Thursday, September 29, 2011

Contest Reminder!

My contest for a finished copy of THE FREAK OBSERVER by Blythe Woolston ends tonight at midnight, EST! Be sure to get your entries in by then!

When I Was Joe by Keren David

Published January 1, 2010.

It's one thing watching someone get killed. It's quite another talking about it.

But Ty does talk about it. He named some ruthless people and a petrol-bomb attack forces him and his mum into hiding under police protection.

Shy loser Ty gets a new name, a new look and a cool new image. Life as Joe is good. But the gangsters will stop at nothing to silence him. And then he meets a girl with a dangerous secret of her own. (book back blurb)

This book hooked me in right from the beginning. David has a simplistic way with words that both conveys the deepest emotion possible for the character while being as poignant as can be. That's a hard balance to strike and I think David does it perfectly. The words are simple but they're deep enough to suck you in and hold you there.

I thought that Ty was an immediately likable character. You can't help but latch onto him as soon as you find out he's on the run, which is pretty much right from the beginning. The story starts on some pretty high action and while it peters out, the threat of something happening lingers just beneath the words and keeps you, and Ty, on edge. His actions in his new life are indicative of the paranoia he's bound to have.

I was less than thrilled with his mom, Nicki. She would be someone I'd deem a Mom in Denial. She'd had Ty young, 15 I believe, and she kind of hangs that guilt on him at times but lifts it off of him and puts it on herself the rest. It's kind of underhanded and the jabs can be subtle but they're there. She nearly blows their cover because she gets to slip back into the teen mode that she missed and a lot of the time, I just don't pity her. I'm thinking I should but . . . you sleep in the bed you make. I don't feel the situation she's in is a result of shitty parenting. The best parents in the word can end up with kids that hang out with the trashiest kids. I just think it's a matter of circumstances. She didn't do anything bad per se but she's not a contender for the mom of the year award either. Perhaps cut in half all those times she spent going out and singing drunk karaoke and things might have turned out differently. Parents have to have lives of their own too but not at the sacrifice of their children.

But Nicki and Ty work well off of each other. Ty makes up for the parent that Nicki isn't (which isn't something he should be doing but rather a role he was kind of forced to step into) and she is a mom when the situation calls for it (most of the time). Ty is a character that sees his faults and tries to improve on them. And I think that's the most important, and endearing, part of him: how he wants to improve himself. He tries so hard but sometimes things slip. Maybe they could have been helped, maybe not. But he tries as much as he can and I like him for that.

When Ty has to make another switch I felt his escape was a little too easy (an escape from the situation at school as opposed to thugs on his ass). He made some mistakes that he was about to be punished for but the bobbies had to come in and move him because he's become too high profile. By the end of the book he's pulled a 360, going back to something resembling his old self, just without friends at all. Really, I'm surprised he wasn't psychotic by the end of the book for all the personalities he had to juggle.

And I liked his relationship with Claire. It was probably the purest thing in Ty's life and I was sad when he had to let it go. It was something so nice and sweet that he could hold on to, that balanced out everything else in his life. He could be himself around her and I felt at as much of a loss as Ty did when Claire was ripped away from him. But she lingered and I'm glad for that.

WHEN I WAS JOE is a unique contemporary that deals with something wholly unpleasant, and something that really isn't talked about much. How can it? Witnesses in witness protection tend to keep their lives hidden. So getting a glimpse into this jilted lifestyle and seeing how ruinous it can actually be was eye-opening. But Ty handled it all so well and I think he's such a fantastic character for it. He's still human, and he shows his human side quite often in the book but it only functions to make him a more dynamic character. If you're looking for a book that shows strength at it's greatest, WHEN I WAS JOE is it.

Ban Factor: High - There are some sexual innuendos thrown in there and there's plenty of swearing. While it might not be at the forefront of the banner's ban list, I wouldn't be surprised if it's on there already.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Some Banned Books Tidbits

Got a couple articles here that I think you all might get a kick out of.

First up, after 105 years on the banned list, EVE'S DIARY by Mark Twain
has made it back to the shelves in the Charlton Public Library in Charlton, Massachusetts. Better late than never, right? EVE'S DIARY is a retelling of the Garden of Eden story through the eyes of Eve. Originally banned due to it's lurid drawings (boobies!), in honor of Banned Books Week, the book was dusted off and brought back out for public viewing, simply because those images are tame compared to what we as the public see on a daily basis. Quite right. I'm wondering just how hard core the images have to be now to render a good ol' fashioned banning.

Next, the repeal of SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE's insipid ban from the Vonnegut Library (I'm wondering if the banners even saw the irony in that) ended up being pretty half assed. The book, still deemed far too inappropriate for the yoots (<--10 points for reference), is held in a locked down secure location, entombed behind 7 foot thick cement walls and infrared laser beams ready to burn your eyes out if you happen to look at it without your parents' permission. Or maybe not, but the deal is the book is available only if a kid's parent physically comes down to the library to take it out for them. As if some kind of permission slip wasn't damning enough. Mom's gotta come get it for you. Yeah, that's unbanned. O_o

Last but not least, The Uprise Books Project is all about getting banned and challenged books into the hands of underprivileged middle and high school students. Their thought process is hopefully the notion that someone else is saying these books are bad will spurn interest in reading them. Considering teens have a tendency of doing the exact opposite of what adults tell them, that's a pretty good rationale. You can donate funds and allocate them to your favorite banned book or just give funds for the greater good. So if you've got some spare change, why not give a little?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ban This! Author Bites - Ellen Hopkins

It's rough being the most banned author in 2010. Below Ellen talks about her status and to stuff it if you don't like it. Thanks for contributing, Ellen!

On The Brink of Another Banned Books Week

So, this year, approaching Banned Books Week, I find myself with a new distinction—the most challenged author in 2010. If you consider the seven novels I have on bookshelves (eight as of this week, but not in 2010), maybe that’s not so surprising. The ALA website lists the top reasons for book challenges. In this order: sexual content, unsuited to age group, offensive language, violence, homosexuality, occult, drugs. Okay, you will find some of these things in my books. But the bigger issue is, you will also find them in real life. I don’t write fairytales.

“Unsuited to age group” is such a subjective complaint, I won’t even comment on it, except to repeat what I’ve often said: When it comes to books, what’s “too much” for one person in any age group is absolutely necessary for another. IMHO, that category should be excised from the checklist. It’s meaningless. Let’s move on. As for “offensive” language, which words, exactly, and offensive to whom? The f-bomb doesn’t offend me, but terming all Muslims terrorists does. Again, way too subjective. Let’s move on.

