Category Archives: Setting

2013 YA Superlatives :: Elements of Fiction

The Class of 2013: YA Superlative Blogfest (hosted by Jessica LoveTracey NeithercottAlison Miller, and me) runs Monday, December 16th through Thursday, December 19th. All of our fantastic participants will highlight favorite books published in 2013 using a variety of fun superlative categories. The Class of 2013: YA Superlative Blogfest is all about promoting the extraordinary young adult books published this year, so if you haven’t already, draft a post and sign up to participate at the end of this post. We can’t wait to see your favorite reads of 2013!

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My Books Pubbed in 2013 Reading List (starred books are 2013 debut novels): Shades of Earth, *The Tragedy Paper, Just One Day, *If You Find Me, *Nobody But Us, *Taken, Through the Ever Night, Eleanor & Park, Requiem, *Pretty Girl-13, *Uses For Boys, This is What Happy Looks Like, Quintana of Charyn, *The S-Word, The 5th Wave, *Nantucket Blue, *The Sea of Tranquility, Golden, *Strands of Bronze and Gold, Where the Stars Still Shine, Dare You To, All I Need, Out of the Easy, *OCD Love Story, The Dream Thieves, *Canary, The Truth About You and Me, Fangirl, *My Life After Now, September Girls, *Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, Dead Silence, Invisibility, Just One Year, *Fault Line, Allegiant, *How to Love, The Beginning of Everything, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, *Unteachable, Dangerous Girls, and *Reclaimed (Covers link to Goodreads pages!)

Here are my selections for Elements of Fiction

Most Envy-Inducing Plot 

   
It’s a toss up between Abigail Haas’s Dangerous Girls and Jessi Kirby’s GoldenBoth books are exceptional contemporaries. I love the twists and sense of unknowing in Dangerous Girls, and I envy the way Jessi Kirby so seamlessly weaved past and present story lines into Golden.

Most Formidable World

   
Another toss up… The ether storms in Veronica Rossi’s Through the Ever Night terrify me, and the idea of a world without love as depicted in Lauren Oliver’s Requiem is equally horrifying. Come to think of it, there’s not a dystopian setting I’d want to visit.

Wanderlust-Inducing

I’ve not been to Nantucket, but Leila Howland’s debut Nantucket Blue made me want to book a summer house there. She describes the beach and the town and the people and the foods so clearly. I could feel the sand beneath my toes.

Loveliest Prose

I’m not usually fan of dialect in novels, but Emily Murdoch pulls it off beautifully in her debut, If You Find Me… My sister don’t talk much. When she does, it’s only to me, in moth-winged whispers, and only when we’re alone. The entire story is  this gorgeous and evocative.

Best First Line

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys: My mother’s a prostitute. Not the 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.

Most Dynamic Main Character

Reena Montero from Katie Cotugno’s How to Love is one of my favorite protagonists ever. She’s can be irresolute which makes her  relatable, but she’s also strong and funny and loving and smart. I’d be her friend in a heartbeat.

Most Jaw-Dropping Ending

I could go with Allegiant, Dangerous Girls, or Shades of Earth here, but the final lines of Katja Millay’s The Sea of Tranquility gave me actual, physical chills. Breathtaking and moving… I loved it.

Best Performance in a Supporting Role

Dee from Gayle Forman’s Just One Day. I had so much fun reading the scenes he shared with Allyson, and I appreciate how he’s more than just the fun best buddy type. He’s got depth and does his own growing as the story progresses.

Best Use of Theme

I love Trish Doller’s Where the Stars Still Shine for its characters and intense emotionality, but I also love it for its messages regarding forgiveness and family and kindness and love, and how it’s possible to recover and start over.

Don’t forget to link your “Elements of Fiction” post below!

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What’s Up Wednesday

“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you.

{Please make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, other participants can visit your blog and check out what you’ve been up to. In that same spirit, I urge you to visit as many new blogs as you can every Wednesday. The most awesome aspect of What’s Up Wednesday and Ready. Set. Write is that they include a built-in support system. Let’s make sure we’re rooting each other on and offering as much encouragement as we can. Who knows… You might make an awesome new writing buddy, or a find a fantastic beta reader, or hook up with an amazing critique partner!}

And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: I recently read In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell. It was… weird. Very literary and very dark. If you like adult fiction that steps way outside the box, you might want to check it out. Now I’m reading The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken, a futuristic dystopian/thriller. It’s action-packed and pretty fantastic so far.

