What's Up in YA

An Interview With Author Malinda Lo on LGBTQ+ YA, Her Upcoming Novel, and More

Welcome to another week, YA fans!

This week’s edition of “What’s Up in YA?” is sponsored by She’s So Boss by Stacy Kravetz –The Girl Entrepreneur’s Guide to Imagining, Creating, and Kicking Ass.

Whether you already have an idea for a business or you’re mulling how to turn the things you enjoy into a self-sustaining enterprise, this book will connect the dots. From inspiration to execution, there are concrete steps every young entrepreneur, creator, or leader needs to take, and this book shows you how. Packed with information and with the profiles of more than a dozen real-life girl bosses who have turned their passions into business, She’s So Boss is about thinking big, aiming high, and becoming the boss of your thing.

I’m so excited to bring an interview to you, especially as this week’s guest is a Book Riot favorite: Malinda Lo.

Malinda Lo has been writing YA for many years, and prior to her first novel Ash hitting shelves, she was writing for many online outlets. Her work spans fantasy and realism, science fiction, heart-felt essays, short stories, and so much more. She’s here today to talk about her upcoming book (!!!), about the growth and evolution of LGBTQ+ YA lit, and how to be an advocate for inclusive lit, among other things.*

Without further ado, Malinda Lo!

Malinda Lo is the author of several young adult novels, including the forthcoming A Line in the Dark (Dutton, Oct. 17, 2017). Her novel Ash, a lesbian retelling of Cinderella, was a finalist for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award, the Andre Norton Award for YA Science Fiction and Fantasy, the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, and was a Kirkus Best Book for Children and Teens. She has been a three-time finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Malinda’s nonfiction has been published by The New York Times Book Review, NPR, The Huffington Post, The Toast, The Horn Book, and AfterEllen. She lives in Massachusetts with her partner and their dog.


First, tell us a bit about what you’ve been working on between your last release Inheritance in 2013 and your upcoming A Line in the Dark. Anything you can tease us with about the new book?

Since Inheritance was published I dabbled in adult fantasy by joining the writing staff for Tremontaine, a serialized prequel to Ellen Kushner’s classic, Swordspoint. It was a lot of fun to work with other writers on crafting a TV series-like experience for readers. Tremontaine is basically a queer The Three Musketeers meets Dangerous Liaisons, and it is sexy, dangerous fun!

It’s also quite different than A Line in the Dark, although I’d like to believe my new novel is also sexy, dangerous fun! Line is a psychological thriller set in a New England winter, where four girls are drawn together by love, lust, and jealousy. The main character is my first published Chinese American queer girl main character, and she’s kind of the opposite of every stereotype you can imagine about Chinese American girls. It was almost cathartic for me to write her, because she breaks so many of those molds.


On a shallow note, the cover for A Line in the Dark is unbelievably good. Did you have any say in the process at all? Were there other concepts that got scratched?

I agree, the cover is unbelievably good! I am so, so thrilled by its creepiness and edginess. My editor, Andrew Karre, had great ideas for the cover from the beginning, when he wanted to commission art from Stina Persson. She does really bold ink and watercolor stuff, and she created the incredible typography for the title. The rest of the book cover went through several design iterations, and I was involved from the start. I wanted to make sure the cover told readers that this would be a mystery with a dark heart, and I think the cover does that brilliantly. I’ve been fortunate work with editors who invite my input into the design process, and I’m very grateful for that.


Before writing novels, and even during the time you’ve been writing them, you’ve written for online venues like AfterEllen and Diversity in YA. What have you enjoyed about the world of “online” writing and how/where does it differ for you from “offline” (aka, novel) writing? Do you prefer one over the other?

Everything I’ve written for online has been nonfiction, and to me, nonfiction is a totally different world from fiction. Nonfiction—especially the stuff that’s online—requires a different style, tone, and structure. And online essays require different structure than print essays, because people read online differently than they read in print. I enjoy many kinds of writing, and that’s why I also write fiction in different genres. I need the challenge that different genres and types of writing require, and I like that writing in different genres trains me to be flexible with my words.


You’ve been active and involved in the queer YA community for a long time. What sorts of changes have you seen in the way that queer lit is talked about online?

Primarily, there’s a ton more dialogue about it than before. It seems to be everywhere these days! That’s wonderful because it pushes LGBTQ issues to the front of the conversation. I’m glad that people are talking.


What do you hope to see more of — or where do you see a lack — in the realm of queer YA?

I want LGBTQ+-identified writers to feel free to write about whatever they want. I want them to feel the same freedom that heterosexual writers feel. In terms of what I find lacking, I want books about queer girls to have the freedom to include frank and moving explorations of sexuality. I don’t want that stuff pushed off the page.


What are some of your favorite queer YA novels? What have been some of your influences in writing (YA or otherwise)?

Some of my recent favorites include We Are Okay by Nina LaCour and Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown. My writing influences include Sarah Waters, Madeleine L’Engle, and Robin McKinley.



What book do you wish you could go back and hand your young teen self? Why?

I would definitely want to give myself Ash. Even though I wrote it! Or because I wrote it. I basically wrote Ash for my younger self. It was the fairy tale retelling I never had, and I think if I’d been able to read it when I was 12 or 13, a lot of things would have made a lot more sense earlier!


Like all readers, surely there are some titles you’re looking forward to that are coming out later this year. Can you share a few you’re itching to get your hands on?

I’m fortunate to have already gotten my hands on Stephanie Kuehn’s next novel, When I Am Through With You, which comes out August 1. I love her unreliable narrators, and this one is about a group of teens who go on a hike in the Northern California mountains when disaster (of the natural and unnatural types) strike. Stephanie is such a good writer, and I love the sense of place that is infused in this book — as well as all the delicious moral ambiguity you can imagine.


What can readers do to ensure that queer YA lit gets love and attention within and beyond Pride month? How can we become advocates for this segment of the book world and the readers who are eager for both those mirrors and windows?

Keep talking about it! When people ask you for fantasy, give them fantasy that happens to feature queer characters. When people ask you for love stories, give them love stories that happen to feature queer characters. People often think of “queer YA” as fitting a particular box — the coming-out story, or some other sexual orientation-focused plot — and while those stories do exist and can be wonderful, that’s not the end-all be-all of books about queer characters. Don’t forget that queer characters can do things besides be queer; they can also, for example, save the world.


See you next week, YA friends. Till then, hopefully you’ve found a book or two or more to pick up and enjoy.

— Kelly Jensen @veronikellymars

What's Up in YA

061217 What’s Up in YA?: Jennifer E. Smith’s Latest YA Goes to Hollywood, Free Audiobooks, & More YA News

Welcome back, YA lovers!

This week’s edition of “What’s Up in YA?” is sponsored by The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber.

From award-winning author Mary Weber, comes a story of video gaming, blood, and power. As an online gamer, Sofi Snow battles behind the scenes of Earth’s Fantasy Fighting arena. Her brother Shilo is forced to compete in a mix of real and virtual blood sport. When, a bomb shatters the arena, Sofi thinks Shilo’s been taken to an ice-planet – Delonese. Charming playboy Miguel is a Delonese Ambassador. He’s built a career on secrets and seduction. When the bomb explodes, the tables turn and he’s the target. The game is simple: Help the blackmailers, or lose more than Earth can afford.