Sexual content. Yep, it’s in my books because teens have sex, with or without love involved. They think about sex. They consider whether or not to have sex. They take sex, they give sex, sometimes too easily. Ditto drugs. They see them. They consider whether or not to do them, often pressured by peers or love interests. Abstinence-only education is a dismal failure. What works is open communication, often spearheaded by books that illustrate the downside of bad choices. But only if those books reflect reality, not some sanitized version of it. Lying by omission is still lying. Young people have highly active bullshit meters. (Offended? Tough.) If you lie to them once, they won’t believe you next time. Respect them enough to give them the truth, which can only influence their decisions positively.

I don’t get into the occult much. Violence, yes, in the form of physical or sexual abuse, which too many young people face. I want them to understand they have to speak up, sooner rather than later. I want to give them their voice. Homosexuality? Uh, yeah. Because there are gay people walking around in every school and every coffee shop and every church and every grocery store. They are part of our society, and our humanity. And they deserve to be represented in books as much as straight people do. Making them disappear out of books will not make them disappear. They are, and that’s that. Let’s move on.

If you find my books offensive, my question to you is—do you find real life offensive? Teens live in the real world. You can’t scrub that. And, no matter how many times you challenge me, you can’t scrub my books either. Perhaps the energy you expend trying to do that would be better spent trying to excise abuse and violence and bigotry from the very real world where your kids live.

I Have Spawned

If you thought I was pregnant, please proceed to punch yourself in the face and then go get some ice. You'll need it.

A little while back a soon-to-be book blogger contacted me about a potential title for her soon-to-be-blog that just so happened to match Things I've Learned from Books verbatim. Shit happens. It's not an uncommon line. But can I express to you all how I nearly peed myself when this soon-to-be book blogger actually contacted me to ASK PERMISSION to use it? For serious? She actually GOOGLED the title to see if anyone else had something like it, where she stumbled upon my meme and me. Holy shit, what a concept! Google! Considering the shenanigans I've been through in the past with my shit getting lifted, I checked myself to make sure no pee came through and gave the girl my story. Talk about a FANTASTIC foot to start off on. A newbie book blogger that has her shit straight to begin with? Woohoo!

While I don't have the exclusive right to the Things I've Learned from Books title, I expressed that I'd like to keep that line to my blog if I could simply because that's a major thing that people know me for (seriously, when people meet me at BEA, a compliment about Things is usually what comes out of their mouths). I offered some tweaks and she graciously took them. So recently What Books Have Taught Me was born.

I don't normally expressly promote other blogs on my site outside of my blog roll. It's just not my thing. But I was so floored by the intelligence and poise of Lex that I had to give her a helping hand to start her out. She only has a couple posts up now but her review style is truly unique and I think she's going to be an awesome addition to the book blogging community. So be sure to check her out!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Banned Books Week's Virtual Read-Out!

In case you haven't heard, there's a read-out going on! Through the end of Banned Books Week, October 1st, you can upload a video of you reading from your favorite banned book to the Banned Books Week's YouTube Channel and join in a slew of other people in sticking it to book banners. You can find out more information, including instructions on how to upload to the channel, here.

I mentioned last month that I might be participating but ultimately I'm going to pass on this, although I wish I could do my thing for it. Mainly I'm passing because I don't have the proper equipment to do a vlog. I only have the recorder on my digital camera and that kind of sucks for things like this. Plus I'm really self conscious on screen like that. As you may have noticed, I'm not big on vlogs. Nevermind the fact that I've been doing Ban This! all month and sticking it to them banners the entire time. So I feel I'm doing my part to spread the banned books love this year.

But I encourage those of you that can to participate in the read out and join all the others that have uploaded already. Stick it to book banners!

2011 Old School YA Challenge COMPLETED!

Hooray! Check out my final list here. Another one bites the dust. Only three more to go and I'm done. The Off the Shelf Challenge is still haunting me, though. Boo.

The New Girl by RL Stine

Published June 1989.

She's pale as a ghost, blonde and eerily beautiful - and she seems to need him as much as he wants her. Cory Brooks hungers for Anna Corwin's kisses, drowns in her light blue eyes.

He can't get her out of his mind. And the trouble has only begun. Shadyside High's star gymnast is losing sleep, skipping practice and acting weird. All the guys have noticed, but only Cory's friend Lisa knows the truth: Anna Corwin is dead and living on Fear Street. Now Cory must explore its menacing darkness to discover the truth. He has already been warned: come to Fear Street and you're dead! (book back blurb)

The book turned out to be not nearly as sinister as the blurb intones but it had its creeptastic moments all the same. Stine knows how to build suspense and keep the reader hanging as the plot moves along. Really, it's no wonder he's been putting out books for so long. He doesn't have an underlying evil about his writing like Stephen King does but it's spooky. It does the trick if you happen to be young and reading it in the dark. It gets under your skin just enough that you turn the light on an extra notch and settle back in to read.

THE NEW GIRL is the first book in the Fear Street series and I'd say (while I've read them way out of order) this would be a pretty good start. If I happened to be a young teen wandering a book store in the late 80s and picked it up, I'd totally get hooked on the series (because I haven't done it now, obviously, O_o). It's sort of your typical ghost story with the spooky street and the creepy houses and the scary stories that all of the locals grew up with. It's a great beginning and scene-setter to get it all rolling. There's a curse around Fear Street, and here's why.

Now, I wouldn't peg Cory as dumb but he was definitely oblivious to the point of me wanting to smack him upside the head. Whether he just developed some serious tunnel vision or really only had a one track mind, if Cory saw one way, there just wasn't any other way to see it. And I felt for Lisa because she was trying to break through that egg shell head of his and it just wasn't working for 99% of the book. Only after the revelation at the end did Cory finally come around and see a light outside of his own closet.

The ending was a bit disappointing for me because it kind of watered down the rest of the story but it was decent enough. It could have been a hell of a lot worse but there are other avenues that Stine could have taken the plot that would have made is much creepier. But that's pretty classic Stine: a lot of build-up with a nominally happy ending and a pretty rational explanation for everything. Well, as rational as a horror book can get. You come to expect it reading his work.

THE NEW GIRL is a great addition to any cheese lover's library, especially if you can snag a first printing paperback like I have. :) If nothing else it'll make you nostalgic for a time when you didn't have much else to worry about so you could curl up under the blankets with a flashlight and read horror to your heart's content.

Ban Factor: Medium - No swearing, pretty minimal in any kind of sexual innuendo and at the end of the day it's supernatural free, the banners would have a hard time finding something to hate about this one. But that's assuming they'd actually read the book. On first glance, the ban factor would be high since it's horror so it must be totally atrocious.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ban This! Author Bites - Mari Mancusi

In light of the more recent pre-publication book censoring going on, I'm glad Mari decided to take a stab at a not-often talked-about aspect of book banning and censoring. Thanks for contributing, Mari!

My books, up until this point, have never been challenged or banned. But that doesn't mean I haven't been censored. But my censoring happened at the editorial level. As in--the things that were objectionable were taken out before the book ever reached store shelves. Few people ever talk about this kind of censoring, but it does happen. The reason? Because publishers want to sell books to the school and library market.

