Monday, May 12, 2014

YA Revolution: Book Spotlight

Happy May, book lovers!

I've got two books with incredibly compelling diverse characters to recommend.  Both came to my attention from members of The Crew.  Normally I like to recommend 3-4 each month, but a lot of LIFE stuff has been happening to me for the past few weeks and much is happening in the next couple of months (see my sidebar!) but I will do my best to make the monthly recs so that you can buy, borrow, read, review (and hopefully) recommend to your family, friends, and anyone else who loves great books.  That said, I hope you were also able to participate in the uber-successful #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign that pretty much went viral for the first few days of May.  Let's keep the momentum going!

Without further ado, here are two books that I hope you will check out, followed by an interview with fab debut YA author, Brandy Colbert.  I enjoyed both books immensely and am grateful to the Crew members who recommended them to me.  And now I recommend them to YOU:

 Since You Asked by Maurene Goo is the perfect combination of humor and seriousness as you meet and get inside the head of a Korean-American teenager who has one foot in her family's traditional Korean values and the other foot in the landmines of American teenagerhood.  Oh, and she accidentally lands her own column in her high school's newspaper. Awesome, awesome read! It's super cute and funny and sarcastic and flirty.  Such a fun read.  I don't think I've ever read a YA before with a Korean-American teenager either.  Go, Maurene!  Keep your novels coming! You should definitely check this one out. 

And then there was Pointe by Brandy Colbert. Oh. My.

This one totally blew me away because it was far more gritty and edgy than I thought it would be and I say that in a good way!  Pointe for me was like Gone Girl meets Uses for Boys.  It definitely did some genre-bending--thriller, mystery, contemporary, romance.  The main character, Theo, is an African-American teen from Chicago where she lives and breathes for ballet.  However, she's a complicated teen.  She battles with an eating disorder, boy issues, and the guilt from thinking she might be responsible for why her childhood friend got abducted by her former boyfriend several years prior.  And the childhood friend returns! I don't want to give too much away and spoil it for you.  BUT Pointe is a real page-turner and I could not put it down from the first page.  Highly recommend you pick up this one! 

I also caught up with Brandy and got a chance to ask her a few questions about her amazing debut.   Here's my mini-interview with her:

1)  What inspired you to write POINTE? 

I've kept up with longterm kidnapping cases since I saw the TV movie I Know My First Name Is Steven when I was a kid. I've always wondered about what happens when an abducted child (or teen) makes it out of that situation, but there were already so many well-done books from that perspective. So I started to think about how it would affect other people in that person's life—family, neighbors, community, old friends. I also liked the idea of the main character having a serious discipline, like ballet, and then I eventually merged the two, building the story around those elements.

2)  The main character, Theo, lives for ballet and the dancing scenes are so authentic. Do you have a background in ballet?   If not, what research did you need to do for the ballet scenes?

Thank you! I have a dance background, but I grew up taking tap and jazz lessons, and was also a member of my high school's dance team. I have taken many ballet classes as an adult, but I had to do quite a bit of research to write what I hope is an accurate portrayal of a young dancer. The American Ballet Theatre has an incredible online dictionary, which details dozens of ballet terms and also has short videos illustrating the text. I wanted the reader to understand the technical importance of ballet while also appreciating its grace and beauty. (And having logged many hours watching dance movies and reading articles about the professional ballet world were also a huge help.)

3)      What books and authors inspired you when you were a teen? What are some of your favorite books?

Growing up, I read just about anything I could get my hands on, but I especially loved and was inspired by Barthe DeClements (Nothing's Fair in Fifth Grade, Sixth Grade Can Really Kill You, How Do You Lose Those Ninth-Grade Blues?), Judy Blume (Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret; Forever) and just about everything by Beverly Cleary. Of course I was very into The Baby-sitters Club and Sweet Valley Twins series, but I also liked a lot of classics, especially The Secret Garden, Little Women, and A Little Princess.

4)      What’s next for you—when can we read your next book?  Will there be a sequel or companion novel to POINTE?

I'm currently working on another dark YA contemporary realistic book that's set in L.A., and I hope I can talk more about that soon! I don't have any plans to write a sequel to Pointe, though I never say never. I like leaving readers to interpret how they believe the characters ended up, but I also realize how open-ended the narrative was left—particularly in terms of Donovan and Theo and their friendship—so I'm a little curious myself about their future!  (As for a companion novel, several people have mentioned being interested in Ruthie's story, and while I don't currently have any plans to write that, either, I wouldn't be opposed to it if I had a great way to execute it someday.)

Thank you, Brandy! And thank you to both Brandy and Maurene for writing such terrific stories with authentic and compelling characters and sharing them with the world. 

Remember to share this post or comment below.  Above all, don't forget to support diverse books in children's literature any way you can.

Till next month!


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's right - ever say never on a sequel...

Lexa Cain said...

Both books sound wonderful and the authors really picked lovely and appropriate covers. Thanks so much for highlighting them! It's great to see minority MCs and diversity!! :)

Isabel C said...

Ooh! I really want to read both of these books!

Kate Larkindale said...

I've heard so much about Pointe. I can't wait to read it.

LD Masterson said...

I'm always looking for good YA stories for my YA readers. These both seem worth checking into. Thanks, Liz.

And best of luck to Maurene and Brandy.

Martha Zavala said...

Pointe is on my bookshelf waiting to be read.