Tag: YA

On Peeta Mellark & Good Boys In Y.A.

Back in 2010, I wrote many blog posts. One of them was an open letter to good boys in Y.A. I remembered that post after buying and re-watching Mockingjay Pt. 2 , which features this dude:


peeta mellark, good guy extraordinaire


I think Peeta Mellark is the epitome of a good guy. He’s kindhearted, loyal, and self-sacrificing. He’s in love with a girl who doesn’t know what she feels for him. Sometimes she pretends to like him because cameras are watching. Even though Peeta isn’t pleased with this, he doesn’t disrespect Katniss at all. He calls her out on what she’s doing, but he never treats her like he’s superior to her. Like he’s the one who should be rescuing her and dictating how their relationship should develop, both on and off-screen.

Peeta is a caretaker. He nurtures. He creates when everyone else destroys. He offers hope in a hopeless world.

There are lots of good, hopeful boys in Y.A. that make my heart sing with their goodness.

I’m always on the lookout for more.

Bring on those good boys, Y.A. authors. I’m ready to get to know (and learn from) them.


Staying Awesome Interview Series: Laura Montalvo

Welcome to another edition of the Staying Awesome Interview Series! Today is quite special because I’m featuring a friend. This lady and I have known each other for six years. (!!!)  We met in grad school as English majors, and since then, we’ve been gushing about our favorite books, movies, and T.V. shows.

Today I’d like to give a warm welcome to the awesome Laura Montalvo!



What makes Laura awesome?

  • She’s an English teacher.

  • She’s also a Cast Member at the Disney Store.

  • Her vlog, Literally Booked, focuses on Y.A. and M.G. book reviews (but mostly Shadowhunters gushing at the moment) (especially Malec gushing) (my favorite kind of gushing).

  • She’s a cosplayer. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I get to find out which character she’s cosplaying as for our annual visits to PR Comic-Con.


Without further ado, here’s my interview with Laura!


1) You recently launched a book review vlog called Literally Booked. Tell me about the decision to start your vlog and what viewers can expect from your reviews.

Long ago, during the Twilight days, I used to have an entire channel dedicated to Twilight. The books, the movies, everything. It was quite popular and I enjoyed making videos, but unfortunately I made one too many fanvideos and my channel got shut down. It lives on only in infamy. Now that I’m teaching, I feel the need to spread the joy of reading once more, and what’s easier than a YouTube channel? Plus, filming is a lot of fun. That’s why I decided to get back on the Tube.

2) I remember meeting you inside a college classroom (oh, the old days…). We were both English grad students about to embark on a Shakespearean journey, but our friendship was born out of a shared love for young adult lit. When did you first discover your passion for Y.A.?

AH yes, ye old Shakespeare class. I’ve been reading Y.A. for as long as I can remember. Back in the day, they were just “children’s novels” and I would order them through those Scholastic catalogues we got at school. I think the first more mature book I read was Harry Potter in the 6th grade, and from then on, I was hooked on Y.A. I think because I read Y.A. as I was growing up, I felt more connected with the characters that experienced what I experienced, and now dealing with teens a teacher, I still feel connected to those characters.

3) Like me, your day job involves teaching English. Your students are in middle school and high school, though, which puts you in direct contact with teens. In your experience, what’s the most rewarding aspect of discussing literature with teens? Has there been a favorite book/short story among your students?

Being an ESL teacher is quite challenging because, though many of my students share my passion for reading, their difficulty with the language makes it harder for them to explore reading. However, there have been some joyful moments. For example, my rowdy eighth graders enjoyed The Diary of Anne Frank so much they watched the entire 3 hour movie in complete silence. Another joyous moment occurred when I brought in some Y.A. novels to give away to my students and they were gone in less than 5 minutes. There were more than 15 novels! That proves that they truly enjoy reading and I hope further on we can get into discussing more novels and stories in depth.

4) Besides working as an English teacher, you’re also a Disney Store Cast Member! What’s the best thing about being a CM? On the flip side, what’s the most challenging?

