Monday, January 26, 2015

A to Z April Challenge 2015

The 2015 A to Z Challenge List is Open!


Please read and follow the sign-up instructions outlined below so you sign onto the list correctly!

The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behavior.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. You can use a theme for the month or go random – just as long as it matches the letter of the alphabet for the day. 

The A to Z Challenge is a great way to get into the blogging habit and make new friends. For more details and its history, go HERE

We recommend short posts, turn off Word Verification, and visit five blogs (or more) a day beginning with the one after yours on the list. 

Blogs must be on an open platform – no Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. – and comments enabled. 

To streamline legitimate blogs from advertisement blogs, the Co-Hosts will be visiting each blog on this list throughout the Challenge. Blogs on the list showing no activity once the Challenge starts or miss five days in a row will be removed. 

Please note your blog name and number in all correspondences. Remember that as blogs are removed, your number will change. 

There are categories for those looking for like-minded blogs. Select ONE category code and enter it after your blog’s title/name. The code applies to your blog, not your theme for the Challenge and is purely optional. See the first few blogs on the list for examples. However, if your blog has adult content, you MUST mark it (AC) or it will be removed from the list. Codes are as follows: 

ANIMALS: (AN) 
ART: (AR) 
BOOKS/REVIEWS: (BO) 
CRAFTS: (CR) 
CULINARY: (CU) 
EDUCATION: (ED) 
FASHION: (FA) 
FILM/MOVIES: (FM) 
GAMING: (GA) 
GARDENING: (GR) 
HISTORY: (HI) 
HUMOR: (HU) 
LIFESTYLE: (LI ) 
MEMOIR: (ME) 
MUSIC: (MU) 
MYTHOLOGY: (MY) 
PERSONAL: (PR) 
PHOTOGRAPHY: (PH) 
POLITICS: (PO) 
SCIENCE: (SC) 
SOCIAL MEDIA: (SO) 
SPORTS: (SP) 
TRAVEL: (TR) 
WRITING/STORYTELLING: (WR) 
ADULT CONTENT: (AC) 

Be sure to grab the badge and display it in your sidebar so we know you are participating and link to the A to Z Challenge Blog.

For more information we recommend you follow the A to Z Challenge Blog and the hosts: 

Arlee Bird @ Tossing it Out
Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh
Jeremy @ Hollywood Nuts
Nicole Ayers @ The Madlab Post
Author Stephen Tremp
Heather M. Gardner
AJ @ Naturally Sweet
Pam @ An Unconventional Librarian
Matthew MacNish @ The QQQE
Zalka Csenge Virág @ The Multicolored Diary
S. L. Hennessy @ Pensuasion
C. Lee McKenzie @ The Write Game
Joy Campbell @ The Character Depot
Susan Gourley @ Susan Says
John Holton @The Sound of One Hand Typing
Lisa Buie-Collard, Author

We also have a Facebook Page
Email address is contactatozteam@gmail.com
Twitter hashtag is #AtoZChallenge and Twitter id is @AprilA2Z

Sign up below and join us for a month of alphabet fun! 



Friday, January 23, 2015

Tanya Miranda's Current Query Critiqued

Okay. Today we have Tanya's revised query again, this time with my feedback, in blue.

The query:

Dear Agent,

I am seeking representation No. I have covered this before, but really it's not needed, and kind of looks like a rookie mistake. for Box of Souls BOX OF SOULS, an urban fantasy novel that is complete at 55,000 words. Hmm. I can't remember the word count from last time, but regardless, if it hasn't gone up, or even if it has, it needs to go up, a lot more. 55,000 words is a short YA novel, and it's a really short adult UF novel.

As ancient rules dictate, Not a great opening, as it's vague, but I'll take it for now. a sage sorceress Huh? I think I might know what you're getting at here, but "sage" as synonymous with "wise" is way too loose a connection for a query. Not everyone reads a shit ton of fringe spec-fic, and even if you're querying agents who mostly do, be careful. If you mean something else, well ... then I'm at a loss. must choose a female kin down her bloodline to inherit her powers before she dies. Well that's cool. More like this. When eighteen-year-old Jasmyn's grandmother passes away, SPOILER ALERT: PRO-TIP. Sorry for the ALL-CAPS, but this is where you should start your query. This is CHARACTER. CHARACTER is KEY. (Note: actually, all in all, this is SITUATION, but it's a better sense of character than your current world-building-based opening implies). This is also probably YA, but that's neither her nor there at this point. This is a much more money opening than what you have. it is eight-year-old Katarina who begins to display the gift of sorcery. This newest rejection proves Jasmyn's life-long claim that her family loves Katarina more than they love her, and instead of mourning with her family, she bears her grandmother’s death alone.

Okay. Several decent elements here. But it's all a bit muddled. Who's our protag? Focus on her. What's our inciting incident? Granny's passing? Revelation of the gift? The rejection?

One thing you really need to keep in mind when writing a query is: what's backstory and what's story? Backstory is important, of course, but it has much more place in the manuscript (where it still should barely linger) than it does in a query, which is to say: very little.


