Happy March + A Book Chat

Oh, hey there!

Hello March, springtime, sunshine, and all of the best make-your-heart-happy books as you sunbathe. (Ideally, right?)

We hung out for a little while ‘in person’ to chat about THE HATING GAME by Sally Thorne – a book that should be high on your radar for reading as soon as possible. We discussed the love/hate relationship between Lucy and Josh, crazy work dynamics and ending up in a job you never intended to have, and naturally digressed into some girl chat about makeup and life.

We filmed this on a lazy Sunday afternoon and got cozy in our own homes with our computers – Estelle in her apartment in NY and Magan from the comfort of her living room! We lost track of time, rambled a lot at the end about some of our favorite things, but had so much fun getting in some friend time.

We hope that you’ll enjoy our first in-person book chat!

 

The Scoop:

 

Off-Topic Details:

 

Catch-Up:

  • Have you read THE HATING GAME? What did you think?
  • What are your favorite podcasts? We’re looking for more recommendations!
  • We’ve both adopted a ‘read and release’ policy with our books to pass them along to other book-lovers. Are you a re-reader or do you pass your books off to a friend?
  • Has anyone started a lending library? Any tips or advice for how Magan can start one?

Friends Who Write Diversely… | Dive Into Diversity

Dive Into Diversity Reading Challenge

Can someone please tell me how we are in the second week of August? Already? I’m not sure how this is happening. Is this real life? Either way, we are here for the eighth check-in for our #DiversityDive challenge. How’s it going? Read anything great lately? (I’m highly recommending: What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi — how often do we see a single teenage dad in a book — and also Not After Everything by Michelle Levy — which is so heartbreaking but also has a character dealing with some economic diversity, in addition to many other challenges.) Now on to today’s post…

Big thanks to authors/bloggers/Twitter goddesses Dahlia Adler (Under the Lights) and Katherine Locke (Second Position) for being so game for today’s post. Rather Be Reading is rooted in a great friendship story, and, of course, books, so these two ladies cover both those topics as they chat about their own friendship (they met at BEA for the first time in 2014 and have hung out twice IRL), reading each other’s books, diversity, and, unsurprisingly, kissing. (Their characters, not each other… although Dahlia admitted to working on this in a hotel bed wearing underwear so this is pretty up-close and personal stuff.) There’s nothing I like more than candid and smart talk between two ladies who obviously have a lot of respect for each other and each other’s own work. I hope you enjoy their banter, their thoughtfulness, and their dedication to honesty in their books.

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on internet & friendships:

Dahlia Adler: I feel like there are layers to internet friends, because there are some you really talk to 98% publicly and only on the rarest of occasions maybe via DM and then there are those you talk to at least as much as you would anyone in person, thanks to gchat and texting.

Katherine Locke: And then the ones that you switch to text when they leave their computers so they can’t gchat. haha exactly. Yeah, there are definitely layers.

Dahlia: Yes, those 😉

Katherine: And also, like, we talk about things other than publishing and books. Most of my internet friendships stay in the same sphere where I met the person (fandom/animal rescue/publishing), but then there are a few that just become *friendships* without the modifier of “my editor friend” or “my animal rescue friend”.

Dahlia: Ohhh that is insightful! Very true. I love talking books/publishing and there are definitely people with whom that’s the only conversation we ever have.Which is great! But far rarer is the friend you meet on the internet who supersedes that original commonality.

Katherine: Exactly. and honestly, I think those are the ones that last too.

Dahlia: Ditto. Especially if/when you burn out on your common issue, like, then what?

Katherine: The friendship fizzles too. So yes, it doesn’t always happen but when it does, it’s awesome.

on authoring & characters & a splash of diversity:

Katherine: You were more worried about me reading Under the Lights than I was. And then I got sidelined and didn’t read it for a few weeks and you thought I hated it but actually I loved it. Hashtag oops.

Dahlia: Oh GOD, yes, I was so nervous about that one, but more because I thought it was a You book so being wrong about that would’ve been doubly bad.

