Category Archives: YA Books
When asked to explain the plot of Even in Paradise, my first young adult novel, I start by saying, “Well it’s a realistic, contemporary story inspired by Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.”
I foolishly try to shed light on my plot by describing the plot of Brideshead. “It’s a novel set in post-World War I England. The protagonist’s an artist named Charles Ryder, and his friendship with a fellow Oxford University student leads to Charles’s life becoming inextricably intertwined with the majestic and tragic Marchmain family.”
The quizzical expressions deepen, prompting me to wax poetic about Waugh’s classic.
Fifteen or so minutes later, my audience is usually still confused—if not a little bored and thinking about lunch.
At this point, I sigh and give the one-sentence pitch I should have delivered at the beginning—an explanation that is just as true as my convoluted original. “Even in Paradise is about a teen girl who falls in love with a Kennedy-esque family with a tragic secret.”
I could just as easily say, “It’s a novel about different kinds of love.” Or “It’s about friendship and family.” Or “My story looks at class, sexuality, and the destructive nature of secrets.”
Though, Even in Paradise began as a modern retelling of Brideshead, it is now very different from Waugh’s novel. As I wrote deeper and deeper into my story, I found that I couldn’t keep within the confines of another’s—even if that story was written by a maestro. By moving Brideshead from the front of my imagination to the back, I made room for other sources of unexpected—but welcomed—inspiration, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and my own memories.
Even in Paradise turned out to be as much a deliberate homage to books and writers I adore as it is a collage of untraceable ideas. It took time and many drafts to realize that I could not have written my first novel any other way.
10 awesome books that imaginatively interpret, celebrate, and/or satirize classic stories:
- Going Bovine by Libba Bray (Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes)
- Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (Lord of the Flies by William Golding)
- March by Geraldine Brooks (Little Women by Louisa May Alcott)
- The Hours by Michael Cunningham (Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf)
- The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling)
- Ash by Malinda Lo (Cinderella by the Brothers Grimm)
- Far Far Away by Tom McNeal (Grimm’s Fairy Tales)
- “His Dark Material” trilogy by Philip Pullman (Paradise Lost by John Milton)
- Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu (The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen)
- The Real Boy by Anne Ursu (The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi)
Chelsey Philpot grew up on a farm in New Hampshire and now works as a book reviews editor at School Library Journal. She’s written for the New York Times, Boston Globe, Slate, and numerous other publications. Like her main character, Charlie, Chelsey attended boarding school in New England, and then earned a degree in English from Vassar College and a master’s in Journalism from Boston University. Visit her online at www.chelseyphilpot.com and on Twitter @ChelseyPhilpot.
Working in children’s books, there are few days that can compare to the Monday morning of the ALA Midwinter conference, when the ALA Youth Media Awards are announced. Cheers and gasps follow the announcement of every award named, and hugs and happiness end the conference on the highest of notes. What a great day for authors, illustrators, librarians, teachers, publishing professionals, and book lovers all over the world! We are so honored that awards committees named the following HarperCollins Children’s Books titles amongst the best and the brightest this year:
Coretta Scott King Author Award to Rita Williams-Garcia, for P.S. BE ELEVEN
Newbery Honor to Kevin Henkes, for THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER.
Schneider Family Book Award for Middle Grade to Merrie Haskell, for HANDBOOK FOR DRAGON SLAYERS
Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor to Kevin Henkes for PENNY AND HER MARBLE
Coretta Scott King Author Honor to Walter Dean Myers, for DARIUS & TWIG
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor to Kadir Nelson, for NELSON MANDELA
Pura Belpre Illustrator Honor to Rafael Lopez for TITO PUENTE, MAMBO KING (written by Monica Brown)
We’re grateful to publish these books, written and illustrated by the most creative, dedicated folks we know, and put them into your hands, the teachers and librarians who give them to children and promote a life-long love of learning. What a fine day to do what we do!
We’re thrilled to introduce our New Voices picks for Winter 2014! We absolutely loved these four debut novels, and we think you will, too. Be sure to click on the links below to read the first chapter of each title, and if you’re hungry for more, comment and we’ll send you a galley (while supplies last).
And now, without further ado . . .
