Author Spotlight – Susan Juby

This is a monthly feature that will highlight and introduce the works of Canadian YA authors.  I’m doing this mostly for self-education because unfortunately I’m not all that aware of the amazing talent that exists in my own country.  (I might shake it up from time to time and include an American author)

This month’s author:  Susan Juby

Author Blurb: Susan Juby lives in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island with her husband, their dog Frank and their horse Tango. She has a degree in English Literature, but she initially thought she wanted to be in fashion design.  She was surprised to find her first novel Alice I Think was for teens, as she had initially written it to give her 30 year old best friend and 50 year old godfather a laugh. She is inspired by writers like Sue Townsend, J.D Salinger, Gerald Durrell, Stella Gibbons and David Sedaris. She also loves horse books and is obsessed with equestrian dressage.  She has also written a compelling memoir called Nice Recovery about her problems with alcohol when she was a teenager and what it’s like to be a sober and recovering teen.

Author website:


Nice Recovery, Alice I think, Another Kind of Cowboy


Getting the Girl, Miss Smithers, Alice MacLeod: Realist at Last


By the Time You Read This, I’ll be Dead by Julie Anne Peters

Daelyn doesn’t want to live. After a string of botched suicide attempts she is determined to get it right and starts looking at a website for “completers.” She’s tired of the bullying and the loneliness and she is determined to end it all. Then some boy named Santana begins to sit with her after school and he just won’t leave her alone. She doesn’t want to make any connections because she doesn’t plan on staying around but Santana won’t let up and she starts to have doubts.

Julie Anne Peters is one of my favourite authors but for me this wasn’t one of her greatest books. I really struggled connecting to Daelyn as a character and I had a difficult time feeling anything for her. It might have just been that I have a problem with the topic, but I just couldn’t get past it. There were a few things I did really enjoy that I thought made this book stand out that I think will appeal to many readers. First, the main character is silent. Daelyn cannot talk and that made for a very unique reading experience that I really enjoyed. Also, Peters leaves the ending very vague, so the reader can decide what happens, which is rather creative. Also, I think those who like to read issue fiction will find a lot of the elements they are generally pulled to in this book. So while I didn’t necessarily love this book, I still encourage you to read it and make your own decision.

You might enjoy By the Time You Read This, if you like books with:  real life serious issues, not a lot of focus on romance, sensitive and emotionally evocative storylines, quick and fast paced plots

Also by Julie Anne Peters: Luna, Between Mom and Jo, Far From Xanadu, How to do you Spell G-E-E-K?

If you liked By the Time You Read This, you might also enjoy: Willow by Julia Hoban, Crash into me by Albert Borris, Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

Additional Info:

Ontario Association for Suicide Prevention. This is a list of Crisis and Contact numbers throughout Ontario

 gURL – great website just for teens, has information and resources on suicide, bullying and other difficult issues teen face.

Rating: W4/4   C2/4   P2.5/4   O3/4   PP2/4   CR3.5/4

Grade Level: JS

Coming Soon to a Library Near You

Coming Soon to a Library Near You is a weekly feature inspired by Jill at Breaking the Spine that looks at upcoming books.

This week’s Book: Infinite Days

Author: Rebecca Maizel

Release Date: August 3 2010


She longs to be like everybody else. But her history is written in blood…

Lenah Beaudonte is in many ways your average sixteen-year-old: the “new girl,” she struggles to fit in enough to survive at school, and stand out enough to catch the eye of the golden-boy captain of the lacrosse team. But her challenges are beyond what anyone could have expected. Lenah just happens to be a recovering five-hundred-year-old vampire turned human…

She’s just awakened from a century-long hibernation and each passing hour hears another tick of the time-bomb, counting down to the moment when her abandoned vampire coven will open the crypt where she should be sleeping, and find her gone. As her borrowed days slip by, Lenah resolves to live her newfound life as fully as the passing moments allow. But, to do so, she must first answer the ominous questions at hand: Can an ex-vampire survive in a time and place so alien to her? What can Lenah do to protect her new friends from the bloodthirsty menace about to descend upon them? And how is she ever going to pass her biology midterm?

Ash by Malinda Lo

In this Cinderella-like story, Ash loses both her mother and father and is forced to move away from her native land to the city with her horrid step mother. Ash misses her parents and she misses the place she came from. Rich with fairy tales and tradition, Ash longs for her home. Through trips into the forest in order to find her home, Ash meets a beautiful fairy named Sidhean. He is enchanting and because he is in love with her he offers a tempting escape to the fairy world. However, Ash also meets the King’s Huntress Kaisa who reminds Ash what it feels like to be alive and to love. She must choose between these two people she cares about and the two lives they offer.

While I hardly ever enjoy fairytales and fantasy stories, I thought that Ash was a captivating story.  For someone who doesn’t usually read this type of fiction, I found the writing very accessible; a perfect mixture of lyrical writing and every day language. There is a lot to this book, fairytales, magic, lush descriptions, danger, family and love.  I think readers will enjoy the mixture of the original Cinderella with Malinda Lo’s much more diverse and complex story; especially the love story between Ash and Kaisa. I think Lo did an amazing job of creating a main character that was identifiable and sympathetic and a world that was beautiful and broken at the same time.  I think this book has a wide appeal and I highly recommend it to be included in any library collection.