Grab yourself some ice cream, some tea, or any other comfort comestible of choice and let’s catch up with all the YA news that’s fit to post.


Thanks for hanging out and we’ll see you back here next week with a really exciting interview with a long-time Book Riot and YA reader favorite.

— Kelly Jensen, @veronikellymars

What's Up in YA

YA Road Tripping Outside the US of A

Hey YA readers!

This week’s edition of “What’s Up in YA?” is sponsored by Wildman by J. C. Geiger.

When Lance’s ’93 Buick breaks down in the middle of nowhere, he tells himself Don’t panic. After all, he’s valedictorian of his class. First-chair trumpet player. Scholarship winner. Nothing can stop Lance Hendricks.

But the locals don’t know that. They don’t even know his name. Stuck in a small town, Lance could be anyone: a delinquent, a traveler, a maniac. One of the townies calls him Wildman, and a new world opens up. Lance finds himself drifting farther from home and closer to a girl who makes him feel a way he’s never felt before—like himself.



YA road trip books are among my favorite, and they have been for a long, long time. I love how representative they are of the age of adolescence — there’s freedom, as much as there’s restriction. There’s excitement, as much as there’s fear. There are the grand plans and dreams, as much as there are the roadblocks.

But over the last few years, I’ve kept and eye on the evolution of the YA road trip novel, in part because these books tend to be very white. This isn’t particularly surprising, as the stakes for teens of color to just hop into a car and go on a road trip are much higher than, say, a middle class white girl and her friends. Those stakes are not only in terms of personal safety, but also in financial status. There are a small number of exceptions to this, though by and large, you’ll find few YA road trip novels starring a cast of characters of color.

Though I’d be first in line to read one and more, to read one that really digs into those challenges.

Road trip novels are also very US-centric. This isn’t particularly surprising, either, in part because the bulk of YA books in English are published in the US and thus, have a likely large US-based readership. It’s also the case that the US is car-centric in a way that other countries are more public transit oriented.

But over the last year or two, there have been more road trip books set abroad. In light of the start of road trip season, as well as the beginning of summer, let’s take a look at the YA road trip books which are set outside of the USA. Note: these will, as mentioned above, be very white. I’d love to hear about additional titles which are more inclusive and/or set in countries and/or continents not noted here.

Descriptions for these titles come from Goodreads. Enjoy!


13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Inside little blue envelope 1 are $1,000 and instructions to buy a plane ticket.

In envelope 2 are directions to a specific London flat.

The note in envelope 3 tells Ginny: Find a starving artist.

Because of envelope 4, Ginny and a playwright/thief/ bloke–about–town called Keith go to Scotland together, with somewhat disastrous–though utterly romantic–results. But will she ever see him again?

Everything about Ginny will change this summer, and it’s all because of the 13 little blue envelopes.


And We’re Off by Dana Schwartz

Seventeen-year-old Nora Holmes is an artist, a painter from the moment she could hold a brush. She inherited the skill from her grandfather, Robert, who’s always nurtured Nora’s talent and encouraged her to follow her passion. Still, Nora is shocked and elated when Robert offers her a gift: an all-expenses-paid summer trip to Europe to immerse herself in the craft and to study history’s most famous artists. The only catch? Nora has to create an original piece of artwork at every stop and send it back to her grandfather. It’s a no-brainer: Nora is in!

Unfortunately, Nora’s mother, Alice, is less than thrilled about the trip. She worries about what the future holds for her young, idealistic daughter and her opinions haven’t gone unnoticed. Nora couldn’t feel more unsupported by her mother, and in the weeks leading up to the trip, the women are as disconnected as they’ve ever been. But seconds after saying goodbye to Alice at the airport terminal, Nora hears a voice call out: “Wait! Stop! I’m coming with you!”


Girl Online: On Tour by Zoe Sugg

Penny’s bags are packed.

When Noah invites Penny on his European music tour, she can’t wait to spend time with her rock-god-tastic boyfriend.

But, between Noah’s jam-packed schedule, less-than-welcoming bandmates and threatening messages from jealous fans, Penny wonders whether she’s really cut out for life on tour. She can’t help but miss her family, her best friend Elliot . . . and her blog, Girl Online.

Can Penny learn to balance life and love on the road, or will she lose everything in pursuit of the perfect summer?


High Dive by Tammar Stein

Arden has a plane ticket to Sardinia to say goodbye to her family’s beloved vacation home after her father’s sudden death and her mother’s deployment to Iraq as an army nurse. Lonely for her father and petrified for her mother’s safety, Arden dreads her trip to the house in Sardinia—the only place that has truly felt like home to her. So when she meets a group of fun, carefree, and careless friends on their summer break, she decides to put off her trip and join them to sample the sights and culinary delights of Europe. Soon they are climbing the Eiffel Tower, taking in the French countryside on a train chugging toward the Alps, and gazing at Michelangelo’s David in Florence, all the while eating gelato and sipping cappuccino. Arden tries to forget about the danger her mom faces every day, to pretend she’s just like the rest of the girls, flirting with cute European guys and worried only about where to party next.

But the house in Sardinia beckons and she has to make a choice. Is Arden ready to jump off the high dive?


How Not To Disappear by Clare Furness

Our memories are what make us who we are. Some are real. Some are made up. But they are the stories that tell us who we are. Without them we are nobody.

Hattie’s summer isn’t going as planned. Her two best friends have abandoned her: Reuben has run off to Europe to ‘find himself” and Kat is in Edinburgh with her new girlfriend. Meanwhile Hattie is stuck babysitting her twin siblings and dealing with endless drama around her mum’s wedding. Oh, and she’s also just discovered that she’s pregnant with Reuben’s baby.

Then Gloria, Hattie’s great-aunt who no one even knew existed, comes crashing into her life. Gloria’s fiercely independent, rather too fond of a gin sling and is in the early stages of dementia. Together the two of them set out on a road trip of self-discovery — Gloria to finally confront the secrets of her past before they are erased from her memory forever and Hattie to face the hard choices that will determine her future.


The Land of 10,000 Madonnas by Kate Hattemer

Five teens backpack through Europe to fulfill the mysterious dying wish of their friend.

Jesse lives with his history professor dad in a house covered with postcards of images of the Madonna from all over the world. They’re gotten used to this life: two motherless dudes living among thousands of Madonnas. But Jesse has a heart condition that will ultimately cut his life tragically short. Before he dies, he arranges a mysterious trip to Europe for his three cousins, his best friend, and his girlfriend to take after he passes away. It’s a trip that will forever change the lives of these young teens and one that will help them come to terms with Jesse’s death.


To Timbuktu: Nine Countries, Two People, One True Story by Steven Weinberg and Casey Scieszka (Note: this is a little more on the travelogue side and definitely a memoir, but since it is outside of Europe, I wanted to include it)

Casey and Steven met in Morocco, moved to China then went all the way to Timbuktu. This illustrated travel memoir tells the story of their first two years out of college spent teaching English, making friends across language barriers, researching, painting, and learning to be themselves wherever they are.



Royally Lost by Angie Stanton

Dragged on a family trip to Europe’s ancient cities, Becca wants nothing more than to go home. Trapped with her emotionally distant father, over-eager stepmother, and a brother who only wants to hook up with European hotties, Becca is miserable. That is until she meets Nikolai, a guy as mysterious as he is handsome. And she unknowingly finds herself with a runaway prince.

