Buzzworthy Books is a semi-annual series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which my nearest and dearest friends in publishing discuss the books they’re most excited about releasing from their respective publishing houses in the following six months.
Hi everyone! Today I couldn’t be more excited to announce the launch of Buzzworthy Books, a new, semi-annual series that will be presented on Pop! Goes The Reader in January and July in which I collaborate with my friends at Penguin Random House Canada, Simon & Schuster Canada, St. Martin’s Press, Little, Brown (NOVL), Raincoast Books, Penguin Random House U.S. and Harper Collins Canada to discuss which books they’re most looking forward to in the following six months. My hope is that Buzzworthy Books can act as a fun and useful resource for readers who wish to learn more about upcoming releases in the coming year and who are looking to find the right book for them. We begin this event with a visit from my dear friend, Vikki VanSickle, who has been kind enough to recommend ten exciting titles from Penguin Random House Canada that she believes should be on your TBR from January-June. Please read on to learn a little more about these promising stories, as well as an opportunity to enter an exclusive giveaway to win two of them! (Open to residents of the U.S. and Canada)
About Vikki VanSickle
Hello hello! On any given day I can be found at Penguin Random House Canada as marketing and publicity manager for the young readers’ program. I work on Penguin titles (US and Canada) and some Tundra titles. I am an avid reader (mysteries, historical fiction, poignant coming of age stories) and also a writer of children’s books. My picture book on the perils and pleasures of magical pet care, If I Had A Gryphon, came out last year from Tundra Books and my fifth middle grade novel is due out from Scholastic Canada this fall. What is the title of said novel? Stay tuned…I *did* tell you I like mysteries…
Wild meets The Breakfast Club in this story of a girl who must survive an extreme wilderness experience to prove to her mother that she has the strength to pursue her dreams.
Ingrid traveled all over Europe with her opera star mother, Margot-Sophia. Life was beautiful and bright, and every day soared with music.
Ingrid is on a summertime wilderness survival trek for at-risk teens: addicts, runaways, and her. She’s fighting to survive crushing humiliations, physical challenges that push her to her limits, and mind games that threaten to break her.
When the curtain fell on Margot-Sophia’s singing career, they buried the past and settled into a small, painfully normal life. But Ingrid longed to let the music soar again. She wanted it so much that, for a while, nothing else mattered.
Ingrid is never going to make it through this summer if she can’t figure out why she’s here…and why the music really stopped.
Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined is a real weeper about a mother-daughter relationship. Imagine Rory and Lorelai if Lorelai was a volatile former opera star. When the novel starts, Ingrid is at the beginning of an extreme wilderness experience, along with a group of high-risk teens, having never so much as camped before. She has made a deal with her mother; if she makes it through a summer in the wilderness, then she can pursue her dreams of becoming a performer. Canadian author Danielle Younge-Ullman has created not one but TWO compelling narratives and managed to weave them together in a way that makes it impossible to put this book down. I can’t decide which plot I like better: The Breakfast Club in the woods — with convicts! — or mother-daughter drama that plays out like The Glass Castle (only if the mother was an opera singer.)
Fourteen-year-old Lucy Maud Montgomery – Maud to her friends – has a dream: to go to college and become a writer, just like her idol, Louisa May Alcott. But living with her grandparents on Prince Edward Island, she worries that this dream will never come true. Her grandfather has strong opinions about a woman’s place in the world, and they do not include spending good money on college. Luckily, she has a teacher to believe in her, and good friends to support her, including Nate, the Baptist minister’s stepson and the smartest boy in the class. If only he weren’t a Baptist; her Presbyterian grandparents would never approve. Then again, Maud isn’t sure she wants to settle down with a boy – her dreams of being a writer are much more important.
But life changes for Maud when she goes out West to live with her father and his new wife and daughter. Her new home offers her another chance at love, as well as attending school, but tensions increase as Maud discovers her stepmother’s plans for her, which threaten Maud’s future – and her happiness forever.
