Tessa’s Story

The co-authors of Tessa Masterson Will Go to Prom say their book is about a platonic love story between best friends — and the challenges that arise when one of them comes out.

By Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin


Tessa Masterson Will Go to Prom is loosely based on Constance McMillen’s case in Mississippi in which her school cancelled the prom rather than have Constance and her female date show up together.

Brendan and I had written together before (our novel The Half-Life of Planets is about a boy with Asperger’s and girl with a tragic past) and the best part of co-writing was not being alone. The job of writing is creative, fun, and I cannot imagine anything more artistically fulfilling, but it’s also lonely-making—being around imagined characters all day who have no community.

This is how most of my friends before college felt. Alone. Marginalized. Nicole’s a lesbian. Eden was bi and now is married to a woman. Jess’s partner is more gender fluid. Andre’s single and searching for the right man.  Then we found our lunch table (or the Italian table where I met Nicole).  ”Are all your friends gay?” my mother asked when she visited. She wasn’t judging, just wondering. “Um…no. Just most.” Why is that? I can’t tell you because I don’t know. A sense of otherness, perhaps, a sense of partial belonging, of questioning.

Tessa Masterson is part coming-out-in-a-small-midwestern-town story and part love story. But the love isn’t between Tessa and her girlfriend, Josie.  It’s about Luke and Tessa — best friends for years — actually falling into platonic love when she finally is honest with him.  And with herself.

I take pride in being a good friend. I actively talk to my four children about being true to themselves, being a strong friend, dealing with adversity not only for themselves, but for all of their friends, gay or otherwise.  Maybe my daughter’s a lesbian. Maybe she’s not. Maybe my son will marry a man. Maybe he won’t.  I hope they have diverse cast of real people in their lives.

The YA I’m writing now has three main characters: a biracial girl with two dads,  an Orthodox Jewish boy, and the person who changes everything for them (who happens to be transgender).  Again, that’s just the world I live in, and certainly the world that is most interesting for me to explore in writing.


“Lucas is such a jerk.”  This is a pretty common reaction to the character whose chapters I wrote for Tessa Masterson Will Go to Prom.  It makes me happy to read this because it means I’ve done my job well.

I think it’s really important to write people that act like real people, and when Lucas’s best friend Tessa reveals that she’s not romantically attracted to him, or indeed, any boy, he reacts that way a lot of people do: badly. He thinks more about how the situation impacts him than about how it impacts his friend, he shoots off his mouth, and by the time he realizes what a jerk he’s been, he’s already caused  pretty significant damage.

In short, he fails his friend when she needs him most, which is pretty much the definition of bad friend. Which is something most of us have been at one point or another in our lives.  I think unlearning our prejudices and learning to see other people as full human beings deserving of respect and empathy no matter how they differ from us is, for most of us, a rocky road.  We stumble sometimes.  We do and say things that, looking back, we feel awful about. And yet, hopefully, we grow toward being something a little better than we were before.

That’s why I wanted Lucas to be a jerk for a while.  It’s awesome when people act exactly the right way and do and say the right things, but most of us are just more fallible than that.  Most of us, like Lucas, are going to screw up.  And then we have to get past not only our own prejudices, but also the knowledge that we’ve failed to be the kind of people we want to be.

But that’s being human.  We’re going to fail to be as accepting and empathetic as we want to be; fortunately, though, the more we practice, the better we get.

Emily Franklin is the author of more than one dozen young adult novels including the 7-book series The Principles of Love, The Half-Life of Planets (nominated for YALSA’s Best Book of the Year), The Other Half of Me (about donor insemination, an ALA Popular Paperback Pick), and Tessa Masterson Will Go to Prom (named to the 2013 Rainbow List). Her next novel, Last Night at the Circle Cinema, will be published in 2015.  Be in touch at http://www.emilyfranklin.com or find her on Facebook.

Brendan Halpin is the author of fourteen published novels, including (with Emily Franklin) Tessa Masterson Will Go to Prom and (with Trish Cook) A Really Awesome Mess.  He also teaches English and Writing. He lives in Boston with his wife Suzanne, their three children, and a dog.

Book Challenges Suppress Diversity

Analysis of the most banned/challenged books in the U.S. shows that diverse books are disproportionately targeted for book challenges and censorship.

By Malinda Lo

Over the summer, a Delaware school board removed The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth from a high school’s summer reading list after parents complained about the novel’s explicit language. Sadly, this kind of censorship isn’t unusual. Novels are removed from reading lists or are challenged in classrooms and libraries all the time. From 2000–2009, 5,009 book challenges were reported to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (source).

What made me take notice in this case was the fact that Cameron Post is a critically acclaimed novel about a lesbian teen coming of age, but the reason cited for the book’s removal was explicit language — even though several other books on the summer reading list also included explicit language. It was no great leap to wonder if “language” was used as a cover for homophobia.

