Guest Post: What's the Next Big Thing in YA Literature?

What is The Next Big Thing in YA literature? Is it angels? Mermaids? Garden gnomes? In November I spent three days in St. Louis with a gaggle of librarians and authors who tried to answer this very question at the YALSA Literature Symposium. And what did we decide?

No one knows.

Seems like a disappointing end to three days worth of conversations, doesn’t it? But you know what? It isn’t. In fact, it’s some of the best news I’ve heard in a long time.

Since I work both as a librarian and writer, I know what it’s like to feel the pressure to find The Next Big Thing. I’ve spent a million hours worrying whether or not I’ve bought the right books for my collection or if that new story idea will become/still be mainstream once I get it written. I’ve read industry articles and blogs and followed conversations on social media sites in an attempt to spot trends early on. Heck, I drove all the way to St. Louis (a city in which both Mello Yello and sweet tea are scarce) to get ahead of the curve.

Quite frankly, I’m exhausted.

At some point, and I’m not sure when it was, I began obsessing over trends instead of books. I wanted to be the cool librarian who always recommended the hot new book before anyone else. I wanted to become the writer who released a book at just the right time instead of a few years too early or too late. I worried about popularity and numbers instead of what is truly important... the story.

What I took away from St. Louis was that trends are unpredictable. Who knew a year ago that I wouldn’t be able to keep bondage erotica on the shelf at my small town Kentucky library? Small town Kentucky. Bondage erotica. It’s crazy! And it came out of nowhere. Why? How? Because people got so attached to the story, they told their friends. And those friends read it, became attached, and told their friends. It went on and on until you couldn’t turn on a morning talk show without hearing the words “Fifty Shades”. Could anyone have predicted it was going to happen? I don’t think so. Because you can’t predict emotional responses to books, and those are what make The Next Big Thing happen. Writers, editors, and marketing specialists might be able to somewhat steer popular taste, but it takes passionate readers to create a trend-setting phenomenon.

So, what does that mean for those of us whose job it is to be on top of book trends? What are librarians, teachers, and writers supposed to do? I think the answer is simple. Find the passion. Read books that set you on fire, and then tell others about them. Buy books that excite you, and then hand sell them to your patrons and students. Write the stories that are clawing to get out of your brain. Don’t worry about what is supposed to be The Next Big Thing, focus on the thing right now that gets under your skin and won’t let go. Maybe that book you’re telling every person who will listen about will become the next every-human-must-read-it-and-watch-the-blockbuster-movie book, and maybe it won’t. It doesn’t matter. What matters is getting excited about books and spreading that excitement. The rest will work itself out. And if you end up feeling blindsided by that garden gnome trend, don’t worry about it. Most of the rest of us will be scratching our heads and wondering where it came from, too.

Thanks to Miss Tammy for sharing your insights. Tammy Blackwell is the Young Adult Services Coordinator for a public library system in Kentucky. When she's not reading, writing, or cataloging books, she's sleeping. She is the author of the YA Novels -  Destiny Binds, Time Mends, and Fate Succombs .

You can follow Tammy on twitter: @miss_tammy or check out her website:

Tammy has a special treat for fans of her Timber Wolves Trilogy - From January 4th to 6th, At First Sight: A Timber Wolves Companion will be available as a free download for Kindle on Amazon.  It is a wonderful peek into her fabulous characters.

The Right and The Real Book Trailer Reveal & Birthday Bash

Author: Joëlle Anthony
Publisher: Putnam (April 26, 2012)
Audience: Young Adult
Fiction * Cults * Homelessness

Description from the publisher:
Jamie should have known something was off about the church of the Right & the Real from the start, especially when the Teacher claimed he wasn't just an ordinary spiritual leader but Jesus Christ himself. But she was too taken by Josh, the eldest son of one of the church's disciples, and his all-American good looks. Josh was the most popular boy at school, too, and the first boy outside the drama geeks to give Jamie a second look. But getting her dad involved in a cult was not part of the plan when she started dating Josh. Neither was her dad's marriage to the fanatic Mira or getting kicked out or seeing Josh in secret because the church has deemed her persona non grata. Jamie's life has completely fallen apart. Finding her way back won't be easy, but when her dad gets himself in serious trouble, will Jamie be ready to rescue him, and maybe even forgive him?

Today is author Joëlle Anthony's birthday and she is celebrating with the release of the book trailer for The Right and the Real:


For more information about Joëlle Anthony and wish her a happy birthday, check out the following sites:  website | facebook | twitter

Look for The Right and the Real at your local school or public library.  When possible, please consider purchasing from an Independent Bookstore.

