Tag Archives: YA lit

Interview an Author: Lori Goldstein

BecomingJinnOn May 9th I had the opportunity to interview Lori Goldstein, the author of Becoming Jinn, which was an amazing experience. Lori Goldstein was inspired to write Becoming Jinn by a mother and daughter who survived an earthquake in Turkey the daughter was named Azra which lead to the amount of research she had done for this book. Lori Goldstein had read an Encyclopedia of Jinn and another work surrounding morrocan, middle eastern Jinn. The setting of her great novel is in Massachusetts which she chose because of the shortage of books based in Massachusetts and because of the beautiful beaches that are important locations in her novel. Lori Goldstein also shared with me that the hardest part of the book to write was the first page and that Shay Mitchell from Pretty Little Liars would make a good Azra on the big screen. Finally to my favorite question — if she were working on any other works —  I am delighted to report that she is brainstorming ideas for a stand-alone contemporary novel as well as book two for the a Becoming Jinn series!  Thank you Lori Goldstein for giving me the chance to interview you and I hope you come back to Eight Cousins for your future books.

~ Emily, 17

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Staff Review: Grasshopper Jungle

9780525426035Grasshopper Jungle

Andrew Smith

Penguin Group USA (Dutton Books)


Available February 2014

You just never know what you’re going to get with Andrew Smith’s books (Winger) , and Grasshopper Jungle is no exception.  This novel is pure GMO-run-amok fun. Combining it with teenage boy humor is genius, and I laughed myself silly while reading it. It is FUN, and, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m always looking for something that might appeal to a teenage boy, especially reluctant readers. Teenage boys crack me up, because they are so out there, open, honest, and unapologetic. There are some serious issues in this novel too (besides the bugs): sexual orientation, poverty, missing family members, bullying, prejudice, but Grasshopper Jungle is certainly never preachy.

The takeaway lesson here is to never mix grasshopper semen with corn pollen and human blood, because what you get is “an army of horny, hungry, six-foot tall praying mantises that only want to do two things”, namely, eat people and fornicate. (I do have a slight quibble here: is it praying mantises or grasshoppers? Praying mantises are predatory carnivores and would actually make more sense than grasshoppers, which are herbivores and eat only plants!)

When the local bullies go after high-schoolers Austin Szerba and Robby Brees, they inadvertently set in motion a series of events and mishaps that lead to human annihilation. Robby’s bloody nose dripping onto the pavement would normally just be gross and that would be the end of it, but the bullies then break into a secondhand store that just happens to have secret industrial biohazardous experiments encased in glass globes. Since glass globes containing disgusting bug parts are irresistible to teenage boys, they steal one, and OF COURSE drop it right where Robby has bled. It’s pretty much all downhill from there, but at least the bullies get eaten. Unfortunately, so does everyone else, but in the end, Austin, Robby, and Austin’s girlfriend survive. And, as Andrew Smith would say, “And that was our day. You know what I mean.”

~Lysbeth Abrams

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Staff Review: The Scar Boys

9781606844397The Scar Boys

Len Vlahos

Egmont USA


Available January 2014

In Len Vlahos’s novel, The Scar Boys, Harbinger “Harry” Jones describes himself as “socially lower than a pariah and only barely higher than a corpse.” As an 8-year old, he was disfigured in a horrific bullying incident and will live with the physical scars for the rest of his life. However, it’s the mental scars that have haunted him ever since.

Harry finds an outlet, and eventual salvation, through music. He and a friend — who is pretty much the definition of a “frenemy” — start a band called “The Scar Boys”, and spend a summer touring. Betrayals, shifting allegiances, friendship, financial difficulties, and a love triangle are all part of Harry’s journey, but the music is what rescues him, bringing eventual self-acceptance.

The music in The Scar Boys spoke to me, as it would to anyone who grew up during the 1980s, and I am always looking for books that speak to teenage boys, so I was happy to find this ARC at the NEIBA conference in Providence this year. While I think The Scar Boys is a really really good book, I don’t think it is a GREAT book. Wonder and The Burn Journals both do a better job at describing the pain-filled, lonely journey of an adolescent boy coming to terms with his life. I don’t know too many teenage boys who care one way or the other about the 1980s, and I think the musical references will be lost on them, unless they are hardcore music aficionados. Since music is so integral to this story, the type of music does matter. Nevertheless, the story of being different and feeling like an outcast is universal, and I will certainly add The Scar Boys to my list of YA recommendations.

~ Lysbeth

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Scott Blagden and Sara Farizan

Farizan_Sara_CMYK_HRsmaBlagdenScottsmallSara Farizan and Scott Blagden will be joining us for a Round table discussion about Sex, Drugs, and Violence in YA literature on Tuesday, October 15 at 7 pm. The event will take place at Highfield Hall. Here’s your chance to get to know Scott and Sara a little before the event.

