Y is for YA or Bust

Thursday night I was lucky enough to attend YA or Bust, featuring Gayle Forman (IF I STAY and WHERE SHE WENT), Nina LaCour (HOLD STILL and THE DISENCHANTMENTS), and Stephanie Perkins (ANNA & THE FRENCH KISS and LOLA & THE BOY NEXT DOOR) at Roosevelt High School in Seattle.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, then I don’t have to tell you how much I absolutely adore these authors. If you are new to my blog: I ABSOLUTELY ADORE THESE AUTHORS. Gayle Forman’s If I Stay was the first YA novel that made me think: I want to write a book like THAT. Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and Lola are two of the most perfectly executed YA romances I’ve encountered. And Nina LaCour’s The Disenchantments… Hands down the best book I’ve read this year.

On Thursday night I learned that not only are the three authors of the YA or Bust tour brilliant and talented, but they’re also funny and gracious and delightful, all of which probably goes without saying.

Nina LaCour talking about the research she did while writing THE DISENCHANTMENTS... literal road trips and lots of eighties girl band footage -- Awesome!

Gayle Forman sharing an excerpt from WHERE SHE WENT... I'm about as unemotional a person as they come, but damn it if I didn't have a near-moment while she read aloud from her novel.

A few pieces of takeaway advice shared by the ladies during the panel portion of the evening: Read like a writer; pay attention to your strong reactions (both good and bad), then break down what it was the author did to make you feel the way you felt. Take your time learning craft; knowing how to ice skate isn’t the same as knowing how to throw a Triple Axel — writing a novel is no different. Bird by Bird is the way to go. Understand your characters; get to know them by describing their living space, the things they carry, the way they look, the way they interact. And finally, pay attention to detail, especially during the researching/revising/editing/querying processes.

My good friends (and enthusiastic YA readers!) Kari, Theresa, and me, with Gayle Forman, Nina LaCour, and Stephanie Perkins.

I was thrilled to meet Gayle, Stephanie, and Nina, and I’m grateful to them for sharing their wisdom and experience with readers and writers and fans (and for signing my big ol’ stack of books!). If you’ve slacked on reading any of their novels, please RUN to your nearest bookstore or library and hunt them down. They will change the way you read, and they will change the way you write.

Tell me: What YA novel has changed the way YOU write?

RTW: October’s Wrap-Up and Book of the Month


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’s the best book you read in October?

Wow… October was a month of aMaZiNg books! For the first time ever, I couldn’t choose just one Book of the Month. Nope, this month, I’m giving you TWO extraordinary recommendations–lucky you! But first, here’s my wrap-up:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie – Honestly, I wasn’t sure I’d like this one. I’m not a Holden Caulfield fan, and I’ve heard Diary compared to The Catcher in the Rye more times that I can count. That said, I DID enjoy Diary, iimmensely. Junior’s narration was often funny, incredibly poignant, and, at times, heartbreaking. The comics and cartoons sprinkled throughout were a much appreciated surprise. I have no idea what it’s like to be an Indian living on a “rez,” but this book felt absolutely authentic.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead – I snatched this middle grade novel up at the library after reading glowing recommendations from Kat Owens, Sara McClung, and Alicia Gregoire. Frankly, I didn’t have a clue what was going on throughout the first big chunk of the story. That’s not to say I wasn’t entertained; I totally was. Miranda and her accompanying characters were vivid and intriguing. Still, all of the cryptic clues and references to the future left my head spinning. But, I just had this feeling that sticking with it would pay off big. It SO did. I literally had chills throughout the last quarter of this book–the ending is that mind-blowing, that stunning. The day I returned When You Reach Me to the library, I went out and bought my own copy because I couldn’t NOT own it. If you’re not sure whether you like middle grade, read When You Reach Me. You will LOVE it!

Toxic by Jus Accardo – The follow-up to my CP’s debut, Touch, will be available Spring, 2012. I can’t give anything away, of course, but mark your calendars… it’s fantastic!

