Wednesday, August 21, 2013

YA Guy Reviews... WHAT'S LEFT OF ME by Kat Zhang

With the start of the fall semester, YA Guy's going to have to scale back the frequency of my book reviews--from one every Wednesday to one every other Wednesday (or even one a month if things get really dicey!). For now, though, enjoy this review of Kat Zhang's WHAT'S LEFT OF ME!

Kat Zhang was nineteen when she sold The Hybrid Chronicles to HarperCollins.

Let me repeat that.


To put this in perspective, when YA Guy was nineteen, my main accomplishment was sneaking into a classmate’s dorm room and moving all his furniture onto his balcony. I’d written novels, sure--I insulted my freshman philosophy professor by finishing a novel for a young writer’s competition rather than writing a paper for his class--but I was certainly not selling them to HarperCollins.

Zhang’s accomplishment would be noteworthy even if the first book in the series, What’s Left of Me, were no better than average. I mean, come on. I teach freshman composition these days. I’m not looking for miracles.

But What’s Left of Me is much, much better than average. It’s excellent. The concept, the writing, the plotting, the pacing, the characters: all excellent.

Now that’s something.

In Zhang’s book, we’re taken to a not-far-future world where people are born with two souls (or personae, if you prefer) cohabiting a single body. The recessive persona typically “dies” before the teen years, leaving the dominant persona in complete control. But in the case of protagonist Addie/Eva, the supposedly recessive soul, Eva, remains: locked within a shared mind, able to communicate with Addie and experience everything she does, but unable to communicate with the rest of the world or move a muscle of their body. The two are what their society terms a hybrid: a feared and shunned being believed to be the cause of earlier wars of destruction. If ever their hybrid nature is discovered, Addie and Eva will be subject to incarceration, experimentation… or worse.

There’s so much to like about What’s Left of Me, but I want to focus on the strengths my fourteen-year-old daughter (herself an aspiring writer who met Zhang at a young authors event) succinctly described: “It’s really well-written!” It was a brilliant decision to have Eva, the recessive soul, narrate What’s Left of Me: her desire to return to full life, to re-experience the autonomy she knew as a child, provides the book a compelling narrative drive. And the lyrical language of the book brilliantly expresses the strange condition of being two-in-one, both intimate and separate, as in the opening words of the prologue:

Addie and I were born into the same body, our souls’ ghostly fingers entwined before we gasped our very first breath. Our earliest years together were also our happiest. Then came the worries--the tightness around our parents’ mouths, the frowns lining our kindergarten teacher’s forehead, the question everyone whispered when they thought we couldn’t hear.

Why aren’t they settling?


We tried to form the word in our five-year-old mouth, tasting it on our tongue.


We knew what it meant. Kind of. It meant one of us was supposed to take control. It meant the other was supposed to fade away.

That’s really good stuff. And it gets even better.

What’s Left of Me isn’t perfect. I found parts of the book, particularly the extended sequence in a psychiatric institution, not wholly convincing; so totalitarian a society, I felt, could not have run one of its premier institutions so tentatively, indeed ineptly. And I was never entirely sure what the origin or significance of hybridity was; there seemed no rational explanation for why people in this society are born double, which made me fear the book was using the condition as allegory. Perhaps the second book in the series will help resolve this question.

But whether it does or not, What’s Left of Me proves beyond doubt that Zhang is for real. And that being the case, we can all be thankful she got started so early sharing her words with the world.

Monday, August 19, 2013

YA Guy Hosts... Antje Hergt (plus a giveaway!)

Today, YA Guy is thrilled to host debut author Antje Hergt, whose MG novel DARINEL DRAGONHUNTER came out this June. Antje's talking about how to get young readers interested in a story, and I think her advice is sound (in fact, I need to follow it more often myself!).  Plus, there's a great giveaway at the end of the post. So grab a seat and let's turn it over to Antje!

What are the qualities that attract young people to literature?

There’s no single answer to that, but one answer is humor. Another is adventure.

Those are two things I tried to combine in my first book, Darinel Dragonhunter: adventure and humor. Adventure is great, but who doesn’t like to laugh or at least smirk? The trick is in the combination of the two, so they don’t contradict each other. If the humor goes too far, the story can seem like a joke, which kills the adventure. You want a hero who is believable but not laughable. Funny and witty, but still brave enough to confront what’s thrown in his way. A great way to create this tension between humor and adventure is to toss a bit of absurdity into the mix.