SALVAGE, by Alexandra Duncan, is a sweeping, epic, literary science fiction story with a feminist twist. Teenaged Ava has lived aboard the male-dominated, conservative deep space merchant ship Parastrata her whole life. When a passionate mistake causes Ava’s people to turn against her, she faces banishment and death. Taking her fate into her own hands, she flees to the Gyre, a floating continent of garbage and scrap in the Pacific Ocean. Her struggle to survive outside the insular world of her childhood is harrowing, full of surprises, and constantly thrilling. You’ll be rooting for Ava all the way! Read the first chapter here!
FAKING NORMAL, by Courtney C. Stevens, is a powerful, moving story about a teen girl struggling to forget a traumatic experience from her recent past. Alexi Littrell hasn’t told anyone what happened to her over the summer by her backyard pool. Instead, she hides in her closet, counts the slats in the air vent, and compulsively scratches the back of her neck, trying to make the outside hurt more than the inside does. When Bodee Lennox—”the Kool-Aid Kid”—moves in with the Littrells after a family tragedy, Alexi discovers an unlikely friend in this quiet, awkward boy who has secrets of his own. As their friendship grows, Alexi gives him the strength to deal with his past, and Bodee helps her summon the courage to find her voice and speak up. Read the first chapter here!
CRUEL BEAUTY, by Rosamund Hodge, is a dazzling twist on the story of Beauty and the Beast. Betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom, Nyx has always known her fate was to marry him, kill him, and free her people from his tyranny. But on her seventeenth birthday, when she moves into his castle high on the kingdom’s mountaintop, nothing is as she expected—particularly her charming and beguiling new husband. Nyx knows she must save her homeland at all costs, yet she can’t resist the pull of her sworn enemy—who’s gotten in her way by stealing her heart. Read the first chapter here!
SCHOOL OF CHARM, by Lisa Ann Scott, is an enchanting story full of spirit and hope, with a hint of magic. Eleven-year-old Chip has always been her daddy’s girl, so when he dies she pins her hopes on winning a beauty pageant to show her family of southern belles that she still belongs. The problem is, she’d rather be covered in mud than makeup! Can a rough-and-tumble girl ever become a beauty queen? SCHOOL OF CHARM tells the tale of one girl’s struggle with a universal question: How do you stay true to yourself and find a way to belong at the same time? Read the first chapter here!
Stay tuned for “Opening the Book” Q&A’s with the authors and insightful words from the editors of these fantastic New Voices!
We’re packing up and heading up to Boston tomorrow for the Annual Conference of the National Council of Teachers of English. We’ll be in HarperCollins Children’s Books Booth #1008 every day, handing out materials aligned to the Common Core State Standards (like posters and teaching guides) and galleys galleys galleys!
Come say hello to the amazing authors who will be signing copies of their books:
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 22nd:
12:00–1:00pm, Jarrett Krosoczka
1:00–2:00pm, Anne Ursu
2:00–3:00pm, Hilary T. Smith
3:00–4:00pm, Rita Williams-Garcia
4:00–5:00pm, Kevin Emerson
*5:00–6:00pm, 50 Years Later C.S. Lewis Legacy Celebration! Come by for hot chocolate, cookies, a free copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and a free CCSS-aligned Narnia series Teaching Guide!*
Hope to see you there!
There’s nothing like falling into the spell of a new voice, a striking view of reality, and into the life of a character you know you’ll never forget. Falling in love with a book is sometimes a thing that happens gradually over the course of a story, but sometimes the first words on a page signal that the feelings are going to come tumbling out of a book and straight into your heart. The very first words of Not a Drop to Drink have that spark for me: “Lynn was nine the first time she killed to defend the pond…”
The books I’ve always loved most are those that show me something that I’ve never even imagined and make it real, make me feel. And I love wild books – ones where characters, especially strong girls, have to work to squeeze a good life from a harsh world. I started young with those books, as in Laura Ingalls in the Little House books and Karana in Island of the Blue Dolphins. I love books that challenge me, along with the characters, to rise above difficulty, limitations, and to become more than we knew we could be. And Lynn, the heroine of Not a Drop, is such a strong character. Not a doubt there. She’s strong in a way that is more than physical or emotional. She’s real. She’s a product of her circumstances, stubborn and rough, but she discovers her heart. And her story pushes every one of my “appeal” buttons: that strong and distinctive heroine, a gripping survival story, beautiful, sometimes poetic writing, a vivid setting in a fully-realized world, and plot twists like WOAH. Oh, and it has some good kissing.
