WHAT’S NEXT: El Deafo by Cece Bell


I have learned to trust book recommendations from authors I love.

Patrick Rothfuss led me to Catherynne Valente and to Peter S. Beagle.

Now it’s time to trust Rick Riordan.

The pen behind Percy Jackson recommends the graphic novel El Deafo, by Cece Bell:

Cece Bell tells the story of a young girl (rabbit?) growing up with a severe hearing impairment. She does a great job tackling the subject with humor and pathos, letting us see the world through the narrator’s eyes (and hear through her super Phonic Ear). Along the way, we meet pushy friends, clueless peers, helpful teachers, not-so-helpful siblings, and a whole cast of other characters that any kid can relate to.

5 Amazing Sentences from YA Novels

5 Amazing Sentences from YA Novels

Written by Grant Goodman, 12/16/2014

I was recently given the link to Buzzfeed’s 51 of the Most Beautiful Sentences in Literature. It’s a wonderful collection. I thought that YA novels deserve the same treatment. So over the next few months, as a recurring feature, I’ll be collecting and sharing my picks for Amazing Sentences in YA.

1.  I feel such a tenderness for these vulnerable night-time conversations, the way the words take a different shape in the air when there’s no light in the room.

David Levithan, Every Day

2. Moonlight can reveal the truth of things.

-Joseph Delaney, The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch

3. Life is short, but it’s wide.

-Wendy Mass, Every Soul a Star

4. The world was collapsing, and the only thing that really mattered to me was that she was still alive.

-Rick Riordan, The Last Olympian

5. There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.

-Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

Click HERE to read 5 MORE Amazing Sentences from YA Novels!

Destiny and Prophecy in YA

Destiny and Prophecy in YA

Written by Grant Goodman, 12/2/2014

A recurring feature element in fantasy literature is the prophecy. You know how it goes. Some soothsayer foretold a terrible fate or a cataclysmic event and then the heroes set out to prove that prophecy isn’t guaranteed.

Rick Riodan’s series all rely on prophecy to fuel them. In Riordan’s defense, the Greeks and Romans actually relied on prophecies. They had their oracles who communicated mysterious messages from the gods. They also had augurs to read the signs of nature. (This is evident in Homer’s Odyssey, when a pair of eagles swoop out of the sky to attack a crowd of people. A resident interprets their actions as a sign of Zeus’ displeasure.)

One of my favorites, Cirque du Freak, involves several characters who can see through time and a series of prophecies about the fall of the vampires. The main character, Darren, is always pursued by the nagging possibility of “what if” and the consequences of failure.

Even Harry Potter contains a prophecy that surfaces (in full) in The Order of the Phoenix. It is the driving force behind Voldemort’s obsessive hunting of Harry.

So why does this happen so often? What appeal does this plot trope have to a YA audience?

I think it has something to do with offering young readers an idea that is slowly dying in their realities: that there is a set, stable, predictable future. Or, the opposite: that despite the path you’re set on, you can fight to change it.

Just think: you’re 14 years old. The world is brimming with possibility, but you’re also realizing its horrible, horrible flaws. All of the values you were spoon-fed as a child are beginning to unravel: there is not always justice, the greedy often triumph over the selfless, war is never-ending, there was never a Santa Claus or a tooth fairy or anything magic.

In the midst of this turmoil, you can turn to a story in which the future is not a roiling mass of chaos. There are rails. There is an order to things. If you follow steps A through C, you can succeed and save the world.

The opposite is just as powerful: you may feel like you have been set upon the rails. But there are stories out there that constantly hammer upon the idea that the future is malleable. You can change course if you fight. You aren’t doomed to the fate of your parents.

The prophecy trope is going to be around for a long time. It’s a classic story element and its appeal has lasted thousands of years.

What are some of the other prophecy novels you’ve read? List ‘em in the comments section and let’s discuss!

Book Trailer: THE BLOOD OF OLYMPUS by Rick Riordan

Book Trailer: THE BLOOD OF OLYMPUS by Rick Riordan

I am always fascinated by how marketing teams use different covers for their novels. This book trailer from Puffin UK not only gives a great summary of the final book from Riordan’s latest series, but it also gives you a glimpse of the cover art chosen for the UK release of the novels.

Percy Jackson: An Intro to the Odyssey

Percy Jackson: An Intro to the Odyssey

Written by Grant Goodman, 9/30/2014

(A big thank you to one of my students, who suggested writing about Riordan’s novels!)

Everyone who’s anyone knows that Rick Riordan’s final book in the Heroes of Olympus quintet comes out soon. Riordan’s tales of modern Greek and Roman heroes have been flying off the shelves year after year, making him a mainstay in the YA kingdom. (Fun fact: the first novel, The Lightning Thief, will be turning 10 years old in July.)

In honor of this upcoming release, I thought I’d put an English teacher’s spin on it and connect the dots between some of Riordan’s references to mythology and their more deeply-rooted roles in Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey. It’s yet another reason why YA also appeals to an older audience.


  1. The Lotus Hotel and Casino

In The Lightning Thief, Percy, Annabeth, and Grover, find themselves trapped inside of the Lotus Hotel and Casino, where time slips by without anyone noticing.

This moment is a reference to, among other tales, Homer’s Odyssey. In Book IX, Odysseus and his men seek refuge from their days at sea and come to the land of the Lotus eaters. The people there do no physical harm to Odysseus and his men, but they offer the men a taste of the lotus. The magical flower is like a drug; those who eat it lose their desire to do anything else except stay and eat more lotus. In the end, Odysseus is forced to retrieve those who have eaten the lotus and he has them tied down on the ship so they can sail away.

  1. Aeolus’ Castle

Leo, Piper, and Jason find themselves trapped by Aeolus in The Lost Hero. The wind deity is bent out of shape because he isn’t officially labeled a god. Yes, he controls the winds, but apparently “Master of Winds” isn’t good enough for him.

The cursed crew of Odysseus visits Aeolus in Book X of The Odyssey. Aeolus subdues the North, South, and East winds by stuffing them into a bag and sealing it. This, he assures them, will provide the men swift and safe passage back to Ithaca. The crew sets sail, finally ready to return to their island.

With home on the horizon, Odysseus takes a nap. His men decide to see if Aeolus’ bag contains silver or gold, unleashing the winds and blowing the ship back to Aeolus’ island. The wind master deems them cursed by the gods and refuses to offer his help anymore.

From there, they sail on, into disaster after disaster.

  1. Calypso, on the island of Ogygia

The nymph Calypso is stuck on the island of Ogygia. In The Battle of the Labyrinth, Percy is washed ashore and Calypso brings him back to health. He breaks her heart when he leaves the island on a raft. (Honestly, I think it is the best scene in all of the books Riordan has written so far. Really sends a tremor through your heart.)

She appears in The Odyssey, playing a very different role. She isn’t nearly as kind. She keeps Odysseus prisoner on her island for seven years. Calypso even offers Odysseus immortality if he stays with her and he turns it down. Eventually, Athena convinces Zeus to allow Odysseus to make his way home to his wife and son. Hermes is sent to visit and he commands Calypso to let Odysseus go. From there, Odysseus makes a raft and begins the final stretch of his long journey home.