A few years back, I wrote a tween novel that took place in school setting and there were several teacher characters. As a daughter of two teachers, I grew up knowing that teachers aren't always the cardboard cutout paragons of virtue they appear to be when standing in the front of the classroom. They're adults. They drink, they smoke, they go out and they even have...gasp...lives outside of school! All perfectly legal, of course. But not something they necessarily want to share with their students.

In a deleted scene, my heroine flees to the bathroom, to escape some pretty awful bullying. There, she meets one of her teachers, who's sneaking a smoke, and they have a conversation. But I was told that the smoking needed to be deleted, because it didn't paint the teacher in a positive light.

The teacher was an adult. Smoking in this country (at least for now!) is still perfectly legal for adults. I didn't have her offer a cigarette to her student. I didn't glamorize the smoking (in fact, she laments that she should quit.) But I needed to take it out of the novel because the publisher didn't want to alienate the school and library market.

In another section, one of the teachers (who's the football coach and an overall jerk) mutters under his breath, "I'm too hung-over for this" when dealing with a difficult student situation. Again, I was asked to delete it.

I don't blame the publisher--they are running a business and that business is selling books. If they feel these kinds of things could alienate a large section of their market, well, then it's in their best interest to take them out. And because neither passage was necessary to tell the story, I agreed to do so.

But what that wasn't the case? What if we needed Mrs. Reilly to smoke to show something important about her character? What if we needed the male teacher to be hung-over to illustrate why he acted like he did? Would the objectionable content be permitted to stay in? Or would the intent of the scene or book have to be compromised?

It's a scary thought. And one I don't think most people consider when talking about banned books. We talk about books that are banned or challenged after publication--but at least those books are available to read if someone were to seek them out. The other books--the books censored before publication--well, those are lost forever.

Added to the Pile + 92

Just one lone book this week, a surprise from Penguin -

FRAIL by Joan Frances Turner (just realized this was the second in a series, based on the jacket flap, it could possibly be read as a stand-alone)

Things I've Learned from Books + 119

If that new chick in school gets all kissy with you and whispers in your ear, "you're all mine," chances are her brother putting dead cats in your female friend's locker is the least of your worries.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ban This! Author Bites - Anne Spollen

On this first day of the official Banned Books Week, Anne Spollen talks about a sneaky kind of book banning. Thanks for contributing, Anne!

“Adam was but human – this explains it all. He did not want
the apple for the apple’s sake, he wanted it only because it was
forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent; then
he would have eaten the serpent.”

– Mark Twain

Whenever I hear of books being banned, I am absolutely thrilled. I am beside myself with joy. It’s the same feeling I get when I walk past a bookstore and see a long line or when Amazon runs out of copies of a title.

By banning books, people are speaking my language. They are telling me exactly what I want to hear: that books have power, that they still matter. And that’s something I don’t hear very often.

When I tell people I would love to quit my job and just write all the time, they look at me and say what you‘ve probably heard time and again, “You want to write books? Yeah, but who reads any more? Books are just about extinct. Publishing. Heh. Now there’s a dying art.”

Well, apparently not. Enough people read to make books targets. People ban books because they are perceived as dangerous. Books are ideas. They cause change by broadening our world, our beliefs, by touching us. That doesn’t sound like a bad thing, now does it? Problem is with the word “change” -- change means deviating from the status quo and most books are banned because they upset that comfy status quo.

The type of books that are banned generally deal with sex, the occult, the paranormal, mental illness -- basically any themes that are not squeaky clean traditional. And I think most of us object to blatant banning of books and we all pretty much ignore the parent who stands up at the board meeting and hollers about Harry Potter being against Christian values. But there are more subtle ways to ban books that we have to watch out for.

I used to teach English in a school where the oldest children were fourteen. As one of two English teachers, I worked very closely with the librarian. In fact, we team taught some lessons. And we both became familiar with a small group of parents who consistently reviewed books in that library and consistently asked us to remove books dealing with frank discussions of adolescent sexual development.

Well, no, we told them. We reminded them of the guarantee of freedom of speech. We reminded them that children had to learn to make choices regarding their reading material. Did we have to remind them that we had ordered those books as a means of comforting their children as their bodies began undergoing puberty? And who among us doesn’t need comfort during that time?
They responded by going to the school board and complaining. They weren’t noisy or obnoxious; they were politely persistent. They believed that children, their children specifically, most of them already in puberty, would be harmed by reading about the very processes their bodies were undergoing.

The result? We didn’t remove the books, but signed permission slips were required in order for the children to borrow them. You can imagine how many kids wanted to bring home that permission slip for mom to sign and how many kids wanted to take out books on that “special” shelf. Indirectly, those books were banned.

Puberty, however, continued.

You don’t need bonfires or a fascist regime to attempt to control ideas: you only need a few fear-addled folks. Books are our unflinching mirrors: they show us as we are, warts and all. Books can serve as guides to understanding those warts. The power of the written word has always been to connect us through our experiences. And that‘s the kind of power that should never instigate fear.

80s Awesomeness! ~ 128

Forget Mean Girls. Heathers is the mother of all that is nasty high school bitches and the drive to want to eliminate them. Veronica (Winona Ryder) is one of the popular girls, the one not named Heather. But she doesn't quite fit right although they take her in nonetheless. Enter JD (Christian Slater) and everything gets blown to shit. Literally.

Seriously, if you haven't seen this classic yet, you have your homework for the weekend. It's as dark as a dark comedy can get. Plus it spawned the epic line, "I love my dead gay son!" And let's not forget, "Corn nuts!" They don't make teen movies like this anymore.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Freaky Friday :|: 128

Title: Nightmare Hall: Deadly Visions
Author: Diane Hoh
Published: February 1995
Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks

Rachel is haunted by grisly dreams after she becomes the only one who sees deadly images hidden in a series of grisly paintings at an art exhibit--except for the psychotic art major who did the paintings. (

This one actually sounds pretty good, aside from the overuse of the word grisly. It had me at psychotic art major.

Ban This! Author Bites - Jennifer Laurens

Book ratings equal bigger sales to Jennifer Laurens! Read on to find out her take on it. Thanks for contributing, Jennifer!

Student. Teacher. Forbidden. Love.

The line comes from one of my Twitter teasers I post along with a link to Amazon for my YA novel, A Season of Eden. You can guess from the teaser what the book is about. The book isn’t banned. As an indie author I’m not worthy of the national attention deemed ‘bannable’ by librarians and whoever else decides these things. Lucky for me. I’m all right with that. I like being indie for that and a lot of other reasons.

I realize there are plenty of people out there who’d gasp and shudder at the idea of a student/teacher relationship. When I used to read reviews, I read one complaint about A Season of Eden, something along the lines of “this book shouldn’t even be out there!” Again, one of the beauties of being indie—no one can DO anything about the book because it’s not part of the crowd.