Katherine: You’re usually right when you say a book is a Katie book so. yeah. but it’s strange and terrifying to have friends reading your books? Like strangers are much easier. Strangers I don’t mind if they don’t like it. But friends.

Dahlia: Exactly. But it was the BEST thing how much I loved Second Position. Like, it encompassed stuff I knew you were passionate about, obviously, but still wasn’t quite what I thought it would be.

It didn’t strike me until I was reading it how rare character-driven NA is, so I think just seeing that at all was such a big deal. Hahaha yes, THANK YOU.

Katherine: YOU’RE WELCOME.

Dahlia: Like, your name on it or not, the character-driven aspect would’ve been surprising to see in NA. But it makes such a world of difference in a book where you’re talking about neurodiversity and physical disability.

Katherine: This is strange we’re talking about me too much I don’t know what to do… When people ask me what my process is, I say it’s a lot of listening. And I think SP reflects that?

Dahlia: I feel like therapy and trauma are so often so halfass in NA – and I say this as someone who often gets about LWaT that Lizzie wasn’t sad enough, so I’m not excepting myself from this – so it was very cool to see not only therapy done really well but done well in a story where the characters and how their brains work is the center.

Katherine: Yes, that was really important. And one of Aly’s sessions with her therapist in Finding Center kind of touched on that again, that sometimes it’s hard to feel better when you’ve suffered a mental illness? That mental illness itself causes a trauma and that affects you.

When you wrote UtL, did that factor in? Because it felt like it did…that Van denying herself to herself for so long had affected all these other parts of her life, that the ripple effect of closeting touched ALL of her life, not just her work, not just her relationship. It’s one of the things I liked about the handling of that. Because I feel like sometimes in books where a character struggles with how or if to come out, they only think about it when they’re with their significant other, or when they’re wondering how their friends will handle it. You don’t see the exhaustion, the fear, the worry, the secrets affecting job performance and life and their ability to hold onto their image etc.

Dahlia: Definitely – a big part of UtL is Vanessa’s using Hollywood as a way to confuse her emotions so she doesn’t have to deal with them. Like, oh, it’s Hollywood, of course I find women beautiful – I find everyone beautiful! Of course they fake relationships are fine – everything we do is about manufacturing connections and putting on a show! And she doesn’t let herself see how it hurts her, or what she isn’t letting herself think. That’s why I found the idea of writing about Hollywood teens so compelling – I can’t imagine being a teen and not feeling EVERYTHING in an organic way. But it’s their job not to.

Katherine: Exactly. And then everything doesn’t feel real. Which is why I think she and Josh do so well together because his ‘real’ is actually his ‘fake’, just like hers. P.S. I’m pretty sure you still owe me fanfic btw. Pls do not forget. My birthday is in February. Okay.

Dahlia: Yup. It’s funny because I get a lot of reviews that say they don’t think the dual-POV worked, and don’t think Josh and Van should’ve shared a book, and that is a total valid opinion I was very prepared for and had myself often when I was writing it. But the more I’ve thought about the book since, the more I personally disagree with it and think of all the ways I think it was important to show their parallel experiences.

Katherine: Yes yes yes. I will forever crow about the awesomeness of that friendship. It was fantastic. I loved it.

Dahlia: It’s like, as a reader, reading strictly for entertainment, I totally see it. But as someone who used these books to view and discuss Hollywood and representation in media across different genders, sexual orientations, and races? I am so, so happy both POVs are there.

on diversity & (of course) sex… 

Dahlia: Do you feel like people “got” the way you were presenting diversity aspects in your books?

Katherine: I really WANTED to show positive therapy. So even though those chapters didn’t work for some people, it was important. Hmm, most people were 100% with Aly and her mental health issues. But Zed gets coded as non-white, which is really interesting? and awkward.

Dahlia: Oh, right! I’ve seen you mention that. I’m so curious why that happens.

Katherine: Because a) then yes, I have to be like “yeahhhh I wrote a super white cast” and b) I think it’s interesting to notice who is coding him as Black, and why. And largely they’re doing it because he grew up religious, poor, and his name. Which is some internalized stereotyping I didn’t expect to happen but I had a slew of messages right after release demanding to know why it was a white character on the cover if Zed was Black and I had to be like “uhhh he’s not?”