After the school board was faced with a significant amount of pushback in the media for its removal of Cameron Post, it reacted by reconsidering their decision and deciding to remove the entire summer reading list, not only Cameron Post. Although the School Board continued to insist repeatedly that Cameron Post was removed solely for its language, the parent’s initial letter challenging the book, sent June 4, did in fact focus on the lesbian story line.

In an article at The Atlantic earlier this month, excerpts of the June 4 letter were posted in which the parent was “shocked and appalled” by the reading list, and declared that Cameron Post resembled “a roadmap or guide book on how to become a sexually active lesbian teen.”

The unfortunate situation with Cameron Post and the entire banned summer reading list made me wonder how often the cited reasons for book challenges (which are enumerated by the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom here) are smokescreens for the real reasons — reasons that might not always be socially acceptable to state publicly.

If a book like Beloved by Toni Morrison is challenged because it is “sexually explicit” and has a “religious viewpoint” and contains “violence” (these are the stated reasons for its challenges in 2012), is it simply accidental that Beloved is also a novel about an African American woman, written by an African American woman?

I wondered if there was a correlation between books with diverse content — that is, books by and about people of color, LGBT people, and/or disabled people — and book challenges, so I decided to take a look at the data available from the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom and see what emerged.

The Data

The Office of Intellectual Freedom compiles data on book challenges. According to the OIF:

“A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. The number of challenges reflects only incidents reported. We estimate that for every reported challenge, four or five remain unreported. Therefore, we do not claim comprehensiveness in recording challenges.” (source)

For my analysis I used the OIF’s list of the Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000–2009 and the Top Ten Challenged Books lists for 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.

While these books are not all young adult books, the books are most often challenged by parents and/or are challenged in schools (see these statistics). Additionally, many of these books are classics that are often taught in middle and high school English classes, so the issue of banned/challenged books is highly relevant to young adults and the YA community.

Working from these lists, I researched the authors’ race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, and disability status. I also researched the content of each banned/challenged book to determine if the book included any of the following types of content:

  • Non-White main and/or secondary characters
  • LGBT main and/or secondary characters
  • Disabled main and/or secondary characters
  • Issues about race or racism
  • LGBT issues
  • Issues about religion, which encompass in this situation the Holocaust and terrorism
  • Issues about disability and/or mental illness
  • Non-Western settings, in which the West is North America and Europe

I decided to include secondary non-white, LGBT and disabled characters if those secondary characters seemed particularly significant to the story. Additionally, some of these books were story, essay, or poetry anthologies, and some of those stories, essays, and poems were by or about non-white, LGBT and/or disabled characters. Though the entire anthologies were not about them, it seemed important to include them.

“LGBT issues” includes both books that focus on the LGBT experience, and books that are broadly about sexuality and include specific chapters about homosexuality (e.g., It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health by Robie Harris). “LGBT issues” also includes a book about two male penguins who hatch an egg together (And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson), who are not gay because they’re penguins and gay is a sexual and cultural identity for humans, but have been interpreted as such by those who wish to ban the book.

Authors and Banned/Challenged Books

From 2000–2009, 84 authors wrote the Top 100 most frequently banned/challenged books. Among those 84 authors, 81% were white and 19% were non-white. Those authors include Walter Dean Myers (Fallen Angels), Rudolfo Anaya (Bless Me Ultima), and Toni Morrison (challenged for Beloved, Song of Solomon, and The Bluest Eye).


To understand what these figures means in this context, it’s important to get a sense of the percentage of non-white authors being published in general. I couldn’t find any comprehensive study of this issue, but there are two data points worth sharing.

In 2012 at The Rumpus, Roxane Gay counted the number of authors of color reviewed by the New York Times in 2011. She concluded:

“Nearly 90% of the books reviewed by The New York Times are written by white writers. That is not even remotely reflective of the racial makeup of this country, where 72% of the population, according to the 2010 census, is white.”

Secondly, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center has been compiling data on the children’s books it receives since the mid–1980s. In 2013, multicultural children’s book publisher Lee & Low examined the CCBC data and concluded that over the past 18 years, the percentage of children’s books by and/or about people of color has remained virtually constant at 10%. In comparison, 37% of the U.S. population consists of people of color — a huge gap.

The New York Times and CCBC data are not directly comparable to the percentage of authors of color on the banned/challenged books list. However, I do think it’s interesting to see that almost twice as many authors of color appear on the banned/challenged books list as were reviewed in the New York Times.

The data from 2010–2013 is similar.


For this chart, I compiled the data from the Top Ten lists from 2010–2013, and eliminated repeated titles (e.g., The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie appeared on the Top Ten lists of each of the last four years). That resulted in a total of 30 authors (some of them had more than one title in the Top Ten lists), of which 79% were white and 21% were non-white. The non-white authors included Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner), Kim Dong Hwa (The Color of Earth) and again Toni Morrison (for both Beloved and The Bluest Eye).

