Malorie Blackman

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The Second Young Adult Literary Convention (YALC) 2015

Published September 5, 2015 by bibliobeth

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Apologies for getting this post up a bit late but here’s what happened when my sister Chrissi Reads and I visited YALC for the second year!

YALC is the brain-child of previous Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman, who was awarded an OBE for her services to children’s literature in 2008 and from the moment appointed has been incredibly passionate about getting young people to read.

The programme for 2015 involved exciting author talks, workshops, book signings, competitions and much, much more. If you’re a big YA fan, this is the one event you don’t want to miss out on. And for bloggers, it’s a brilliant way to meet your favourite authors (and perhaps even other bloggers finally face to face) scour the beautiful books on offer from their Waterstones partner and perhaps even meet one of your all-time favourite idols. Judy Blume and Patrick Ness, I’m talking about you!

This year, YALC was kind enough to add on an extra day and after making sure we definitely had three day tickets we toddled off to Olympia, London where it was being held this year alongside London Film and Comic Con. First of all, thank you so much YALC for the priority queue jumping! Alongside a bunch of Storm Troopers, Walking Dead fans covered in (fake) blood and many, MANY scantily clad women we entered the centre, making a bee-line for the YALC section, of course. We decided we weren’t going to attend any talks that day so enjoyed grabbing our free tote bag and noticing with delight that the Book Wall from last year had indeed returned!

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Oh yes. Happy times slouched on the bean bags or deck chairs recovering from all the YALC excitement and meeting up with blogger friends old and new. I think Saturday was probably our best day for talks, the first one we went to was YA: The next generation with Alice Oseman, Lucy Saxon, Helena Coggan and Taran Matharu, chaired by Samantha Shannon. It was a great opportunity to hear about the state of YA fiction right now and be introduced to some promising new talent. Before a spot of lunch we also attended the Being A Girl talk with Hayley Long, C J Daughtery, Holly Smale, Malorie Blackman and Laura Dockrill chaired by Anna James. The talk centred around strong female characters in YA (hooray!) and there’s nothing better than a bit of feminist girl power to get you in the mood for a bit more book hunting in the fabulous Waterstones book area.

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Carrie Hope Fletcher did a brilliant job of hosting the next talk: Carrie Hope Fletcher’s YALC book club with Malorie Blackman, Holly Smale and Samantha Shannon. The authors all talked about how they approach writing individually and some of their tips and advice for wanna-be authors was truly inspirational. Then came the talk I was looking forward to the most: Judy Blume and Patrick Ness in conversation!! Excuse me while I fan myself.

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Patrick was a fantastic interviewer and asked the questions everyone wanted to know. I was a huge Judy Blume fan when I was growing up and I came away feeling like I knew Judy Blume personally – she is such a sweetheart and really funny to boot. Patrick Ness is one of my most recent favourite authors and I was absolutely determined I was going to meet him and get my treasured copy of A Monster Calls signed.

Yes, it was time to join some signing queues. After a pitiful performance last year with NO books signed this year I swore was going to be different and spying a beautiful graphic novel of Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman I snapped it up and joined her queue. She was just as nice and down to earth as I had imagined her to be and although I was terribly starstruck I managed to string a couple of sentences together at least! I also managed to pin down the lovely Alexia Casale and she kindly signed my copy of House Of Windows, her second novel which I was very excited to read. After waiting for a little while, it was finally time to meet Queen Judy Blume to get my copy of her new novel, In the Unlikely Event signed. She was also really sweet and friendly even if I did make a bit of a fool of myself by dipping her a little curtsey as I approached the signing desk. (I didn’t mean to – it came out sub-consciously!)

Sunday dawned bright and sunny and we went to two talks, Mental health in YA with Matt Whyman, Brian Conaghan, Annabel Pitcher and Holly Bourne chaired by Imogen Russell Williams. This was a fantastic talk about a very important subject quite close to my heart and although we left the talk a bit overwhelmed, the authors did a great job of bringing mental health to the forefront. The second talk followed the very popular “sexy” panel at YALC 2014 – Bringing sexy back with Non Pratt, Louise O’Neill, Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison chaired by the wonderful James Dawson. This talk was just as laugh-out-loud funny and brutally honest as last year’s talk as the panel discussed the role of sex in YA novels. Oh my goodness, and James Dawson’s costume? It had to be seen to be believed!

