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.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Advice to the Parents of Teenaged Dogs (Alissa Grosso)

This month we're giving some advice to the parents of teenagers. Since I don't have any (human) children of my own, I don't feel at all qualified to give advice to to parents of teens. That said, I am the parent of a dog who celebrated his fifteenth birthday three months ago. So I do know a thing or two about cohabitating with a senior dog.

Me, hanging out with my teenage dog.

I've had Jack since he was an eight-month-old free-to-a-good-home dog. Who gets rid of an eight-month-old puppy? Well, there were some extenuating circumstances with his previous family, but I think one of those extenuating circumstances was Jack himself. Because at eight months old he was energy on top of energy on top of energy.

I know this is supposed to be advice for parents of senior dogs, but if you are at the point in your life where you're considering adopting a puppy and are trying to decide between breeds, let me just say you want to think long and hard about whether a shepherd type of dog is really the right fit for you because their energy level is off the charts. I would also advise you to early on give them jobs to do, because if you don't they will make up their own, and that might not sit well with every member of your household. Jack early on decided he was going to be the best cat herder ever. You can probably figure out how well that went. I should say that even at 15, in a household that no longer has any cats, Jack still considers himself a champion cat herder much to the consternation of any neighbor cats that happen to cross his way.

Not my cat, but that is my yard.
My very serious cat-herding dog.

By the way, the people who I acquired Jack from described him as a lab mix. I think this must have been just some ploy to get him adopted because they knew how lovable and popular Labradors are. I have seen the way labs eat, and can say with confidence that I believe Jack is about zero percent lab. I've never done one of those doggy DNA tests, but I'm guessing he's part border collie or part Australian shepherd or maybe some of both. He basically is a border collie shaped dog with the coloring of a brindle boxer but with long hair so that he looks like an Aussie. During the time when I was living in an affluent New Jersey suburb people would stop me all the time to ask about what exotic breed he was, the whole concept of mutts being a bit over their heads.

Entering his teen years has brought some changes to his personality. I can't say that I'm disappointed that my dog now sleeps a lot more than he used to. Because, honestly, when you have a dog who is seemingly made out of pure energy it can be a bit exhausting. He still counts playing as his number one priority in life. I know 15 is old for a dog, and I know at some point it will be time to say goodbye. For Jack, I figure that will be the day that he no longer has interest in playing.
Jack and one of his prized squeaky balls.

For now, though, he still makes sure to spend a majority of his waking hours playing, this despite a body that has begun to betray him. He can no longer hear at most registers, though there's evidence that squeaky balls can still be heard by my old dog's ears. He back legs have become especially unreliable, but even with wavering back legs he is happy to stand there on the living room floor tossing a dog bed (one that he only uses for storing toys and not for sleeping in, a rule he invented for himself) around.

Besides these physical changes I've noticed in my teenager dog, I've noticed some mental changes as well. Jack has always been prone to stress and anxiety, but there were certain things that absolutely terrified him and things that didn't phase him at all. The veterinarian (it doesn't matter which one as we've had a few over the years) is the most absolutely terrifying, awful experience ever in his opinion. My normally sweet dog turns into a teeth-baring Kujo during vet visits. On a more general level just the idea of strangers touching him is pretty frightening. Thunderstorms never used to phase him, but as he has entered his teen years he has decided they are cause for serious alarm, and I have the dog pee stains on my mattress to prove it.

I can't really give too much advice about food, because my dog has always been a weirdo when it comes to eating. Let's just say he'll eat when he's good and ready to eat and not a minute sooner. I don't know if it's because the cats we had when he was younger trained him to eat food a little bit at a time or if this is something to do with all his stress and anxiety,  but eating has never been something he was especially good at. That said, the senior years have brought some changes to the food he eats. A few years ago I noticed, without going into too much graphic detail, that on dog walks Jack seemed to be maybe not getting the full nutritional value from his food and so to combat that digestive distress switched him to a senior variety of kibble. This worked for awhile, but eventually he was making too much of a stink about eating that and I tried switching him to a slightly softer kibble. I can assure you Purina is not paying me to say this, but if you're looking for a softer, tender kibble Purina's Beneful Simple Goodness dog food is a wonderful solution. These days, though Jack actually get a big can of soft senior dog  food in the morning and his soft Beneful kibble in the evening.

If you're wondering, I switched to the softer foods because I thought his old teeth might be the reason he was getting even more fussy about his dry kibble, and that may be true because I do notice the slowness and reluctance with which he seems to eat dry, hard dog biscuits, but that said he will still happily chew away on a bone so maybe he's just playing me. I wouldn't put it past him.

Though our walks have grown slower and shorter, and his old man dog farts can stink up the entire house, life's still good with my senior dog. But he's telling me I need to get up from this computer and take him out to pee because as he's entered his senior years pee breaks have become more and more frequent. So on that note I'm going to leash up my old dog so that he can go water the grass and keep the neighbor's cats in line.

When she isn't taking her dog on endless pee-pee walks or throwing squeaky balls, Alissa Grosso writes books, including some for teenaged humans. You can find out more about her and her books at