Nikolai has everything a guy could ask for-he’s crown prince, heir to the throne, and girls adore him. But the one thing he doesn’t have…is freedom. Staging a coup, he flees his kingdom and goes undercover on his own European tour.

When Nikolai and Becca meet, it’s their differences that draw them together. Sparks fly as they share a whirlwind of adventures, all the while dodging his royal guard. But Becca’s family vacation ends in a matter of days. Will Nikolai and Becca be forced to say goodbye forever, will his destiny catch up to him, or will they change history forever?



Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

It 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.


Why We Took The Car by Wolfgang Herrndorf, translated by Tim Mohr

Mike Klingenberg isn’t exactly what you’d call one of the cool kids at his school. For one, he doesn’t have many friends. (Okay, zero friends.) And everyone laughs when he has to read his essays out loud in class. (Not in a good way.) And he’s never, ever invited to parties—especially not the party of the year, thrown by the gorgeous Tatiana.

Andre Tschichatschow, a.k.a. Tschick (not even the teachers can pronounce his name), is new in school, and a whole different kind of unpopular. He always looks like he’s just been in a fight, he sleeps through nearly every class, and his clothes are a tragedy.

But one day Tschick shows up at Mike’s house out of the blue. Turns out he wasn’t invited to Tatiana’s party either, and he’s ready to do something about it. Forget the popular kids: Together, Mike and Tschick are heading out on a road trip across Germany. No parents, no map, no destination. Will they get hopelessly lost in the middle of nowhere? Probably. Will they make bad decisions, meet some crazy people, and get into trouble? Definitely. But will anyone ever call them boring again?

Not a chance.


The Wonder of Us by Kim Culbertson

Riya and Abby are: Best friends. Complete opposites. Living on different continents. Currently mad at each other. About to travel around Europe.

Riya moved to Berlin, Germany, with her family for junior year, while Abby stayed behind in their small California town. They thought it would be easy to keep up their friendship—it’s only a year and they’ve been best friends since preschool. But instead, they ended up fighting and not being there for the other. So Riya proposes an epic adventure to fix their friendship. Two weeks, six countries, unimaginable fun. But two small catches:

They haven’t talked in weeks.

They’ve both been keeping secrets.

Can Riya and Abby find their way back to each other among lush countrysides and dazzling cities, or does growing up mean growing apart?


Thanks for hanging out and we’ll see you back here next week with an installment of all the YA news you can use.

— Kelly Jensen, @veronikellymars


What's Up in YA

May Your TBRs Grow Longer: A Round-Up of YA Talk at Book Riot This Month

Happy end-of-May, YA fans!

This week’s “What’s Up in YA?” is sponsored by We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson from Simon Pulse.

From the “author to watch” (Kirkus Reviews) of The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley comes a novel about a teenage boy who must decide whether the world is worth saving.



Is it me or has it felt like May has been the never-ending month? Let’s take this US holiday for the opportunity to catch up on all of the YA happenings on Book Riot this last month.






  • Did you see the cover reveal for Whitney Gardner’s sophomore novel, Chaotic Good? Because it’s [insert fire emoji].





  • I do love YA sports novels, even for sports that aren’t necessarily my personal favorites. There’s something about the tension of athletics and adolescence that works really well for my reading tastes. Perhaps that’s why as soon as I finished A Season of Daring Greatly, about a girl who is the first draft pick to the major league for baseball, I needed to put together a list of books featuring girls who love playing baseball.




Before signing off, let’s take a moment to dig into the past. A few links from Mays gone by at Book Riot with a YA focus.










A couple of weeks ago, I asked at the very end of a newsletter for readers to share their dream politician-author pairing (in honor of the Bill Clinton-James Patterson novel). There were a few responses, but these two were probably my favorites. The first needs no explanation; the second explanation only makes the pairing even stronger.

  • Harvey Milk & Bill Konigsberg.


  • President Theodore Roosevelt hook up with Leigh Bardugo: President Roosevelt likes adventure.  His adventures in the Amazon and Africa are well known. According to his biographer, Theodore Roosevelt read countless number of books in one sitting.



Thanks for hanging this week, YA Rioters. We’ll see you again next Monday, when we’ll finally be able to sing the famed Carousel jingle.

— Kelly Jensen, @veronikellymarscurrently reading & loving Aftercare Instructions by Bonnie Pipkin

What's Up in YA

Mental Health and Illness in YA Fiction: A List of Reading Lists

Happy Monday-or-whenever-you’re-reading-this YA readers!

This week’s “What’s Up in YA?” is sponsored by Pin It from Chronicle Books.

Brightly colored pins styled into fun patterns and designs are the hottest new hairstyling trend. Pin It! gives short- and long-haired fashionistas tips and tricks to create 20 colorful bobby pin hairstyles for any occasion. Step-by-step photos make it easy to follow along, and five DIY projects for personalizing bright and sparkly pins make the looks even more fun and unique.


May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This annual awareness campaign has been around since 1949 (!) and seeks to educate Americans about mental health, signs of illness, and more.

Rather than share a whole host of YA books that explore mental illness, I wanted to take this issue of the newsletter to highlight some of the pieces others have written about YA and mental health. At the end, I’ll note some of the more recent titles that have explored mental health, as well. This is meant to be a robust, though not comprehensive, look at what’s out there for readers to better understand mental health and how it plays a big role in YA fiction.

One thing worth noting before going on: not all mental health angled YA books are going to be “good.” But it would be challenging to note which ones are “good” and which are “bad,” since mental illness itself manifests so differently for every single person. Suggesting there’s a single experience is dangerous, though there are absolutely places to tread lightly for those who might be triggered by raw or graphic depictions of illness. This is one reason, among many others, that bibliotherapy shouldn’t be practiced by anyone who isn’t also certified in psychiatry or other mental health focused related medical fields. The wrong book in the wrong hands could end up being far more dangerous than intended. What can be criticized more clearly and thoughtfully on the “good” or “bad” scale when it comes to mental health depiction, though, are the tropes that emerge with them. Tropes such as romance “curing” the mental illness of a character or tropes wherein the mental illness is simply a ruse can be quite dangerous not just for those who struggle with mental illness but for those who haven’t quite grasped how severe and debilitating mental illness can be. It’s not a mystery to be solved or a hole to be filled with love; mental health is a real, complex thing that requires real, compassionate consideration and care.

That said, let’s get to the resources for books, books, and more books.

  • Disability in KidLit is one of my favorite resources out there, period. The work they’ve done in talking about mental illness is especially excellent, and you can access both a wealth of reviews of specific YA titles, as well as guest posts and discussions on various aspects of mental health here.




  • s.e. smith talked about mental health representation in YA lit back in 2011 at Bitch Media, and their discussion of 13 Reasons Why is particularly interesting, given recent dialog about the book and its adaptation.





And here’s a round-up of some of the recent and forthcoming YA books that have hit shelves which depict some aspect of mental illness. This isn’t comprehensive, but rather, rounds out some of the lists linked above.