Dahlia: That’s so interesting, especially considering the really high-profile ways we’ve seen it work in the other direction, e.g. Rue.

Katherine: It really is! I’ve been wanting to write about it but then I’m kind of scared of the backlash so *whistles*

Dahlia: (Meanwhile, I have also gotten the “Why are both girls on your cover white if Van is Korean?” I still never know how to answer that, because Van’s face is from an Asian model; it’s just photoshopped onto a white girl because diverse stock photo options are horrible.)

pause

Katherine: I guess we’re friends because you write really good kissing scenes.

Dahlia: Hahahahaha if that’s not the literal best reason for friendship I don’t even know what is. Do you have a favorite kissing or sex scene from your books?

Katherine Locke: New criteria for friendship. Please email 1 kissing scene for consideration. haha, uh, chapter 2 of Finding Center.

Dahlia: Uhhhhhhhhhhhh good choice.

Katherine: That one had me blushing when I was writing it and I write in Starbucks soooo.

Dahlia: That makes me so happy. Man, Finding Center had soooo much more sex.

Katherine: I am sorrynotsorry about that?

Dahlia: So would you say you’ve come to enjoy writing sex?

Katherine: hahaha I don’t know if I’d go that far? It’s easier to write now. But I still dread editing it. The only thing worse than writing sex is editing a sex scene. I have to bribe myself to scroll down to my editor’s comments. It’s painful.

Dahlia: Hahaha I wouldn’t mind viewing that, personally.

Katherine: Of course you wouldn’t.

Dahlia: Well I never. Oh I think we’re supposed to be talking about diversity more than banging. So, diversity! Do you feel like you want to continually focus on the neurodiversity and disability aspects – like, those will be your Thing – or do you see yourself integrating other areas into your writing?

on diversity and reader’s reactions and tough stuff:

Katherine: Good question re: diversity. I think that neurodiversity and disability are comfortable areas for me because I have personal experience with some of those. But I’m challenging myself so the next two NAs I’m drafting both have POC main characters, and every YA I’ve written has a POC MC (and thus has been beta read by someone from that respective ethnicity/race). And you? You’ve written two female POC characters now. What’s that like? What’s the response been?

Dahlia: Ooh, very cool! I love how different all your books sound. You’re very multifaceted in this way I am so very not.

Katherine: My brain is a dark and terrible place.

Dahlia: The response has been mostly really good from readers! More for Van than for Lizzie, I think partly because there are no Filipina MCs in American NA so some readers really loved her portrayal but some wanted a lot more from it and wanted to see more of the Philippines in it.

With Van, I’ve only seen positive response, 100%, and I definitely attribute that in large part to my Korean-American beta, who picked out little cultural things I think make a big difference.

Katherine: Right, I remember that. I think there’s sometimes (always?) a higher standard for books with diversity? because there’s only ONE book with this particular thing in it, it has to do all these things for all these different types of people, which is a lot of weight and expectation.

Dahlia: But also, it’s a book discussing race and lack of representation, so in UtL it dominates the story, whereas in LWaT it’s much more incidental. Yes, exactly, and that’s something I didn’t think enough about when I wrote LWaT for sure.

Katherine: It’s REALLY awesome when a reader does connect to your diverse characters though? it makes it worth it, all the doubt you had along the way.

Dahlia: YES, that part is really awesome. Getting letters about it, or seeing someone say it felt like solid representation they were glad to see – that means the world. Especially when a queer Asian woman says it about UtL, that is the best thing.

Katherine: Yeah, I had an amputee reader reach out (and she ended up beta reading certain important parts of FC for me) and another reader whose spouse is an alcoholic and she was SO WORRIED that Zed would relapse in SP? And when he didn’t, she realized how badly she needed to read that, that they could be OK too.

Dahlia: Ohhh that is awesome. It really is fascinating how fiction can provide a confirmation of sorts that things are possible.