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Believe me, the photo does not do it justice.

The other highlight of the day was finally managing to meet Patrick Ness and get my book signed. I even had to miss his talk, Sir Terry and me just to make sure I was in the signing queue. He was lovely and I know he spoke to me and I answered but for the life of me I couldn’t tell you what he said, I was in my own excited little world.

So, that’s it! YALC over for another year. We had a brilliant time and it was just as successful if not more so than last year. Thank you to all the organisers and authors for making it an event to remember.

Here is my swag!

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See you in 2016, YALC. I can’t wait already!

 

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Knife Edge (Noughts And Crosses #2) – Malorie Blackman

Published August 19, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

This thought-provoking and often provocative look at racism is a sequel to the award-winning Noughts & Crosses.

Persephone (Sephy) Hadley, now an 18-year-old single parent, is raising her biracial daughter in a sharply divided alternate England, where black Crosses suppress the white Noughts. She faces pressure from both her less-than-understanding Cross family and her disintegrating Naught family, and everyone in between. When her brother-in-law’s violent behavior leads to murder, Sephy provides a false alibi to save Jude, but doing so irreparably damages other lives.

What did I think?:

I’ve only dipped my toe so as to speak into Malorie Blackman’s excellent young adult reads so far, starting with the brilliant Noughts And Crosses (read my review HERE) and now with the follow up Knife Edge. Well, I might be a bit of a latecomer to the party but blow me down with a feather she is a superb writer! I always worry with a series that it might suffer from “second book syndrome,” or tail off and lose my interest but I enjoyed the sequel just as much as I did the first. I’m going to try my hardest not to spoil things for those of you that haven’t begun the series yet but it might be better if you go off and read the first book then come back and read my review!

Okay, so where the first novel focuses on two Romeo and Juliet-esque characters who are fated never to be together purely because of the difference in their skin colours, the second tends to focus and hone in on a couple of these characters – Persephone (Sephy to her friends) and Jude. After the nail-biting and shocking ending of Noughts & Crosses, Sephy has a hell of a lot more to be worried about then just relationships. She now has a whole new life to be responsible for in the form of Callie Rose, a daughter named for her father and more precious to her than anything else. Life never runs smoothly for Sephy sadly and she ends up moving in with Callum’s mother Meggie who is not completely delighted to have her there but begins to dote on her little grand-child. Poor Sephy is also suffering from what happened in the last novel along with a bout of post natal depression which begins to threaten her relationship with her daughter.

As well as Sephy’s viewpoint, we also get one from another familiar character – Jude, Callum’s brother who is on the run after being wanted as a member of the Liberation Militia, a violent organisation seeking equal rights for Noughts in a world ruled by inequality. He is absolutely furious with Sephy (and with all Crosses in general) for what he believes she has put his family through and when something happens to him that shakes his whole belief system, their paths cross again. Will she help him or will it be daggers at dawn?

I’ve got to admit I had no idea about which way Malorie Blackman was going to take this story after the ending of the first novel (which was pure fireworks for me, by the way) and I’m really pleased she dug down a bit deeper into her characters mindsets. We have suffered with Sephy from the very beginning of the series but in Knife Edge we see her becoming a mother, overcoming obstacles and really growing as a person. But Jude – what can I say? He is a vile, disgraceful and embarrassing piece of humanity but by the author exploring his character in more depth and allowing for a tiny glimmer of good that he might possess, I even started feeling a bit sorry for him! Only a bit, mind you. Once again, I also loved the way in which the author presented this dystopian world not too far removed from our own, where skin colour can mean everything in life is granted or taken away from you. And the ending? Oh dear Lord, she’s done it again….it’s one terrific cliffhanger that will have you grabbing for the third book in this four book series Checkmate immediately!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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June 2015 – Chrissi Cupboard Month #3

Published June 1, 2015 by bibliobeth

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It’s June. And that means…. (drumroll please) it’s Chrissi Cupboard Month!