I may not be directly affected by censorship but I wholly believe in a book rating system. Just like the movies, books should be rated G, PG, PG-13, R and X. That’d shake up things a bit. You’re browsing the aisles of the bookstore ( if there are any left by the time the ereader revolution settles ) and you see sealed books ( because they’re rated X – and- NOOO peaking allowed! ) The entire romance aisle would be X rated or in some far-off corner of shame. What would a rating system do to the BUYING experience when you carry your book with the bold E ( for erotica ) or X or R rating on the cover up to the counter? Would it make you think before buying? Would readers do more buying online?

I think a ratings system would enhance interest in titles just like it did for music. Who can forget Tipper Gore trying to hold back the ocean of progress with ratings for music? Ratings haven’t done much to change the music industry ( there are just as many crass, foul-mouthed singers as there have always been singing about sex, drugs and whatever else they want to sing about in the form of self expression ) so I doubt a ratings system would change anything about what’s being written. A book rating system might educate some clueless parents about what their kids are reading.

If there was a ratings system, would that mean schools could only carry books with age appropriate ratings for the school? I could see that happening. What if booksellers refused to sell books to kids under the age of 13 if the ratings were like that of movies?

Somehow, I doubt kids would let that stop them.

A ratings system would most likely ADD to book sales in the end. But none of this matters to me. I write what I want to write without being caught in the vision of the all-seeing eye of whoever decides a book should or shouldn’t be banned.

WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? Why do they have so much power? Who died and made them King/Queen of anything? ( love Sara Barielles )

Last I checked, there was only One who deserves that kind of notice.

Let’s tilt their thrones. Let’s knock their crowns off. A ratings system would take away some of that stodgy power and ( gasp ) put the decision making back into the minds of the reading public where it should be.

Read and let read -

Jennifer Laurens

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Published May 2001.

Sookie Stackhouse is a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana. She's quiet, keeps to herself, and doesn't get out much. Not because she's not pretty. She is. It's just that, well, Sookie has this sort of "disability." She can read minds. And that doesn't make her too dateable. And then along comes Bill. He's tall, dark, handsome - and Sookie can't hear a word he's thinking. He's exactly the type of guy she's been waiting for all her life . . .

But Bill has a disability of his own: He's a vampire with a bad reputation. He hangs with a seriously creepy crowd, all suspected of - big surprise - murder. And when one of Sookie's coworkers is killed, she fears she's next . . . (book back blurb)

One night when I was at soldier boy's and we didn't have much to do, I told him to just go ahead and put on the latest episode of True Blood because I wanted to see if I liked it (I can usually tell if I'm going to like a show regardless of where I pick up an episode). So we watched it, I really liked it and I went and bought the first season. I devoured it and now I'm just waiting for the second season to arrive (which should be today, yay!). Late bloomer, I know. I haven't had HBO in years and I don't regularly watch TV. Story of my life. But I knew I had this book in the pile because I've had people bugging me to try it out for a while now. So after nomming Season 1 of the TV show, it was time I take a look at the books and see how they compare.

I like the show better. MUCH better. SO MUCH better. Now, I don't know if I like it better because I saw it before reading the books. HBO did fluff it up quite a bit: made it sexier, added more subplots and characters and Season 1 parallels DEAD UNTIL DARK really closely. I was just not nearly as excited about the book as I am about the show. I liked the authenticity of the voice. I really believed that, I could see Sookie's surroundings as she spoke and I could feel the setting. That was the most vivid part of the writing for me. Plus Sookie isn't made out to be some Plain Jane that all the boys drool after. Super kudos for that. She's cute with a big rack and she knows it. She just can't do much about it. I liked that.

DEAD UNTIL DARK was entertaining enough and it probably helped that I had images from the show to supplement my reading but overall, I felt the writing was kind of lackluster. Sookie, in the book, is a bit monotone for my taste. All of the descriptions are really simple (because of the character, not that she's simple, she's just not all that highly educated) and I felt that the story was more about spitting out the information that letting it simmer and seep in. I didn't feel all that engaged in her and Bill's relationship and when the murders kept happening, and then the final scene with the murderer, I just wasn't feeling it. I wanted to because I like the show so much but the writing just lacks this pizazz that I think HBO found and amped up.

Maybe I'm not being fair but it's not like I can take back that I've already started watching the show and re-read the book with virgin eyes. DEAD UNTIL DARK is pretty entertaining but I've read far more gripping books than this with characters that pop out instead of just amble around the plot.

Maybe it's because it's the first book in the series but it could be one of the reasons why I wasn't all that engaged was because there was hardly anything else going on other than Sookie and Bill. Yeah, you have Sam but that's kind of spit out at the end as an afterthought (whereas in the show it's foreshadowed a lot) but not much branches off of that one plot line. And because that one plot line wasn't all that thrilling for me, there wasn't much else I could latch onto to keep me going through it. I wouldn't say I was bored at all but I just wasn't all that jazzed about it.

I will absolutely keep watching the seasons as they come (hell, I have three to catch up on and I'm trying my damndest not to spoil myself with the ending of Season 4). As for the books? I'll have to dip into my trusted sources and see if they'd be worth my while. If they say the writing progresses and the stories get more involved, I might take a chance. As it stands now, I'm not leaning that way.

Ban Factor: High - While God is mentioned a couple of times, Sookie's bedding a vampire and it has a tendency of getting a little graphic, there's an ample amount of swearing and people are getting killed left, right and center. The banners, they pee themselves.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ban This! Author Bites - Cinda Williams Chima

Cinda Williams Chima says let her parent her own children and you stick to parenting yours. I agree. Thanks for contributing, Cinda!

Books changed my life.

Through childhood and adolescence, my mother would take me to the library and I would check out armloads of books. At home, her shelves were open to me—a combination of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, murder mysteries, James Bond thrillers and historical novels, in addition to what she borrowed from the library.

My older brother, too, had books—mostly science fiction and fantasy—that he’d let me borrow. When we visited my aunt and grandmother, I would read stacks of True Story and True Confession magazines, with the occasional romance thrown in. Not all of it was good, but all of it made me a better reader.

We didn’t have much money. Our vacations were fishing trips to Canada. Books were a doorway into new worlds for a girl who wanted to cross other borders. Books were also a refuge for me when I needed it—when we moved out of state, leaving all my friends behind, and when my mother was seriously ill.

My mother never restricted what I read. She never saw danger between the covers of a book—only opportunities to learn about the world in a safe way. That was her view, though other parents might think differently.

As my reading level improved, I encountered content I didn’t understand. For instance I couldn’t figure out why people were always going to bed together. I never wanted to go to bed—I preferred to stay up and read.

If I asked my mother, sometimes she would offer a brief explanation, and sometimes she would suggest another book I might enjoy. Or I would put it aside myself. Readers and writers are partners in story—and books can be read on many different levels.

