What's Up in YA

Learn Creative Writing From Your Favorite YA Writers

Hey YA Pals!

Offering up something different this week. Given that many of us are under a new month of stay-at-home orders or plan to stay indoors anyway to protect ourselves and others, maybe by now the call to develop a new skill is coming. If it’s not, that’s okay, too!

I’ve pulled together a number of great Skill Share classes from beloved YA authors who are teaching aspects of creative writing. This can be a great resource to hold onto for if that desire hits or for sharing with others. I know many libraries right now are pivoting from their usual summer reading program plans to digital, and maybe utilizing some of these creative writing workshops could be useful with your patrons.

Right now, premium memberships for Skill Share are free for two months. You do have to register to get the promotion, but it’s more than worth taking advantage of. For libraries, schools, and other institutions, there are options for business-level plans, which will grant access to the classes for multiple people.

Some classes will look like they’re already “in session,” but that’s okay! You can join in any time, starting from the beginning.

The author’s name and image are linked directly to the Skill Share classes. Dig in and get your writing on.

Daniel José Older

An introduction to storytelling, building character and conflict, with Daniel José Older. There are 9 lessons, coming in under an hour total.

Sabaa Tahir

There are eight lessons in Sabaa Tahir’s course on building strong characters, for a total of just over half an hour of learning.

Kiersten White

This course sounds like so much fun: learn how to create a retelling of your favorite story with Kiersten White. This has eight lessons, coming in around 45 minutes total.

Ali Novak

Mega popular Wattpad YA author Ali Novak talks about how to polish a manuscript. This would be a great class for anyone who is ready to take their story somewhere outside their own desktop. There are four lessons, coming in at about 25 minutes total.

Blair Thornburgh

If you’re itching for something longer, Blair Thornburgh’s writing retreat in a box sounds awesome. Shake off writers block and find the motivation and skills to finish that book. This has ten lessons and comes in at over 90 minutes.

As someone with a manuscript in revision on my computer, I can’t wait to dive into these to find a little spark of inspiration. I hope you’ll find them enjoyable too — even if it’s to pass them along to a writer and/or YA fan in your life.

Thanks for hanging out, and we’ll see you later this week!

— Kelly Jensen, @heykellyjensen on Instagram and editor of Body Talk(Don’t) Call Me Crazy, and Here We Are.

Today In Books

Taco Bell Has A Literary Magazine: Today In Books

Taco Bell Has A Literary Magazine

Okay, so, yes news not about the current state of the world is scarce right now, but even if that weren’t the case this is just delightful: Taco Bell has a literary magazine called Taco Bell Quarterly. “We think great writing can be about Taco Bell. We think trash can be beautiful. We inject rock and roll fun into writing, start beefs with other lit mags, and will not rest until we find out what Joyce Carol Oates’ go-to Taco Bell order is.” Amazing.

PRH Donates Audiobooks

Penguin Random House has donated 30 audiobooks in partnership with National Prison Radio to stream into the jail cells of 110 prisons. And they’re also partnering with the Hospital Broadcasting Association for a similar program that streams donated audiobooks to 200 volunteer-run hospital radio stations so that patients can listen from their hospital beds.


If Disney’s Hercules is one of your favorite animated films you’ll be delighted to know you’re getting a live-action film. Joe and Anthony Russo (Avengers) are producing and Dave Callaham (The Expendables) will write the screenplay for the Hercules legend retelling. Who will be cast? And who will write the music? We’ll just have to wait and see.



Today In Books

Buy Disney Face Masks, Support Charities: Today In Books

Buy Disney Face Masks, Support Charities

Want a Hulk face mask? Maybe you’re more a Baby Yoda fan? Good news: both are available for sale now, along with other Marvel and Star Wars prints and characters. I mean if we’ve got to suffer through this pandemic might as well add a little cute to it. Plus, up to one million of the profits, and 1 million masks, will go to the non-profit Medshare. You can pre-order a pack of 4 masks for $19.99 and they’ll ship in June.

The Edgar Award Winners

The Mystery Writers of America announced the winners of the 2020 Edgar Awards! You can check out the great books that made the finals (Girl Gone Missing by Marcie R. Rendon), see all the winners (Angie Kim’s Miracle Creek), and find your next crime read!

For Library Users With Sonos Speakers

Have you been staring longingly at your Sonos speakers wishing you could listen to your library audiobooks through the Libby app? Today is your lucky day! Overdrive announced that it’s Libby app is now compatible: “To get started, users only need the Sonos app, the Libby app – available from 90 percent of public libraries in North America – and a valid library card.”

What's Up in YA

YA Ebook Deals To Snag ASAP

Hey YA Pals!