When I finished my first draft, I stumbled across the “How to Train your Dragon” series by Cressida Cowell. (I’m talking about her great books and the audiobooks read by David Tennant, not what the movie industry made out of them.) These books offer a perfect example of how to combine adventure with humor. I was instantly hooked by Cowell’s humor and how she twisted the history and stereotypes to fit her hero and his mishaps. I also enjoyed how Cowell, working once again against stereotypes, portrays her dragons as selfish rather than evil. They are more like unruly pets than beasts that have to be fought and destroyed.

In Darinel Dragonhunter, I wanted to create a different kind of dragon, too. My dragon doesn’t even know how to fight, and needs a prince to teach him. Instead of fighting, he prefers an attentive audience to listen to his fairy tales. But that’s hard for him to get, since the knights coming to kill him just won’t sit down for a cup of tea and a good story.

As I said: adventure and humor. Even some absurdity. Those are the elements I’ve found will keep readers hooked.

Curious? Check out the cover of my e-book and enter to win a copy:


Prince Darinel is traveling--for what feels like forever. Expelled from his father’s kingdom, he just wants to find a new home. When a shadow lures him to a wealthy kingdom, he stays to discover more about the darkness, but the citizens are tight-lipped.

Their king welcomes the foreign Prince hoping that he will solve his two problems: the dragon and his strong-willed daughter. Coming from a warrior kingdom, Darinel despises violence, but charmed by Princess Tuskja’s dare, he sets out to confront the beast. Instead of finding a fierce dragon, he finds a friend. The dragon’s malicious humor and his love of fairy tales entangle Darinel in a summer of adventures.

In compliance with the king’s decree, Darinel is torn between his friendship with the dragon and his love for Princess Tuskja, whom he can only marry if he kills his friend. Before he can make a decision, the kingdom is under attack. Now it is up to the dragon to either help his friend or respect his wish to not interfere. 

Antje Hergt is the author of DARINEL DRAGONHUNTER, a dragon tale with a twist. For more information about DARINEL DRAGONHUNTER, you can visit her webpage at, stop by her author page on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter as @AntjeHergt. DARINEL DRAGONHUNTER was released on June 21.

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

YA Guy Weighs in on "Strong Female Characters"

In a brilliant post from the New Statesman, “I Hate Strong Female Characters,” Sophia McDougall analyzes the sexist implications of all the “strong” female protagonists inhabiting contemporary fantasy literature and film. Her argument--that confining women to “strength” (typically measured by their ability to kick some serious ass) deprives them of their full humanity--strikes me as convincing.

Being YA Guy, I’d like to extend her analysis to some of the “strong” female protagonists in current YA literature.

We have to start, of course, with the one who started it all: Suzanne Collins’s Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. She’s strong, no doubt, both physically and emotionally: she holds her family together through her mother’s depression, sacrifices herself for her younger sister, fights for her life and the lives of others (particularly Peeta and Rue) during the Games. Eventually, if unwittingly, she starts a revolution.

And it’s that “unwittingly” part that bothers me.

Strong as she is, Katniss both relies on and is manipulated by the male characters who surround her: Haymitch, Peeta, Cinna, Seneca Crane, President Snow. While she’s running around kicking butt, acting mostly on impulse (as in her deservedly famous William Tell moment), it’s the men who are plotting behind the scenes, whether they’re coaching her through her televised interview, figuring out a strategy to survive the Games, or attempting to double-cross her.

She’s strong. But they’re smart.

If Collins’s novel inspired a trend in YA dystopian literature, those who've followed her have tended to reproduce the dichotomy between physically active women and mentally active men. Consider, for example, C. J. Redwine’s Deception. The book boasts twin narrators: Rachel and Logan. She wields a sword. He builds machines.

Or look at Veronica Roth’s wildly popular Divergent series. In the first book, the narrator Beatrice (Tris) jumps off roofs, fights in the ring, and faces down a government-inspired revolution. But it’s her boyfriend, Tobias (Four), who calculates, figures, plans. They’re both Dauntless--but Tris is the only one who’s basically Clueless.

I’m exaggerating somewhat to make a point, of course. Still, I think this is worth noting: that while the authors of these books may believe they’re bucking convention by attributing physical strength to young women, ultimately they may be reinforcing the association of women with physicality, men with intellect. Even the notion (adopted from Collins's book) that female impulse can defeat male scheming seems to me to fall into problematic sexual stereotypes.