What Kind of Diversity, Exactly?

Among the Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books from 2000–2009, 52 books included some kind of diversity — that’s 52%: the majority of banned/challenged books included diverse content. Over half of the Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books from 2000–2009 addressed issues about race, sexuality and/or disability; or were about non-white, LGBTQ and/or disabled characters.


Looking more closely at the diverse books on the list, some included more than one kind of diversity. For example, Chris Crutcher’s Whale Talk included issues of disability and race, as well as a biracial main character. I counted each of those kinds of diversity separately because they speak to different experiences. That added up to 61 instances of diverse content, in which 40% were about issues (this means that the main character could be white, but the book is nonetheless about race, such as To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee), and 32% were about a non-white main character. The types of diversity content break down as follows:


For 2010 to 2013, the data is similar. Once again I compiled the Top Ten lists for 2010 to 2013, eliminated repeated titles, and found that there were 29 individual titles in all on those four Top Ten lists. Among the 29 titles, 15 included diverse content, and 14 did not. In other words, once again 52% of the banned/challenged books included diverse content of some kind.


The diversity content of those 15 books broke down into 17 different types, which are seen in the following chart:


Diversity Under Attack

Although the data I am working with is a selected amount — these are Top 100 and Top 10 lists, not the raw list of 5,000+ challenges that the OIF received over the last decade — I think it’s still quite revealing. It’s clear to me that books that fall outside the white, straight, abled mainstream are challenged more often than books that do not destabilize the status quo.

This isn’t surprising, but the extent to which diverse books are represented on these lists — as a majority — is quite disheartening. Diversity is slim throughout all genres of books and across all age groups — except when it comes to book challenges.

The message this sends is loud and clear: diversity is actually under attack. Minority perspectives are being silenced every year.

I think it’s important to note that the reasons for a book’s challenge may be beside the point when the result is a broad silencing of these minority perspectives. Though some might protest a book’s explicit language, the real result is closing off dialogue and preventing readers from experiencing stories and lives outside the mainstream.

Recent academic studies have shown that reading fiction leads to increased empathy, which suggests to me that it’s more important than ever to make sure books with diverse perspectives are widely available, not censored. I hope we can remember this during Banned Books Week, which takes place Sept. 21–27 this year, and every week.

The data I compiled for this analysis is available at Google Docs. Here is my data for Diversity in Banned/Challenged Books, 2000–09, and Diversity in Banned/Challenged Books, 2010–13. While I have double and triple-checked my research, I am the only one doing this research. If you discover errors, please email me at diversityinya@gmail.com. Thanks!

It’s a Technicolor World

By Gretchen McNeil

Sometimes I try to explain to people that where I grew up, I wasn’t necessarily the majority.

They tend to look at me funny, taking in my red hair, fair skin, and blue eyes.  I can see the skepticism, hear the derision in their voices when they ask the inevitable question: where did you grow up?

“A suburb of San Francisco.”

“But that’s in the U.S.”

Yes, yes it is.

Now look, I’m not going to pretend that I was the only white, Catholic kid in my Bay Area home town.  There were plenty of us.  But let me give you the ethnic breakdown of my tight group of friends senior year of high school:

  • 1 (one) white Catholic girl (that’s me!)
  • 3 (three) Chinese girls
  • 1 (one) Korean girl
  • 1 (one) half-Mexican, half-Scottish girl
  • 1 (one) half-Irish, half-Filipina girl
  • 1 (one) Pacific Islander girl
  • 1 (one) Vietnamese boy
  • 1 (one) white Jewish boy
  • 1 (one) white-ish boy (he always referred to himself as “white-ish” because he looks Caucasian but he’s one quarter Filipino and one sixteenth Native American, among a variety of others)

This is pretty typical of the area where I grew up, and I remember not realizing until much later – until I started auditioning for graduate schools across the country – that this kind of diversity was uncommon in other parts of the United States.  To me, it was status quo.  I never felt “different.”  I never felt “other.”  And I never felt “less than.”

Sadly, that’s not everyone’s experience.  Not everyone who is in the minority due to their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or even economic status feels included, and I try to be incredibly mindful of that in my writing.  I want to show a world that reflects my reality, and I can’t imagine writing a novel that didn’t reflect the diversity not only of my childhood, but of my daily existence as an adult.

In Possess I wrote a half-Chinese, half-Irish main character with a Hispanic gay best friend.  In Ten I wrote a multi-racial cast and an African American love interest.  Again in 3:59 I wrote a multi-racial cast.  And now in Get Even, I’ve written four main characters: two white girls, one Chinese girl, and one Hispanic girl.

Is it important to the plot that these characters are POC?  No.  My characters just are who they are.  Kitty Wei and Margot Mejia in Get Even aren’t characters of color for a reason.  They just are.  Because where I grew up, I didn’t see my friends in the same way I itemized it above.  They weren’t my Asian friend, or my half-Mexican friend.  They were just my friends.

