Wednesday, February 15, 2017

YA Guy Reviews... EXO by Fonda Lee!

Being YA Guy, I read a lot of YA science fiction. I've always loved sci-fi, and my own novels are in the genre. So I'd say one-third to one-half of the YA titles I read every year are billed as science fiction.

But you know, most of them are really bad.

Derivative plots. Weak or nonexistent science. Magic instead of logic. Zero philosophical complexity. Heavy petting and happy endings where I'm looking for ambiguity and enduring questions.

The problem, it seems to me, is that far too many writers of ostensible YA science fiction aren't really interested in sci-fi. They don't know it; they don't care about it; they don't feel it. They write it, I can only speculate, because it's popular in the wake of titles like The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, and Divergent (which, whatever strengths it might have, is very weak science fiction). Instead of being lifelong lovers and advocates of the genre, they're dabblers. They write romantic fairy tales set in the future and call it science fiction, and those of us who cherish the genre are, I think, rightfully appalled.

All of this is preliminary to announcing that Fonda Lee, author of Zeroboxer (2015) and the brand-new Exo, is an exception to the above. She writes YA, but she's a true science fiction writer: in her heart, in her mind, in her blood. She knows the genre--its history, its traditions--and she pays tribute to it while extending it in exciting ways. That's what makes her so good.

Exo tells the story of Donovan Reyes, a teen soldier on a future Earth that's been colonized by an alien species. After years of war in which humanity suffered greatly at the hands of a technologically superior race, an accommodation has been reached between us and them; though the aliens effectively run the show, they've shared certain aspects of their technology with humankind, incorporated some humans into their kinship networks, and biologically transformed a select group of human beings, including Donovan, to exude an exoskeletal armor covering at will. When Donovan's captured by humans-first terrorists and forced to confront their beliefs head-on, his allegiance to the alien regime is called into question. And when he's required to choose between his father, who's a key figure in the accommodationist government, and an equally important person from his past, who's a central member of the terrorist group, Donovan's conflict comes to a head.

I didn't love everything about Exo; some of the emotional turning-points in the early going felt rushed to me, while the ending felt emotionally but not entirely intellectually satisfying. But what I did love about the book far made up for what I didn't: the imaginative rendering of an alien civilization; the plausible representation of human life under a colonizing power; the probing philosophical questions and moral quandaries; and, quite frankly, the really cool exocel armor system. There's action aplenty in Exo, and some romance too, but I never felt the way I feel about too much YA science fiction: that the futuristic setting is an excuse for lots of poorly executed fighting and smooching scenes. In Exo, the science fiction comes first, and that's the way it should be.

One of these days, I'm going to get around to compiling a list of my favorite YA science fiction books and authors. When I do, I'll share it here. And you can be sure that Fonda Lee and Exo will be on it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

YA Guy Welcomes... Jennifer Bardsley, author of DAMAGED GOODS!

YA Guy is thrilled to welcome my good friend, Jennifer Bardsley, to the blog! DAMAGED GOODS, the second book in her YA science fiction series, has just been released, and Jennifer was kind enough to stop by and answer some questions.

YA Guy: Hi, Jennifer, and welcome to the blog! Can you tell us about DAMAGED GOODS and the Blank Slate series?

Jennifer Bardsley: Thank you so much for having me on The YA Guy! I always joke that it's like we are Internet married because my Facebook page is called The YA Gal. (And side note, you were really cool about me ripping off your idea on that one.) I'm so happy to be chatting with you today because you and I both write Sci-Fi and speculative fiction, which are my favorite types of books to read.

My newest book is called DAMAGED GOODS, and is the sequel to GENESIS GIRL which came out last year. They are about a teenager named Blanca who has never been on the Internet. Her lack of a digital footprint makes her so valuable that she gets auctioned off the highest bidder. In GENESIS GIRL readers find out why Blanca was shielded from the Internet her entire childhood and how that impacted her life. In DAMAGED GOODS Blanca struggles to move past her sheltered upbringing and doles out justice to bad guys from her past.

