Feature: Let’s Talk YA

Crushed on by Christy Jane, on June 13, 2018, in Author Interview, Feature / 0 Comments

Feature: Let’s Talk YA

Disney sent a bunch of our favorite authors out on tour together and we couldn’t resist the opportunity to use the tour name – Let’s Talk YA – to ask the authors three questions about writing and reading YA. Check out two below and head over to my Instagram later today to see the third!



Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton

Category: Young Adult, Contemporary, Humor
Publication:  June 5th, 2018; Disney-Hyperion
Purchase: Amazon

Cliff Hubbard is a huge loser. Literally. His nickname at Happy Valley High School is Neanderthal because he’s so enormous-6’6″ and 250 pounds to be exact. He has no one at school and life in his trailer park home has gone from bad to worse ever since his older brother’s suicide.

There’s no one Cliff hates more than the nauseatingly cool quarterback, Aaron Zimmerman. Then Aaron returns to school after a near-death experience with a bizarre claim: while he was unconscious he saw God, who gave him a list of things to do to make Happy Valley High suck less. And God said there’s only one person who can help: Neanderthal.

To his own surprise, Cliff says he’s in. As he and Aaron make their way through the List, which involves a vindictive English teacher, a mysterious computer hacker, a decidedly unchristian cult of Jesus Teens, the local drug dealers, and the meanest bully at HVHS–Cliff feels like he’s part of something for the first time since losing his brother. But fixing a broken school isn’t as simple as it seems, and just when Cliff thinks they’ve completed the List, he realizes their mission hits closer to home than he ever imagined.


Author Bio: Preston Norton

Preston Norton is: bisexual, slightly genderqueer, married. His partner, Erin, is trying to put him on a diet, and he’s revolting (both contexts apply). He has taught seventh grade and ninth grade English, mentored drug addicts, and mowed lawns (in no particular order). He is obsessed with 2001: A Space Odyssey and Quentin Tarantino.

Visit him on his Website and on Twitter.



Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert

Category: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publication:  April 10th, 2018; Disney-Hyperion
Purchase: Amazon

Danny Cheng has always known his parents have secrets. But when he discovers a taped-up box in his father’s closet filled with old letters and a file on a powerful Silicon Valley family, he realizes there’s much more to his family’s past than he ever imagined.

Danny has been an artist for as long as he can remember and it seems his path is set, with a scholarship to RISD and his family’s blessing to pursue the career he’s always dreamed of. Still, contemplating a future without his best friend, Harry Wong, by his side makes Danny feel a panic he can barely put into words. Harry and Danny’s lives are deeply intertwined and as they approach the one-year anniversary of a tragedy that shook their friend group to its core, Danny can’t stop asking himself if Harry is truly in love with his girlfriend, Regina Chan.

When Danny digs deeper into his parents’ past, he uncovers a secret that disturbs the foundations of his family history and the carefully constructed facade his parents have maintained begins to crumble. With everything he loves in danger of being stripped away, Danny must face the ghosts of the past in order to build a future that belongs to him.


Author Bio: Kelly Loy Gilbert

Kelly Loy Gilbert believes deeply in the power of stories to illuminate a shared humanity and give voice to complex, broken people. She is the author of Conviction, a William C. Morris Award finalist, and lives in the SF Bay Area. She would be thrilled to hear from you on Twitter or at her Website.



City of Bastards (Royal Bastards #2) by Andrew Shvarts

Category: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publication:  June 5th, 2018; Disney-Hyperion
Purchase: Amazon

Tilla, bastard of House Kent, has it made. Safe from her murderous father in the dazzling capital of Lightspire, she lives a life of luxury under the protection of the Volaris King, alongside her boyfriend Zell and best friend, Princess Lyriana.

So why isn’t she happy? Maybe it’s the whispers and stares that follow her wherever she goes, as the daughter of the traitor waging war against Lightspire. Or maybe it’s the memories of her beloved brother, Jax, who lies cold in his grave even as she tries to settle into a life in the city’s prestigious University.

