BONE GAP by Laura Ruby

bgThere’s a slogan in London regarding their mass transit system that has become something of a rallying cry for various causes: Mind the Gap.  In London’s Underground this means make sure you pay attention when you’re disembarking.  It is this slogan that kept running through my mind when reading Laura Ruby’s masterful young adult novel Bone Gap. It wasn’t just the title that made me think of this slogan, it was the idea that at any time, this book could sweep me away.  That is the kind of book Bone Gap is: full of evocative imagery, innovative characters, and big questions.  I was always minding the craft Laura Ruby put into Bone Gap because it is my favorite kind of narrative: the more attention I paid to it, the more the story revealed.

Bone Gap tells several stories at once.  It is the story of a place – Bone Gap – where everyone knows each other but it doesn’t always mean they like each other.  It is also, on the surface, the story of how Finn sees his brother’s girlfriend Roza being kidnapped by a man he can’t quite describe and thus no one can quite believe him.  But, deeper than that, Bone Gap Roza’s story – between the gaps of here and there – of how she is learning to stand up for herself and not let the world define her.  Bone Gap is Finn’s story of growing up and falling into an intense, slow-burn romance with a girl named Petey.  Finn also has a disability – to say more would be to spoil some of the wonderful reveals of the story – and how this informs his character is also a small marvel of storytelling. Bone Gap is also Petey’s story and, just like everyone else in Bone Gap, Petey must figure out who she is outside of who everyone keeps TELLING her she is.

This is one of Bone Gap’s biggest strengths, and one of the things I think will draw teen readers to it the most: this is a story about defining yourself and not letting other people define you.  In a way, this is the ultimate struggle of adolescence and Ruby weaves this theme throughout every story.  Will you let people know you only as the ugly girl, the awkward weirdo?  Will you define yourself as the little brother who gets picked on, does everything wrong, and can’t take action?  Will you be only pretty, a beautiful girl who is only your face?  Or will you – can you – be more than those things?  Bone Gap asks the question I think almost all teens are asking in one form or another: who I am I really?

Bone Gap does that trickiest of all things: it is both literary fiction and has, I think, very high teen appeal.  As to the literary fiction part: Ruby’s writing is a punch in the gut.  It is perfectly crafted and well-calibrated for deliberate effect.  But I want to emphasize both the literary quality and the teen appeal because many reviews of Bone Gap might make it seem like it is the kind of thing only your high achieving non reluctant readers will pick up.  Now, while those readers will certainly love the craft and the writing in Bone Gap, I also think emergent readers will be drawn to the mystery of the story, the intense romance between Petey and Finn, and the undeniably creepy and downright scary horror world Roza is trapped in by a character who is pure evil. These things keep the pages turning even as you’re marveling at the way Ruby brought them all together. I’ve been telling people this is a horror story meets John Green and it just FITS.  Petey and Finn are a great YA couple – pulled together even when everyone says they have nothing in common and then thrown into the mix is the through-the-looking glass horror that traps Roza.  What a combo!

Bone Gap is also all about the male gaze.  It’s about how people think of Finn for being dreamy and different – how their assumptions of what masculinity are trap him in ways he can’t fully comprehend until he decides to disregard other’s opinions.  It’s about how what traps Roza (and even Petey) the most are men’s ideas of what she should look like and think like and be.  The biggest monster in this story is the patriarchy and oh, oh, the moment Roza decides to fight back!

I long for awards chatter to start over Bone Gap. It should, because this is a lyrical, haunting, meticulously crafted book.  That also means there will soon be chatter of “I just didn’t get it.” and “Teens won’t read this.”  While I can’t speak to the former – not every book is for every reader, after all – I think I can speak to the latter.  Teens WILL be drawn to this story and we, as educators and librarians, can promote and advocate for it, for everything original and exciting about it, by speaking about all the mysteries and wonder in this book.