YAG: Sounds awesome! Have you always liked sci-fi? If so, what are some of your favorite stories (books, movies, or both), and why are you into them?

JB: I have always loved Sci-Fi because it's the ultimate escape. In high school Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut were two of my favorite authors and I watched all of the "Star Trek Next Generation" episodes on repeat, These days, if I turn on one episode of "Battlestar Galatica" I will spend the next forty eight hours binge-watching and morph into that couple from "Portlandia" who are the biggest "Battlestar Galatica" fans ever.

YAG: Cool! Now what about the other half of the equation--the Young Adult half. What appeals to you about YA?

JB: As an adult reader, I love young adult fiction because it's the chance to revisit high school and have fun. When I was in high school, I was so focused on grades and getting into a good college that I never went to a wild party or got caught in an epic love triangle. But I also enjoy YA because they so often include stories of teens taking control of their own lives and forging their own paths.

YAG: You've got a great agent (as I know, since she's mine as well) and have built a great platform for yourself and your books. Any tips for beginning writers about how to achieve success?

JB: My biggest tip for writers would be to not give up. This industry is challenging on so many levels, but there are multiple ways to achieve success. My second tip would be to put your manuscript away for three months and then come back to it with new eyes. I'm a big believer in revision. I never give anything to my agent unless I've revised it twenty-two times, and that includes incorporating feedback from multiple beta readers.

YAG: Excellent advice! Last question: tell us something funny or unusual about yourself that few people know!

JB: People who already follow me on social media already know that I have a poodle named Merlin, but what they don't know is that Merlin has a fetish for old ladies. We think Merlin must have been owned by an elderly woman who died before he went to the shelter that we adopted him from. Merlin is a sweet dog to begin with and friendly with everyone, but when he sees a woman of a certain age, he becomes ecstatic. My kids and I joke that Merlin's dream vacation would be a week at a retirement home.

YAG: Okay, not even your internet husband YA Guy knew that story! Readers, if you want to learn more about Jennifer and her books, here's where to go:

Jennifer Bardsley writes the column “I Brake for Moms” for The Everett Daily Herald. Her novel Genesis Girl debuted in 2016 from Month9Books, with the sequel, Damaged Goods, releasing in 2017. Genesis Girl is about a teenager who has never been on the Internet. Jennifer, however, is on the web all the time as “The YA Gal” with over 21,000 followers on Facebook, 19,500 followers on Instagram, and 9,000 followers on Twitter. On Facebook, she hosts the weekly instant book club called #TakeALookTuesday where YA Gal friends geek out, share pictures of what they are reading, and chat about books. Jennifer is a member of SCBWI, The Sweet Sixteens debut author group, and is founder of Sixteen To Read. An alumna of Stanford University, Jennifer lives near Seattle, WA where she enjoys spending time with her family and her poodle, Merlin.

Title: DAMAGED GOODS (Blank Slate #2)
Author: Jennifer Bardsley
Pub. Date: January 17, 2017
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook
Pages: 300
Find it: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | TBD

Blanca has everything she ever wanted, a hot boyfriend named Seth and the loving support of her foster father, Cal. She’s finally escaped the abusive control of her birth father, Barbelo Nemo, and her tortured childhood at Tabula Rasa School.

But the scars of Blanca’s Vestal upbringing run deep, especially when the FBI starts asking questions. Blanca feels abandoned by Seth who is hunting for Lilith, Blanca’s only blood relative. The Defectos, a support group of Vestal-Rejects, offer Blanca comfort instead.

While the Vestal order crumbles, Chinese rivals called the Guardians rise to power and wrest control of important Tabula Rasa contacts. Now Blanca’s life is in peril once more, and this time, Blanca struggles to recognize friend from foe.

