Behind the Book: Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray

The Star Wars fandom can rejoice! Claudia Gray, author of Star Wars novels Lost Stars and Bloodline, has returned to that universe once again, with Leia: Princess of Alderaan which describes how a young Leia first becomes involved in the Rebellion. This Young Adult novel is Leia-centric, focused on the character in her younger years before Han Solo and Luke Skywalker entered her life. Her passion, dedication and the pull of responsibility are just getting honed in this precursor to A New Hope, and the novel in paperback November 6, is sure to excite Leia fans of all ages and genders.

Evernight, Firebird, Constellation, Spellcaster and Star Wars— you truly are the master of multiple genres. How does writing in Star Wars canon differ from creating your own series?
The main difference is that with my original work, the world building is all up to me–but the world of Star Wars is already out there, deeper and more developed than anything I’ve done on my own. The world’s greatest designers have already invented planets, ships, creatures and thousands of years of history. It’s a luxury to be able to call upon that when writing Star Wars books.

How do you do research for novels set in an established universe?
Being a big old nerd who already knows a lot of this stuff just through being a fan–that really helps. Beyond that, I’m able to call on my editors and the whole crew at Lucasfilm to ask questions or look at material that feels important to the story.

bookcoverLeia: Princess of Alderaan is not your first foray into the Star Wars galaxy. What makes it different from Lost Stars or Bloodline?
It’s a true young adult novel, for one–Lost Stars really is only YA in its first half, before the characters age into adulthood. Princess of Alderaan is firmly focused on the coming-of-age experience for Leia, as well as some of the people around her. Also, while Leia was the main character in Bloodline, in that book, readers spent time in the POVs of several other characters, getting a wider look at what was going on in the galaxy in the years before The Force Awakens. Princess of Alderaan stays with Leia the whole way, showing us only her understanding of people and politics—which expands over the course of the book, as she learns more. Continue reading

I Love YA—YALSA Teen’s Top Ten Books

On Saturday, October 15 the polls closed for the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) Teen’s Top Ten books of 2016. This top ten list is chosen from teens all around the country who nominate and then vote for their favorite books of the previous year. A big YA reader myself but unable to vote, each year I review the books nominated and choose my own top ten. Then, when the list comes out, I like to compare my choices with the ones the teens have chosen.  Last year, I only got four correct.  Let’s see how I did this year.

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64 Coming-of-Age Books for the Ages


There’s just something about coming of age stories that I’ve always loved. They tend to be raw and honest, funny yet heartbreaking books. Everyone only “comes of age” once in their lifetime, so it’s fun to read others’ stories again and again. A couple of my personal favorites are Skippy Dies by Paul Murray and Winger by Andrew Smith.

We polled our booksellers across the country and below is a list of some of their favorites. What book would you add to this list?

  1. The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton
  2. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
  3. Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami
  4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
  5. Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls
  6. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  7. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
  8. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
  9. The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides
  10. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card Continue reading

Teen Read Week: Final Chapters of Divergent and Legend trilogies

If you ask me how I feel about the final books of the Divergent and Legend trilogies coming out this fall, I will jump up and down with excitement and then break down into tears. Since 2011, young adult booklovers have been following the adventures of Tris and June as they fight battles, fall in love, and struggle to make their respective worlds better places. Now their journeys are coming to an end as the final books in each trilogy are released, and though I desperately want to read the books, I know I will miss the characters when the journey is over.

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Release date: Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Main Characters: Tris & Four

Set within a dystopian version of Chicago, the Divergent Trilogy follows sixteen-year-old Tris Prior, who struggles to find herself within the accepted walls of the factions. But when traitors from two factions work together to seize control of their divided society, Tris discovers the world of the factionless and the reasons the factions were created.  This third book promises to answer all of the questions left unanswered in its predecessors. A movie based on her first book, Divergentis scheduled to be released March 2014.

Champion by Marie Lu

Release date: Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Main Characters: June & Day

This dystopian trilogy begins on the flooded coast of the former city of Los Angeles, where the Republic and the Colonies are at war. The Legend Trilogy follows two fifteen-year-olds, June and Day, who are pitted against each other by the Republic, and are used as pawns by the Patriots. In an interview with USA Today, Lu said that she hopes people will still like her after the ending, which makes me nervous about saying good-bye to these characters. Although there is talk about a movie version of Legend, production has not yet begun on the project.

