Tag Archives: young adult books

International Youth Day: Celebrating YA Books on Book Country

Posted by August 12th, 2015

It’s International Youth Day today, and it’s got us reading teen fiction on Book Country. We’d like to share some of our finds with you, and tell you why they kept us turning the pages. 

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The Artists CircleThe Artists Circle by Chelsea Langford

About the book: During the hypercreative Renaissance era, famed artists Michelangelo Buonarroti and Leonardo da Vinci were the first to tap into a creative magic and harness it in their artwork. For many reasons, the world was not ready for this magic to be revealed, but it has been taught in secret for centuries. This story follows a girl, Rosie, as she comes to Florence, Italy, to study art and, under the guidance of a peculiar mentor and her new classmates, discovers her true potential as an artist and the magic that’s in her grasp, lying dormant in her imagination.

Why we love it: We’ve fallen for The Artists Circle’s protagonist, Rosie. Just picture her arriving at Villa Cielo, the school that she hopes will turn her into a true artist: “She’d be known as the late girl—or the girl of the night. The one who was stuck on a plane in stupid Norway—sorry, Norway—while everyone else was finding their new best friends and soul mates or, who knows, artistic nemeses. On the bright side, maybe people would find her mysterious, at least for a while. She could work with that.”

The Neverland WarsThe Neverland Wars by Audrey Greathouse

About the book: Being a teentager is hard enough, but things get even harder for Gwendolyn Hoffman when her goofy kid sister, Rosemary, disappears in the night. She seems lost forever, until Rosemary comes back accompanied by her abductor, Peter Pan. Gwen is soon whirlwinded away from math classes, texting, and all expectations of modern teenagers. She learns that Neverland is facing grave turmoil. Certain adults are actively attempting to find—and destroy—the enchanted island and repurpose its magic to fix national debt and cell reception problems. Now, a teenager caught between worlds, Gwen will have to pick sides, choose between boys, and decipher her conflicting desires to find out what really matters to her.

Why we love it: This modern-day sequel of the Peter Pan story has captured our fancy. There is a brilliant twist: while Peter is still defending his beloved Neverland, he has changed, too. Peter has aged. All the time he has spent in reality, ferrying children back and forth, has added up. It has left him at the same awkward age as The Neverland Wars’ heroine, Gwen…

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SPARK by Book Country Member Atthys Gage: On Sale Today!

Posted by December 17th, 2014

SPARK by Atthys GageCongratulations to longtime Book Country member Atthys Gage! His debut YA novel, SPARK, was originally workshopped on Book Country, and came out today from Lycaon Press.

Lucy Silag: Tell us about your first “spark” of the idea for SPARK. How did that idea grow and change over time and drafts?

Atthys Gage: It’s hard for me to pinpoint, but there is a persistent image that I associate with SPARK: someone is walking past a vacant lot; there are a couple of homeless types standing around a big metal drum, warming themselves on the scrap-wood fire lit within; sparks fly upward. The only thing is, that scene doesn’t appear in the book and never did in any version. It is, apparently, a sort of catalyst scene. Like an enzyme, it allowed the process of writing the book to take place but wasn’t consumed in the process.

LS: What has surprised you most about the experience of taking your book from an idea to a finished product?

AG: I was struck by how my own feelings changed as we neared the end. At first I was willing to fight for every little thing. Or, if not fight, then endlessly agonize over how to fix something that wasn’t quite right. By the end, I was more likely to just eliminate the problematic passage with a sweep of the blue pencil. It’s almost as though the book itself was so ready to be done and out in the world that it began resisting my efforts to fix it anymore. I’d reach out to straighten a clause or rub out a questionable comma, and it would slap my hand away like a moody teenager. Just leave it alone! Go away! I honestly think the poor thing was tired of all the attention. Continue reading

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Takeaway Writing Tips from #BCReadalong THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER

Posted by August 30th, 2013

perks with frame

Two weeks ago we launched a back-to-school themed readalong for Book Country writers. The book we chose was the Young Adult Contemporary novel THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky. Our inaugural #BCReadalong was designed to read the book as writers, using PERKS as an example of prose, structure, and character development that has really resonated with readers of all ages.

