Yes, you, as in you the person sitting at their computer or tablet or even phone, reading this right now. What matters to you, as a reader of YA dystopian novels? As a new author, just learning about the exciting roller coaster we call publishing, I’m interested in what you think.

Take covers, for instance. Are there trends you’re weary of? What catches your eye? Have you ever bought a book because of the cover?

How much does it matter to you that the cover of later books in the series matches or goes along with the first cover? And blurbs, otherwise known as quotes, when you see them on the cover or the back cover, do they influence you? Have you ever chosen a book because of a quote from an author you admire?

Do you care if there is a short story set in the same world as the novel or would you just rather wait for the next novel? And, speaking of that, how long will you wait for a sequel to the first book in a series?

I want to know because I’d like to learn how readers feel. But I also want to discover what you’re interested in hearing about. How many of you are also writers, for example? Do you want to see more posts about the business of publishing or about the craft of writing? Or would you rather see more about YA science fiction books and films? Or be surprised? Leave your thoughts in the comments. I’m all…

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International dystopian Covers

A couple of weeks ago, Lenore mentioned colors of dystopian books in her post. That got me thinking. Do countries approach dystopian covers differently? I live in Germany so I'm familiar with German covers and very few of them are the US covers.

I spent the morning searching the internet for covers and it was fascinating to see how different countries interpret the same book.

Lets start with my own book The Other Life for example:

Next covers: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Next covers: Blood Red Road by Moira Young
And last but not least: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Maybe I'm wrong but it seems that foreign covers are often much darker than the US original. Except for the German covers.

I really like the Swedish SHATTER ME cover. It's dark and forlorn. I'm not so sure about the Romanian HUNGER GAMES cover though. It's a bit strange...

Do you have a favorite foreign cover? A cover you hate? Do you always prefer the US cover?

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Level 2 cover coming very soon!

One of the most exciting days in a new author's life is the day she sees her cover for the first time. I can tell you I pretty much fell in love with mine instantly. It will also be an exciting day when I finally get to reveal the cover for LEVEL 2 on this Friday June 1, 2012 on my blog.

What I can do today already is tease you a bit, and share the summary:

Since her untimely death the day before her eighteenth birthday, Felicia Ward has been trapped in Level 2, a stark white afterlife located between our world and the next. Along with her fellow prisoners, Felicia passes the endless hours downloading memories and mourning what she’s lost—family, friends, and the boy she loved, Neil. 
Then a girl in a neighboring chamber disappears, and nobody but Felicia seems to recall she existed in the first place. Something is obviously very wrong. When Julian—a dangerously charming guy Felicia knew in life—comes to offer Felicia a way out, she learns the truth: a rebellion is brewing to overthrow the Morati, the guardians of Level 2. 
Felicia is reluctant to trust Julian, but then he promises what she wants the most—to be with Neil again—if only she’ll join the rebels. Suspended between Heaven and Earth, Felicia finds herself in the center of an age-old struggle between good and evil. As memories from her life come back to haunt her, and as the Morati hunt her down, Felicia will discover it’s not just her own redemption at stake… but the salvation of all mankind. 
LEVEL 2 is the first book in The Memory Chronicles and will be released by Simon & Schuster BFYR on January 15, 2013.

Head over to my Level 2 Cover Reveal Week to see part of the back cover of LEVEL 2 and to find out what fun I have in store for the rest of the week ...


Pardon the short post today.  I'm nursing a cold, prepping for BEA, and working on edits for book two, but I wanted to share some awesomeness with you.  But first - is anyone interested in seeing pics from BEA on this blog?  I'd be happy to do a recap in coming weeks.

ANYWAY my lovely publisher has put together a free kindle edition of the opening chapters of
Eve and Adam by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate (Feiwel and Friends)
Crewel by Gennifer Albin (Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers)
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (Henry Holt Books for Young Readers)
Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Feiwel and Friends)
All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin (Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers) Enclave by Ann Aguirre (Feiwel and Friends)
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride (Henry Holt Books for Young Readers)
MODIFIED: Cyborgs, Mutants, and Dystopia, which you can pre-order and have delivered directly to your kindle for free.