Why couldn’t it be the female protagonist Pia from Jessica Khoury’s Origin who’s the brilliant (if misguided) scientist? Why does the hybrid narrator Addie/Eva from Kat Zhang’s What’s Left of Me require the services of a male technophile to begin the process of liberation? Why can’t female narrator Zoe from Heather Anastasiu’s Glitch go to the surface, uncover the true history of her world, or foresee the future on her own, without needing her boyfriend, Adrien, to do much of the thinking for her?

Why, for that matter, did I feel the need to craft the female narrator of my own work-in-progress as a kick-butt action hero, while her male companion is the scientific, reflective type?

I hasten to add that I like all of these books (including my own!). Unlike McDougall, I don’t unanimously hate strong female characters. But as the father of a teenage daughter, I do hate the message the barrage of SFCs may be sending her.

And as YA Guy, I’d love to hear your thoughts about this issue, and your suggestions for books that fight against the trend.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

YA Guy Reviews... SNAKEHEAD by Ann Halam

YA Guy has always been fascinated by literary retellings, particularly retellings of stories deeply rooted in a culture’s consciousness.

Some of the greatest works of Western literature, from Homer’s epics to Shakespeare’s plays, are retellings of stories that circulated in the popular culture of their time. Likewise, some of the most interesting stories being told today, from Gregory Maguire’s expansion of the Oz canon to Rick Riordan’s reimagining of Greek, Roman, and Egyptian mythology, are retellings of popular lore. One of my own stories, “Scarecrow” (which you can pick up from Untreed Reads Publishing, if you’re interested), reimagines the Oz tale from the straw man’s point of view.

When we encounter such stories, we experience both a return to the familiar and a journeying into uncharted territory. These stories don’t just teach us something we didn’t know; they enable us to re-see something we thought we did.

Snakehead, Ann Halam’s 2009 YA novel, is one of my favorite literary retellings. The book didn’t make that big of a splash when it came out, and that’s a shame: it’s a masterfully conceived and rendered novel by one of the finest YA fantasy/sci-fi writers around. I found it recently on my local library’s clearance rack, and I just had to review it here.

In Snakehead, Halam retells the Perseus myth, but not in the manner of Clash of the Titans or The Lightning Thief: she keeps action to a minimum, choosing instead to explore the culture of ancient Greece and the relationships between characters (particularly Perseus and Andromeda, who in this retelling is a refugee seeking to escape her sentence). It’s a tribute to this book’s brilliance that the archaic society seems at once astonishingly modern and utterly alien--or to put this another way, Halam succeeds in showing that what appears bizarre and otherworldly to the people of one time and place (human sacrifice, conversations with immortals, divine curses) may have appeared routine and commonplace to others. One of Halam’s more inspired contrivances is to have Andromeda, the child of Africa, bring phonetic script to the Greek isles, where this new form of artistry is described in language befitting its mystery and majesty:

She saw a Greek city, rich in marble buildings, with vivid-columned temples. Rivers of light were springing from it and flying across the lands, weaving a fabric richer than her eyes could follow, vanishing north, east, west, south, to the ends of the earth. And she was part of the dazzling, world-spanning pattern that sprang from that shining city, because she had made the flying marks, because she had made the leap of power.

In Snakehead there’s a sense in which the monstrous is defeated (or at least held at bay) not so much by muscle as by art: celebrating the invention of literature, Halam’s story is a myth about how myth came to be written. This is YA fiction not only for teens but for all of us: a book that reimagines one of the oldest and most enduring of Western stories in language as beautiful as myth itself.

Retellings like Snakehead remind us that no story is complete, that stories hold stories within stories within stories. They persuade us that new worlds are possible. At their best, they renew not only literature but the act of reading itself.

[P.S. The artwork at the head of this post is mine!]

Sunday, August 11, 2013

YA Guy Hosts... Rachel O'Laughlin! (Plus a giveaway!)

Today on the blog, YA Guy is thrilled to participate in Rachel O'Laughlin's blog tour for her debut novel, the epic fantasy COLDNESS OF MAREK, which was released on August 6. (For the complete tour schedule, click here.) Here's a blurb:

Serengard has been under Orion rule for centuries--centuries of insufferable adherence to laws and traditions that its people no longer believe in. Raised by her scholarly grandfather in the fiery southern city of Neroi, Trzl is dedicated to turning the monarchy into a free society where knowledge is king and no one has to be subject to the whims of an Orion.

As the rebellion escalates, her choices have an eerie impact on the revolution at large, elevating her to a position of influence she has only dreamed of attaining. But there are downsides to her new power that entangle her in a dangerous web of emotions, appearances and alliances. Even as she plays to the attractions of Hodran, a rich nobleman who wants to aid her cause, she is drawn to Mikel, a loyalist farmer who hates the rebellion but just might be winning her heart.