Being a CM is the most rewarding job. When I have bad days, I go into the store and feel immediately better. There’s always a joyful atmosphere among the CMs that is contagious and that’s what I love most about it. The flip side? I have none, really. This is my dream job and I’ve made so many wonderful connections, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

5) As if you weren’t cool enough, you cosplay at local fan conventions! You even gave a presentation on fandom at a pop culture conference we both participated in last year. I’m curious: what does fandom mean to you personally? How would you define it?

Fandom is a huge part of my life and I’m truly grateful for it. I can honestly say I’ve made all my close friends through fandom, whatever type it may be, because we’ve all connected because of interests and things we enjoy. I’m a single adult with a full-time job, so sometimes life can get kind of boring and lonely. But every night I get home to discuss the latest episode of Shadowhunters with friends, or RP online, or even just chat, and that makes it so much better. I know some people think fandoms are weird, but come on. Have you ever loved something so much you couldn’t stop talking about it? That’s fandom.

**Bonus question: which Hogwarts House have you been Sorted into??

I’m a Ravenclaw for sure! I’m not brave enough for Gryffindor!


Thanks so much to Laura for letting me interview her! You can find her online at the following spots:


Staying Awesome Interview Series: Kelly Jensen

Welcome to another entry in the Staying Awesome Interview Series! Today I’m super pumped to feature a woman I’ve admired for quite some time now, Kelly Jensen!




What makes Kelly awesome?

Kelly Jensen is a former teen librarian who worked in several public libraries before pursuing a full-time career in writing and editing. Her current position is with Book Riot, the largest independent book website in North America, where she focuses on talking about young adult literature in all of its manifestations. Before becoming a fully-fledge adult-like person, she worked in the swanky Texas Legislative Library entering data into a computer while surrounded by important politicians, scooped gelato for hungry college students, and spent hours reading, annotating, and scanning small-town Texas newspapers into a giant searchable database.

Kelly lives in Wisconsin with her husband and three needy-but-awesome cats. In her free time, she does yoga, writes for her personal blog STACKED (stackedbooks.org), drinks a lot of tea, and enjoys disappearing for days reading good books. Her writing has been featured on The Huffington Post, at Rookie Magazine, The Horn Book, BlogHer, School Library Journal. She contributed an essay and a guide to teen sexuality in pop culture for Amber J. Keyser’s The V-Word: True Stories of First-Time Sex and is the author of the book It Happens: A Guide to Contemporary Realistic Fiction for the YA Reader from VOYA Press.

Kelly was kind enough to let me pick her (amazing) brain. Check out her brilliance below!


1) Many young girls and women identify as feminists, including myself, but I find that others are hesitant when it comes to proclaiming themselves feminists. Some don’t even believe we need feminism and argue that equality has already been achieved. How do you define feminism for yourself? In what ways do you think a greater understanding and acceptance of feminism can be achieved?

You’ve pretty much nailed why I wanted to create a feminism anthology for teenagers in your question! I’m a big believer in the idea feminism is a movement full of facets and that every individual comes to it in their own way and uses feminism in a way that makes sense to them. Your feminism can and does evolve as you do; the more you learn, the more you accept some elements of feminism and the more you reject other notions of “feminism.”

My own definition of feminism is the same one Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie so clearly states in “We Should All Be Feminists” — feminism is the social, political, and economic equality of all people. How we achieve that, though, I believe is entirely personal and individual and it’s through following our own paths through feminism we’re able to help the greater good achieve that equality. I reject the idea that there are right ways to be a feminist; some people perform feminism in quiet ways and others do it loudly. I believe that online social justice is as important and powerful as work done on the streets. Everyone comes where they’re comfortable and it makes a difference.

It’s through accepting other people’s ways of feminism I think we can better achieve acceptance of it. We also need to keep talking about feminism and what it looks like. One of my biggest hindrances to calling myself a feminist when I was younger came because I felt like an impostor; this is what I wrote about in my own piece for Feminism for the Real World. When we only ever see a movement as one thing — in feminism’s case, a loud, on-the-streets, vocal-in-all-spaces, marching-for-peace movement that’s popular in the media and in textbooks (if they mention feminism at all!) — we don’t show the spaces where people work behind the scenes or where they’re learning or listening and working to be better in quieter, but equally important, ways. A person marching in a reproductive rights rally on a college campus is as valid a feminist as an individual who stops using gendered slurs or transphobic language in their day-to-day communication and urges others to do the same. All of these things matter. They’re all facets.