I can't tell, from this query so far, which is which.

After the funeral, menacing dragons appear along the west coast of California, Whatever you do, stop right now and read The Story of Owen. the same dragons Jasmyn's grandmother banished centuries ago. Patricia and Regina, two sage sorceresses I really need to know why these two very specific words are combined twice in one query. I consider myself well versed in fantasy, and I have no idea if you mean something more esoteric than "wise female magic user." from their grandmother’s coven, discover that Katarina accidentally read a spell from the Book of Whispers releasing the Gregorn Dragons from their prison. Since Katarina is the chosen one, Whoa. Okay, I suppose this was implied, but still, this is the little one? Can their names be more distinct? she is the only one who can stop them.

When Katarina’s magic fails, Why? How? the sage witches Now there are witches? Are they different from the sorceresses, but equally sage somehow? realize that Jasmyn had indeed shown signs of sorcery, but they were too focused on Katarina to notice. Somehow, their grandmother’s gift is split between both Katarina and Jasmyn, and now the two sisters must work together to destroy the dragons. And ... sadly, now you're in synopsis territory. This is just TMI for a query letter. 

Google "Matthew MacNish Queries" and you'll find a bunch of posts in which I break down the key elements. You're over-length here, probably, already, but even if you weren't, this is already too elaborate.

There's just one problem - Jasmyn ran away when a feud earlier Huh? "When a feud earlier?" No. Watch your syntax. That makes no sense. had the entire family pinned against her, shunning her from her home. Now, Patricia and Regina Who are these characters again? You have too many names in this query. are in a race to get to Jasmyn before the dragons get to her first. The Gregorn The which Dragons? Specificity is always great, IF it makes sense to the readers. Randomly naming dragon phylums or whatever this is ... is, unfortunatley, still just vague. Dragons have magic of their own and can sense the division of power between the two sisters. Good, but too late. They know the two fledgling witches are the only ones who can stop them, and they want them eliminated. Stakes? Maybe, but after this much query, we don't care about the Dragons, we CARE about the girls.

Can Jasmyn and Katarina reunite in time to stop the Gregorn Dragons from destroying mankind? Can Jasmyn put her pain and resentment aside to wield their grandmother's magic? The bond of sisterhood is strong, but so are powers of darkness.

Hmm. This isn't terrible as a wrap-up/sadistic choice line, but so much of this information is so disjointed from the main body of the query, let's summarize ...

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Tanya

In summary: this IS an improvement, Tanya, don't get me wrong. It really does cover all the basics. It's just that WHEN it covers them, and HOW, are still a bit of a mess.

First of all, your story section, the most important part of the query, is 303 words long. That isn't astronomically high, but it is a bit long, and worse, in the amount of words you've used, you didn't tell us very much. Or rather, you told us a bunch, but didn't make much cohesive sense from one element to the next.

Try to be more specific. Specific as to CHARACTER, as to CONFLICT, as to SCENE, SCENARIO, SETUP, PLOT, and STAKES. I know that's a lot to cover in 250 words, but people pull it off all the time. Read their examples. See if it helps you find your own.

That's it.

What do you all think? Would you disagree on anything?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tanya Miranda's Current Query Revised

Today we have Tanya Miranda's current query. The previous version was shared here, and critiqued here.

Here's the letter:

Dear Agent,

I am seeking representation for Box of Souls, an urban fantasy novel that is complete at 55,000 words.

As ancient rules dictate, a sage sorceress must choose a female kin down her bloodline to inherit her powers before she dies. When eighteen-year-old Jasmyn's grandmother passes away, it is eight-year-old Katarina who begins to display the gift of sorcery. This newest rejection proves Jasmyn's life-long claim that her family loves Katarina more than they love her, and instead of mourning with her family, she bears her grandmother’s death alone.

After the funeral, menacing dragons appear along the west coast of California, the same dragons Jasmyn's grandmother banished centuries ago. Patricia and Regina, two sage sorceresses from their grandmother’s coven, discover that Katarina accidentally read a spell from the Book of Whispers releasing the Gregorn Dragons from their prison. Since Katarina is the chosen one, she is the only one who can stop them.

When Katarina’s magic fails, the sage witches realize that Jasmyn had indeed shown signs of sorcery, but they were too focused on Katarina to notice. Somehow, their grandmother’s gift is split between both Katarina and Jasmyn, and now the two sisters must work together to destroy the dragons.

There's just one problem - Jasmyn ran away when a feud earlier had the entire family pinned against her, shunning her from her home. Now, Patricia and Regina are in a race to get to Jasmyn before the dragons get to her first. The Gregorn Dragons have magic of their own and can sense the division of power between the two sisters. They know the two fledgling witches are the only ones who can stop them, and they want them eliminated.

Can Jasmyn and Katarina reunite in time to stop the Gregorn Dragons from destroying mankind? Can Jasmyn put her pain and resentment aside to wield their grandmother's magic? The bond of sisterhood is strong, but so are powers of darkness.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Tanya

That's it!

