Now, two short years later, we are in the midst of a dystopian explosion, with new upcoming titles being announced every week it seems. But with so many new dystopians available, how do you choose which to read?
That's where Dystopian February at my personal blog, Presenting Lenore, can help. Starting tomorrow and continuing all through the month, I will be posting reviews, previews, author interviews, and in-depth discussions of books that may or may not be on your radar. I also have so many book giveaways planned, I can hardly keep track of them. (Spoiler alert: I'll be giving away, among others, League books such as A MILLION SUNS, STARTERS & THE OTHER LIFE)
By now, I've read over 100 books in the genre (see index of all my dystopian reviews) and I'm still super excited about it. Based on the types of books I've come across in my reading, I've created five categories of dystopians/post-apocalyptics:
World-building books - These are the books that (usually) take a real world issue or concern and barrel down the slippery slope to explore a future world through the distorted lens of that issue. They can be very deep and philosophical. For example: FEED by MT Anderson (media addiction)
Action books - These are the page-turners that get your adrenaline pumping and make you bite your fingernails until the tips of your fingers are raw. They are often stories of surviving despite terrible odds. For example: ASHES by Ilsa J. Bick
Twisty books - Surprising, original, fun - these are the books that are unpredictable and make the genre feel fresh again. For example: VARIANT by Robison Wells
Romance books - The world may be ending, but that doesn't stop the chemistry between these books' characters from melting off your pants. For example: SHATTER ME by Tahereh Mafi
Amazing writing - These are the books that get under your skin with their perceptive insights into character, their lyrical prose, and their masterfully created atmospheres. For example: WITHER by Lauren DeStefano
And of course, there are the books that seem to have it all and could fit into any category (HUNGER GAMES, anyone?) -- but for my purposes, I'm giving each book I review a merit badge in one of the above categories (see the merit badges here - they are ADORBS!) so if you know you prefer world-building books over all else, you'll know which titles to look out for.
Hope you enjoy Dystopian February! What do you think my categories? Am I missing any in your opinion?
First of all, in case you aren't a total nerd for all things book like me, BEA stands for Book Expo America, and it's sort of like heaven for readers. Technically it's for booksellers, who are readers of course, but in recent years, intrepid writers and bloggers have been turning out for the event in NYC. Basically it's a conference to showcase books by publishers as well as other book related services. It's also an excellent way to get your hands on advanced copies of upcoming books and even rub elbows with authors.
So what does this have to do with book bloggers? Well, the organizers of BEA just announced that they've officially purchased the Book Bloggers Convention. BBC used to be hosted at the end of BEA in a co-location but the events were separate. This year BBC will be held in conjunction with BEA at the beginning of the week, because BEA wants to get bloggers even more involved with the conference. Why? Because book bloggers are integral in getting the word out about books!
You can read all about the merger here on the BEA blog, and I don't know about you guys but I'm definitely looking into going this year.
I have so much admiration for all the book bloggers. I’m going to do a shout-out to a few that you’ve probably never heard of (that’s the point), and two that you should definitely know about if you don’t. Some of the following are small, but display an infectious love of reading.
http://Brokeandbookish.blogspot.com American college students who love YA.
http://onceuponaquote.blogspot.com A French college student studying English.
http://www.overflowinglibrary.com/ A British blogger.
http://www.publishingcrawl.com An international group of authors and publishing professionals.
http://presentinglenore.blogspot.com - our own Lenore did my first blog interview.
http://www.kamigarcia.com/blog/ - One of my favs, by rockstar bestselling author Kami Garcia (Beautiful Creatures), lots of YA dystopian book recs. And currently, she has a great post up now with writing links that is a don’t-miss for the writers out there.
Enjoy the read!
By keeping up with blogs, not only do I keep up with the zeitgeist, but I also learn what readers love and love to hate (insta-love, red-headed best friends, inaccurate college application timelines to name a few) as well as a ton about craft and how to improve my storytelling.
