Tag Archives: best teen books


Here’s the first thing I will tell you about this book:

It is far, far better than that awful pun in the title of this blog post.

Here in the Bookyard, we’re all sprinting around, screaming in glee, overcome with fits of uncontrollable fist-pumping — because today, Skylar Dorset’s book is OUT IN THE WORLD!

Chuck Taylors, a red rose, and a reflecting pool that breaks the laws of optics: what's not to love?
Chuck Taylors, a red rose, and a reflecting pool that breaks the laws of optics: what’s not to love?

“Romantic, suspenseful, and witty all at once — ALICE IN WONDERLAND meets NEVERWHERE.” — Claudia Gray, New York Times bestselling author of the EVERNIGHT series

This book features Boston, young love, AND faerie princesses. How, you may ask? Take a look at the jacket copy.

THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS is the story of Selkie Stewart, who thinks she’s a totally normal teenager growing up in Boston. Sure, her father is in an insane asylum, her mother left her on his doorstep—literally—when she was a baby, and she’s being raised by two ancient aunts who spend their time hunting gnomes in their Beacon Hill townhouse. But other than that her life is totally normal! She’s got an adventurous best friend who’s always got her back and an unrequited crush on an older boy named Ben. Just like any other teenager, right?

When Selkie goes in search of the mother she’s never known, she gets more than she bargained for. It turns out that her mother is faerie royalty, which would make Selkie a faerie princess—except for the part where her father is an ogre, which makes her only half of anything. Even more confusing, there’s a prophecy that Selkie is going to destroy the tyrannical Seelie Court, which is why her mother actually wants to kill her. Selkie has been kept hidden all her life by her adoring aunts, with the help of a Salem wizard named Will. And Ben. Because the boy she thinks she’s in love with turns out to be a faerie whose enchantment has kept her alive, but also kept her in the dark about her own life.

Now, with enchantments dissolved and prophecies swinging into action, Selkie finds herself on a series of mad quests to save the people she’s always loved and a life she’s learning to love. But in a supernatural world of increasingly complex alliances and distressingly complicated deceptions, it’s so hard to know who to trust. Does her mother really wish to kill her? Would Will sacrifice her for the sake of the prophecy? And does Ben really love her or is it all an elaborate ruse? In order to survive, Selkie realizes that the key is learning—and accepting—who she really is.

And if you’re as hooked as I am, check out the excerpt on Amazon!


You can have it with a few clicks: Indiebound | B&N | Amazon

You see that head? There’s some weird stuff going on in here.

Who’s behind THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS? The brilliant Skylar Dorset, a born-and-bred New Englander who lives in Boston (mostly, it seems, due to her love for JOHNNY TREMAIN: our kind of woman!) with her cardboard Doctor Who cut-out and a head full of stories. You don’t want to miss her website, which includes lots of behind-the-scenes information about the book as well as a veritable smorgasbord of tastefully chosen GIFs.

What’s that you say? You want to hear more about why we’re so thrilled that June 3 has, at last, drawn nigh?

Well, if you twist my arm…

“Half-ogre and half-faerie? Gnome-hunting guardian aunts and a Salem wizard? There’s nothing I love more than a fantastical romp, whether it be through beautiful Boston or at the perils of a Seelie Court, and THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS has that in spades — plus enchantments, faery magic, and prophecy! What more can you ask for from a gorgeous new debut?” — Rin Chupeco, THE GIRL FROM THE WELL

“Faeries, secrets, and finding love while trying to survive? I cannot wait to dive into Skylar Dorset’s THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS!” — Sarah Bromley, A MURDER OF MAGPIES

“I had the luck to get my hands on an ARC of THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS, so I can tell you that you’re in for a treat! Imaginative, fun, and wonderfully written! The world of books is better for having Skylar Dorset in it!” — Mary Crockett, DREAM BOY

“I also got my greedy hands on an ARC of THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS, and it blew me away. The voice and writing are absolutely captivating, and the comparisons to ALICE IN WONDERLAND and Neil Gaiman’s NEVERWHERE are wonderfully apt. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up!” — AdriAnne Strickland, WORDLESS