What book nerd does not love Anne Of Green Gables? It’s hard to believe, but there has never before been a novel about the teen years of L.M. Montgomery…enter Penguin Teen! Maud is impeccably researched by LM Montgomery scholar and debut Canadian author Melanie J. Fishbane and illuminates the hopes, fears, challenges and triumphs of the woman who would grow up to write Anne Of Green Gables. Motherless at a young age, Maud bounced between family members, including her strict grandparents, a cold, resentful aunt, and her estranged father and his new wife, who treat Maud like a nanny and try to marry her off to her older, dreadfully dull teacher. Anne fans will delight in the true-to-life people and incidents that inspired some of the most iconic Green Gables touchstones: The Lake of Shining Waters, a supportive female teacher with shades of Miss Stacy, and a scholarly rivalry that turns to romance with a handsome local boy.
BuzzFeed senior writer Erin Chack hits you in the guts, the feels, and the funny bone all at once with this collection of personal essays that reads like Sloane Crosley for the Snapchat generation.
In turns hysterically funny and heartbreakingly poignant, Erin recounts everything from meeting her soulmate at age 14 to her first chemotherapy session at age 19 to what really goes on behind the scenes at a major Internet media company.
She authentically captures the agony and the ecstasy of the millennial experience, whether it’s her first kiss (“Sean’s tongue! In my mouth! Slippery and wet like a slug in the rain.”) or her struggles with anxiety (“When people throw caution to the wind, I am stuck imagining the poor soul who has to break his back sweeping caution into a dustpan”).
Yet Erin also offers a fresh perspective on universal themes of resilience and love as she writes about surviving cancer — including learning of her mother’s own cancer diagnosis within the same year and her attempts to hide the diagnosis from friends to avoid “un-normaling” everything.
Perfect for fans of Jenny Lawson, Amy Poehler, and Kelly Williams Brown, this sharply observed memoir introduces Erin Chack as a strikingly original new voice.
It’s been a great couple of years for funny, poignant memoirs from girl-crush worthy women (Mara Wilson, Phoebe Robinson, Jessi Klein, Mindy Kaling… just to mention a few). Buzzfeed writer Erin Chack may not have the same celeb status as these women (yet), but her memoir about life, love, and adulting belongs on the same shelf. This Is Really Happening is a collection of stories in which Erin recounts everything from meeting her soulmate at age 14 to her first chemotherapy session at age 19 to what really goes on behind the scenes at a major Internet media company. For a little taste, follow her on twitter: @ErinChack.
Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. She lives under the careful watch of her parents, in a town she is familiar with, among people who are equally familiar with her story. She has not been able to recall any part of her past since she was ten, when the tumor that was removed from her brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this singular memory pierces Flora’s fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake and their shared kiss are responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step in reclaiming her life.
With little more than the tattoo “be brave” inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is, how old, where she lives, and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to the land of the midnight sun – Svalbard, Norway. There she is determined to find Drake, and to explore the romantic possibilities and hopeful future that their reunion promises her. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must “be brave” if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home.
Rich with psychological twists, powerful moments of hope, despair, and confusion, and a landscape very much a character unto itself, Flora Banks is an emotionally compelling and immersive read that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit, the depths of the human heart, and the power of the human mind.
The One Memory of Flora Banks is a breathless puzzle of a book; a thriller without the guts, gore, or murder. Flora has a condition in which she cannot form short term memories. She lives under the careful watch of her parents, in a town she is familiar with, among people who are equally familiar with her story. And then she kisses her best friend’s boyfriend, Drake, the night before he sets off for Norway, and everything changes: She remembers him and that kiss. Flora sets off on a dangerous journey to find Drake, who she believes is the key to restoring her memory for good. Emily Barr takes the conceit of an unreliable narrator and cranks the stakes way, way up. Flora’s tenacity, strength, mistakes, and triumphs are writ large against the harsh yet beautiful landscape of Svalbard. I read this with white knuckles and my heart in my throat. A must-read for fans of We Were Liars.