100 Days of Cake by Shari Goldhagen

There are only three things that can get seventeen-year-old Molly Byrne out of bed these days: her job at FishTopia, the promise of endless episodes of Golden Girls, and some delicious lo mien. You see, for the past two years, Molly’s been struggling with something more than your usual teenage angst. Her shrink, Dr. Brooks isn’t helping much, and neither is her mom who is convinced that baking the perfect cake will cure Molly of her depression—as if cake can magically make her rejoin the swim team, get along with her promiscuous sister, or care about the SATs.

Um, no. Never going to happen.

But Molly plays along, stomaching her mother’s failed culinary experiments, because, whatever—as long as it makes someone happy, right? Besides, as far as Molly’s concerned, hanging out with Alex at the rundown exotic fish store makes life tolerable enough. Even if he does ask her out every…single…day. But—sarcastic drum roll, please—nothing can stay the same forever. When Molly finds out FishTopia is turning into a bleak country diner, her whole life seems to fall apart at once. Soon she has to figure out what—if anything—is worth fighting for.


The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller (July 11)

Matt hasn’t eaten in days.

His stomach stabs and twists inside, pleading for a meal. But Matt won’t give in. The hunger clears his mind, keeps him sharp—and he needs to be as sharp as possible if he’s going to find out just how Tariq and his band of high school bullies drove his sister, Maya, away.

Matt’s hardworking mom keeps the kitchen crammed with food, but Matt can resist the siren call of casseroles and cookies because he has discovered something: the less he eats the more he seems to have . . . powers. The ability to see things he shouldn’t be able to see. The knack of tuning in to thoughts right out of people’s heads. Maybe even the authority to bend time and space.

So what is lunch, really, compared to the secrets of the universe?

Matt decides to infiltrate Tariq’s life, then use his powers to uncover what happened to Maya. All he needs to do is keep the hunger and longing at bay. No problem. But Matt doesn’t realize there are many kinds of hunger… and he isn’t in control of all of them.


Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios (July 13)

Grace wants out. Out of her house, where her stepfather wields fear like a weapon and her mother makes her scrub imaginary dirt off the floors. Out of her California town, too small to contain her big city dreams. Out of her life, and into the role of Parisian artist, New York director—anything but scared and alone.

Enter Gavin: charming, talented, adored. Controlling. Dangerous. When Grace and Gavin fall in love, Grace is sure it’s too good to be true. She has no idea their relationship will become a prison she’s unable to escape.

Deeply affecting and unflinchingly honest, this is a story about spiraling into darkness—and emerging into the light again.


Eliza and her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Eighteen-year-old Eliza Mirk is the anonymous creator of Monstrous Sea, a wildly popular webcomic, but when a new boy at school tempts her to live a life offline, everything she’s worked for begins to crumble.

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, smart, and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of a popular webcomic called Monstrous Sea. With millions of followers and fans throughout the world, Eliza’s persona is popular. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves her digital community. Then Wallace Warland transfers to her school, and Eliza begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile. But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart. With pages from Eliza’s webcomic, as well as screenshots from Eliza’s online forums, this uniquely formatted book will appeal to fans of Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona and Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.


Everything All At Once by Katrina Leno (June 6)

Lottie Reeves has always struggled with anxiety, and when her beloved Aunt Helen dies, Lottie begins to fear that her own unexpected death might be waiting around every corner.

Aunt Helen wasn’t a typical aunt. She was the author of the best–selling Alvin Hatter series, about siblings who discover the elixir of immortality. Her writing inspired a generation of readers.

In her will, she leaves one last writing project—just for Lottie. It’s a series of letters, each containing mysterious instructions designed to push Lottie out of her comfort zone. Soon, Lottie’s trying some writing of her own, leaping off cliffs, and even falling for a boy she’s only just met. Then the letters reveal an extraordinary secret about the inspiration for the Alvin Hatter series. Lottie finds herself faced with an impossible choice, one that will force her to confront her greatest fear once and for all.


History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.


Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert (August 8)

When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn’t sure if she’ll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new…the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel’s disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself–or worse.


Madness by Zac Brewer (September 18)

Brooke Danvers is pretending to be fine. She’s gotten so good at pretending that they’re letting her leave inpatient therapy. Now she just has to fake it long enough for her parents and teachers to let their guard down. This time, when she’s ready to end her life, there won’t be anyone around to stop her.

Then Brooke meets Derek. Derek is the only person who really gets what Brooke is going through, because he’s going through it too. As they start spending more time together, Brooke suddenly finds herself having something to look forward to every day and maybe even happiness.

But when Derek’s feelings for her intensify, Brooke is forced to accept that the same relationship that is bringing out the best in her might be bringing out the worst in Derek—and that Derek at his worst could be capable of real darkness.


Obsessed: A Memoir of My Life With OCD by Allison Britz (September 18)

Until sophomore year of high school, fifteen-year-old Allison Britz lived a comfortable life in an idyllic town. She was a dedicated student with tons of extracurricular activities, friends, and loving parents at home.

But after awakening from a vivid nightmare in which she was diagnosed with brain cancer, she was convinced the dream had been a warning. Allison believed that she must do something to stop the cancer in her dream from becoming a reality.

It started with avoiding sidewalk cracks and quickly grew to counting steps as loudly as possible. Over the following weeks, her brain listed more dangers and fixes. She had to avoid hair dryers, calculators, cell phones, computers, anything green, bananas, oatmeal, and most of her own clothing.

Unable to act “normal,” the once-popular Allison became an outcast. Her parents questioned her behavior, leading to explosive fights. When notebook paper, pencils, and most schoolbooks were declared dangerous to her health, her GPA imploded, along with her plans for the future.

Finally, she allowed herself to ask for help and was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. This brave memoir tracks Allison’s descent and ultimately hopeful climb out of the depths.


Optimists Die First by Susin Neilsen

Life ahead: Proceed with caution.

Sixteen-year-old Petula De Wilde is anything but wild. A family tragedy has made her shut herself off from the world. Once a crafting fiend with a happy life, Petula now sees danger in everything, from airplanes to ground beef.

The worst part of her week is her comically lame mandatory art therapy class. She has nothing in common with this small band of teenage misfits, except that they all carry their own burden of guilt.

When Jacob joins their ranks, he seems so normal and confident. Petula wants nothing to do with him, or his prosthetic arm. But when they’re forced to collaborate on a unique school project, she slowly opens up, and he inspires her to face her fears.

Until a hidden truth threatens to derail everything.



Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

At seventeen, Norah has accepted that the four walls of her house delineate her life. She knows that fearing everything from inland tsunamis to odd numbers is irrational, but her mind insists the world outside is too big, too dangerous. So she stays safe inside, watching others’ lives through her windows and social media feed.

But when Luke arrives on her doorstep, he doesn’t see a girl defined by medical terms and mental health. Instead, he sees a girl who is funny, smart, and brave. And Norah likes what he sees.

Their friendship turns deeper, but Norah knows Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can walk beneath the open sky. One who is unafraid of kissing. One who isn’t so screwed up. Can she let him go for his own good—or can Norah learn to see herself through Luke’s eyes?


The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?


