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Monday, October 11, 2010

YA Bloggers Want...It All! Sarah and Tanita of Finding Wonderland

We are in for a huge treat today from the bloggers at Finding Wonderland: a conversation between Sarah Stevenson (a.k.a. Aquafortis) and Tanita S. Davis about what should be on the YA shelves.

These women know YA. They blog about it, they write it, they read it, and they even spearhead awards for it (The Cybils!).

I had the great fortune of meeting Sarah at the 2nd annual Kidlit Blogger Conference when it was in Portland, OR, then finally met Tanita (who spends most of her time haunting the foggy bluffs of Scotland) at the Newbery and Caldecott Awards dinner...quite possibly the coolest literary event I've ever attended, made even better by getting to meet her in person.

Welcome, Sarah and Tanita!


(In addition to blogging and writing, Sarah is an awesome artist.)

What I Love in YA and Can't Get Enough Of:

Aquafortis (Sarah): As far as genre goes, I will read just about any dystopian book that crosses my path, and I love sci-fi and fantasy as well as contemporary stories. But one thing I'm really loving is the growing steampunk genre. Fun!

On a more serious note, what I love about YA as a whole is, when it's at its best it approaches readers honestly; it isn't afraid to be unconventional; and it reminds readers that coming of age is an ongoing journey, not the static endpoint of reaching adulthood.

Tanita: And this is why we’re just geeks here together at Wonderland – I, too really love speculative fiction. I admit to being a little vampired-out at the moment, and I never did find that zombies did it for me, but I do so love the unusual in this genre – and every time I turn around I find something unexpected. Greek Goddesses! Killer unicorns! I love it.

Whether it’s dystophia, steampunk, cyberpunk or any other subgenre permutation, the beauty of young adult fantasy and science fiction lies in its potential. Seen otherwise as just stories for children, fiction for young adults is perhaps the single field in which so much in terms of ideas is made accessible. I love that even outside of the speculative genre, so many of our stories are wrapped up in “what if?”

What We Need More of in YA:

Aquafortis (Sarah): Humor—the laugh-out-loud kind. Whimsy. Not just guy books but "unisex" books. Books with multicultural characters that aren't necessarily "about" ethnicity. Graphic novels. A return to traditional illustration/artwork on book covers.

Tanita: Ooh, this is a big question. Is it too weird to say we need more ordinary stories? Tales of characters who aren’t SAT whizzes, whose mothers might be deaf in one ear from an accident, characters who don’t live in perfect houses and own their own computers, whose fathers work for the Hormel plant and who have to take the bus but also stories wherein that is not the focus – that’s what I mean by ordinary. Also, I think we need big, sweeping fantasy romances which feature multicultural characters. How weird of a world is it if all the Princes are blond and all the Princesses are Snow White? I dearly want to see some diversity in speculative fiction.

Favorite books, Aquafortis (Sarah):

The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeline L'Engle
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Favorite books, Tanita:

Oh, how I loathe picking five of anything. Recent favorites, off the top of my head include:
Girl, Hero by Carrie Jones
Dull Boy by Sarah Cross
Repossessed by A.M. Jenkins
Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages
The Theodosia Series by R. L. LeFevers
… and so, so many more.


Thank you, ladies!

Readers, what do you think about steampunk? Speculative fiction? Ordinary stories? Multicultural heroes and heroines? Tell us in the comments, plus a chance to win this week's book prize. Even better? Tell your friends to stop by! (US addresses only, one comment/post toward prize.)


  1. I love steampunk and dystopian I will read pretty much anything in that genre. I have also read several multicultural heroes/heroines. My favorite? Eon: The Last Dragoneye by Alison Goodman. It was incredible with Asian influences in the fantasy genre.
    Thanks for the great post!


  2. I like dysotopian more than steampunk. I like steampunk too but I haven't found one steampunk novel that I actually loved. Leviathen by Scott Westerfeld was decent but I didn't like most of the characters. Generally, steampunk tends to baffle me.

  3. I haven't tried steampunk yet. I love dystopian--really enjoyed Westerfeld's uglies series and Hunger Games.

    I love fantasy so I'm not all that into ordinary kids--unless, of course, they go on a journey to a fantasy land. But I did love The Dark Days Hamburger Halpin--wonderful narrator.

