Saturday, June 6, 2020

Fear (Mary Strand)

This month our topic (decided among our group of YA bloggers a few months ago) is fear: what we’re afraid to tackle, how we’ve managed fear in the past, etc.

I had planned to write about fear as it relates to my life as an author, but I live in Minneapolis, where George Floyd was viciously murdered by a police officer just over a week ago (as I write this), and what I planned to write is now irrelevant.

If I told you how I’m “managing” my fears right now, it wouldn’t be either a success story or an uplifting read.

2020: a year of fear.

We spent most of March through May worried about COVID-19. Would we catch it? Would someone close to us catch it? Would we die from it? Stores and restaurants and almost everything I love (live music! theatre! travel!) basically ended. Seeing friends: mostly gone. Hugs: gone. Masks: the new fashion statement.

It’s now June, and COVID-19 is still with us. But George Floyd died. 

George Floyd’s murder has become a turning point for America, but whether we turn in the right direction - and there IS only one right direction - is still up in the air. We MUST fix — no, eradicate — the racism, dangers, and other problems faced by people of color on a daily basis. If we don’t, in the grand scheme of things, COVID-19 isn’t all that.

Meanwhile, several of my friends live in the “war zone,” as some call it here in Minneapolis, the area near where George Floyd died. It’s filled with good people of all colors, and peaceful protests, but it’s also a target of opportunists (including many not from Minneapolis) who are looting, burning, and doing what they can to destroy our city. The area of violence is expanding on a daily basis, reaching out into neighborhoods that initially felt safe. Even in my neighborhood, which IS relatively safe, I’ve gone to sleep a few nights in the last week wondering if someone would vandalize, break in, or even torch my house. Wondering if we’d live through the night. Wondering if my kids would come home safely. Many people have a much harder time of it, 24/7. And it doesn’t yet show any signs of ending.

My young-adult kids are quite active in both the ongoing protests and the cleanup and rebuilding of Minneapolis. My fears for them know no end. My pride in them: same.

Sometimes all you can do with fear is try to survive it and come out the other side. Both here in Minneapolis and throughout the world, if you’re not feeling fear right now, you’re not paying attention.

But I’ve said enough. Right now, Fragile R Us.

So. Wear a mask. Listen to others, especially those who have completely different lives from you or who think differently from you. (Unless they’re truly stupid and/or hateful, in which case make use of the “unfollow” and “snooze for 30 days” buttons on Facebook.) Be kind. Do what you can to make this world a better place for EVERYONE. Vote.

That’s all I’ve got right now. It’ll have to be enough.

And maybe that’s my whole point: whatever you’re doing to get through the crises and fears of 2020, it’ll have to be enough.

Stay safe.

Mary Strand is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras and three other novels in the Bennet Sisters YA series. You can find out more about her at

Saturday, May 30, 2020

No Censorship!..except when it comes to my daughter (Brian Katcher)

They grow up so fast, don't they?

As an author and a librarian, I've always railed against censorship in any form. I remember being in 7th grade, asking a friend if he'd read a certain novel. He responded that he wasn't allowed to read novels. Even worse, he wasn't allowed to watch 'Three's Company.' I swore that as a parent, I'd never control what my child watched or read.
And now I'm the parent of an incredibly intelligent 13-year-old daughter. One who devours several lengthy books each week. And I have to ask myself, should we put limits on what she reads and watches?

When she was eleven, we took her to see The Book of Mormon, not really understanding what the musical was about. Even worse, my mother was there. Determined not to repeat that mistake, we're more careful about movies and TV shows with explicit sex. She's on board with this; she automatically fast forwards past the dirty parts of movies.

But what about books? I only recently allowed her to read my most popular novel, Almost Perfect, due to the mature content. But I also don't want to approve every book she checks out. In the end, we let her choose her own books, no matter how mature. 

Of course, she's also one of the few teen girls who still asks her father to read to her. And as an 8th grader, I can finally share some of my old favorites with her. We're currently working our way through Vonnegut. But, I do get embarrassed and find myself softening the language or saying 'Aaaand...well, you can guess what they did next'. We're probably going to have to skip Breakfast of Champions for now.

Ultimately, I can't picture myself telling Sophie she can't read something. Hell, the Florida Tea party tried to have one of my books removed from the schools. I can't very well follow in their footsteps, can I?

Sunday, May 24, 2020

My Thoughts on Teens and Reading (Brenda Hiatt)

What I’m going to say here has already been (more) eloquently said by others in this space. I particularly hope you’ll read (or reread) what Patty Blount had to say on the subject. That said, here I offer my own additional thoughts on the same basic theme of Letting Kids Read. 

The books we read as children and teens have the potential to shape the rest of our lives. Think back to when you were young. I’m willing to bet there was some book, author or series that contributed to your world view, either for a few years or permanently. Reading about people, situations and philosophies outside one’s immediate experience can be incredibly mind-expanding. It can also allow us to learn from others’ mistakes so that we’re less likely to make those same mistakes ourselves. Reading widely is the next best thing to traveling the world, when it comes to broadening our perspectives.  

Like most authors, I’m firmly opposed to book censorship. Not only when it comes to limiting what’s permitted in schools and libraries, but in our homes, as well. I happen to think it’s a terrible idea for parents to censor what they allow their children to read, particularly once they reach their teen years. It’s a time of life when most kids are facing all kinds of scary and confusing changes and choices. It’s when they start to realize that a lot of what happens in and around them is not only out of their control, it’s out of their parents’ control, too. Terrifying thought! Books offer a safe space for them to explore topics and scenarios that frighten, worry or confuse them. Reading about how fictional characters handle big challenges can better equip teens to face the real-life hurdles they’ll inevitably encounter as they transition to adulthood. Depriving them of those tools does them a serious disservice. 