Here at Book Country HQ we’ve come up with a list of writing tips that developed as we thought about what works about PERKS: Continue reading

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Young Adult Contemporary Guidepost #4: Parents in YA Fiction

Posted by August 28th, 2013

Have you ever noticed how all of the teens that star in your favorite YA books have really oblivious parents?

There’s Charlie, Bella’s dad in TWILIGHT, who doesn’t pick up on the fact that a vampire is sneaking in through his daughter’s bedroom window every night. (Charlie’s oblivion is actually the subject of a Book Country discussion thread that I find totally hilarious.) SHIVER’s Grace might have survived a wolf attack as a kid, but her parents still leave her up to her own devices almost all of the time, meaning she and her paranormal boyfriend have nightly sleepovers in her room.

This isn’t just true for YA Paranormal: Even in the YA Contemporary novel (and our inaugural #BCReadalong!) THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, the main character (also named Charlie) has parents who are very prominent characters in the story. Yet they tune out a lot of what’s going on in Charlie’s life in terms of drinking, drugs, romance, friends, and drama. This is also true of another one of my favorite YA books of all time, GIRL by Blake Nelson–Andrea’s parents are just totally unaware of all the stuff she is out doing with her friends. It’s not quite as extreme as in TWILIGHT and SHIVER, and certainly, both Charlie and Andrea’s parents are wonderful, realistic, well-drawn characters, but it got me thinking about the role of adult characters in YA books. What should a writer do with them?

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Young Adult Contemporary Guidepost #3: Genre-benders very welcome!

Posted by August 27th, 2013

guidepost 3 imageEver heard of a little genre-bending book called TWILIGHT by Stephenie Meyer? TWILIGHT took the publishing industry, and then the movie industry, by storm when the series launched a few years ago. Paranormal themes had indeed been dancing around YA lit for many years, but TWILIGHT was the book that took it to the mainstream, in an unforgettable way. Suddenly, readers from middle schools up through senior centers were declaring themselves “Team Edward” and “Team Jacob.” (One mom I know always jokes that she’s “Team Charlie”–you know, Bella’s single dad.)

What we’ve seen since TWILIGHT is that publishers and readers embrace genre-bending Young Adult fiction in a big way. Take the New York Times-bestselling SHIVER trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater: It’s YA Paranormal, but it has many of the the hallmarks of YA Contemporary as well. It definitely takes place in the contemporary world of small town Northern Minnesota. We go to high school with the characters, who wear jeans, backpacks, and rainbow-striped mittens. We ride in cars with them and eat candy and canned soup with them. Their cell phones ring. There’s nothing about this book that isn’t contemporary. It’s actually because SHIVER is so realistic that the haunting paranormal romance also works: once we as readers start to believe in the “real” world that Stiefvater creates in her fiction, we more readily accept the incredible plot twists that ensue (SPOILER ALERT: There are werewolves).

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Young Adult Contemporary Guidepost #2: Love Stories

Posted by August 23rd, 2013

YA Contemporary Guidepost #2 Love Stories

As the second in a series of Guideposts for Writing Young Adult Contemporary fiction, we’re thinking about that old YA standby: the teen romance. Should your book have one or not?

Put a Little Love in Your Book

It’s extremely hard to think of a YA book in any literary category that doesn’t have some element of romance. Romance might not be the central theme, but it’s a good anchor in almost any story. For example, THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS by Ann Brashares is about the friendship (and those magical pants). But of the four main characters in the book, three of them have a love interest. One of the most effective ways Ann Brashares illustrates the depth of the sisterhood is by showing us how the characters soothe each other’s romantic anxieties and heartbreaks, as well as celebrate when the others find love. Even books that are relatively “Gender”-less usually explore the theme of love: Stephen Chbosky’s THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER (which is, by the way, our inaugural #BCReadalong), EVERY DAY by David Levithan, and PARANOID PARK by Blake Nelson are all welcome books that shows us the complexities of teen life—and love—from a guy’s perspective.

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Guideposts for Writing Young Adult Contemporary Fiction

Posted by August 21st, 2013

One of the biggest additions to the Book Country Genre Map is Young Adult Fiction, on the east side of the map. If writing Young Adult Fiction interests you, by all means, explore it!