    For multi-cultural fantasy--I hate to say I've not read Cindy Pon's Silver Phoenix yet (Yikes, I bought it a long time ago and never even opened it. And it has a such a cool cover.) but it looks good and I did read and love Shannon Hale's Book of a Thousand Days. For some reason Asian heroines seem to have more place in fantasy than American kids of a minority ethnicity, it seems to me. I think that might be because Asian stories are old and mysterious and the US of A is such a young country and doesn't have much history of story-telling yet.

    There is a new YA fantasy that came out this month with an "American West" tone--The Charlatan's Boy, by Jonathan Rogers. The writer has a wonderful Mark Twain-ish kind of voice.

    So my vote for genres? Give me anything as long as it is told with a great voice and gives me characters I love facing great conflict and working hard to overcome obstacles and finally succeed.

  4. I really love anything unusual and I'm digging all the dystopian literature that is coming out lately. I think we need more killer unicorns.. or other unicorns... maybe something more mixed up like Artemis Fowl but for YA, not MG...

    And yes, graphic novels!!! I <3 graphic novels and I feel like there should be more geared to YA and I know there's a ton of manga, but we need more YA graphic novels!!!

  5. I really have been loving all the dystopian books coming out! Steampunk is another type that is catching my attention. I agree, we need more multicultural characters.

  6. Alice in Wonderland is bad*** and I think Lewis Carol would be shocked to know he created an entire culture from his book, I think that is something to gawk at, whether or not the “style” is right up your alley.
    I’ve never quite understood the gripe for more multicultural characters, for me, pardon the pun, a book’s characters have never existed only in black and white. It is not rare for me to begin reading about a character and override the authors description of them in favor of my own imagination. Therefore, characters are Greek, Jewish, Italian, African, Russian or French to me, while other people only read about a mass of bodies packing the halls at a school. I suppose I can see why some people would enjoy reading books with ethnicity a major target, the voice, the speech pattern and the mannerisms would be different and unique, but isn’t that the way it should be all along?
    Ordinary, no, I would never want to read ordinary, books, like loud music and good food is an escape, and escaping into a world that is my own would be devoid of anything unusual. However, I love when a book can mirror my own world, thereby giving me a vantage point to learn more about myself and the lives of those around me, through the written word.

  7. Holly, thanks for inviting us.

    I was just was poppin' in to see the post and I wanted to comment to Gabrielle that I don't intend to make it sounds as if I want to see multicultural fantasies with ethnicity or race as the major target, as you've stated. I want the story to be about plot and characters, of course, not race. However, you said that you love books which mirror you own world -- ditto for people of other colors, ethnicities, and cultures. We all need that mirror, and when we're done looking at ourselves, the literature which doesn't reflect us can be a window into another world.

  8. Ditto--thanks, Holly, for setting up such a great series of posts and inviting us to be part of it.

    I've read both EON and SILVER PHOENIX--both lots of fun, but I especially enjoyed EON. Much like TOADS AND DIAMONDS or Megan Whelan Turner's books or even Tamora Pierce's, I'm enjoying these settings modeled after cultures that are "like" Asian or Near Eastern or South Asian ones that we recognize--while still being distinctly new creations of the authors at the same time.

    I think that's why I like steampunk, too--it has a newness to it, for now, that intrigues me. (Even if anything with "-punk" attached to it makes me want to roll my eyes.)

  9. I haven't read a lot of steampunk, but have loved what I've read. I love dystopias and realistic reads. I basically like it all. But, I agree that some REAL humor would be good--I haven't laughed out loud from a YA book since I read Going Bovine by Libba Bray. That book was just silly/fun.

    I would also love some unisex books. Those are surprisingly hard to come by...Most of my students gravitate toward books that are typical for their gender. It's great to read books like The Hunger Games because guys and girls both love them.

    Thanks for the good thoughts!

    mrsderaps @ hotmail . com

  10. I love it when variations of race and culture become a natural part of the story - we live in a varied world with many stories weaving together to form the whole. Come to think of it, I would really love to see a book in multiple pov's, from multiple cultural and racial groups, telling one story from many different sides. I think that would be fascinating.

    Steampunk fashion certainly has my fascination (especially boots and waistcoats...seriously, you could never go wrong with a smashing pair of boots and a well-fitted waistcoat), so books set in steampunk universes are equally interesting to me. I've heard great things about THE BONESHAKER. Colleen mentioned that one a few days ago.

    Ack, more books for the TBR pile...

  11. I so agree we need more multicultural characters in fantasy and sci fi. Great choice of books. And I'm glad to see Sarah and Tanita like the same books as me.