So far I've read Cinder and Shadow and Bone this year, and I have to say they are amazing.  You definitely want to grab this and check them out!

What’s YA Got To Do With It?

An author friend tweeted this the other day from a conversation with YA writers: “It’s a good book, even though it’s adult.”

The humor comes from the fact that for years readers and some authors who write adult fiction have looked down on YA writing. Most of us know how the big hitters -- Harry Potter (post book 1)/ Twilight,/Hunger Games -- paved the way for YA dominance. It’s the fastest-growing category and often takes up more floor and shelf space than any other fiction group.

And it can be argued that’s partly because YA is a category and not a genre. But let’s not get lost in semantics. If you follow Publisher’s Marketplace (and you should if you’re looking for an agent or hope to work as an editor or agent), you’ll see an abundance of YA sales amidst the non-fiction.

So the question I’m most often getting asked on panels and in interviews is why do you think YA fantasy and dystopian has become so popular for so many adult readers? Lenore blogged here about how YA dystopian novels differ from the adult versions (hint, think happier endings on the YA versions), but that answers a different question.

What are your thoughts as to why adults are reading more YA than ever before?

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Book recommendation: Masque of the Red Death

I was lucky to snatch up an ARC of this book a few months ago, and after one look at the cover I knew I'd love it.

Isn't it gorgeous? And what's more important, it gets across the mood of the book. After all, it's a re-imagining of Edgar Allen Poe's work!
Here's the description from goodreads:
Everything is in ruins.

A devastating plague has decimated the population. And those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles to pieces around them.

So what does Araby Worth have to live for?

Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery make-up . . . and tantalizing ways to forget it all.

But in the depths of the club—in the depths of her own despair—Araby will find more than oblivion. She will find Will, the terribly handsome proprietor of the club. And Elliott, the wickedly smart aristocrat. Neither boy is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does.

And Araby may find something not just to live for, but to fight for—no matter what it costs her.

Why do I love it?
- it's a dark, atmospheric steampunk-y dystopian
- there are two swoon-worthy boys, Will and Elliott. Some of you might groan and say: a love triangle? But it works well and it didn't make me roll my eyes or want to bite into the book once.
- a shocking twist (*evil laughter*)
- the Debauchery Club where the heroine Araby tries to forget her brother's death.
- the world is creepy and dark and fascinating and unique.
- gorgeous writing
- crocodiles

Do I have to say more?

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What Color Is Dystopia?

I've been thinking a lot about covers because I finally get to reveal the cover of LEVEL 2 in one short week (cue breathless anticipation)! I can give you a little hint though today - the main color on my cover is white. Why? Well, LEVEL 2 is set in a starkly white afterlife that is almost more sinister in its brightness than a shadowy, dark place would be. White, to me, also denotes order (where black represents chaos) which goes along well with dystopias that rule with an iron fist (where black goes along well with post-apocalyptic stories).

Kate Hart has an interesting recent post on covers that goes a long way towards refuting the idea that YA is too dark (at least visually).  And you might think, well dystopians and post-apocalyptic books are dark, ergo dark covers.  But you only have to look in the sidebar of this blog to see that's not (always) the case. So, what do we think? Could the color of dystopia actually be white?


Have you ever come across a book that moved you so deeply that you had to share it with everyone who crossed your path? I had that experience recently with Wonder, R.J. Palacio's debut novel.

What, this is supposed to be a dystopian blog? Not middle grade? Do I really have to go through a song and dance about how middle school is a type of dystopia? I totally could, although I'd be speaking out of the side of my mouth, since my middle school, The Children's House in Indianapolis, is the only non-dystopic school I attended before college. The truth is that I want everyone to read Wonder--adults, teens, teachers, students, dystopia fans and sci-fi haters alike.