Title: GENESIS  GIRL (Blank Slate #1)
Author: Jennifer Bardsley
Pub. Date: June 14, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook
Pages: 280

Eighteen-year-old Blanca has lived a sheltered life. Her entire childhood has been spent at Tabula Rasa School where she’s been protected from the Internet. 

Blanca has never been online and doesn’t even know how to text. Her lack of a virtual footprint makes her extremely valuable, and upon graduation, Blanca and those like her are sold to the highest bidders.

Blanca is purchased by Cal McNeal, who uses her to achieve personal gain. But the McNeals are soon horrified by just how obedient and non-defiant Blanca is. All those mind-numbing years locked away from society have made her mind almost impenetrable. 

By the time Blanca is ready to think for herself, she is trapped. Her only chance of escape is to go online.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

YA Guy Hosts... The SOULMATED Blog Tour!

YA Guy's thrilled to take part in the blog tour for SOULMATED by Shaila Patel! For details about this imaginative YA paranormal romance and its author, plus an excerpt from the book and a chance to win some great prizes including a SOULMATED swag pack, read on!

Title: SOULMATED (Joining of Souls #1)
Author: Shaila Patel
Pub. Date: January 24, 2017
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook
Pages: 300
Find it: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | TBD

Two souls. One Fate.

Eighteen-year-old Liam Whelan, an Irish royal empath, has been searching for his elusive soulmate. The rare union will cement his family's standing in empath politics and afford the couple legendary powers, while also making them targets of those seeking to oust them.

Laxshmi Kapadia, an Indian-American high school student from a traditional family, faces her mother's ultimatum: Graduate early and go to medical school, or commit to an arranged marriage.

When Liam moves next door to Laxshmi, he’s immediately and inexplicably drawn to her. In Liam, Laxshmi envisions a future with the freedom to follow her heart.

Liam's father isn't convinced Laxshmi is "The One" and Laxshmi's mother won't even let her talk to their handsome new neighbor. Will Liam and Laxshmi defy expectations and embrace a shared destiny? Or is the risk of choosing one's own fate too great a price for the soulmated?

About Shaila:

As an unabashed lover of all things happily-ever-after, Shaila’s younger self would finish reading Cinderella and fling her copy across the room because it didn’t mention what happened next. Now she writes from her home in the Carolinas and dreams up all sorts of stories with epilogues. A member of the Romance Writers of America, she’s a pharmacist by training, a medical office manager by day, and a writer by night. She enjoys traveling, craft beer, and teas, and loves reading books—especially in cozy window seats. You might find her sneaking in a few paragraphs at a red light or connecting with other readers online at:

Find Shaila:


I stormed out the back, letting the screen door slam behind me. The infinite darkness above did nothing to lift the suffocating blanket of my life. I picked up the recycling bin and lugged it down to the curb, trying to control the emotions taking over. As I bent to drop the bin, my hands wouldn't let go. I'd clung so hard to the edge, my muscles went stiff. I dropped to my knees and bowed my head between my arms, matching my breaths to the pulsing rhythm of the crickets' chirping, hoping to fend off the tears.


I squeaked and twisted so fast, I fell back on my butt. "Liam?" I glanced at my house to make sure Mom wasn't watching.

Liam followed my gaze and stayed between his house and Mrs. Robertson's, keeping out of Mom's view. He was holding a recycling bin filled with flattened boxes.

From the light of both porches, I could see the concern on his face.

Does he really like me?

He put down the bin and moved into the shadows of Mrs. Robertson's porch, waving me over. I looked toward my house again and got up, wiping off my backside. The closer I got to him, the lighter the oppressive veil felt. I stopped at arm's length, not trusting myself to step any closer.

"Praying over the recycling, were you?" he asked. 

A bitter laugh came out before I could stop it. I cleared my throat. "Something like that," I whispered.

His eyes shot over to my house and then back to me. "Your mum?"