Katherine: There’s a queer Asian girl out there who wants to be an actress who is reading Van and going “me too!”

Dahlia: Relapsing is not a given and tragedy in your coming out is not a given and sometimes it seems like there aren’t enough sources making that clear.

Katherine: Exactly. Or that things can go wrong, and you can still be OK. It’s not clear sailing OR tragedy. There’s a middle ground and most of us live there, and hey, we made it. Look at me. Being optimistic.

Dahlia: Yup. I think that’s part of why contemporary is sort of always “in,” even when trends go in waves – because there are certain stories people always need to see happening as realistically as possible.

Katherine: It’s also why I think contemporary is harder. You have to stay closer to people’s real experiences and emotions haha

Dahlia: Yeah, it’s scary, but if you can make characters feel real, I think you’re effectively creating a genuine and possible experience.

Katherine: That’s the goal!

♦

Ah, so so fun. Thanks for letting us eavesdrop on your conversation, ladies. Can’t wait for your new work! (Katherine releases FINDING CENTER on August 17th while we have to be a bit patient for Dahlia’s JUST VISITING — out in November.) Be sure to be following @MissDahlElama & @Bibliogato on Twitter so you never miss anything they say. (Seriously, it’s good stuff.)

Until next month… diversify your bookshelf and reading list, will ya? #DiversityDive

Adam Silvera & a Call to Arms | Dive Into Diversity

Dive into Diversity Reading Challenge

Hello, readers!

Another month, and more time to diversify your bookshelf. We’re thrilled to have debut novelist (a.k.a. that tall guy who used to sell me books at my favorite bookstore) Adam Silvera on the blog today! His  highly-praised release, MORE HAPPY THAN NOT, turns ONE WEEK OLD today (aww) and Adam is sharing some thoughts about timing and introducing homosexuality in books. Hope you enjoy Adam’s Dive Into Diversity stop, and add his recent release to your reading lists! (Also, challengers, don’t forget to add your DID) links below!) Take it away, Adam!

∴

I don’t understand why people mistake homosexuality as a choice, but they do. I’m sure a lot of the misconception revolves around wanting the world to spin a certain “normal” way, but let’s dismiss that idiocy for a few minutes (and for the rest of our lives) and take a look at why homosexuality may feel foreign to well-intentioned others.

Teenhood is that time of independence and discovery that can be both exhilarating and frustrating, and for a lot of teens, it’s the first time they’re reading something that may involve gay characters. Homosexuality in middle-grade fiction exists on a very small scale, but you’re always more likely to see a wizard struggling with his magical life than you are a kid pondering his sexuality. Sure, some pre-teens are developing loveless crushes on each other, but for the most part they are chasing each other around the jungle gym, tattle-telling on some little nemesis, or playing Pretend, so you could argue it’s not necessary to roll out homosexual presence just yet. Except I did all these things and still had feelings for boys and knew not to talk about it because it wasn’t being talked about. I’ll admit to being the kind of reader far more interested in Harry Potter dealing with all his problems, both Muggle and magical, but seeing an outed Dumbledore, or even another Hogwarts student who’s gay, could’ve changed the game for me. But we shouldn’t be including homosexual characters just for those who are gay–it should be for EVERYONE.

My point to all of this is I believe we’re introducing homosexuality FAR TOO LATE to people by only addressing it in young adult novels, and it may be why it’s so alien to others who aren’t experiencing these feelings themselves. I would love to see a greater presence of LGBT characters for younger readers, and introducing them as young as the picture book crowd so they aren’t surprised by the different ways to love.

I totally understand more authority comes with teenhood, but we shouldn’t have to be a certain age to declare who we are, even if some of those declarations turn out to be wrong. Sexuality may not always be a choice, but how we define ourselves is.

↔

Thanks for stopping in, Adam!

MORE HAPPY THAN NOT: The Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-relief procedure seems too good to be true to Aaron Soto — miracle cure-alls don’t tend to pop up in the Bronx projects. But Aaron can’t forget how he’s grown up poor or how his friends aren’t always there for him. Like after his father committed suicide in their one bedroom apartment. Aaron has the support of his patient girlfriend, if not necessarily his distant brother and overworked mother, but it’s not enough.