The Galahad Legacy Blog Tour, Interview, & Giveaway

Blog Tours are a fun way for readers to learn more about a new or favorite author or about an upcoming new book or a continuation on a book series.  I am excited to be a part of Dom Testa's The Galahad Legacy Blog Tour.  Dom has taken a moment to answer a few questions, there is an excerpt from Chapter 2, and a giveaway.  So what are you waiting for...get reading.

One thing that always fascinates me is to learn how an author plans out a book series and develops the world in which his/her story takes place. The Galahad Series is comprised of six books. Did you have an idea of what kind of adventure your characters would take from the beginning or did each book unfold individually?

Alyson, this same question intrigues me when it comes to series that other authors have created. It might sound crazy, but when I began the Galahad series I had (a) no idea how many books it would eventually include, and (b) no idea of the plot for each individual volume. The first book, The Comet's Curse, ended how it needed to end, which then led me to sit down and pick up the tale in volume two, The Web of Titan. But at the end of each book I honestly didn't know what would happen in the following book. And the truth is, I really enjoyed writing them that way. In this last book, The Galahad Legacy, there were huge questions that I didn't even know the answers to when I was halfway through the manuscript. One of the biggies, in fact - What's in the Storage Sections? - didn't occur to me until I was about a month away from finishing the book. That made it as much fun for me to find out as the readers!

Characters seem to take on a life of their own after they have been created. Did any of your characters change in unexpected ways from what you originally thought? 

That's a definite Yes. Two of the main characters reached a point where they questioned their participation in the mission, and of all the characters, they would've been the LAST two I would've thought would feel that way. But the circumstances leading up to these feelings made their reactions understandable. As an author, you kinda mumble, "yeah, I suppose she WOULD feel that way." And there was a personal relationship that began to unfold in the last book and a half, really, that I didn't see coming. I never suspected those two would get together, but they obviously were connecting while I wasn't looking.

When I think about writing a Science Fiction story, I freak out a little. The idea of researching and getting the balance between techno-babble and story to balance out seems like a challenge. What was the process like for you?

I understand what your saying about freaking out a bit, but it's probably different for me because I've always been such a science nerd. I guess it's like this: If I was just sitting around at lunch trying to share this really cool space/science info with you, your eyes might roll back in your head or you'd yawn yourself to death. But if I'm able to slip it into an action/adventure story, then it becomes part of the fabric, in a sense. Suddenly it's much more accessible to think about what it's like jumping through a wormhole when you're worried about Triana (the lead character) doing it. Will she survive? Will she make it back? What happens to you when you pass a boundary like that? In a sense, a science fiction writer is essentially camouflaging the "science" in the stories, so that it just seems natural to want to absorb it. I went a step further, even, by creating a series of features called The Science Behind Galahad. They're short (2 or 3 pages), fun looks at some of the real science nestled within the pages of the Galahad series. I have one on Comets, one on Artificial Intelligence, one on Earth-like planets, and more to come. Teachers and readers really seem to like them.

Can you share with readers any plans for future books or what they might be able to expect from you now that the Galahad Series is ending?

I'd like to someday revisit the characters from the Galahad series and see what they're up to. I don't know what that project will look like, but I've already had a lot of inquiries about that. So it's always an option. I'm also in the midst of creating a new series for Middle Grade/Young Adult. It's a mystery series, and I'm loving it. The first book is finished, and I'll likely finish numbers two and three before I sell it. Stay tuned.

Loving books as a reader is one thing. Wanting to write a book is another thing. Was there a book that inspired you as a reader and as a writer? 

I credit the Hardy Boys and The Three Investigators as the books that really got me hooked on reading, followed by some of the sci fi masters like Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov. I was in seventh grade when I read Michael Crichton's The Andromeda Strain, and that completely captivated me. It was real science mixed with action/adventure, which is how I see the Galahad books, too. But the one book that convinced me to be a writer (also in seventh grade) was Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke. The last line of that book blew me away. (By the way, don't cheat and just read the last have to read the whole thing first, or you'll ruin it!)

If you could write a sequel to any book (not written by you), what would it be and why? 

Cool question. My gut instinct is to say "none," because I'd hate to think I took a great book and didn't fulfill the author's vision, blah blah blah. But, to play along, I'll say H.G. Wells' The Time Machine. I'd be fascinated to see what happened between the Eloi and the Morlocks.