Project Runway meets I’ll Give You The Sun in a hilarious and surprising he-said, she-said story about a fashion competition that will change both of their lives, from acclaimed author, Susan Juby.
Charlie Dean is a style-obsessed girl who eats, sleeps, and breathes fashion. John Thomas-Smith is a boy who forges metal sculptures in his garage and couldn’t care less about clothes. But they share one thing in common: both are gunning for a scholarship to the private art high school that could make all their dreams come true. And whoever wins the fashion competition will win the scholarship. Told in the alternating voices of Charlie’s and John’s fashion journals which they’re required to keep for the contest, this hilarious and poignant tale perfectly captures what it’s like to have an artistic passion so fierce that nothing – not your dad’s girlfriend’s drug-addicted ex-boyfriend, a soul-crushing job at Salad Stop, or being charged with a teensy bit of kidnapping–can stand in your way.
Comedy is hard to pull off. In fact, I would go so far as to say there is a dearth of great, flat-out comedic YA novels. Susan Juby — long may she reign — has always been a reliable comedic talent. The Fashion Committee takes place in the same world as her multi-award winning, much lauded The Truth Commission but follows two different characters. Charlie Dean is a goal-oriented fashion designer who wants more than anything to win the Greener Pastures scholarship. John Thomas-Smith forges metal sculptures in his garage and couldn’t care less about clothes, but sees the scholarship as an opportunity to get his foot in the door at the most prestigious art school around. The book alternates between their journals, a requirement for the scholarship, and is total book candy. A must-read for Project Runaway Junior fans, which you should all be watching, by the way.
Julia is very short for her age, but by the end of the summer run of The Wizard of Oz, she’ll realize how big she is inside, where it counts. She hasn’t ever thought of herself as a performer, but when the wonderful director of Oz casts her as a Munchkin, she begins to see herself in a new way. As Julia becomes friendly with the poised and wise Olive — one of the adults with dwarfism who’ve joined the production’s motley crew of Munchkins – and with her deeply artistic neighbor, Mrs. Chang, Julia’s own sense of self as an artist grows. Soon, she doesn’t want to fade into the background — and it’s a good thing, because her director has more big plans for Julia!
If books can be one’s Patronus, than this one is mine. Julia is sick and tired of being the shortest person in every group, so much so that she won’t even say the word short aloud. But her height is an asset when she lands a part as a munchkin in a local summer production of The Wizard of Oz. At rehearsal, Julia meets new friends and discovers a new love: the stage. This has a fantastic ensemble cast and Julia’s voice is absolutely pitch perfect.
In this unforgettable multicultural coming-of-age narrative — based on the author’s childhood in the 1960s — a young Cuban-Jewish immigrant girl is adjusting to her new life in New York City when her American dream is suddenly derailed. Ruthie’s plight will intrigue readers, and her powerful story of strength and resilience, full of color, light, and poignancy, will stay with them for a long time.
Ruthie Mizrahi and her family recently emigrated from Castro’s Cuba to New York City. Just when she’s finally beginning to gain confidence in her mastery of English—and enjoying her reign as her neighborhood’s hopscotch queen — a horrific car accident leaves her in a body cast and confined her to her bed for a long recovery. As Ruthie’s world shrinks because of her inability to move, her powers of observation and her heart grow larger and she comes to understand how fragile life is, how vulnerable we all are as human beings, and how friends, neighbors, and the power of the arts can sweeten even the worst of times.
After an accident, recent Cuban immigrant Ruthie is confined to her bed for eight months in 1960s New York. Lonely, angry, and frustrated, her life is changed when a local artist and neighbor decides to visit. I am a sucker for anything described as a poignant coming of age story, and this one does not shy away from the mucky parts of growing up. Ruthie’s emotions are raw and tangible and her relationships are fraught. Behar’s language is exacting and beautiful and her novel reminded me of one of my favourite books, The House On Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. Look for this one again during award season.