You might enjoy Ash if you like books with: fantasy, recognizable fairytales, characters that are rich and vibrant, a little bit of romance, beautiful descriptions and language.

This is Malinda Lo’s debut novel

If you liked Ash, you might also enjoy: Ice by Sarah Durst, If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where’s my Prince? By Melissa Kantor, Magic under the Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore

Additional Info: Malinda is currently working on another novel set in the same world as Ash. This one focuses on the first huntress of the kingdom (not one from the fairy tales) and is set to be published spring 2011

Author Website:

Rating: W4/4   C4/4   P4/4   O4/4   PP2.5/4   CR3/4

Grade Level:  a high J or S


Adult Fiction for Teens

While I primarily read YA fiction these days I do enjoy some adult fiction every once in a while. This monthly feature will look at some of the adult fiction I am reading and examine its appeal for those who prefer Young Adult literature.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

14-year-old Lily Owen, neglected by her father and isolated on their Georgia peach farm, spends hours imagining a blissful infancy when she was loved and nurtured by her mother, Deborah, whom she barely remembers. These consoling fantasies are her heart’s answer to the family story that as a child, in unclear circumstances, Lily accidentally shot and killed her mother. All Lily has left of Deborah is a strange image of a Black Madonna, with the words “Tiburon, South Carolina” scrawled on the back. When Lily’s beloved nanny, Rosaleen, manages to insult a group of angry white men on her way to register to vote and has to skip town, Lily takes the opportunity to go with her, fleeing to the only place she can think of–Tiburon, South Carolina–determined to find out more about her dead mother.

This is a good fit for those who like to read YA realistic fiction that has a focus on character and storytelling. The Secret Life of Bees has a very rich and sometimes lyrical narrative, making this a good fit for people who prefer books by Deb Caletti. The main characters are fun and dynamic, and a lot of the novel is spent on Lily’s reflection of herself and the other characters. There are also elements of historical fiction and a romance that might appeal to young readers. Overall, those who want to be taking away by a descriptive setting and read about a feisty 14 year old girl will enjoy this novel.

YA Connection: Honey, Baby, Sweetheart by Deb Caletti

Coming Soon to a Library Near You

Coming Soon to a Library Near You is a weekly feature inspired by Jill at Breaking the Spine that looks at upcoming books.

This week’s Book: Freefall

Author: Mindi Scott

Release Date: October 5th 2010


 How do you come back from the point of no return?

Seth McCoy was the last person to see his best friend Isaac alive, and the first to find him dead. It was just another night, just another party, just another time where Isaac drank too much and passed out on the lawn. Only this time, Isaac didn’t wake up.

Convinced that his own actions led to his friend’s death, Seth is torn between turning his life around . . . or losing himself completely.

Then he meets Rosetta: so beautiful and so different from everything and everyone he’s ever known. But Rosetta has secrets of her own, and Seth will soon realize he isn’t the only one who needs saving . .

Willow by Julia Hoban

“except the only times that she’s laughed in the past seven months have been in his company. When he’s with her she’s able to forget the lure of the razor for more than five minutes at a time.”

Willow is a cutter – that’s how she deals with the grief caused by her parents’ death. She was driving them home and there was an accident. Now she lives with her brother and cuts to take away the emotional nightmare of her life. She’s fine with self-punishment, and she’s not looking for anything else.  However, when a fellow student, Guy, comes to learn her secret and yet still cares for her, Willow realizes that cutting doesn’t just stop the hurt but it blocks out everything else. If she wants to feel anything for Guy and be what he deserves her to be, then she’ll have to decide – him or the cutting.

I unfortunately did not like this book, despite all the positive feedback I heard from it. I didn’t connect with the characters, the relationship or the storyline. It was really lacking for me, and I found the writing at times a little superficial. However, that isn’t to say that there weren’t good elements to it and that other people wouldn’t like it. I do enjoy issue novels and I’m glad that this type of literature exists, so those in Willow’s circumstance can find some reflection and perhaps some solace from her story. I think readers will like the honesty of the story, and the fact that cutting is dealt with in a frank manner. I think readers will also enjoy the romance, and Guy as a character; he was well created.  For those who like issue novels, this fits in the genre well. I just recommend you read other, perhaps more positive reviews before reading.

You might enjoy Willow if you like books with: difficult issues, emotionally driven storylines, romance, a central character who has to overcome a difficult situation

If you liked Willow you might also enjoy: Impulse by Ellen Hopkins, Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson and Scars by Cheryl Rainfield

Resources: – a great neutral website for people who are self-injurers to talk, get support, be creative (poems, art, etc)

Rating: W2.5/4   C2.5/4   P2/4   O3/4   PP2/4  CR3.5/4

Grade Level: JS ( I put it a little lower because I think this issue affects those younger than in grade 10)