(Sigh) Well, I guess there is nothing we can do after the last books come out but read each trilogy all over again.

You will be able to find Allegiant and Champion on their release dates at your local Half Price Books as part of our New Bestsellers Program.


Julie is Production Manager at Half Price Books Corporate.
You may follow her on Twitter at @auntjewey.

Young Adult Library Services Association 2012 Teen Choice Nominees

It’s that time again! Time to vote for the Young Adult Library Services Association’s (YALSA) Teen’s Top Ten list, nominated by teen book discussion groups in libraries and schools across the country. Last year’s winners included Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare and one of my favorites, Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver. Here are a few of the nominees for this year.
Divergent by Veronica Roth
This book has been getting a lot of attention this year and has even been reviewed by our own Kristen B. in her “Countdown to Summer: 4 Dystopian Young Adult Series” blog post.  This book is one of my top picks for the YALSA Teen’s Top Ten list.  In a world where you are forced to make a choice between five factions that will end up determining your friends, your family, and your beliefs for the rest of your life, sixteen-year-old Tris discovers that she is divergent, a word that is spoken in hushed tones, if it is spoken at all.  But what does it mean to be divergent?  Are there others like her? Will being divergent help her save her family and friends when the unity between factions is broken?  A definite must read for teens and adults alike. The movie rights to Divergent have been picked up by Summit Studios and Evan Daughtery will be writing the screenplay. Currently, the movie is scheduled to come out in 2015.
Scarlett by A.C. Gaughen
If you love the story of Robin Hood, you will love A.C. Gaughen’s Scarlett.  Will Scarlett is one of the most well known of Robin Hood’s legendary merry men. However, what most people don’t know, is that Will Scarlett is actually a girl disguised as a boy in order to escape the guilt of her past, and the man who gave her the scar that mars her face.  But when her past catches up with her, will she face what she has dreaded for so long, or will she run, leaving Robin to pay for her past with his life?  This book is nonstop action, moving from one fight to the next in true Robin Hood fashion.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
This book is a trip!  Interspersed with very peculiar (for lack of a better word) photographs, this book tells the story of sixteen-year-old Jacob who embarks on a journey to a remote island off of Wales, after witnessing his grandfather being murdered by a strange creature who seemed to step right out of Jacob’s nightmares. Once on the island, Jacob steps through a time loop to find a home of children who can fly, turn invisible, and make fire in the palms of their hands, At this home, Jacob finds out that not only was his grandfather “peculiar,” but he is as well, and that the “peculiars” are being hunted by the same creatures he has been seeing in his nightmares.  What Jacob doesn’t know is that those creatures have followed him to Wales and in his dogged pursuit of the truth about his grandfather, he may have just put them all in grave danger.
This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel
For all of you who have been dying for a prequel to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the wait is over. Kenneth Oppel’s This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Fankenstein follows sixteen-year-old Victor as he searches for a way to save his brother’s life.  Though there is a lot of sibling rivalry between Victor and his twin brother, Konrad, the two boys love each other very much. So, when Konrad becomes ill and the doctors don’t seem to be helping, Victor turns to alchemy, a mysterious science whose practice has been outlawed.  As Victor secretly searches for the elixir of life, he discovers secrets that his family has been hiding from him, and a passion that may put his brother’s life at greater risk.  Though an interesting premise and a good read, I didn’t find anything in Victor that made me want to cheer for him.  Then again, maybe that was the point.

Check out the complete list of the 25 nominees for YALSA Teen’s Top Ten list (PDF) and let me know which books you think will make it. Voting open for readers ages 12-18 now through September 15, 2012. Winners to be announced during Teen Read Week, October 14-20.