My lovely sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads gives me books on a regular basis, and as she reads at the speed of light I have had to acquire a cupboard in my bedroom purely for her books. Unfortunately, with all my other books and huge TBR pile, I’m not getting through them as fast as I’d like so I would like to dedicate the month of June to reading books purely from the Chrissi Cupboard. I will obviously be reading my short story every week and our Kid-Lit and Banned books for the month of June, but I’m hoping the majority of books will be from this cupboard. Here are the first ten I am planning to read and review:

Only Ever Yours – Louise O’Neill

Under My Skin – James Dawson

The Beloved – Alison Rattle

The Assassin’s Blade – Sarah J. Maas

Something Strange And Deadly – Susan Dennard

Cress – Marissa Meyer

The Giver – Lois Lowry

The Last Leaves Falling – Sarah Benwell

Checkmate – Malorie Blackman

Monsters Of Men – Patrick Ness

I’ve picked each of these books because they are ones that I’ve been wanting to get to for a while now. I am honestly looking forward to each and every one of them! Have you read any? What are your favourites? Let me know!

Noughts & Crosses (Noughts & Crosses #1) – Malorie Blackman

Published December 14, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Two young people are forced to make a stand in this thought-provoking look at racism and prejudice in an alternate society.

Sephy is a Cross — a member of the dark-skinned ruling class. Callum is a Nought — a “colourless” member of the underclass who were once slaves to the Crosses. The two have been friends since early childhood, but that’s as far as it can go. In their world, Noughts and Crosses simply don’t mix. Against a background of prejudice and distrust, intensely highlighted by violent terrorist activity, a romance builds between Sephy and Callum — a romance that is to lead both of them into terrible danger. Can they possibly find a way to be together?

What did I think?:

I am ashamed to say that even though Malorie Blackman is our Children’s Laureate in the UK until 2015, this is the first of her books I have read. She first came on my radar earlier this year with all the buzz around the first Young Adult Literary Convention which she organised and I attended and had a really great time. I’m happy to say that I’ve now been bitten by the Blackman bug as this book was truly fantastic and I can’t wait to continue the series. The novel is set in a world where individuals are divided into two classes on the basis of their skin colour. The Crosses are the elite, ruling class and are dark-skinned and the Noughts (or “no colour”) are the white subservient class who at one time, were slaves to the Crosses. Slavery has been abolished, but racial prejudice still runs high. The Crosses get the top jobs, the best pay etc whereas the Crosses tend to do more menial labours that require little/no education. It is only recently that Noughts have started allowing Crosses to enter their system for a better schooling yet there are no guarantees that they will be employed, especially if the employer is a Cross.

Our two main characters are Sephy and Callum who have been inseparable best friends since childhood even though Sephy is a Cross and Callum is a Nought. As they continue to grow up their feelings for each other change and they begin to fall in love. Unfortunately, this coincides with both teenagers becoming more aware of the differences between them and a heightened racial prejudice being reported in the media. For example, the idea of a Nought and a Cross becoming a couple is seen as despicable in most quarters. Furthermore, Callum who has been accepted to a high class Cross school, is in the obvious minority and suffers from physical attacks and taunts on a daily basis, sometimes shockingly, from the teachers. Fed up with being a second class citizen, Callum does not know where to turn and even Sephy cannot fully understand what he is going through, being a rich Cross who is chauffeur-driven to school due to her father being a rising and popular politician. Callum’s brother has decided to channel his hatred in a different manner – by joining the Liberation Militia, a Nought group fighting back against racial prejudice, but often in violent and almost terrorist ways. Callum has never condoned violence and is filled with hatred for what his brother does, but during his day to day life, he is becoming more isolated and is distancing himself from Sephy, afraid of what will happen if their two worlds collide. Sephy herself becomes increasingly desperate, not knowing how to reach out to Callum but is certain that they are meant to be together.