Please thank Tanya for sharing this with us, and save your feedback for tomorrow!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Anthony Isom's Current Query Critiqued

Morning. Happy Friday! Today we have Anthony's query again, this time with my feedback, in blue.

The letter:

[Insert Agent Here]

My name is Anthony Isom. Not necessary. Sign your letter at the end like any business letter. In an e-query, it's fine to do this by just typing your name. I am seeking representation for Redundant. Your sending of the query in the first place is indication of the fact that you are seeking representation. REAL GOOD, my 43,000-word young adult manuscript, which I view as a cross between David Levithan’s BOY MEETS BOY and Lauren Myracle’s SHINE. While the story contains a hate crime, its clutch and pulse hinge on a love triangle between three boys—the narrator, his boyfriend, and his best friend. The rest of this is pretty good. I love the comparison titles (though BOY MEETS BOY and SHINE should be italicized, not ALL CAPS, but I hear that sentiment might be changing), and I love the phrasing of "clutch and pulse."

Normally, I would recommend leaving word count, comparison titles, and so on to the end of the query. A little personalization up front (I'm querying you because we met at ALA last year, or I'm querying you because I love that you represent Author X) can be great, but isn't always necessary. In the long run, the one and only thing that is going to sell an agent on representing you, is your story. I say get right to what matters.

So let's do that, and jump into the important part, the meat of the story.

...

First of all, let me just say before I even get to the content, I don't like what I see at first glance. This is a large chunk of text, not broken up into separate paragraphs at all. Traditionally, query letters are about 250 words (for the story part), broken up into three paragraphs. There's nothing wrong with breaking the "rules," but if you're going to do it, do it in a way that improves your chances.

Additionally, the paragraph below (before I touch it) is 182 words. That's not so short that I would say you should definitely increase it, but the problem here is that shoving it all into a single paragraph actually makes it look longer than it is.

Anyway ...

17-year-old Adam Sutton knows he should have kissed his boyfriend, Terry Connelly, by now just as he knows it is strange and yet intriguing his best friend, Evan Michaels, kissed him Kissed who? Watch your pronouns here. I'm not sure if Evan kissed Adam or Terry from this sentence. in the front seat of Evan’s Tahoe. This is a nice detail. This is the kind of thing I like to see in queries: specificity. We don't necessarily know for sure just from this one word, but this indicates a lot to me. If a high school kid has his own car, and it's something as nice as a Tahoe, they probably come from a relatively wealthy suburban area. Specific details like this go such a long way in a query. While exploring his newly-disrupted world, What does this mean? It's basically both vague and redundant. "Exploring" is vague, because we really have no idea what that means, and "newly-disrupted world" is redundant, because you just showed us the world was disrupted. Sometimes a little reminder is a good thing, but don't combine it with vague language. Adam receives disturbing news of a trauma that, though impersonal, Unnecessary. Let the reader decide for themselves what's personal. rattles him—a freshman boy named Carter Morreson, Why is everyone FIRST NAME, LAST NAME? Do they attend some kind of snooty prep school where everyone is called Mister Sutton and Mister Morreson? Regardless, you've got a problem here. You've got FOUR named characters in the query. That's probably two too many. Name Adam, by all means, and give his last name too, but Terry and Carter need only first names, and Evan doesn't need to be named at all. "Best Friend" (who I assume is not gay or at least is not out?) is sufficient. the innocent Are there guilty victims of hate crimes? If the victim did something that made him guilty, it's not a hate crime, it's assault or revenge or whatever. victim of a hate crime, was tied to his bed by four junior boys and beaten to a pulp. Man. That's powerful. This is your inciting incident? Or is it the kiss? It's a little hard to tell from this query whether this is a plot based story or a character study type story. Not that a novel can't be both, but I'd like to see a little better indication of where the manuscript goes. From your housekeeping opening, I get the sense that the story is more of a character study about the love triangle, and the hate crime is more of a backdrop (like the bugs in Grasshopper Jungle), which is fine, but try to word the story section of the query in such a way that emphasizes that. Adam wants nothing to do with this Carter Morreson, This helps. even while Terry campaigns for a Gay-Straight Alliance and Evan offers his and Adam’s protection services Unnecessarily wordy. This makes it sound like some kind of mob racket shakedown thing. to Carter himself. One night, while sleeping on Carter’s floor and guarding against any rumored threats, Adam discovers Carter’s not telling anyone the full story. Someone had to unlock that door and, Do they live in dorms? Is this a boarding school? Because this locked door thing makes it sound like it is, and you need to make that clear. of the four boys expelled, none of them had access to a key. Interesting twist. Adam knows he must confront Carter but cannot muster the courage, especially when he’s still so tentative about taking a stand for the first ever Pisgah Heights Academy Gay-Straight Alliance. Pretty good sadistic choice there too.

Okay, so in summary: content-wise, you've actually got a strong premise here. I think the market (I'm no expert, but still) is looking for diverse stories like these, and I think that sets you up for success from the get go.