2) Before you became an associate editor at Book Riot, you were already sharing your awesomeness with the world over at Stacked, a blog dedicated to book reviews, guest posts, and epic link roundups. Your book reviews have always fascinated me for their in-depth analysis on character development, particularly when it comes to books featuring girl narrators and stories of girlhood. What’s the most unapologetically feminist Y.A. book you’ve ever read and why?

Thank you! It’s such a nice compliment to hear this.

Funny story: if you go back into the early posts at STACKED, there are a series of pieces about a program I attended about the importance of getting guys to read. It moved me a lot — so much I did guy-focused programming for an entire summer at my library which was wildly successful and which earned me a little recognition from the local Rotary group.

The thing is, after I finished that program and began seeing more and more “guys only” kinds of programs and professional education movements in libraries, the angrier I got. Why were we not talking about girls? How come it was assumed girls were doing alright and didn’t need any special consideration? Not to mention, all of this falls into a gender binary and I don’t know about you, but my life has granted me a lot of wonderful genderqueer, trans, and questioning individuals who ALSO deserve to be considered as part of a community. The angrier I got, the more I wrote and the more I read. And the more I read and wrote, the more I discovered people who thought about this too. It led me to realizing this was incredibly important to me and I needed to keep talking about it. So I have and I will.

It would be impossible to name a single unapologetically feminist YA book. I’ve read so many, and I’ve been impressed and blown away not just by the stories themselves, but the reactions to them. People dislike feminism, or rather, they dislike female characters who step outside the box. Who aren’t willing to bend. Who don’t submit or fit within a neat label. In other words: readers dislike female characters that refuse to be one-dimensional.

A few of the most feminist YA titles I’ve read and would heartily recommend include: Ask Me How I Got Here by Christine Heppermann, All The Rage by Courtney Summers, Bumped and Thumped by Megan McCafferty (criminally underrated science fiction dystopian satire), Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian, all of Sarah McCarry’s Metamorphosis trilogy (especially About A Girl, my favorite of the series), Pointe by Brandy Colbert. This is such a white list and part of that is purposeful — we have a real hole in intersectional feminism in YA. A big reason isn’t that the books aren’t being written but that the books about girls of color that sell so rarely look beyond their race as key to the story. That’s a weakness in publishing, not the books. Have you tried to find YA light reads featuring girls of color? Sit on that for a bit. The answer is that it’ll take you a long time to think of some. I keep meaning to read Love is the Drug and The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson, which I keep being told are radically and amazingly feminist.


3) I can’t begin to tell you how desperate I am to read Feminism for the Real World, the anthology you edited that’s coming out in 2017! Tell me about your decision to make this anthology happen. Was there a specific aha! moment that led you to the anthology’s creation? Or have you always wanted to work on a project like this?

I don’t remember learning anything about feminism growing up. There weren’t any lessons in class, there weren’t any real books out there for teenagers, and the internet age wasn’t then what it is now.

When I got to college and met these incredibly outspoken feminists, I found myself turned off to the movement, in part because I didn’t understand it. But as I went through college and found myself writing and exploring very feminist issues in all of my work, I realized that feminism is wide, dynamic, and accommodating.

With the growth of feminist talk in the mainstream — from TIME Magazine’s attempt to “ban” the word in 2014 to the popular question “are you a feminist?” journalists ask of famous women — it felt like the right time to bring together a variety of voices, perspectives, and insights into what feminism means, what it looks like, and why it’s a movement that teenagers want to know and be involved in because it truly impacts their lives now and will impact it throughout their futures.

This is very much the book I would have wanted as a teenager to help me make sense of the idea and make me feel like my own feminism was not wrong.

