Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Valentines!


What better way to kick-off a blog devoted to the awesomeness of 2014 YA Debuts than on the best 14th day of the year, Valentine's Day! In honor of this auspicious occasion, we have compiled a delightful assortment of shenanigans -- Valentine memories, book LOVE, and a GIVEAWAY!

The YA Valentine's biggest goal this year is to interact and otherwise bond with YOU. To make such a thing possible, we have come up with a fantastic (and sometimes terrifying!) way for you to participate in this blog. It's called Cupid's Arrows and couldn't be easier or more rewarding -- simply head over to the Shoot a Cupid's Arrow! page, fill out the form, and voilà! You have both submitted a way for us to make fools of ourselves for your entertainment AND been entered to win our FANTASTIC VALENTINES GIVEAWAY!!!

What IS this FANTASTIC VALENTINES GIVEAWAY, you might be wondering? Every month, everyone who enters an email address along with their Cupid's Arrow submission will be automatically entered into a drawing to win BOOKS and CANDY and other fantastic Valentines goodies! And as a special blog kick-off this month, our giveaway is even more MASSIVE AND AWESOME. If you submit a Cupid's Arrow to us before the end of February, you will be entered to win ALL of the books listed below in our response to the question "What is your favorite YA book?" That's right -- you'll win FOURTEEN books AND get to see one of us do wacky things at your command. Win-win situation, right?

It would be terribly rude of us to expect you to come up with ways for us to embarrass ourselves if you don't even know who, exactly, will be getting embarrassed. Thus, I present your 2014 Valentines, introducing themselves in the best way we could think of -- by telling you their most memorable Valentine (awww) and their favorite YA book (yay!!).

First up: Anne Blankman, author of the WWII thriller NIGHT'S EDGE, coming Spring 2014 from Balzer + Bray!

Most Memorable Valentine: No flowers or chocolates for me! My most memorable valentine occurred four years ago, when I was about thirty-six weeks pregnant and realized I hadn't felt the baby kick in a couple of days. After a quick test at the doctor's office, my husband, Mike, and I were sent to the hospital for a day-long battery of tests. Several hours later, the doctor and nurses confirmed that our baby was completely healthy and we got to go home. It was the best present I ever had!

Favorite YA Book: Nope, impossible to pick just one. But a few weeks ago I read FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS by Diana Peterfreund, and I haven't been able to get it out of my head since. Imagine Jane Austen's PERSUASION meets YA sci-fi. Clever premise, gorgeous writing, and a swoon-worthy hero -- what more would you want?

Next: Jaye Robin Brown, whose musically moving SING TO THE WIND will be out Fall 2014 from HarperTeen!

Most Memorable Valentine: Well, since there's never an excuse needed for chocolate in my house and because every day is Valentine's Day for me and the sweetie, my best day is of the writer variety. There's a small local group of women writers, that host monthly readings. They are mostly poets and I rarely go, but in February they host a Valentine's reading. Each writer is encouraged to create a valentine for another writer and recite a poem either they've written or love. Because I was teaching elementary school at the time, I wrote an Anti-Valentine's poem from the point of view of an eight-year-old boy. It was the first time I read my work aloud and the laughter and clapping of those women made my Valentine's Day!

Favorite YA Book: Okay, I really don't think this is a very Valentine-y question. Because this is torture not love. Because how can I choose just one? Fine. Even though I have many, many, many other favorites, I'll pick The Sky is Everywhere, (and the Scorpio Races and Fire) because there's a bed in the forest and two beautiful boys, and heartache, and poetry, and pretty, pretty prose.

Next: Bethany Crandell, author of the charmingly raw SUMMER ON THE SHORT BUS, out Spring 2014 from Running Press!