This was such a powerful book that affected me on so many levels. It’s almost like a modern day or dystopian Romeo and Juliet love story – ah, the star crossed lovers that can’t be together! Malorie Blackman has put her own magical spin on it however with the main theme being racial prejudice, that is just as heart-breaking and passionate as Shakespeare’s original story. I don’t think she had any motive in turning things round so that it was dark-skinned individuals who had the upper hand. In fact, I think she was making a general statement that racial prejudice of any kind against any person of any colour is fundamentally wrong and should not be tolerated. Sadly, there are still some deluded individuals out there who can’t quite understand this… Anyway, I absolutely loved the characters, the excitement of the plot, the suspense element and the (my mouth is gaping wide open right now) ending. This is a series with so much potential and from a talented author such as Malorie Blackman, I think it’s going to go really, really far.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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December 2014 – Chrissi Cupboard Month #2

Published December 1, 2014 by bibliobeth

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It’s December. And that means…. (drumroll please) it’s Chrissi Cupboard Month!

My lovely sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads gives me books on a regular basis, and as she reads at the speed of light I have had to acquire a cupboard in my bedroom purely for her books. Unfortunately, with all my other books and huge TBR pile, I’m not getting through them as fast as I’d like so I would like to dedicate the month of December to reading books purely from the Chrissi Cupboard. I will obviously be reading my short story every week and our Kid-Lit book for the month of December, but I’m hoping the majority of books will be from this cupboard. Here are the first ten I am planning to read and review:

Everneath – Brodi Ashton

Golden Boy – Abigail Tarttelin

Roof Toppers – Katherine Rundell

The Wrong Boy – Suzy Zail

Half Bad – Sally Green

Knife Edge – Malorie Blackman

This Book Is Gay – James Dawson

She Is Not Invisible – Marcus Sedgwick

Legend – Marie Lu

Throne Of Glass – Sarah J. Maas

I’m really looking forward to each and every book in this challenge and have a sneaking suspicion that there might be a couple of 5-stars hiding in there! Let me know if you’ve read any and what you think. Hooray for Chrissi Cupboard Month! For Chrissi’s fabulous blog please click HERE.

The First (but hopefully not the last) Young Adult Literary Convention (YALC) 2014

Published July 25, 2014 by bibliobeth

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YALC is the brain-child of current Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman, who was awarded an OBE for her services to children’s literature in 2008 and from the moment appointed, has been incredibly passionate about getting young people to read. Alarming statistics show that only 3 out of 10 young people read daily out of school, and a fifth say they would be embarrassed if a friend saw them reading.

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Malorie Blackman (photo from http://www.theguardian.com)

Malorie says…

“We are incredibly lucky to have such a wealth of fantastic children’s authors and illustrators in this country who create incredible stories for young adults to enjoy.  It’s so important to encourage, sustain and where necessary instil a love of reading in our teenagers.  Reading opens doors and creates life opportunities. That’s why I want to do my utmost to promote YA books for all our young (and older!) readers.”

All hail Queen Malorie! YALC promised a fantastic line-up of events, including panel talks with authors, intimate workshops, a publishers stand with goodies galore and an opportunity to purchase a wide range of YA fiction from sponsor Waterstones. Having bought our Early Bird Tickets for both days (Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th July) my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads were very excited to experience all the delights YALC had to offer. So, how did it go?

DAY 1 – Saturday 12th July

Our introduction to YALC

London Comic Con – the craziness!

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I have never experienced the pure craziness that is the London Comic Con, and couldn’t believe the immense crowds both outside Earls Court and inside where moving around became a bit of a mammoth task. After finally locating the YALC section at the back of the huge hall, Chrissi Reads and I let out a huge sigh, gritted our teeth and began to move through the crowds. (What things we do for our love of books!). We also weren’t prepared for the amount of people in strange and wonderful costumes – we recognised Spider-Man, Batman, The Power Rangers, Darth Vader and some Stormtroopers and…er… Half-Naked Lady? It was quite an experience! What was funny though was how quickly we got used to seeing costumed superheroes wandering around, checking texts and posing for photos and it became entirely natural to see Iron Man for instance, desperately seeking the toilets.