Bone Gap is highly recommended for high school readers and as a first purchase for all libraries.  It is challenging and compelling and isn’t afraid to tackle head on hard issues of bodily autonomy, feminism, and self-perception.  Bone Gap is about seeing yourself as more than a face, more than what people say you are.  It’s empowering and exciting for teen readers and, y’all, there was a moment that literally made me punch my fist in the air with glee.  Bone Gap is also a great introduction to magical realism –as the worlds of plausible and impossible bleed into each other – this is the perfect way to introduce teens to a new genre. Though I am a public librarian, I think this would be an amazing book to do with a class or in a book group.  It is teachable and has lots of material to analyze.

Bone Gap is my choice for the 2016 Printz Award.  It is masterfully constructed and crafted and with off-the charts  literary merit that holds up on a re-read.  (And another re-read, just to be sure.)  My Printz pick last year was Grasshopper Jungle and there is plenty in Bone Gap that reminds me of that book – particularly the way they skirt the edge of real and not real and ask teen readers to really sit with how the world looks at them and what they can do about that.

Bone Gap is out now. You can pick up a copy at your favorite local indie bookstore or online. You can also check out a copy from your local library. If they don’t have one, suggest they purchase it.

You won’t soon forget your visit to Bone Gap and the people you meet there.  Their journeys and growth will stick with you. Like me, I think you’ll find yourself “minding the gap” long after you have turned the last page.

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LOCK & MORI – Interview & Giveaway

I’m finally back from vacation and back on track now that school has started.  PHEW is there any rush like the end of summer programs meeting the beginning of the school year? After all the delays and holidays I am finally returning to Lock & Mori which was released YESTERDAY – wheeeeee! You might remember my overwhelming affection for this modern day re-telling of the Sherlock Holmes canon featuring a female teenage Moriarty (yes) and a teenage Sherlock solving mysteries and kissing as they hurtle towards their fate from my last blog.  Today, I have an interview with author Heather W. Petty AND I’m giving away a copy of Lock & Mori! Onto the interview!

heather

How were you first introduced to Sherlock and the work of Arthur Conan Doyle?  Did you always want to write your version?

I read the stories when I was a teenage murder mystery addict, but they weren’t my favorite, if I’m being honest. I was way more into Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie. But rereading the stories more recently was really interesting. The narrative style really holds up for a modern reader. I think the first-person narrative mixed with some of the more progressive ideals presented in the stories are why derivative works have been so popular throughout the years.

How did you decide to write from Mori’s POV instead of Sherlock’s?

From the start, I wanted to tell the story from the perspective of the villain. It was the biggest part of the appeal of the idea for me, really.

Why did you choose to set the story in present day?

I wasn’t really interested in writing a historical, so pulling the characters into the present day was a pretty easy decision.

I know you don’t want to spoil the next two books – but are you planning on introducing more characters from canon (in your own versions, of course!)24885790

The book is an origin story, so I’m trying to match up this story with an alternate, modern version of what happens in the canon. That means a lot of the characters introduced in the canon aren’t necessarily available to me. But I can’t answer this specifically yet. For reasons. 🙂

Do you have some recs for other YA mysteries?

YES! One of my favorites of the 2015 debuts is Mary McCoy’s DEAD TO ME. It’s Golden Age Hollywood noir perfection. I love that book so much! I also really loved TEN by Gretchen McNeil, UNSPOKEN by Sarah Rees Brennan, and THE BOOK OF BLOOD AND SHADOWS by Robin Wasserman. Finally, keep 2016 in mind. Kristen Crowley Held has the cutest most hilarious mystery coming out in March called HOLDING COURT. And in June 2016, Bill Cameron has a YA mystery called PROPERTY OF THE STATE coming out that is BRILLIANT. I literally can’t wait to get my hands on a finished copy when it publishes just so I can reread it again and again.

Rank your favorite versions of Sherlock?  (note: it is OK to have The Great Mouse Detective as number one)

I couldn’t possibly rank them. I will say that House was probably, to me, the most unique derivation so far—so unique many people don’t realize it’s a Sherlock derivative work. And there’s a special place in my heart for the Jeremy Brett Sherlock from ITV’s various Sherlock series in the 80s and 90s. That show is probably what made me first fall in love with Sherlock and want to read the full canon. (As an aside, I saw Great Mouse Detective in the theaters when it first came out! Aaaaand, now I feel like the oldest ever.)