A few months ago, after reading a string of young adult novels that equated inner beauty with exterior (an infuriating and lazy trope that has infected YA like, well, vampirism), I spent a few fruitless moments raging at the universe, asking where was the brilliant fiction about ugly people. Normally the universe ignores my rants. In this case, however, the universe dropped Wonder into my lap. (Actually I checked it out from my local library. If the universe had literally dropped it into my lap, I imagine that would have hurt. The universe is nothing if not really, really tall. But having read the library copy, I'm going to buy two. One for my wife's fourth-grade classroom, and one for me to keep and re-read. It's so good that I want Ms. Palacio to get paid twice.)

August Pullman was born with a facial deformity so severe that it and the necessary surgeries prevented him from attending school until the fifth grade. And so his first day at school isn't as one of a flock of terrified kindergarteners--instead, he becomes the chum in the shark tank of middle school. What follows is a beautiful, heart-breaking, terrifying, and funny tale about an extraordinary kid, bullying, and, ultimately, the wondrous power of kindness.

The writing is perfect for the story--simple yet lovely, with not an extra word or chapter to mar it. Last year I had a brief conversation with Bruce Coville in which I argued that a young adult novel with five points of view likely wouldn't work or sell, and Bruce argued that I was wrong. Well, I was wrong. (Duh, I know, this was BRUCE FREAKING COVILLE--of course he knows far more about this topic than I!) Anyway, Palacio uses SIX POV characters to get her story across, and does it so seamlessly that there was never a moment when I wondered why she switched viewpoints, or wished she'd get back into Augie's head--although she does, wisely, both begin and end the novel in his perspective.

And Palacio doesn't stop transcending genre tropes there, either. There are parents in this book. Lovely, caring parents, of the sort you either had or wish you did. If you've read much YA or middle-grade fiction recently, you know how rare and therefore precious this is.

What do I want you to take away from this somewhat random collection of fanboy raving? Just this: Go, buy a copy of Wonder now. Read it. Thank me later.

p.s. On a personal note, I just learned that my debut novel, ASHFALL, has just gone back for its FOURTH PRINTING IN HARDCOVER! (Yes, I'm shouting, sorry.) Many thanks to all the teens, librarians, booksellers, teachers, bloggers, reviewers and readers who have helped make my novel so successful. Thank you, thank you, thank you. As a former bookseller, I'm well aware that many novels have a shelf life shorter than fresh bread, and I deeply appreciate your continued passion and enthusiasm for mine.

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Winner + Thanks!

This post is going to be short. My computer has a virus, so I have to use my husband's laptop. I hope the husband manages to save my data!

Anyway. I'd like to thank you all for a wonderful launch week and especially Lenore, Angie, Lissa and Elana for their lovely posts!

And here is the winner of a signed hardcover:
Susan Light

I'll email you soon!

An Exclusive Interview with Susanne Winnacker


Susanne was nice enough to sit down during this busy launch week to talk about her new book and her writing process. You'll see by the photos that she's a world traveler.

My first question is why did your book release in the UK before the US? Did the US publisher use the same edited version from the UK? It’s typically the other way around.

That’s because Usborne, my UK pub, is my main publisher. My agent and I went on sub in the UK first and after the book had sold, we sent it out to US publishers. The US and UK version are very similar, but the US version is shorter, though no events have been cut.

You live in Germany now, what brought you there and what’s your daily life like there?

Actually, I’ve been born in Germany and have never lived anywhere else. But I’d love to live in the US or the UK for a while. I studied law before I became a full time writer. Now I get up with my husband in the morning, go on a walk with our dog and then I spent about 1 – 2 hours catching up on emails and checking my social networking sites. After that I edit or write. Then I go with our dog on another long walk and work out on my elliptical. Sometimes I manage to read a bit.

What made you choose LA for the setting of your story?

My husband and I travel a lot and one of our favorite destinations is the US. When I visited L.A, I was surprised to see that it wasn’t as “glamorous” as I’d thought it would be. But still most people associate the city with beauty and fame, and parts of L.A. reflect that and I just thought that a city like that, a city that’s the home of Hollywood, would be perfect to show the downfall of everything beautiful. What happens to a city that was full of life, once everyone’s gone and everything’s destroyed? What’s left?

Your tagline says so much in few words. Did the publisher come up with it or did you have any say in it?

