On Location: Dig Deeper into the International Missions Force Series

I got the chance to interview YA fiction writer Felicia Bridges about being an author, putting yourself out there, and why she’s been successful. Read the video transcript here.

 

Where do the books of her series take place? Check out my info graphic below to find out and see where her next novels will be set! The video and infographic are for my final project for my Media and Journalism 121 class at UNC. 

 

4 Thought-Provoking YA Novels

 

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

A genuine and stirring work, Speak reveals the weight of being both an outcast in high school and a rape victim. Fear and loneliness muzzles and disconnects freshman Melinda, who hadn’t told anyone what happened at a back-to-school party. Realistically portraying how it feels to be a teenager elicits even more empathy for the main character. The novel reminds me how prevalent, harmful, and hidden sexual assault to both men and women continues to be in our culture. Being kind to others is vital-we may have no idea what people struggle with.

 

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Four characters, each affected differently by WWII, fight to survive and eventually board the same ship. Sepetys skillfully juxtaposes her characters in order to highlight their brave, kind, or selfish acts. The reader gazes into the psyche of a Nazi soldier and sees an example of someone  drawn into a horrific army.  Based on a true and overlooked tragedy, the sinking of the MV Wilhelm- Gustloff killed more people on one vessel than any other recorded event.

 

 

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Once called “America’s Fattest Teen”, Libby has recovered to the point where she can attend a normal high school. There her life clashes with fellow student Jack, who suffers from prosopagnosia (face blindness).  Libby’s voice is inspiring, challenging, and complex. Although she still faces challenges, Libby’s self- acceptance represents hope and success to those struggling with mental issues. Her character made me evaluate how I view my own appearance and other’s opinions.

 

How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon

When a white man shoots an African-American teen named Tariq, everyone has a different perspective on the event. Was Tariq part of the local gang? Was he holding a gun or merely a candy bar? Was the act a hate crime?  In the aftermath, young men and women of Tariq’s community must decide how to react-in anger, grief, and courage. This novel highlights the fact that gangs and substance abuse still haunt neighborhoods today, and explores what happens in the weeks following a shooting like this one might see on the news.

 

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4 Reasons to Connect with an Author

Over the past few years, I have had the honor to connect with local author Felicia Bridges. As the writer of the series International Missions Force, she creates inspirational adventure stories of teens and their relationship with God. Her current titles include Czechmate (featured previously on this blog), BoliviaKnight, and an upcoming third novel. Bridges has been so kind and inclusive to me since I expressed interest in her works. I’m sure not all authors have the time or resources to respond to readers. However, if you know of someone who writes, visits a career day, or can find someone to contact through social media, I would highly recommend reaching out.

  1. They inspire you to write your own stories. After reading Bridge’s first book, I actually crafted a short story of my own missions trip. For me, seeing a woman pursuing her calling and being published pushed me to work more.
  2. You can ask them questions about writing/editing/publishing. During the launch of her first book, Bridges took questions about her journey toward becoming an author. I have messaged her questions of my own about publishing and other career ideas. In order to learn more about careers I’m interested in, I’ve also shadowed a lawyer and a advertising accounts manager. Although not everyone will respond positively, showing initiative and being polite might lead to a valuable opportunity.
  3. You might even be able to read/ help with an early draft. I was so excited to read a draft and make comments on Bolivia Knight.
  4. You get practice writing. If an author invests time with you, one of the best things you can do to help them succeed is to write their book a thoughtful review or endorsement. Try Amazon, your own social media, or blog. Evaluating a text and articulating what you liked about it sharpens your own literary skills. Writing about any topic can improve your ability to think and communicate clearly.

My endorsement of BoliviaKnight (bottom of back cover).

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Flawed

Most criminals fulfill their sentences in prison, but Celestine’s society ridicules and brands those who make distasteful decisions. Celestine believed she wasn’t the type of person who would ever receive a “F” brand for being Flawed.  When a dilemma arises that affects both her logic and emotions, she must decide who she can trust and how brave she will be.

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Flawed by Cecelia Ahern

My rating: 3 of 5

Genre: Dystopian

I was surprised that this novel received an above average rating on Goodreads. Although it had a few notable features, I viewed it as average overall. The main character did not embody a distinct personality showing itself consistently in thoughts or actions. A lack of exploring the setting added discomfort in the plot. They have the technology to get rid of wrinkles and aging, but everything else is the same? Why do certain actions merit lifelong punishment while more explicit crimes carry a finite sentence?  What kept me interested were the emotional scenes full of impact and bursts of description. I appreciate the skill of an author who can use more than romantic relationships to elicit feeling, and the plot moved quickly enough to be engaging.I will have to decide if I should read the sequel. I also was refreshed to find a young heroine of color in a genre with many Caucasian leads.

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The Unexpected Everything

Politican’s daughter Andie has learned the importance of planning and personal drive in achieving success. Yet she hasn’t learned how to deeply connect with people like her busy father or the cute stranger she walks a dog for. When one rumor destroys her summer plans, Andie discovers how to process uncontrollable events and her own emotions.

By: Morgan Matson

Genre: Realistic Fiction

My Rating: 4 of 5
While I have been positively rating many books recently, this book was on the list of Top YA Fiction of 2016. Even if you aren’t a dog person, you still might want to pack this perfect-for-summer novel alongside sunscreen and a towel. The plot might be lacking, reminiscient of a cheap rom-com, but the development of nuanced themes adds depth and emotion. It explores father-daughter relationships, the need for vulnerability for intiminacy, and accepting the unchangeable. Andie’s attitude toward  interpersonal relationships grows throughout, and the ending hits a satisfactory note. However, the theme of taking chances is a cliché addition. Flowing from almost every YA work of fiction, either risk-taking must be present for a storyline to move or authors over-associate the idea with teenagers.