Find Heather online: website | Twitter |Facebook | Goodreads

Thank you, Heather!  I sometimes forget House is a Sherlock reboot too!  I love when stories come back over and over in different ways, I think it’s one of the things that really drew me to Lock & Mori.

ARE YOU DYING TO READ IT YET?  Since it’s out now you can order a copy of your very own!  Or you can go check it out from your local library (if don’t have it, suggest they purchase it.) AND YOU CAN WIN A COPY HERE!  All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog by Wednesday, September 23 and I’ll select a random winner.

Get on the case already! (sorry, I couldn’t resist …)

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The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick – an interview & a giveaway!

ghosts of heaven

I honestly can’t think of anyone in YA who does what Marcus Sedgwick does.  Perhaps this is why I am so entranced by everything he’s ever written.  Sedgwick won the Printz Award last year (that is the highest honor in young adult literature) for Midwinterblood, which remains one of the most atmospheric and overwhelming YA books I’ve ever read.  Since then he also wrote an amazing book about a blind girl who is not defined by her disability but by her will (She is Not Invisible) and created this week’s new release – The Ghosts of Heaven.

ThenGhosts of Heaven is one of my favorite books of 2015.  I know, it’s early.  But I also know that this book is special. I could give you a summary of The Ghosts of Heaven, I suppose.  It’s four stories told in four different styles that can be read in any order or not even necessarily together at all. (But once you read one, you’ll want to read them all, I promise.)  The one thing they have in common is Sedgwick’s unbelievable sense of pacing – this man can wind a story like no one else around. The second story, The Witch in the Water, reminded me of Nathaniel Hawthorne. It is about a witch hunt and much more and the sense of impending malice and tension in it was so perfectly created that I honestly had to put it down a few times to take a breather from it. The last section, The Song of Destiny is a mystery set on a spaceship sent out to colonize a planet and it was so beautifully crafted it made me cry with joy. Now THAT is some writing.

These Ghost of Heaven is also united by the image of a spiral, which is found through-out all the stories and weaves them together in the smallest and yet also most significant ways. It’s haunting and subtle and just a little brilliant to wind a story around a spiral.  And the use of the spiral is a great narrative device that makes it easy to step into any of the four stories and follow the thread of them.  The spiral is a little creepy, yeah, but also totally beguiling – which is the perfect combination in a book for teens.

Teens – yes, there’s that question you’re dying to ask.  Sure, Sedgwick’s books are smart and LITERARY~~ but, I mean do teens like them?  Yeah, they sure would.  Look, I’m not telling you every reader is going to be on board with Sedgwick’s books – but there’s NO book that “every” reader is on board with, no matter what you’ve heard.  But I don’t even think his writing is just for the NON reluctant reader (one of my favorite concepts) I think there’s something haunting, creepy, compelling, and ENTICING about Marcus Sedgwick’s books.  They whisper of things just out of sight, things in shadows, things you feel dance across your skin in the quiet.  C’mon now – that’s perfect for teens. And for that teen that just keeps BEGGING for something new, something else, something different, something more (you know the one) … Marcus Sedgwick is perfect.

With that, this is highly recommended as a first purchase for libraries. It will appeal to a wide section of teen readers, from those looking for a challenging read to those looking for a quick short story, especially if you give it the kind of booktalk that highlights the mystery and original atmosphere through-out time.

When I had the chance to participate in the book tour for this title, I jumped up faster than Katniss at the Reaping. ESPECIALLY when I was told that I’d have a chance to ask Marcus Sedgwick some questions about the book.  One of the best things about Ghosts of Heaven is that it’s simply meant to be talked about – there’s so much to be discussed!

Not only that, the awesome publishers are giving away a copy – perfect for adding to your library!  All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this entry by January 19. (US residents only)

The whole tour is pretty cool: there are reviews, more giveaways, and more interviews so you should check out the whole schedule to find out more about the book. You can also read a summary and the first forty pages.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE QUESTIONS I ASKED MARCUS SEDGWICK THAT HE ANSWERED IN THE BEST WAYS POSSIBLE THAT MADE ME JUST WANT TO RE-READ THE WHOLE BOOK OVER AGAIN BECAUSE THEY WERE JUST THAT FASCINATING?! Read on!