“I’m such a fan of magic and fairy tales so this book is right up my alley. I love Dorset’s twist on selkies. THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS gives enchantments and hidden pasts a whole new meaning.” — Christina Farley, GILDED

“As a new mom of a three-month-old baby girl, trust me when I say that I need books to whisk me away from diaper duty and infant howling! That’s why I’m so looking forward to Skylar Dorset’s THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS. A story about a teenage girl who finds out she’s a half-faerie, half-ogre princess and who happens to have potentially murderous queen mother? Sign me right up!” — Caroline Richmond, THE ONLY THING TO FEAR

You had me at gnomes and Beacon Hill. Toss in a bat-ass crazy dad and hot Selkie, and what’s not to love? Cannot get my hands on this book fast enough!” — Trisha Leaver, CREED

Okay. I’m trembling, either from bookish excitement or the large quantity of coffee ingested while drafting this post. I’ll impute it to the former. Skylar, from all the Bookyard writers, a sincere congratulations — and HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY!


A Celebration of The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy

Hooray! The lovely and funny Kate Hattemer is releasing her debut novel, The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy out into the world tomorrow!


We here at the BookYArd are thrilled to sound its barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world! (Yep, this book has gotten me so excited that I’m quoting Whitman.)


We’re yawping, Steve, not yelling… and here’s why:


Witty, sarcastic Ethan and his three friends decide to take down the reality TV show, For Art’s Sake, that is being filmed at their high school, the esteemed Selwyn Arts Academy, where each student is more talented than the next. While studying Ezra Pound in English class, the friends are inspired to write a vigilante long poem and distribute it to the student body, detailing the evils of For Art’s Sake. But then Luke—the creative force behind the poem and leader of the anti-show movement—becomes a contestant on the nefarious show. It’s up to Ethan, his two remaining best friends, and a heroic gerbil named Baconnaise to save their school. Along the way, they’ll discover a web of secrets and corruption involving the principal, vice principal, and even their favorite teacher.

I bet now you want your very own copy of The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy. Well, you’re in luck, here’s where you can get it:

Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble

And as if that’s not enough, check out what KIRKUS REVIEW had to say about it:

Blending Ezra Pound, rhetoric and reality TV, this hilarious, subversive debut about a cadre of friends at an arts high school is a treat from cover to cover.

In seventh grade, popular, good-looking Luke rescued Ethan, Jackson and Elizabeth from misfit nerd-dom. Four years later, Luke still leads while Narrator Ethan is cheerfully resigned to a spot in the “Untalented caste” at Selwyn Academy. Disturbing the status quo, the school’s chosen to host a new reality TV show, a student talent competition with a $100,000 scholarship prize and a familiar format: interviews, clichéd romances and rivalries, and two smarmy hosts. The obsequious vice principal and most students are thrilled, but For Art’s Sake feels like an insult to Ethan and friends. Luke, the most offended, leads a counterattack, writing guerilla poetry inspired by Pound’s Cantos that ridicules the enterprise, which the conspirators secretly print at school. However, the masterminds behind reality TV are several steps ahead of them—money and fame are powerful currency, and they know how to use them. Maura, the beautiful, talented ballerina Ethan fancies, has been accepted at Juilliard, but without the scholarship, she can’t attend—participating is a no-brainer. Ethan struggles with ethical conundrums (Does Pound’s anti-Semitism invalidate his work? Are compromises the price of an arts career?) as he works out his own place in this world and among his friends, especially Elizabeth.

A sparkling, timely tour of the complicated intersection where life meets art. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Or, to translate for Andy Samberg fans:


So, just who is the woman who wrote this amazing book?  Here’s the nutshell version:

The oldest of eight siblings, Kate grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. She attended Yale and taught high-school Latin in Virginia before returning to Cincinnati, where she now works at an independent bookstore. The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy, out in April 2014 from Knopf, is a contemporary YA novel about reality TV, an arts school, Ezra Pound, and a heroic gerbil. In spring 2015, Knopf will publish her second novel, The Land of Ten Thousand Madonnas.

For more about Kate, check out her website where she talks books, obscure grammatical rules, and life on a pogo-stick.

