Wednesday, February 22, 2017

YA Guy Writes about... Transgender Rights!

Though YA Guy has very strong political opinions, I've tended to shy away from politics on my blog. Maybe I thought this space wasn't the proper forum, or maybe I was concerned about alienating readers who don't share my political views. Whatever the reason, I've devoted the great majority of my posts to book-related subjects, my own and other writers'.

But you know, I've decided that I've been wrong to relegate politics to such a minor role on this blog.

Recently, I read a report that noted with some optimism that rates of suicide among gay teens have declined markedly as an apparent result of the movement for marriage equality. That was, I thought, a positive sign that the country might be moving away from discrimination and its corrosive effects.

But then today, I read that as one of his very first actions in office, Donald Trump's Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, rescinded Obama-era protections securing transgender students the right to use the bathroom that aligns with their identity. Like many Republicans, Sessions believes that states, municipalities, and districts rather than the federal government should make the determination as to whether transgender students should be required to use the bathroom that matches their chromosomes. He has also cited some parents' concerns about male students posing as transgender girls in order to assault their peers in bathrooms. As is so common with the current administration, neither he nor anyone else has been able to produce data to suggest that this might actually occur or be occurring.

By contrast, there are reams of evidence showing that transgender students are bullied, intimidated, abused, and attacked at rates far exceeding the national average. This includes sexual assault, with roughly 50% of transgender people having been victimized in this way.

It was only a couple of generations ago that segregation based on race was legal--and one of the arguments for such segregation was the specious claim that white women were at heightened risk of rape by black men. Sessions, a native of Selma, Alabama, surely remembers those days. And he likely knows that leaving transgender rights to the whim of local school boards will produce (and already has produced) the same pattern of unequal rights by geography as existed in the days of George Wallace and Bull Connor.

So yes, writing about political issues like this is very much the province of the YA Guy blog. I'm a writer of literature for young people, and as such, any issue that affects young people, for good or for ill, is my business. I regret having shied from such issues in the past in the mistaken belief that they were best left to more overtly political forums. In the future, though of course I'll continue to write about books, I'll also continue to use this blog as a place to write about issues beyond the printed page.

I suppose I might lose a reader or two with this approach. But to be honest, any reader who's comfortable with depriving a group of young people of their civil rights isn't one I care to have reading my blog or my books anyway.

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