Structure-wise, this query needs some work. I would recommend re-writing to try to match something closer to this format:

"Seventeen-year-old [One or two words describing him as a character, for example: drama club president, or: shy but friendly trumpet player] Adam Sutton knows he should have kissed his boyfriend Terry by now, but he's been a little freaked out ever since his previously assumed to be straight best friend Evan kissed him in the front seat of his Tahoe.

Still reeling in the emotional whirlwind aftermath of that night, Adam's world gets a little more confusing and a lot more dangerous when [describe the hate crime] at their stiff-upper-lip boarding school, Pisgah Heights Academy." ... Go on to talk about Carter, the GSA, the protection they offer, and then ...

In a final paragraph, focus on the choice Adam has to make of whether or not to confront Carter. I would probably recommend you bring up the locked door, and the secret surrounding it, in this paragraph as well. Ending the query on the note of whether Adam should keep Carter's secret, and protect the victim, or out him, and side with the truth, will leave the reader itching to read the pages, which is exactly what you want to do.

I hope that makes sense. I think you're off to a really good start here, and you just need to rework the form and style of how you have all this information laid out. Let me know if you have any questions.

That's it.

What do you all think? Hopefully you can make sense of my critique, with all that blue in the post. Would you recommend any other changes?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Anthony Isom's Current Query

Today we have Anthony Isom's query for his current project, REAL GOOD.

Here's the letter:

[Insert Agent Here]

My name is Anthony Isom. I am seeking representation for REAL GOOD, my 43,000-word young adult manuscript, which I view as a cross between David Levithan’s BOY MEETS BOY and Lauren Myracle’s SHINE. While the story contains a hate crime, its clutch and pulse hinge on a love triangle between three boys—the narrator, his boyfriend, and his best friend.

17-year-old Adam Sutton knows he should have kissed his boyfriend, Terry Connelly, by now just as he knows it is strange and yet intriguing his best friend, Evan Michaels, kissed him in the front seat of Evan’s Tahoe. While exploring his newly-disrupted world, Adam receives disturbing news of a trauma that, though impersonal, rattles him—a freshman boy named Carter Morreson, the innocent victim of a hate crime, was tied to his bed by four junior boys and beaten to a pulp. Adam wants nothing to do with this Carter Morreson, even while Terry campaigns for a Gay-Straight Alliance and Evan offers his and Adam’s protection services to Carter himself. One night, while sleeping on Carter’s floor and guarding against any rumored threats, Adam discovers Carter’s not telling anyone the full story. Someone had to unlock that door and, of the four boys expelled, none of them had access to a key. Adam knows he must confront Carter but cannot muster the courage, especially when he’s still so tentative about taking a stand for the first ever Pisgah Heights Academy Gay-Straight Alliance.

That's it.

Please thank Anthony for sharing this with us, and save your feedback for tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

On Fantasy at Project Mayhem

I'm over at Project Middle Grade Mayhem today, discussing my love of Fantasy. Stop by if you have a moment.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Books Read in 2014

My daughter and I had a challenge with each other last year. We decided to have a contest to see who could read more books, with the hope that we would both finish at least 40 books throughout the year.

I didn't make it to 40. I finished 31 novels last year. I don't feel to bad though, because I also critiqued I think about 10 unpublished manuscripts. Most of them were by unpublished CP friends of mine, but a few of them are already sold, and scheduled to be published this year. I can't wait to see them in print!

Anyway, here's the list of titles I read in 2014, and their summaries from Goodreads:

The Mostly True Story of Jack, by Kelly Barnhill

Enter a world where magic bubbles just below the surface. . . .

When Jack is sent to Hazelwood, Iowa, to live with his strange aunt and uncle, he expects a summer of boredom. Little does he know that the people of Hazelwood have been waiting for him for quite a long time.

When he arrives, three astonishing things happen: First, he makes friends -- not imaginary friends but actual friends. Second, he is beaten up by the town bully; the bullies at home always ignored him. Third, the richest man in town begins to plot Jack's imminent, and hopefully painful, demise. It's up to Jack to figure out why suddenly everyone cares so much about him. Back home he was practically, well, invisible.

The Mostly True Story of Jack is an eerie tale of magic, friendship, and sacrifice. It's about things broken and things put back together. Above all, it's about finding a place to belong

The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier

Refusing to sell chocolates in the annual Trinity school fund-raiser may not seem like a radical thing to do. But when Jerry challenges a secret school society called The Vigils, his defiant act turns into an all-out war. Now the only question is: Who will survive? First published in 1974, Robert Cormier's groundbreaking novel, an unflinching portrait of corruption and cruelty, has become a modern classic.

Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won't talk to her, and people she doesn't even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that's not safe. Because there's something she's trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. This extraordinary first novel has captured the imaginations of teenagers and adults across the country.