I nodded, unable to stop staring into his eyes. Before I realized what I was doing, I'd told him about Sujata, Mom's edict about marriage or med school, and Premlata Aunty's 'offer.' At the mention of Tejas, Liam cracked his neck and dipped his head, his hands hanging loosely on his hips. Great, now I'm making him uncomfortable.

Giveaway Details:

(1) winner will receive a Perfectly Posh, Posh To Meet You Set ($20 value), US Only.

(10) winners will receive a SOULMATED Swag Pack, US Only.

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

1/23/2017- Dani Reviews ThingsExcerpt
1/23/2017- I am not a bookworm!Review

1/24/2017- Two Chicks on BooksInterview
1/24/2017- Book-KeepingReview

1/25/2017- Black Cat BlogGuest Post
1/25/2017- Omg Books and More Books Review

1/26/2017- Don't Judge, ReadGuest Post
1/26/2017- The Starving BookwormReview

1/27/2017- Hidden Worlds BooksGuest Post
1/27/2017- Book Review BeccaReview

Week Two:

1/30/2017- Jorie Loves A Story- Interview
1/30/2017- Drink Coffee and Read BooksReview

1/31/2017- Read Coffee and Teen- Interview
1/31/2017- The BookavidReview

2/1/2017- Lisa's Loves(Books of Course)Excerpt
2/1/2017- NovelKnightReview

2/2/2017- YA GuyExcerpt
2/2/2017- Rockin' Book ReviewsReview

2/3/2017- So Few BooksInterview

2/3/2017- NetherreadsReview

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

YA Guy Reveals... The FREEFALL Cover!

YA Guy is ecstatic to let the world see at last what I first saw a couple of months ago: the cover to my forthcoming deep-space adventure/romance FREEFALL! You can check out the reveal on Riveted, but you can also take a look at it right here:

I totally love this cover: the colors, the layout, the representation of the main characters, the outer space backdrop, the everything. I think the folks at Simon & Schuster did a tremendous job, and I hope you agree!

Here's the blurb for the book:

In the Upperworld, the privileged 1% are getting ready to abandon a devastated planet Earth. And Cam can’t wait to leave. After sleeping through a 1,000-year journey, he and his friends will have a pristine new planet to colonize. And no more worries about the Lowerworld and its 99% of rejects.

Then Cam sees a banned video feed of protesters in the Lowerworld who also want a chance at a new life. And he sees a girl with golden eyes who seems to be gazing straight though the feed directly at him. A girl he has to find. Sofie.

When Cam finds Sofie, she opens his eyes to the unfairness of what’s happening in their world, and Cam joins her cause for Lowerworld rights. He also falls hard for Sofie. But Sofie has her own battles to fight, and when it’s time to board the spaceships, Cam is alone.

Waking up 1,000 years in the future, Cam discovers that he and his shipmates are far off-course, trapped on an unknown and hostile planet. Who has sabotaged their ship? And does it have anything to do with Sofie, and the choices—and the enemies—he made in the past?

FREEFALL is due out on August 29, 2017. It's not yet available for pre-order, but you can add it to your Goodreads TBR list.

I'd love to hear what you think about the cover, so feel free to drop me a comment!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

YA Guy is... Done with Dystopian!

Industry insiders have been saying for years that dystopian is dead. From what YA Guy can tell, that's not really true.

But it should be.

It took me a while, but I've finally gotten tired of dystopian YA. There's just too darn much of it. And too darn much of it is too darn much alike.

It goes like this. There's a City. (And yes, everything in dystopian YA is Capitalized to make it seem more Portentous than it really Is.) This City is surrounded by a Wall. People are either trying to get Out of it (because it's oppressive) or get Into it (because it's oppressive, but it has Really Good Cake). A Teenager who's a Rebel in some fashion--s/he Hunts, or Reads, or is Not Like Other People--goes Over or Under or Through the Wall and Discovers the Horrific Truth about Reality. Then s/he does two things: s/he engages in a Love Triangle, and s/he starts a Revolution. Both of which will probably take Three Books to be resolved so the Publisher can make Lots of Money.

