Posts Tagged "young adult lit"

5 Things Every First Sentence Should Do

5 Things Every First Sentence Should Do

These last few weeks, I’ve started writing the sequel to How to Rock Braces and Glasses. Let me paint you a picture: I am sitting at a perfectly organized desk, gazing out the window at a lovely view. The ocean, perhaps. Then: inspiration strikes. My fingers hit the keyboard and I’m off, typing so fast that my immaculate workspace starts to smell faintly of smoke and genius.

Okay. Now, let me paint you a more realistic picture. I am in my pajamas, as I have been for the past three days straight. I am sitting in bed with my laptop in my lap, staring at a blank Word document. The blinking cursor is mocking me. I decide that I have made a terrible mistake in life. What ever possessed me to write another book? I decide that I will get very good at math and organizing things and become an accountant. I weep. I take my dog on a walk in my pajamas, looking suspiciously like an escaped mental patient.

I have always found writing the first sentence of any piece of writing to be the hardest part of the whole endeavor. The task feels so weighty, so intensely important. If I don’t come up with the perfect first sentence, I tell myself, everything else will, frankly, suck. On the bright side, no one will know that the rest of the book sucks, because they won’t bother to read past the first sentence. 

To be fair, no first sentence should have to shoulder all this responsibility. But there are several things a few sentence should do. Take a look at some of my favorite first sentences (and the lines that follow) from both young adult and adult novels. I love them for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that they help me to illustrate the Five Things Every Good First Sentence Should Do. I smell a list coming on. Also, smoke. And genius.

  • A good first sentence should evoke a strong, immediate response from the reader. I’m using the word “response” loosely here. What I really mean is that the first sentence should immediately engage the reader, ideally on an emotional level. Some of my favorite first lines are those that elicit anger, or sadness, or intense joy right off the bat. Take a look at the opening lines of DELIRIUM, by Lauren Oliver. When I first read these lines, I felt shock, coupled with anger at the idea of a world  such as the one Oliver starts to paint here:
It has been sixty-four years since the president and the Consortium identified love as a disease, and forty-three since the scientists perfected a cure. My older sister, Rachel, has been disease free for nine years now. She’s been safe from love for so long, she says she can’t even remember its symptoms. I’m scheduled to have my procedure in exactly ninety-five days, on September 3. My birthday.
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A High-school Librarian’s Official Unofficial Guide to Great Summer Reads for 2011

A High-school Librarian’s Official Unofficial Guide to Great Summer Reads for 2011
Happy summer, guys and gals! In honor of the first official day of summer (okay, that was yesterday. Sorry.), I’m unleashing the power of the blog on my friend and favorite librarian, Kate Ryan. Below, Kate posts her must-reads for Summer 2011. If I were you, I’d read them. Otherwise, you might get detention.
- mh

Hello all!

When my dear friend Meg asked me to write a summer reading list for you lovely bookish folk I was thrilled! *Virtually wheels a fabulous bookcart of summer reads directly to your computer screen.*

My list comes mostly from interactions with my own wonderful high school students. I have some great readers under my wing and they let me know when they enjoyed something, when they hated something, or when there’s something really great on the horizon. Other aspects of my job involve reading a tonnn of book reviews, scouring other librarians’ book lists, and spending my district’s money to bring the best new books onto our shelves. Also, I get to wear a lot of cardigans. (Helloooo, best job ever? Seriously, you should all look into it.)

So without further ado, here is my School Librarian’s Unofficial Guide to Great Summer Reads for 2011. (“Unofficial” because it’s kind of all over the place — YA stuff, graphic novels, “adult” books, older books you might have missed, etc. Just bear with me. For a librarian, I’m remarkably unorganized.)

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In response to Wall Street Journal article, a love letter to YA lit

In response to Wall Street Journal article, a love letter to YA lit

ShareIf you’re plugged into the young adult literature world, or if you’ve been within ten feet of a Twitter account in recent days, this will look familiar:

#YAsaves

It’s the Twitter hashtag that was created in response to this June 4th Wall Street Journal article by Meghan Cox Gurdon, proclaiming contemporary young adult literature to be far too dark, grotesque, and and violent for any young adult’s own good. Gurdon argues that YA lit’s exploration of difficult topics/themes like death, drug use, self-mutilation, and anorexia essentially has the potential to give teens who might not otherwise have thought about using drugs or starving themselves the idea to, you know, give it a shot. So any good teacher/librarian/parent should beware: if your kids didn’t have problems before, they will after reading today’s young adult literature. Gurdon says: ”It may be that the book industry’s ever-more-appalling offerings for adolescent readers spring from a desperate desire to keep books relevant for the young. Still… the book business exists to sell books; parents exist to rear children, and… no family is obliged to acquiesce when publishers use the vehicle of fundamental free-expression principles to try to bulldoze coarseness or misery into their children’s lives.”

I’m seriously biting my tongue here. But my reaction to the piece (Okay! I think it’s ludicrous, just for the record!) isn’t the issue. More significant is the way in which writers, agents, editors, publishers, librarians, parents, and most importantly, READERS, rose up to defend their beloved genre.

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