Friday, November 23, 2012

I Love YA Fiction With Judith and Ellen

Everyone's Story warmly welcomes the masterminds behind the dynamic website, I LOVE YA FICTION, Judith and Ellen. I enjoy reading Young Adult (YA) fiction, and for many reasons. Primarily, it's because I'm uplifted when I can see young people overcome obstacles and face life again with more knowledge and hope. Perhaps that's why I also like to include youths in my own novels. When I stumbled across the awesome I LOVE YA FICTION I knew I had to invite Judith and Ellen as guests. And, so here they are, partaking graciously in an interview. They're such great friends that they even wrote each other's bios! Enjoy! And remember, leave a comment for either Judith or Ellen or both--they'd love to hear from you.

First, welcome back, Judith and Ellen, from the wildness that was Hurricane
Sandy and for too many, are still stuck in the dark dreariness of the storm's
aftermath. Perhaps this is a good beginning point: do you think many YA
novels were enjoyed the past few weeks?

Ellen: I’d like to say “I hope so!” but I know a lot of the students at the school where I’ve been teaching, and a lot of my grad school classmates, have lost everything. I had one classmate put everything in perspective: “honestly, I haven’t even thought about it. I’m too focused on whether I have an apartment to go home to.”

That being said – I did actually discover this amazing place a few months ago called “the public library” where you can take out books for free! About a week before the storm I went to said amazing place and took out Jodi Picoult’s YA novel and read it during the storm…so much better than I expected. I need to write a review!

Judith: Thanks for the warm welcome! We are indeed back though it’s been a tough few weeks for us personally and for a lot of our readers.  With that said however, even without electricity, as long as e-readers were fully charged before the storm and flashlights at the ready, I’m sure a ton of YA literature was consumed in the last few weeks!

YA fiction has a wide reading audience, from the teen wanting to read a novel about “older” characters or the young adult relating to current themes, and to the “more mature adult” who enjoys a novel full of younger people. What's the common denominator that you see here?

J: As I see it, YA fiction as a whole explores the complexities of youth and
the difficulties of growing up. YA novels allow people to experience a time
that is full of promise and hope, a time when consequences are less
dramatic than those of adulthood. Obviously this brand of sweet nostalgia
appeals to everyone! And as a rule, YA lit tends to have more happy endings
than not, which coupled with a period of one’s life that is full of exploration
and mistakes, makes for intense reads with no fear of too much bad

E: While I can’t speak for everyone, the thing I love most about YA fiction is the sense of hope and possibility it brings. These are characters at a turning point in their lives and reading their stories fills me with a sense that, no matter how old you are, no matter what is going on in your life, there are always new paths to be explored, new people to meet, and new adventures to be had. I think we can all associate with the struggles and new experiences which are thematic in YA novels.

Back in the early ‘90s I recall walking into a Barnes and Noble store and
unlike now where sadly there seems to exist more shelves lines with toys
and games than books, I was impressed by the quantity of novels written for
the YA reading audience. Why do you think this genre has emerged, or
perhaps I should ask why it wasn’t more prevalent multiple decades ago?

J: Ahh, the good old days when B&N was full of comfy chairs and cozy nooks
to read books! The way we view books seems to have evolved drastically
over the last 30 years and the availability of literature, be it good, bad, or in
between, has become par for the course. Nowadays, finding a book about a
certain subject matter or theme and geared toward a specific age group is as
easy as firing up Amazon. Information is freely and widely available and as a
result, the niche that once was YA has exploded. And again, the reason for
that is, as mentioned earlier, YA fulfills a need to relive a simpler time with
consequences that aren’t as drastic as those faced in adulthood.

Related to the last question, I was also then pretty amazed by what I thought
were dark topics for children and teens. Sure, dystopian and dark
paranormal fiction has been around for centuries, but what’s your take that
these genres seem to be gobbled up in such high volumes?

E: What I love about today’s YA novels is that they confront actual problems most teens face. What teenagers since the dawn of time have wanted is to realize that they are not alone in their struggles, that there are other people out there who can understand and sympathize with what they are going through. And that is why YA novels today are so magical. No matter what issue you might be facing in your life – rape, ostracism, homosexuality, death, depression, parental divorce, first love, second love, heartache, best friendships – there are books out there which discuss it. Today’s YA novels are proof that there are people out there who know EXACTLY what you’re feeling.

J: Good question! Dystopian and paranormal fiction take us out of our daily
lives and thrust us into a magical world. There’s the added thrill of it being
slightly taboo that certainly sucks us in as well.  It’s very easy to read:
there’s generally a hero, a villain, and an overarching romance that plays
out throughout a book, and generally have happy endings. Paranormal and
dystopian fiction also allows its readers to live a life outside his or her own 
while also explaining the intricacies of this more normal reality.  A perfect
example of this would be Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy. In it, a teen girl
attempts to figure out the mystery of the dystopian world she lives in. Her
problems are the problems faced by all teenage girls, dystopian or
otherwise: will she fit in? Will she make friends? Does the gorgeous boy
she’s in love with love her back? Is she good enough to do the things in life
that she wants? Dystopian and paranormal YA are merely another creative
outlet for authors to talk about the hard hitting subjects. 