Time to snap up some of the best YA ebook deals and load up your reading life. As we continue into month two hundred of quarantine — at least where I am — this is your opportunity to build your “going to spend the nice seasons in my hammock reading” personal digital library.

All deals are current as of Friday, May 1.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. SanchezI loved I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez. It’s a total steal at $2.

Did you put off reading the new Marcus Zusak book because it’s a wrist breaker (aka: big and heavy)? Grab Bridge of Clay as an ebook instead for $3.

Another wrist breaker you can grab is the first in a series by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Aurora Rising is $2. If you want more from the writing duo, Illuminae, first in their previous series, is also on sale for $2.

Elizabeth Lim’s Spin The Dawn, first in a series that has comps to Project Runway and Mulan, is $3.

Jean Kwok writes my favorite crossover books. Girl In Translation might be marketed for adults, but it’s perfect for YA readers, too. $2.

Want an excellent, classic YA comic? Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese is $3.

Catfishing on Catnet by Naomi Kritzer, which just won an Edgar Award, is on sale for $3.

Two first books in fantasy series are on sale for $2 and $3 respectively: Beholder by Anna Bright and Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith.

Want a mystery? April Henry’s The Girl I Used To Be is $3.

A “hilarious wilderness comedy?” Sign me up for this one! Jeff Strand’s I Have A Bad Feeling About This is $2.

Maurene Goo is a YA gem. Grab The Way You Make Me Feel for $3.

A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier is on sale for $3.

Itching for good sports writing? Carl Deuker’s Gym Candy is currently $3.

I haven’t read this one, but everyone I know loves this weird little book. Hannah Moskowitz’s A History of Glitter and Blood is $3.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness is a whole $1.

Julie Buxbaum’s Tell Me Three Things is $2.

Want something dark, fantastical, and gothic? Emily A. Duncan’s Wicked Saints – first in a series! – is on sale for $3.

This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith is a nice romance for this season and it’s only $2.

Feed by MT Anderson, a YA classic of science fiction that feels way too realistic, is $1.

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert is $3. This deal expires on Sunday, so grab it sooner, rather than later.

First in series, The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi, is $3 through Sunday.

Susan Dennard’s Truthwitch, first in the Witchlands series, is $3 through Sunday.

*All* three books in Jessica Spotswood’s Cahill Witch trilogy are on sale. Want a witchy read about sisters? Grab Born Wicked for $2, Star Cursed for $4, and Sisters’ Fate for $3. That would be $10 for the whole shebang!

Thanks for hanging out, and we’ll see you on Monday. I hope you find your next great read this weekend.

— Kelly Jensen, @heykellyjensen on Instagram and editor of Body Talk(Don’t) Call Me Crazy, and Here We Are.

The Fright Stuff


I’m not a mom, but as y’all know, that decision or circumstance is just as loaded with feminist biases as any decision or circumstance inhabited by a woman. Regardless, motherhood, the concept of being completely in charge of another human life, is absolutely terrifying. Because, like, what if you get it wrong?

I know I’m not the only one with this paranoia because 1: I’ve heard about it my whole life from various moms; and 2: literature is obsessed with the trope (think Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin, Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons by Shirley Jackson, or even the film Alien); and 3: as soon as I got to my car after watching Darren Aronofsky’s 2017 film mother! I started crying. I don’t know why. I just did, okay?

By the way, I’m Mary Kay McBrayer, and you’re in The Fright Stuff, Book Riot’s latest and greatest in horror. Join me, won’t you, in this realm of horror, an observance of Mothers’ Day.

Earworm: “K-Hole” by CocoRosie

Fresh Hells (FKA new releases):

orange world“Orange World” in Orange World by Karen Russell

Though every story in this collection is fascinating, this one focuses on what happens when a woman makes a deal with a devil to preserve her geriatric pregnancy.




This Is All I Got: A New Mother’s Search for Home by Lauren Sandler

I suppose this isn’t horror in its most distilled sense, but this reported chronicle of one homeless woman’s life for a year, “as she navigates the labyrinth of poverty and homelessness in New York City” definitely qualifies for real fear among stories of survival.


the needThe Need by Helen Phillips

When mother of two, Molly, hears an intruder in her home, she first attributes it to her sleep deprivation. Then she realizes that the trespasser knows far too much about her family. This novel embodies “the ecstasy and the dread; the languor and the ferocity” of motherhood.



Cryptkeepers (FKA horrors from the backlist):

Bloodchild by Octavia Butler

Our classic favorite speculative fiction author, Octavia Butler, composed these six short stories in her collection Bloodchild. The titular story is “set on a distant planet where human children spend their lives preparing to become hosts for the offspring of the alien Tlic. Sometimes the procedure is harmless, but often it is not.”