What I’m Writing: Still plugging away at my WiP. I made a Love List for it and, despite all its 1st draft flaws, I do really and truly love this story. I wrote 5,913 words this week (my goal was 3,000) and I’m up to 32,592 total. Considering that I started Ready. Set. Write! with about 9,000 words, my forward progress makes me really happy. This baby is starting to feel like a story that’s finishable! A favorite bit written last week:

He’d just shredded a hole into his already precarious acquaintanceship with Dylan, a hole that could very well be beyond mending, yet here he was, instantaneously and inappropriately enamored with her sexy black underthings. But really… Who could blame him? It’d been months since he’d seen a bra.

My goal for the coming week is 3,000 words, which should be doable. I’m finding that writing at least 500 words a day is becoming a routine, one I definitely want to keep up as the summer begins to wind down.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: I’m honored to have been chosen to help judge the August Pitch+250 Contest held by one of my favorite blogs, Adventures in YA and Children’s Publishing. Submissions will be accepted starting Wednesday, July 31st at 6:00pm EST, and will close August 3rd at 11:00pm EST, or when 50 submissions are received, whichever comes first. If you’ve got a complete and polished manuscript, consider submitting a pitch (not a query) and the first 250 words of your story. All the details of the contest are HERE.

 Also, over the weekend, we visited the The Old Mission in San Jaun Bautista. The Catholic church’s construction began in the early 1800s, ending in 18 12. The building and grounds are ornate and beautiful. We also explored San Jaun Bautista, which is a charming little town with some cool antique shops and a fabulous Mexican restaurant, Jardine de San Juan, that we totally pigged out at.

 
And, finally, I’ve been doing the mom thing, carting my girlie from activity to activity, supervising playdates, giving pedis, and reading countless stories. School starts August 7th in these parts, so I’m already beginning to mourn the end of summer. It’s flown by so quickly!

What’s Inspiring Me Now: My WiP’s new setting, based on a mash-up of a few small agricultural towns near us. I’m calling my tourism “research.”


What’s up with you today? 

(If you’re a Ready. Set. Write! participant, don’t forget to enter our fantastic giveaway. Alison MillerElodie NowodazkijErin FunkJaime Morrow, and I will be sending an awesome Writer’s Care Package to one lucky winner. The giveaway closes in one week. Find the Rafflecoptor and more details HERE.)

The Class of 2012: YA Superlatives Blogfest – Elements of Fiction

Before I get on with my Elements of Fiction choices for the YA Superlatives Blogfest, I’d love to refer you to Kristin Lynn Thetford‘s blog. First and foremost, she just signed with a fantastic agent… Go congratulate her! Second, she recently interviewed me about my writing, my experiences with querying, and my eventual signing with super agent Victoria Marini of GSLA. The interview is HERE if you want to check it out. (You totally should!)

The Class of 2012: YA Superlative Blogfest (hosted by Jessica LoveTracey NeithercottAlison Miller, and me) runs Monday, December 17th through Thursday, December 20th. All of the awesome people who are participating in the blogfest (YOU, I hope!) will highlight favorite books published 2012 using a variety of super fun superlative categories. The Class of 2012: YA Superlative Blogfest is about promoting extraordinary young adult books, so if you haven’t already, draft a post, hop down to the end of this post, and sign up to participate. We can’t wait to see your favorite reads of 2012!

The 2012 YA novels I’ve read, listed in no particular order: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, A Million Suns, The Fault in Our Stars, The Disenchantments, Something Strange and Deadly, Pandemonium, Wanderlove, Under the Never Sky, Ten, This is Not a Test, Happy Families, Insurgent, Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone, Monstrous Beauty, Bitterblue, Time Between Us, My Life Next Door, Breathe, Pushing the Limits, Skylark, The Raven Boys, Live Through This, Bittersweet, Flawed, Ditched, Starters, Reached, Lovely, Dark and Deep, Meant to Be, and Days of Blood and Starlight…

And here’s how I chose to award today’s categories:

Elements of Fiction

Most Envy-Inducing Plot (Plot I wish I’d thought of myself…)

Time Between UsUsing time travel to tell a story of intense, lasting love has been done before, but I especially love the way Tamara Ireland Stone uses Bennett’s  special “talent” to challenge Anna and everything she thinks she knows.