Let me give you one example of a blog event that directly impacted LEVEL 2. Frankie Diane Mallis (writer, blogger and member of The First Novels Club) puts on an event in January called the No-Kiss Blogfest, where participants are challenged to find or write an "almost kiss-- the rising, crushing, excruciating, longing, tension that comes when two characters get oh-so-close to kissing that you can just feel it, want it, NEED it....and then...they don't!"
Well, it just so happens that in January 2011, I was about to sit down to revise chapter 1 of LEVEL 2 when I stumbled upon Frankie’s post. My first draft of LEVEL 2 had my main character reliving one of her favorite memories with her boyfriend and it involved a kiss. But Frankie got me thinking … could the scene be even better with an almost kiss? So I tried it out. And guess what? It upped the excitement factor tenfold – and had a profound effect on the plot going forward too.
So thank you Frankie, and thank you book bloggers and writing bloggers who continually inspire me with your insights, passion and love of literature. I am proud to be a part of the conversation.
PS: For more tales of blogger love, check out YA Fusion.
I first posted on this topic on my blog last July. If you're interested in a more thorough discussion of the benefits of bad reviews, click through. To sum up, the worst thing that can happen to an author isn't bad reviews; it's being ignored.
You can see my "baby" there on the left side. Beautiful, no?
And... in prep for my launch parties (both in-person and virtual) - I've been working on some video & am going to share the 1st segment right here - right now!
Readers gave me questions they'd like answers to - so, I answered them. Here's a vid with the 1st set of questions (more tomorrow!)
Tell us a little about Truth. No spoilers, of course!
In Truth, Nina is really pushed to come into her own. Through a series of unforeseen events, her life becomes much more complicated. And, as she learns more of the truth about the government & the media, she also is forced to dig deep and discover her own truths. What she will and won't do to make things right.
What did you learn from writing the first book that came in handy with this one?
Probably one of the most important things I learned was that editing - and not being afraid to edit (sometimes meaning deleting) major chunks of a story - can make your book just that much better!
Did you know what was going to happen in Truth when you were writing XVI? In other words, did you plan out the sequel(s) ahead of time?
I did not. As a matter of fact, I had several false starts on Truth while I was going through edits on XVI. Then, when I got my editorial letter on Truth - I ended up changing a lot - A HUGE LOT!
Big question. Was the second book harder to write than the first one? Why or why not?
Oh yes - it was a whole lot harder. Mainly for the reason above - doing edits on XVI and then coming back to Truth to write and rewrite.
Are you planning a third book? If so, details please!
Honestly? When I was done with Truth I thought I was done. I thought I had nothing else to say about Nina and her friends. But... you know, a couple of months ago she came knocking on my imagination and I don't think she's going to go away until I finish her tale.
In TRUTH, Nina has to deal with the aftermath of what happened in XVI and she’s growing with the challenge. It was wonderful to watch her character growth, to see how she realizes that women are just capable as men and that she doesn’t have to sit back; she can fight for what she thinks is right - and she does.
This realization and her becoming more pro-active leads to some interesting disagreements between her and her boyfriend Sal who thinks she needs his constant protection. It added nice tension to the plot! At the beginning of the book, I was convinced that Nina and Sal belonged together, that there was no other way, but as the book progressed, Julia managed to open my eyes to other options. Nina is a strong girl who doesn’t need a boyfriend at her side, even though she longs for the love and closeness of someone else. Her world isn’t centered on a guy. She’s got her family to take care of, and friends, like Wei, who stand by her.
I absolutely loved Dee, Nina’s younger sister, in this book. She’s a strong character of her own and handles difficult truths thrown her way with courage. What I particularly loved about XVI and again about TRUTH are the strong bonds between Nina and her sister, and between them and their grandparents. It’s nice to read a book that shows the importance of family, especially in a dystopian society.
Another aspect I enjoyed was that we learn more about the resistance and the fact that more people want to change the society than Nina, and we as the reader, might’ve guessed.
As you probably gathered from my review, I absolutely recommend TRUTH. It keeps you on the edge of your seat while still managing to show softer moments between characters.