What I Lost by Alexandra Ballard

What sixteen-year-old Elizabeth has lost so far: forty pounds, four jean sizes, a boyfriend, and her peace of mind. As a result, she’s finally a size zero. She’s also the newest resident at Wallingfield, a treatment center for girls like her—girls with eating disorders. Elizabeth is determined to endure the program so she can go back home, where she plans to start restricting her food intake again.She’s pretty sure her mom, who has her own size-zero obsession, needs treatment as much as she does. Maybe even more. Then Elizabeth begins receiving mysterious packages. Are they from her ex-boyfriend, a secret admirer, or someone playing a cruel trick?


Thanks for hanging out, YA friends. Until next week.

– Kelly Jensen, @veronikellymars

What's Up in YA

Adaptations Galore, Veronica Chambers on Mexican Immigrant Stereotypes, & More YA News This Week

Heyyy YA!!!!! 

(Imagine that in Goonies voice)

This week’s “What’s Up in YA?” is sponsored by Carry On by Rainbow Rowell from St. Martin’s Press.

A #1 New York Times bestseller

Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.

His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend dumped him, and there’s a monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz, his roommate and nemesis, would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and he hasn’t shown up.

Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, and a mystery. It has as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story—but far more monsters.


Let’s take this week to catch up on a wealth of YA news and pieces of interest floating around. It might be more accurate, though, to call this a big round-up of recent adaptation news because there’s been a lot of it. Grab yourself a snack and settle in!





  • And keep your eyes peeled for a manga adaptation of the YA Star Wars book Lost Stars. Say that ten times fast.




  • New trailer for Everything Everything is up. Do you plan on seeing this? I’m so curious about it, but it might be one I wait to Netflix down the road. I liked the book with some reservation and am curious how it’ll be done on the big screen. Plus, Amandla.






Time to ask a very serious question now. If you’ve been listening to book news lately outside of the YA world, you likely have heard about the Bill Clinton/James Patterson book news. This begs the question: which politicians and YA authors would you love to see paired up? Hit reply and send your wildest and best pair ups. Feel free to ignore things like time and history; as far as I care, there’s a magical time machine that would allow Abe Lincoln to sit alongside Nicola Yoon for a romantic YA novel, okay? Maybe we can connect Norma Klein and Wendy Davis, who’d have a lot to say together about adults and teens and maturity and sex and growing up.

Send me your picks and I might include them in a future edition of the newsletter. Let’s have fun and let imagination run wild. 

See you back here next week.


– Kelly Jensen @veronikellymars

What's Up in YA

13 REASONS WHY and Actual Teen Vs. Actor Teens: On Empathy & Compassion for Real Teens and YA Lit

Hey YA Readers!

“What’s Up in YA?” is sponsored this week by Rachel Bateman’s Someone Else’s Summer from Running Press Kids. 

Anna’s always idolized her older sister, Storm. So when Storm dies in a tragic car accident on the night of her high school graduation, Anna is completely lost. That is, until she finds Storm’s summer bucket list and decides to honor her sister by having the best summer ever—which includes taking an epic road trip along with her sister’s best friend Cameron. Who knew that Storm’s dream summer would eventually lead to Anna’s own self-discovery?


As a head’s up, there are mild 13 Reasons Why spoilers in here, but little in this discussion goes beyond what someone might have seen in a preview. Likewise, while this newsletter centers around the adaptation, the takeaways are applicable on a broader level, so no need to worry about knowing this specific story or book. It’s instead an example of a phenomenon in YA adaptations and in media for teens more broadly.

I think it goes without saying, but just to be safe: trigger warnings abound for discussion of suicide, mental illness, and sexual assault/rape. This newsletter is also quite lengthy, so take it in chunks as you need to — I’ve included at the end the commentary readers have sent in, making this a really wonderful and meaty discussion.


The longer that I’m away from watching of 13 Reasons Why, the more a lot of it leaves a bad taste in my mouth message-wise. There’ve been a number of great pieces written about this, of course, so I’m adding nothing to the discussion by saying there’s a huge gulf not explored in the story between mental illness and we should all be kind to one another. Where Clay’s big “ah ha” moment at the end is that we should be kinder to one another (at the expense, it seems, of listening to someone insist that they are okay and don’t want to be talked to), the viewer walks away knowing that there was something much more deeply troubling with Hannah. She was absolutely a victim of sexual violence and bullying, but knowing her deep desire was for someone to come rescue her, even after she pushed everyone away over and over, it’s frustrating and hugely disappointing that mental illness is not brought up or explored with depth. That the show ends with Alex at the hospital following an attempted suicide suggests that there might be a season two, and if that happens, this is an area that demands exploration.

That said, the biggest thing that bothered me with the show was a simple one: how old all of the characters looked.

It’s a well-known phenomenon that YA adaptations — most any teen-centered shows, really — generally cast actors who are outside of the target demographic. It’s part experience and part of who is available to do the work. It’s also a matter of legality. But with 13 Reasons Why, there’s a disturbing lack of trying to make these teens look like teens.

Case in point: if you’ve watched the show, have you noticed the tattoos? We’re not talking the kind of tattoos that an 18-year-old might get upon their birthday or the kinds of tattoos that a parent might let their teens get in high school. We’re talking large chest pieces, arm pieces, and other tattoos that are not only massive, but well-healed and aged.

Then there are the moments where the characters are nearly nude. Not the sex scenes, mind you, which, while a little beyond realistic for teen sex, aren’t unrealistic for teen sex on screen. The scenes in locker rooms or bedrooms where the bulk of the character’s body is undressed. There are clear signs of adult maturity, spots where body hair is too well groomed or muscles too defined for awkward teen bodies. Where faces are chiseled in ways that say “20-something who works out” rather than “17-year-old teen boy who plays football.”

Lest this sound like nitpicking, remember: from the beginning of the show, we know that Clay and Hannah are sophomores in high school. That means they’re 15 or 16, in later episodes, maybe 17. In many ways, those two are the most realistic looking to their ages, Hannah more so than Clay. But their friends and classmates are in the same age range, with, perhaps, an 18-year-old senior or two in the fray.

And yet, here are some of the teenagers as they appear on screen:


neck tattoos



If you aren’t familiar with the “Actual teen vs adult teen” Tumblr, I highly recommend digging into it a bit. Liz Burns wrote about it a few years back, interviewing the creator Ann Foster. Foster has kept the Tumblr going, and I love how it puts this visual difference into perspective. She’s not yet done 13 Reasons Why but I suspect it’ll provide a lot of interesting visual comparisons.

It sounds nitpicky to find this representation of teens to be a problem, but by not even attempting to make these teenagers look like teenagers, imagine how easy it is to write off the problems they’re experiencing as things they’re equipped to deal with. The dude covered in tats? He’s old enough to make wise decisions, since he clearly had the capacity to make the decision to be inked. Those sexually active teens with super mature adult bodies? Obviously, they know how to handle dealing with grief and shame and the trauma surrounding the loss of a classmate (or a car accident that kills a classmate or a party that got out of hand or the consequences of repeat sexual violence or, or, or). Likewise, these teens might fall into that ever-loved category of “too stupid to live” that gets slapped unfairly on many YA characters who, remember, are teenagers. 

Because the “teens” look like adults, the cognitive dissonance a viewer experiences — especially an adult viewer with little direct exposure or interactions with teens — is pretty significant. It would be easy to write off the deep problems these characters experience and more, easy to call some of what they do whining or childish, because they look like they’re big enough and wise enough to do something about it. But the truth is, that’s the point of the story: these teens are not wise or smart enough to do it.