Holes, by Louis Sachar

Stanley Yelnats' family has a history of bad luck going back generations, so he is not too surprised when a miscarriage of justice sends him to Camp Green Lake Juvenile Detention Centre. Nor is he very surprised when he is told that his daily labour at the camp is to dig a hole, five foot wide by five foot deep, and report anything that he finds in that hole. The warden claims that it is character building, but this is a lie and Stanley must dig up the truth. In this wonderfully inventive, compelling novel that is both serious and funny, Louis Sachar has created a masterpiece that will leave all readers amazed and delighted by the author's narrative flair and brilliantly handled plot.

Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith

Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the story of how he and his best friend , Robby, brought about the end of humanity and the rise of an army of unstoppable, six-foot tall praying mantises in small-town Iowa.

To make matters worse, Austin's hormones are totally oblivious; they don't care that the world is in utter chaos: Austin is in love with his girlfriend, Shann, but remains confused about his sexual orientation. He's stewing in a self-professed constant state of maximum horniness, directed at both Robby and Shann. Ultimately, it's up to Austin to save the world and propagate the species in this sci-fright journey of survival, sex, and the complex realities of the human condition.

Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell

Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.


Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.

Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try

The Absolute Value of -1, by Steve Brezenoff

The absolute value of any number, positive or negative, is its distance from zero: |-1| = 1

Noah, Lily, and Simon have been a trio forever. But as they enter high school, their relationships shift and their world starts to fall apart. Privately, each is dealing with a family crisis—divorce, abuse, and a parent's illness. Yet as they try to escape the pain and reach out for the connections they once counted on, they slip—like soap in a shower. Noah’s got it bad for Lily, but he knows too well Lily sees only Simon. Simon is indifferent, suddenly inscrutable to his friends. All stand alone in their heartache and grief.

In his luminous YA novel, Steve Brezenoff explores the changing value of relationships as the characters realize that the distances between them are far greater than they knew.

The Story of Owen, by E.K. Johnston

Listen! For I sing of Owen Thorskard: valiant of heart, hopeless at algebra, last in a long line of legendary dragon slayers. Though he had few years and was not built for football, he stood between the town of Trondheim and creatures that threatened its survival. There have always been dragons. As far back as history is told, men and women have fought them, loyally defending their villages. Dragon slaying was a proud tradition. But dragons and humans have one thing in common: an insatiable appetite for fossil fuels. From the moment Henry Ford hired his first dragon slayer, no small town was safe. Dragon slayers flocked to cities, leaving more remote areas unprotected. Such was Trondheim's fate until Owen Thorskard arrived. At sixteen, with dragons advancing and his grades plummeting, Owen faced impossible odds armed only with a sword, his legacy, and the classmate who agreed to be his bard. Listen! I am Siobhan McQuaid. I alone know the story of Owen, the story that changes everything. Listen!

Fair Coin, by E.C. Myers

Epraim is horrified when he comes home from school one day to find his mother unconscious at the kitchen table, clutching a bottle of pills. Even more disturbing than her suicide attempt is the reason for it: the dead boy she identified at the hospital that afternoon--a boy who looks exactly like him. While examining his dead double's belongings, Ephraim discovers a strange coin that makes his wishes come true each time he flips it. Before long, he's wished his alcoholic mother into a model parent, and the girl he's liked since second grade suddenly notices him.

But Ephraim soon realizes that the coin comes with consequences --several wishes go disastrously wrong, his best friend Nathan becomes obsessed with the coin, and the world begins to change in unexpected ways. As Ephraim learns the coin's secrets and how to control its power, he must find a way to keep it from Nathan and return to the world he remembers.

100 Sideways Miles, by Andrew Smith

Finn Easton sees the world through miles instead of minutes. It’s how he makes sense of the world, and how he tries to convince himself that he’s a real boy and not just a character in his father’s bestselling cult-classic book. Finn has two things going for him: his best friend, the possibly-insane-but-definitely-excellent Cade Hernandez, and Julia Bishop, the first girl he’s ever loved.

Then Julia moves away, and Finn is heartbroken. Feeling restless and trapped in the book, Finn embarks on a road trip with Cade to visit their college of choice in Oklahoma. When an unexpected accident happens and the boys become unlikely heroes, they take an eye-opening detour away from everything they thought they had planned—and learn how to write their own destiny.

Guy In Real Life (G.I.R.L.) by Steve Brezenoff

From the acclaimed author of Brooklyn, Burning comes Guy in Real Life, an achingly real and profoundly moving love story about two Minnesota teens whose lives become intertwined through school, role-playing games, and a chance two-a.m. bike accident.

It is Labor Day weekend in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and boy and girl collide on a dark street at two thirty in the morning: Lesh, who wears black, listens to metal, and plays MMOs; Svetlana, who embroiders her skirts, listens to Björk and Berlioz, and dungeon masters her own RPG. They should pick themselves up, continue on their way, and never talk to each other again.

But they don't.

This is a story of two people who do not belong in each other's lives, who find each other at a time when they desperately need someone who doesn't belong in their lives. A story of those moments when we act like people we aren't in order to figure out who we are. A story of the roles we all play-at school, at home, with our friends, and without our friends-and the one person who might show us what lies underneath it all.