“Summer” by Tananarive Due

Danielle takes care of her infant, Lola, while her husband is at National Guard Army training. She swats a fly that does not move, twice, and she sees it as an omen, in her grandmother’s voice: “Anything can happen once… When it happens twice—listen. The third time may be too late.”

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

This retelling of the Snow White story comes from the perspective of the evil stepmother, who learns only because of the birth of her first daughter that her husband’s family is Black. Though the stepmother loves her stepdaughter, Snow, rather than send away her own daughter for the darkness of her skin (as her husband’s family has been doing), she sends away Snow.

Harbingers (FKA news):

Speaking of content with a focus on motherhood, there’s a new reveal about the surrealist self-portraitist and cultural icon Frida Kahlo! What would you do if a stranger revealed that she had an affair with your father?

What’s going on with this witchy literary trend on TikTok?

During these quarantined times, our generations-long obsession with writers’ houses expands even wider.

Looks like a lot of writers hear their characters’ voices in their heads… and believe that the characters have agency of their own.

I know we can’t really leave the house right now, but Seattle has a troll under one of its bridges.

Want to read the fake news article that almost ruined Lizzie Borden?

These 7 spectacular and spooky libraries have virtual tours available for you.

Halloween’s David Gordon Green is directing an “elevated” Hellraiser series for HBO.

Want to know how indie bookstores are faring in this hellscape?

Check out this list of crime novels set amid plagues and pandemics.

One of my first horror loves was Alvin Schwarz and Stephen Gammel’s Scary Stories to Tell in the DarkI had the whole set (viva Scholastic Book Fairs!). Now, we’re getting another film adaptation installment!

Until next week, follow me @mkmcbrayer for minute-to-minute horrors or if you want to ask for a particular theme to a newsletter. I’m also on IG @marykaymcbrayer. Happy Mothers’ Day to you and yours!

Your Virgil,


Mary Kay McBrayer
Co-host of Book Riot’s literary fiction podcast, Novel Gazing

The Kids Are All Right

Super Silly Picture Books

Hi Kid Lit Friends,

With all the terrible news, I thought it would be nice to celebrate some super silly picture books that are guaranteed to lighten the mood and make you laugh. Check these out and let me know what your favorite silly children’s book is.

I Can Be Anything by Shinsuke Yoshitake is hilarious book about a young kid who doesn’t want to go to sleep. While her tired mom folds laundry, the girl forces her mom to guess what she is. Is she a caterpillar? An arrow sign? An upside-down bug? Can you guess what she is? I love Yoshitake’s work and think the humor is perfect.

Everyone’s Awake! by Colin Meloy, illustrated by Shawn Harris, is another funny story about bedtime. When a simple goodnight routine turns marvelously madcap, the situation goes wild just when everyone is supposed to be settling down to sleep. Dad bakes bread, Mom fixes the roof, and Grandma plays cards with a ghost. And between the dog, the cat, Sister, and Brother, there’s at least three different wars being waged!

How to Put an Octopus to Bed by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Viviane Schwarz, is yet another bedtime story… but this one features an octopus! It’s time for bed and this little octopus is more than happy to volunteer! He’s all ready to put his parents to bed! Bath time, putting on pajamas, brushing teeth, and tucking everyone in is a whole new challenge when the kid is in charge (and especially when everyone has eight arms!).

I’m a Baked Potato! by Elise Primavera, illustrated by Juana Medina is adorable and super silly. When a baked potato–loving lady adopts a dog, she adores him unconditionally—and given the pup’s small, round frame and warm, brown coat she can’t help but call him “Baked Potato”! But what happens when a dog who thinks he’s a baked potato gets lost? Will he find his lady? And more importantly, will he find himself?

Dandy by Age Dyckman, illustrated by Charles Santoso, is a funny book about a neighborhood that has a common enemy: the dandelion! But when Sweetie falls in love with the beautiful flower, even going so far as to name it Charlotte, her Daddy has to find a way to get rid of the errant dandelion without breaking his little girl’s heart.


Around the web…

Middle Grade Books That Help Unpack Complex Conversations, via Book Riot

8 Picture Books About Nature to Bring the Outdoors to You, via Book Riot


What are you reading these days? Let me know! Find me on Twitter at @KarinaYanGlaser, on Instagram at @KarinaIsReadingAndWriting, or email me at

Until next time!

A super silly photo of Nala and Ginger Pye for you today.

*If this e-mail was forwarded to you, follow this link to subscribe to “The Kids Are All Right” newsletter and other fabulous Book Riot newsletters for your own customized e-mail delivery. Thank you!*

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