Q: Are there any books or authors who inspired you?

Sara:  My mentor Chris Lynch is my Obi Wan Kenobi and he taught me a great deal, though I don’t think I am anywhere near being a Jedi master as of yet. I always loved J. D. Salinger as a teenager. Marjane Satrapi, John Irving, Richard Russo, Adam Langer, David Sedaris, Gish Jen, Walter Mosley, and Firoozeh Dumas are all kinds of awesome. And I would one day like to write a book as wonderful as The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

Scott: I hate answering this question because there are so many authors I LOVE, but I will say that Adam Rapp is an inspiration, especially with regard to edgy fiction with honest, authentic voices.

Q: What’s your writing routine?

Scott: I do my best writing early in the morning, but I write anywhere and everywhere. Sometimes I go to the Cape Cod Canal with a folding chair and a notebook when I’m working on first draft stuff or just brainstorming.

Sara: I write whenever I can, wherever I can. I like to be alone whether in my room, a bagel shop, or library and listen to music. The music depends on what kind of scene I am writing.  Fiona Apple has gotten me through many scenes over the years.

Q: Is there one particular character in your new book whom you relate to the most? Why?

Sara: I think all of the characters are much braver than I am. But I understand Sahar in her wanting to be with someone she just can’t be with. I think that’s a universal feeling for all young adults.

Scott: In Dear Life, You Suck, I definitely relate to Cricket. His questioning and critical attitude, his inappropriate humor, his disgust with hypocrisy, his curiosity about religion, God, and other philosophical inquiries.

Q: Cats or dogs?

Scott: No and no. I grew up with Doberman Pinschers, but I don’t want to be tied down by the responsibility at this point in my life.

Sara: I’m allergic. I wish both cats and dogs well, but I am not a pet person. I know that makes me seem like Lord Voldemort and very un-American, but there you have it.

Q: What is your secret superpower?

Sara: I am an incredible lip-syncher.

Scott: Tenacity. Rejection letters are like fuel on the fire for me. Say ‘no’ to me or tell me I can’t do something and I’ll only work harder to prove you wrong. FYI – a very necessary superpower for writers who want to get published.


The discussion on Tuesday will be open to audience members, so bring your questions about writing, teens, and touchy topics in YA lit. See you there!

Thanks to Scott, Sara, and Algonquin Books for Young Readers for help with this post.

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Customer Review: These Broken Stars

9781423171027These Broken Stars

Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner



Available December 10, 2013

This book was fantastic, a blend of sci-fi, survival, and creeping horror. I love that it’s told from both Tarver and Lilac’s points of view, keeping in check their strengths and weaknesses, and adding to the suspense. I couldn’t stop reading; I had to know what happened next. And it was never what I expected; These Broken Stars threw me for a dozen loops. Tarver and Lilac face impossible odds, terrifying circumstances, and new problems. Kaufman and Spooner gave them distinct, well-done personalities, and had them fall in love slowly and realistically. Happily, the love story isn’t the main focus of the novel until much later, and it does add to the book.

The only thing I found a little bit off about These Broken Stars was that *only* Tarver and Lilac sruvived, out of the fifty thousand souls on board. I would have liked for them to encounter another survivor or two, but at the same time, the fact that they were utterly and totally alone helped to set the mood for the story.

These Broken Stars was a deliciously unique, tense science fiction, that had me interested from page one all the way to the end. My advice for you – read it. Read it now.

~Emma, age 15

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Customer Review: Gorgeous

9780545464260Paul Rudnick


Scholastic Press


Available now

Paul Rudnick’s Gorgeous was an irresistible read filled with many sarcastic lines that had me laughing out loud. Rudnick’s vivid descriptions and all of his characters’ quirks will captivate the reader from the start. While exploring her inner and outer qualities, Becky will have her share of surprises along the way. You’re definitely in for a ride from the minute you start reading. Gorgeous is out in time for a summertime read and if you’re looking for your Prince Charming then this is the book for you!

-Mimi (17)

Eight Cousins Note: Gorgeous is staff approved. One of our members read and loved this book, too!

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Staff Reviews: The Fault in our Stars and Who Could That Be at This Hour?

9780525478812I was reluctant to put down The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. The main characters, Hazel and August, captured my heart from the beginning, and I could not wait to see how they developed. John Green’s love for the dramatic shattered my heart in the end, but it was worth the pain I endured to finally discover what became of the characters that I had grown so fond of. (Note: The Fault in our Stars was a staff pick for 2012 and is also reviewed here.)