— Julie

Countdown to Summer: 4 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Young Adult Series

Looking for some more traditional, yet still action-packed series for you or your kids? The summer is the perfect time to dive into some action and adventure with these science fiction/fantasy young adult series. Much like the dystopian young adult series, these novels tend to have less romance and more action, so they are perfect for both boys and girls of all ages!
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, is a series about a 12 year old brilliant millionaire, who also happens to be a criminal mastermind. In this first novel, Artemis takes on the world of the Faerie and captures Holly Short for a ransom. A battle full of action and wit between Artemis and the Faerie world ensues. Artemis starts out as a pessimistic and cold boy, but turns into a rather charming young man throughout the series, who shows remorse for his previous bad actions. Delve into the series now, so that you and your kids can be ready when the eighth and final book is published later this year!
In the Ranger’s Apprentice series by John A. Flanagan, 15 year old Will wanted to be a warrior, but instead he was chosen to be Ranger’s Apprentice. At first Will is terrified, thinking that the Rangers are partially evil, but he soon discovers that the Rangers are the ones that have been long protecting their kingdom from other evil magic forces. Start with the first book in the series, The Ruins of Gorlan, for an action-packed ride with Will through the Kingdom of Araluen, which is loosely based on medieval Europe. At 11 books and still counting, this is one series that will keep you occupied for most of the summer!
The Graceling Realm series by Kristin Cashore starts with Graceling. Katsa is a Graceling, or a person who is extremely skilled. As rare as a Graceling is, her skill is even more unique. She has been able to kill people with her bare hands since she was eight. While being a Graceling is usually a blessing, for Katsa it’s a curse. Her uncle, King Randa, uses her to punish and scare people in his kingdom. One day Katsa meets a prince who just might match her in combat skills, and her entire world turns upside down. The two other books in the series, Fire and Bitterblue, follow other characters that have some of the same challenges that Katsa did.
The Ender’s Game series by Orson Scott Card is an oldie, but a goodie. Andrew “Ender” Wiggins is a brilliant kid who is chosen above his older brother and sister to attend the Battle School, where he can receive intense military training through mock battles against the aliens that are attacking earth. Ender flourishes at school and soon starts skipping grades. Because of his abilities, Ender is isolated and a rival of all his classmates. Towards the end of the first novel, Ender’s Game, Ender discovers that his training was not what he thought it was. This series can be fairly violent, but has a great message for kids, especially young men, that even those who are destined for greatness have many trials and tribulations along the way.

Sci-Fi/Fantasy Young Adult novels aren’t exactly your cup of tea? Coming up in our final edition of “Countdown to Summer,” we’ll offer recommendations for 4 Fallen Angel Teen Fiction Series. Check back on the blog next week!
Also be sure to stop by your local Half Price Books to pick up a reading log for your kids. Kids 14 and under can earn $5 HPB Back-to-School Bucks for reading in June and July with the Feed Your Brain® Summer Reading Program.

— Kristen B.

Countdown to Summer: 4 Dystopian Young Adult Series

The Hunger Games trilogy has made way for a whole host of new dystopian teen fiction series to be published, much in the same way that Twilight did for paranormal romance. The dystopian series generally don’t have as much romance, but a lot more action and therefore tend to be more appealing to both boys and girls of all ages (yes, adults too!). Next time you’re in HPB, be on the lookout for some of these series for either you or your kids.
In the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth, 16-year-old Beatrice, a.k.a. Tris, discovers that she is not like the rest of the people in dystopian Chicago. Instead of being chosen for one of five factions – Candor (the honest), Erudite (the intelligent), Amity (the peaceful), Dauntless (the brave), and Abnegation (the selfless) – like the rest of the population, she is worthy of three: Erudite, Dauntless, and Abnegation. At the choosing ceremony, she chooses to be part of the Dauntless faction, while her brother chooses a rival. Tris then has to go through the Dauntless initiation process, where she discovers that her world isn’t as perfect as she once thought. Divergent makes way for the next book in the series, Insurgent, which was just published in May.
The beginning of The Maze Runner series, by James Dashner, starts with a boy named Thomas awakening in an elevator, remembering absolutely nothing but his first name. Once the doors open, he discovers that he is not alone. He is surrounded by other boys who were also dumped in an elevator with no memory. The very next day, something even more peculiar happens and a girl arrives. Every day they run through the maze, hoping to find the end so that they can escape this unknown place and discover who they really are and where they came from. if you didn’t get enough of your questions answered by the last novel The Death Cure, a prequel to the trilogy, The Kill Order, is scheduled for release in August. It is expected to shed some light on to how the world became such a dark and terrible place. Check out a sneak peek at the cover art and an excerpt from the book courtesy of USA Today.
Delirium by Lauren Oliver starts out in a dystopia U.S. where love has been banned. The government claims that love is a disease, or a “deliria” for which a surgical cure has been discovered. It is required that everyone receives this cure once they turn 18. Shortly before she is scheduled to have the operation, Lena falls in love with a man who has not had the cure. Because of this change in Lena, she decides not to have the procedure and to escape instead. Lena goes to live in “The Wilds,” where she encounters a whole new set of challenges. The next book in the trilogy, Pandemonium, was recently published, and the third book, Requiem is expected to be published in February 2013. There are also whispers of a “Delirium” movie adaptation.
The Legend series by Marie Lu, is the quintessential dystopian thriller for teens. Also set in a dystopian America,  a.k.a. The Republic, Legend features a rich and beautiful 15 year old girl named June, who is destined for the military, and Day, the country’s most wanted criminal. Day becomes a prime suspect for the murder of June’s brother, and they meet only to discover that they are not each other’s true enemies. The Republic is hiding secrets The next book in the series, Prodigy is expected to be published in January 2013.