Most Formidable World (Setting I would NOT want to visit…)

Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky, #1)From Smarteyes and Realms to Aether storms and savages and potentially dangerous air, Veronica Rossi has created a detailed and dynamic world where almost nobody can be trusted.

Wanderlust-Inducing (Setting I’d happily travel to…)

WanderloveAah, beaches and hiking and fun in the sun — this book’s title is spot-on. I’d love to backpack with Bria and Rowan.

Loveliest Prose

Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #2)Or… perhaps Fate laid out your life for you like a dress on a bed, and you could either wear it or go naked. ~ Gorgeous imagery on every. Single. Page.

Best First Line

Amelia Anne is Dead and GoneThe night before Amelia Anne Richardson bled her life away on a parched dirt road outside of town, I bled out my dignity in the back of a pickup truck under a star-pricked sky. ~ The whole book is written this beautifully.

Most Dynamic Main Character

Bitterblue (Graceling Realm, #3)I absolutely adore Bitterblue. She’s so many things: utterly endearing, open and charmingly honest, naive and occasionally brusque, determined and loyal. Over the course of the novel, she faces what should be soul-crushing opposition, but she never, ever folds.

Most Jaw-Dropping Ending

The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle, #1)Ronan’s confession about Chainsaw’s origins… *shivers* Next book, please!

Best Performance in a Supporting Role

This is Not a TestGrace, Trace, Cary, Harrison, and especially Rhys from This is Not a Test. I loved the Breakfast Club-esque dynamic between main character Sloane and her colorful and carefully fleshed-out supporting cast.

Best Use of Theme

Lovely, Dark and DeepWren’s struggles with unimaginable guilt and grief could have been preachy and cliche, but Amy McNamara handles her protagonist’s troubles with subtle grace, which makes themes of forgiveness and acceptance shine.

W is for WANDERLOVE

 

Today’s Bookanista recommendation: Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

 

From GoodreadsIt all begins with a stupid question: Are you a Global Vagabond? No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path. Bria’s a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan’s a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they’ve got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward. But Bria comes to realize she can’t run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back. 

I’m a sucker for beautifully written contemporary YA, especially when the story is set somewhere warm and beachy, and ESPECIALLY when there’s a slow-burn (read: realistic) romance involved. In these ways, Wanderlove is a triple threat. Kirsten Hubbard’s sophomore novel is simply lovely. Fully realized, perfectly imperfect characters. A setting that will give you a severe case of wanderlust. A hot, angsty, incredibly literate boy with a dragon tattoo(!). Wanderlove immersed me in its story, in its world. It made me feel like I was on vacation, and because of that, it was utterly unputdownable.

Bria is an every-girl protagonist in the very best way. She reminds me of ME when I graduated from high school, and that put me immediately on her side. Bria spends much of Wanderlove second-guessing decisions, suffering from crippling self-awareness, and yearning to be something more, something different. With help from Rowan, Bria gradually becomes more comfortable in her skin (and in her past mistakes), and she grows into a remarkable person, one I want to know. Kirsten Hubbard illustrates (literally) Bria’s transformation by sprinkling gorgeous drawings throughout the text. They’re an added bonus to an already beautiful book that I highly anticipated as I read.

In case you missed it, I discussed Wanderlove‘s glorious setting for March’s YA Book Club post… You should totally check it out! And, when you’re done with that, please please PLEASE pick up a copy of Wanderlove. I suspect you’ll adore it as much as I do!

Check out what my fellow Bookanistas are up to today:

Elana Johnson more than “likes” BEING FRIENDS WITH BOYS

Nikki Katz is crazy about CREWEL

Stasia Ward Kehoe  adores BREAKING BEAUTIFUL

Tracy Banghart  takes a shine to A MILLION SUNS

Jessica Love is wowed by WELCOME CALLER, THIS IS CHLOE

Debra Driza marvels at MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH – with giveaway

Tell me: What’s your favorite travel-inspired novel?

YA Book Club: WANDERLOVE


{YA Book Club is the brainchild of writer/blogger Tracey Neithercott.
For guidelines and additional info, click the image above.}

February’s YA Book Club selection is Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

From GoodreadsIt all begins with a stupid question: Are you a Global Vagabond? No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path. Bria’s a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan’s a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they’ve got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward. But Bria comes to realize she can’t run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back.