Connect with Julia:
That’s a real testament to Beth’s writing. She so excels at creating an atmosphere that makes staying on the Godspeed seem like someone’s last resort – if they had a choice. And she does it without a single terrifying killer alien attack!
We already know that Amy is not happy about being reanimated early. She fully expected to wake up on the new planet, and instead, she’s stuck in a strange society where she sticks out. I love this thought of Amy’s that comes early in Chapter 2 of A MILLION SUNS:
There are no more cars. No more endless highways.
Two melting cryo chambers on a spaceship that grows smaller every day.
Oh Amy – it’s about to get so much worse.
As the new leader of the ship, Elder is faced with some difficult choices. Especially when he’s made painfully aware that the ship won’t sustain their current population as long as might be necessary. Via the drug Phydus, Eldest kept people compliant and working. Elder swore never to fall back on Phydus, but he also doesn’t have a workable strategy to control the chaos that erupts without it.
Because people are starting to realize that they can do whatever they want. No one is forcing them to work. No one is keeping them from attacking others if they feel like it. No one is preventing them from ripping the ship apart in senseless acts of violence.
Now, add to this the fact that Orion left Amy a trail of clues, warning her she’s running out of time – and tell me, how badly would you want to get off the Godspeed?
Hardcover (Amazon, B&N, a signed copy at Beth's indie, Fireside Books)
I had the joyful opportunity to interview Beth Revis during her exciting launch week of A Million Suns. Her answers surprised me, gave insight into her writing process, and also gave me a chuckle.
Across the Universe has one of the most memorable and visceral beginnings in recent YA science fiction. How much did that weigh on you when writing A Million Suns? Were you trying to top it? Or were you not thinking about that at all?
I wrote far more Elder chapters than Amy chapters to open with. One of the first chapters was moved to the middle of the book--it's a flashback chapter, and I think it works better in the middle (when they actually talk about the flashback) but I also quite liked it as an opener. I also had another chapter where Elder remembers one of the first lessons he had with Eldest. There are remnants of that chapter throughout the book (look for the character Evie), but otherwise it was cut.
In the end, I opened with Elder--and I really love the chapter we settled on. It ends with a punch and a revelation, and it echoes the tone of the whole book.
I know that chapter one in Across the Universe was originally chapter four. Did you have any big changes in revisions like that for A Million Suns?
Ha! HAHAHAHA! HAAAAHAAAAHAAAA!!!!!! <--insert more maniacal laughter here-->
Dude. SO MUCH REVISION. I finished AMS in October. Sent to beta readers. Who hated it. Rewrote the entire manuscript in November. Sent to my editor. Who is too polite to tell me she hated it. Rewrote the entire manuscript in February. I estimate only 20% of the original manuscript made it to the final, and that I wrote approximately 300,000 words for a 90,000 word novel.
This was sold as a trilogy. How much of the entire story arc – if any -- did you have in your head when you finished Across the Universe?
Well. Here's the thing. I like to make things up as I go. Which is why I'm an author. Technically, I submitted a synopsis of Books 2 and 3 when I sold AtU. But...I didn't stick with them closely. In fact, the person who's the killer in Book 2 was supposed to be a key good guy or girl in Book 3. That's changed. I was a little worried that my editor would hate SHADES OF EARTH because it was SO different from the synopsis...
What discovery -- about your characters, or about yourself -- surprised you the most in the writing of A Million Suns?
That I will actually be happy to rewrite the same novel four #$%! times, because it matters that much to me that the words are right.
Your first book made the best-seller list. When did that happen and what was that experience like?
It happened the first three weeks the book came out (I made the list the first and third week of the debut; apparently that second week was killer, lol!).
The experience was INSANE. I found out while sitting at my kitchen table, paying bills. A friend got the list early and congratulated me...and I had no idea why. Then I got the email from my editor. Then I flipped out.
What would the published Beth say to the pre-pubbed Beth?
Told you so.