Finally, here are a few words from members of the BookYArd about why we’re so ding-dang excited to get this book in our hands.

“What an awesome, unique concept! Love the idea of getting a truly behind-the-scenes look at some of the people caught up in one of those crazy reality T.V. shows. And a heroic gerbil named Baconnaise? If I hadn’t already been sold on this book’s premise, that line would have clenched the deal.” — Stefanie Gaither, Falls the Shadow

“Who doesn’t want to read about vigilante poetry in action? This is like Victor Hugo and Maya Angelou’s artsy lovechild with a hamster sidekick. This is looking to be a great commentary on friendship, on standing up to one’s own principles at the cost of fame and money and, of course, on poking fun at the unrealness and strange dichotomy of reality shows!” — Rin Chupeco, The Girl from the Well

“Vigilante poets?! How could I not be looking forward to this? I love academy-type settings where students make clever mischief. I might be totally off, but this strikes me as a modernized cross between The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys and Dead Poets Society, with a lot of humor thrown into the mix. I can’t wait!” — AdriAnne Strickland, Wordless

“This book has Ezra Pound poetry, reality television, and a heroic gerbil. ‘Nuff said. If that hasn’t convinced you, did I mention the gerbil is named Baconnaise? Yes, I *will* join you in your dance of delighted glee.” — Skylar Dorset, The Girl from the Well

“I don’t have to read past the title to know I want to eat this book whole. The fact that Kirkus calls it ‘hilarious’ and ‘subversive’ just makes me want to drink it too.” — Mary Crockett, coauthor Dream Boy

Writing with a Partner – The Real Scoop, Straight Poop & Loop-de-loop

When people find out that my debut novel DREAM BOY is co-authored, they generally do one of two things:

#1: Share with me their great idea for a novel (usually involving a toilet that doubles as a space-time portal, a grandmother who comes back from the dead, and a treasure map)–followed by the suggestion that I abandon whatever project I’m working on currently so that I can write that book with them instead.

#2: Ask me what it’s like to write a novel with someone.

Space Toilet complements of NASA. Time travel compliments of Awesome.
Space Toilet complements of NASA. Time travel compliments of Awesome.

Let me be clear: I love the idea of potty-time travel, unlikely resurrection, and treasure. I DO want to write that book with you. Eventually. But since the purposes of this blog are not expansive enough to allow me to do so here, for now I will turn my attention to #2.

And no, that doesn’t mean I’m going to talk about poop. I am referring instead to the aforementioned question numero duo:

What is it like to write a novel with someone?

Well, my answer may depend on your someone. After all, the who, not the what, is the most important part of the collaborative writing equation.

You probably know some writers. You might even know some writers you like. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should try to write a novel with them… or even a haiku, for that matter.

“Like” is certainly a good place to start, but it might not hold up to the stresses of collaborative writing, especially the wear and tear of a multiple-year, 300-page project.

It’s equally important that you find someone who shares your aesthetic, emanates kindness and reason, and knows how to disagree without making a fruckus.

While of course you’ll want a partner who equals your skill, it can also be a good thing if your particular strengths vary. Look for someone who (in the immortal words of Jerry McGuire) “completes you.” A strong plotter, for example, might be well paired with someone with a great ear for dialog.

But whatever talents you bring to the table, you need first and foremost to respect and be respected by the person sitting across from you.

I have been tremendously fortunate in my collaboration with Madelyn Rosenberg. Not only is she smart, funny, and easy-going about all things unimportant, she also has the special talent of disagreeing in a way that makes me (a woman my own husband has called out for my bad habit of “arguing for the sake of argument”) simply laugh and shrug and try again.

But perhaps, after all my rambling, Madelyn describes the process best in this video she made about overcoming some of the obstacles we faced as we wrote DREAM BOY together:

Have you ever considered writing with a partner? How did it turn out? Let us know in the comments below!


MaryCrockett LookawayMary Crockett is a fan of the tongue-stud and coauthor with Madelyn Rosenberg of the upcoming novel DREAM BOY–a book which, like Sally Field, really wants you to like it. You can make the book happy by adding it to your Goodreads bookshelf or pre-ordering at IndieBound, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble. Connect with Mary on Twitter @MaryLovesBooks and Madelyn @MadRosenberg.