Tracey provided some structure for this month’s book club post in the form of a few setting-related questions, which I think is an excellent idea. I’m planning a Bookanista recommendation for Wanderlove in a few weeks, so I’m going to save my official review (Spoiler: I kind of loved it!), and focus on the talking points below:

1. How did setting play a part in the story?

While Wanderlove‘s characters are fantastic and its writing is beautiful, it is, at its essence, a story about finding one’s self after high school — pretty basic YA material. What makes it exceptional is its unique setting, one very few people could have captured as stunningly as Kirsten Hubbard (she is, according to her bio, a bit of a  Global Vagabond herself).

Kirsten used her story’s setting to challenge its characters, especially Bria. The ocean, the language barriers, the currency differences, the strange foods and customs, the dangers of traveling alone in a foreign country — it all threw Bria for a loop, forcing her to take a good hard look at herself and attitude. Had Wanderlove been set in, say… a midwest suburb… I doubt its underlying themes of independent exploration, self-discovery, and autonomy would have been illustrated as effectively as they are in lush and vivid Central American.

2. Could this story have been told in a different setting and still been the same?

Certainly not the same, but I think the story could have been set in any tropical, slow-developing, mostly-foreign-language-speaking area of the world. Bria needed to feel totally displaced and occasionally helpless, a fish out of water, to take control of her life and accountability for her decisions, both past and present. I loved the richness of the Central America setting, though. It definitely gave me a case of wanderlust!

3. What tips did you pick up from Kirsten Hubbard when it comes to setting?

Setting can be — should be! — a character in and of itself. I’ve heard this advice many times, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it executed as skillfully as Kirsten does in Wanderlove.  She used setting not only as a vibrant backdrop, but as a tool to express her story’s themes. Plus, Kirsten’s descriptions are rich and imaginative, and she makes use of all five sense when discussing the countries mentioned in the story. She made me feel like I was backpacking with Bria and Rowan, eating mango, lounging in a hammock, gazing at a million sparkling stars, which made Wanderlove unputdownable. I didn’t want my vacation to end!

4. Did you feel the use of illustrations enhanced the story?

I did! I loved the illustrations, and thought they added a unique layer to the story, and to the setting. It was a treat to see — not just read about — what Bria saw during her trip, especially since drawing is such a huge part of her identity. The illustrations also helped demonstrate her character arc. Her drawings grew with her, and as the story progressed, I started to look forward to them with the same enthusiasm with which I anticipated the progression of Bria’s relationship with Rowan. Incidentally, I predicted what the last illustration of the story would be, but I did NOT allow myself to page ahead for a peek. I wanted to wait it out with the characters. :)

Tell me: Have you read Wanderlove? What were your thoughts on its unique setting?

If you haven’t read it, will you?

Class of 2011: YA Superlatives Blogfest DAY THREE

Today is Day Three of the The Class of 2011: YA Superlatives Blogfest, a fun and interactive way to highlight and share your favorite YA novels, covers, characters, and story elements, hosted by Jessica LoveTracey NeithercottAlison Miller, and me. The Class of 2011: YA Superlatives Blogfest spans four days, beginning December 26th and culminating this Friday, December 30th.

Hopefully you’ve been participating throughout the week, but if not, that’s okay! Just draft today’s post (you can find the topics listed below or on the original post) and then scroll to the bottom of THIS post and add your link to the link list.

I’ve had a blast dropping by the participants’ blogs so far, and I look forward to stopping by your blog to read about your Class of 2011 selections!

And speaking of selections, here are mine for Day Three:

Elements of Fiction

Again, my books published in 2011 Reading List:

Crossed, The Future of Us, Hushed, Want to Go Private?, The Scorpio Races, The Pledge, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Chain Reaction, Forgotten, Notes From the Blender, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, Ripple, Hourglass, A Need So Beautiful, Chime, The Day Before, Forever, Moonglass, Beauty Queens, Boyfriends With Girlfriends, Forbidden, Wither, Divergent, Invincible Summer, Trapped, Where She Went, We’ll Always Have Summer, Cryer’s Cross, Across the Universe, Desires of the Dead, Lola and the Boy Next Door, Imaginary Girls, and The Liar Society

And my favorites in the way of Fictional Elements:

Most Envy-Inducing Plot (Or, the plot you wish you’d thought of yourself.) – Easy. The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. The idea of using Facebook as a way to “travel” to the future is brilliant. There’s also the addition of the numerous nineties mentions that brought nostalgia to a whole new level.