Then, Tilla stumbles upon the body of a classmate, a friend. The authorities are quick to rule it a suicide and sweep it under the rug, but when Tilla herself is attacked by a mysterious man with terrifying powers, she’s convinced of a conspiracy. Her friends beg her to stay silent; what she’s suggesting is impossible… and treasonous.

But Tilla can’t, won’t, let it go. And the deeper she digs, the more questions she uncovers. How is the West beating the supposedly invincible Lightspire Mages in battle? Is it connected to the shadowy cult wreaking havoc in Lightspire? Nothing is as it seems in the glorious capital, and Tilla’s presence might just be the spark that sets the Kingdom aflame.


Author Bio: Andrew Shvarts

Andrew Shvarts is an author of novels and video games. He has a BA in English Literature and Russian from Vassar College. He works for Pixelberry Studios as a designer, making mobile games like High School Story, Choices, and more. Andrew lives in San Jose, California, with his wife, toddler, and two kittens.

Visit him on his Website and on Twitter.



Little Do We Know by Tamara Ireland Stone

Category: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publication:  June 5th, 2018; Disney-Hyperion
Purchase: Amazon

Next-door neighbors and ex-best friends Hannah and Emory haven’t spoken in months. Not since the fight—the one where they said things they couldn’t take back.

Now, Emory is fine-tuning her UCLA performing arts application and trying to make the most of the months she has left with her boyfriend, Luke, before they head off to separate colleges. Meanwhile, Hannah’s strong faith is shaken when her family’s financial problems come to light, and she finds herself turning to unexpected places—and people—for answers to the difficult questions she’s suddenly facing.

No matter how much Hannah and Emory desperately want to bridge the thirty-six steps between their bedroom windows, they can’t. Not anymore.

Until their paths cross unexpectedly when, one night, Hannah finds Luke doubled over in his car outside her house. In the aftermath of the accident, all three struggle to understand what happened in their own ways. But when a devastating secret about Hannah and Emory’s argument ultimately comes to light, they must all reexamine the things they hold true.

In alternating chapters, a skeptic and a believer piece together the story of their complex relationship and the boy caught somewhere in the middle. New York Times best-selling author Tamara Ireland Stone deftly crafts a moving portrait of faith, love, and friendship.


Author Bio: Tamara Ireland Stone

Tamara Ireland Stone is the New York Times best-selling author of Every Last Word; Time and Time Again, a collection of her two novels Time Between Us and Time After Time; and Click’d, her middle grade debut. A former Silicon Valley marketing executive, she enjoys skiing, hiking, and spending time with her husband and two children. She lives just outside of San Francisco.

Visit her on Twitter, Instagram, and online at Website.



Let’s Talk YA with Preston, Kelly, Andrew, and Tamara

When a young adult finishes your latest novel, what do you hope they’ll come away feeling?

Preston: I want them to feel ALL OF THE FEELINGS!! Okay, maybe not all of them, but I want them to feel a lot. Mostly because life makes us feel a lot. Sometimes we try to shut off our feelings because they seem too much for us to handle. It seems easier for us to numb ourselves. But I want young people to know that it’s okay to cry. It’s okay to just give ourselves over to the sadness of a moment. Sometimes it’s the only way for us to heal properly.

Kelly: I hope they’ll come away with some kind of sense of purpose about particular wrongs in the world–ones that we perpetuate–and a desire to be engaged on those issues going forward.  I hope also they’ll feel satisfied with the story and where it went, and the choices the characters ended up making.  And I think every author hopes the characters will linger in their readers’ minds.

Andrew: Great question! Treading carefully around spoilers, City of Bastards has a pretty dark ending (middle of a trilogy and all) but hopefully with a final uplifting sense of rallying in the face of defeat. I think especially today, there’s a real danger of feeling that things are hopelessly doomed, that nothing matters, and evil and ignorance will inevitably triumph. If there’s one feeling I want readers to take away from City, it’s that even when things look grim, even with our enemies in power, we can still rally and fight for a better future.