Then Thomas shows up. He has a sweet movie-watching setup on his roof, and he doesn’t mind Aaron’s obsession with a popular fantasy series. There are nicknames, inside jokes. Most importantly, Thomas doesn’t mind talking about Aaron’s past. But Aaron’s newfound happiness isn’t welcome on his block. Since he’s can’t stay away from Thomas or suddenly stop being gay, Aaron must turn to Leteo to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he is (Soho Teen, June 2, 2015).

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | @AdamSilvera | Excerpt @ MTV.com

More Happy Than Not Blog Tour Banner

It’s a Wrap | MAY We Remember You Kindly

I’m sitting in my living room curled up in a blanket (I’m not cold, I just like them) and whew, not believing another month has flown by. WE ARE ABOUT TO HIT THE HALF-YEAR MARK ALREADY. Doesn’t anyone else feel like they haven’t done enough this year yet? Time to get cracking on those resolutions, that’s for sure. M & I have had a pretty active month — my husband graduated from law school, she went on an epic Hawaiian trip to photograph a family wedding, Texas storms, NYC heat, and BEA of course. Here are some of our favorite pics:

A photo posted by Estelle (@thatsostelle) on

A photo posted by Magan (@magan) on

Shopping List Musts:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/photo/18478083-kissing-in-america

Magan: Kissing in America by Margo Robb / Estelle: Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center

What to Click:

On the Blog:

Monthly Features

Author Visits

Free Writing

Reviews | Buy It

Reviews | Worth It

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I love that our reads this month were SO fantastic. Has me looking even more forward to June, which is going to include some memorable book events, planning a possible reunion with M, and I’m sure a lot more surprises. Be sure to stick around! Oh — and let us know about your top reads of the month. We want to read them too!

Psst. Don’t forget — Dive Into Diversity check in (with special guest!) on June 9.

Rather Be Prom-ing

Looking back, I feel disdain for about a handful of high school memories but never about prom. Even though my boyfriend and I had just broken up and we decided to go to the dance as friends, it was still a total blast and one of my favorite memories ever. I survived self-tanner and missing the complimentary makeup appointment I won. (Truth: I got way lost. Some things never change.) I couldn’t have asked for a better date, and a better final weekend with my closest friends (in true Jersey fashion, we spent it down the shore).

Estelle Prom 2013

To get in the spirit — my mom informed me that our high school prom is occurring this weekend (lucky ducks! It’s Memorial Day weekend!) — I’m sharing a few prom-worthy reads AND a prom-tastic Spotify playlist to get you grooving on your next walk, while you’re sitting at your desk at work, or maybe for your own personal dance party. Thanks to those of you who sent in suggestions to our Twitter account and also told us a little bit about your prom! I love taking trips down memory lane with you.

♥

Your prom book list:

  • Prom & Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg: A modern retelling of the Jane Austen classic, Prom & Prejudice focuses on the pressures of getting to the actual dance. It was so light and fun, and inspired me to pick up my dog-earred copy of Pride & Prejudice ASAP.
  • Promposal by Rhonda Helms: Magan dubbed this book “worth it”. Here’s a short blurb from her: “Promposal reads easily and was a quick, enjoyable book. The story is about two genuine, innocent characters who want things to finally work out for them.”
  • We Can Work It Out by Elizabeth Eulberg: What is it with Eulberg and dances?! I love it! This book might not be about prom, per say, but it is about girlfriends hanging out, making time for one another, and having so much fun.
  • Ask Again Later by Liz Czukas: How about getting a glimpse into one girl’s prom — and two different journeys? This book was SO much fun, and relatively low drama for a book about a big dance that gets everyone a little obsessive.

♥

And now for some tunes:

A note: Write down the songs you remember to from prom because I guarantee 10-ish years later, you will not remember any of them. (I swear! I asked my best friends.) I even danced a lot! Second, you may notice some modern tunes mixed it. Well, these are songs we would love to dance to at prom NOW if we could. Happy listening!

