YA: Category or Genre?

There's a GREAT conversation on THAT VERY TOPIC going on at Twitter right now, starting here:

Semi-Grown-Up Gumshoes: Three Adult-Market Girl Detectives.

I've been meaning to read Sara Gran's Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead for, well, years.

Finally, tipped over the edge by Colleen Mondor's response to a recent Kirkus column of mine...

...I did.

In so doing, I was inspired to compile a SHORT list of girl detectives who reside in the Adult Stacks.

Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, by Sara Gran

Claire is now in her thirties, but she STARTED OUT as a teen detective: first, running around Brooklyn solving mysteries with her two best friends according to the tenets laid out in Jacques Silette's detective handbook/philosophical treatise Détection, and then, investigating the disappearance of one of those friends.

She never found her.

It's been years since she's been in New Orleans—she left after her beloved mentor was murdered—but now she's back, investigating the disappearance of a District Attorney who went missing during Hurricane Katrina. It's full of great descriptions and depictions of post-disaster wreckage, New Orleans culture, and gentrification; the dialogue is excellent, there's a fantastic sense of place and atmosphere, and the mystery itself is tight tight tight. It's about innocence lost and about lost innocents, about history repeating itself, about different ways of dealing with tragedy and about how easy it is to lose one's self.

All that would be fantastic on its own, but where the book really shines is in Claire's voice, which reads both totally original AND classic noir. She's got a deep well of sadness and anger, but she's also understatedly hilarious. To say that she's not entirely reliable is probably an understatement—she's got a history of psychiatric problems as well as a penchant for abusing drugs and alcohol on a regular basis—but, at the same time, I never doubted that she was speaking her own truth.

I had a few issues: there is some unnecessary repetition in description and explanation (her truck, what wet is, info about OPP), but more bizarrely, there is a refrigerator that mysteriously appears out of nowhere (at first I chalked it up to her semi-instability, but as there was never another moment like it, I'm pretty sure it was a weird continuity error):

Newish appliances in the kitchen and a hole where the refrigerator had been. p28

Next I took prints from some spots around the house a visitor was likely to touch, labeling them as I went. The doorknobs. The refrigerator. p36

And, this is completely a matter of personal taste, but the Quaker parakeets as a metaphor for the forgotten/lost/unwanted of New Orleans was a little too LOOK IT'S A METAPHOR for me.

But, overall, HOLY COW I LOVED IT, and I'm going to request book two from the library TODAY.

What Was Lost, by Catherine O'Flynn

I read this YEARS ago, and apparently never wrote about it. Which is sad, because it was great.

It's about a 10-year-old girl detective who skulks around a shopping mall, trailing suspects and investigating imaginary mysteries... until she disappears, never to be seen again. Twenty years later, a mall security guard—who was a classmate of hers—spots her on the surveillance footage...

A Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley:

June, 1950. When we first meet eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, she's tied up, gagged, and locked in a dark closet. Not for long, though: her older sisters Ophelia and Daphne may have her beat in terms of pure physicality, but they'll never be a match for her brain.

So when a real tangle of a mystery arrives at Buckshaw—quite literally at the front door—Flavia isn't just intrigued: she's ecstatic. She doesn't know what the dead jackdaw means, or why it has a Penny Black postage stamp impaled on its beak. But she does know that it means something to her philatelist father: and whatever it is, it isn't good. When she finds a dying man in the cucumber patch later that night—a man who she saw arguing with her father just hours before—the mystery becomes that much more intriguing... and with her father as the most logical suspect, her need to find out the truth becomes that much more urgent.

Others? There MUST be more.

"YA doesn’t need rescuing. All it needs is a change in the way people talk about it."

From the Atlantic: Cinder Cinder

That’s not even to speak of modern YA, a rich genre dominated by female authors who write about everything from cyborg mechanics living in futuristic Beijing to female spies being tortured for information during World War II. Each of these stories is devoured by thousands of teenagers and adults every year, and treated with as much enthusiasm as The Fault in Our Stars. Yet most of them are often derided and largely ignored by the media.

Related: How NOT to Convince People to Read, in 5 Simple Steps.

The 2014 LIANZA Children’s Book Awards finalists...

...have been announced.

The YA list is:

Recon Team Angel, Book 3: Ice War, by Brian Falkner

Dear Vincent, by Mandy Hager

When We Wake, by Karen Healey

Bugs,by Whiti Hereaka

Mortal Fire, by Elizabeth Knox

Cattra’s Legacy, by Anna Mackenzie

Click on through for all the others!

School district disinvites Tim Federle due to "concerns" about Better Nate Than Ever.

From Twitter:

And no, it's not the first time.

Today @KirkusReviews...

...I wrote about Lucy Saxon's Take Back the Skies:

A couple of weeks back, I put together a list of stories about airships. Included on the list was Lucy Saxon’s Take Back the Skies, which is one I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time. It’s about a girl who disguises herself as a boy and stows away on a smuggler’s airship to escape her abusive father and avoid an arranged marriage. Romance, steampunk adventure, and SAVING THE COUNTRY all figure in. Sounds fun, right?

Well.

"Independent bookstores sell books from all publishers. Always."

While I have a love for independent bookstores—I worked in one for years and continue to shop in them on a regular basis—I also use Amazon a whole lot.

Because it's convenient; because it allows me to shop in my pajamas; because the prices allow more bang for my buck; because sometimes, I need a Lawrence Block book, a bolt of tulle, a pound of loose-leaf tea, and a new pair of tights, and taking three hours out of my weekend (not to mention all of that gas) to drive all over creation just isn't in the cards.