You know you've read this story before. It's The Hunger Games (or, if you want to go farther back, The Giver, which has the advantage of being a stand-alone). It's not a bad story at all: it's got action, romance, excitement, death, redemption. It's a story that's found its way, in whole or in part, into many other books that aren't strictly dystopian. It's simultaneously simple and powerful, and that's why it's so appealing. If you're a writer in any speculative genre, I bet you've used elements of it. I know I have.

But oh, gosh, in its pure form, I think it's time to call it quits.

Dystopian YA--unless I'm reading the wrong dystopian YA--has become too formulaic to carry on. It's become nothing but formula, with the only changeable parts being the characters' and the City's names. For me, at least, it doesn't interest anymore, and that's because, while I'm reading it, I can't help reading through it to the formula beneath. Formulas--or, if you want to be literary about it, tropes--aren't a bad thing in themselves. They're one of the major building blocks of literature, not to mention one of the major ways readers identify with particular stories. But when they ossify, when they become greater than the story they're supposed to serve, they're done.

There are many ways to overcome stale formulas, and as literature for adults demonstrates, these don't necessarily involve eliminating dystopian altogether. One could, for example, create dystopian parodies, works that use the formulas in order to poke fun at them. One could reinvent dystopian storylines by generating unique hybrids: dystopian comedy, or dystopian picaresque, or dystopian metafiction, or dystopian backstage drama. One could play against the dystopian formulas in unexpected ways, such that the City, for example, turns out to be genuinely, and not just apparently, utopian. There are plenty of approaches to reinvigorating dead or dying tropes. If you know of any YA books that do any of the above (or that revitalize dystopian in some other way), please let me know.

But if you want me to read the latest straight-up YA dystopian, I think I'll pass. I've climbed that Wall one too many times.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

YA Guy Celebrates... QUEEN OF CHAOS by Kat Ross!

One of YA Guy's favorite recent YA fantasy series, the Fourth Element trilogy by Kat Ross, wraps up today with the release of QUEEN OF CHAOS! If you've read the first two books--or even if you haven't--you should definitely check out this wildly imaginative, richly detailed historical fantasy. (And to make it easy on you to start reading the series, the first book, THE MIDNIGHT SEA, is available on Amazon for free.) Read below for more information about Kat and her books!

Persepolae has fallen.
Karnopolis has burned.

As the dark forces of the Undead sweep across what remains of the empire, Nazafareen must obey the summons of a demon queen to save Darius's father, Victor. Burdened with a power she doesn't understand and can barely control, Nazafareen embarks on a perilous journey through the shadowlands to the House-Behind-the-Veil. But what awaits her there is worse than she ever imagined…

A thousand leagues away, Tijah leads a group of children on a desperate mission to rescue the prisoners at Gorgon-e Gaz, the stronghold where the oldest daevas are kept. To get there, they must cross the Great Salt Plain, a parched ruin occupied by the armies of the night. A chance encounter adds a ghost from the past to their number. But will they arrive in time to avert a massacre?

And in the House-Behind-the-Veil, Balthazar and the Prophet Zarathustra discover that they have more in common than meets the eye. But is it enough to salvage the necromancer's bloodstained soul and thwart his mistress's plans?

As a final showdown looms between Alexander the Great and Queen Neblis, the truth of the daevas' origins is revealed and three worlds collide in this thrilling conclusion to the Fourth Element series.

Book #2, Blood of the Prophet:
Book #3, Queen of Chaos:

About the author:

Kat Ross worked as a journalist at the United Nations for ten years before happily falling back into what she likes best: making stuff up. She's the author of the dystopian thriller Some Fine Day, the Fourth Element fantasy series (The Midnight Sea, Blood of the Prophet, and Queen of Chaos), and the new Dominion Mysteries. She loves myths, monsters, and doomsday scenarios. For more information about Kat's books, come visit her at or check out her Amazon author page. You can also find her hanging around in these places:

To celebrate her launch, Kat’s giving away 10 ebooks of The Daemoniac!