If you feel like sharing, we’d love love love to hear about your prom. Did you go on a trip afterwards? Was there a theme? Did you go with a friend or was it your sweetheart? WE LOVE STORIES so feel free to tell us some.

Gabbing with the YA Diversity Book Club | Dive Into Diversity

Dive Into Diversity Reading Challenge

Greetings, friends! Estelle here. A new month and another opportunity to diversify your bookshelves! I’m so psyched to share May’s DID post with you today. I’ve been an avid reader of the YA Diversity Book Club posts — made up of Sandie at Teen Lit Rocks, Kristan @ We Heart YA, Lucy @ The Reading Date, and Kristina @ Gone Pecan — where the crew discusses one diverse read a month and talks with the book’s author too. Not only is a great example of expanding your reading but this group is an example of the book blogging community at its best – not only collaborating but thoughtfully discussing together. I’m so happy to chat with them about the book club, their definitions of diversity, and, of course, their book recommendations. (Psst. Kristina was knee deep in ACOTAR research for her moderating gig a.k.a. rereading all the sexy parts so she was unable to take part this time. Hope it went well, K!)

Happy (diverse) reading!

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1. Hello YA Diversity Club! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today for May’s Dive Into Diversity post. One thing I was not personally expecting were so many questions about whether specific titles were “diverse” or not when we started this reading challenge. It’s always a difficult question for me to answer so I pose it to you guys: what makes a book diverse to you?

The Reading Date: We have an author questionnaire for every book we read and I liked how Elizabeth Wein answered this question: “the world is a diverse place” and she just “writes about people!” Everyone should be able to see themselves represented in books, and reading diverse books can show how similar people are despite differences.

We Heart YA: I don’t think there’s a perfect set of rules, and our group has definitely discussed whether certain books meet our criteria. I guess sometimes you just have to evaluate case by case. For example, AN EMBER FOR ASHES was one we debated. I really enjoyed the book, but it doesn’t fall within my personal preferences for a diverse read. (Generally I want a diverse book to expand my understanding of an underrepresented culture or demographic.) Nevertheless, after a brief discussion, I agreed with the group that EMBER still fits the mission of diversifying YA literature, because it was written by a woman of color!

Teen Lit Rocks: Since I volunteer with the We Need Diverse Books organization, I have sort of adopted their stance on what makes a book diverse. I think for me the book has to pass a litmus test of either having an author or a main character who identifies as being from a non-majority group. But if it’s the latter, the author better have done his/her research to authentically represent that identity/culture.

2. Can you give a little background about how you started the YA Diversity Club up? Did you know each other beforehand? How do you make it work? How do you pick what titles you are going to read?

The Reading Date: Sandie invited me to join about a year ago and I’ll let her answer how the idea came to be. We keep up-to-date with new releases that may be a good fit for our group. We noticed that we were reading a lot of contemporary so we added some fantasy to the mix for some variety. We chat via Google Hangout or Google Docs. Sometimes it’s tricky to find a time to chat since we are in different time zones. But, I love our discussions and they give me a greater appreciation and understanding of the books we read.

We Heart YA: Ditto what Lucy (the Reading Date) said. 🙂

Teen Lit Rocks: I was part of a multi-blog group that read/reviewed/featured books together on a monthly basis. After a couple of years, we started to feel overwhelmed and pulled in different directions/ interests. One of those areas for me was the desire to promote diverse books, because I’d heard from other girls in the group that they weren’t interested in the movement, they just wanted to read good books, regardless of who wrote them or what they were about.

I talked a lot about this issue with Kristina from Gone Pecan (who had also been part of the other group), and she mentioned that she just needed more recommendations for diverse books/authors. She wasn’t sure where to start. I had the idea of starting an online book club with other bloggers to help other book lovers “discover” diverse books, and once Kristina said yes, I reached out to two other bloggers I respect and admire, Lucy at the Reading Date, and Kristan at We Heart YA.

3. What’s one book from your book club reading you can’t stop recommending?

We Heart YA: For me, recommendations always depend on who’s asking and what they’re looking for. But personally, BLACK DOVE WHITE RAVEN is probably my fave read from our book club so far.

