the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘young adult

kaleidoscope anthoKaleidoscope, edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios

published in August 2014

where I got it: received review copy from the editors (Thanks Alisa and Julia!)












The tagline for Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios’s new anthology Kaleidoscope is “Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy stories”, but what’s in this collection goes much deeper than that.  I really wasn’t sure what to expect, and I very much appreciated the depth of variety of the stories, everything from contemporary fantasy, to parallel universe, to futuristic schools for shapeshifters, to ancient Chinese mythology, to accidental humor,  to a superhero story, and to one so ambiguous it could take place anywhere or anytime. As promised, the characters are diverse, (mostly female, some are queer, some with disabilities or disorders, many are ethnic minorities), and while some of them have already found acceptance, others have a tougher road to travel. A number of the stories deal with being an ethnic and/or racial minority, and being torn between doing whatever it takes to be accepted by your peers, and keeping to the traditions of your parents. Even as horrible things are sometimes happening and characters are in dark places, these are incredibly hopeful, optimistic stories.


I think many readers will agree that the two finest  stories in the collection are “The Seventh Day of the Seventh Moon” by Ken Liu and “Walkdog” by Sofia Samatar.  Multiple award winning Ken Liu is with good reason famous for his short fiction, and Sofia Samatar is a rising star, and in fact just won the Campbell Award.  In Liu’s “The Seventh Day of the Seventh Moon”, Yuan and Jing are struggling with saying goodbye as Jing’s family prepares to move away. The two young women “fall” into the Chinese story of Zhinu and Niulang, who fell in love and were then forced to live apart (their stars are on the opposite side of the Milky Way). The story of the ancient lovers is beautiful in a way only Ken Liu can do, and if you’ve never read him, this is a wonderful introduction to the magic he does with words.  “The Seventh Day of the Seventh Moon” is a story of first love, and how to accept that your first love isn’t forever.


When I stop to think about it, Sofia Samatar’s “Walkdog” is also a story of first love, or at least about realizing you care deeply for another human being.  Yolanda is writing a paper for school, and you’re going to get a smile on your face reading this, because it looks like every research paper everything 9th grader has every had to write, complete with introduction, thesis statement, discussion of research and conclusion. Samatar has left in all of Yolanda’s spelling errors, unnecessary footnotes, and other errata, which just adds to the fun. So you’re smiling, and maybe laughing, and you wonder why Yolanda keeps going on this tangent about her classmate Andy, when her paper is supposed to be about the urban legend creature the Walkdog, which steals kids. This is not a very long story, and Yolanda realizes what’s happening as she’s writing the research paper, and she’s practically begging her teacher to help her, asking why someone didn’t do something earlier so the horrible thing didn’t have to happen. How can something that starts off so goofy turn so tragic so quickly? A testament to Samatar’s prowess, “Walkdog” will be on my Hugo nominations next year.

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As the Book of Apex Book 4 tour continues, I find myself interacting with more and more of the authors, be it on twitter, or reading their guest posts and interview on other blogs, or interviewing them here.  I’ll let you in on a little secret about how I come up with interview questions: I check out the author’s website. I read their recent blog posts, I look at different projects they are involved in, I wanna know what their deal is.  After a quick glance through Cecil Castellucci’s website, I e-mailed a friend of mine and said “have you looked at her website? this woman is awesome!”.  The more I looked at Cecil’s site and everything she’s involved with, the more often I found myself picking my jaw up off the floor. This woman is involved with everything, she does everything, she’s passionate about literature and storytelling and youth literacy programs. She does everything.  It’s inspirational, is what it is.

Wanna know more about Cecil Castellucci? Of course you do!  let’s get to the interview!


LRR:  I’m not usually a fan of zombie stories, but I really enjoyed your Apex story, “Always The Same. Until It Is Not”.  Did I interpret it right? Is the guy a zombie? And what inspired this story?

 C.C. Yes!  You got it right.  He is a zombie.  To be honest, I’m a little freaked out by zombies.  They really are creepy.  Writing this story was a way for me to try to confront my fear of zombies.  I tried to think of it as a way to own my fear.  The idea came after I’d talked with an acquaintance who writes for The Walking Dead.  I swore I’d never watch the show.  Then she sort of challenged me on that because she knows I like a good story.  I started thinking about how it’s always an infection that takes over like wildfire and then descends the world into a nightmare.  I thought, what if I switch what “infection” and “descent” means?  So in this story the infection is humanity and the descent is the rise of it.  It’s sort of the after of the after.