Hourglass by Myra McEntire – I loved this premise–time travel, the chance to change lives in the span of one hour. Main character Emerson was spunky and cool, though she sort of fell apart every time an attractive boy stepped onto the scene. The boys in the book were pretty hot though… certainly good distractions! I also dug the twisty ending and the atmospheric descriptions.

Teach Me by RA Nelson – Eek… Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned! I wasn’t sure about this one going in: High school senior has a sordid affair with her teacher, obsession and betrayal ensue. But, thanks to main character Carolina (and her majorly over-the-top shenanigans) I ended up enjoying Teach Me. Carolina is super smart and makes awesome observations about people and life, but she’s a social outcast among her peers. She somehow manages to garner sympathy even when making some questionable–okay, disturbing–choices. A well-written, compellingly honest contemporary.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laine Taylor – This book. Oh, THIS BOOK. Simply brilliant, and definitely one of my October Books of the Month. But, I’m not going to go into a full recommendation today because Smoke and Bone is the book we’ll be discussing for Fall Book Club. Check back Friday for my lovefest review.

And my second Book of the Month, Lola and the Boy Next Door, by Stephanie Perkins


From Goodreads: Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit — more sparkly, more fun, more wild — the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood. When Cricket — a gifted inventor — steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

I’d heard from more than one person that Lola was better than Stephanie Perkins’ debut novel, Anna and the French Kiss, which I absolutely loved. I sincerely doubted that anything could be better than Anna, but yeah… I have to say, I think I enjoyed Lola just a *tiny* bit more.

Seventeen-year-old Lola Nolan is an amazing protagonist. One of my favorites of any YA, I think. Lola is all kinds of conflicted. While she’s highly emotional, she’s also genuine and loving and unique and creative and funny. She has a humorous way of describing tough situations that lightened what was, essentially, a serious novel. And while Lola is a sweet girl, she’s not exactly a good girl. She’s self-centered. She lies. She sneaks around behind her parents’ backs. And that rocker boyfriend mentioned in the synopsis above? He’s twenty-two, and not exactly wholesome (he actually turns out to be slightly less-than-perfect, but he had his reasons and I have to say, I didn’t hate him). All of this discord within Lola’s personality made her delightfully real. She’s someone I wish I’d known in high school, someone I would have loved to be friends with.

And Cricket… what a perfectly lovable romantic interest. I see him as he’s pictured on the cover (adorable), and cherished every aspect of his sweet, highly intelligent, awkward, loyal, bumbling, pin-striped personality. He’s just right for Lola (obviously), yet he’s wonderfully flawed (like a real boy!). He knows what he wants, and while he’s full of conviction, he’s patient too. Plus, he’s friends with Etienne! I challenge any female reader to dodge to Cricket’s charms. Seriously. He’s enchanting.

Lola is set in San Francisco, which is probably obvious if you’ve given the cover a look. The city comes alive within the pages of the book, so much so that I want to visit again and take time to savor the atmosphere Stephanie Perkins so perfectly captures. All the major landmarks are there (the Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street, Alcatraz, Muir Woods National Park), but there’s also a more subtle mood that hangs in the background, a sparkle that’s all San Francisco, yet not at all cliché or stereotypical.

And Lola‘s supporting characters… fabulous! Andy and Nathan (Lola’s dads) were distinct, strict, bona fide parental figures. Best friend Lindsey was an excellent source of comic relief. Calliope (Cricket’s twin) was an unpredictable sort of mean girl. Even Norah turned a corner and became someone I wasn’t expecting.

Lola, at its heart, is about finding your authentic self and embracing it for all it’s worth. A very worthwhile message weaved cleverly into a layered, entertaining story full of family and friendship and love. If you think you don’t like contemporary, or romance, or “chick-lit,” think again. Stephanie Perkins has a talent for creating real-life characters you’ll fall for head-over-heels, and for writing romantic scenes that’ll have your heart skipping. Please, please, please, buy and read Lola and the Boy Next Door!

What’s the best book YOU read in October? (And don’t forget to check back Friday for my review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone!)