My publisher and I have been working on the tagline together and it took a long time to come up with a good one. I sent a long list of suggestions and then the lovely people at Usborne discussed what would be best.

How much say did your publisher allow you to have with the cover?

My editor sent me the cover and asked me if I wanted to change anything. I asked them to change Sherry’s eyecolor and to add cracks to the street and make everything look more abandoned.

Are the WEEPERS meant to be a trilogy or a two-book series? Or longer?

The Weepers will be two books. The sequel “The Life Beyond” will be out in February 2013 in the UK.

What’s one thing readers would be surprised to know about you or your book?

That English isn’t my first language. I grew up with German and learned English in school. Parts of my law studies were in English too. Many people are surprised that I chose to write in my second language. For me it works perfectly. My work life is in English and my private life in German.

What’s next for you?

Well, I’ve been working on a new book. A YA thriller. Sadly I can’t say much more right now but I hope soon!

Is there anything else you’d like to tell the League readers about your book?

It’s action-packed and the Weepers will scare the living daylights out of you! That’s a promise!

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Living in a Bunker

In Susanne Winnacker's THE OTHER LIFE, Sherry and her entire family have been living in a bunker for over three years when they finally have to venture out due to lack of food and supplies.  Despite its offering of refuge from the zombie-like Weepers, Sherry finds the bunker claustrophobic and blossoms once back in the world, finding community and even a love interest against the backdrop of total societal collapse.

But if Sherry thought three years was bad, then she definitely wouldn't envy Adam Webber - the main character of the 1999 movie BLAST FROM THE PAST who was born and raised 35 years in a fallout shelter before finally emerging in modern day Los Angeles.

Where Sherry was itching to get out of her bunker, the father and son of Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD wish they could stay longer in the fully stocked bunker they come across in their wanderings. It offers a short refuge from the terrible hunger and violence of their post-apocalyptic world, but the father worries that it leaves them too exposed.

Sherry might not have relished being trapped underground with her family for so long, but at least her family was not a danger to her like Eli's father in S.A. Bodeen's novel THE COMPOUND.  After 6 years in a bunker, Eli begins to suspect that they were brought to "safety" under false pretenses.

Maybe you'd like to try living in a bunker for awhile? Well, there are some out there in real life.  Check out this BBC video featuring a man who converted a former US missile silo into a home.

REMINDER: you can read the first chapter of THE OTHER LIFE here, and once you're hooked, you can also already buy your own copy! Also, Susanne will be giving away a signed copy of THE OTHER LIFE at the end of the week. To enter, just comment on any our posts during the week. The contest is open internationally.

What I Think of THE OTHER LIFE

Okay, so I sat down to read THE OTHER LIFE, thinking it was going to be a nice change of pace from my writing, teaching, taxiing, basically crazy life.

Um, not so much. Susanne really takes you by the throat on the first page, and she doesn't let go for a long time. I found myself gnawing my nails and reading faster and faster. Let's examine further.

About THE OTHER LIFE: Sherry has lived with her family in a bunker for more than three years. Her grandfather's body has been in the freezer for the last six months, her parents are at each other's throats and two minutes ago, they ran out of food. 

Sherry and her father must leave the safety of the bunker. What they find is an empty Los Angeles, destroyed by bombs and haunted by Weepers - savage humans infected with a rabies virus. While searching for food, Sherry's father disappears and Sherry is saved by Joshua, a hunter. He takes her to Safe-haven, a vineyard where a handful of survivors are picking up the pieces of their other lives, before the virus changed everything. 

Sherry must find a way to help her family, stay alive, and decide whether Joshua is their savior or greatest danger as his desire for vengeance threatens them all. 

What I Thought:
1. The pacing of the book is incredible. Readers will really be on the edge of their seats, hoping Sherry will be able to find her way out of that warehouse, or takes better aim, or finds her father.

2. Sherry is tough. She's lived in a bunker for over 1100 days. She doesn't know what's going on in the world, and she's exposed to some pretty horrific stuff right off the bat. Sure, she's scared, but she doesn't back down. I really liked that about her.