Want some more adventure? Stay tuned for the next “Countdown to Summer” reading recommendations — 4 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Teen Fiction Series. And if you missed the last one, jump back to see 4 Vampire Romance Teen Fiction Series to try this summer.

— Kristen B.

P.S. Get rewarded for your extracurricular reading! Kids 14 and under can earn $5 HPB Back-to-School Bucks during the Feed Your Brain® Summer Reading Program. Pick up your reading log at your local HPB today to get started!

Top 5 Young Adult Banned Books

Banned Books Awareness Week begins tomorrow, September 24, and to celebrate this week, here are my top 5 Banned Books for Young Adults. 

First, what is a banned book? A banned book is any book that has ever been removed from the shelves of a library, bookstore or classroom because of its controversial content.  This does not mean that the book has been removed from all libraries, bookstores or classroom, or that it is no longer available to readers. What it does mean is that at one time someone has stopped others in their country, state or community from reading these books.  Although some banned books have been burned or even refused publication, most books are banned because someone has decided that the content of a certain book is not suitable for another person or group of people to read, and they are taken off the shelves of classrooms or school libraries in the area where the book is banned.

1. The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank (first published in English 1952)

This true-life story of a young Jewish girl living in hiding in Amsterdam during World War II explores Anne’s true thoughts and feelings about herself, her family, boys, and the war.  Anne receives a diary for her 13th birthday.  Less than a month later, she and her family are in hiding as the Nazis continue to round up all the Jews in Holland and send them to labor camps. Reading this book, you would assume it was banned because of its difficult subject matter. I mean, how do you explain anti-Semitism or the Holocaust to a young American teen? Another reason you might think this book would be banned is for Anne’s honesty about her feelings toward her changing body and the emotional issues that plague every teen. And though the book has been banned in certain areas because certain passages were considered “sexually offensive,” the most common reason The Diary of a Young Girl has been banned is because it was “a real downer.”  Only happy books for these people it seems.

2The Outsiders, by S. E. Hinton (published 1967)

I have to admit that this novel, which tells the story of a sensitive fourteen-year-old boy from the wrong side of town, was my favorite book when I was twelve and thirteen. The main character, Ponyboy, and his friend Johnny get into a fight with two of the social set, called “Socs.” During this fight, Johnny kills one of the “Socs.”  After that, Ponyboy and Johnny run away to escape persecution. Again, the reasons for banning this book are not always what you would expect.  You would assume the book would be banned because of violence (there is also a big “rumble” at the end of the book), but the actual reasons for banning this book include “drug and alcohol use ” and the fact that “virtually all the characters are from broken homes.”  Ironically, this story was based on a real life situation, as one of Hinton’s friends had been “jumped” for being a “Greaser.” The event upset Hinton so much that she went home and started writing The Outsiders. She was fifteen years old when she wrote the book.

3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier (published 1974)

Trinity High School, a boys’ Catholic school, sells chocolate every year, but this year the chocolate sales are more important than ever.  The goals have doubled and so has the price. Though the group of school bullies known as the Vigils have promised to support the chocolate sale, they give the assignment to fourteen-year-old Jerry to refuse to sell the chocolates.  And so, Jerry finds himself at war against the biggest bully of them all, his teacher.  The Chocolate War is a book about standing up to bullies and the sometimes futility behind it.  However, according to some critics, the book’s “vulgar language” and “sexual content” seem to overshadow its anti-bullying message. Personally, I thought the anti-bullying message was not overshadowed, and the book adequately portrayed the thoughts and feelings of the bullies as well as the bullied.