By the time Trzl realizes she is in too deep, she has an infant son and a dark mess of betrayal and lies. She runs to the furthest corner of the kingdom in hopes that she will be left alone with her child, but she has created too many demons. A figure she once trusted will take her captive in the chilling Cliffs of Marek, throw her back into the political upheaval she helped create, and leave her at the mercy of a man she never wanted for an enemy.

Sounds good, yes? And even better, Rachel's giving away a bunch of goodies right here on YA Guy: a print copy of the book, along with some great swag! But before we get to that, let's hear from Rachel about herself, her novel, and her plans for the Serengard series!

YA Guy: Welcome to the blog, Rachel!  Why not start by telling us about yourself: how you became a writer, your path to publication, your favorite fantasy book and movie, all that good stuff!

Rachel O’Laughlin: I always wrote. It was kind of the same as breathing to me--if I didn’t have a manuscript going, I wasn’t really living. As a kid, I wrote stories about my Lego people… I know, I know. Weird! Although I did journal from age 11 to 19, my stories from that era mean way more to me. Two of those manuscripts were over 100k. After I got married, I took a hiatus from stories for almost two years, but I came back to it like I come back to chocolate. I just can’t stop myself from writing.

I decided to self-publish the Serengard Series because I want to let it evolve slowly, rather than tailor the story to a specific audience or market curve. It’s definitely different from a lot of epic fantasy, and self-publishing is complicated and takes a lot of footwork, but I feel that it’s perfect for these books.

I’m going to be cliché here, but my favorite fantasy movie is definitely The Lord of the Rings. There’s just so much depth and beauty in that series. My favorite fantasy book has to be (not really for young readers) A Game of Thrones. I actually don’t love the rest of the series as much as I love the first book. It has a light and a hope in it that I’m not sure the final books will come back to, but Martin’s writing is incredible, and so are his characters.

YAG: I’m a huge LOTR fan myself (but I haven’t read Game of Thrones yet). Now tell us about your book, COLDNESS OF MAREK. What’s your favorite thing about it? (Other than the fact that it’s published, of course!)

RO: My favorite thing? I love the characters’ flaws. I like that the people in it do horrible things and that sometimes there is redemption for it, and sometimes there isn’t. It depends on who they are and if they’re willing to fix what they broke, willing to give back what they took, or forgive someone else for a wrong. I also love the sword fights and rough-and-tumble nature of the setting and times, the fierceness that pervades this kind of fantasy. It’s almost always allegorical, even without me trying to make it so.

YAG: How did you develop Serengard, the land in which COLDNESS OF MAREK takes place? Did you do any research into feudal societies, peasant rebellions, and so on?

RO: I did some research into peasant rebellions, especially focusing on those that turned into full-fledged revolutions. I wanted to recreate that aura, that excitement that the rebellion was going to truly turn the place inside out. I also wanted to touch on the uncertainty of today’s political tangles and the elusiveness of justice. It’s hard to say anyone has ever created the perfect government--there are usually things that slip through the cracks somewhere--and Serengard is as simple a version as I could make of something that is very complex. But as far as the land, I based it mostly on the Ukraine/eastern Europe area, dialed it back to the 12th-14th centuries, and added my own people and my own cultures. Serengard sees itself as a sort of hub, but the other people in this world--the Drei, the Elloyans, and the Aldadi--have equal importance to the elemental balance of the land. That’s one of the things that the main character, Trzl, isn’t willing to see, and that her love interest, Mikel, is.

YAG: One of the interesting things about COLDNESS OF MAREK is that it does without some of the most common elements of epic fantasies: wizards, monsters, semi-human races. This gives the book a more realistic, historical feel than many books in its genre. What made you decide to go in this direction?

RO: My favorite genre is historical fiction, and I almost wanted to write this as an alternative history at one point. But certain fantasy elements started to creep into my mind before I started drafting. First, the idea of cliffs that went on forever. Then the rich cultural background of each of the characters. I desperately wanted to be able to create their history from scratch. And finally, for me, the spiritual elements of the land, which become almost paranormal at times…and I did add a wizard, though he hasn’t been unveiled yet (shh!).

My favorite book EVER is actually not fantasy, although it has a fantasy feel. If you’ve read the Sci-Fi Timeline by Michael Crichton, it’s kind of a perfect example of my desire to merge the historical feels into my fantasy. I desperately needed it to have that in order to go as deep as I wanted with the emotions of the characters.

