John Green

RTW: Best Book ‘o the Month

by sarahenni on February 1, 2012

Welcome to another Road Trip Wednesday, a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway posts a weekly writing- or reading-related question and anyone can answer it on their own blogs.

This week’s topic is:

What was the best book you read in January?

In addition to getting me out of my Game of Thrones writing rut, John Green’s newest kept me up until 2:30 AM reading, crying, and hugging my cat, teetering on the verge of an existential crisis. It made me feel ALL THE FEELINGS.


But it’s disingenuous of me to say that I just love the book. I do love the book. Certainly it would stand on its own, but what raises The Fault in Our Stars specifically and John Green generally is a community of YA readers called Nerdfighters. I met them, en masse, at Green’s Jan. 11 Washington, D.C. book tour stop. Through being a fan of John Green I got to see real teens (a crapload of them) find a connection to books, to a thirst for knowledge, to the desire to think about more than what MTV thinks they think (what), and most of all a connection to each other*.

John Green, by being a nice guy, an incredible author, and someone who does not ever talk down to teens, got a room filled up like this:

With teens who greeted an author like a rock star, sing along to songs about Quarks, and ask questions about feet and the meaning of life and get equally thoughtful answers. Teens who sit quietly and soak it up when someone talks to them like the intellectual-conversation-starved people they are, instead of just asking what college they’re going to.

The Fault in Our Stars was an incredible book. Amazing. Read-it-with-a-pencil-because-you’re-gonna-want-to-underline-stuff good. It flirted with too patently philosophical, but never crossed the line. I recommend it to humans who like thinking about humanity.

What awes me even more than John Green’s prose, though, is the opportunity he’s giving teens to find their like-minded peers. To celebrate life and all its complexities with them. If I’d had the Vlogbrothers in high school, I might’ve done some things differently. I would have met a lot more people I felt connected to, probably, and I would’ve felt less embarrassed to like the weird shit I liked like.

But you know what? I’m 26 now, and he’s still giving me that.

(A substantial portion of the DC Mafia, from right to left: Rick Lipman, Jessica BS, Cristin Terrill, Sara McClung, and Lindsey Roth Culli. Not pictured: Me and Sasha)

So The Fault in Our Stars gets my nod for best book I read in January. And John Green gets my thanks for making this month more incredible than it would have been without him.

What about you?? What was the best book you read in January? Did you get a pre-signed copy of TFiOS? Did it have a Hanklerfish?!

*And yet the boy to girl ratio was horrendous. Seriously, nerdboys, you need to come to events like this. Play the odds game, fellas.


A Writing Slump/A Mummer’s Farce

by sarahenni on January 20, 2012

No, the second phrase in that title is not some secret dirty lingo. It’s a commonly used phrase in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books (maybe you’ve heard of them?) that means, basically, that something is a ruse, an act, a joke. And that is exactly what my attempts to write have been lately, friends. For serious.

I always take a healthy break after finishing a first draft, because drafting is difficult and tiring for me. So after wrapping up the WiP sometime after Thanksgiving, I set it aside and focused on the exciting trip I took, and the new friends I made. Something I enjoyed—like, a lot—during my break was reading Martin’s series.

If these books were food, they'd be a controlled substance.

I got… um… quite into them. In about three weeks I read the first three books—a total of more than 3,000 pages of a high-fantasy series that features kingdoms, swords, horses, dragons, wolves, and just about every single thing that is NOT in my contemporary YA WiP.

So when I opened up Scrivener and began to clear the cobwebs from my book… I couldn’t quite do it. Everything was “m’lady” this, and “by the seven gods” that. I couldn’t shake the urge to sit and read A Feast for Crows; I just wanted to immerse myself in that world again.

Frankly, it was getting a little bit weird.

Then, like a just-in-time life vest tossed from the U.S.S. YA*, came January 10 and the release of John Green’s (brilliant, wonderful, Kleenex-box-crushingly sad) novel The Fault in Our Stars.

It was a jarring switch from 27 characters that mostly want to put each others’ heads on spikes to an introspective 16-year old cancer patient that watches America’s Next Top Model. But it was like changing from fun but intense party shoes to sole-worn ballet flats. The same thing that always gets me about YA—the colloquialisms, the youthful cadence, the ability for authors to USE CAPS LOCK IN DIALOGUE—got my creative side to wake up again. My thoughts started returning to the WiP of their own accord, and I stopped having nightmares about undead strangers in the snow.