I remember growing up and grappling with a lot of really big issues and finding my place in books. There was a nice guide to figuring out your religious beliefs or how you could mix and match them. There was a guide for how to handle your changing body. There were all kinds of useful books for teens on topics that mattered; this, I like to think, will fit into that realm — and hopefully it’ll reach teens in ways that I can’t even anticipate.


4) You mention in your Twitter bio that you’re a “reformed librarian.” What was the best part about working as a librarian? What was the worst?

I worked with teenagers, who are the BEST. I love teenagers, their energy, their enthusiasm, their attitudes. Deep down inside, even the most annoying teen who walks into the library wants to be accepted for who they are, right where they are. I always felt like it was a privilege to be a trusted adult in their lives and accept them right where they are. I had teens who’d come to book club so they could play with LEGOs and teens who’d come to those same book clubs to talk books. I let them do both, and both were so happy to be able to do that. I loved being an advocate and voice for those who are so rarely seen as worthy of that. Especially in a public space. We limit teens everywhere; my goal was — and still is through so many other ways — to give them space to grow and learn and have fun. They have the whole rest of their lives to be adults.

The worst part of librarianship was bureaucracy. Getting things done takes a long time in libraries, if it happens at all. Actually, the thing I disliked most was being a young woman in a public space where many felt they were able to comment on me to me. I had a man make a really inappropriate sex joke at me, had men inappropriately touch me without my permission, and men who would literally comment on my appearance to tell me if I looked better or worse one way or the other. It was always awkward and uncomfortable and I learned a lot about myself. I know some people would respond and react quickly, but as someone who feels like I always have to be a good kid, I never said what I wanted to, and I rarely reported their behavior. I wish, of course, I had. But I didn’t know. I just wanted to do well at my job, and part of that was dealing with that.

5) Do you see yourself writing fiction for teen girls down the line? (I personally think this needs to happen, Kelly. It just does).

Yep — I’m actually in the midst of working on a novel right now that I’m revising for my agent. I’ve been working on various novels for many years, but nothing quite stuck because I didn’t invest seriously in myself as a person with a career in writing and publishing for teens. But now I’m seeing it and wanting it. I’m lucky to have both critique partners, friends, and an agent who are encouraging it in ways that make me want to bring an A game.

If you’re curious, my work in progress is a novel about small towns, two girls who love one another madly, ghosts, and how we judge ourselves and others.


A huge thank you to Kelly for participating in this series!! Make sure to pick up Feminism for the Real World when it hits bookshelves in Spring 2017, and while you wait, go get It Happens: A Guide to Contemporary Realistic Fiction for the YA Reader. You can find Kelly online over at the following links:

Twitter / Tumblr / Pinterest / Instagram / Goodreads

Staying Awesome Interview Series: Sarah Enni, Part I

I’m super stoked for this post, y’all. Not only am I kicking off a new interview series, which focuses on some of my favorite awesome people and what makes them so, my first featured writer is Sarah Enni!




Why is Sarah awesome?

  • She writes Y.A. novels, which makes her automatically cool.
  • She’s a real life Lois Lane. Or as some Muggles would say, journalist (!!!).
  • She’s a member of YA HIGHWAY, a group of amazing YA/MG authors who share content about the craft of writing + the wide world of publishing + contests/giveaways.
  • She’s the creator of one of my absolute favorite podcasts, First Draft.




In Part I of my interview with Sarah, she discusses All Things First Draft. Here’s what she had to say about a podcast that should be on everyone’s radar:

1) First Draft is stacked with awesome interviews featuring YA and MG authors, all of whom share their personal journeys toward publication and finding their truth as both artists and individuals. You’ve had to travel across the U.S. to interview them. Could you describe the experience of driving all over the country in search of these amazing talents?