YAG: Speaking of the characters, I loved the strength and determination of Trzl. (My favorite line is when she says to one of the rebel leaders: “I am as much the rebellion as you are.”) Is there some of you in Trzl?

RO: There may be a little bit of the attitude, hehe, and I’ll admit, I was a great manipulator when I was a teenager. I actually based her personality on someone else I know in order to keep her from becoming me, because I wanted her to be her own person. She even becomes a bit of an antagonist at times (in the sequel), and she couldn’t do that if I always felt her actions were justified. I don’t think I would make the same decisions as her, and I don’t throw myself into a cause the way she does, but I can be a ferocious mama. I think I relate to that harshly protective part of her more than anything.

YAG: What can you tell us about the next book in the Serengard series (without giving away too much cool stuff)?

RO: Okay, this is a little tricky, but here goes. :)

The next book is called Knights of Rilch, and it delves into each of the characters involved in the war, their part in it, and how the conflict affected them. It features a kick-butt warrior heroine and her little brother, along with characters already introduced in Coldness of Marek, especially Colstadt, Tev, and Pier. Almost all of the voices are flipped: minor characters in Coldness of Marek are main characters in Knights of Rilch, and vice versa. The third book in the series will be a shuffled deck as well. Same characters, different voices.

Seriously, I am so freaking excited about the second book. Like, crazy, bouncy excited!

YAG: Thanks for visiting the blog, Rachel! I’m sure readers will want to check out COLDNESS OF MAREK and its sequels!

RO: Thank you so very much for having me on your blog, Josh! This was loads of fun.

To find Coldness of Marek:

Author Bio:

Obsessed with all things history, Rachel O’Laughlin grew up writing adventure stories and only recently fell in love with fantasy as a genre. She lives in New England with her husband and children, grows roses and tweets often. She adores lattes, The Fray, long drives in the country, and any dark story with a good twist. Coldness of Marek is her first novel.

And now, as promised, the giveaway!

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Friday, August 9, 2013

YA Guy Hosts... Ryan McBriar!

Proving that young guys love to read, teach, and write YA, here’s a guest post from Ryan McBriar about the experience of incorporating NaNoWriMo into his high school English classroom. Full confession: Ryan was one of YA Guy’s students way back when. Great to have you on the blog, Ryan!

Picture this: a crowd of eighteen high school freshmen filling a classroom. They descend on a mobile laptop cart without being prompted (releasing their assigned computer, finding their most comfortable spot in the room) and write. For sixty minutes, the only sound (aside from the occasional brag about word-count goals) is the tapping of keys.

I can’t take sole credit for this phenomenon. I decided at the beginning of the school year to challenge my first-ever Honors English class with the task of writing a novel in thirty days. This challenge came courtesy of the wonderful National NovelWriting Month Young Writers Program.

An Old-West assassin. A wrongly-accused convict. A seafaring pirate. A novice witch. A fallen football hero. These character types (and more) populated the novels written by my Honors class, a testament to the amount of creativity and passion young people will bring to writing if given (mostly) free reign and a little push.

Taking advantage of an online word-processing program, students were required to share excerpts of their novels-in-progress with me throughout the month, and I noticed something for which I hadn’t necessarily planned. Aside from just sharing their writing with me, they were sharing their novels with each other, and sometimes with students in different classes. Suddenly, sprouting up around my class was a small community of writers who were not only excited about but proud of their writing, so much so that they wanted peer reviews.

A lot of prep work went into getting students ready for this project, but I think the most valuable lesson came in mid-October. I introduced the coming month of frenzied creative output by first discussing with my class the qualities that make a novel good or bad. I required students to bring in an example of a good novel they had read and present it to the class to support their opinions on plot, character development, word use, structure, and a variety of other novel elements they found most important in the books they loved. Student volunteers generated posters of these good novel attributes and this became one of our guiding lights throughout the outlining and eventual writing process.

This book-sharing activity, done so early in the school year, exposed students to what their friends were reading and me to a slew of new YA fiction that allowed a sneak peek at their individual interests. I found that what high school students desire from both the fiction they read and the fiction they write is what all accomplished readers and writers want: compelling, complex characters; well-structured plots; clear but challenging prose.

An optional task over the summer for my first experimental NaNoWriMo subjects was, after editing (and in some cases completing) their first drafts, to take advantage of the program’s opportunity to receive five free copies of their published novels. I’m eager to see how many students have novels to show me on the first day of school this August.