Based upon your website’s viewer participation, do you have any predictions
of what may be the next big hit, category-wise?

J: New Adult!! This is by far the next “it” category within literature. New
Adult is literature that centers around teens or young 20 somethings newly
out of high school, in college, or starting their first jobs. The problems
become more intense, the consequences more grave, and yet there’s a
simplicity to the stories that most contemporary literature does not possess.
A good starting point for any reader new to this genre is Easy by Tammara
Webber. This book is a runaway success due to its ability to delve into what
is typically considered a taboo subject (rape or the possibility of it) and
explore the ramifications of that. Our readers seem to gravitate towards the
more complex and intense emotions and experiences of New Adult fiction.

I’ve enjoyed many YA novels for their stories of hope and courage. Perhaps
that’s why I’m presently riveted to Patricia McCormick’s NEVER FALL DOWN
that takes place during the not that-long-ago days of the Khmer Rouge in
Cambodia. I’m reading for the aha moment to see how the young character
(based upon the true Arn Chorn-Pond) rises above it all. Any suggestions for
authors I may want to read along these lines?

J: I think almost all YA novels end up giving their readers hope though some
are better at it than others! John Green is a master of novels portraying
strong and hopeful characters.  By far my favorite of his is Looking For
Alaska which shows how a teen survives the loss of a dear friend.  Francesca
Lia Block is another such author who has been writing YA since I was a teen!
Her stories focus on strong female leads attempting to cope with atrocities in
their lives while maintaining their dignity. The most poignant of Block’s
books is The Hanged Man, which I read as a 16 year old and last year as a
31-year-old. The emotions and passion remained very much the same even
though my outlook on life was far different.

And finally: Do each of you have this one YA novel that you will always advocate?

E: I’d have to say I have two: THE TIMBER WOLVES series by Tammy
Blackwell and JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta. The first is so well
written and the second, though at first difficult to get into, was ultimately
worth it.

J: It’s a toss up between two. 1.The first YA novel that I can remember
really connecting with in the last 5 years is Sarah Dessen’s The Truth About
Forever. It is a poignant tale about a girl coming to grips with her father’s
death. Beautifully written, it focuses on redemption and personal growth,
three aspects that are a big selling point for me for a book! That was the
first YA novel (outside of Twilight) that I really pushed on Ellen.  2. Now that
said, I would be really lax in my blogging duties if I didn’t also talk about the
inspiration for our blog, I Love YA Fiction! Jennifer L Armentrout’s Obsidian,
a paranormal novel about aliens living right next door, focuses on a girl
named Katy who is uprooted from her life and relocated to WV. She runs a
blog review site and also manages to catch the eye of a sexy alien. Call it
wishful thinking but after reading that one, I actually called Ellen and told
her to sign up, we’re starting a book review blog.  The rest is ILYAF history! 

Viewers, let's chat: What do you enjoy in reading in YA fiction? What would you like to see more of?

 Guest Bios: 

Judith's Bio by Ellen:
My mom often says that if you're lucky, you find a friend so amazing it doesn't matter if you speak once a day, once a week, or even once a year. I can say in all honesty that Judith is that friend for me. We worked together at a law firm, and then she abandoned me to move to Boston, but whenever we talked or visited it was like we'd been apart for minutes. Judith is genuinely one of the most intelligent, generous, and amazing people I've ever met in my life. Heck - did you see that awesome contest she came up with to benefit the Hoboken school? And she speaks ancient Greek! 

Ellen's Bio by Judith
Ellen may be a lot of things: sarcastic, a little snarky, a tad snobby, brash and bold, but you’ll never meet a more loyal or caring friend. She is one of those people you meet and can truly say, “that girl loves life!” She travels to exotic places yearly, talking about flying like a lot of people talk about taking the subway. She loves to read and has eclectic tastes. As a teen she had dreams of becoming an olympic swimmer and a professional ice skater, practicing for hours every day until finally she ended up giving up those dreams in order to attend college in Washington, DC. If Judith had to pick just one person to be on her end of the world survival team, it would be Ellen and that in and of itself should say it all about this girl.  

You can find Judith and Ellen at:

Twitter: @iloveyafiction


  1. Great interview at your bay
    With YA at play
    I enjoy some of it
    But then some with me is not such a hit
    The ones where they whine and whine and whine some more
    Makes me want to slam it in the door
    Teenagers aren't that whiny
    TV makes their brains tiny
    So some books follow that
    Like the ones that actually make them wear many a hat
    Not just whine
    That just hurts the ears of the feline

    1. Hey, Pat! Thanks for the visit. Let's just hope those teens find some great books to encourage them to stay away from the noise-box. I'm grateful that Judith & Ellen have an awesome site that the YA audience will find helpful.

    2. Love it! Great way to express yourself - totally agree that sometimes YA lit can devolve into so much whining but for the most part it is uplifting and honest.