Second Daughter, by Susan Kaye Quinn

With plans for a second skyship exposed, Third Daughter Aniri fears her sister, Seledri, will be caught in a war between the three Queendoms. Seledri is the Second Daughter of Dharia, which means she had no choice in her arranged marriage to the First Son of Samir—a country with whom they may soon be at war. As Aniri fights to free her sister from a husband and a country she does not love, she questions her own rushed betrothal to Prince Malik, the noble barbarian who controls the skyship—and whether a love pledged in the heat of adventure can survive the looming threat of war.

Second Daughter is the second book in The Dharian Affairs trilogy (Third Daughter, Second Daughter, First Daughter). This steampunk-goes-to-Bollywood (Bollypunk!) romance takes place in an east-Indian-flavored alternate world filled with skyships, assassins, royal romance and intrigue.

Perfectly Good White Boy, by Carrie Mesrobian

Sean Norwhalt can read between the lines.

"You never know where we'll end up. There's so much possibility in life, you know?" Hallie said.

He knows she just dumped him. He was a perfectly good summer boyfriend, but now she's off to college, and he's still got another year to go. Her pep talk about futures and "possibilities" isn't exactly comforting. Sean's pretty sure he's seen his future and its "possibilities" and they all look disposable.

Like the crappy rental his family moved into when his dad left.

Like all the unwanted filthy old clothes he stuffs into the rag baler at his thrift store job.

Like everything good he's ever known.

The only hopeful possibilities in Sean's life are the Marine Corps, where no one expected he'd go, and Neecie Albertson, whom he never expected to care about.

"We're something else. Some other thing. I don't know what you'd call it. Maybe there's a word, though. Maybe I'll think of it tomorrow, when it won't matter," Neecie said.

Uses for Boys, by Erica Lorraine Scheidt

Anna remembers a time before boys, when she was little and everything made sense. When she and her mom were a family, just the two of them against the world. But now her mom is gone most of the time, chasing the next marriage, bringing home the next stepfather. Anna is left on her own—until she discovers that she can make boys her family. From Desmond to Joey, Todd to Sam, Anna learns that if you give boys what they want, you can get what you need. But the price is high—the other kids make fun of her; the girls call her a slut. Anna's new friend, Toy, seems to have found a way around the loneliness, but Toy has her own secrets that even Anna can't know.

Then comes Sam. When Anna actually meets a boy who is more than just useful, whose family eats dinner together, laughs, and tells stories, the truth about love becomes clear. And she finally learns how it feels to have something to lose—and something to offer. Real, shocking, uplifting, and stunningly lyrical, Uses for Boys is a story of breaking down and growing up.

How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff

Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy.

As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way.

On the Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta

I'm dreaming of the boy in the tree. I tell him stories. About the Jellicoe School and the Townies and the Cadets from a school in Sydney. I tell him about the war between us for territory. And I tell him about Hannah, who lives in the unfinished house by the river. Hannah, who is too young to be hiding away from the world. Hannah, who found me on the Jellicoe Road six years ago.

Taylor is leader of the boarders at the Jellicoe School. She has to keep the upper hand in the territory wars and deal with Jonah Griggs - the enigmatic leader of the cadets, and someone she thought she would never see again.

And now Hannah, the person Taylor had come to rely on, has disappeared. Taylor's only clue is a manuscript about five kids who lived in Jellicoe eighteen years ago. She needs to find out more, but this means confronting her own story, making sense of her strange, recurring dream, and finding her mother - who abandoned her on the Jellicoe Road.

Cold Fury, by T.M. Goeglein

Jason Bourne meets The Sopranos in this breathtaking adventure

Sara Jane Rispoli is a normal sixteen-year-old coping with school and a budding romance--until her parents and brother are kidnapped and she discovers her family is deeply embedded in the Chicago Outfit (aka the mob).

Now on the run from a masked assassin, rogue cops and her turncoat uncle, Sara Jane is chased and attacked at every turn, fighting back with cold fury as she searches for her family. It's a quest that takes her through concealed doors and forgotten speakeasies--a city hiding in plain sight. Though armed with a .45 and 96K in cash, an old tattered notebook might be her best defense--hidden in its pages the secret to "ultimate power." It's why she's being pursued, why her family was taken, and could be the key to saving all of their lives.

Action packed, with fresh, cinematic writing, Cold Fury is a riveting and imaginative adventure readers will devour.

Glory O'Briens History of the Future, by A.S. King

Would you try to change the world if you thought it had no future?

Graduating from high school is a time of limitless possibilities — but not for Glory, who has no plan for what's next. Her mother committed suicide when Glory was only four years old, and she’s never stopped wondering if she will eventually go the same way... until a transformative night when she begins to experience an astonishing new power to see a person’s infinite past and future. From ancient ancestors to many generations forward, Glory is bombarded with visions—and what she sees ahead of her is terrifying.