At the end of the school year, one of my wrap-up activities is a course evaluation. I make it anonymous so students can tell me aspects of the class they found both positive and negative. The most recurring positive on my Honors English evaluations was NaNoWriMo. When the evaluations came in, any doubts about running the project again next year vanished. Like any seasoned writer knows, my job now is revision: how do I make this experience even better for my next group? I can’t wait to find out!

Ryan McBriar is a teacher and writer originally from Pittsburgh, PA. His first published short story “Writer’s Block” can be found in The Big Book of Bizarro, at Ryan currently lives in Warren, PA and teaches high school English in nearby Corry. When he isn’t teaching, Ryan enjoys spending quality time with his wife and young son. Ryan loves Halloween, anything scary, and obsessing over books, movies, music, and television. His ramblings on some of the previously mentioned topics can be found here:

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


YA Guy’s wife picked up Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children from a display rack in Barnes & Noble.

Which was a bit peculiar in itself, since she tends to shy away from fantasy.

When she set the book aside to move on to her more favored historical fiction, I grabbed Miss Peregrine and plunged in. I was intrigued by the concept, the way in which debut novelist Ransom Riggs weaves oddball period photos into the story of marooned sideshow children, and I’d heard good things about the book. Plus, as you all know, YA fantasy is right up my alley!

But the thing is, it took me a really long time to get into the story. For the first hundred pages or so, I found the pace uneven (at times too rushed, at others too protracted), the narrative (which involves time travel, never one of my favorite subjects) too convoluted, the dialogue too labored. A writer-friend of mine confessed she’d had the same problems with the book, and wondered whether it had originally been a stand-alone chopped up into a series. Whatever the case, I seriously considered setting the book aside.

But I’m glad I didn’t.

For in the end, Riggs’s strange story won me over. Once fifteen-year-old narrator Jacob Portman stopped shuttling between his own world and the world of the peculiar children and became firmly committed to their struggle against the monstrous antagonists Riggs names the hollowgast--scary-as-hell fiends with tentacles for tongues and a voracious appetite for children’s flesh--I let my reservations slide. A good monster can often do that for me.

More importantly, though, I too became more committed to Miss Peregrine’s world as it unfolded. During the novel’s first third, I got so distracted by its unconventional presentation that every little flaw loomed unusually large. By two-thirds of the way through the book, I’d become comfortable enough with the concept to ignore it and simply enjoy the story. When I did, I found some real pleasures in the reading, as in this lovely passage where Jacob considers revealing his hidden life to his clueless father:

I wanted to tell him. I wanted to explain everything, and for him to tell me he understood and offer some tidbit of parental advice. I wanted, in that moment, for everything to go back to the way it had been before we came here; before I ever found that letter from Miss Peregrine, back when I was just a sort-of-normal messed-up rich kid in the suburbs. Instead, I sat next to my dad for awhile and talked about nothing, and I tried to remember what my life had been like in that unfathomably distant era that was four weeks ago, or imagine what it might be like four weeks from now--but I couldn’t. Eventually we ran out of nothing to talk about, and I excused myself and went upstairs to be alone.

As this passage shows, folded into Riggs’s tale of peculiar children is the feeling all young people have of being peculiar: misunderstood, unloved, unlovable. In that respect, the concept that I’d found so nettlesome in the early going started to make perfect sense: just like the orphan photos rescued by Riggs from oblivion, his tale is about a teen’s discovery of how brutal the world can be to those deemed different.

We grown-ups have typically become so complacent about our own normality that we forget the time when it mattered profoundly, for better and for worse, to be odd. Riggs’s odd story reminds us of that time, and celebrates, in today’s sadly conventional world, the saving power of strangeness.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

YA Guy Gives Away the Shirt Off His Back!

Well, actually, YA Guy would never give away the shirt off his OWN back. Too embarrassing, and not very hygienic.

But I am giving away a free T-shirt to one lucky winner.

When I write, I like to wear a T-shirt with the slogan, "Careful, Or You'll End Up in My Novel." It gets me in the writing mood. I practically wore it out while writing Survival Colony Nine. Here's a picture of me wearing the shirt.

The winner will receive a brand-new shirt (not the one pictured above). I'll contact the winner to get sizing information then send the shirt directly from the manufacturer to your doorstep!

This rather zany giveaway was suggested by L. L. Reynolds (so she better enter to win). It's running only a few days, so make sure to enter while the entering's good. 

Enjoy! And may the shirt odds be ever in your favor!

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