I’ve read countless tweets and blog posts about people carefully selecting the books they read while drafting, worried that the voice or style would interfere with their writing by being too different, or too much the same. But I’d honestly never experienced it ’til now! It was confusing and strange, and overall I’d say I don’t recommend it. I’m back on the path and gearing up for revisions. But man, that was a wild sidetrack!

What about you?? Are you careful about what books you read while drafting/revising/rewriting? Have you had a book/series take over your creative brain? How do you break out of writing slumps?

*Yeah, you're right, that was a bit of a stretch. I told you, I've been outta the game!


2011 in: Recommendations

by sarahenni on December 29, 2011

If you love reading (and my guess is, since you’re here, you do), you know that recommending books for others is an art. Every reader is different, so when your sister/boss/neighbor/niece asks for suggestions, a lot of thought goes into it. I find that my list of favorite books doesn’t always sync up with the list of books that I recommend most—I tend to recommend books that I think have more broad appeal, ones that I’ve seen most everyone pick up and love. So today we’re going to share the books that we’ve evangelized most for in 2011!

The Passage by Justin Cronin

This book made my “most recommended” list last year, too, and that really says something. It’s been more than a year since I read it, but Cronin’s haunting 800-page post-apocalyptic zombie-vampire cross-country journey tale still haunts me. It’s one of my favorites of all time, and I’ve yet to find someone who doesn’t enjoy it.

Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore

I’m counting these as one book, because I never recommend one without the other. Cashore’s YA fantasy world has the complex world-building and medieval-style throne lust that typifies epic fantasy, but they feature strong female characters, a paranormal twist, and emotional arcs you can sink your teeth into. I loved getting lost in the stories of Katsa and Fire, and most of the people I recommended it to gave it a thumbs-up.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Though I’ve been recommending it to anyone who’d listen for years, I saw a definite uptick in interest when the Hunger Games movie started filming, most especially when the trailer came out and looked BOMB. The Hunger Games is, frankly, a book I dare anyone not to enjoy, and I’m so excited for it to blow up in March with the film!

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

As soon as I started reading this book—and I woke Dr H up because I was laughing so hard—I knew I had to spread the word on the book. I’ve found it’s a great introduction to people that aren’t familiar with YA, or how the YA voice is different from the contemporary lit they’re used to reading. The combination of Green and Levithan makes for such a great balance of humor, angst, outlandish scenarios and real human stories, all in one book.

 Check out what everyone else had to say!

Erin Bowman

Kaitlin Ward

Kate Hart

Kathleen Peacock

Kirsten Hubbard

Kristin Otts

Lindsey Roth Culli

Phoebe North

Stephanie Keuhn

Sumayyah Doud

Veronica Roth


5 Favorite YA Characters

by sarahenni on December 27, 2011

Today we’re sharing some of our favorite characters from 2011. I love pointing out characters that have left an impression on me, because—though every great book needs great characters—not all great characters come from our favorite overall stories. It’s a different way to think about all the books I read, and I’m happy to say that the characters I listed (split into five girls and five boys, in no particular order) have stuck with me like good friends.

The Girls

Karou from Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Lola Nolan from Stephanie Perkins’ Lola and the Boy Next Door

Marya Morevna from Catherynne M. Valente’s Deathless

Tris from Veronica Roth’s Divergent

Fire from Kristin Cashore’s Fire

I think Molly Quinn could pull off Fire's mix of strength and vulnerability

The Guys

Tiny Cooper from John Green and David Levithan’s Will Grayson Will Grayson

Dr. Pellinore Warthrop from Rick Yancey’s The Monstrumologist

Quentin from Lev Grossman’s The Magician King

Adam from Gayle Forman’s Where She Went

Warner from Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me

Aaron Johnson has the perfect self-satisfied smirk to play Warner

 Check out what everyone else had to say!

Corrine Jackson

Erin Bowman

Kaitlin Ward

Kate Hart

Kathleen Peacock

Kirsten Hubbard

Kristin Otts

Lindsey Roth Culli

Phoebe North

Stephanie Keuhn

Sumayyah Doud

Veronica Roth