One of the most interesting discussions I’ve had with Mindy and with my colleagues here at HarperCollins is about how to categorize this book – is it dystopian? Post-apocalyptic? But I’m kind of proud to say that it really defies genre. While Not a Drop has plenty to offer fans of hugely popular dystopian fiction, what I appreciate is that it’s more than that. It’s different and special because it’s not about challenging a world gone wrong, but it’s about challenging people to be stronger in their own lives and hearts. And when the trends have come and gone, I think Mindy’s book – Lynn’s story – will persist in grabbing readers’ hearts and imagination, the same way that the frontier or desert island books many of us loved as children and teenagers are still perennial favorites.
I’m so proud to have helped bring Mindy McGinnis and Not a Drop to Drink to an audience. Almost two years after I first read a draft, this book still makes my heart pound, my spine tingle, and my fingers itch to turn pages, and I hope all readers will feel the same when they get their hands on it.
Sarah Shumway is an editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books.
Imagine a world where water is the hottest commodity. Author Mindy McGinnis has done it in a thrilling, terrifying way in her debut novel, Not a Drop to Drink.
Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.
Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn’t leave at all.
Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.
But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….
Of course, after reading this fantastic dystopian novel, we jumped at the chance of having Mindy come by and open the book with us!
Which was your favorite book from childhood, and what are you reading right now?
Choosing is so hard! I’ll say A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Right now I’m reading Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Tucholke.
What is your secret talent?
Um… I can flip a stack of quarters off my elbow and catch them in my palm. Also I have very fat thumb pads.
Fill in the blank: _______ always make me laugh.
My current obsessions are…
SHERLOCK, local history and the roots of criminal profiling.
Any gem of advice for aspiring writers?
Do your homework. Half the battle is learning the industry.
Finish this sentence: I hope a person who reads my book…
Didn’t steal it from the library.
How did you come to write this book?
I watched a documentary called Blue Gold, which is about a projected shortage of potable water on our planet due to overpopulation. It was a horrible thought – we all need water to survive, and it’s something we can’t make. I went to bed very grateful for the small pond in my backyard, and that night I dreamt I was teaching a young girl how to operate a rifle so that she could help me protect the pond. I woke up and thought, “Hey… I wrote a book in my head just now.”
I asked myself what this child would grow into, and my main character, Lynn, was the answer. I don’t plot at all, I simply write. With Drink I was very fortunate in that the book really wrote itself. It wanted to be told. Lynn’s transformation from isolationist to human being had to be slow and believable, but not at the expense of pacing. I knew I needed supporting characters that could make this an interesting read without lots of explosions and fight scenes. Stebbs walked in and saved me there!
Thanks, Mindy! You can find Not a Drop to Drink in stores now!
We love everything about books in series… except for waiting for the next one to hit the shelves! Torture! Thankfully, for those who have been waiting (im)patiently, we have your reward– so many great next-in-series Harper books are publishing oh so soon…
ONCE WE WERE, by Kat Zhang
In this riveting sequel to WHAT’S LEFT OF ME, Addie and Eva struggle to share their body as they each fall in love with a different person, but it is their rebellion against the government that may tear them apart forever. There was so much buzz for WHAT’S LEFT OF ME, we know fans have been dying to read more!
THE FALL OF FIVE, by Pittacus Lore
This is the fourth installment in the thrilling, action-packed Lorien Legacies series that launched with the #1 New York Times bestsellers I AM NUMBER FOUR (and a movie starring hunk Alex Pettyfer!). Reunited with Sarah and now joined by Number Eight, Number Four and the remaining Garde are desperate to find Number Five and Sam before it’s too late.
DON’T LOOK NOW, by Michelle Gagnon
The second book in the thrilling DON’T TURN AROUND trilogy, which Kirkus called (in a *starred* review, no less!) “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for teens.” DON’T LOOK NOW finds Noa still on the run, with her and Peter’s alliance threatened and the stakes higher than ever. And fans, did you read the e-only NO ESCAPE?
We have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to awesome continuing series: heck back later this week for round two!