3. There's kissing. I'm not sure this needs a proper explanation, but yeah. You know I like books with kissing/romance. THE OTHER LIFE seemed to have just the right amount, especially in a pretty messed-up world and with Sherry going through all the stuff she does.

So there you go! If you like books that have fast pacing, lots of action, tough protags, and romance, you'll like THE OTHER LIFE.

You can read the first chapter here, and then be sure to get your copy of THE OTHER LIFE today--on release day! Also, Susanne will be giving away a signed copy of THE OTHER LIFE at the end of the week. To enter, just comment on any our posts during the week. The contest is open internationally.

The Other Life Launch Week

I want to congrat my pub-sister, Susanne, on her US debut of THE OTHER LIFE. (The UK version debuted earlier this year.) All this week we'll be celebrating its US release here on the League blog. And my job is to start the week off with a brief intro to the book and tell you guys about the giveaway.


First, the book.  THE OTHER LIFE is the first part of THE WEEPERS series.  And here's a taste of the plot from the jacket blurb:

Sherry has lived with her family in a bunker for more than three years. Her grandfather's body has been in the freezer for the last six months, her parents are at each other's throats and two minutes ago, they ran out of food. Sherry and her father must leave the safety of the bunker. What they find is an empty Los Angeles, destroyed by bombs and haunted by Weepers - savage humans infected with a rabies virus. While searching for food, Sherry's father disappears and Sherry is saved by Joshua, a hunter. He takes her to Safe-haven, a vineyard where a handful of survivors are picking up the pieces of their other lives, before the virus changed everything. Sherry must find a way to help her family, stay alive, and decide whether Joshua is their savior or greatest danger as his desire for vengeance threatens them all. This debut novel is a page-turner that is not easy to forget.

Below is the beautiful trailer for the UK release:

btw, I love time elements both in the book and how they're handled in the beginning of the trailer.

The Telegraph recommended THE OTHER LIFE for teens who loved The Hunger Games:

And Susanne Winnacker’s The Other Life (Usborne), set in LA at a future time in which the Weepers, mutated by a strain of rabies, have begun to hunt humans, is especially memorable. The best parts, though, are the domestic early sections, reminiscent of Emma Donoghue’s adult novel Room, which show up the tensions of a family stuck in a bunker for 1,141 days and on the brink of starvation.
THE OTHER LIFE was also an Editor's Pick of the Month on Amazon UK in February.


And now for the prizes.  Susanne will be giving away a signed copy of THE OTHER LIFE at the end of the week. To enter, just comment on any our posts during the week. The contest is open internationally.

Happy reading!

Forgetting Curve Week - Thanks!

First of all, I want to thank Lenore, Beth, Elana, and Mike for posting this week. (And Mike, you put the whole terrorism-consumerism thing way better than I could! We must have a beer over this some time.) And I want to thank you guys for following us from our debuts to our second books--and hopefully third (and beyond).

And, finally, the winner of the Forgetting Curve prize pack is:

deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

The Forgetting Curve

What connects terrorism, memory, and consumerism? Angie Smibert's excellent dystopian series, Memento Nora. In the first book, we learn about a shadowy corporation, TFC, that has set up centers where witnesses to the rampant terrorism plaguing this near-future society can go to swallow a pill and forget--enabling them to resume their oh-so-glossy lives as good consumers and obedient citizens. In The Forgetting Curve, Smibert introduces a new character, Aiden, who has the hacker chops to expose facts that TFC would prefer stayed hidden, and thus takes us deeper down the rabbit hole of this twisted dystopia.

Now, I've argued here before on several occasions that the true subject of dystopian fiction is our current society, not the hypothetical future worlds these novels portray. The Memento Nora series is no different. What makes these books unique among the current bumper crop of dystopian YA and special to me is the connection they draw between terrorism and consumerism. Smibert posits a future world in which services related to terrorism--security and forgetting pills--are marketed directly to consumers, monetizing terror.