As a child, I always wanted to insert myself into the story as I read a book either as the main character or another character in the story. Did you ever imagine yourself as a character in a book? If so, what book/character? 

I thought it would be cool to be Milo from The Phantom Tollbooth.

What advice would you give to parents or teachers who are trying to encourage boys to read or read more? 

My belief is that it's not so much a matter of encouraging boys to read, as it is finding the kinds of books or blogs or magazines that excite them. I'm also a believer that our culture portrays reading as a "chick thing," which is why so many boys think it's uncool for them - or unmanly. The more men that read - and make it known that they read - the more younger boys will accept it and find their own joy in it.

What does a typical writing day look like for you? Where do you write? Do you have any routines that you like to follow? 

I have no firm writing time; it's truly a "write when you can" approach for me, primarily because of my hectic schedule. I host the top-rated morning radio show in Denver (The Dom and Jane Show on Mix 100), and I also run a non-profit foundation called The Big Brain Club. We help students recognize that Smart Is Cool. With all of these things on my plate, I have to carve out time to write, but, as a writer, it's what you have to do. I've also found that I get the most writing accomplished when I leave my house. I'm too easily distracted, so I pack up my laptop and my notebooks and I get away by myself. If you see a guy in a restaurant, alone, with his laptop open and a glass of wine beside him, that's probably me.

What is currently in your To-read pile?

I'm on the third and final book in Kim Stanley Robinson's "Mars" trilogy. Next up will be Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith. I'd also like to read Captain Nemo, by Kevin J. Anderson. And then I'll probably find an Elmore Leonard book I haven't read yet, just to bask in the dialogue.

Alyson, thanks for the opportunity to participate in this interview with Kid Lit Frenzy, and thanks for all you do for readers and writers. ~ Dom

Thank you Dom for stopping by and for all the answers to the questions.

Check out this video of Dom talking about  Creating the Curse:

Excerpt from the 2nd chapter:
“Oh, I’m bursting with thoughts,” the computer said. “But before we go on, is there any chance of getting some popcorn? How are you guys just sitting there, listening to this, without popcorn?” “Well, let’s start with your thoughts on the wormhole,” Gap said. “To begin with,” Roc said, “you have to stop thinking of a wormhole as a tunnel. It’s not. It’s a theoretical doorway between points in the universe, with no real depth to it. Does that make sense?” Channy, who had been listening to everything with her fingers tented in front of her mouth, dropped her hands into her lap. “Or a window. When Triana shot through, it was like crashing through a window, from one side to the other.”

Please visit Star Shadow for the next excerpt from the second chapter of The Galahad Legacy.

For a list of all the blog stops, click here

About the author
DOM TESTA has been a radio show host since 1977. He is currently a co-host of the popular "Dom and Jane Show" on Mix 100 in Denver. A strong advocate of literacy programs for children, Dom began The Big Brain Club to help young people recognize that Smart Is Cool. More information on Dom Testa, his books and educational work can be found here at

Follow him on Twitter:   @heydomtesta     Facebook: Dom Testa

Dom's Upcoming Public Appearances:
* Saturday, April 14th: Murder by the Book, Houston, TX; 11:00 am

*Wednesday, April 18th and Thursday, April 19th: Texas Library Association Annual Conference, Houston, TX; various times

*Friday, April 20th: Barnes & Noble, 1000 Research Drive, Austin, TX; 7:00 pm

*Saturday, April 21st: Barnes & Noble, 15900 La Cantera Parkway, San Antonio, TX; 2:00 pm

Information about the Publisher:
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Enter to win a copy of The Galahad Legacy - Contest Rules:

1. Though comments are very much appreciated, please do not enter any personal information in the comments section (including your email, website, etc.).  If you do enter personal information, you comment will not be posted.

2.  You must complete the Entry Form to officially enter the contest.

3. The Giveaway is open from April 1, 2012 to 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on April 7, 2012.

4.  You must be 13 or older to participate in this contest.

5.  If you are selected as a winner, I will notify you by e-mail.  If you do not respond within 48 hours, I will select a new winner.

