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Q&A with YA book bloggers at Forever YA, YA Bookshelf and YALITCHAT.ORG


Since we're exploring YA books this month at the CBC Book Club, I thought I'd check in with a few of my fave experts on the subject in the blogging world. Our guests on the blog today are probably no strangers to those who live and breathe this genre.

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These fabulous YA bloggers address all-important literary issues readers everywhere passionately debate.

Sarah is a blogger at Forever YA which she founded because she "loves the pants out of [good] young adult books." Melissa writes honest, independent YA novel reviews at YABookshelf. Georgia McBride is an author and founder of #yalitchat on Twitter and YALITCHAT.ORG, a non-profit organization concerned with the advancement of YA literature worldwide.

Q: What attracts you to the YA genre?

Sarah: As my co-blogger Jenny once put it, we love the "purity of firsts" within the YA genre. Adolescence is a time of extremes, of open horizons, of exciting and scary uncertainty, and consequently, the stories that come out of that period are insanely compelling to me. The depth of teenage lows is perfect for reader wallowing, while the highs are like a bottle of champagne. I love experiencing the awkwardness and discovery of young adulthood while remaining safely in my adult world — I get the first kisses without the drool. Plus, the seeming invincibility of teenagers means that every YA book, no matter how grim, features a glimmer of hope.

Melissa: Since I read a wide variety of YA fiction, there are many different things that attract me to it. The ability to read any type of novel I feel like within the same larger genre is definitely something that attracts me, but there is more to my interest in the YA genre than that alone. Some of the books I read allow me to glimpse the magical world of adolescence once again, where everything is new and exhilarating, while others with fantastical creatures and dystopic experiences permit a moment of escape from the everyday with their fast-paced plots and ingenious extensions to our world.

However, there is another part of me that enjoys contemporary issue novels, even when they are, at times, emotionally difficult to read. I like that the YA genre places me right in the throws of the main character's experiences, often in the first person. Even when the circumstances are different from my actual experience, I find myself able to empathize with the main characters in a very visceral way, and at the same time, I can gain insight into both people in general and myself in particular. Finally, I like that most YA novels end on a hopeful, but realistic, note. YA authors know that teens will see through total reversals in a character's behaviour or experience, but they want to instil a sense of optimism and hope in their readers as well. All in all, YA fiction creates a balance of all of these aspects that one doesn't necessarily find in adult fiction.

Georgia: I recall my teenage years as the ones in which the intensity of emotion was at its height for me. Everything was the best, the most, the greatest whatever. For me, the teenage experience was the purest, most authentic me I've ever been. To write about and for teens now is my great joy.

Q: Who's your fave YA character and why?

Sarah: Oh man this is, like, harder than the AP [Advanced Placement] Calculus test. I have a lot of favourites, but for the sake of this question, I'll whittle them down to one: Jessica Darling. She's incredibly real while still managing to exemplify all of the qualities I wish I had in high school — wit, strength and an insane amount of sass. As we say over at FYA, I would give her my BFF charm in a heartbeat and invite her to sit with me in the café so we could swoon over Marcus Flutie together. Even though it would be easy to be insanely jealous of her because the aforementioned Marcus is totes in love with her, I understand the insecurities that plague her, and I'd want her to know that she's not alone — there are plenty of smart, socially awkward, insanely confused girls out there just like her, including me.

Melissa: While there are a lot of characters that I love, my fave YA characters are a toss up between two teen girls in the contemporary YA genre, namely Mia from Gayle Forman's If I Stay and Caitlin from Nina LaCour's Hold Still. Although I'm not a classical musician, Mia is a character with which I immediately identified and believe that she is the type of person who I could have considered a really good friend as a teen. Moreover, her story is one that brought me through the emotions joy, love, despair, or the entire range of human emotions. Making a choice that is the toughest one of her life, Mia deliberates on the pros and the cons of either decision in a way that made me cherish her experience.

On the other hand, Nina LaCour's Caitlin is a character who spoke to me in an intimate way. She listens to the same type of music as I do, and when she's dealing with grief, she responds in a lot of the ways that I can imagine myself doing. Like Mia, Caitlin experiences some of the most painful and the most life-affirming emotions, and in her first-person narration, she expresses them in a way that transmits those raw emotions to the reader as well. While the experiences of Mia and Caitlin are different, the heartache and joy I felt when reading both of their stories has imprinted them forever in my mind.

Georgia: I don't think I have one favorite YA character. I certainly have a few favorite books. But to be fair I'll just say I love paranormal and science fiction. I like any book that takes something we see in our everyday lives and turns it on its ear — like turns it into something totally unexpected or unrecognizable. I like a little romance in my books if possible and I love a good thriller — something that makes you think.

Q: We're holding a YA Death Match this month. Which character do you think should win and why?

Sarah: Can I lend my support to a character that's not in the poll but should be? If so, all of my money is on Viola from the Chaos Walking trilogy. The girl is fiercer than Beyonce and tougher than Katniss Everdeen. Before another character foolishly steps in the ring, they should know the following:

  • she survived an accident that killed her parents.
  • she's been shot.
  • she's been bombed.
  • she's been tortured, leaving her with two broken ankles.
  • she's suffered from blood poisoning.
  • she's killed a crazy murderer.

ENOUGH SAID.

Melissa: Of all of the YA characters selected, I think that Katniss Everdeen should win the YA Death Match. Not only has she already been put in a real fight to the death and lived to tell about it twice as well as a war, but also she is a prime example of a heroine for today's youth. She's strong, talented, intelligent, and a born leader, but at the same time, she demonstrates the ability to not only get what she wants from a situation, but also to be sensitive toward the needs of others.

Whereas some of the other characters lived in comparatively idyllic times, I also believe that Katniss's day-to-day experience is more akin to what young adults now and in future generations will face. Being forced to kill other children and adults time and again and watch those she cares about die at the hands of others, Katniss doesn't come away from her experience unscathed, even though she is a strong character. Her ensuing trauma is realistic and is thus a lot more believable than some of the other characters in the same category. Taken together, Katniss Everdeen's strength, courage, intelligence, leadership qualities, and the realistic nature of her experience make her my favorite to win the YA death match.

Georgia: I'm only voting in the super sleuths one. I can't even THINK about the other ones. Do you even have to ask? Nancy Drew, hands down. Then again, you have the Hardy Boys in the same match? Are you nuts?

Kimberly Walsh @AliasGraceKimberly Walsh loves YA books because they remind her of tweenhood when the world seemed full of new experiences and complicated emotions. She's backing the feisty Clary Fray in the CBC Book Club's YA Death Match.


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