Our Lucky 13 Picks for St. Patrick’s Day!

Since March is all about pots of gold at the end of the rainbow and leprechauns–a.k.a. luck!–we thought it would be fitting to highlight our favorite Lucky 13 books this St. Patrick’s Day.

(And in case you don’t know, the Lucky 13s (the “Luckies”) are the debut group of authors from 2013, like OneFour KidLit this year.)

AdriAnne’s Lucky Pick:

The S-Word

THE S-WORD (Simon & Schuster/Gallery) by Chelsea Pitcher blew me away this past year. It’s a fresh, dark take on YA mystery, has crazy twists and turns, and fearlessly addresses issues like suicide, rape, and double-standards in a modern high-school setting. It also has one of the most unique love-interests of all time. Pick up a copy and meet Jessie, then you’ll see what I mean!

Sarah’s Lucky Pick: 

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (Between, #1)

BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA by April Genevieve Tucholke was one of a few Lucky 13’s books that rocked my writing world. April’s writing is lush and flows like fog creeping in from the sea. The story sneaks up on you and pulls you in, and it’s dark and creepy and Gothic and all the things that make me hug a book to my chest. She also has one of the best naughty boys in YA in ages. Definitely one not to miss.

Trisha’s Lucky Pick:

Dear Life, You Suck

Scott Blagden’s DEAR LIFE, YOU SUCK, simply because he is as funny in real life as his MC is. That and it is male POV which I think the YA world needs more of :).

Rin’s Lucky Pick:

The Archived (The Archived, #1)

Victoria Schwab’s THE ARCHIVED: The idea of libraries as a dark and dangerous place has always been a strangely compelling idea for me, and The Archived hammers this home, using evocative imagery and an astonishing attention to detail – and let’s not forget the beautifully poetic writing. If the idea of dead people being stored on library shelves the way one would books appeals to you, or if you’re fascinated with beautifully plotted mysteries-within-mysteries like I am, then do not give this a miss!

Christina’s Lucky Pick:

Gated (Gated, #1)

Wow. This is a tough one. There are so many Lucky 13 books that I completely fell in love with. If I were to pick one, I’d pick Amy Christine Parker’s GATED. Parker does such a brilliant job in getting into the psyche of a teenage girl who would be a part of a cult. It’s beautifully written and completely addictive. You won’t want to put it down once you stop.

Mary’s Lucky Pick:

Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets

DR. BIRD’S ADVICE FOR SAD POETS by Evan Roskos: I loved the voice in this funny-sad-serious-goofy meditation on what it means to be a young person alive in the messed-up world. Definitely something worth yawping about!

What were your favorite Lucky 13 reads? Please share in the comments!

Meet BookYArd Member, Mary Crockett!

2014 will be a year of firsts for us. As debut authors, we’ll learn what it feels like to hold our books in our hands for the first time. We’ll crack open the covers of our newly printed books and read those first words. We might even be asked to sign a first copy for a friend.

So, in the spirit of firsts, I’ve compiled a list of 14 firsts about my life. And since Dream Boy is all about dreams (both literal and metaphorical), I thought I’d start my list of firsts there.

First dream (literal): Frankenstein, Marilyn Monroe, and some random adults were at a party in a huge white room with a vast sunken hot-tub. Witches showed up and paralyzed everybody. Um… yeah, I was a weird little girl.

All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, including Frankenstein head by Cortlandt Hull and witch by Babayaga 14556. Mash-up courtesy of the disturbed imagination of a four-year-old Mary Crockett.
All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, including Frankenstein head by Cortlandt Hull and witch by Babayaga 14556. Mash-up courtesy of the disturbed imagination of a four-year-old Mary Crockett.

First dream (metaphorical): To take off on a cross-country trip with a sexy, kind, and soulful motor-cycle-driving poet.

Photo by Ashley Webb, Flickr Creative Commons. Sexy talk by T.S. Eliot.
Photo by Ashley Webb, Flickr Creative Commons. Sexy talk by T.S. Eliot.