Most Memorable Valentine: My husband and I were newly married, and I was taking a graphic design course after work which meant I didn't get home until nearly 10pm. ( I have no idea how I managed that. Nowadays, I'm half asleep before they even get to Tribal Council. *nods to Survivor fans*) Anyway, I arrived home after class on this particular evening--Valentine's Day, and found that my tragically unromantic husband had been abducted by aliens, and was replaced by a new, sensitive and caring cyborg husband who had not only set the dining room table with candles, place mats and Outback To-Go, but had Eric Clapton's 'YOU LOOK WONDERFUL TONIGHT' streaming through the computer. That was twelve years ago...Cyborg husband has yet to return.

Favorite YA Book: Okay, we're going old school on this one. LORD OF THE FLIES. Until I got my grubby, 9th grade paws on this book, most things I read were either too predictable with their happy endings and unrelatable characters, or so bogged down with imagery that I couldn't enjoy them--let alone understand them. (Apologies to my high school English teachers. It's not you, it's me). But LORD OF THE FLIES was different. Nothing about that story was predictable. It screamed of uncertainty and chaos, and instilled a delicious kind of fear in me that I'd never experienced from a book before--let alone one that was mandatory reading! I knew it was 'great literature' because we were reading it at school, but nothing about it felt 'educational' to me. It was just an awesome, exciting, slightly terrifying read that changed my view of books forever.

Next: Lindsay Cummings, author of the heart-pounding thriller THE MURDER COMPLEX, out Summer 2014 from Greenwillow!

Most Memorable Valentine: When my fiance and I danced together in his kitchen after he cooked a terrible (but sweet) meal.

Favorite YA Book: The Hunger Games.

Next: Bethany Hagen, whose nuclear futuristic LANDRY PARK will sweep you away, coming Winter 2014 from Dial!

Most Memorable Valentine: My most memorable Valentine was the first one I ever got from the cop-husband, back when we were dating. He surprised me at work (which was a karate dojo) with a dozen roses--eleven red and one white. I felt almost guilty because I think maybe I had gotten him a card or store bought cookies or something equally cheap...DEFINITELY NOT ON THE SAME LEVEL.

Favorite YA Book:My favorite YA book seems to change month to month because so many good ones keep coming out! I will say, however, that right now CODE NAME VERITY is very high on the list, and is what I am consistently recommending to my teen patrons at the library.

Next: Kristi Helvig, whose sci-fi novel BURN OUT will leave you shuddering for the fate of all mankind, out Spring 2014 from Egmont!

Most Memorable Valentine: Well, I hope this doesn't get me kicked out of the group, but my hubby and I have been happily married for 16 years and don't celebrate Valentine's Day. *ducks head* We try to celebrate marriage all the time, so I'll tell you my most memorable event early in our relationship. We'd been dating two months and it was almost my birthday. He hinted that he got me a waffle maker, and while I thought it was sweet because I love waffles, I told him the fun of presents is in the surprise. Well, I was definitely surprised because it turned out the waffle maker thing was to throw me off track--my present was a diamond ring. It was the best birthday present ever...up until the day our son was born on my birthday.

Favorite YA Book: This is a hard question, but I'm going to say The Giver by Lois Lowry. I consider it the first great dystopian novel, because it was way before dystopians were huge. I love books that make me question how the world works, and this book stayed with me long after I finished it. I still give it away as gifts to people because I think everyone should read it.

Next: Kristen Lippert-Martin, author of the mind-jarring thriller TABULA RASA, coming Fall 2014 from Egmont!

Most Memorable Valentine: My most memorable valentine was, is, and shall ever remain my husband, who was born on Valentine's Day. He is the gift that keeps on giving. Except when he's snoring.

Favorite YA Book: WHY WOULD YOU EVER ASK A QUESTION LIKE THAT?! That's like asking "Which is your favorite child?" (Well, right now it's the third one, because she's the only one who regularly picks up her wet towel off the bathroom floor.) But if I must answer, I'll say ... Kristin Cashore's Graceling.

Next: Lynne Matson, whose book NIL gives a dire meaning to the phrase "island getaway", out Winter 2014 from Macmillan/Henry Holt!