Someday I hope that’s how we all see each other — where you notice the person before you notice the color of their skin.  We’re getting there in publishing, slowly, but it’s a long road to hoe.

Gretchen McNeil is the author of YA horror novels POSSESS, TEN, and 3:59, as well as the new mystery/suspense series Don’t Get Mad, beginning in 2014 with GET EVEN and continuing in 2015 with GET DIRTY, all with Balzer + Bray for HarperCollins. Gretchen also contributed an essay to the Dear Teen Me anthology from Zest Books.

Gretchen is a former coloratura soprano, the voice of Mary on G4’s Code Monkeys and she sings with the LA-based circus troupe Cirque Berzerk. Gretchen blogs with The Enchanted Inkpot and was a founding member of the vlog group the YARebels. She is repped by Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown, Ltd.

Get Even is now available.

Creation and Recreation

In Australian YA author Jack Heath’s latest thriller, lesbian teen Chloe wakes up to discover that she’s not human — she’s a replica.

By Jack Heath

heath-replicaI am someone who learns by replication.

At about age 14, I taught myself to play the piano by listening to Charlie No. 3 by The Whitlams on a loop. Once I knew exactly how it was supposed to sound, I started prodding the keys one by one until I heard the note which matched the noise in my head. (If this sounds dull, note that Facebook didn’t exist at the time.) When I found it, I started looking for the rest of the chord. After that, I could move on to the next bar.

Once I had a few tunes down pat, I knew how they worked. I was able to mix and match — this melody with that chord, this chord with that bass line. Pretty soon I was composing songs of my own, but I should confess that they were not good. One particularly sanctimonious number rhymed Buy and sell the latest drug with Let her have the grave she’s dug.

I learned to write fiction in the same way. My first few stories were duplications of Escape From Jupiter episodes. Later I started borrowing characters and settings and plots from various sources to create something more original. Or perhaps “original” is the wrong word; my first published book was little more than the protagonist from Final Fantasy VIII dropped into the world of Alien and forced to follow the plot of Metal Gear Solid. Yet at the time it was often described as just a rip-off of Maximum Ride.

Perhaps this is how everyone learns. Tara Moss’ childhood writings were mostly Stephen King rip-offs. A great number of popular novels — The Dark Griffin, 50 Shades Of Grey — started out as fan fiction. I assume this is not unique to writers. If one attends a sculpture class, the first assignment is probably to duplicate the Venus de Milo. (Or perhaps a shoebox, or a beach ball. Either way, the students would be copying something.)

Nor does it apply only to artistic endeavors. My brother-in-law is seeking to better understand robots by building one. The Raspberry Pi foundation provides low-cost processors so children can assemble their own computers and grow up with an appreciation of how they work. And when my wife and I were deciding whether or not to have a child, I had the selfish thought that perhaps the best way to understand human beings would be to create one.

If replication brings understanding, many human endeavors could be interpreted as attempts to understand ourselves. Computer scientists are obsessed with the race to write a program which can be mistaken for human in conversation, and as such pass what’s called the Turing test. As soon as Dolly the sheep was born, human cloning was all anyone wanted to discuss.

In my new book, Replica, a teenager builds a mechanical duplicate of herself out of parts ordered over the internet. When she is murdered, the duplicate is forced to assume her identity in order to avoid ending up in a police evidence locker.

The hard part, I thought, would be to convince the reader that someone would actually go down to the basement and try to make a copy of themselves. But I was wrong. The more I wrote, the more plausible it seemed. The drive to recreate oneself — not so much for immortality, but for understanding — is almost universal.

And this helped me realise why I fell in love with writing in the first place. With every character I create, I learn something about myself — both from the similarities and the differences.

It may seem absurdly meta that I replicated Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? by writing a novel called Replica in which a girl replicates herself, and that writing it taught me that writing was a process of self-replication. But it was much more fun than poking a piano key, listening, dismissing, and poking again.

jackheathJack Heath started writing his first novel in high school. It was published when he was 19. Since then, he has written several award-nominated books for teenagers, which are published all over the world. Jack is a regular guest on various Australian television programmes and his YouTube channel has had more than 30,000 views. He lives in Canberra with his wife.

Breaking Stereotypes About Young Hispanic Women

Susan Bradley’s YA mystery series is about Autumn Covarrubias, a green-eyed Nancy Drew who also happens to be Mexican.

By Susan Bradley

bradley-unraveledI sat across from the interviewer and stared at her in disbelief. She repeated her question, “Do you really consider yourself Hispanic?”

I was still very young and didn’t have the filters I have today. My reply was, “Um, both my parents were born in Mexico, 95% of my extended family lives in Mexico, I spoke Spanish before I spoke English, and I spent summers in Mexico with my grandparents. So hell yes, I consider myself Mexican.” I could tell she didn’t believe me.