BLOGTOUR

 

Like Midwinterblood, The Ghosts of Heaven is a book of intertwined stories that COULD be read alone but work together to create a fuller picture. What draws you to writing this kind of narrative?

If it’s a truism to say that all writing is trying to work out what it is to be human, then there are perhaps broadly two ways of doing that – by working from the individual to speak of the universal, or by working from the universal to speak about the individual, because both are part of being human. With these two books I was attempting to look at things on a larger scale than the individual, to talk about large and eternal subjects, and yet, the paradox of that is, as I just said, that the way to do that was by using the individual. By using stories about several individuals across different times, I was hoping to convey a large feeling, an eternal atmosphere.

Can you talk about the specifics of how you wrote this narrative? Did you write it “in order” or create the order after the individual pieces were written?

I planned the four stories (and planning for me is half way towards the finished writing anyway) in bits and pieces, flitting backwards and forwards between the four ideas in my head as I felt like it, or as I found a particularly interesting thing in what I call research, or as something randomly pushed me in one direction or another. Once I had finalized things (as far as I was going to finalize things, at least) in my head, I wrote the stories in the order in which they appear in the book – a physical book being limited in this way of course, and though this order is important, there is another one that I feel is of equal importance, but I’m keeping what that is to myself. I would like each reader to feel for themselves how the story might alter if the four parts were taken in a different order.

I am fascinated by the different narrative forms in the book – including verse to diary entries. Was this a deliberate choice to make each section have an even more unique voice?

Yes, partly, but it also stemmed from a very conscious choice about the section called Whispers in the Dark. Having decided that I wanted to set a story in a Neolithic period, in which we are witness to the very earliest origin of writing, I felt I had a problem. I cringe when I think of certain books and films that try to be authentic with stories set in prehistory. I’m thinking of films like One Million Years BC and so on, where cave men ‘ugg’ and ‘agg’ at each other and all have names with at least one K in them. The view of this stage of our history seems to require that we spoke in harsh and guttural tones. For all we know, we spoke in a mellifluous and beautifully lyrical language. But I would have had no more reason to create a language or accompanying atmosphere in that fashion either. The solution I felt was to write that part in free verse, to distance us somewhat from the world, and give it a remote and foreign feel. It meant I could basically avoid dialogue and direct narrative thought, which I felt would have been inauthentic, no matter what I did. So having one part in verse, I thought I should give each quarter a distinct narrative approach.

What are some literary inspirations for this work? Tonally, the third part, The Easiest Room in Hell, reminded me of Lovecraft and the second section, The Witch in the Water, reminded me of Hawthorne. (Maybe I’m totally off-base, but I loved the way each section seemed to allude to other classic works of literature.)

You’re spot on! Lovecraft was a big influence on the feel of Easiest Room – I’d been making some road-trips through New England, and it brought back memories of reading Lovecraft as a teenager. As an Englishman, I love seeing all the English place names transposed to New England – we have such a shared history and I feel fond of it. Lovecraft of course then did his own thing on top of that, and my character Charles Dexter is a direct reference (for those who know) to Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. That meant I got to write some poetry in the style that Lovecraft might have done, which was great fun. Witch in the Water has a feel of Hawthorne, I see what you mean, but that wasn’t conscious, though may have come through. I was trying to recreate the tone of classic accounts of witch trials – although I set my story in England, Diane Starkey’s fantastic book, The Devil in Massachusetts, captures what is scariest about all witch trials – the combination of claustrophobia and violence that propels their inevitability. I was also driven for this section by an obscure 60s thriller called Ritual, by David Pinner, from which the classic British horror film The Wicker Man was derived (and no, I’m not talking about the Nicholas Cage version!)

You never seem to write the same book twice! Even this book, which shares traits with Midwinterblood is different in pacing, setting, tone, and even theme. Are you consciously trying to innovate in your writing? Do you just get bored easily? 🙂 Where does the constant innovation come from?

