Bray's newest, The Diviners.
This atmospheric novel is technically for teens, but it'll fit right in on your TBR list with Laura Moriarty's The Chaperone and Emma Straub's upcoming Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures (9/4).
Evie O'Neill comes to glamorous NYC in 1926, where she's thrilled to explore speakeasies, shopping, Broadway and more. The only downside is she has to live with her uncle, curator of the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult. Not to mention, Evie has a supernatural secret of her own: She can uncover details about people by holding any object that belongs to them. When a girl is found murdered and branded with a cryptic symbol, Evie might be able to use that power to find a killer.
And that's only the beginning! Check out an excerpt from the opening gin party, where Bray draws you in with her pitch-perfect '20s flair:
The hostess, a pretty and spoiled young thing, notes her guests' restlessness with a sense of alarm. It is her eighteenth birthday, and if she doesn't do something to raise this party from the dead, it will be the talk for days to come that her gathering was as dull as a church social.
Raising from the dead.
The weekend before, she'd been forced to go antiquing upstate with her mother—an absolutely hideous chore, until they came upon an old Ouija board. Ouija boards were all the rage; psychics have claimed to receive messages and warnings from the other side using Mr. Fuld's "talking board." The antiques dealer fed her mother a line about how it had come to him under mysterious circumstances.
"They say it's still haunted by restless spirits. But perhaps you and your sister could tame it?" he'd said with over-the-top flattery; naturally, her mother lapped it up, which resulted in her paying too much for the thing. Well, she'd make her mother's mistake pay off for her now.
The hostess races for the hall closet and signals to the maid. "Do be a darling and get that down for me."
The maid retrieves the board with a shake of her head. "You oughtn't to be messing with this board, Miss."
"Don't be silly. That's primitive."
With a zippy twirl worthy of Clara Bow, the hostess bursts into the formal living room holding the Ouija board. "Who wants to commune with the spirits?" She giggles to show that she doesn't take it seriously in the least. After all, she's a thoroughly modern girl—a flapper, through and through.
The wilted girls spring up from their club chairs. "What've you got there? Is that a wee-gee board?" one of them asks.
"Isn't it darling? Mother bought it for me. It's supposed to be haunted," the hostess says and laughs. "Well, I don't believe that, naturally." The hostess places the heart-shaped planchette in the middle of the board. "Let's conjure up some fun, shall we?"
Everyone gathers 'round. George angles himself into the spot beside her. He's a Yale man and a junior. Many nights, she's lain awake in her bedroom, imagining her future with him. "Who wants to start?" she asks, positioning her fingers close to his.
"I will," a boy in a ridiculous fez announces. She can't remember his name, but she's heard he has a habit of inviting girls into his rumble seat for a petting party. He closes his eyes and places his fingers on the scryer. "A question for the ages: Is the lady to my right madly in love with me?"
The girls squeal and the boys laugh as the planchette slowly spells out Y-E-S.
"Liar!" the lady in question scolds the heart-shaped scrying piece with its clear glass oracle.
"Don't fight it, darling. I could be yours on the cheap," the boy says.
Now spirits are high; the questions grow bolder. They're drunk on gin and good times and the silly distraction of the fortune-telling. Every mornin', every evenin', ain't we got fun?
"Say, let's summon a real spirit," George challenges.
Be sure to check out some of the other great crossover YA novels from this year!