6.  US & Canadian participants only.

Book Review - Ripper

Cross-posted from Now That's Filmworthy (Visit Kate's blog for a chance to win Ripper!)
Author: Stefan Petrucha
Publisher: Philomel Books / Penguin Young Readers
Release date: March 1, 2012
Source: Advance Readers Copy
Audience: Young Adult

Good Reads Description:
Carver Young dreams of becoming a detective, despite growing up in an orphanage with only crime novels to encourage him. But when he is adopted by Detective Hawking of the world famous Pinkerton Agency, Carver is given not only the chance to find his biological father, he finds himself smack in the middle of a real life investigation: tracking down a vicious serial killer who has thrown New York City into utter panic. When the case begins to unfold, however, it’s worse than he could have ever imagined, and his loyalty to Mr. Hawking and the Pinkertons comes into question. As the body count rises and the investigation becomes dire, Carver must decide where his true loyalty lies.
Full of whip-smart dialogue, kid-friendly gadgets, and featuring a then New York City Police Commisioner Teddy Roosevelt, Ripper challenges everything you thought you knew about the world’s most famous serial killer.

Kate's thoughts on this book:
Ripper by Stefan Petrucha was a fun read for me.  Being a history groupie, you always find that there are certain places, people, myths, and mysteries that pique your interest.  The case of Jack the Ripper is one of those interests of mine, so I was especially excited to read this book.  As I read, I began to see past the history and appreciate the writing style of the novel as well as the characters introduced.  To be honest, it reminded me of another one of my favorite adult mysteries, Caleb Carr’s The Alienist.  

The book’s setting of the turn of the 20th Century allows the author to explore the advances in forensics and early investigative techniques. Petrucha takes full advantage of the opportunity. I thank him for it! The novel’s pacing and adventure makes it a great read for those guys who like a good mystery. (There is romance, but it isn’t overwhelming. It is more of an opportunity to give Carver, our hero, someone who is unconditionally in his corner.)  The story of the Ripper does include some disturbing murder and mayhem, but it doesn’t get too  explicit or overpowering.

The characters were intriguing. I loved seeing Mr. Petrucha’s take on Teddy Roosevelt. He really gave us an opportunity to relate to such a life-sized personality in US history. The themes also jumped out at me: the idea that your fate is our own no matter who your parents are, where you grew up, but what actions you take. No person should be pigeoned-holed especially as they are just discovering themselves.

Check out the book trailer in my Trailer Park!
For more information about author: Stefan Petrucha
On Twitter: @SPetrucha

Book Review - Jessica Rules the Dark Side

Author: Beth Fantaskey
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Release Date: January 10, 2012
Audience: Young Adult
Source: ARC for review
Reviewed by: Kate
Fiction * Paranormal Romance

Description from GoodReads:
It’s one thing to find out you’re a vampire princess. It’s a whole other thing to actually rule. Newly married Jessica Packwood is having a hard enough time feeling regal with her husband, Lucius, at her side. But when evidence in the murder of a powerful elder points to Lucius, sending him into solitary confinement, Jessica is suddenly on her own. Determined to clear her husband’s name, Jessica launches into a full-scale investigation, but hallucinations and nightmares of betrayal keep getting in her way. Jessica knows that with no blood to drink, Lucius’s time is running out. Can she figure out who the real killer is—and whom she can trust—before it’s too late?

Jessica’s journey is about what happens after the happily ever after. She’s surrounded by men (befanged men) and politics, and in the way of most people starting a new life, needs to find this ‘new’ self. Is it all of the old self, just in better attire? or is it parts of the old self, with new thrown in? 

This was a highly anticipated sequel for me. I am completely in love with the journey I took in Beth Fantaskey’s first novel, Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side. Beth’s characters are three dimensional. I really enjoyed getting to know them as they got to know each other. I couldn’t imagine what would be next for Jessica and Lucius.

Fantaskey answers this question in Jessica Rules the Dark Side. The tone and mood is unexpectedly a lot darker. I had a bit of trouble getting into the change but I was soon rewarded for my patience. This new direction gives us readers a great chance to see Jessica come into her own as a woman and as a princess. She is dropped in the middle of this world full of old traditions, rituals, rites, and grudges. Jessica is forced to navigate these new waters on her own terms. Will she succeed? Don’t despair, dear readers. Beth gives Jessica some new friends along with her wise-cracking, no-nonsense, bit grumbly best friend, Mindy for help; keeping any Fantaskey fan avidly reading along as Jessica challenges this new world.

Here’s a heads up. Keep a lookout for Raniero, especially. I love characters and Raniero is definitely one to cherish. When you meet him, cliches will abound but persevere. He was one of the best book friends I meet last year. YES, I have book friends. Doesn't everyone?

**Check out The Wedding Chapters for the scoop on Jessica and Lucius’ paranormal and unconventional Wedding, found here:

For more information about author Beth Fantaskey, check out her website here:

Or you can follow her on twitter: @bethfantaskey

*Quote above used with permission