Sadly, that's not so different from today's society. We've monetized terror indirectly, consuming prodigiously via our government. The U.S. currently spends roughly $75 billion per year fighting the so-called war on terror. We've outfitted dive teams in Nebraska, funded communication hubs in North Pole, Alaska, and bought thousands of lapel pins in West Virginia. We've spent billions more on private security--at the latest estimate there were nearly 10,000 firms in the U.S. alone providing private security services.

Nothing is wrong with being safe, of course. But at what cost? In the Memento Nora series, the cost is literally free will. We're certainly headed that way via the curtailment of civil liberties in the wake of 9/11. But there's also an opportunity cost to the terror spending. In the worst year, 2001, terrorism killed fewer than 3,000 Americans. Heart disease, on the other hand, kills almost 600,000 Americans per year. Yet we spend less than 2 billion dollars a year researching heart disease. Does anyone seriously doubt we could save more lives spending to prevent heart disease than we do with the billions spent on terror? The problem, of course, is that there's no profit in preventing heart disease. Food companies, restaurants, and cardiovascular specialists all stand to lose if we take on heart disease in a serious way. Terrorism prevention, on the other hand, makes money for everyone involved.

Your odds of being killed in a terrorist attack in the U.S. are something on the order of 1 in 3.5 million. Would you accept an increase in those odds to, say, 1 in 2.5 million to gain an hour of time every time you board a plane? I would take that trade, and I posit that any rational person would as well. (If I die in a terrorist attack, I lose about 350,000 hours of life, so an added 1 in a million chance of death pro-rates to a value of about 20 minutes. An extra hour for every plane flight will be worth something on the order of 400 hours to me over the remainder of my expected lifetime. No contest.)

My fervent hope is that--like in Smibert's books--we'll wake to the fact that our interests are not being served by this "war" and change things before they get as bad as in The Forgetting Curve. Perhaps protest art will be one important vehicle for change--just as it is for Nora, Aiden, and Velvet.

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THE FORGETTING CURVE Author Angie Smibert Tells All!

Today we're here with THE FORGETTING CURVE author, Angie Smibert! She's going to give us all the goods on writing her second book--and treats!

So THE FORGETTING CURVE is a companion to MEMENTO NORA. Tell us the thought process behind that. Why a companion? Was this always planned this way? 

The Forgetting Curve is a direct sequel to Memento Nora. The action picks up about a few weeks after the end of the first book. However, since—spoiler alert—the main characters of Memento Nora have forgotten what happened, I needed a few new points of view to tell this part of the story. So the POV characters are Aiden, Velvet, and Winter.

Is Aiden a new character, or did we see him a bit in MEMENTO NORA?

Aiden is new. Velvet, though, you met briefly in the first book. She’s Winter’s best friend (other than Micah). (I love getting to know new characters, or seeing minor characters from the first book in a new light.)

Tell us about Aiden, and why he’d fly across the world to come to his cousin's side. 

 Before Aiden was sent overseas to school, he and Winter were very close. He feels she’s the one person in the world who gets him. So if she’s in trouble, he’s going to risk the wrath of his father. (Oooh, intriguing.)

Do you have any favorite writing treats to keep the words flowing?

When I need a change of pace (or space), I go down to the coffee shop around the corner. One of their chocolate croissants or biscotti and a cup of good coffee certainly kick the words into action.

How did things progress for THE FORGETTING CURVE? Lots of late nights writing? Already had this drafted? 

Already drafted? Hah. In a lot of ways, the second book was tougher than the first. My publisher didn’t buy version 1.0 of Forgetting Curve—and rightly so. I rethought it and submitted a proposal for the current version. Marshall Cavendish bought it, but then I only had a couple months to write it. (Wow, that's a great story! I can't believe you wrote it in such a short time though! You must have cyborg clones...)

Tell us something about yourself we might not know! 

I live for Tuesday night pub quiz. ;) (I don't know what this is, but I want to find out!)

If you haven't preordered your copy of THE FORGETTING CURVE yet, be sure to do that! You can also enter to win a copy in this Goodreads giveaway.

And thanks to Angie for answering these questions. I really need a chocolate croissant about now... What about you? Favorite reading/writing treat? Do you like sequels with the same narrating characters, or do you prefer new characters?