Most Wonderful World-Building – I have to go with Laini Taylor’s The Daughter of Smoke and Bone. There are so many worlds in this story: Prague, Marrakesh,  the backwoods of Idaho, and the world beyond the portal doors. While submerged in Smoke and Bone, it was as if I was a willing and active member of all these worlds. I’ve even added Prague on my Must-Visit list! Honorable Mention: The Scorpio Races because by the end of the story, I felt Thisby.


Most Formidable World (Or, the setting I most definitely would NOT want to travel to) – While Lauren DeStefano wrote about Wither‘s world beautifully, there’s no way I’d ever want to visit it. Plural marraige and a painful awareness of the (early!) age at which I’ll die? No thank you!


Most Wanderlust-Inducing (Or, the setting I’d happily travel to) – Jenny Han’s We’ll Always Have Summer. I’ve been romanced by its quaint little beach town setting, Cousins, since I read The Summer I Turned Pretty, the first book in this series. Honorable Mentions: Moonglass by Jessi Kirby and Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz — Can you tell I love the beach?


Loveliest Prose – This was a very difficult choice, but I have to go with The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater because it was so incredibly emotive, yet never overdone. I imagine dual narration is quite a challenge to pull off, but Scorpio‘s Sean and Puck were unique and vibrant, as was their world. Honorable Mention: Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma and Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Every sentence = Enviable.


Best First Line – Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone: “Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.” Says it all.

Most Dynamic Main Character – Briony Larkin from Franny Billingley’s Chime. Oh, how I adore this girl! She’s so feisty and loyal and clever and intense. Her inner monologue was a joy to read, sometimes heartbreaking and sometimes hilarious. I want to know her! Honorable Mentions: Sean Kendrick from The Scorpio Races, Tris from Divergent, and Karou from Daughter of Smoke and Bone. All were SO memorable.

Most Jaw-Dropping Finale – The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin because really… did ANYONE see THAT coming?! The last few pages of Mara sealed the deal: I simply must read its follow-up. Honorable Mention: Cryer’s Cross. Yowza. That ending blew me away!


Best Performance in a Supporting Role – Ruby, from Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma. This girl was so colorful, so full of life, such a force to be reckoned with, I loved her and hated her with equal intensity. Entirely fleshed out and incredibly well written.


Best Use of Theme – I’m choosing two here, because they both did what’s nearly impossible: Taught an important lesson in an entertaining way. I’m not going to give those lesson away, of course. If you haven’t read these books, I recommend them both! First, The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder:

And second, A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young:

There you have it… My selections for Elements of Fiction. What do you think?

And if you’re participating in the Class of 2011: YA Superlative Blogfest, please click on the image below to drop your link:


And don’t forget to check out what some of the Bookanistas are up to today…

Shannon Messenger shouts about twelve 2012 releases she can’t wait for–and a pre-order giveaway!

Megan Miranda marvels at UNDER THE NEVER SKY

Corinne Jackson gushes over THE MATCHMAKER AND THE GHOST

Stasia Ward Kehoe gets psyched for 2012

RTW: Take me to the beach…


Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the ladies at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

Today’s Topic: What is the most inspiring setting you’ve ever visited in real life?

This is an easy one for me: Cannon Beach, Oregon.

The setting of Where Poppies Bloom is fictional Bell Cove, based heavily on Cannon Beach, an adorable little town I used to visit with my family when I was a child. My husband, daughter and I made the drive there last September for a vacation (also, research :)) and it was so inspiring. A charming little town with a laid back, beachy feel. Kites and sandcastles on the beach, taffy and fudge to snack on in town, sunny days and crisp nights. Honestly, I’d love to live in Cannon Beach someday–it’s that perfect. Here’s what it looks like:





So, what’s the most inspiring setting you’ve visited in real life? Don’t forget to stop by YA Highway to see how everyone else answered.

Oh, and have you entered my The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer giveaway? It ends tomorrow, so hurry! :)