There’s a big gap between the visual we’re presented and the depth of the story, and it’s there that much of the show falls apart.

It’s been said for quite a while that many don’t believe YA is for teens anymore or that it ever has been. That, thanks to the growth of the category via books like Twilight and The Hunger Games which brought to their franchises legions of adult fans, there’s no longer a space for teens to call their own in the book world. I’m not sure I entirely buy this argument as a whole; I believe we conflate some of the statistics about who is buying YA books with who is reading them (and ignoring things like the fact a new YA hardcover can cost $20 — a sizable chunk of change for a teenager but less so for a full-time working adult). I also think that we’re easily led into believing it because of marketing and how much YA marketing for big books (or books that are going to be made big) is geared toward adults, rather than teens. Again, probably in part due to who is buying the books, which ties back to where the money is. Not to mention it’s adults in the online world who tend to be writing blogs or newsletters or long form pieces about YA lit and it’s adults who are most likely consuming those same pieces. 

And then we have adaptations like 13 Reasons Why which have at their core real, troubling issues teens may be dealing with personally. In cases like this, it’s easy to let our adult sensibilities take over because those teenagers look really. damn. mature. It’s also easy for us as adults to prescribe what we think are solutions to those situations from the outside. See, for example, the think pieces that have popped up about how troubling it is there weren’t more discussions in school about how suicide is a bad thing and not to do it. Aside from that not being true, in my own experience as a teenager in high school and in working with teens in various high schools, when suicides have occurred, the school’s response is often silence. There are many reasons for this that are boring and not story-worthy. They don’t heighten the drama, though in many cases, they certainly heighten the frustrations that students have, making their teen minds even more confused and hurt.

Teenagers are hormonal monsters made of whine and awkwardness, anger and rage, stupid decision making and obnoxiousness. This is what they are because this is what they’re biologically meant to be, as well as what they’re psychologically and socially molded to be. But they’re made this way for a reason. They are not mature enough to make great decisions because they don’t have the experience necessary to do so and their brains are literally not yet wired to think through the implications of their actions. 

This is, perhaps, one of the reasons they make such interesting characters. It’s also why those who work with teens absolutely love working with them.

So when we turn a story like 13 Reasons Why into an adaptation and fill it with characters who don’t look even close to teen age, we take away those really tricky, sticky, tough pieces of being that age and instead, want to prescribe and dictate what we think reasonable adults should be doing. We’re not being primed by seeing them as greasy, smelly, messy teenagers with gangly, awkward bodies and minds. We’re seeing them as fully functioning, mature adults. We aren’t even being given the chance to empathize.

It might not sound like a problem when applied to a show — it is, but certainly not in the same capacity that it is a problem when those same mentalities are then applied to the real world. Because the truth is, they are and they will be applied. Again, the “too stupid to live” label comes to mind, as do the reviews and think pieces which prattle on about how whiny and dramatic teen characters in YA books can be. (They’re that way in real life, though, because they’re built to be that way). 

But we can at least hope that those adult sensibilities might also include having a good, meaningful series of discussions about the show, about its faults, about its strengths, and about how powerful it is to share a conversation between adults and teens about the confusing, painful, and downright shitty parts of growing up.


Last week I asked readers to share some of their input on the show or links they’ve read that really got their attention. I’m copy/pasting them below, keeping them anonymous. I love that y’all responded and love that we can make this a place of discussion.

I’m a high school English teacher/reading specialist. I’ve read and taught the book in class, and students loved it.

My students love the show as well–I don’t know that they are catching *all* of the things that I catch–Clay masturbating to the picture of Hannah and Courtney, for instance, wasn’t caught by them. They are confused why I haven’t binged the show like they did. I’m ready for episode 6. 

It’s a hard watch for me. The book was hard as well, but the show seems harder. And, I know what’s coming. I don’t know why it’s different, but it is. 

Ultimately, I think it’s a show that raises important issues, but it does much of why the book does; leaves items open for interpretation. My students don’t see Hannah as manipulative or blaming others, but they see how she wants them to know. Yes, they know suicide is a choice, but we talk about bullying and sexual assault to our students so much they also know that there are factors that lead up to it. If it weren’t controversial, it probably wouldn’t be doing it’s job. 

Though I don’t know him personally, I am friends with Jay Asher, the author of the novel, on Facebook. He played an integral part of the production of the series, and is aware of much of the issues that are playing out. 


I’ve seen the interviews where Selena Gomez and other producers say that they showed the gratuitous violence because they wanted to show people that “suicide should never be an option” but, to me, it felt like they were making a show for people who have never gone through these things. People who have never self harmed, people who have never been suicidal, people who have never been sexually assaulted. Sadly, people who have been through all these things are the ones that the book really resonated with and the ones that were most looking forward to the show. My biggest problem with the show itself is that infamous suicide scene. I’m upset that they showed suicide in such a graphic way when there are plenty of suggested guidelines for what to do and what not to do when portraying a suicide on film, but that’s not all of it. They completely ignored a big part of Hannah’s character and her wants when they changed her method of suicide. Hannah wanted to use pills so that she wouldn’t feel the pain of dying, so that she’d be asleep when she died because she was still afraid of it. She wanted to use pills so that her parents could pretend it was an accident if they wanted to. She didn’t want a grisly scene for her parents to walk in on. If Jay Asher had just randomly chosen a way for Hannah to die and hadn’t given her specific reasons for the way she wanted to kill herself, I wouldn’t be nearly as angry about the show. To me, it feels like the show ignored Hannah’s character and changed the way she died because a death by pills wouldn’t be shocking enough. It wouldn’t be as action packed as slitting her wrists. There wouldn’t be enough intense drama to film. They chose to change her method of suicide purely for the shock value.

You mentioned the hype that Thirteen Reasons Why has been getting and you compared it to that of The Hunger Games, and I have some feelings on that too. So much of the media attention about the show horrifies me. There are quizzes about “which 13 reasons why character are you” and “which guy from 13 reasons why should you date.” There are memes, like the “welcome to your tape” meme, which is where if someone says something to upset you, you tell them “welcome to your tape.” One that’s particularly horrifying is a facebook copy and paste game? thing that I saw one of my facebook friends post. It said “let’s play 13 reasons why. drop your name in the comments and i’ll reply back tape or no tape. if i comment tape, you’d be one of my reasons. if i comment no tape, we’re cool.” She had 50+ comments! I’m not sure if people wanted validation that they haven’t done something to make them be a reason or what, but I was disgusted. When The Hunger Games came out, the media behind it was frightening. People immediately went for the starcrossed lovers trope and did the whole Team Peeta/Team Gale thing. There were countless blog posts about “how to look like you’re from the Capitol” and makeup campaigns to give you looks from the Capitol. The whole point of the books was missed. It wasn’t entirely the media’s fault, the movies messed it up pretty badly too, focusing on the love triangle and leaving out the worst parts of the Games. They pretty much completely left out the Avoxes, Peeta’s need of a prosthetic leg, Katniss’ hearing loss, their PTSD, the list goes on. The media for Thirteen Reasons Why is doing the same thing. They’re focusing on the love story between Clay and Hannah and making jokes about some of the most serious things.