  2. I like to read YA for the same reason I used to watch "The Wonder Years." It brought me back to my coming of age years and all the roller coaster of emotions that came with it.
    I love that you think New Adult is the next best thing. I keep hearing that college settings won't sell. That's because I've written about a college setting ;o). My main character is a grad student in her late twenties. Glad to hear your prediction. I'm counting on it being 100% correct :o)!!!

    1. Yes! New Adult is definitely the next big thing! People forget that teens turn into adults rather quickly and they have been longing for more adult scenarios but still with uplifting and hopeful endings. Plus New Adult has the added benefit of touching on college which so few books do. Good luck with your novel. If you ever need a reviewer, I Love YA Fiction is ready for it!

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  4. Great interview! Thanks for sharing :).

    1. Katie, thanks for visiting today. Glad you enjoyed the interview!

    2. Thanks, Katie!! Thanks for reading.

  5. Great Interview Elaine. THanks for sharing Judith and Ellen :-) I love YA fiction and of course I encourage our teenagers to read it too:) Our girls(13 and 16) have read twilight, hunger games and my youngest daughters loves historical romance too. Checked out your review's awesome :-) Will check it out for ideas for books! Thanks for sharing...

    1. Nice to see you again, Lorna. I agree: Judith and Ellen are a great catch :)

    2. Hope your daughters are ready for more dystopian and paranormal! It's the wave of the future in YA...makes for some fun reading and a lot of them have been optioned so we'll be seeing them on the big screen shortly! Hope you like the site.

  6. Awesome interview! Was nodding my head at both answers to the question about YA’s broad appeal; that sense of hope and possibility is why I write YA myself. And Judith, loved the shoutout to The Hanged Man – FLB is one of my favorites, and I just reread that one last week. Appreciated it even more as an adult. Elaine, thanks for sharing this interview with us!

    1. J.C., welcome to Everyone's Story. I'm always thrilled to see new faces/names around here. Glad you enjoyed the interview. I like your website!

    2. JC! It's nice to see you over here. I knew there was a reason we had a mutual respect - anyone who loved/loves FLB is a friend of mine :) And yes, YA offers a lot of hope to teens (and adults) which is something many people are lacking in their lives. I love that these books are accessible and get people reading. It's a wonderful thing!

  7. What a great post. I love YA novels - to read, and write. Judith and Ellen, I am going straight to your blog now...
    Thanks Elaine, for sharing. x

    1. Hope you enjoy it Wendy! YA is universal and it's nice to hear that people from all over are getting into it.

  8. Wendy, thanks so much from visiting Everyone's Story--and all the way from the UK ♡ I'm sure Judith & Ellen will be excited to hear that you've visited their site.

  9. So nice learning about Judith and Ellen. I agree that New Adult is going to be the next big thing.

    1. Kelly, so nice to see you again ♡ If you get a chance, visit I Love YA Fiction's blog--Judith & Ellen have done an awesome job with the site, plus they may be a great connection, if you haven't connected yet.

    2. Hey Kelly! Yes, New Adult seems to be cropping up all over these days. Every book I've bought in the last month has featured a college student (don't hubby bought I've bought a TON!). Powerful stuff and lots of fun - more adult language and scenarios but with a sense of newness that is so refreshing. Enjoy!

  10. Judith & Ellen: Awww, it sounds like the 2 of you have a really awesome friendship! That is a wonderful thing to have! :)

    Elaine: I found your blog through Book Blogs and I'm now your newest follower! I hope you are having a wonderful Tuesday! Stop by for a visit sometime if you'd like! :)

    Leigh Ann
    MaMa's Book Corner

    1. Leigh Ann, warm thanks to you for visiting Everyone's Story. Thanks too for letting me know how you found out about this blog. And many thanks for becoming my newest Follower--yea!!

      I plan on visiting your blog shortly :)

    2. Hi Leigh Ann! Ellen and I are quite the pair :) I'm so glad you found Elaine and our respective blogs. I'm on my way to check out Mama's book blog now...

  11. Wow, this was great interview. I'm so excited to learn about these two ladies and their web site. Since I work with the YA division of a small publishing house, I'm always looking for great YA fiction.

    Our kids need good, truth-filled, solid stories to help them negotiate the many issues they encounter in a tough world. I'm so glad to see some honest, inspirational, and relevant fiction out there.

    Also, our 11-yr old granddaughter is an avid reader. She bresezed through the Harry Potter series and followed with the Hunger Games series, so I'm always looking or good fiction for her. I'll definitely visit I Love YA Fiction for some ideas for her for future reads!

    1. Patti, I always enjoy your visits to Everyone's Story... you warm my heart. Glad you enjoyed the interview. I think what Judith & Ellen have going for them is there love & enthusiasm for a great story that inspires the young at heart. I'm happy to hear that your granddaughter is a big reader. I'm sure you inspired her!

  12. Judith and Ellen, thank you so much for guesting on Everyone's Story this past week. You've been awesome guests and have received tons of viewer hits. I hope this brings much traffic to your dynamic site, as well as turns readers on to nearly a universe of wonderful novels written for the Young Adult audience.

    May you both enjoy the holidays and be blessed with much joy and health.



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