Well, we have. And today I'm going to be reviewing Beth's sophomore novel, A MILLION SUNS.
I hope she doesn't hate me after this, but *ducks* I loved A MILLION SUNS about a million times more than her first book (which was FANTASTIC and you should all read it if you haven't).
I think that's a high compliment. It's not like I didn't like her first so I was grudgingly giving AMS a "second chance." Not at all.
But I think it's a very hard thing to write a second book that's as good as the first. As someone who's had to do so, I *know* it's hard. We usually take years on our first books, getting feedback, editing, tweaking, etc. And we usually only get a few months to work on the second.
So yeah. I think that's a high compliment.
There were many things I loved about A MILLION SUNS. I even sent Beth an email with the subject of OH MY HECK!!! at one point and everything inside the email was also in capital letters.
If a book can spark that kind of reaction, you know you need to read it. But let's be a bit more specific.
About A MILLION SUNS: Godspeed was fueled by lies. Now it is ruled by chaos.
It's been three months since Amy was unplugged. The life she always knew is over. And everywhere she looks, she sees the walls of the spaceship Godspeed. But there may just be hope: Elder has assumed leadership of the ship. He's finally free to enact his vision - no more Phydus, no more lies.
But when Elder discovers shocking news about the ship, he and Amy race to discover the truth behind life on Godspeed. They must work together to unlock a puzzle that was set in motion hundreds of years earlier, unable to fight the romance that's growing between them and the chaos that threatens to tear them apart.
And this time it all builds to one mind-bending conclusion: They have to get off this ship.
Trust me, you'll feel the same anxiety, the same, "I will die if I don't get off this ship!" It's that intense.
I've already gushed about the writing of this book here on my own blog. The verbs are fabulous, and it's exactly the kind of fast-paced action that I like. There were a couple more things that I loved:
1. The romance. It's broken and messy. And this is exactly the kind of romantic relationship I like. It's complicated. People in real life are complicated. I want my books to match that, and A MILLION SUNS is a great authentic read.
2. The characters. I thought I loved Amy and Elder before. I was wrong. They have to go through some hard(er) things here, and it makes them come even more alive. There's one particular scene I'm thinking of that I can't say for fear of spoilage. But dude. I so did not want Amy/Elder to die!
And that's worth a lot.
Explore the ship, Godspeed, here.
Visit Beth's blog and website.
BUY YOUR COPY OF A MILLION SUNS!
- Hardcover (Amazon, B&N, a signed copy at Beth's indie, Fireside Books -- plus if you do this (click here for even more info, like their phone number and facebook page), then you get extra swag from Beth!)
Visit the A MILLION SUNS page for more links, purchasing options, fan art and more!
Make sure to click around; there's some special features in each level, including details about the Bridge, the Hospital, and more.
As you explore, you might notice that some of the rooms are off-limits. If you click on the Feeder Level, you'll find a blocked section for "storage." Those of you who have read ACROSS THE UNIVERSE might know that this is the cryo level, where Amy is.
But here's something no one knows yet. On the cryo level, there are several locked doors. One of them--the hatch that leads out to space--can be opened with the code G-O-D-S-P-E-E-D. But there are more doors...and by the end of A MILLION SUNS, Amy and Elder are going to go through all of them.
And two more people are going out the hatch.
To get pumped up for A Million Suns, I decided to post a million ways to prepare to get back on the Godspeed. Then I realized that might be a tad ... ambitious. I thought 5 might be more reasonable, so here they are:
Five Ways to Get Ready for A Million Suns
1. Read and/or review Across the Universe
A spaceship fueled by lies, a girl awakened to a life she never wanted, a boy groomed to become a leader, and a murderer waiting to strike again. Across the Universe revealed the secret of the stars, but how Amy and Elder come to terms with their new roles onboard the Godspeed, and their feelings for one another, are issues that having me eagerly awaiting the release of A Million Suns on Tuesday.
2. Check out the trailers
You can watch the absolutely stunning official trailer from Penguin here, and while you are on youtube check out fan-made trailers for both books.