There was very little literature targeted at young adults in those days, so by junior high and high school, I was reading adult books mostly—Michener and Mary Stewart and Marion Zimmer Bradley and Tolkien and John Jacques and hundreds of authors whose names I can’t remember. Most of it was fairly tame—but not all.

In high school, my teacher caught me reading Valley of the Dolls in Problems of Democracy class—a book that was highly controversial back in the day. I had to go beg for it back, because it belonged to a friend of my mother’s.

Somehow, I survived Valley of the Dolls, True Confessions, and the rest. I got into my share of trouble as a teenager. Like generations of adolescents before me, I was influenced by peers, by hormones, and by the adolescent belief that I was indestructible.
I can’t think of one time that I made a bad decision based on something I read in a book.
I had friends who had complicated lives—alcoholic fathers, divorced parents, abuse situations. They felt so alone—as if they were the only teens in the world that weren’t living a sitcom life. It would have helped tremendously if they could have found themselves in story.

I went on to become a first generation college graduate, a health professional, a college professor, an author.

I’m a parent myself, though my boys are grown now. When they were teenagers, I envied their access to a huge range of books written just for them. Books about diverse topics and diverse people. We loved talking about books together. My older son, especially, read far above his grade level. There were times I had to lobby for him so he could gain access to richer, more challenging books.

Nobody considers the adult audience for books to be homogeneous. The teen reading audience is just as diverse in terms of what individuals can handle. It is disrespectful and condescending to limit all teens to literature that offends nobody.

As a parent, I honor the right of parents to monitor and participate in the book choices their children make. And I ask them to honor my choices as well. I don’t want other parents and gatekeepers making that decision for me—or my children.

Cinda Williams Chima has authored two best-selling fantasy series: The Heir Chronicles (The Warrior Heir, The Wizard Heir, The Dragon Heir) with two books forthcoming; and the Seven Realms series (The Demon King, The Exiled Queen, and the newly-released The Gray Wolf Throne) with more forthcoming. You can find information about her tour for The Gray Wolf Throne and other upcoming events here
More information and excerpts from each book are available on her website, Help for writers can be found under Resources/Tips for Writers, including a document called, “Getting Started in Writing for Teens.”

Chima blogs at, where you’ll find rants, posts on the craft of writing, and news. Visit her Seven Realms and Heir Chronicles pages on Facebook.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ban This! Author Bites - Holly Schindler

Below Holly takes a look at the danger of books . . . thanks for contributing, Holly!

Book banning recently hit disturbingly close to home when Republic, Missouri chose to ban Vonnegut’s SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE and Ockler’s TWENTY BOY SUMMER from the school library. Shortly thereafter, another disturbing story broke: a female student in Republic reported a sexual assault by another student, only to be disbelieved, suspended, even forced to apologize. When allowed to return to school, she reported a second assault; DNA from a rape kit confirmed an attack did in fact take place, and matched the boy the female student identified after the first alleged attack.

Okay, you’re saying. This story of sexual assault is disgusting. It’s horrific. It’s infuriating beyond all measure. Why is it being mentioned in a post about book banning?
Republic residents themselves linked the two events, as they organized a protest to the recent events, crying out, “Ban rape, not books.”

Which brings up an interesting question: just how dangerous are books?

We send our students to school believing they’ll be safe…but are books something that any teenager really needs protection from? As a society, we tell our teenagers that they are, in many ways, ready to lead an adult life. At sixteen, we put car keys in their hands. At eighteen, we allow them to enlist in the military. Are the ideas present in any book more dangerous than a vehicle? More dangerous than a gun, war?

I suppose the case could be made for the power of ideas. (That ideas are what lead to horrors like war…) But at eighteen, we put voter ID cards in teens’ hands. We tell them that they’re ready to help make decisions that shape our future as a country—but they need shielding from the concepts in works of literature?

Of course, as an author, I’m against banning of any book from any facility. Period. I do not support the removal of a book from any shelf. But I believe YA literature is important because it depicts characters who are navigating tough, adult situations for the first time—as are YA readers. YA characters are flawed, and while they stumble along the way, in the end, they succeed—they inspire readers to have faith that they will succeed, as well. That they, too, will find their place in this world.

Dangerous? Not in my book…

FAIL Harder by the community

Published September 5, 2011.

So what qualifies as a FAIL? How about a nursery outfitted with a gun rack hanging over the baby's crib? Perhaps the equation, "E=MC3" written on a classroom's write/erase board. What about a trifecta of beauty parlor, chain saw repair, and nightclub housed inside an all-in-one-stop shop?

Classic FAILs like these are presented in more than 15 different categories, including At Home, In A Relationship, On the Job, and With Your Pets.

If you must FAIL, FAIL Harder.

Consider this a quickie review because really, without a plot, or words other than FAIL in it, and no viable characters to show for it, I'm just reviewing the pictures of idiocy that is our world. And by god are they fantastic. Showcasing the de-evolution of our society, FAIL HARDER perfectly captures all that is dumb on the planet.

The pictures say it all. The FAIL splashed over them only adds to it. If you like the sick, twisted, self-deprecating humor of the Fail Blog, then you'll love this compilation of harder fails and want to add it to your collection immediately. It'll make a great coffee table book. Or will just make you want to curl up in a corner and cry for our lost brain cells. Either or.

Fail on.

Ban Factor: Medium - There aren't any words to offend but it tacks a big crack at humanity as a whole and we all know book banners can't take a joke. So that alone might offend them. Ultimately it could go either way. It depends on whether the banners would want to think.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Poll and an Awesome

First the poll. I created a poll on my Bites Facebook page so you guys can help me choose which books to give away for my Halloween contest. None of these books are about vampires or zombies (because I think those two things are pretty much overkill at this point) and I'm looking for your choice of which book sounds creepiest. The top three with the most votes will be given away here! So go vote! If you don't have a Facebook account or you can't otherwise vote, just leave your choice in the comments.

Now the awesome. Laura at A Jane of All Reads (formerly Life After Jane) went to an Ilsa Bick signing a couple weeks ago. She's a snot and likes to rub salt in my wounds because while I love Ilsa so, I've yet to meet her. But apparently I've made such an impact on Ilsa that she's permanently etched the awesome into Laura's autographed copy of ASHES. Take a look (squinting helps) -

Yes, you are allowed to bask in the awesomeness that is this image. I shall allow it just for now.

Ban This! Author Bites - Julie Chibbaro

Julie keeps it short and sweet and reminds us that without real writing, there'd be no history. Thanks for contributing, Julie!