It's the summer of 1888 and a bizarre killer is stalking the gas-lit streets of New York. But are the murders a case of black magic--or simple blackmail? From the high-class gambling dens of the Tenderloin to the glittering mansions of Fifth Avenue, consulting detective Harrison Fearing Pell follows a twisted trail of lies, treachery and madness that might end much closer to home than she ever imagined.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

YA Guy Talks about... Diversity in YA Literature!

YA Guy originally planned this post for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, but then I decided to celebrate the holiday with my family instead of blogging. So….

The movement for diversity in YA literature is going strong, with readers, authors, and publishers searching for stories that feature characters representing various racial and ethnic groups, sexual identities, physical and mental abilities, and more. That’s great, and YA Guy hopes the movement continues to grow.

Lots of questions remain contested, however. Can writers from one racial/ethnic/other group write about (or from the perspective of) characters from another group? Should books that play into stereotypes (about Muslims, for example) be published—and when they are, should they be protested? What about when reviewers, as in the recent scandal involving VOYA magazine, reinforce stereotypes about non-dominant groups? Must all YA books strive for diversity?

I was thinking about this when I read a Kirkus review of S. L. Duncan’s latest book in the Gabriel Adam series, a YA fantasy trilogy about teens who discover they’re reincarnated angels, just in time to save the world from demonic forces. The reviewer, clearly missing the fact that one of the teen archangels is Iranian and another African, sniped that the cast consists solely of characters who are “apparently white.” I found a similar misconception in a Kirkus review of my most recent novel, Scavenger of Souls; writing of the biracial character Mercy, the reviewer opined that Mercy is “notable for her dark skin in an otherwise predominantly white cast.” Clearly, this reviewer missed the fact that Mercy’s mother is African, and her brother and sister biracial; that the character Wali is described as bronze-skinned and curly-haired; that the character Soon has an Asian name; that the character Nekane has a Hispanic name; and so on. I was striving for a multiracial, multiethnic cast in this novel, my reasoning being that, after the wars that decimated much of the human population, the few who survived would likely represent a spectrum of races, ethnicities, and nationalities. I had hoped that readers would pick up on this, but this reviewer, at least, did not.

The issue here, clearly, goes beyond careless reviewing (which, to be fair, is a function of how many YA books industry reviewers have to keep up with). Readers schooled in dominant traditions and aesthetics often assume that all characters are white, heterosexual, able-bodied, etc. unless these characters are overtly “marked” otherwise. But if a character's "difference" isn't essential to the story, should such characters be so marked? If the writer doesn’t call attention to the skin color of white characters, should the writer invariably do so in the case of nonwhite characters? I wrestled with this question in the case of Scavenger of Souls, and eventually I decided that in Mercy’s case, I needed to “flag” her racial ancestry so that readers wouldn’t miss the fact that she and my protagonist, the blond-haired and blue-eyed Querry Genn, form an interracial team. In other instances, though, I left it to readers to draw their own conclusions. In my forthcoming novel Freefall, a science fiction story with a multinational cast including a central relationship between a white teen from the industrial West and an Asian teen from the developing world, I’m reasonably confident that no one will mistake the characters’ racial or cultural backgrounds. But readers were confounded—and in some cases outraged—to discover that Rue from The Hunger Games is black, so you never know.

I personally believe that writers have a responsibility to present the world in its actual diversity. But I also believe there’s an equal responsibility on the side of readers, who have to be willing to read against preconceptions and discover the diversity in the author’s invented world. Working together, authors and readers can help move us toward an acceptance of difference. I get the feeling we’re going to need this more and more in the coming years.