So why I am telling this story? Sometimes people, like the interviewer above, have these preconceived ideas about what a Latina should look like. Beauties like Penelope Cruz, Selena Gomez, and Selma Hayek come to mind.

I don’t look like that. I do have the dark hair, but I have green eyes (a dominant gene in my Hispanic family) and fair skin. Not to mention, that my last name is Bradley — the surname of my Irish grandfather. He was my only grandparent who was not born in Mexico. He was a New Yorker that came to teach in Mexico and fell in love.

bradley-uncoveredEuropeans settled in Mexico just as they did in America. Those are some of my ancestors. In my young adult mysteries series, I purposely gave my main character, Autumn Covarrubias, green eyes. She is smart, feisty, and fiercely loyal to her family. It was paramount that I try to show different facets of the Hispanic community. She intends on putting her education and career first. Romance is second.

I didn’t purposely set out to write about a diverse character. I wanted to write about my experiences and show my community in a different light. There was not a Hispanic Nancy Drew-like character I could relate to, so I set out to write about a Mexican female sleuth — someone who would resonate with Latinas who love to read mysteries, like me. They deserve to see themselves on the page and know what is possible. Autumn is a gifted student and intends to be the first person in her family to go to college. Her parents support this dream 100% because they want what is best for their daughter and didn’t think that dream was possible for them.

In Unraveled, she solves her sister’s murder. In Uncovered, she helps the local police investigate a series of kidnappings that are part of an online survivor game. My goal in continuing to write about Autumn is to break some of the stereotypes surrounding young Hispanic women. I want to give them a heroine they can be proud to claim as their own.

susanbradleySusan Bradley grew up in South Texas, about ten miles from the U.S.-Mexican border. Her first young adult mystery, Unraveled, was published by Evernight Teen in 2013 and the sequel, Uncovered, is on sale now. Susan loves spending time with her daughter, estates sales, traveling, and discovering new books. She holds a MFA from Seton Hill University.

Not the Chosen One

By Kiersten White

white-illusions“We’re learning about Manifest Destiny!” my daughter declared, beaming. I asked her to explain it to me, and she talked about how it was the idea that our country should span from coast to coast. “Hmm. But the land in between wasn’t really empty, was it?” I asked. Her eyebrows drew together, and she shook her head. “No. It wasn’t.”


In fantasy, we often see the trope of The Chosen One. The one person who, simply by existing, is the most powerful/most special/most needed. The only thing they did to merit their Chosen One status was be born. They didn’t ask for it, they might not even want it, but by claiming it, they can save the world.

But what happens when you aren’t The Chosen One? What happens when, simply by existing, you’re the opposite of chosen? You’re the wrong color. You’re the wrong nationality. You’re the wrong class. You’re the wrong gender. In Illusions of Fate, I wanted to write a world of magic and privilege, a world of wealth and power—and a main character who, by virtue of her birth, could access none of that.

This isn’t your world, everyone around her had told her for her whole life. Why should she try to save it?

Jessamin, the main character, isn’t The Chosen One. But she chooses to help anyway.


In my daughter’s end of the year play, they dramatized the settlement of California. She played a member of an indigenous tribe, concerned about the influx of settlers. “They will hunt all our food!” was her one line. She said it with an angry flourish, raising her fist in the air.

Author Kiersten White

Author Kiersten White

“I added that gesture myself, Mom!” she told me afterward, proudly. Because of the stories we explored, because of the questions we asked, she identified with someone whose history was not her own.

There’s nothing simple about post-colonialism. There’s nothing simple about boundaries and borders and histories both recorded and silenced. We don’t get to choose what burdens and privileges we inherit simply by being born. But we do get to choose to see them, to recognize them, and to work toward a better future.

Stories matter. Choosing to reject your own Chosen One narrative—whether your life and history have been telling you you are the chosen one, but more importantly if they’ve been telling you you aren’t and never could be—matters.

Stories matter.

Kiersten White is the New York Times bestselling author of the Paranormalcy trilogy, The Chaos of Stars, and the psychological thriller Mind Games and its sequel, Perfect Lies. She lives with her family in San Diego, where she regularly avoids the beach. Visit her online at www.kierstenwhite.com.

Illusions of Fate will be released Sept. 9, 2014.

Diversity in YA’s 2014 Back to School Giveaway


It’s September, which means we’re back to business as usual here at DiYA and many of you are back to school! To celebrate the fall, we’re giving away these nine awesome new and upcoming diverse young adult books to three lucky winners.

giveaway-thrillersf giveaway-realistic

Here’s how this will work:

1. We’ve divided these nine books into three packs of three:

Prize Pack 1: Thriller/Science Fiction

Prize Pack 2: Realistic Fiction

Prize Pack 3: Nonfiction

2. We will pick three winners to receive one prize pack each. (You can tell us which prize pack you prefer in the entry form.)

3. Because of the cost of international shipping, we are only able to ship to U.S. mailing addresses. International folks may enter as long as they have a U.S. mailing address.