After locating the YALC Book Zone, our first task was to get some tickets for the first panel talk – The End of The World As We Know It with James Smythe as chair and also featuring Sarah Crossan, Patrick Ness and Malorie Blackman to talk about the dystopian genre, why they think it’s so “hot” right now, and what they see as the future of the genre. Malorie Blackman officially opened the proceedings in a fabulous costume and speaking in Klingon, and Patrick and Sarah provided some witty and interesting insights into the world of dystopia. Does it represent the fears teenagers have for their future? And is there also some hope and positivity in these worlds that young people can cling on to for comfort?

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James Smythe, Sarah Crossan, Patrick Ness and Malorie (Klingon) Blackman

Photo from http://www.theguardian.com

The talk was very entertaining and I was especially excited to see Patrick Ness (my new favourite author) who did not let me down and had me in fits of giggles. Next, it was time to see what else YALC had to offer. We visited publishers stands where I managed to bag some bookmarks, a cute YALC badge and even some advance copies of books I’m quite excited about. This included There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake and Solitaire by Alice Oseman. And where Waterstones are selling books, it’s compulsory to buy some! I picked up Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman and the illustrated edition of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. Then we visited a couple of stands where other YA authors were promoting their work and I picked up The Narrows by James Brogden and Dystopia by Anthony Ergo, both authors were absolutely lovely and took time to talk to us. At the Hot Keys Book stand, they had a fabulous idea going where you could bring in a book and swap it with another which is where I acquired a copy of Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd.

After all that book buying and walking around it was time to go home, shoulders feeling the extra strain but incredibly happy bloggers! Bring on Day 2.

DAY 2 – Sunday 13th July

Talks, talks, oh and a Book Wall!

The next morning, Chrissi Reads and I were up bright and early but we were still not prepared for the enormous queue that awaited us when we arrived at Earls Court. Looping right round the building it ended up in the underground parking space and then looped a bit more. We needn’t have worried however, as soon as the doors opened at 09:00, the queue moved very fast and it was a little easier to navigate our way to the Book Zone to make sure we had all the tickets for the talks we wanted to see. The first talk didn’t start for a while, so it was the perfect opportunity to curl up on a bean bag and read under a Wall of Books.

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The Book Wall at YALC

Photo from http://www.theguardian.com

Sooner than we knew it, it was time for the first talk which was set to be interesting with the title: I’m Too Sexy For This Book, featuring the newly-crowned Queen of Teen, James Dawson at the helm and also featuring Cat Clarke, Non Pratt and Beth Reekles. The talk was absolutely hilarious and dragged down into the gutter at times but always in a fun way, with innuendos galore and lots of “sexy fun time.” Where do you draw the line with sex in young adult novels? Shock announcement – yes, some teenagers do actually have sex! All panellists agreed that if the sex is portrayed in a positive and educational way, it cannot be a bad thing. Personally, I remember Judy Blume’s Forever feeling quite graphic to me as a teenager, but I think I also learned a few things that I may have got the wrong information about otherwise.

The next talk was Crossover: Not Just For Kids, the panel consisting of David Maybury as chair and authors Nick Lake, Anthony McGowan, Meg Rosoff and Matt Haig. They explored how novels such as The Hunger Games and The Fault In Our Stars are being read by adults as well as teenagers and the possible reasons for this. They certainly made me feel more comfortable about being an adult YA fan, and Nick Lake made the very good point that a lot of books we consider classics now would actually fit into the YA genre quite well, for example The Catcher In The Rye and Oliver Twist.

Our final talk was Sisters Doing It For Themselves with chair Sarra Manning and female authors Tanya Byrne, Julie Mayhew, Isobel Harrop and Holly Smale. This again was a great bunch of authors with fantastic insights into the role of our modern day heroine in YA fiction and heroines that inspired them personally in literature. We had a range of answers here from Tanya Byrne who took inspiration from people around her, Sarra Manning who had a soft spot for “mad girls” such as Sylvia Plath and one of my own personal favourites, Anne of Green Gables who was Holly Smale’s heroine.

YALC – THE END?

So it was time to drag our weary bodies back home, we had an absolutely fantastic weekend and it was worth every minute queueing and being bumped by crowds. Thank you to Malorie Blackman for putting on a great programme, all the authors who came and gave talks and thoroughly entertained us, and all the publishers and people behind the scenes that made the event possible.

YALC – this time next year? (please?!)