First books: We only had a handful of worn picture books around the house when I was a little kid, so I ended up studying the same books over and over. Some of them I didn’t even particularly like, but by the time I was six, they had become part of my bones. In place of my left femur, I have It Looked Like Spilt Milk. Where once was my sternum is Pitidoe the Color Maker. And somewhere around my fibula, just where it belongs, is Don Freeman’s Space Witch.

X-ray of writer's skeleton
X-ray of kidlit writer’s skeleton

First book I became genuinely obsessed with: Ella Fannie’s Elephant Riddle Book by Ann Bishop. PURE GENIUS! (I’m still kind of obsessed.)

Ella Fannie Elephant Riddle Book
Ella Fannie Elephant Riddle Book — Ann Bishop, wherever you are, I love you!
Question: Why are baby elephants gray?
Answer: So you can tell them apart from blueberries.
Question: What do you get when you cross and elephant with a dog?
Answer: A nervous mailman.
Question: What do you call elephants who ride trains?
Answer: Passengers.

First novel I howled over like a stuck pig: Forever… by Judy Blume.

Various editions of Judy Blume's Forever (which may well be in print... forever....)
Various editions of Judy Blume’s Forever (which, from the look of things, may be in print forever)

First poem I wrote: “Amy and the Ants,” a three-page epic of rhyming couplets in which a little girl teams up with the ants of the world to save humanity (and ant-ity) from nuclear apocalypse.

These high tops are not nearly as outlandish and shiny as my metallic high tops of yore, but they are pretty great. Photo by Riley Alexandra, Flickr Creative Commons.
These high tops are not nearly as outlandish and shiny as my metallic high tops of yore, but they are pretty great. Photo by Riley Alexandra, Flickr Creative Commons.

First shoes I loved: Metallic silver hightops.

First job: Toilet-seat hand model.

First baby: Not a human child at all, but a beagle-chihuahua mutt who let me know she was not only my baby, but she was also The Queen.

Queen Spice The Snaggletooth
Queen Spice the Snaggletooth in her backseat junk pile throne

Sadly, Spice died years ago, but the good news is that she lives on as the star of Dream Boy. (Ok, her spirit possessed me for a second there and made me write the word star. Let me clarify: She is, in fact, a character in Dream Boy, but she’s not the star, she’s just the… ACK! POSSESSION!… Eternal QUEEEEEEN. Bow down, ye measly humans, before the Wonder that is Spice!)

First lie: I ate 50 mini-Butterfingers, and when my father asked if by chance I had gotten into the Butterfingers, I said that I most certainly had not. Then I puked a bucket full of Butterfingers and didn’t eat another one for many, many years.

First thing that, in the words of my mother, could have broken my neck: Jumping off a cliff. (What can I say? My friends were doing it.)

First kiss: A boy named Jimmy whom I had never seen before and have never seen since.

First crush, first love, first husband, current husband, hopefully only husband ever: Stewart.

First time someone stumbled upon a copy of Dream Boy, read it, and let Madelyn and me know they liked it: Ok, this hasn’t happened yet. But you know, 2014 is a year of firsts… and my irrepressible hopefulness is one of my more annoying qualities.


MaryCrockett LookawayMary Crockett is the coauthor of Dream Boy (with Madelyn Rosenberg), coming July 1. You can read more about her first poem, job, kiss, and love here, and can find a poem about Spice here.

Add Dream Boy to your Goodreads list here and preorder it here.

What is love? ~ A Valentine to Young Adult Novels

Love is blind. It conquers all. And, apparently, it’s a many splendored thing. In short, love pretty much looks like this:

Thor in Sparkly Tutu
Thor cut-out by Sam Howzit, Flickr. Blinded and bedazzled by Mary Crockett.

Here, friends, is the reason we can’t depend on such time-tested sayings about love. Because we end up with Thor in an eye patch, wearing a many splendored tutu.

Then what, in these love-troubled times, can we depend on?

Young adult novels, of course!

In celebration of Valentines Day, writers from the BookYArd are looking to their novels to define the true meaning of luvvvvvvvvvv.