9780316123082I have enjoyed Lemony Snicket’s books since I was a young child, and his newest did not disappoint. With its never ending plot twists and fast paced action, Who Could That Be at This Hour? compelled me to keep reading. Snicket knows how to tailor his writing to his intended audience, and even though he uses long words he never fails to work in a clever definition. If you enjoy his newest mystery but haven’t yet read A Series of Unfortunate Events, then they are a must read as well.

~ Sam, 16

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8 by Eight: Inexcusable by Chris Lynch and Exposed by Kimberly Marcus

9781442442313Our current set of 8 by Eight books focus on teen relationship violence. Chris Lynch’s Inexcusable (Simon & Schuster, $9.99) is an important contribution because it is narrated from the male perspective. Keir insists that he is a “good guy”. He systematically explains how the situation evolved, the events that led up to Gigi’s accusations against him, and why she can’t possibly be right about what she says he’s done. Keir’s misunderstandings and refusal to recognize the bias of his own perspective are evident from the first sentence: “The way it looks is not the way it is”. As much as Keir tries to convince the reader of his innocence and justify his position, the evidence that he himself proclaims is carefully stacked against him. It’s hard to empathize with Keir at all, but I don’t think we’re meant to. Instead, Lynch’s story reminds us to carefully and critically examine the very essence of who we know we are. Because what we know isn’t always what is.

9780375865916In Exposed by Kimberly Marcus, the story is narrated by Liz, sister of the accused and best friend of the accuser. Liz is a photographer and therefore knows that, when taking pictures, what you leave out is as important as what you put in. Unlike Keir, she also understands that perspective is everything and that there is often an enormous gap between what is and what we want to be. Written in free verse, there is a lot of open space within the narrative and on the page for readers to fill in the story, allowing for a range of possible interpretations.

Both authors provide opportunities for debate and Inexcusable contains a Reading Group Guide. Furthermore, both books have enough respect for the difficult nature of the topic to refrain from imposing superficial endings. Neither book offers answers; both ask a lot of important questions.

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Customer Review: Mattie, age 14

9780062014535Mattie, age 14, reviewed an advanced reader copy of Requiem by Lauren Oliver for us (Harper, $18.99, available March 5, 2013). Rating the book as “fabulous”, Mattie recommends Requiem for “people who like the other books in the series or people who like dystopias”. She also indicates that the book teaches important lessons, has an excellent plot and interesting people, is well written, and made her laugh.

Thanks for the review, Mattie!


Local kids and teens who are interested in receiving advanced copies of books should contact us about our ARC review program. Stop in the store and ask one of our staff members, or email us at events@eightcousins.com.

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Customer Review: Falling for You

The following review on Lisa Schroeder’s Falling for You (Simon Pulse, $16.99) is written by one of our long-time customers. Be sure to check this and Schroeder’s other books on display in our store.

Also, our digital Poetry Contest is happening now! Details and the submission form can be found HERE.



Whenever anyone asks me about novels in verse, Lisa Schroeder is the first name that comes out of my mouth. Falling for You, however, is Lisa’s first YA book told in traditional prose (with a good amount of poetry sprinkled throughout). I will admit when I heard this book wasn’t in verse I was disappointed; I was also a little nervous and wondered would it be as good as her other books? Well I am here to tell you that YES IT IS! Silly me to doubt.

The book is about a girl named Rae who has a very difficult home life that she keeps hidden from even her best friends. The way she deals with this dark part of her life is through keeping a poetry journal where she lets all her emotions flow freely.

I absolutely loved the formatting of this book! The book starts off with a snippet of Rae in the hospital but we don’t know what happened to put her there. The book then jumps to six months earlier, then we get another snippet at the hospital, five months later, snippet, four months, and so on and so forth. This created a great sense of tension and mystery throughout the whole book as we wonder what is going to happen to Rae.

As for the characters, it was so refreshing to have such a strong, intelligent, and loving protagonist like Rae. Her love and care for others, even those who had hurt her kept surprising me. She really was a remarkable character.

Nathan is the new guy who immediately shows interest in Rae. You could tell he was trouble from the first moment he opened his mouth; I just wish Rae could have seen it too! It was understandable how she looked past it though, because she had never had a boyfriend before and dreamed of having someone who really cared for her.

Leo was the awesome friend. He was completely laid back, fun, caring, super sweet and did I mention he’s homeschooled?!? Homeschooled characters don’t really pop up often in YA so I was pretty excited. (I was homeschooled myself, so that’s why I’m so excited about this!)

All in all, this book was a battle between light and dark, about finding the light even in the darkest most trying times. It was emotional. It was mysterious. It was hopeful. It was wonderful.

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