So…pay attention to what books your kids are seeking out. Not so you can pick and choose the ones you think are “appropriate,” but so that you can perhaps get a glimpse of where they’re coming from, what hopes and fears are driving them. Teens can be pretty inscrutable at times. If you can get them talking about the books they’re reading, that may well open a door to discussions that will be enlightening for both of you. I highly recommend it! 

Brenda Hiatt is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-four novels (so far), including sweet and spicy historical romance, time travel romance and, with her Starstruck series, young adult science fiction romance. 

Friday, May 22, 2020

On Banning Books by Patty Blount

Hi, parents!

Throughout May, the authors here at YA Outside the Liens are offering you advice.

Like all advice, use what feels right to you, ignore the rest. I can take it!

As an author myself, I am completely against banning books. I was invited to speak to a private school's entire student body about my novel, SOME BOYS, only to be contacted hours before the event, after I'd arranged time off from my day job, and told NOT to come because the organizers only then realized I use profanity in my novels.


Every year, books are banned from schools, from reading lists because some folks freak out about the content.

I think this is the wrong approach.

First, when you ban a book, you virtually ASSURE teens will read it. Trust me on this. You've just made it forbidden fruit.

Second, when you ban a book, you're missing a golden opportunity to connect with your teen about issues, situations, and events they're likely facing every time they leave your home. Profanity? They're hearing it daily. Sex? They are wrestling with decisions surrounding sex -- body image, attractions to classmates, angst wondering if their feelings are reciprocated, etc. They may have friends or acquaintances dealing with drug or alcohol abuse, sexual assault, coming out, bullying, and so on.

Just because you forbid something does not mean it does not exist. Stories about such situations can arm your teens with tools for managing them in real life. Banning the books does not remove those threats; it merely disarms your teens.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas was banned in some school districts when it is one of the most effective instruments in existence for bridging racial divides.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is routinely banned for sexual content when it's a story about surviving sexual assault, something 1 in 9 girls under age 18 will experience.

Harry Potter by JK Rowling is often banned because people believe it encourages satanic workship when just the opposite is true. Harry is a messianic figure who sacrifices himself (repeatedly, I'll add) and manages to resist temptations, ultimately emerging from his trials with his soul intact.

Parents, your teens are statistically not likely to share all that's going on with them. During this period of life, biological processes like puberty and nervous system maturation produce emotions that are often jacked up to 11. This is why we have teens who make dumb choices, who act out, who melt down, and who rebel. It makes no sense to ban or forbid them from seeking help from the safe world of novels.

When my sons were born, bedtime began with stories. We read all manner of stories together over the years. My youngest son and I still read books together. We've shared all of the Harry Potters, The Hunger Games, Divergent, and 13 Reasons Why. We discuss themes in novels.

I used to think this was a way to spend time together. But I quickly realized I was learning as much from him as I was learning about him.

Don't believe me? Check out our review of 13 Reasons Why. My son is grown up now.

We still read books together.

Don't miss the opportunity to share ideas and bond with your children because a novel contains some bad things. Use fictional situations in books to arm your children with tools they may need out there in the real world. Books are safe places. Read them together. Discuss what you like, what you don't like, what you found horrifying and why.

Your children will surprise you, as mine did.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Something You Can Read With Your Teen (Holly Schindler)

I've had a few conversations recently with parents of YA (and MG) readers, in which I've heard them looking for books with lighter subject matter--especially right now, during hard times. These comments come from parents who still recognize the importance of books that address the toughest of subjects. They just lament the fact that, when they're searching for lighter fare--when they're seeking something fun for a break--it can often be tough to find.

It's not specifically YA, but my latest release, FUNNY MEETING YOU HERE, does fit the bill.

It’s comprised of six sweet, humorous shorts. Like the aforementioned parents, I've been finding that I want to take a break lately. The entertainment I’ve been gravitating toward lately is all light and often comedic. I want to smile and chuckle. I’ve been loving Fallon each night—watching his informal interviews and his daughters playing. When I sat down to write during our weeks of isolation, all I wanted to write was something equally sweet and funny. Also, as far as I’m concerned, the best part of any story is the point at which the main characters meet. I combined that hunger for light entertainment with my love of chance encounters to write FUNNY MEETING YOU HERE. These are quite literally stories of meetings—funny scenarios that bring two characters together. It’s my hope that when you read them, regardless of what the world is like just beyond your door, it will bring two smiles: one to your face and one to your heart.

Recently, I've been hearing from readers wanting to better support authors during the Coronavirus pandemic. Many have contacted me to tell me they've bought paperbacks rather than the lower-cost ebooks. That’s incredible! But that's a big leap between a .99 ebook and a $10 (or more!) printed book. So I've started a Payhip store ( as a kind of "tip jar." At Payhip, you can absolutely still buy FUNNY MEETING YOU HERE for the listed price of .99, but if you want to set the price to chip in an extra few cents, that's fantastic, too. I just wanted to give readers a way to offer support and still have enough money left during these lean times to buy themselves another read. One of the best parts of Payhip is that it allowed me to integrate with BookFunnel! When you buy from Payhip, you’ll receive two emails: one from Payhip and one from BookFunnel, both with download links. You can download from either Payhip or Bookfunnel, whichever you’re more comfortable using. Since I’ve been distributing my ARCs and review copies via BookFunnel, and you’re all familiar with that site, I definitely wanted to give you guys that option.

FUNNY MEETING YOU HERE is live right now on Amazon, Apple, B&N, Kobo, and Scribd.

If you and your teen reader snag this one, I'd love to hear what you think of it! Please don't hesitate to get in touch on the socials or hollyschindlerbooks (at) gmail (dot) com.