Saturday, August 11, 2012

Guitar Notes

Last week I read a manuscript for a new young adult novel, as a favor for a friend.  As I was reading the manuscript, I kept thinking about how much the book would benefit from a companion website. Coincidentally, the next book I read was Guitar Notes by Mary Amato, which has an extensive companion website that enhances the book immeasurably.

As the story begins, Tripp Broody and Lila Marks share an instrumental practice room at school by using it on alternating lunch-periods.  Lila is an accomplished cellist, and Tripp is a guitar player and burgeoning song writer.  When his mother takes away his guitar until his grades improve, Tripp borrows a school guitar and signs up for the practice room in desperation.  He immediately annoys Lila by leaving trash in the room, and she leaves him a note admonishing him. They begin a correspondence, dubbing each other Mr. Odd and Ms. Even. Although seemingly different, they develop a bond through their shared feelings of  pressure and their love for creating  music. Lila's would like a break from her cello career and a demanding best friend.  Tripp needs to play his guitar to help him forget about his father's death and the absence of his best friend, who moved away.  As they grow closer, Tripp and Lila begin writing songs together and performing surreptitiously, knowing their parents would disapprove.  Their relationship deepens slowly until a dramatic turn of events changes everything. Short,  present-tense third-person vignettes advance the plot and are complimented by text messages, emails and handwritten notes. Amato, a songwriter herself, includes convincing musical detail and provides tablature at the end of the book for all of Tripp and Lila's songs.

The companion website can be found at The author refers to "thrum" in the novel, saying, "When the vibrations of the music make your soul vibrate, you feel the thrum. It’s like you’re perfectly in tune with the song, as if you are the music and the music is you.” The website includes lyrics and chords for the nine songs, as well as recordings and karaoke versions for each.  There are behind the scenes videos about writing a novel and writing songs.  There is also a place for kids to share their own music.
More and more authors are providing companion websites for their novels. Daniel Waters' Generation Dead series and Maggie Steifvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls series both have extensive web support.  Some authors provide blogs from their characters. Others provide "sound tracks" of songs inspired by their novels.  There is no end to the creative extensions for young adult novels in the 21st Century!

Friday, August 10, 2012

SLJ Virtual Trade Show

Yesterday I attended the School Library Journal Virtual Trade Show.  I was amazed at the creative way the organizers attempted to replicate the trade show experience.  I went to the auditorium to listen to an author panel about the latest dystopian fiction and another about classic novel adaptations. I also visited the Exhibit Hall to find out about the latest young adult titles offered by a variety of publishers.  While at each booth, I was greeted by name by the publisher's representative, who offered to answer my questions.  Although I much prefer to attend  trade shows in person, I was able to find out about many new exciting titles, as well as upcoming offerings in popular series.

First on my list of must reads is Froi of the Exiles, the second book in The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta.  The sequel to Finnikin of the Rock introduces Froi, who serves the Queen and Finnikin. According to the book blurb, he is part of the Guard sworn to protect the royal family.  He is sent on a secret mission to the kingdom of Charyn, where he must unravel both the dark bonds of kinship and the mysteries of a half-mad princess.  I loved the first book, which won the Aurealis Award for fantasy, and look forward to another one of Marchetta's well-constructed plots peopled by memorable characters.

Additional series titles which are available in November include Days of Blood and Starlight. In this sequel to Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Karou must come to terms with who and what she is, and how far she'll go to avenge her people.  I was able to download it through NetGalley from the trade show. In Ashen Winter, the sequel to Mike Mullin's Ash Fall, Alex and Darla continue to deal with the fallout from a volcanic eruption in Yellowstone.  Last but not least, Reached, the final book in the Matched Trilogy by Ally Condie, wraps up the story of Alex and Ky, who have found the Rising, but are torn apart once again by circumstances beyond their control. I look forward to reading these books in the near future.

The virtual trade show was a great way to get current on the new offerings in young adult literature and hear the authors' back stories. As I read new titles, which are worthy of your time, I will share them with you.