Their tactics in the battle with Hachette have me totally grossed out, though—because of how the authors are affected, but also because of how we as customers have been affected—and I haven't been able to bring myself to order from the big A lately. And so I'm glad to see that indies are taking advantage of the fight:

Now independent bookshops have moved to profit from the situation, after the American Booksellers Association produced two digital banners reading "Thanks, Amazon, the indies will take it from here", "Independent bookstores sell books from all publishers. Always", or "Pre-order and buy Hachette titles today". The association said the banners have been shared by hundreds of shops, quoting Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, Vermont, which wrote: "Can you imagine if your local bookstoreintentionally delayed selling you books just because we were mad at the publisher? Luckily at Bear Pond we actually like books and respect our customers!"

Because, all the way back to when I was an actual bookseller, I've always said that that's where indies have the upper hand: in building community, in their personal relationships with consumers, and in putting customer service first.

Query for the collective brain: Advanced 7-year-old reader, nothing too scary or fantastical.

Request via the FB:

My nephew is 7, but is a pretty advanced reader. My sister-in-law is having difficulty finding books that give him the reading challenge he wants, without content that is too far beyond his years. (He doesn't like things that are too mysterious/scary and isn't quite ready for fantasy themes like wizards/witches, etc.) He's already powered through just about everything by E.B. White, some Beverly Clearly, old Thornton Burgess, etc. - basically my sister-in-law and I have been raiding our own childhood bookshelves for ideas. Do you or any of your followers have any suggestions for a budding bookworm? Would love some more modern options, but he's also just as happy in the classics.

This request is geared a bit younger than my specialty—off the top of my head, Roald Dahl's less-scary titles (like, NOT The Witches), Geronimo Stilton, the Judy Moody and Stink books, the My Weird School series, Eric Berlin's Winston Breen books, and Blue Balliett come to mind, though those are all pretty broadly ranged in terms of reading level—so I'm passing it along to you all.

Any suggestions?

Related articles

Query for the collective brain: Kickbutt YA Heroines WITHOUT the Romance?
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Bank Street's 2014 Best Children’s Books of the Year...

...has been released.

Here are the links to the lists:

I love these lists and look forward to them every year—because it's fun to see how many of the books I've read, but also because I always find some new-to-me treasures.

New YA: June 8-14.

Lies my girlfriend told meNew hardbacks:

Trouble, by Non Pratt

When Mr. Dog Bites, by Brian Conaghan

Wicked Games, by Sean Olin

Push: The Game: Book 2, by Eve Silver

The Strange Maid: Book 2 of United States of Asgard, by Tessa Gratton

Born of Deception (Born of Illusion), by Teri Brown

(Don't You) Forget About Me, by Kate Karyus Quinn

The Fallen (An Enemy Novel), by Charlie Higson

Glory (The Dust Chronicles), by Maureen McGowan

Hexed, by Michelle Krys

I Become Shadow, by Joe Shine

Lies My Girlfriend Told Me, by Julie Anne Peters

The Murder Complex, by Lindsay Cummings

My Last Kiss, by Bethany Neal When mr dog bites

On the Road to Find Out, by Rachel Toor

Pills and Starships, by Lydia Millet

Brazen, by Katherine Longshore

Inland, by Kat Rosenfield

The Merciless, by Danielle Vega

Starbird Murphy and the World Outside, by Karen Finneyfrock

Wings (A Black City Novel), by Elizabeth Richards

New paperbacks (that I've read):

The Secret Ingredient, by Stewart Lewis:

Despite all of the emotionally charged issues (adoption! cancer! dead dog! grief! first love! coming of age! unreliable parents! the meaning of life!) and interest-piquing details (mysterious psychic! stolen ice cream truck! vintage cookbook that includes intriguing personal notes! cameo by Jude Law!) and plotting that is moved along by many serendipitous events, The Secret Ingredient is just kind of...dull. Although her meditations on cooking and food have a nice placid sort of energy, the rest of Olivia’s narration plods, and despite the likable nature of most of the characters, the dialogue feels superscripted—heavy conversation after heavy conversation after heavy conversation, and none of the characters ever seem to have any trouble whatsoever articulating anything—and thus, unbelievable.

Crushed (Readers Circle), by Laura McNeal and Tom McNeal:

Here's a tip for all the fictional characters out there: If your book begins with a quote from Pride and Prejudice, don't go out with a guy named Wickham. You should know better than that. Go for the grouchy brooding guy. He'll be rad. I promise.

Far Far Away, by Tom McNeal:

Readers who stick with it will learn that McNeal knows exactly what he's doing: Jacob is on just as much of a journey as our young protagonist is, and as he changes and grows, his deepening connection to and affection for Jeremy & Co. makes that emotional distance shrink and disappear. As the story goes on, his voice grows steadily warmer and warmer...and then, when the darkness comes—AND HOO BOY, IT COMES—steadily more frustrated, worried, urgent and, as he has the benefit of hindsight: guilty.

The Lost Sun: Book 1 of United States of Asgard, by Tessa Gratton:

Fans of Gratton's work—if you haven't discovered her yet, you're in for a treat—have probably already read this one. It's another roadtrip story, this one about a berserker and a prophetess searching for Baldur, who's gone missing. While the relationship dynamics and the family secrets are totally compelling, and while Gratton does a great job of integrating familiar myths but keeping the plotting unpredictable, for me, this one was all about the worldbuilding, which was FANTASTIC.

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New YA: February 15-21.
New YA: June 15-21.