Banning Literature Sucks – Julie Chibbaro

Both these comments appeared for my first book Redemption on the Barnes & Noble site:

“a terrible book!
This book was well written and placed in an interesting time period with a great plot. However, I would not recommned it to anyone unless they do not mind extreme profanity and colorful descriptions of sex. I stopped reading this book about halfway through. The descriptions of how a man in the story is raping a woman are sickening. I would not recommned this book to anyone. I can't believe that people read, let alone write, books like this these days.” -- Anonymous


“A Classic for everyone to read!
This book was an amazing classic tale of one girls courageous fight to survive her journey through the new world. It has very ironic twists that you won't want to miss, a page turner and an evolving romance!” -- Anonymous

So, wait a minute, which one is it? Terrible, or a classic? I didn’t even know there was sex and profanity in my novel! I mean, not really, I mean, not much. Maybe I need to reread it. Should it be banned? Aren’t a lot of the classics banned? I was trying to stay faithful to the time period and characters in the book. Wouldn’t a pirate curse? Did females not get raped in the 1500s? So, like, as writers, should we only write nice? But then no one will read us ‘cause we’re not being faithful to reality. We’re not reflecting life as it is, which is our job – to write the essence of life so readers, and we, can understand it better. Without Huck Finn, we couldn’t, 100 years later, understand the relationship between a small white boy and an older black man. Without Holden, we wouldn’t get the misery of a kid after a war, whose life is in shambles. We would forget. And to me, a historical novelist, that would be the worst travesty of all.

Monday, September 19, 2011

This Girl is Different by JJ Johnson

Published April 1, 2011.

What happens when a girl, homeschooled by her counterculture mother, decides to spend her senior year in public school? First friendship, first love—and first encounters with the complexities of authority and responsibility. (

Well, this is absolutely a unique book with a take on homeschooling that doesn't veer into the weird religious road. So that was nice. But THIS GIRL IS DIFFERENT solidified my notion that I just don't like hippies. At all. Martha, Eve's mother, I wanted to beat her to death with her own Birkenstocks. I'm all for people wanting to have a self-sustaining lifestyle and all of that. I think that's fantastic. But those that don't follow it through, complain about "The Man" holding them down and then try to force themselves onto other people, effectively becoming "The Man" (see re: nonconformists conforming to the nonconformist conformity) and piece-mealing their lives to suit them bother the shit out of me. For instance they live in a self-sustaining house but Martha drives a Volkswagen micro bus. Well, they certainly cancel each other out. Or complaining about "The Man" but she doesn't have a problem actually working for one and using it as an outlet to force her ideals down others' throats. It's just a big basket of contradictions that annoyed the ever-loving hell out of me.

But remove Martha from the scene and it really isn't so bad of a story. Eve's a great character. She's strong and sticks to her laurels even though everyone, and I mean everyone, ends up against her. She doesn't waver in the slightest and that makes her such an amazing person. She's extremely intelligent and can go toe to toe with authorities in arguments with viable opinions well above what her classmates could probably offer. While I don't agree with some of her stances (like students being equal to teachers, sorry kids, school isn't a democracy, the teachers aren't your equals and they're not meant to be your friends), I could empathize with a lot of what she stood for (clean bathrooms, teachers not berating and insulting students, better food in the cafeteria, etc.). The majority of her stances weren't unreasonable but the world she grew up in was an extreme so while Eve herself isn't an extreme person, her actions leaned that way because that's how she was taught to handle them. And that came around to bite her in the ass hard.

I really liked how Rajas and Jacinda took Eve under their wing even before Eve got to school. They accepted her for who she was and defended her when she really started to open her mouth. The bounds of their friendships did get tested and both Jacinda and Rajas made themselves look exceptionally human. And I really liked that. They reacted to situations like I believe normal teenagers would react and while it didn't make them look all that great, it made me like the story even more for it's reality. These two characters hold their own.

What kind of tampered my like for the book a bit was the ending. I don't want to spoil but what I will say is that the ending is like something you'd see in your typical teen movie. It pretty much killed the reality of it for me because I felt it was a little too out there to be acceptable. That doesn't mean I didn't like it and I wasn't happy with the ending but in terms of realism, I wasn't buying it.

The main drawing point for me with THIS GIRL IS DIFFERENT is Eve. She's such a fantastic character. You can see how strong she is at the beginning, watch as she crumples under the pressure of school and then builds herself back up towards the end. While she second-guesses herself and why she decided to enter public school, she never wavers from her beliefs. She stands strong even though the entire grain is against her. Your really can't help but admire something like that. I wish more YA had characters like Eve, that show such impeccable strength of character. Granted I do think she's an anomaly. Many teenagers under her kind of duress would have caved, I believe. But she didn't. I didn't find it outside of the norm because of the way Johnson wrote Eve. Her breakdown as her world crumbled was believable enough, and her mother's insistence in staying strong was so vivid, that I could believe it. In this case, growing up so sheltered really helped Eve stay Eve.

If for nothing else, read THIS GIRL IS DIFFERENT for Eve, to read about a truly strong character walk from one end of the plank to another. It is a sweet story, if not a little unbelievable at the end. You'll find yourself taken aback at some points and rooting all of them on at others. It didn't blow my socks off, but it was good nonetheless.

Ban Factor: Medium - There's some definite disregard for authority going on in this one but I don't know if it's enough to make it onto the banners' radar. There's also some mild swearing and some light petting but it could be innocuous enough to slide by.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ban This! Author Bites - Sean Beaudoin

I wrote the essay below the last time I had a taste for a serious banning. It went away for a while, but like all bad habits, my appetite has been resurrected. I find that I want to be banned now more than ever. So it is with great pleasure that I accepted Lit Bites’ offer to dust this plea/rant/dare off and run it again, with new and improved material sandwiched between prior genius. To that end, please read this slowly, and with due attention. If you care about me at all--even a little bit--I’m sure by the end you will consider tossing me (in the form of crates of my books purchased at full cover price) out into the streets and duly soaking them with whatever accelerant is at hand, before gracing them with a kiss of cleansing flame.

I thank both you and the strong smell of purloined kerosene in advance.

Yours in pyromaniacal suppression of thought,

Sean Beaudoin.

Please ban my book. Please? Hey, I'm fine if you choose any of the three of them. Maybe Going Nowhere Faster because between flatulence jokes lies a hidden Marxist subtext plunging us all one step closer toward socialized medicine. Or maybe Fade To Blue because some enterprising Wiccan chick just discovered if you read chapter six backwards a message from the Lord Of Darkness (Brodie Jenner) is revealed. Or even the otherwise squeaky clean and loveable You Killed Wesley Payne, because your friends keep reading it in the caf and choking with laughter on their French fries and you’re just too lazy to learn the Heimlich Maneuver. 