Full Disclosure: I have not yet watched 13 Reasons Why, but I have read the book. 

I am on the side of many people who see the story as a revenge fantasy. I don’t know if I’d say that it glamorizes suicide, but I don’t think it shows how PERMANENT this choice is. I would assume that, because Hannah is so present throughout the show, that it’d be easy to forget that she is no longer living even if “justice has been served”.  Sharing the message that we must be kind and realize our actions affects others is such an important one. But where’s the talk about mental health? I’ve seen articles telling 13 Reasons Why fans that they’d probably enjoy Pretty Little Liars, which is so far from helpful in the mental health department. 

I haven’t watched the show because I know it will upset me. I’m sensitive, I have depression, and I know I’m not personally strong enough. This article made me feel better about that:


When I first heard about 13 Reasons Why being made into a TV series for Netflix, I was hesitantly excited simply because while it is a rather hard subject matter, it is also one that I believe should be discussed. However, having read what I have about it, I don’t believe I can watch the series.

Most of what I’ve read has come from this post at Teen Librarian Toolbox:

I believe Karen Jensen explains her view quite well and brings up valid points against watching the TV series.


I am the grandmother of three 13 year old girls, a 12 year old Haitian girl, and a precocious 11 year old girl. These girls are voracious YA readers. Just for fun I have been reading along. Oh, my! They all loved The Outsiders. It is the gospel to them. So affected by the story. All the Bright Places dissed school counselors. Ugh! Speak offended me. The author dismissed all cheerleaders as slutty, cruel people. And as I said,  the kids really buy it. Thirteen Reasons Why scares me. Suicide is so final. Not romantic. The girls have read these books but I am discouraging the show. We read Aristotle and Dante, better. Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda was a good book to read but all of us wish it had been written by a Homo sapiens who had actually lived it. The Perks of Being a Wallflower at least gave us some hope. 

I could go on and on. But I wish for more responsible writers. I want a protagonist who is strong and smart and survives. 

Well, in parting the girls are also are reading Austen and Dickens. Classics and comics. 

My concern, I guess, is how the books teens read affect their world view. It is not easy in school society.


People have been attacking 13 Reasons Why for many reasons. Yes, I agree Hannah was manipulative in her making of the tapes (i.e. using them to cast blame on others for her problems–justifiably or not)–and I definitely think she could’ve handled some things that happened to her better than she did.

I don’t think they romanticized the suicide scene like some do. She clearly was terrified (as evidenced by her heavy breathing) and the scene has haunted me since. How is slashing your wrists that deeply and bleeding to death romantic?

What bothered me the most was that she had to be driven by a rape and bullying to kill herself. Not every depressed teenager has been assaulted and raped and deemed the class slut. Non-sexually active teenagers (even those who’d want to have sex) get depressed. Teenagers who aren’t bullied try to commit suicide (and some succeed, unfortunately). I guess my main pet peeve was that sex, in whatever form–without or with consent, pinching an ass or rape–was a driving force behind Hannah’s suicide. Why does it have to be girl + depressed is because of some issue with sex. There are many other reasons why a teenage girl would be that depressed. It’s a case of, yet again, making a story about girl be all about sex and, thus, objectifying girls as sexual objects rather than as showing them as regular people.  Yes, sex is on the minds of teenagers quite a lot. I’m not naive about that. I’m just wondering if the series put so much emphasis on that aspect just for the titillation factor. If they did it for that reason in the hope of getting more viewers, then I’m not so thrilled with it.

I think they could’ve ended each episode with a list of warning signals to watch out for and give people tips about what to do if they think someone might be thinking about killing themselves. It could save someone’s life, you never know. Isn’t it more important to stress suicide prevention versus dwelling on why someone chose to do it!?!?


I haven’t seen the show version of TRW, and I’m honestly not really planning on it as I’ve heard that it’s pretty graphic.  But I did want to write in and express the frustration I’ve been feeling with people throwing the book under the bus with the show.  Say what you will about it, that book has saved lives, and I don’t think that should be ignored.  If even one teenager felt heard and validated by reading a story, that is important, and with this book, it’s way more than one.  I feel like a significant part of the problem was the translation from book to screen, where reading about suicide is one thing, actually seeing it happen on screen is another (and also a pretty unnecessary decision on the part of the producers).  I worry that in our (rightful) outrage, we are ignoring the good in the story, and there is some good!  There are definitely problems and things are overly simplified, but for me, TRW was the first book that I read that had the guts to acknowledge that hey, teens can be brutally bullying and go through HARD STUFF and that I wasn’t the only suicidal teenager out there.  That was a powerful truth for me as a person of intersecting marginalized identities who had pretty much no social support as a teen.  My two cents, for what they’re worth.  


I think it romanticizes suicide, which is extremely dangerous when it comes to teens and young adults who are struggling with depression and suicide. It has been seen in the past that doing this usually triggers a rise in young suicides. I’ve encountered numerous people in the last few weeks who suffer from depression that say this show brought on a depressive episode, and they wished they hadn’t watched it. I don’t want to say a show is to blame for a rise in suicidal tendencies, but that if a show wants to start a dialogue about suicide awareness, romanticizing it is entirely the wrong way to do it.


Thanks for being part of this community, friends. We’ll see you back here next week for a big link roundup.

-Kelly Jensen, @veronikellymars

What's Up in YA

IndiYA Reads, Love at Comic Cons, A Spring YA Preview, & More YA Reading This Week

Hey YA fans!

This Week’s “What’s Up in YA?” is sponsored by The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein, from Disney-Hyperion Books.

Before Verity . . . there was Julie.

In this prequel to the bestselling Elizabeth Wein novel, Code Name Verity, fifteen-year-old Julia Beaufort-Stuart wakes up in the hospital, she knows the lazy summer break she’d imagined won’t be exactly what she anticipated.  Her memory of that day returns to her in pieces, and when a body is discovered, her new friends are caught in the crosshairs of long-held biases about Travellers. Julie must get to the bottom of the mystery in order to keep them from being framed for the crime.


During a vacation last week, I mainlined all 13 episodes of 13 Reasons Why on Netflix. I’m still grappling with some thoughts about the show, and while it’s been many years since I read the book, I don’t know that I remember disliking all of the characters as much as I did. I knew Hannah was manipulative going in, but I’d forgotten how annoying Clay was, too. Many have written thoughtful pieces about how it’s a problematic cliche that Hannah serves as a boy’s tool of growth, but that wasn’t what bothered me most about the show. It’s a simple, very very simple, thing that annoyed me.

I haven’t pulled my words together coherently on it, but as soon as I do, I suspect this might be the right space to share them. I preface the newsletter with this because I’d love to hear what reactions you’ve had to the adaptation or see what pieces you’ve read analyzing it that you’ve found interesting. I’m not worried about agreeing or disagreeing with the takes. I want to see what’s being sad because I don’t think I’ve seen so much mainstream attention for a YA adaptation in a long time (maybe The Hunger Games was the last big one with the sort of exposure I’m seeing). Hit reply with your thoughts and links and next week, I’ll come back with both what I want to say bothered me and what some of the biggest YA fans have been thinking about it.

Let’s take the space today, though, and look back at the variety of great Book Riot posts about YA that have hit in the last few weeks. I know how easily it is for me to miss the pieces sometimes, and I read the site for work.


