Unapologetically Smart Girls – #YearofYA September 2016

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Image from Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls

There are some incredible, real life smart girls out there to inspire and encourage us (including the incomparable Jennifer LaGarde who suggested this month’s theme!) but in September, we will be exploring the ferocious fictional femmes that prove we’re no fools!

When I (Mollee) think back to some of my favorite characters in grade school, Ramona, Matilda & Mary Poppins top the list. Lucky for me, the Harry Potter series released as I grew through middle school and high school, providing me with the ultimate smart girl, Hermione Granger. I still turn back to these characters as an adult and can identify the distinct ways they influenced my identity. Here’s a great article by Bustle on Ramona specifically and how she prepared young girls for adulthood (it’s hilarious, and for adults).

It’s essential that readers can see themselves in what they read, as well as have windows into the lives of others. And I’m not just talking girls…

Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 11.16.19 AM.pngImage from Bustle

Books featuring young girls who can stick up for themselves, defend their loved ones, change the world, or simply be themselves without fear or shame send a strong message about equality: anything boys can do, girls can do too. Sometimes, they can even do it better.

This is an important theme for those of us reading in a lens of adults recommending books to our readers – whether they be in high school, or younger. As an elementary librarian, I’ve seen the struggle some of my young students face in thinking females are inferior to males. One of my admins came to me about a student who had been crying on the bus because a boy called her a feminist (using it in a derogatory way): “I told her that some of her favorite teachers are feminists, like you. Can you show her a good book to read so she understands it’s a good thing?” Guess what: that student has found understanding and encouragement in the pages of many a book. Here’s another story for you… my school is gearing up for its second school-wide read. I recommended Ramona Quimby, Age 8 but received backlash from our 98% female staff, that the story wouldn’t appeal to boys. We’re reading it, and it’s because I’ve pushed the importance of boys reading from a girl’s perspective.

Guess what folks, there’s no such thing as boy books and girl books. It’s time to accept that there are some unapologetically smart girls waiting to teach the world that, when given a chance, girls are right up there fighting bad guys, saving the day, and exercising some impressive brain power.

Read up – find the honorable heroines, and even those vile villainesses, that are waiting for their stories to be celebrated and read up in September. Then hand them off to students – remembering that all age readers, girls AND boys, need to read more of these stories!

August 2016 #YearofYA Teens Talk Tragedies (3)

Mollee’s Reads

I’m obsessed with this topic. So excited to hear what YOU read and share w/ us on our next chat! In the mean time, I’m exploring several options… and have to share that I think my favorite smart girl of 2016 so far is Willowdean from Murphy’s Dumplin‘. If you haven’t read it yet, treat yo’self.

I plan to read…

  • Afterworlds by Scott Westerfield – I was intrigued by the format of this one, where an 18 year old NaNoWriMo writer is pursuing her dream to publish YA, in alternating chapters with her novel. I haven’t investigated enough to learn if Darcy (or Lizzie) really falls under the “unapologetically smart” label, but as one also chasing down dreams of publication, I know the determination and guts it takes!
  • Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven – it comes out in October but I scored an ARC at BEA… SO anxious to read it! The description of this book tells me that Libby is headstrong and determined to be true to herself; an important message for any reader.
  • Ruby Lee and Me by Shannon Hitchcock – this is Middle Grade (or maybe lower?) but it’s one I’ve been wanting to read for awhile. The student here learns to be unapologetically smart and just by a teacher who models those ideals.
  • The rest are TBD!! Have only picked these to START!

Tavia’s Reads
I (Tavia) am a feminist – and I make no excuses for it. When choosing books for the school library, I spend tons of time reading reviews and trying to pick titles that are representative of my kids. I also choose books that are important for my kids to read – books that offer characters that will inspire, give hope to and empower the young people I’m surrounded by on a daily basis. This month’s theme is so important to me, because like Mollee writes, everyone can find meaning from reading books with unapologetically strong and smart females!

To celebrate our theme, I’ll be reading these books:

  • The Golden Compass – Philip Pullman
    This is a classic, but it’s been a long time since I read it. I’m excited to dive in again. I’m thinking about doing the audio version this time around.
  • Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Graudin
    I bought this for the school library last year, but never got around to reading it. It seems like a perfect fit for this month’s #YearofYA theme. I’m excited to read alt-history since this isn’t a genre I normally choose. Plus, one review I read described it as, “like Sons of Anarchy, Inglorious Bastards, and The Hunger Games had a baby.” I mean how can you say no to that!?!
  • Only Ever Yours – Louise O’Neill
    This book sounds pretty intriguing. The cover describes it as Mean Girls meets The Handmaid’s Tale. Sold!
  • Throne of Glass – Sarah J. Maas
    I tried to read this book for another #YearofYA theme a while back, but ran out of time! I think this month’s theme is perfect. A book with a female assassin sounds like a page turner. Plus, my students keep begging me to read the series.

Additional Lists to help you find titles:

A Mighty Girl list

PBS Empowering Middle Grade Girls

The Daily Beast – Smart YA

HelloGiggles – 25 Books for Every Girl

Buzzfeed – This is what a feminist looks like

Oh, and as a bonus:

“The sexiest thing in the world is being really smart”

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Attn: YA writers! *Free Contest*

So usually this blog is all about our monthly #YearofYA themes, news about upcoming chats, and the occasional book review. But part of why I approached Tavia about starting this Twitter Book Club is because I’m working on publishing my first YA novel!

Over the last year, I’ve been submitting queries to agents, which is a long, tough process. Each time you send one, hopeful that agent *might* be the one to change your world… you open your inbox every time with dread that it’s more likely you’ll see a rejection. After 12 months of (slowly) emailing and receiving rejections, it’s hard to keep at it! But, the motivation for me is knowing that many, many, many of our favorite authors went though this experience, receiving 10’s, or 100’s of rejections before the novels we adore we’re taken up by an agent, brought before editors, and put out in the world (Kate DiCamillo’s 1st novel, Because of Winn Dixie was rejected 450+ times. Yes, you read that correctly. She didn’t quit!).

While I’m still working on querying, I’m taking a short break to enter a contest for complete, contemporary YA through Writer’s Digest. It’s not a guarantee for representation if I win, but it’s a huge step in getting an agent to read and review part of the book. So far, I’ve received read feedback from 2 agents, but my hope is this is a bit more thorough if I’m a winner.

So if YOU are also a writer, have a complete contemporary YA manuscript, and want to enter… it’s FREE! Get more details: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/22nd-free-dear-lucky-agent-contest-contemporary-literary-young-adult and tweet me if you’re entering! I’ll be cheering you on, because this is about all being in it together!