Yes, yes, and I don’t know. Perhaps I should elaborate on that a little bit. Yes, I am consciously trying to innovate, and yes, I do get bored easily. That’s a direct way of saying that I’ve been writing for a reasonably long time now and I nearly stopped two or three times because I didn’t know where to go next. I don’t want to write the same book every time, but that makes things hard because there must be a finite number of times that I can do that. But that’s what I really want to do, and it’s important because to keep on doing things this way means I have to continually find something new to be excited about, and some new way of working. But I’m not complaining, I love a challenge when I’m writing and this makes sure that I keep setting myself new challenges. Where does the innovation come from? I’m not really sure, I think the only thing is that I try to be influenced by as wide a range of books, films and ideas in general in order to keep things fresh. So I don’t know what’s coming next. If I can’t set myself a new challenge, there may be no new books at all, but if there are, I can promise they will offer something new, or something new to me, at least.

Here’s me after reading Marcus Sedgwick’s answers and feeling like I understood the book so much more/wanted to read it again/got the literary moods and references right:

Actually, those are just my faces in general when it comes to Marcus Sedgwick’s books. (I could talk for a thousand years about Midwinterblood – perfect choice, my Printz friends.  What a stunner.) If you haven’t read a Sedgwick book, The Ghosts of Heaven is the perfect place to start.  Buy a copy, check it out from your library or recommend they buy a copy or …. leave a comment to enter to win one!

In any case: read it as soon as possible so we can discuss it and you can share it with your teen patrons!

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10 Books You Can’t Miss in 2015

Where does the time go?  Can it possibly already be the twilight of 2014?  I have lots of posts planned – and even some started – but the chaos of December sneaked up on me while my back was turned.  BUT I promised myself I would try to post at least once a month no matter what and if I managed to keep that promise during SUMMER READING I sure couldn’t break it now.  Frantic for an interesting idea I could put together in not a ton of time, my lovely and dear friend Amy suggested a post of titles I’m looking forward to in 2015. Now, since I love talking about what I’m reading and lately I’m reading SO MANY upcoming titles I realized this was a perfect idea to get OTHERS reading them, talking about them, and getting them on their own radars. As Hans Landa would say: THAT’S A BINGO!

One (happy) disclaimer: you’ll notice there are no titles on the list that contain queer themes.  This is because in January, I will begin serving a 2 year term on the Stonewall Book Awards Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children & Young Adult’s Book Award Committee.  This has seriously been one of my life-long librarian goals and I am so excited to begin this work!  But it also means I can’t publicly discuss eligible material.

These will all (well, OK fine with one exception) be titles I have already read and loved.  Almost all of them I downloaded as digital galleys thanks to NetGalley or Edelweiss, which means YOU can go there and request them too!  Which you should!  Immediately! (thanks to all publishers who put electronic galleys up on these sites – it makes reading/reviewing so much easier.  Please continue to do this, especially making it available for us to read on an eReader device!) These aren’t full reviews, just a few sentences about why I think you should have this book on your TBR pile.  Mostly YA with a handful of other titles mixed in.  And, of course, I still have SO MUCH to read. (and I’m always up for suggestions, of course.)

So: with grateful, joyous thanks to anyone who read this blog during 2014 and a promise that I will keep sharing and writing in 2015 – onward to the list of titles you need to get on your 2015 radar NOW!

bonegap
Bone Gap
by Laura Ruby (out 3/15) I don’t even know where to begin with this one other than I have never read another YA book like this.  It is a dark, lyrical magical realism story about how women, in particular, learn that they are more than their faces.  It’s atmospheric, brilliantly structured, scary, romantic, and empowering.  I think teens are going to be drawn to everything different about this one. A tour de force.

rage

All the Rage by Courtney Summers (out 4/15) With no hyperbole: this book is going to become this generation’s Speak.  This is going to be the book that gets passed around from girl to girl, that gets pressed into hands with a whispered, “I know what this means.”  I’m not going to tell you this is an easy read, I’m not going to tell you it’s for everyone.  I am going to tell you that for some teens – this book will save their life.  And I mean it.