Art for Rebellion

This week we're all celebrating Angie Smibert's new release, THE FORGETTING CURVE.

 One of my very favorite things about Angie's first book, MEMENTO NORA, was the way the kids used art to rebel. Not only did Nora and Micah create a comic that influenced the revolution, but their friend Winter is a sculptor. In the sequel, Angie brings the underground comic back for a cameo, but also introduces Aiden, a hacker who starts an underground radio show called MemeCast.

I love that Angie uses art as a form of protest. In controlling governments, art can sometimes be the only way for an individual to protest--and it can spark a much larger fire. I think an argument can be made linking the Hunger Games (as an artistic form of media) to the rebellion Katniss started--and there is also, of course, the art used in political protests today and in the past.

Perhaps the most famous political protest  work of art is Pablo Picasso's Guernica. In 1937, the fascist Spanish Nationalist group bombed a village in northern Spain known as Guernica. Picasso's painting, Guernica was a response--and protest--to this violent act. It depicts the slaughter of innocents, and Picasso's faces of anguish makes the viewer confront the face of violence.

More famous in our time is the British graffiti-artist, Banksy. Through clever twists on images and words, Banksy's art tends to be a commentary on our current socio-political world. He points out the futility of materialism, the importance of the environment and family, and the value of standing up against conformity. Banksy has led a revolution in the art world--and I defy anyone to try to say graffiti isn't art--and even further, I believe Banksy is the voice of the discontent of our society. It is no wonder that Banksy's fame grew just before the Occupation movement.

Protest artist Willie Bester of South Africa grew famous for his works of art protesting the apartheid. He said, "People have built up a resistance to anything that addresses the psyche of mankind or people or themselves. I believe that we must protest against that which is wrong."

Art is a way for us to do this. We often let ourselves accept the way things are--until we are faced with it. Confronted with. Forced to see that things are not always right. 

This is art.

In MEMENTO NORA, Nora and Micah protest their government through an underground comic. In THE FORGETTING CURVE, Aiden starts a secret radio program. How would YOU use art to protest a corrupt government?

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The Forgetting Curve Launch Week

This week is all about celebrating the release of Angie Smibert's follow-up to her amazing debut MEMENTO NORA called THE FORGETTING CURVE. 


It's best to read MEMENTO NORA before diving into THE FORGETTING CURVE, so if want to avoid spoilers, check out MEMENTO NORA first.  Still with me? Ok then here's the jacket blurb: 
Aiden Nomura likes to open doors—especially using his skills as a hacker—to see what’s hidden inside. He believes everything is part of a greater system: the universe. The universe shows him the doors, and he keeps pulling until one cracks open. Aiden exposes the flaw, and the universe—or someone else—will fix it. It’s like a game. 
Until it isn’t. 
When a TFC opens in Bern, Switzerland, where Aiden is attending boarding school, he knows things are changing. Shortly after, bombs go off within quiet, safe Bern. Then Aiden learns that his cousin Winter, back in the States, has had a mental breakdown. He returns to the US immediately. 
But when he arrives home in Hamilton, Winter’s mental state isn’t the only thing that’s different. The city is becoming even stricter, and an underground movement is growing.
Along with Winter’s friend, Velvet, Aiden slowly cracks open doors in this new world. 
But behind those doors are things Aiden doesn’t want to see—things about his society, his city, even his own family. And this time Aiden may be the only one who can fix things . . . before someone else gets hurt.


I had the pleasure of getting to read and review THE FORGETTING CURVE during Dystopian February on my blog.  Here's an excerpt of my review:

Like in the first book, the world building details really immerse you in a near-future world where companies take advantage of people's fears to make money. To me, Aiden was an utterly believable hacker, and his voice was markedly different to Winter's (and Velvet's).

Congrats to THE FORGETTING CURVE for earning the Zombie Chicken Merit Badge for world building. :)



Marshall Cavendish, hardcover (May 1, 2012)
ISBN13: 978-0761462651
ISBN: 0761462651

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BAM | Indie Bound


Comment on any post this week and be entered for a signed copy of THE FORGETTING CURVE plus swag!