3. Go aboard the Godspeed to discover its secrets
The official website for the books features a working diagram of the ship and snag one of the gorgeous backgrounds for your computer.
4. Listen to the song
One of the Beatles' loveliest songs, Across the Universe inspired the trilogy's titles.
5. Leave a comment sharing your favorite Across the Universe scenes, your predictions for A Million Suns, or just a little book launch love for Beth.
And don't forget to check out Beth's virtual launch party, which you can not only attend in your jam jams, but also includes cool prizes!
Gennifer: Ad, I can leave you in the water.
Adelice: See, this is what I'm talking about. Positively tyrannical.
Gennifer: Maybe they want to hear about me.
Adelice (under her breath): Not likely.
Gennifer: You're giving me a complex.
Adelice: Then I guess we're even. Ok, so give us the scoop. When will we see Crewel's cover?
Gennifer: I wish I knew. I'm under threat of pain not to share it.
Adelice: I'd like to point out that I'm usually under threat of pain, but I still take action. Fortune favors the bold.
Gennifer: Yes, and see where's that gotten you.
Adelice: Bobbing in icy water. Point taken. What can you tell them about my world?
Gennifer: Well, officially it's a world of secrets and lethal intrigue.
Adelice: Can you be more vague?
Gennifer: Ok, sassypants, it's a world of cigarette holders, cocktails, beautiful women who hide deadly secrets behind their made-up faces and silk stockings, and men who fear women so much they keep them bringing coffee. No one is quite who they seem. Even you.
Adelice: That leads me to a very important question. Do I have to wear all those stockings in book 2?
Gennifer: I see you're going to ask all the hard-hitting questions.
Adelice: And you are avoiding the question. Ok, less about my world and more about yours. What do you do when you aren't torturing me?
Gennifer: I'm usually chasing my toddler and preschooler, watching too much Fringe and Harry Potter, and eating all my husband's delicious baked goods. Oh, and thinking about torturing you.
Adelice: Gee, thanks.
Gennifer: You're welcome.
Adelice: Ok, can you please pull me out of the water now? I'm getting pruney, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to freeze to death soon.
Gennifer: I guess. It would be pretty anti-climatic if you bit it like that.
Adelice: Exactly what I was worried about.
Please feel free to let Genn know that stockings are completely unnecessary in book two. I'm sure you all agree with me.
- It sold right before May 2011 in six days and is being published by Random House Children’s Books, Delacorte, on March 13, 2012. That’s fast.
- Because that was so fast, there isn’t as much perception about it as there might be – yet. We won’t have ARCs until later in January, so I’m grateful for any help spreading the word now. Thank you to the kind bloggers (Lenore was the first) who discovered Starters.
- It’s sold to 20 countries so far and launches a new German YA imprint of the big publisher Piper Verlag called IVI. (The blue cover you see in my sig).
- Starters was the only 2012 book that was featured at the 2011 SCIBA awards dinner where I dined with real, published authors including winner Andrew Smith (Marbury Lens), John Stephens (The Emerald Atlas) and Tahereh Mafi (Shatter Me).
- A German TV journalist is coming with a crew to interview me next week. (yikes!)
- The publisher just finished the amazing book trailer, complete with actors, sets, and special things I dare not reveal yet.
- I’ll be on a six-city book tour the second half of March.
- It is the first of a two-book series, a duology (no, I did not make that up), with the second one coming out December 2012. I’ve told my buds that until April I have no time to do anything more than eat, sleep, write, blog and sometimes tweet.
- The concept was kept secret by my clever publisher all these months. With their permission, I revealed it on my bio here.
- Starters has more sekreets, soon to be revealed.
At the end of last year, we held a giveaway--one signed book of each of our works!
And the winner of all five books is...
and that person is....
Meanwhile, we're working hard behind the scenes to make sure we start the new year right. We've got five new bloggers, two book launches, some giveaways, and more...and that's just January! Stick around for all the fun. Thanks for reading!