Most Memorable Valentine: When I was a sophomore in college, my then-boyfriend-now-husband took giant stacks of Yellow post-it notes (I'm talking hundreds) and wrote goofy stuff on each one. Some were phrases from Brach's hearts, other were our initials, still more were sweet or funny phrases and inside jokes. Then he got my roommate to let him in my bedroom and he plastered them ALL OVER my room. Walls, mirror, bed, you name it. All yellow, all awesome. It was the cutest thing EVAH. I've never forgotten it. He was a keeper.:)

Favorite YA Book: How to pick just one?! Such a brutal question to ask. After much hand-wringing, I pick If I Stay by Gayle Forman.

Next: Jen McConnel, author of the dark and twisty paranormal DAUGHTER OF CHAOS, out Spring 2014 from Month9Books!

Most Memorable Valentine: My hubby always tries to do something nontraditional for Valentine's, but I'd say the best year was when he got me a stack of books.  That man knows the way to my heart! ;)

Favorite YA Book: Gagh!  Too many to choose from.  I'd have to say that my favorite YA book of the moment is EMBRACE by Jessica Shirvington.  Angels, demons, and a kick-butt heroine = bliss!

Next: Sara Raasch, author of the shiver-inducing fantasy SNOW LIKE ASHES, coming Fall 2014 from Balzer + Bray!

Most Memorable Valentine: Every Valentine's Day when I was little, my dad would always get my sister and me those heart-shaped paper boxes of chocolates and leave them on the kitchen table before he went to work. We'd wake up to the "Valentine's fairy" and have chocolates for breakfast!

Favorite YA Book: INCARCERON by Catherine Fisher. This book is the perfect blend of twisty, psychological thriller and fantasy. I love it so much it scares me a little, which I guess is appropriate for this book

Next: A. Lynden Rolland, whose OF BREAKABLE THINGS will make you a believer in the afterlife, coming Spring 2014 from Month9Books!

Most Memorable Valentine: Valentine's Day for me now consists of volunteering for preschool parties, baking heart-shaped cookies, and holding my son in a vice (or bribing him) to write his name on sixteen Batman cards for each student in his class. Once upon a time, my husband and I planned elaborate dates, but sadly our cynicism has prevailed, and to avoid the sappy, heart-shaped menus and long lines at local restaurants, we typically stay home and order carryout.

As a lover of all things young adult, one of my favorite memories of Valentine's Day was when I was thirteen. In middle school, Valentine's Day is better than Christmas, an excuse to silly string the lockers, wear ridiculous, bobble-heart headbands, and eat candy during class. And of course, there are the dreaded carnations. As a fundraiser, students could buy carnations for their friends (white), crushes (pink), or significant others (red). In hindsight, it's a horrible way to color code the tiers of popularity.

That year, I received a bouquet of red carnations. The note was anonymous, and for all I knew, my mother had finagled a way to buy them as a ploy to renew my self esteem. No matter. I floated down the halls that day, riding the high of my crush trailing alongside, asking jealously who sent them.

As a result, red carnations now remind me of a time when my life consisted of the Limited Too, Tommy Girl perfume, flirty giggles, and sleepovers. Hubby, if you happen to read this, a bouquet of carnations will suffice this year.

Favorite YA Book: I have so many, but at the time of the story above, my go-to was: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Next: Philip Siegel, author of the savvy and sweet THE BREAK-UP ARTIST, coming 2014 from Harlequin Teen!

Most Memorable Valentine: In third grade, there was a valentine's box at the front of the classroom, and we would slip in cards for the class to be distributed on the 14th. Even if you weren't friends with everyone in class, you still gave them a valentine. I'm not sure if schools still do this, or if it's no longer allowed. Anyway, in third grade, instead of a card, this girl gave everyone brochures from her family's church explaining how we could convert to Jehovah's Witnesses. My teacher came around and ripped them out of our hands before we had a chance to figure out what this was. And to this day, it's the only elementary school valentine I clearly remember receiving.