Young Adult is a genre rich with innovation, and by reading and reflecting on recently published Young Adult titles, we can learn a lot about good writing of any genre.

Over the next two weeks, I’m going to be sharing some approaches to writing Young Adult Fiction, especially Young Adult Contemporary. To go along with the Genre Map metaphor, I’m calling these suggestions “guideposts.” They aren’t rules. Instead, I’m imagining myself coming upon various crossroads in my Young Adult writing, and needing to make choices about the path I want to take through this area of the Genre Map. The guideposts are there to—you guessed it—guide those choices, with the ultimate goal of writing my best Young Adult Contemporary book.

Here’s the first:

How contemporary is contemporary in YA fiction?

Young Adult Contemporary Guidepost #1: How contemporary is contemporary?

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Member Spotlight: Meet YA Writer Rachel Marks

Posted by August 19th, 2013

RACHEL_MARKSRachel Marks is an award-winning writer and professional artist who has been on Book Country since 2012. Her dystopian YA book about a teen assassin, GOLDEN, is currently features as an editor’s pick. It also won the winner of the CODEX novel contest. Rachel is the illustrator of the upcoming How to Draw Grimm’s Dark Tales, Fables & Folklore artist guide. On top of all that, Rachel has been voted “Most Likely to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse!”.

Nevena: We really loved GOLDEN. Tell us more about the book and how you came up with the idea for it—the concept is so fascinating.

Rachel: GOLDEN has had a very long road. I started writing it during a time when I wasn’t feeling at all well physically. When I was half way through the first version of the manuscript, I was diagnosed with cancer: Large B-Cell Lymphoma. And after a whole lot of poking and scanning, and a year of chemo, I was released with a bill of health they titled “remission.” And there was GOLDEN, just sitting there. Waiting. But when I went back to it, the book didn’t feel right—Aryana, my heroine, wasn’t the same anymore, in my mind. I wasn’t the same anymore.

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The Young Adult Fiction Flag

Posted by June 21st, 2013

Welcome to Book Country, Young Adult fiction writers!

Young Adult Writing FlagWe wanted to expand Book Country to include young adult writers. There are quite a few of you on the site already – and we love your work – and wanted to give you a place to connect with each other and workshop your books.

Young adult books are oftentimes emotionally wrenching journeys for the reader. The protagonist straddles the divide between childhood and adulthood, gingerly making his or her way into the world.

Young adult books help teens weather that transition, but they also let adults revisit the stormy, exciting time of their high school years. These stories are not watered down versions of adult books but stand on their own as works of adventure and art.

Young adult writers, this flag is the banner under which you can gather your troops and spread your writerly wings on Book Country. Upload your book on Book Country now.

Welcome!

 

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Member Spotlight: Meet Writer Atthys Gage

Posted by May 20th, 2013

Book Country Member Spotlight Q&A

atthys_gage_writer

The light is dim sometimes, and you can only see a little bit of the path ahead.  –Atthys Gage

Atthys Gage has been writing novels for the last seven years while living on the North Coast of California amid dogs, kids, redwood trees, and one long-suffering wife. He’s been a member of Book Country for about two years. The current tally is four and a half novels, a memoir about adopting a child from China, and a handful of shorter works.  

Nevena: Thanks for chatting with me, Atthys. When did you start writing? What inspires you to carry on?

Atthys: Seven years ago I decided to try writing a book.  It was an out of the blue “I wonder if I can do it?” kind of challenge. It turned out I could. I wrote it all in long hand in a couple of spiral-bound notebooks before I even touched the word processor. Since then, I’ve had the bug.

Nevena: Is fitting writing into your life a juggling act?

Atthys: My wife works full-time (and then some), so I’ve got a house to run and three teenage kids to mismanage. But I get a few hours to myself nearly every day. Unfortunately, I’m a hopeless procrastinator, so most of that time gets wasted on a lot of nonsense, but I have no one to blame for that but myself. And the Internet.

Nevena: Haha, don’t we all… What’s your writing process like? Do you plot extensively or let the characters lead the way?