The Reading Date: My fave so far is LIES WE TELL OURSELVES by Robin Talley.

Teen Lit Rocks: I have really enjoyed several of the books we’ve read; my favorites are “Black Dove White Raven” by Elizabeth Wein; “My Heart and Other Black Holes” by Jasmine Warga; “Lies We Tell Ourselves” by Robin Talley; and our very first pick, “Like No Other” by Una LaMarche.

4. What diverse topic would you like to see in YA that you haven’t seen yet (or seen enough of)?

The Reading Date: One way I felt isolated as a teen was from my social anxiety. It would have been helpful to read a book with a character that dealt with the same issue. (I still would like to see more books about mental illness and social anxiety!) I’m also very passionate about LGBTQIA books.

We Heart YA: I don’t think we have progressed far enough for me to identify just one weak spot… YA lit stills needs a lot more diversity of all kinds. But I’m glad we’re at least moving in the right direction!

Teen Lit Rocks: I think there’s sort of a golden age of LGBTQIA books for teens, but I think there still needs to be more progress with books about underrepresented minorities like Latinos (especially those who aren’t Mexican) and teens dealing with disabilities or size issues. And because my kids are multi-ethnic, I wish there were more books where the characters were “other” rather than just one minority.

5. Can we talk about “token” diverse characters? I saw a comment about this on Twitter recently, and while I understand and I’m sensitive to this happening, I wondering — how do you really know? What if the author doesn’t think about the character as a “token” and the reader interprets it this way? Is this up for debate or am I just thinking too much?

We Heart YA: Everything is up for debate, haha. It’s what makes conversations about diversity so hard — but so important, too.

The Reading Date: Agreed: I think it’s up for debate. I don’t think we’ve come across this in any of our books so far.

We Heart YA: For a moment I was going to disagree with Lucy (the Reading Date) but upon reflection, I agree that we haven’t seen tokenism in any of our picks. To me, tokenism is checking off a box and wanting brownie points. “Look, I put a black character in! Aren’t I great?” Whereas I think what we saw in one book was actually just an author who was enthusiastic about diversity but overly ambitious. For me, this author’s portrayals of diversity didn’t ring true enough or deep enough — but it wasn’t for lack of good intentions. And I guess that speaks to your question: How do we know? Truthfully, we don’t, really. We can only go off what’s on the page and the impression that we get. But that’s how reading works…

Teen Lit Rocks: Nothing is more disheartening than seeing your culture or identity depicted in a half-assed, phoned-in manner. It’s always obvious to me when an author didn’t get his or her facts straight or had someone “vet” her characters. For example, when an author randomly has Latino characters speaking in Spanglish or eating foods that are from a different Latino culture, I just nod my head, roll my eyes and want to throw the book against the room. Anyhow, I do think it’s up for debate, but any author attempting to write outside her experience (something I applaud) should take the extra steps necessary to make sure that voice and character is authentic and not just a stereotype.

6. Personally, what are your hopes for the emphasis on diversity in reading as of late?

The Reading Date: I want to keep the conversation going. This isn’t a fad, and there’s still a long way to go.

We Heart YA: I hope that people will understand that the emphasis on diversity isn’t some literary Affirmative Action program; it’s simply a desire to reflect the world that we already live in. A world that has always been diverse. A world that is only going to become more diverse as we progress.

Teen Lit Rocks: Ditto what Kristan said. I hope that the word doesn’t scare people away the way it seems to in certain circles. I want my friends to ask questions and be open to responses. I want my white, straight, comfortable friends (for lack of a better way to describe them) to take a chance and read about characters who aren’t anything like them, and on the flip side, I want people who don’t fit into the majority to discover books with characters that ARE like them, at least a little bit.

YA Diversity Book Club


What’s up next for the YA Diversity Book Club? This month, they’ll be reading Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. I hope you’ll follow along! Big hugs to Sandie (Teen Lit Rocks), Lucy (The Reading Date) and Kristan (We Heart YA) for hanging out today!