Listen, at this point, if your book hasn't been banned somewhere in the world, you're probably not trying very hard. If Salman Rushdie hadn't had the old fatwa slapped on him, he never would have become a punch line on Seinfeld, let alone a household name. And if a generation of fellow authors and politicians had not refused to stand by his side out of fear and ignorance, failing to state in public en masse that The Satanic Verses had as much right to be proudly displayed in any bookstore window as The Idiot, and, further, had not disgracefully allowed even the whisper of the notion that any work of literature “deserved” condemnation by a small and fanatical group for deigning to wrestle with dangerous ideas—well, then Mr. Rushdie would still be a creaky academic with good reviews and mediocre sales. Hey, cowering fear and threats of death are a proven unit-mover! In fact, being banned is the new biceps tattoo and chopped Harley of cultural outlaw-ism. And I, for one, want in on this gang. I want to join the ranks of George Orwell, S.E. Hinton, Charles Bukowski, Jim Carroll, Ray Bradbury, Allen Ginsburg, Judy Blume, William Burroughs, D.H. Lawrence, Graham Greene, Kurt Vonnegut, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. We can all hang out, drink gallons of black coffee, quote Rimbaud at terrified locals, and roar around town in our matching leather pants. Softball teams? Facebook groups? Lawnmower collector’s symposiums? Forget it, baby. This author wants to run with the banned, tongue hanging out, arms up like extras from the Thriller video, looking for action.

And yes, where you have a burned book, a banned book, or just a slyly omitted “we don’t carry that” book you can be sure you have something worth reading.

The thing that doesn't seem to have sunk in yet for the What Is Appropriate Crowd, is that the forces of banning always lose. Always. If it takes six months or twenty years, they are inevitably revealed as prudish, reactionary, closed-minded, finger-sniffing, mayonnaise-eating, and just outright boring. The forces for censorship invariably have an agenda for restricting art that is wholly different than their stated intent--namely easing their personal fears or increasing their economic gain. It is rarely because the work itself is too dangerous. There's no such thing as dangerous art. It's easy to forget, after all, that when Richard Strauss' opera Salome was first performed in 1905, the audience TORE DOWN THE OPERA HALL because they were so scandalized. Now, Salome is used as the background music for dental exams and Flo-nase commercials. There is nothing at all that can be written, from de Sade to Kathy Acker, that is scarier than someone telling you that you can't read it. And there is nothing more stunting than some billion dollar hype-machine paper-thin novel being pushed down your throat and being told “here is something that’s okay.”

And then there’s sex. Sex! In a world where a six year old, with an already practiced click, can evade any parental controls and view the most graphic acts imaginable, is it really possible that something can be written that is too salacious to be read? Please. Everyone knows that sex is impossible to write about, and even good authors fall to their knees in a welter of clich├ęs and maudlin prose as soon as their characters even consider dropping trou, let alone doing something once they have. The best abstinence program you could ever come up with would be forcing people to read most authors at their libidinal worst. Or even best.

A modern offshoot of banning is Oprah-ization. Just ask Jonathan Franzen. Of course, Big O's imperial nod toward The Corrections made him an unlikely celebrity and wealthy man, but it seems to have also handcuffed him to some degree as an author. And no matter what other books he pens—brilliant or otherwise—he has been permanently placed in the realm of pop artifact. There are some things worse than being reviled, and maybe being loved too strenuously is one of them. 

Of course, other books tend to want to ban themselves. Like the latest remaindered tomes from Ann Coulter or Michael Moore, which fill the national consciousness with something legitimately distasteful: rants that are too stridently mean, too manipulative, too fact-malleable, and too cynically calculated to divide. But we need to protect books like these as much or more than Roth's or Nabokov's. The easiest targets tend to go quietly, but once they're gone, the circle of moronicism draws tighter around those that are actually worth fighting for.

And as the line between high and low culture shrinks ever further, to the point that Paris Bieber is as well known a fictional character as Holden Caulfield or Doctor Benway, it becomes harder and harder to find a subject matter that shocks, offends, or even just dribbles off into tedium. And while Janet Jackson baring her d├ęcolletage on national television was decried as the final blow to decency, every great book ever written has passages in it which would cause the very same contextually challenged whistle-blowers to demand a bonfire in the streets. More likely, book banning lives with us now in a more insidious form: the quiet refusal to stock library shelves. Or an unwillingness to take on a fervent school board by assigning a controversial book. Banning is too easy to fight. Indifference is a much more difficult foe.

So ban me! Now! Soak down You Killed Wesley Payne with lighter fluid and hit your Zippo! I dare you.


Thanks for contributing, Sean!

Added to the Pile + 91

Got a short stack this week, and it's a good one.

From Lerner/Carolrhoda Lab -

Bought from BN -

From Disney, a surprise book -

THE GRAY WOLF THRONE by Cinda Williams Chima (Since I unexpectedly got a second copy, you know what that means. Giveaway! Keep your eyes open for it.)

Things I've Learned from Books + 118

For the most part, hippies are raging hypocrites. Nope. Still can't stand them.

80s Awesomeness! ~ 127

Mini Skirts!!!

Photo from Like Totally 80s

Or a tube top. Depending on how you were feeling that day. Yup. You have the 80s to thank for this particular type of ho clothes. Frequently worn by hair band groupies, the mini skirt barely covered your south side cheeks and few women were actually able to pull the look off without looking like a total pile of trash. Unfortunately us for, this style stuck and can still be found on the token bar skank at your neighborhood bar.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Freaky Friday + 127

Title: Nightmare Hall: The Coffin
Author: Diane Hoh
Published: January 1995
Publisher: Point

Finding herself locked in a soundproof room by a madman, coed Tanner tries every means of freeing herself, causing her terrifying captor to lock her in a coffin-shaped box that offers a slim chance for escape--or eternal imprisonment. (

Wow. It's like Saw but without a blue, moaning Carey Elwes writhing on the floor. I'd read it just to see how Saw-like it is. I'm sure it's far tamer on the gore. I doubt this chick needed to saw her own foot off to get out of anything.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston + Giveaway!

Published August 1, 2010.

When her younger sister dies, 16-year-old Loa's clockwork galaxy collapses. As she spins off on her own, Loa's mind ambushes her with vivid nightmares and sadistic flashbacks a textbook case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. But there are no textbook fixes for Loa's short-circuiting brain. If she keeps her eyes open and her neurons busy, there's less chance for her imagination to brew up nightmares and panic attacks. Maybe then she'll be able to pry her world from the clutches of death. (

Carolrhoda Lab for the win yet again! Seriously, I've been on top of this inprint since they debuted with DRAW THE DARK and TRAITOR and they've yet to publish anything even remotely resembling a word turd. Their books are so rich and deep that you just get sucked right in and you don't even realize you were under water until you emerge breathless. THE FREAK OBSERVER is no exception.

Now this is literary YA that I can sink my teeth into. It's succinct but vibrant. Loa doesn't pity herself even though she is probably someone that should. The story is relatively plotless, with Asta's death happening before the story even starts. When you first enter, you're walking into Loa's shit storm of a life without an umbrella and you can feel every ping and fleck of poo as it hurls at her.