Why Sci-fi?

Sometimes when I'm trying to muddle through A Brief History of Time, I ask myself why I chose sci-fi over fantasy.  It's moments when I'm reading multiverse and string theory that I question why I didn't go with magic.  In these dark times I imagine somewhere Stephen Hawking is having a good chuckle at my expense.

I love magic after all.  I can say with no shame that the Harry Potter series tops my list of favorite books ever, and I've read quite a few books.  Crewel even has some fantastical elements to it, but in the end, it's grounded in very theoretical, pseudo-science.  One day while I was decrying the whole choosing sci-fi thing to my husband and how hard it was and how I didn't understand anything I was reading but still felt compelled to grasp these theories, he said something insightful.  I know, dear readers, you are dying to know.  After all, my husband is amazingly profound.  No really, he is.  Also he understands said complex scientific theories and explains them to me with small words and pictures.

He said, "Sci-fi isn't about the science, it's about taking a possibility and exploring its implications."  He pointed out a favorite book of his Kiln People by David Brin (which I have not read, because he lost his copy!).  In it, people have the ability to make clones of themselves, called kiln people.  These clones can be used for various purposes and have varying life spans.  The main character is a private detective who uses his kiln people to do his dirty work, which sometimes gets them killed in the process.  It's mystery, complete with all the Sam Spade tropes and Chinatownesque settings, you'd expected of a P.I. novel, but really it's a novel that explores the possibility of duplicating oneself and the implications.  It isn't bogged down in the science.  It just makes use of the idea.  Since we're all familiar with genetic engineering, it's not terribly hard to buy into and it addresses a subject that's certainly fascinating and controversial in an exciting way.

And it's discussions like these with my husband and other writers which remind me that the Crewel World series is sci-fi because it had to be in order to play with the effects weaving the world would have.

But maybe also cause I'm a giant J.J. Abrams fan.  That could be it, too.

So tell me, why do you read or write sci-fi?

Ready Player One

One of the best books I’ve read this year (so far) is READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline. To give you a little taste, here’s a snippet from the book description:

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.

Wade Watts is a teen, and his world is definitely dystopic. He lives in a trailer park where the single-wides are crammed and stacked on top of each other like cord wood. If you fall behind on your payments, you’ll end up in the “poor house” working tech support for the rest of your life. (And some people chose that as a better option.)

So, this should be young adult dystopian fiction, right? Not exactly. It did win the ALA Alex Award for adult fiction that appeals to young adults. But RPO isn’t YA.

And it isn’t because of “adult themes” or something for “mature audiences.” RPO is pretty PG-13.

Nope. RPO is adult fiction because it’s clearly written for those of us who remember the 1980’s. (And those of us who were and still are nerds.)

The creator of the OASIS, James Halliday, was a kid in the 1980’s, and throughout his highly successive life, he was obsessed with the era. Imagine Halliday as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Howard Hughes (for the recluse factor) all rolled into one. Wade and his fellow gunters (easter egg hunters) steep themselves in 80’s trivia—from gaming to tv to movies—in order to solve the puzzle—and win control of the Oasis, by the way. Some of stuff is made-up, but most of it is real. Dungeons and dragons. Early computers. War Games. John Hughes flicks. The book wallows (in a good way) in nostalgia, but the conceit works. Halliday and Wade both longed for the time that the 80’s represented—in the book at least. The 1980’s was the time where it all started and before it all went horribly wrong.

So, not only is RPO an 80’s “nerdgasm,” as John Scalzi called it, but the book is also about nostalgia for the past in general—and moving on from it. As the reader, we old folks can identify with Wade because, in some ways, he represents the teens we were (and maybe still are on the inside). But, today’s teens—who weren’t born until the *gasp* mid-to-late 90’s—can still appreciate the fantastic characters, settings, and plot. RPO is, bottom-line, a blast to read.

btw, the audiobook is fabulous--and read by Will Wheaton. 

What did you guys think of RPO? Can you think of any other recent books that, on the surface, seem like YA, but clearly aren't? Why?