Now, petty, tiny humans, take heed–for here is our Valentine.

~  W H A T  I S  L O V E ?  ~

Tavin Barnes, 17-year-old illiterate trash boy and main character of WORDLESS by AdriAnne Strickland, answers:

wordless“Gods, I already feel like enough of an ignoramus without attempting to answer something like this. But here goes: Love is strange, intoxicating, wonderful… and utterly terrifying. It’s sort of like riding a roller coaster drunk. I want to laugh, scream and puke all at the same time.”


DREAM BOY by Mary Crockett and Madelyn RosenbergAnnabelle Manning, the main character of Mary Crockett’s DREAM BOY, is a small-town dreamer who comes to understand love as the ultimate acceptance of another person.

She might say love is the mirror that sees all your flaws and thinks you’re perfect anyway.


Ward Ravenscroft, one of the main characters in A MURDER OF MAGPIES, believes:

Love is knowing that the person you’re with could go to a dark place and still wanting to go with them. No matter how ugly it gets, you hang on because you can’t imagine letting go. You know you’re both gonna be all messed up and different than you were going in, and yet that doesn’t seem so bad. Life, love, whatever, none of it’s supposed to be perfect.


Jae Hwa, the main character of Christina Farley’s GILDED, would tell you that love isn’t simple. It’s full of layers and it requires great sacrifice. In the final scene of the novel, she must make the greatest sacrifice of all. Palk, the god of light, explains it the best when he speaks to Jae:

b2ap3_thumbnail_Gilded_final-cvr-comp_12-11-13“Bravery can only accomplish so much,” Palk says,apparently oblivious to Marc’s panic. “It was your sacrifice for the ones you loved that helped you succeed. That was the difference between you and the others before you.”


girlfromthewellRin Chupeco’s undead protagonist in THE GIRL FROM THE WELL has been a ghost for so long that the concept of love is almost alien to her. But as she relearns how to deal with humans, she also discovers that love means sacrifice, to give up what’s left of you for someone else. It’s a lesson she’s been living with for a long, long time, though she’s only beginning to understand this. She says it best – poignantly, if somewhat ambiguously:

“It is not in my nature, to be interested in the living. But there are many things, I have found, that defy nature.”


Caroline Richmond’s protagonist in ANOMALY, Zara St. James, has hardened herself to love. Growing up in Nazi-occupied America, she has lost so many friends and family to the Germans that she’s afraid to open her heart to anyone.

But if you really prodded Zara about what love means to her, she would tell you that love is her uncle’s laugh. Love is a warm hug from her friend Mrs. Talley. And love is the gentle eyes of Bastian Eckhart, a boy who should be her enemy but who surprises her at every turn.


b2ap3_thumbnail_FallsTheShadow_CVRfinalStefanie Gaither’s main character in FALLS THE SHADOW, Catelyn, struggles throughout the book with concepts of family love and loyalty–both of which are put to the test when her cloned sister turns out to be a lot different than the person she expected her to be (to say the least).

So if you asked her, she might tell you that sometimes love is readjusting expectations, understanding that just because someone isn’t showing love the way you wanted them to, it doesn’t mean they aren’t doing the best they can. And also that sometimes you can still love your sister even when she is annoying the absolute $#%@ out of you.


Danielle Ellison’s main character in FOLLOW ME THROUGH DARKNESS is trying to answer this exact question because love is at the core for what she’s fighting to save, and every decision or regret or question.

At first, Neely never questions love; she has a branding, a mark that all in her community are given, and her branding is connected to Thorne and allows them to feel each other’s emotions. So for her whole life love was always a solidity that she could literally feel.

But then a lot of stuff happens and she learns that her world is a facade…and that may include her feelings for Thorne. Then, her whole concept of love is tested and I think she’s still learning what exactly love is. She used to think that love was a person and solid belief in that person, in what you stood for together, and what you would do to be with that person. It was what she knew. But after, it changes.

Her doubt changes her definition of love and part of her story trying to determine if she loves Thorne because she loves him, or if she loves him because of the bond they share. It may be something else entirely that she’s still trying to define, and love can’t really be defined in miles or hours. It just is.