Sebastian Konstantinov comes from a long line of talented circus performers. Somehow, however, he has not inherited any of their acrobatic skill: he has no balance, he’s afraid of heights, he can’t even turn a somersault. But there’s one thing he does know: his father’s circus, which travels through Eastern Europe, is out of date and is fast running out of money.
Seb has a solution, though: if he can somehow get into the Bonaventure Circus School in Montreal, Canada, he might be able to learn something valuable to help his father. Seb secretly writes to the Directrice (an old friend of his father’s) and is accepted into the school. All he has to do is convince his father to send him away – oh, and keep his lack of talent a secret from all his teachers and classmates. Fortunately for him, he befriends two other students, who also don’t seem to quite fit in.
Seb is not the only one with secrets, it turns out. The school is literally crumbling beneath the feet of its students, and the directrice may be counting on Seb’s “talent” to save the day. Can he and his new friends figure out what’s really going on in the school that bills itself as the World’s Best Circus School?
Rachelle Delaney is a Canadian middle grade treasure. She’s written about child pirates, mystery-solving dogs, and her next book is equally child-friendly. The Bonaventure Adventures is a friendship story set in a boarding school in Montreal where students learn contemporary circus arts. Think Ron, Harry and Hermione at a Cirque du Soleil feeder school.
Welcome to the further adventures of the plucky Fitzgerald-Trout siblings, who live on a tropical island where the grown-ups are useless, but the kids can drive.
In this second installment, the delightfully self-reliant siblings continue their search for a home. This time, their pursuit will bring them face-to-face with a flood, illegal carnivorous plants, and the chance to win an extraordinary prize at a carnival. Will they finally find the place they truly belong?
Knock About With The Fitzgerald-Trouts is the follow-up to Look Out For The Fitzgerald-Trouts, one of my favourite debuts from last year. The Fitzgerald-Trouts are a loosely-related band of resourceful kids who live in a world of terrible, Dahl-esque adults and their lives could not be more fun to read about. This is a great series for kids who are not quite ready to read about the horrors of middle school or puberty, but instead enjoy a smart, quirky romp. Not quite contemporary fiction, not quite fantasy, sweet but with a healthy dose of sass, this series truly occupies a unique place in middle grade.
Winnie’s last day of fourth grade ended with a pretty life-changing surprise. That was the day Winnie’s parents got divorced, the day they decided that Winnie would live three days a week with each of them and spend Wednesdays by herself in a treehouse smack between their houses, to divide her time perfectly evenly between them. It was the day Winnie’s seed of frustration with her parents was planted, a seed that grew and grew until it felt like it was as big as a tree itself.
By the end of fifth grade, Winnie decides that the only way to change things is to barricade herself in her treehouse until her parents come to their senses — and her friends decide to join her. It’s kids versus grown-ups, and no one wants to back down first. But with ten kids in one treehouse, all with their own demands, Winnie discovers that things can get pretty complicated pretty fast! Even if they are having the most epic slumber party ever.
In the newest novel by beloved National Book Award finalist Lisa Graff, kids have turned the tables on their parents, and all the rules have been tossed out the window. But does Winnie have what it takes to hold her ground and keep everyone happy?
The Great Treehouse War is a classic kids vs. adults story in which a group of kids go on strike by moving into Winnie’s incredible two-story treehouse. This book takes the form of Winnie’s creative school report, including maps, diagrams, post-it note suggestions from other kids, and comic strips. National Book Award finalist Lisa Graff is a master of balancing kid-centric concepts with emotional depth. Despite the fun premise, clever banter and unique format, at the heart of this book is a girl who is being pulled between her parents in a very messy divorce. With brisk pacing and a compelling mix of humour, ingenuity and heart, Graff’s latest is impossible to resist.
As an extra special bonus, Vikki has been kind enough to offer giveaways for two of the books featured in today’s post – Maud by Melanie J. Fishbane and The Bonaventure Adventures by Rachelle Delaney! These contests are open to residents of the U.S. and Canada and prizes will be distributed once the giveaways end on Monday, January 30th. Good luck!