Friday Fifteen

Welcome back to the Friday Fifteen, your favorite (only?) source of five fifteen-word reviews. Onto the books!

1. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Bought it because I like Green’s work; ended up being particularly touched by Levithan’s Will.

2. The Piggy in the Puddle by Charlotte Pomerantz
Silly sounds and muddy fun in a cute picture book.

3. Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen Cookbook: 100 + Great Recipes with Foolproof Instructions by Nancy Mills and Kevin Mills
My first cookbook. Perfect for new cooks, with useful “mom tips,” like what ovenproof means.

4. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
My favorite Cinderella adaptation, full of charm. Don’t judge it by the movie.

5. The Prelude by William Wordsworth
Lesson from Oxford: If the question is Wordsworth, the answer is “The mind of God.”

Think of the Parents

A good reminder that parents should occasionally make an appearance in YA novels:

“I’m always a little bugged when I read YA books where the parents are absent, either by killing them off for no reason, or by sending the teen away to boarding school. Now I have to admit, some of my favorite books are set in boarding school and many of them require the setting, but in a lot of cases, it’s just a way to get rid of the parents so that the kids can run wild and have their own adventures.  There aren’t many kids who have either had their parents die or are sent to live at boarding school (okay, my husband has had both of those things happen – and he says that Hogwarts aside, life in a co-ed boarding school in England was as awesome as it sounds) but there are lots and lots of kids out there who have to deal with their parents every day.”

I know that it’s easy to think that less parental interaction means more adventure/freedom for your main character, and in part that’s true. You don’t necessarily want your main character to have to sit at home every night because their parents are watching them constantly. (Although that might be a good excuse for a character to rebel.) But as CJ mentions, most readers can relate to dealing with parents on a day-to-day basis. That’s not to say they need to be present on every page, but they should at least be a part of your character’s life.

A recent example of parents handled well in a novel would be John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Although they’re not uber-present they’re still a big part of Hazel’s life and feel like real people. (I won’t give away details, but one quote from Hazel’s mom was heartbreaking.)

How do you handle parents in your YA/children’s novels?

(image: Center for Jewish History, NYC)

Author Interview with John Green

Wait, it’s a video with John Green that’s not a vlog brothers video? Can’t wrap my brain around it. Great interview though!

I especially like John’s comments on creating moments that are a gift to the reader and thinking of their experience. It’s cliche to say that you should write the book you want to read, but I think it’s good to remember the future reading experience as you write.

Also, it sounds really silly but I was excited to see John interviewed here because it’s so normal to see him in other videos. I thought “Look at him! Just like a real person! He’s famous outside of my little world!” It’s like seeing your friend from high school get interviewed and act like a professional. Except John and I aren’t actually friends*.

*John, let me know if you want to be friends**.

**If you want to be enemies, that’s cool too. I am a cold and heartless nemesis.


Across the Pond

As you may or may not know, book covers are usually different for a novel in the US and its international counterparts. A recent post at the Millions looked at a few different US/UK novels, and I thought it would be cool to look at some popular YA or children’s titles as well. I chose John Green’s Looking for Alaska, which has been translated into several languages.

This is the cover we American readers know and love. I think it’s a solid cover; maybe not startling, but it strikes the right mood.

This is the latest UK cover. This is probably my least favorite, as it feels a little generic.

This is the French cover. Again, maybe a little generic, but I like the collection of teens here.

This is the Spanish cover. At first glance I didn’t like it much, but I think the A as a maze is actually pretty cool. (Could do without the shoe, however.)

I’d be curious to hear more about what goes into different cover designs for international versions of the same title. Do you ever check out international covers?

Launching the Stars

Last night was the launch event for John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars book tour, and I was lucky enough to go. The kick-off was hosted by Wellesley Books, a fantastic local bookstore. (Thanks to them, I’ve gotten to see Shannon Hale and Suzanne Collins, too.) Since John and his brother Hank are kind of internet superstars, the event was ticketed and was held at the Wellesley Middle School due to size.

I was toward the back of the line into the event, so by the time I made it inside the auditorium was pretty full. But it was so exciting to hear the cheers of the crowd before the event even started. Usually you get this kind of reaction at concerts or sporting events. Hundreds of teens and young adults were bouncing around at the thought that soon John and Hank would take the stage. The vibe was electric.

Since these are the vlog brothers, this obvious wasn’t your average reading. The event opened with a sock puppet show, followed by a brief reading of The Fault in Our Stars, included a couple of funny question-and-answer rounds (one of which ended with punishment–sorry Hank) and a couple of song sessions. Audience members sang along, shouted out questions, and cheered whenever the Katherine appeared. I went to a Green Brothers event a few years ago–for Paper Towns, I think–and the energy was even stronger here. It’s so awesome to see so many young people who are so excited by books, by making the world a better place, by connecting with one another, and by funny songs about Harry Potter.

Since I forgot my camera and my phone refused to be functional, I borrowed my husband’s phone and took these very sad pictures. I like to think that the problem was with my lack of knowledge about his phone’s camera feature, but I don’t think that’s really the problem. In any case:

Here’s John reading from the first couple chapters of The Fault in Our Stars. He wore a suit when he first came out but changed into jeans and a t-shirt later. Does that mean John suits up for his novels? Is this a comment about the sartorial aspects of the literary life? Am I thinking too much about pants?


Here’s Hank and his guitar. One of his songs was written for The Fault in Our Stars and it was really lovely. When he played “Shake-a-Booty” everyone got up and danced. It was a-dor-a-ble.

The line for signing was insane, so I got to read about half of The Fault in Our Stars before the evening was over. As a mini-review, so far it’s great. It might be my favorite of Green’s novels so far–a nice combination of witty dialogue, depth of character, and big ideas about life and death.

A few other fun things from the event:

  • Lots of people talking about Doctor Who. My heart!
  • Hearing other Nerdfighters befriend each other.
  • Talking to people in line for the signing.
  • John liked my scarf. And he says he doesn’t notice fashion!
  • I think one of the Wellesley people hosting the event went to the same summer writing camp I did when I was in high school. Enter awkward book stalking?

I didn’t get home until almost midnight, but it was well worth it. I’m sure all the subsequent book tour events will be just as fun; Nerdfighters across the country are in for a treat.

Maybe a The Fault in Our Stars 15-word review on Friday forthcoming?

(No) Spoiler Alert

John Green is one of the biggest YA authors currently writing. So the fact that Barnes & Noble accidentally shipped pre-ordered copies of his upcoming book, The Fault in Our Stars, is a pretty big deal. But I appreciated John’s response:

“I’m disappointed about this, but as my brother reminded me this morning, I am very, very lucky. I have the best readers in the world, readers who care not only about my books but also about each other. So thank you, in advance, for not sharing spoilers—whether you read The Fault in Our Stars before or after January 10th.”

Nerdfighters are a very cool group, and I’m confident the majority of early receivers would not think of spoiling the book for the others. There will always be some obnoxious people who want to take advantage of a situation like this, but I think most readers would enjoy getting the early copy and let others experience the joy of getting theirs. I know I’m looking forward to picking up this one!