LRR: I’m also a huge fan of your short story “We Have Always Lived on Mars” ( May 2013). What inspired this story, and without spoiling the ending, can you tell us how you hit on that twist?


CC: Oh, I’m so glad that you like that story! I think it’s safe to say that Mars has always been a place where we humans have longed to settle.  It’s close enough to us that we could actually go there, but far away enough that if something happened there or here it’d be hard to get to or get off of.  Right now, there is a lot of Mars love and attention with things like that Mars One and us landing Curiousity on Mars and the Mock Mars missions that they have on Earth in Antarctica, Northern Canada and Utah.  It was a combination of these things that inspired the story.  I wondered what it would be like to be a girl born on Mars who had been cut off from Earth, living in a colony that had no room to grow because it had no supplies with which to expand.  I can’t say more than that or I’ll spoil it!

tin star cover

LRR: Congratulations on your soon to be released Tin Star! What’s the quick elevator pitch for  Tin Star?


CC: Tin Star is the story of a girl named Tula Bane, a colonist from Earth who gets abandoned on an alien space station by the charismatic cult leader of her ship at the brink of a Galactic war.  She’s the only human there and human’s are not well liked.

LRR: You’re incredibly active in your local community, hosting teen writing workshops at the library, being continually active in the local arts scene, even reading at local elementary schools.  Can you tell us a little about your passion for the local arts scene and especially  youth fiction and reading?

wrinkle in time

CC: Yes it is true that I am super active in the LA literary scene.  I am very passionate about reading and literacy because I love stories and I really believe that books and stories allow us to see past the boundaries of our day to day life.  It allows us to dream and stretch and grow and travel and see possibilities for different ways of living.  That is especially important when you are in low economic circumstances.  I work at a Title One elementary school doing read aloud to first and second graders.  I’ve been doing it for 12 years now, working with the same two teachers and it is one of the best things I’ve ever done.  I read books, this year it’s The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo to the first graders and A Wrinkle in Time with the second graders.  We take forever reading the book because I stop and talk about every little detail and we use the book to talk about how stories are told, style, history, science, everything!  As for the LAPL Teen Author Reading series that I run, there is one in NY and I know a lot of authors here, so I work with Mary McCoy at LAPL and we coordinate the series together.  I thought LA needed one!  Also, I co edit the LA Review of Books YA / Children’s section.  Mostly we run essays and thought pieces about young people’s literature.  I do these things because I am passionate about young people’s literature and these are ways that I can get our field to be sitting at the big kids table in the larger literary world.  Also, because I think that we fall in love with reading when we are young and that is when we become life long readers.

LRR: You manage the fascinating “Letters for Kids”, where kids get a letter in the mail from an author. What a fantastic idea! What other authors are involved in this, and what’s the most creative letter that has been sent?


CC: It is a great idea!  Stephen Elliot who runs the Rumpus asked me to coordinate the Rumpus Letters for Kids, after the wildly succesful Letters in the Mail for adults.  It’s kind of a perfect thing, because I think our sweet spot is about 6 -10 and that’s a perfect age to be getting letters in the mail.  By they way, you don’t have to be a kid to subscribe, anyone can subscribe! Even classrooms!  You get a letter from middle grade author twice a month.  It’s great fun!  Some of the authors who have written letters are Rebecca Stead, Susan Patron, Natalie Standiford, Lisa Yee, Janet Tashijian, Arthur Slade, Bobbledy Books.  They are so good!  I have a few favorites, but of course, it’s hard because they are all so different!  But Adam Rex did an original comic story. (you can see it here )  Sherri L Smith wrote an original short story and this guy Nolan O’Brien did an amazing thing with circles.  It’s truly a brilliant thing, and I would have totally subscribed to Letters for Kids when I was young.

plain janes

LRR: Your graphic novel Plain Janes was a kick-off publication for the  D.C. Comics Minx imprint. The imprint didn’t last, but Plain Janes did very well. Would you consider doing graphic novels again? 