  • An interview with SE Hinton on the 50th anniversary of her classic YA title The Outsiders and the growth of YA lit as a category of work.
  • YA love stories set at comic cons. Sweet.


The pieces below aren’t from Book Riot, but they hit my radar in the last couple of weeks and seemed worth sharing:



See you next week, and don’t forget to hit reply with your thoughts and/or interesting reads on the 13 Reasons Why adaptation. If you do share your own opinion, I won’t use your real name if I chose to include it in the next newsletter, so feel free to be totally honest.


-Kelly Jensen @veronikellymars

What's Up in YA

A Round-Up of Your Favorite Debut YA Novels

Hello again, YA fans!


What’s Up in YA? is sponsored by The Takedown by Connie Wang from Freeform.

Who would you rely on if your tech turned against you? Kyla Cheng—president of her community club, a debate team champ, dating the yummy Mackenzie Rodriguez and the most popular student at her Brooklyn high school—gets taken down a peg when a fake video goes viral.


A couple of weeks ago, we tackled the topic of debut novels — those books which helped launch the careers of some of your favorite writers. Along with talking about a handful of titles, I asked if you’d hit reply and share some of your favorites.

And, of course, you did.

This week, let’s take a look at the titles you named as some of your favorite debut YA books. This isn’t a complete list of every title sent, nor does it account for how many of these were repeat picks among responses (yay!). I went for as wide a swath of titles as possible, so you’ll see a little of everything ranging from classic YA titles to much newer titles by authors who are just at the beginning of a wildly successful career.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—”Cupid Day”—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is…until she dies in a terrible accident that night.

However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she ever imagined.


Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.


Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce

And so young Alanna of Trebond begins the journey to knighthood. Though a girl, Alanna has always craved the adventure and daring allowed only for boys; her twin brother, Thom, yearns to learn the art of magic. So one day they decide to switch places: Thom heads for the convent to learn magic; Alanna, pretending to be a boy, is on her way to the castle of King Roald to begin her training as a page.

But the road to knighthood is not an easy one. As Alanna masters the skills necessary for battle, she must also learn to control her heart and to discern her enemies from her allies.

Filled with swords and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, Alanna’s first adventure begins – one that will lead to the fulfillment of her dreams and the magical destiny that will make her a legend in her land.

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then. . . .

After. Nothing is ever the same.


More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again–but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely.

When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is.

Why does happiness have to be so hard?

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (psst: if you head over to Book Riot today, you’ll see an interview with Hinton!)

According to Ponyboy, there are two kinds of people in the world: greasers and socs. A soc (short for “social”) has money, can get away with just about anything, and has an attitude longer than a limousine. A greaser, on the other hand, always lives on the outside and needs to watch his back. Ponyboy is a greaser, and he’s always been proud of it, even willing to rumble against a gang of socs for the sake of his fellow greasers–until one terrible night when his friend Johnny kills a soc. The murder gets under Ponyboy’s skin, causing his bifurcated world to crumble and teaching him that pain feels the same whether a soc or a greaser.

Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper

Throughout time, the forces of good and evil have battled continuously, maintaining the balance. Whenever evil forces grow too powerful, a champion of good is called to drive them back. Now, with evil’s power rising and a champion yet to be found, three siblings find themselves at the center of a mystical war.

Jane, Simon, and Barney Drew have discovered an ancient text that reads of a legendary grail lost centuries ago. The grail is an object of great power, buried with a vital secret. As the Drews race against the forces of evil, they must piece together the text’s clues to find the grail — and keep its secret safe until a new champion rises.


Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from.

Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she’d gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan’s army, with a fugitive who’s wanted for treason. And she’d never have predicted she’d fall in love with him… or that he’d help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.

The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. Dill’s only escapes are his music and his secret feelings for Lydia, neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending- one that will rock his life to the core.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.


Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.


Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life – and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey’s boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie’s own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they’re the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can’t collide without the whole wide world exploding.

A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd

Ireland 1984.

After Shell’s mother dies, her obsessively religious father descends into alcoholic mourning and Shell is left to care for her younger brother and sister. Her only release from the harshness of everyday life comes from her budding spiritual friendship with a naive young priest, and most importantly, her developing relationship with childhood friend, Declan, who is charming, eloquent, and persuasive. But when Declan suddenly leaves Ireland to seek his fortune in America, Shell finds herself pregnant and the center of a scandal that rocks the small community in which she lives, with repercussions across the whole country. The lives of those immediately around her will never be the same again.

This is a story of love and loss, religious belief and spirituality—it will move the hearts of any who read it.


The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee


A thousand-story tower stretching into the sky. A glittering vision of the future where anything is possible—if you want it enough.


A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. Everyone there wants something…and everyone has something to lose.

LEDA COLE’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched.

ERIS DODD-RADSON’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.

RYLIN MYERS’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will this new life cost Rylin her old one?

WATT BAKRADI is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy for an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies.

And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is AVERY FULLER, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.

Amid breathtaking advancement and high-tech luxury, five teenagers struggle to find their place at the top of the world. But when you’re this high up, there’s nowhere to go but down….


Thanks for hanging out again this week. We’ll see you back in your inbox next Monday.


-Kelly Jensen

Currently reading In A Perfect World by Trish Doller

What's Up in YA

Celebrity YA novels, New Books by Printz Authors, 2017 Verse Novels, and More YA News

Hey YA fans!

This week’s edition of “What’s Up in YA?” is sponsored by Defy The Stars by Claudia Gray.

She’s a soldier.
He’s a machine.
Enemies in an interstellar war, they are forced to work together as they embark on a daring journey through the stars. Their efforts would end the fighting for good, but they’re not without sacrifice. The stakes are even higher than either of them first realized, and the more time they spend together, the more they’re forced to question everything they’d been taught was true.


Let’s take today and catch up with the world of YA news. Find packed in here some of the recent film announcements, book lists, and more happening in the world of young adult lit.

Before settling in though, I wanted to mention that we launched our rad new Book Riot Insiders program last week. Insiders gives you exclusive content and access to rad book-related news, features, and more. (& for those who go Epic, you’ll get access to an exclusive monthly YA-related book chat session with me via the Insiders forum!). Check it out!

Onward with news!



  • This list at Bustle of 11 YA books you likely haven’t read is not only terribly white but so weird I had to share it here. Most of these are either award-winning books (!) or they’re books that have been adapted. I’m not sure this is where I’d start with “books you likely haven’t read in YA.”


  • Cara Delevigne apparently wrote a YA novel. With another author. No word on whether it’ll get a US publication.


  • And I’ll say this is an ambitious undertaking to rank the top YA novels of all time, especially when maybe fewer than half of these titles are actually YA titles. Also, super white.



  • Film rights for Labyrinth Lost have been acquired. Good.



  • Jennifer Aniston + Dumplin’…now to ensure we see a fat girl — like a real-world fat girl and not a Hollywood-sized fat girl — as the main character.







  • A look at the books — across all age categories — being released this year by former Printz honorees and winners. I love this.







Thanks for hanging again this week. We’ll be back in your inbox next Monday with even more great YA talk.

Kelly Jensen

currently reading Done Dirt Cheap by Sarah Lemon