Under Construction

YA Today will be undergoing some new updates – including a new header! – in the next few weeks so bear with us. Please check back soon for some new YA reads and news.


The Austen mash-ups continue

Quirk Books recently announced their 3rd Austen title, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, due to be released in late March 2010.

This book is a departure from their two previous titles in that it is not technically a mash-up but rather a completely new title. This title is an Elizabeth Bennett ‘origins’ story of sorts in which we find out how the plague of ‘undesirables’ started in England and how Elizabeth Bennett went from traditional Austen heroine to zombie-kicking ninja.

Given the HUGE number of Austen-inspired zombie and vampire books currently out right now (Mr. Darcy, Vampyre is yet another of these titles) maybe Quirk Books has jumped the shark on this topic (as proposed in the New York Times way back in February 2009)?

What do you think? Are YA readers still interested in these books? And what about the fact that this new title has no original Austen text. At present, many high schools have incorporated P & P & Z into their English curriculum to pique readers’ interests in the classics, but will the same be true for this new title?

In celebration of Banned Books Week Sept 26th-Oct 3rd….

My favorite ever library advertising for Banned Books Week…

BB week carnival picture

From the Twin Hickory Public Library in Glen Allen, Virginia from last year’s Banned Books ‘living’ display.

And thanks to Cory Doctorow who profiled this library last year in Boing Boing – click here for the full article.


An interesting sidenote to this display is what happened last year when the Henrico County Library System, which Twin Hickory library is in, sponsored an ‘All Henrico Reads’ for the works of noted YA (and adult) author Julia Alvarez.

Over the course of the summer high school students and Henrico residents read Alvarez’s books in anticipation of her speaking engagement at Henrico County Library, planned for October 7th, 2008.   However, the appropriateness of Alavrez’s book, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents — a required or recommended book on the Henrico County summer reading lists for many high schools and a noted YA book in general (including being featured as one of the new ‘ 21 classics of the 21st century’ by NYC librarians) — was questioned by some school parents, specifically for its ‘ mature’  (i.e. sexual) content and the book was taken off the school’s recommended reading list.

Alavrez, incidentally, did still speak for ‘All Henrico Reads’ (article from Richmond Times Dispatch here) but the event seems a little bittersweet when her best known and loved book was, in effect, shielded from its one of its target audience – teens.

So, not only was Twin Hickory’s library display last year a fantastic and eye catching way to celebrate Banned Books week — it was also reflecting the very real book challenges occurring right in their area over notable and renown works of YA literature.

Penguin Classics Get Fashionable New Facelifts

scarlet ToledoNew York Fashion Week may be over, but the newly facelifted Penguin Classics Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, and The Scarlett Letter, are here to stay.

Featuring modern new covers by noted illustrator and artist Ruben Toledo (and designed to coincide with New York Fashion Week) Penguin’s intention was to attract new readers to classics in a vein similar to that employed by Quirk Books that has made new readers give Jane Austen a second glance with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and the newly released Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (which I am reading right now – it is great!).

According to Toledo, Penguin gave him free rein to redesign the covers as he saw fit with the only instruction to, “…make art that would make [young adults] want to read — to introduce these stories to a new public no matter what age” (for the full text of Toledo’s interview with WWD Lifestyle click here).

In spite of owning previous copies of all three of these titles, I just purchased the Toledo-illustrated version of Wuthering Heights…and I think I might buy the other editions too.

P&P ToledoToledo Wuthering Heights

Reminiscences on ‘classic’ YA of Yesterday

218.x600.feat.august.books.shelfJezebel columnist Lizzie Skurnick’s has just released a book, Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classic We Never Stopped Reading, which is all about her re-reading and reminiscing on her favorite YA books as a child and teen in ways both humorous and profound…though mostly humorous.

Shelf Discovery includes esays from Skurnick’s Jezebel column, “Fine Lines” and some new additions as well. Essays and titles include, ‘Flowers in the Attic: He ain’t Sexy. He’s my Brother,’ and ‘Summer of My German Soldier: Springtime with Hitler Part I.’ Not to be missed.

Teen Reads has a review and featured preview of the book here.

Baby Be-Bop Burns: the continuing controversy in West Bend over book banning

babybebopThe fight to ban ‘objectionable’ books like Baby Be-Bop, by Francesca Lia Block, continues in West Bend, Wisconsin and has now gone national, covered today by CNN.com.

The fight began back in February when two parents raised questions over what was deemed ‘acceptable’  and ‘age appropriate’ content for young adults – particularly as it concerned books of a ‘sexually explicit’ nature, which by this couple’s definition included a broad range of behaviors such as pre-martial sex, non-heterosexual sex, sex without consequences, sex with drugs, alcohol and so on. In total this couple and their supporters have identified over 80 books as ‘objectionable’ in the West Bend YA library catalogue including the very popular and well-reviewed (and oft-challenged) The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Some nearby residents from Milwaukee who heard about this fight got involved and mounted their own crusade against Baby Be-Bop (a coming of age story about a gay teen) in the West Bend libraries for its “explicitly vulgar, racial and anti-Christian” content — and petitioned the library to publicly burn the book for the ‘good’ of the community.

This is ongoing fight that despite the small size of the community (30,000) is sure to continue and possibly gain in momentum. This debate has even made onto YouTube and you can listen to both sides of the debate here – the library supporters and the library critics.


Baby Be-Bop author Francesca Lia Block was interviewed by Salon.com about this fight in June (click here for the interview). I love her quote in which she says, “It’s a tiny little book,” she added, “but they want to burn it like a witch.”

It is sad that especially in a small town residents want to restrict content in the libraries. Number #1 we don’t pick content lightly in libraries – we collect carefully and pick books that are well-reviewed and that mean something. Number #2 in a small town, and as a small town survivor myself, a library can really be a refuge for people and to want to take that away from teens and instead dictate to them what they should read seems counter to everything about librarianship.

Regency England like you’ve never seen it before: A book trailer for ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’

My second foray into video booktalks and trailers…

Jane Austen’s classic text (well…85% classic text) with some added zombie mayhem – including a plague of undead terrorizing Hertfordshire, Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s ninjas terrorizing Elizabeth Bennett, and the Bennett sisters fighting back against all this with their finely honed combat skills.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Regency England like you’ve never seen it before.