The podcast did indeed begin with an epic road trip – from Washington, D.C. to Seattle, mostly along the southern route. I was already planning on driving across the country because I was getting a divorce, and was moving in with my mom temporarily in Seattle. I figured, why not make that road trip into something inspiring, for me and maybe others, too? So I started reaching out to basically every author I’d ever had a good interaction with, and built my road trip map from there! As you know, young adult and middle grade authors are some of the kindest, most generous people in the world, so tons of them said yes. At that point it was too late to turn back, and I’m so glad I didn’t! Once I started meeting with people, they would recommend their friends in the next town, and so on and so on, until I was back on the west coast.

2) Let’s talk prep. You’re a journalist by day, which explains why you rock so hard at interviews. How do you get ready for a sit-down with your podcast’s guests? Do you have any rituals to enter Maximum Podcast Awesomeness Mode?

Such a good question! There isn’t a ton of prep for the interviews, but that prep is incredibly important. I have a trusty notebook I carry with me everywhere, and I devote one page to jotting down questions. Usually I spend an hour or two familiarizing (or re-familiarizing) myself with the author’s works (looking on Goodreads, etc) and writing down any questions that come to mind, and noting themes that appear in multiple works. Then I Google the author and read previous interviews they’ve done. That’s so important – I try my very best to try asking questions the author hasn’t answered hundreds of times before. And finally I read back at least a few days into the author’s Twitter feed. If they recently sold a book, or talked about a favorite TV show, or came out in support of Donald Trump (!) I’d want to know that going in.

The research and prep really is my ritual for Podcast Awesomeness (haha), because it’s best to do that as close to the actual interview as possible. Keep it fresh! Also as I’m setting up the mic and getting ready to start the interview, I make sure the author knows what he or she is in for, what’s expected, and reassure them that I won’t immediately go home and put our unedited conversation on the web for the whole world to see. It’s best to start an interview when both people know the parameters, and understand that nothing unexpected is going to go down.

3) Aside from spending time with amazing authors, what’s one thing you love about working on the podcast? Have there been any unexpected benefits or challenges to launching it?

One of my main reasons for starting the podcast project was my long-held desire to be an NPR reporter. I had training and experience in print journalism, but no clue about audio reporting, editing, producing, or even knowledge of how to speak into a microphone. So I figured the best way to learn was to dive in with my own project and see what happened. The unexpected benefit has been learning so many new skills, including all the crazy back-end stuff that comes with hosting data on a server, working with wonky iTunes, and mastering (I hope) social media promotion.

It’s been challenging because it’s very time-consuming. Every podcast takes about two hours to record, and about six hours to edit. Then it’s about another two hours putting together all the content for Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, etc. And even then, I’m still lagging – I hate that I don’t have transcripts for every episode, to better serve audio impaired fans, for example. I sincerely hope the podcast can grow so I can get more time and resources to accommodate other things like that.

4) If you could interview an author from a different time period, who would it be? Why her or him? (Personally, I’d love to see Emily Brontë’s reaction when presented with a mic!).

Holy crap WHAT A GOOD QUESTION. Wouldn’t it be insane to meet Oscar Wilde at some Austrian castle and get lost in his labyrinth brain? Or what about Mary of Magdala, who wrote her own gospel?? That girl would have DIRT. And I’d love to hear her throw shade on the people who squirreled her gospel away for thousands of years.


Bonus question: you’ve previously mentioned your love of podcasts and how they inspired you to launch your own. Which ones are your go-to’s?

I could list great podcasts for AGES, so let me break down a few categories:

For writers:

– ScriptNotes (it’s about screenwriting, but has tons of great general tips on writing and storytelling)

– Sara Zarr’s This Creative Life (Sara interviews authors, and other artists too. It’s amazing how similar the challenges are for all creative professionals.)

For comedy nerds:

– Comedy Bang Bang

– How Did This Get Made

– Spontaneanation with Paul F Tompkins

– You Made It Weird

– WTF with Marc Maron

For everyone else:

– Switched On Pop

– Song Exploder

– Diane Rehm’s Friday News Roundup

– Pop Culture Happy Hour

– You Must Remember This

– Astonishing Legends


That’s it for Part I of my interview with Sarah Enni! Stay tuned for more with Sarah on her creative process as a writer and her favorite reads! In the meantime, make sure to check her out online:

@sarahenni / @firstdraftpod