Atthys: I need to have a pretty good outline, but I’m always open to change. The light is dim sometimes, and you can only see a little bit of the path ahead. Once in a while, a character you thought was just a walk-on will force her way center stage and start grabbing all the good lines. When that happens, I try to get out of her way.

Nevena: The muse takes over! You’ve posted three fantasy books on Book Country. What is it about the genre’s tropes and conventions that speaks to you as a story-teller?

Atthys: Actually, I’m not all that fond of traditional fantasy. I am attracted to books where extraordinary or unexplained things happen. I like the tension, the way the various layers of reality rub against each other. Everyday life, of course, can be just as weird, just as beautiful, just as fantastic as the wildest otherworldly fantasy. It’s all about the writing. And those impossible, unexplainable elements, I try to write them just the same, always anchoring the magical in pure, vivid realism.

Nevena: What’s your “pet” project at the moment?

Atthys: I guess the book I’m most passionate and hopeful about at the moment is The Flight of the Wren.  It’s the story of a sixteen-year-old girl who is given a flying carpet. Yeah. That’s the nutshell version. My formal pitch is a lot more exciting than that, but ultimately I think I lose a lot of readers with the words ‘flying carpet.’ Probably they are expecting something like a Magic Treehouse adventure and a lot of mucking around with Aladdin and his monkey.

Of course, it’s nothing like that. The protagonist is painfully ordinary—disaffected, disconnected, utterly disinterested in school, family, even friends. She is, in short, a typical teenage mess. She has no special powers, no special insights, not even a belief in herself. Because I am a benevolent (if inscrutable) god, I toss her a lifeline. A gift. An impossible gift: a magic carpet. But there are strings attached. With it comes both a community (other members of her flock) and a purpose, a mission.

Love, of course, also waits in the wind. Love is what drives everything that happens in the second half of the book. A flying carpet, once you get past the absurdity, really is a heck of a gift.  It represents two extremely valuable things for a young person: freedom and independence. For Renny, it also comes to represent two things she thought she didn’t want but which turn out to be a lot more important than flying: connection and responsibility. In other words, people she cares about.

Nevena: Which part of that book was the most challenging to write, and how did you handle it?

Atthys: Not to downplay the agony of creation, but the hardest part has been trying to get the book read and published, though I guess I have myself to blame for that one too.  All of the most cherished and repeated advice from agents and marketing people—make your book high-concept, write to a target audience, know your genre—I’ve failed at all of those things! My books don’t sit comfortably in any particular genre. I can’t even identify an appropriate age group.  I call my stuff YA because it concerns younger people as characters, but I don’t tailor my writing to that audience. Understand, I’m not saying I won’t. I’m saying I can’t. I admire the discipline that would be needed to write well within the constraints of a traditional genre, but I don’t seem to possess it.

Nevena: You’ve reviewed quite a few books on the site. How do you switch gears from writing fiction to reviewing it? Does reviewing change the way you see your own writing?

Atthys: I love reviewing, partly because I love the editing process. The whole process of vetting and re-vetting every combination of words appeals to my obsessive compulsive nature. I’m afraid it makes me a pushy sort of reviewer, but I find rewriting a lot easier than trying to explain in abstract terms why something isn’t working for me. I don’t know if it helps the original writer, but I think going through that process makes me a better writer. Of course there are lots of terrific writers on Book Country who need no help from anyone, and reading good writing is the best learning experience of all.

Nevena: So why are you on Book Country?

Atthys: Colleen and I go way back. We worked at the same brick-and-mortar bookstore back when such things were common. Fast forward twenty years. I’m querying agents for my first book and I see her name. We reconnect. She almost represents my book, then chickens out.

Needless to say, I’ve never quite forgiven her for that, but we stayed connected. When she started posting about this site, I decided to check it out.

Nevena: Haha. Is there anything else you want to share with the Book Country peeps?

Atthys: Eat well. Get plenty of rest. Go outside once in a while. You’re all welcome take my advice because I’m not using it.

Nevena: You’re a funny one. Hope Renny finds a home soon!

Connect with Atthys on Book Country and give Flight of the Wren a read. Follow him on Twitter at @AtthysGage.

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