The main antagonist is someone that exists only in Loa's mind, The Bony Guy. Death. He's always there, haunting her, keeping her alone in life. And her loneliness is tangible. Her parents don't see her as their child but as a burden, especially when she falls out of line, like getting hit by a car. Such a bad kid. Her only friend moves away but she finds something out about him that makes her doubt the relationship for most of the book. Her little brother is kept at a distance by her parents, as if they're afraid he'll catch something from her. This girl leads such a loveless, lonely life that you can't help but feel for her.

The good thing (as if there's only one) is that Woolston doesn't drag the drama out for hundreds upon hundreds of pages. The story is poignant, telling the parts that need to be told for Loa's mind to get from point A to point B and then it's done. And it's marvelous. It's literary without the heinous, door stopper fat.

If you're jonsing for a phenomenal character-driven story that's low on plot but amped up with a multi-faceted character whose crutch is physics because it's the only dependable constant in her life, you'll love THE FREAK OBSERVER. I feel like all I'm doing is expounding on the fangirlishness with this review but it is that level of amazing. It's a character study with a glimmer of hope at the end. It's near hopeless but not quite. Loa is one of the most amazing characters I've seen and to have gone through everything that she has, it's a miracle she's not in the fetal position sucking her thumb by the end of the story. No. At the end she's standing up straighter than at the beginning. And for that she's all the more amazing.

Ban Factor: High - It's chock full of swearing and some sexual scenarios, not to mention the craptastic home life the MC has. Book banners would pee themselves with this one.

Giveaway Time!!!

Want my finished copy? Then just fill out the form below for your chance to win.
  • Open to US residents 13 years of age and older only.
  • One entry per person per email address.
  • Duplicate entries will be deleted.
  • Giveaway ends September 29th at midnight, EST.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Censoring Books Before They're Even Books

A couple months back I wrote a post about diversifying YA and how I don't set out to actively diversify my reading. If the story's good, I don't care who the characters want to bed, I don't care what color they are, I'm going to read it. I find it absurd that as readers, we need to actively seek out diverse reading material. It should just be there for us, for US to make the decision whether we want to read it or not. I then made a point that that decision is already being made for us with things like whitewashed covers. Publishers are assuming that, with the greater reading public being white, readers wouldn't want to read books with non-whites on the cover. Note the word ass/u/me.

Lo and behold, our reading decisions are being made for us even at the agent level. Some authors have come forward and stated that an agent tried to straighten up their manuscript. Basically, he or she wanted to take the book on, but only after removing the gay protagonist who's story it was. Of course, not all agents are doing this. Kristin Nelson was quick to say that she found that kind of behavior appalling and Nelson Literary Agency was open to any YA story, regardless of the sexual orientation or skin color of the characters.

So I ask this: for those agents that are actively trying to WASP up YA literature, why the hell are you doing it? Why are you actively removing our reading choices? Why does everything have to always be all nice and white and straight and Westboro Baptist Church in the reading world?

People come in all colors, sizes, creeds and in a variety of sexual orientations. Teens have a hard enough time coping with who they are. By trying to eliminate certain people from fiction because they're gay or Hispanic or a gay Hispanic, what kind of message is that sending to the real gay Hispanics out there? It says "you are not worth knowing so do us all a favor and disappear." Good message. Why don't you just hand them the razors while you're at it?

It's bad enough to have psycho as shit book banners trying to rip the already eclectic mix of YA reading material off of the shelves because it's far too torturous for their widdle Bwilly's eyes to read. But to sanitize our reading before it even gets to us? To not only whitewash but de-gay it? What decade is it, exactly? This might be a hard pill to swallow but gay isn't a disease that doesn't set in until you're an adult. Gay is a trait a person is born with just like blue eyes, brown hair or being straight. It's not a choice, it's not a lifestyle decision. It is an is.

This is like getting a peek behind the curtain to see a twerpy Wizard of Oz pulling the big bad strings. Don't push fantastic authors away or offer them ultimatums because they have un-white, un-straight characters in their stories. How about the publishing industry, all the steps between the author and us, take an active approach in giving us choices and letting us decide if we can handle those two dudes kissing in that YA fantasy novel. Chances are we'll be just fine about it. Just don't remove that choice entirely. Don't censor the authors and then underestimate what it is we want to read. Let us decide that. And let us prove to you that you really need to stop that sanitizing horseshit. It's old. Like 1950s old. No one's going to be shocked out of their pearls for reading about them gays.

Don't assume gay/black/Hispanic/Asian/lesbian/bisexual, transgendered/Mexican doesn't sell when you're not even testing the waters to see if that's true. Take a chance. You'll be surprised.

Support LGBTQ and ethnically diverse YA books by buying them and taking to Twitter with the hashtag #YesGayYA.

ETA - There has been a rebuttal post to the original PW article stating that nothing in that article was true. You can read that rebuttal here. I do this in the interest of fairness because both sides of the argument deserve to be heard. Just don't expect me to pull a 180 and swing onto the other bandwagon. I don't regret a word I said here, even though it was written a little hastily, and I don't appreciate being told I should be ashamed of myself for promoting #YesGayYA (as so stated in the rebuttal article, not me specifically, of course).

The concern is a real one. YA absolutely needs to be more diverse and the publishing world needs to allow it to happen. Whether these particular events unfolded as either party claimed we'll never know because, as it appears, this happened over a conference call. As I'm very often reminded at work, especially if I need to say something I don't want etched into the permanent void, I should say it over the phone because, well, you can't prove I said anything that way. Or didn't say it. Unless that supposed phone conversation was recorded no one will know the absolute truth. So right now we have A LOT of hearsay and finger-pointing and a whole pile of "should haves" going on. This is very obviously a major fail that happened in communication and maybe it wasn't handled properly but each party perceived a wrong. Based on their perception, what happened was true. Perception is a funny thing. Especially since everyone involved can have a vastly different interpretation of the events that happened. It doesn't make them wrong or right; that's just how they perceived it and if no one took the time to explain themselves, then that perception would only fester.

So, personally, I'm not apt to believe that the original PW article is wholly untrue because someone of authority said so without any more proof to back it up than 'because I said so.' But because the shadow of doubt has been cast over that original PW article, I am taking it with a bigger grain of salt. Of course it could be overblown. Such is what happens when we get all riled up. But does that mean it didn't happen? Or was perceived to have happened? The thing is, I'm more inclined to believe the original article because I've seen proof of this kind of thing with my own eyes. It has been PROVEN that the publishing industry has attempted to sanitize YA, to one extent or another. So yes, I'm leaning more towards the authors on this one. If that's what they perceived to have happened, does that make them right or wrong or did someone not explain themselves properly? We'll never know.

I don't think either article should be entirely discounted but at the same time I don't think people who were so up in arms when this first came out should turn tail and hang their heads in shame. It's one opinion against another. Why is one being handled as so much truer than the other when there's nothing but conjecture backing it up? Until someone throws down some verifiable proof, both are going to have some salt taken with them.
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