4. Teachers and librarians get an extra entry for free!

5. The deadline to enter is the end of the day, Sept. 19, 2014.

Enter here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you can’t see the entry form widget above, go here to enter.

Thank you to Arthur A. Levine Books; Cinco Puntos; Harlequin Teen; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; and Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers for generously donating copies of these books for this giveaway.

New Releases – August 2014

The Islands at the End of the World by Austin Aslan (Wendy Lamb Books)

“After 16-year-old, half-Hawaiian Leilani and her father travel from the Big Island to Oahu so she can take part in a trial for a new epilepsy drug, tsunamis sweep across the eastern shores of the Hawaiian islands; additional chaos descends as people realize that other disasters have struck all across the world. … Debut author Aslan shows off his promise as a writer, delivering a fresh, of-the-moment take on apocalyptic fiction.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

The Island of Excess Love by Francesca Lia Block (Henry Holt)

Book Description: In The Island of Excess Love, Pen has lost her parents. She’s lost her eye. But she has fought Kronen; she has won back her fragile friends and her beloved brother. Now Pen, Hex, Ash, Ez, and Venice are living in the pink house by the sea, getting by on hard work, companionship, and dreams. Until the day a foreboding ship appears in the harbor across from their home. As soon as the ship arrives, they all start having strange visions of destruction and violence. Trance-like, they head for the ship and their new battles begin.

This companion to Love in the Time of Global Warming follows Pen as she searches for love among the ruins, this time using Virgil’s epic Aeneid as her guide. A powerful and stunning book filled with Francesca Lia Block’s beautiful language and inspiring characters.

A Blind Spot for Boys by Justina Chen (Little, Brown)

“After a painful breakup, Shana Wilde has issued a ”Boy Moratorium“ when it comes to dating and relationships, despite her own flirtatious personality. In search of the perfect photograph to bolster her portfolio for college, Shana meets Quattro, and his wit and sweetness make her question her new mantra. Life throws another curveball Shana’s way when her father announces he is going blind. … A book that will appeal to readers who enjoy a side of adventure with their heartache.” — School Library Journal

The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco (Sourcebooks Fire)

“Chupeco makes a powerful debut with this unsettling ghost story, drawing from the same ancient Japanese legend that inspired The Ring and other horror pieces. Okiku is a vengeful spirit who wanders the world. … Told in a marvelously disjointed fashion from Okiku’s numbers-obsessed point of view, this story unfolds with creepy imagery and an intimate appreciation for Japanese horror, myth, and legend.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

Can’t Look Away by Donna Cooner (Point)

Book Description: Torrey Grey is famous. At least, on the internet. Thousands of people watch her popular videos on fashion and beauty. But when Torrey’s sister is killed in an accident – maybe because of Torrey and her videos – Torrey’s perfect world implodes.

Now, strangers online are bashing Torrey. And at her new school, she doesn’t know who to trust. Is queen bee Blair only being sweet because of Torrey’s internet infamy? What about Raylene, who is decidedly unpopular, but seems accepts Torrey for who she is? And then there’s Luis, with his brooding dark eyes, whose family runs the local funeral home. Torrey finds herself drawn to Luis, and his fascinating stories about El dio de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.

As the Day of the Dead draws near, Torrey will have to really look at her own feelings about death, and life, and everything in between. Can she learn to mourn her sister out of the public eye?

Servants of the Storm by Delilah S. Dawson (Simon Pulse)

“One year ago, Hurricane Josephine killed 16-year-old Dovey’s best friend Carly. But after spotting Carly at Savannah’s Paper Moon Coffee Shop, Dovey sets out on a quixotic quest to find her. … Along with Isaac and her loyal friend Baker, biracial Dovey must free Carly from an afterlife of servitude without becoming enslaved herself. This genuinely frightening horror novel is also a character-driven paean to friendship, as Dovey and Baker’s devotion to Carly inspires them to courage and sacrifice.” — Publishers Weekly

Blind by Rachel DeWoskin (Viking)

“With traces of John Green’s Looking for Alaska (2005), DeWoskin’s first teen novel explores death and darkness. Blinded in a fireworks accident, Emma Silver has finally learned to find “shorelines” with her white cane and identify her six wildly different siblings by their breathing. Her rehabilitation is meticulously described, from learning to decipher braille to containing her panic. … A vivid, sensory tour of the shifting landscapes of blindness and teen relationships.” — Kirkus, starred review

Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine (Margaret K. McElderry Books)

“In contrast to dystopian novels with world-shaking stakes, Fine (the Guards of the Shadowlands series) focuses on a detailed microcosm within an unjust society. She centers her tale of forbidden love and social awakening on a single industrial complex, where brutal bosses control workers by keeping them permanently in debt. … Fine creates a memorable atmosphere of desperation, deftly weaving together numerous subplots that intersect in a grisly and satisfying climax.” — Publishers Weekly

Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling by Lucy Frank (Schwartz & Wade)

“Using innovative page design, Frank crafts an unflinching look at illness. … Frank’s portrayal of chronic, mostly invisible sickness is spot-on. Illness isn’t metaphor, it isn’t a consequence, it isn’t a literary vehicle—it’s a precarious and uprooting fact of life, inconvenient and enraging, but not the end of the world.Riveting, humanizing and real.” — Kirkus, starred review

Bombay Blues by Tanuja Desai Hidier

“Long awaited, anticipated, likely to be debated: Dimple Lala is back. Hidier quietly revolutionized YA literature with Born Confused (2002), and this sequel indicates she’s intent on a repeat. Dimple, now in college and still with beat-dropping Karsh, heads to Bombay ostensibly for a wedding but really for so much more; still, perhaps, born confused, she is in search of home. Dense, lyrical, full of neologic portmanteaus and wordplay (“magnifishence”; “candlecadabra”): This is a prose-poem meditation on love, family and homecoming (or not) posing as a novel.” — Kirkus, starred review

Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios (Twelfth Planet Press)

Book Description: What do a disabled superhero, a time-traveling Chinese-American figure skater, and a transgendered animal shifter have in common? They’re all stars of Kaleidoscope stories!

Kaleidoscope collects fun, edgy, meditative, and hopeful YA science fiction and fantasy with diverse leads. These twenty original stories tell of scary futures, magical adventures, and the joys and heartbreaks of teenage life.

Six Feet Over It by Jennifer Longo (Random House Books for Young Readers)

“Instead of returning home at the end of a summer spent with their grandparents, Leigh and her older sister Kai receive two one-way bus tickets to Hangtown, CA. Their father has bought a graveyard and the family is moving. For the past three years, Leigh has been a stalwart support system for Kia while she battled cancer. … Leigh’s worst fears are confirmed when Dario, the 20-year-old Mexican immigrant who works at the cemetery (and Leigh’s crush), tells her that her birthday, November 1st, is the Day of the Dead in Mexico. … An impressive debut novel—simultaneously hilarious, clever, and poignant.” — School Library Journal

Taken by David Massey (Chicken House)

Book Description: The trip of a lifetime turns into a fight to the death when six extreme athletes are TAKEN hostage by pirates off the coast of Africa. By the author of TORN.

Six crew members are toughing it out, trying to come together as a team to sail around the world on a grueling challenge for charity. Four are teen military veterans disabled in combat: They’re used to being pushed to the limit. But nothing could have prepared them for being kidnapped by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Suddenly, the trip of a lifetime turns into a dark journey into the African jungle. Taken hostage by a notorious warlord and his band of child soldiers, how will Rio, Ash, Marcus, Jen, Charis, and Izzy survive?

Knockout Games by G. Neri (Carolrhoda Lab)

“New girl Erica falls in with the wrong crowd in an exploration of racial tension in St. Louis. … Neri’s main concern is the ”post-racial“ urban landscape, raising many talking points while letting readers come to their own conclusions.Harsh and relentless, a tough but worthy read.” — Kirkus, starred review

Positive: A Memoir by Paige Rawl with Ali Benjamin (HarperCollins)

“This realistic and honest biography of a young woman living with HIV will draw readers in, shedding light on this difficult topic. … The book beautifully conveys what it’s like to grow up with HIV, dispelling myths about the virus and imparting useful knowledge.” — School Library Journal

Frida and Diego by Catherine Reef (Clarion Books)

“The intertwined creative and personal lives of two trailblazing artists whose lifestyles were as avant-garde as their work. … Reef offers a balanced and cleareyed examination of this powerful relationship, contextualizing it against the backdrop of national politics in Mexico and international change ushered in by the Great Depression and World War II. … Compelling reading for art lovers.” — Kirkus, starred review

I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister by Amélie Sarn (Delacorte)

“In short anguished chapters, 18-year-old Sohane narrates scenes from the weeks before and months after the brutal murder of her younger sister, Djelila. Raised in an Algerian Muslim family living in Paris, the two girls seek to establish their identity in different ways. … French author Sarn includes a glossary of Arabic words and terms related to Islam, as well as a note about the real-life event that inspired this moving story, which provides rich material for conversation about family relations, religious identity, and civil liberties.” — Publishers Weekly

Lovers & Haters by Calvin Slater (K-Teen)

Book Description: Fifteen-year-old Xavier Hunter is trying to get good grades and get the hottest girl in school. But with his father and brother both locked up in jail, Xavier’s mom is left to provide for the family, and there’s never enough money to go around. If Xavier wants to be with the hottest girl, he has to look the part, so he does what he has to—even if it costs him his grades, good standing with teachers, and leads him to deal with the neighborhood thugs he’s vowed to avoid so he won’t end up like his brother or father. But Xavier will risk it all for Samantha, because for the first time Xavier feels like he has someone on his side— and he wouldn’t give that up for anything…

I Am Malala (Young Readers Edition) by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick (Little, Brown)

Book Description: Malala Yousafzai was only ten years old when the Taliban took control of her region. They said music was a crime. They said women weren’t allowed to go to the market. They said girls couldn’t go to school.