Favorite YA Book: Gahhh. So many to choose from! I loved reading The Face on the Milk Carton and anything by Lois Duncan when I was a young adult. But my recent favorite is THE DUFF by Kody Keplinger. I loved the voice, the banter, and as a former fat kid, I could easily relate to Bianca. The book reminded me of those WB dramas I used to watch in high school, and I've probably recommended it to at least half a dozen people.

Next: Paula Stokes, whose book THE ART OF LAINEY combines old school war-strategics with modern day romance, coming Summer 2014 from HarperTeen!

Most Memorable Valentine: A quirky musical genius boy I used to date was always making fun of my musical tastes. (Yay 90s alternative!) One Valentine's Day he had been strangely distant for about a week and I remember getting all sulky and accusing him of not wanting to spend time with me. It turned out he'd bought an Alice in Chains CD and had spent the last few days teaching himself to play every song on the guitar as a surprise for me, even though he didn't like the music at all. Best. Present. Ever.

Favorite YA Book: Going Bovine, by Libba Bray. Time travel, sentient garden gnomes, an epic journey, a romance, and a hilarious teen voice all in one book--what more could you want?

Next: Secret Valentine, whose book is shrouded in mystery and will be announced soon!

Most Memorable Valentine: Well, it's hard to say, because it's usually pretty standard--dinner, the occasional couple's massage, just nice, fun dates together. My husband has done some incredible surprises for our anniversaries or birthdays, but Valentine's Day we tend to do more low key. One that stands out right now was actually last year; we had a nice dinner at home with our kids (that I made), but my husband and kids surprised me with this huge tower of red/pink/white balloons--it was as tall as our ceiling and wide enough to fit a person inside! He usually doesn't get flowers or chocolates, because flowers die and chocolates disappear, so he often gets me shoes or clothes or something more lasting. But the balloons were quite the surprise! He also gave me a card... a Twilight card. Yep, It asked me if I was Team Edward or Team Jacob (with pictures of them both, Jacob was shirtless, of course) on the front, and when I opened it, my hubby had taped a picture of himself shirtless, flexing, and written over what was inside "How about Team (his name)?" I love my creative Valentine. ;-) (And yes, I am firmly Team Hubby. Plus he has some pretty nice abs, too, if I do say so myself.) 

Favorite YA Book: That is impossible, because I honestly love so many YA books SO much. How can you possibly choose just one? Can I do a top ten? No. Okay, so I'm going to cheat a little bit and pick one of my favorite books from last year (and I picked this one because it is the first in a series, and some of my favorites were second or third books): Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo.

Now tell me you don't want to see these people publicly humiliated on a weekly basis? We are thrilled that we get to spread the YA Debut Book LOVE with all of you and cannot wait to see what kind of shenanigans we can all get into together!

Upcoming Shenanigans:
--Pop back in on Tuesday, February 19th for our first SWEET SIX -- where one of our Valentines asks a current YA author our six sweetest questions. This week the interviewer will be Lynne Matson!

--Next Friday, February 22, will be our FIRST Cupid's Arrow! Come back to see Anne Blankman profess her LOVE for something via your suggestions.

--Check back on Friday, March 1, 2013 to find out the winner of our MASSIVE February Valentines Giveaway!


  1. Loving the stories--you all have had some amusing Valentine's :)

  2. Oh so cute! Btw, I submitted a Cupid's Arrow like two days ago. Am I still eligible to submit another one?

  3. This blog is adorable. Also, I *really* hope you pick my Cupid's Arrow. I want to see this.

  4. You have no idea how excited I am to see some of my favorite crit partners on this website!

    Going to think hard on how to humiliate you though. . . I'll get back to that later.

  5. Your blog is perfect! Sorry I'm just now getting over to see it. Your monthly giveaway is such a great idea, especially w/the addition of candy to the prize pot. EVERYONE needs more candy in their life. <3 Congrats on the new blog!