We’re so excited about Robyn Schneider’s debut novel THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING, coming out at the end of August, and we couldn’t be happier that reviewers feel the same way! Check out what the journals are saying:
“This thought-provoking novel about smart kids doing interesting things will resonate with the John Green contingent, as it is tinged with sadness, high jinks, wry humor, and philosophical pondering in equal measures.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Smart writing and a compelling narrator raise this book above ordinary depictions of high school drama. . . . Efficient use of language, evocative descriptions and subtle turns of phrase make reading and rereading this novel a delight.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Teens won’t want to put this one down.”—School Library Journal
And check out the book itself, of course! We have a feeling your teens will thank you for it.
September Girls, by Bennett Madison, is creating quite a sensation in certain circles. Oh, THAT book, some of you will nod knowingly. The book that is causing so much controversy on the blogosphere, which is addressed wonderfully in this interview with Bennett.
Hopefully others will also nod knowingly but say yes, THAT book, that book that has received five starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, BCCB, and School Library Journal and glowing praise from authors E. Lockhart, Jenny Han, Sara Zarr, and Nova Ren Suma.
I happen to agree with Maureen Johnson, who praised Bennett as “one of the best YA writers around” for his last book The Blonde of the Joke. I’m biased, of course—I’m his editor. I’m also a woman, and I grew up with three brothers—two details about myself that speak to my belief that September Girls is actually quite feminist, and that it pretty accurately portrays teenage boys.
September Girls took Bennett longer to write than he expected. He said in this interview with The Rejectionist that his editor was skeptical of the idea. To be fair, I wasn’t skeptical of his ability to write an amazing book (even though I didn’t really know what it was about!). I had faith in him.
What I MIGHT have been skeptical of were the delivery dates he kept promising me, especially since he kept sending me drafts with notes like this along the way:
infinite caveats apply. there’s a lot of stuff i already know i want to work on, change, recast, etc etc etc. but i wanted to get you a draft, and this is a draft. i’m pretty sure it’s free of TK’s and sentences that trail off without an ending but i could be wrong about that.
THE POINT IS, there’s still a lot of work to do on this and I hope it’s complete enough at this stage that you’re able to see where it’s going and give me some thoughts on what is most important to handle. There will be another draft, so read it with that in mind I guess. Basically I can barely bring myself to send it but I could keep working on it forever so here goes nothing.
And my favorite:
I looked over your letter and I’m in total agreement with 90% of it.
I’m so proud of September Girls––it’s been called mesmerizing and lovely and haunting and surprising and intoxicating, and even though some readers clearly haven’t gotten it, I’m thrilled that the book is creating conversation, and inciting readers like Emily May to speak up and talk about it in such an eloquent, thoughtful manner. I hope you have a chance to read it, and that it works its magic on you.
Tara Weikum is the editor of September Girls by Bennett Madison.
Take a walk down memory lane with us via this photo-dump of our very favorite ALA images…
Our booth was looking pretty snazzy. This is before 26,000 people descended on the exhibit hall, so we still all had all of our fingers and toes…
Were you lucky enough to attend this year’s ALSC Preconference, “A Wild Ride: 75 Years of the Caldecott Medal” at the Art Institute of Chicago? If so, we’re horribly jealous.
It takes a village to run a Veronica Roth signing– and we are happy to be that village! It’s amazing to see how involved fans feel in Veronica’s world, and how highly they (and we) are anticipating the movie (coming out in 2014!) and ALLEGIANT (on sale 10.22.13).
A moment to pinch yourself and make sure you’re not dreaming: THREE Newbery medalists in our booth at the same time. Katherine Patterson, Katherine Applegate, and Patricia McLachlan. We might have gone a little paparazzi on these lovely ladies… but who can blame us?!
During our Newbery committee dinner celebrating THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, a beautiful rainbow appeared in the sky over the city.
Our very own (we can claim her as all ours since she wrote GIANT DANCE PARTY for Greenwillow Books) Betsy Bird, wearing our favorite ensemble of the Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet, which represented all 5 of this year’s Caldecott books.
This crew (Kevin Henkes, Laura Dronzek, Judy Zuckerman, and Virginia Duncan) all dressed up in honor of Kevin’s 2005 Caldecott-winning KITTEN’S FIRST FULL MOON.
A HUGE thank you to all who helped make this ALA one for the ages!