anna banana

Anna, Banana and the Friendship Split by Anica Mrose Rissi (out 5/15) Rissi begins a wonderful new early readers series in this story about two third grade best friends and their fight.  Transitional chapter book readers are one of the genres we get asked for the most at my library and everything about this book is going to be a hit with the kids: Anna’s warm, vulnerable, relatable voice, the small details that turn your third grade world, and even the sadness and anger that grown-ups often ignore in this age group.  And did I mention there’s a delightful multi-cultural cast?

cost

The Cost of All Things by Maggie Lehrman (out 5/15) I HATE fictional worlds where there is no consequence to magic.  And that’s part of the reason I love this book so much: there are spells here, that will do big and huge things but they come at a very steep cost for everyone in involved.  How much would you exchange for the chance to forget pain?  To keep your friends close? What would you think about the person who could do this magic?  Fantastic world-building and amazing character voice make this one stand out.  One of the best read-alikes for The Curseworkers I’ve found – magic isn’t easy because life isn’t easy.

roller girl

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson (out 3/15) It’s finally here!  The book you’ll give to your readers after they’ve read all your Raina Telgemeier books so many times they have them memorized and they NEED something new. A beautiful, funny, empowering middle grade look at finding your path and the inner strength to be your own weird self  with awesome, athletic girls and women everywhere … I mean, what’s not to love? This will NEVER be on the shelves. (PS: my boyfriend the roller derby ref read this in one sitting, laughing with the delight the whole way.  Two thumbs up from him!)

0714AR2The Whisper by Aaron Starmer (out 3/15) I promised myself I wasn’t going to include ANY sequels on this list because that’d be a whole other list. BUT Y’ALL.  This book is the sequel to The Riverman and if you haven’t read that you should immediately stop reading this and go get The Riverman, start reading, and let it give you wild dreams. These two books exemplify one of my favorite things: high middle grade. And, better still, they are the kind of books that feel just right for how weird and scary and ever-changing it is to be a kid … and then you read them as an adult and see they’re scary as HELL.  Seriously.  Go.  Get it now. (best read-alike I’ve ever found for Coraline.)

written

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed (out 3/15) Another totally original voice and an experience unlike any I’ve ever had in YA.  THIS is what I’m talking about, people.  I loved that everyone in this book is a complicated character who doesn’t exist in shades of black and white, I love that another culture is given such breath, depth, and caring. I love that this is a book that will ask teens to look deeply into BIG questions. This book was wrenching and heart-fulling to read.  Nalia is the YA heroine we’ve been missing and I’m so glad the whole world will get to meet her soon.

twinkie

The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh (out 1/15) Such original, funny, sweet middle grade that the narrative complexity of the text and the emotional growth of the characters sort of sneaks up on you.  I LOVE this kind of writing, this kind of depth, and I think it’s the kind that really engages middle grade readers and starts getting them ready for YA.  Just wonderful.  And I LOVE the way Yeh handles and addresses class issues and non-traditional family structure, two more things we need to see LOTS more of.

painted sky

Under A Painted Sky by Stacey Lee (out 3/15) Everything I never knew I always wanted – that’s a lie, I always knew I wanted this.  I always knew that YA historical fiction was missing more complicated, exciting adventures for people of color and TA-DAH, Stacey Lee has given us just that.  This is another one that I think does a great job mixing readability (it’s a page turner) with literary merit. I yearned and dreamed and fought with these characters and I missed them when the book was over.  This is a fantastic debut that has SO MUCH going on – but it never feels like too much, Lee is THAT good.

And … the one I haven’t read yet but I am SO excited for that I think might actually pass out …

shadow

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older (out 6/15) Magical powers in a city!  A female lead who makes art, fights evil, and wields ancient powers. EVIL GENTRIFYING ANTHROPOLOGISTS WHO CO-OPT CULTURES! Was this book made just for me?! I mean for the love of God, look at the cover.  Also, I love-love-love Older’s adult short fiction so I can’t wait to see what he has in store for YA.

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What fun!  I still had more books to talk about …. so you know that means I’ve just gotta do another one!  Now you tell me: which 2015 books should I put on my radar now?  Leave me a comment or talk to me on Twitter

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