A tyrannical new leader raises an army. Women’s rights disappear. A violent second civil war breaks out. And young girls vanish daily, sold off or interned in camps. Glory makes it her mission to record everything she sees, hoping her notes will somehow make a difference. She may not see a future for herself, but she’ll do everything in her power to make sure this one doesn’t come to pass.

Surf Mules, by Greg Neri

When Logan goes searching for the Perfect Monster Wave, he doesn’t expect his former best friend to be killed by it. Add to this a deadbeat dad who bankrupted his family and the possibility of college going down the drain, and Logan is suddenly in a tailspin.

So when small-time dealer Broza offers Logan and his dropout pal, Z-boy, a summer job that could make them rich, it seems his problems might be solved. But between Z-boy’s constant screwups, a band of Nazi surfers out for blood, and a mysterious stranger on their tail, Logan is starting to have some serious doubts about hauling contraband across country, and hopes just to make it home alive.

Servants of the Storm, by Delilah S. Dawson

A year ago Hurricane Josephine swept through Savannah, Georgia, leaving behind nothing but death and destruction — and taking the life of Dovey's best friend, Carly. Since that night, Dovey has been in a medicated haze, numb to everything around her.

But recently she's started to believe she's seeing things that can't be real ... including Carly at their favorite cafe. Determined to learn the truth, Dovey stops taking her pills. And the world that opens up to her is unlike anything she could have imagined.

As Dovey slips deeper into the shadowy corners of Savannah — where the dark and horrifying secrets lurk — she learns that the storm that destroyed her city and stole her friend was much more than a force of nature. And now the sinister beings truly responsible are out to finish what they started.

Dovey's running out of time and torn between two paths. Will she trust her childhood friend Baker, who can't see the threatening darkness but promises to never give up on Dovey and Carly? Or will she plot with the sexy stranger, Isaac, who offers all the answers — for a price? Soon Dovey realizes that the danger closing in has little to do with Carly ... and everything to do with Dovey herself.

Monster, by Walter Dean Myers

This New York Times bestselling novel and National Book Award nominee from acclaimed author Walter Dean Myers tells the story of Steve Harmon, a teenage boy in juvenile detention and on trial. Presented as a screenplay of Steve's own imagination, and peppered with journal entries, the book shows how one single decision can change our whole lives.

Fade In: Interior: Early Morning In Cell Block D, Manhattan Detention Center.

Steve (Voice-Over)
Sometimes I feel like I have walked into the middle of a movie. Maybe I can make my own movie. The film will be the story of my life. No, not my life, but of this experience. I'll call it what the lady prosecutor called me ... Monster.

The Revelation of Gabriel Adam, by S.L. Duncan

Seventeen-year-old Gabriel Adam is used to relocating a lot. When a mysterious assassin burns his home to the ground, Gabriel’s father reveals the truth of why they are always on the move: Gabriel is one of four archangels, born human and sent to stop Armageddon. Now Gabe must set aside dreams of attending NYU to try to fulfill his newly discovered role.

Racing against time, Gabe and his father travel to the English university town of Durham, hoping the last surviving member of an ancient religious sect can guide them. With the assassin in pursuit, Gabe must shoulder the weight of his new life and an impossible destiny as protector of the entire human race.

Frostborn, by Lou Anders

Meet Karn. He is destined to take over the family farm in Norrøngard. His only problem? He’d rather be playing the board game Thrones and Bones.

Enter Thianna. Half human, half frost giantess. She’s too tall to blend in with other humans but too short to be taken seriously as a giant.

When family intrigues force Karn and Thianna to flee into the wilderness, they have to keep their sense of humor and their wits about them. But survival can be challenging when you’re being chased by a 1,500-year-old dragon, Helltoppr the undead warrior and his undead minions, an evil uncle, wyverns, and an assortment of trolls and giants.

The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

Once again blending multiple story strands that transcend time and place, Grasshopper Jungle author Andrew Smith tells the story of 15-year-old Ariel, a refugee from the Middle East who is the sole survivor of an attack on his small village. Now living with an adoptive family in Sunday, West Virginia, Ariel's story of his summer at a boys' camp for tech detox is juxtaposed against those of a schizophrenic bomber and the diaries of a failed arctic expedition from the late nineteenth century. Oh, and there’s also a depressed bionic reincarnated crow.

Iron Hearted Violet, by Kelly Barnhill

The end of their world begins with a story.
This one.


In most fairy tales, princesses are beautiful, dragons are terrifying, and stories are harmless. This isn’t most fairy tales.

Princess Violet is plain, reckless, and quite possibly too clever for her own good. Particularly when it comes to telling stories. One day she and her best friend, Demetrius, stumble upon a hidden room and find a peculiar book. A forbidden book. It tells a story of an evil being—called the Nybbas—imprisoned in their world. The story cannot be true—not really. But then the whispers start. Violet and Demetrius, along with an ancient, scarred dragon, may hold the key to the Nybbas’s triumph . . . or its demise. It all depends on how they tell the story. After all, stories make their own rules.