4.  ttyl, by Lauren Myracle (published 2004)

This interesting book, the first of three by author Lauren Myracle, is written solely in Instant Messenger and follows the messages of three fifteen-year-old girls as they face the daily struggles of high school.  While Angela (SnowAngel) faces constant boy trouble, and Maddie (mad maddie) is singled out by a mean girl causing total school-wide humiliation, Zoe (zoegirl) gets in over her head with a flirty teacher.  The book’s theme is friendship, and although it does cover topics that some may consider controversial, it never promotes negative behavior as a way to deal with those topics. Lauren Myracle’s entire series has been banned and challenged in many schools because of “sexually explicit content” and “foul language.”  Of course, it doesn’t help that it is “grammatically incorrect.”

5.  The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (published 2008)

Set in the ruins of what was once known as North America, this dystopian novel follows sixteen-year-old Katniss as she is forced to participate in what is known as the Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death between twenty-four boys and girls, ages twelve through eighteen.  The games are a way for the Capitol to keep the twelve districts in line by forcing each district to send one boy and one girl to fight to the death each year. When Katniss’ sister is chosen to participate in the game, Katniss volunteers to take her sister’s place. In the games, Katniss’s pride and perseverance, along with her hunting skills, make her a contender, and she and Peeta, her male counterpart, end up breaking the rules and changing the game.  Needless to say the book is banned because of “excessive violence,” and author Suzanne Collins admits the Hunger Game trilogy is violent. “It’s a war trilogy,”  she says. However, it is also banned for “sexual content,” which is odd since although it has a bit of a love story, the most they do is kiss, and though they do share a sleeping bag for a few days, it’s more about keeping warm than anything else. It does make me wonder what the movie is going to make of that scene though.  The Hunger Games movie is scheduled for release in March 2012.

For more about banned books and why they are banned, check out

So what is your favorite banned book, and why is it banned?

— Julie

Young Adult Library Services Association 2011 Teen’s Choice Nominees

It’s time to vote for the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) Teen’s Top Ten, a “teen choice” list, where teens nominate and choose their favorite books from the previous year. Every year, 30+ publishers send recent young adult titles to teen book discussion groups in libraries and schools across the country. These groups evaluate the books and nominate their favorites for YALSA’s Teen’s Top Ten list. Being a big fan of previous winners – like Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney, Inkheart by Cornelia Funke and Twilight by Stephenie Meyer – I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth (no pun intended) into this year’s list. Of the twenty-five nominees, here are my two favorite picks for the YALSA Teen’s Top Ten.

before i fall by Lauren Oliver

Sam, a popular senior girl at Thomas Jefferson High School, gets into a car accident coming home from a party and dies, but instead of a white light or pearly gates, she wakes up in her own bedroom and must live through the day of her death again. Now, she is stuck in a loop and every time she goes to sleep, she wakes up the morning of her accident, and every day she discovers something new about herself, about her accident and about how her actions affect other people. A definite must read, with an ending I didn’t expect. Be prepared for a few tears.

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

The second book in the Leviathan series, continues the adventures of Deryn/Dylan, a girl (Deryn) dressed as a boy (Dylan) serving as a British airman during World War I. Though constantly worried that someone will discover her secret, Deryn makes friends with Alek, an Austrian prince who has a few secrets of his own, and together they plan a revolution, destroy the Germans’ hold on the Ottoman empire and save the British airship “The Leviathan” from the Germans new weapon, the Teslaa canon. This series was my first experience with the steampunk genre, and I can’t wait to read the third book – Goliath is scheduled for release in September.

Other books on the list include I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore, Love Inc. by Yvonne Collins, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, the third and final installment of the Hunger Games trilogy. 

Be sure to check out the complete list of the 25 YALSA Teen’s Top Ten nominees. Voting will begin August 22 for readers ages 12-18 and the winners will be announced during Teen Read Week, October 16-22.  

Which is your pick? And who do you think will make it to the top ten?

— Julie