year of the beasts

CC: Of course!  And I still have!  For the record, Vertigo reprinted The Plain Janes, so it’s still available.  And you can still get the sequel Janes in Love.  I have actually written many other comics!  I did a hybrid novel called The Year of the Beasts with Nate Powell.  It’s alternating chapters of prose and graphic novel.  I also had a ghost story in Vertigo’s ghost anthology, a comet story in the SPACE anthology over at IDW, an Aquaman/ Mera love story in the Young Romance issue #1, I wrote Green Lantern: The Animated Series issue #11 and most recently I had a comic book for little kids called Odd Duck illustrated by Sara Varon on First Second.  Upcoming in early 2015 I have a graphic novel called Pearl in the Rough illustrated by Joe Infurnari out on Dark Horse.  It’s about a girl who rides the rails in 1932 with an old hobo.  So I’d say that at this point I consider myself a YA author and a comic book writer!

odd duck

well, that’s what I get for not researching Cecil enough on her website. Otherwise I would have known about Odd Duck, Year of the Beasts, and her other graphic novels.  Don’t make the same mistake I did!  Learn more about Cecil on her website, or by following her on twitter.

WeeFreeMenTheBeginningHi Everyone!

Welcome to the second part of our Wee Free Men Read Along!

If you’re enjoying Wee Free Men (and really, how can you not be enjoying this book?), you should join us for a read along for the next book in the Tiffany Aching series, A Hat Full of Sky! I can’t believe we’re nearly done with Wee Free Men, so here’s the schedule for A Hat Full of Sky:

Part 1: Hosted by Little Red Reviewer Chapters 1-3, 109 pages, 3/13/13
Part 2: Hosted by Dab of Darkness Chapters 4-6, 88 pages, 3/20/13
Part 3: Hosted by Little Red Reviewer Chapters 7-9, 94 pages, 3/27/13
Part 4: Hosted by Dab of Darkness Chapters 10-end, 107 pages, 4/3/13

While you’re mulling over that, here’s this week’s discussion questions for Wee Free Men, my answers after the jump:

1.  Do you think Tiffany will be able to hold up her end of the bargain that she made with the Kelda?

2.Do you think Tiffany and Fion will ever be friends?

3. What do you think of the Queen’s world? How does this interpretation of Fairyland mesh with other interpretations you’ve run into in other books?

4. What do you think of Roland? Will he be a help to Tiffany or a hindrance?

5. I don’t know about you, but I do NOT want to run into a Drome!

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The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, by Catherynne Valente

published in October 2012

where I got it: borrowed ARC from a friend











A year has passed, it’s time to visit Fairyland again. It’s got to be better than Nebraska, where the other girls at school aren’t interested in being September’s friend, and food is purchased with ration coupons. The sooner she gets back, the sooner she can be with the best friends a girl could ever ask for: a book loving wyverary and a shyly beautiful marid.

After a rough and lonely landing in a glass forest, September notices drastic changes in her surroundings. None of her friends come to greet her, magic is being rationed, and the few magical creatures she meets are terrified of her.  Maybe she’s just landed in a provincial area of Fairyland? But no, Fairyland has changed, and not for the better.  Humans don’t belong in Fairyland, and when they leave, they aren’t supposed to leave things behind.  When September last visited, she left her shadow behind, and it’s been up to all sorts of trouble.

For the last year, while September was doing sums and spelling, her shadow was living the high life in Fairyland-below.  Known as Halloween, the Hollow Queen, her shadow rules Fairyland-below, where there are no rules, no bedtimes, no lost friends, and and un-attached to their other selves, the shadows are suddenly free to live their own lives, and do everything they’ve never been able to do before.

Ell the Wyverary and Saturday the Marid didn’t greet her when she landed in the glass forest, but their shadows were waiting for her when she landed in Fairyland-below.  Are these the same Ell and Saturday that September had so many adventures with? Shadow-Ell and Shadow-Saturday are elated to be freed of the shackles of their other selves, this is the first time they’ve ever had any control over their own lives.

As Halloween hosts her revels, and her invisible assistant pulls down more shadows from Fairyland-above, Septembers feels more and more that something is wrong. Why can’t she just reunite with her shadow? Why won’t anyone listen to her?  why doesn’t anyone seem to care about the damage that’s being done to Fairyland-above? If Halloween is such a reckless, horrible person, does that mean that deep down, September is too?

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FTC Stuff

some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.