Tamara: I hope Little Do We Know makes readers want to hug their best friend a little tighter. If my novel, Every Last Word, was about letting go of friends who aren’t the best fit for you, this story is about holding on to the good ones with both hands.

As with all my stories, I want readers to turn the last page feeling understood and a little less alone in this great big world. That’s what books did for me when I was a teen. I just hope I’m paying it forward.


Share a few subjects or topics you wish YA had explored when you were a young adult. What books or authors are tackling them now?

Preston: John Green is my favorite YA author, and in my opinion, he is at the top of his game when writes about death. This is the topic that fascinates me the most. It’s the foreverness of it that just truly haunts us. How do you deal with death? How do you cope with losing something forever? It’s a heavy question, and there is no easy answer. The scary truth is that death is all around us. And I think it’s especially true for teenagers who have a tendency to feel invincible until, suddenly, they realize they are not. But what makes YA fiction so important is that it shows us that healing is possible.

Kelly: When I was younger I wished desperately for more Asian American characters and a wider spectrum of them–and now there’s Stacey Lee, Randy Ribay, Sabaa Tahir, Julie Dao, Emily X. R. Pan, Malindo Lo, Cindy Pon, Rahul Kanakia, Maurene Goo, Akemi Bowman, I. W. Gregorio, Miss Sugiura, C. B. Lee, Aisha Saeed, among others, all of whom write incredible, complicated characters.  I also would’ve loved more books that explored faith in an honest and searching way–like those of Kathryn Holmes, Jeff Zentner, Padma Venkatraman, Gene Luen Yang, Sara Farizan, Emily Danforth, Corey Whaley.  The publishing landscape still has a long way to go in terms of diversity and representation, but it’s been thrilling to see the transformation start to take place and to have such incredible books by diverse authors along the way.

Andrew: The embarrassing truth is I actually didn’t read much YA as a young adult, so I can’t speak to what was/wasn’t being explored. But I definitely wish I’d read more genre books with diverse representation, more books that expanded my view and challenged the default centering of straight white males that was pretty much universal. Some great recent ones I read are Julie Dao’s Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, Dhonielle Clayton’s The Belles, and of course, Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone.

Tamara: I grew up in the ‘80s and I wish I’d had more examples of fierce, outspoken, kick-ass young women I could draw inspiration from and emulate. I discovered Gloria Steinem’s non-fiction in my early twenties, but in my teens, I would have devoured fiction about young women finding their voices and learning to be brave with their words, like Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu, Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

What makes you proudest about being part of the YA fandom?

Andrew: It might be sappy, but I genuinely think this community will change the world. As a guy who spent most of his teen years lying around playing videogames, it’s amazing to me to see how passionate this community is, how dedicated they are to fighting for what’s right and advocating for change. It’s an honor to be writing for teens so driven and committed to activism, a community on the vanguard of positive change.

Kelly: I am continually awed by how socially conscious the YA fandom is.  When I was in high school I totally lived in a bubble and I was completely politically and socially unaware.  I am blown away on a regular basis by how passionate, knowledgeable and informed today’s teens are.

What makes you proudest about being in the YA book fandom? . . . I asked @tamaraistone what makes her proudest and her answer made me tear up a little. Check it out below & see what else we asked Tamara, @kellyloygilbert, @shvartacus, and Preston Norton as part of the #letstalkya book tour over on bookcrushin.com! I’ll share my answer in an Instagram story later. 📖 “I’m proud of our author community and how we support each other. I’m a pretty competitive person, but the way I see it, YA authors are never my competition. We’re all on the same side and we share competitors: video games, movies, Netflix, social media — anything kids might do with their spare time instead of curling up with a good book… that’s our competition.” . . . #bookish #igreads #booknerd #bookstagrammer #bibliophile #booknerdigans #instabooks #bookblogger #Bookstagram #instabooks #booktography #yalit #bookaholic #yabooks #bookphotography #yafiction #booklove #bookgram #libros #livros #littledoweknow #royalbastards #pictureusinthelight #neanderthalopensthedoortotheuniverse #disneybooks #contemporary

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