Raised in a once-peaceful area of Pakistan transformed by terrorism, Malala was taught to stand up for what she believes. So she fought for her right to be educated. And on October 9, 2012, she nearly lost her life for the cause: She was shot point-blank while riding the bus on her way home from school.

No one expected her to survive.

Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Sicence Fiction and Fantasy Stories

By Julia Rios

rios-kaleidoscopeWhat do a disabled superhero, a time-traveling Chinese-American figure skater, and a transgendered animal shifter have in common? They’re all stars of Kaleidoscope stories! Kaleidoscope collects fun, edgy, meditative, and hopeful YA science fiction and fantasy with diverse leads. These twenty original stories tell of scary futures, magical adventures, and the joys and heartbreaks of teenage life.

Featuring New York Times bestselling and award winning authors along with newer voices: Garth Nix, Sofia Samatar, William Alexander, Karen Healey, E.C. Myers, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Ken Liu, Vylar Kaftan, Sean Williams, Amal El-Mohtar, Jim C. Hines, Faith Mudge, John Chu, Alena McNamara, Tim Susman, Gabriela Lee, Dirk Flinthart, Holly Kench, Sean Eads, and Shveta Thakrar.

  • Edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios
  • Releases 5 August 2014 (1 October 2014 in Australia)

Alisa and I have both been extremely interested in the work Malinda Lo has done to bring statistics about diversity in publishing out into the open. In fact, this project was actually conceived after I was on a panel that Malinda moderated at WisCon in 2012. The panel was about heteronormativity in dystopian YA novels, and I recorded it for the Outer Alliance Podcast. Alisa, who lives in Australia, was not able to attend WisCon, but she listened to the recording of the panel and then emailed me to ask about a possible collaboration.

At first Alisa thought of us co-editing an anthology of dystopian YA stories with QUILTBAG protagonists, but as we talked more about what we both longed for in stories, the idea grew and changed until in the end, we settled on a far less limited anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories with diverse protagonists. Kaleidoscope has several QUILTBAG characters, but it also has characters of color, disabled characters, mentally ill characters, non-neurotypical characters, and intersectional characters (whose identities are complex and not just one thing or another—like real people in the real world).

As a bisexual Mexican-American woman, I didn’t see myself reflected very often in books I read as a child or teen. To be honest, I still rarely see characters who are just like me. As a teen, especially, I really longed for some kind of affirmation that my being attracted to other girls was okay. I didn’t believe it was. I was so far in the closet that I faked crushes on (white male) movie stars and (always carefully selected so as to be unattainable) boys at school. Once I even made out with a boy I didn’t like in an attempt to prove to myself that I was totally only attracted to boys (this was not actually effective at proving anything to myself or anyone else). In secret, I listened to Melissa Etheridge, who was openly gay, and I felt ashamed. Now I see more role models for people like me, and more acceptance of QUILTBAG identified people, but I still think there’s a lot of room for growth. I want to pave the way for others to come along this road and build bigger and better communities for those who are underrepresented in fiction.

Working on Kaleidoscope has been more wonderful than I could have imagined. Not only did I get to read a bunch of amazing stories, but I also feel more connected to the community of people who are, like me, striving for more visibility. There are a lot of us, and together we can do so much more than any one of us can do alone. I couldn’t have imagined all the perspectives that are represented in Kaleidoscope because so many of them are completely outside of my experience. Each story that shows me a new perspective feels like a special gift from the author, who has shared something secret and personal. Together they glitter and shine, showing that the world we live in is so much more dazzling and beautiful than any fictional world where only one type of perspective exists.

juliariosjpgJulia Rios is a Hugo nominated fiction editor at the online magazine, Strange Horizons. She’s also the co-editor with Alisa Krasnostein of Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories, and with Saira Ali of In Other Words, an anthology of poems and flash fiction by writers of color. When not editing, she writes, podcasts, and occasionally narrates audio stories and poems. She’s half-Mexican, but her (fairly dreadful) French is better than her Spanish.

Kaleidoscope is now available.

Diversity in YA is going on vacation for August…

… because it’s August! And August means it’s time to chill out and enjoy the long hot days of summer (unless you live in San Francisco like Malinda, in which case it means it’s time to make winter stews and shiver in the fog, but you’ll enjoy it because you live in San Francisco!), so Diversity in YA is going on vacation, too.

What this means is that we are going on a much lighter posting schedule. We’ll still post new releases every week, and we have a couple of posts already scheduled in the queue, but we will be much less present online this month.

Never fear, though, we will be back in September! Have a great August, everyone!

Malinda and Cindy