Iron Hearted Violet is a story of a princess unlike any other. It is a story of the last dragon in existence, deathly afraid of its own reflection. Above all, it is a story about the power of stories, our belief in them, and how one enchanted tale changed the course of an entire kingdom.

We All Looked Up, by Tommy Wallach

Four high school seniors put their hopes, hearts, and humanity on the line as an asteroid hurtles toward Earth in this contemporary novel.

They always say that high school is the best time of your life.

Peter, the star basketball player at his school, is worried “they” might actually be right. Meanwhile Eliza can’t wait to escape Seattle—and her reputation—and perfect-on-paper Anita wonders if admission to Princeton is worth the price of abandoning her real dreams. Andy, for his part, doesn’t understand all the fuss about college and career—the future can wait.

Or can it? Because it turns out the future is hurtling through space with the potential to wipe out life on Earth. As these four seniors—along with the rest of the planet—wait to see what damage an asteroid will cause, they must abandon all thoughts of the future and decide how they’re going to spend what remains of the present.

Stupid Fast, by Geoff Herbach

I, Felton Reinstein, am Stupid Fast. Seriously. The upper classmen used to call me Squirrel Nut, because I was little and jumpy. Then, during sophomore year, I got tall and huge and so fast the gym teachers in their tight shorts fell all over themselves. During summer, three things happened all at once. First, the pee-smelling jocks in my grade got me to work out for football, even though I had no intention of playing. Second, on my paper route the most beautiful girl I have ever seen moved in and played piano at 6 a.m. Third, my mom, who never drinks, had some wine, slept in her car, stopped weeding the garden, then took my TV and put it in her room and decided she wouldn’t get out of bed.

Listen, I have not had much success in my life. But suddenly I’m riding around in a jock’s pick-up truck? Suddenly I’m invited to go on walks with beautiful girls? So, it’s understandable that when my little brother stopped playing piano and began to dress like a pirate I didn’t pay much attention. That I didn’t want to deal with my mom coming apart.

American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang

All Jin Wang wants is to fit in. When his family moves to a new neighborhood, he suddenly finds that he's the only Chinese American student at his school. Jocks and bullies pick on him constantly, and he has hardly any friends. Then, to make matters worse, he falls in love with an all-American girl...

Born to rule over all the monkeys in the world, the story of the Monkey King is one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables. Adored by his subjects, master of the arts of kung-fu, he is the most powerful monkey on earth. But the Monkey King doesn't want to be a monkey. He wants to be hailed as a god...

Chin-Kee is the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, and he's ruining his cousin Danny's life. Danny's a popular kid at school, but every year Chin-Kee comes to visit, and every year Danny has to transfer to a new school to escape the shame. This year, though, things quickly go from bad to worse...

These three apparently unrelated tales come together with an unexpected twist, in a modern fable that is hilarious, poignant and action-packed. American Born Chinese is an amazing rise, all the way up to the astonishing climax--and confirms what a growing number of readers already know: Gene Yang is a major talent.

Cracked Up To Be, by Courtney Summers

When "Perfect" Parker Fadley starts drinking at school and failing her classes, all of St. Peter's High goes on alert. How has the cheerleading captain, girlfriend of the most popular guy in school, consummate teacher's pet, and future valedictorian fallen so far from grace?

Parker doesn't want to talk about it. She'd just like to be left alone, to disappear, to be ignored. But her parents have placed her on suicide watch and her conselors are demanding the truth. Worse, there's a nice guy falling in love with her and he's making her feel things again when she'd really rather not be feeling anything at all.

Nobody would have guessed she'd turn out like this. But nobody knows the truth.

Something horrible has happened, and it just might be her fault.

Bleed Like Me, by Christa Desir

From the author of Fault Line comes an edgy and heartbreaking novel about two self-destructive teens in a Sid and Nancy-like romance full of passion, chaos, and dyed hair.

Seventeen-year-old Amelia Gannon (just "Gannon" to her friends) is invisible to almost everyone in her life. To her parents, to her teachers-even her best friend, who is more interested in bumming cigarettes than bonding. Some days the only way Gannon knows she is real is by carving bloody lines into the flesh of her stomach.

Then she meets Michael Brooks, and for the first time, she feels like she is being seen to the core of her being. Obnoxious, controlling, damaged, and addictive, he inserts himself into her life until all her scars are exposed. Each moment together is a passionate, painful relief.

But as the relationship deepens, Gannon starts to feel as if she's standing at the foot of a dam about to burst. She's given up everything and everyone in her life for him, but somehow nothing is enough for Brooks-until he poses the ultimate test.

Bleed Like Me is a piercing, intimate portrayal of the danger of a love so obsessive it becomes its own biggest threat.

All the Rage, by Courtney Summers

The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous.But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear. 

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive?

That's it!

Every single one of these books is a four or five star read. I don't really review books, but I think I rated all of them on Goodreads or whatever. What was your favorite read last year?