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The Madman’s Daughter

In this retelling of H. G. Well’s The Island of Dr. Moreau, the daughter of a brilliantly dark surgeon follows her father to his secluded laboratory on a tropical island. On her journey, Juliet encounters two young men who both entrance and fill her with caution. Although Juliet faced trouble in Victorian England, her father’s island holds secrets and dangers of its own.

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The Madman’s Daughter
By: Megan Shepherd

My Rating: 4 of 5

Genre: Historical Fiction, Sci-Fi

Read this if you enjoy: Frankenstein by Mary Shelly,  The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

Although I barely gave this book 4, I enjoyed the plot and found some development of character. By illuminating the internal struggle between the desire to do good and to ignore morality, the novel moves beyond existing as a fun read only.Each of us have done things we felt like we couldn’t control or were later ashamed of. The book builds suspense with classic jump-scare fear tactics, but also uses setting and the unpredictability of a character to develop tension. While I am not familiar with the novel that inspired this book, I believe Shepherd accurately captures the feel of a 19th century Gothic. I have read other works by H. G. Wells, but  the mood of The Invisible Man or The Time Machine could translate to this work.

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Carve the Mark

Cyra’s current gift, or special ability, fills her and those she touches with pain. Used as a weapon by her brother Ryzek, the ruler of her people, Cyra’s terrible actions begin to torture her mind. A captive boy named Akos presents her a chance to discover mercy as he struggles to free his own brother.

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Carve the Mark 

By: Veronica Roth

My Rating: 3 of 5

Genre: Science Fiction

Veronica Roth delivers a novel with similar features of her famous novel Divergent, with meaningful inter- and intra personal character conflicts, complex parental figures, and an unoriginal premise. While the novel delivered little new in terms of plot, major themes play out well against a backdrop of planets and superpowers. The main character Cyra struggles with chronic pain and how what she’s done has affected her character. It also displays the power of redemption, and how people can fundamentally change through the positive or negative influencers in their lives.

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Red Queen

Mare’s red blood sentences her to a desperate life of thievery that would likely end on the battlefield. But when an accident reveals a ability only the silver-blooded elites should possess, the King and Queen plan to marry her to their second son. Forced to pretend she comes from silver blood, Mare secretly helps the revolution Image resulthoping to overthrow the unfair order.

 

Red Queen
By: Victoria Aveyard
My Rating: 4 of 5
Genre: Fantasy

The main characters of Red Queen dominate the book because they are crafted complexly, develop throughout the novel, and act realistically. While the plot lulled in the middle, it starts and ends well with diving plot twists and snapping action. Mare’s struggle between the kingdom’s two princes also drew me in emotionally. Aveyard said she modeled the book’s revolution after the frustration younger generations have with the status quo, and even before reading her quote I saw the parallels between worlds. My only complaint is that the biggest plot twist, while shocking, was unbelievable because there was little indication it could occur.
SPOILERS AHEAD: Read this book because I need to vent about Maven’s betrayal, the plot twist I found unrealistic. I was rooting for them to be together, and I’m still upset. As the second son I did have a premonition he would want to ascend the throne, but I thought it would be with the Scarlet Guard’s help.

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7 Best YA Fiction Reads Set in Space

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1. Across the Universe by Beth Revis. Aboard the Godspeed starship, Amy and 100 other cryogenically frozen colonists are on their way to a new solar system. Elder, the only teenager and the leader of the ship’s crew, unfreezes Amy to see someone near his own age. When frozen colonists start to perish, Amy and Elder must discover who is behind these murders. Packed with plot twists, the Across the Universe Trilogy is an unpredictable ride containing realistically portrayed relationships.

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2. Salvage by Alexandra Duncan. When Ava makes a rash decision and ruins her future, she is smuggled to earth where she fights to survive. With the help of family and unexpected friends, she overcomes her past and forms her own identity. Racial and gender discrimination in Salvage artfully illuminates social issues in our society today.

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3. Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan. A desperate situation aboard the neighboring space vessel Empyrean leads to the capture of the girls aboard Waverley’s ship. Conflict brews on both vessels as the girls face a childless Empyrean crew while the boys must run the ship themselves. Glow features a strong female protagonist in a story woven with themes reminiscent of the darker side of Puritanism.

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4. The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid.  Nemesis, a genetically engineered humanoid, was made to protect a senator’s daughter named Sidonia. However, she begins to move beyond her biology after taking Sidonia’s place in the galactic court of a power-hungry Emperor. Nemesis now works with a surprising ally to save humanity from its harsh rulers and aging technology. The complex characters and original setting of The Diabolic make it an engaging read.

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5. Cinder by Marissia Meyer. A cruel stepmother feels justified in using the tinkering skills of her cyborg stepdaughter Cinder to support her family through a mechanic’s shop. An incurable disease and threats from the Lunar Queen Levana force young Emperor Kai to look for help. With Cinder’s talents and bravery and Kai’s position, they start a team that grows in members throughout the following books. While the first book Cinder was adequate by itself, the entire Lunar Chronicles is a series full of adventure, featuring new takes on classic fairytales.

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6. These Broken Stars by Annie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. When a luxury starship crashes, an unlikely pair must survive on a desolate planet. Lilac is the daughter of one of the richest men in the universe, while Tarver has faced hardship as a soldier. Together they uncover secrets about Lilac’s father and learn to understand each other despite their different backgrounds. These Broken Stars contains lyrical writing and a fulfilling romance for those who enjoy that genre.

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7. Entangled by Amy Rose Capetta. What happens when you mix rock n’ roll and The Hitcherhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? A story about a girl named Cade who uses music to fight the ringing in her head. Cade finds out she has been quantum entangled with boy named Xan. She gathers a motley crew in aid in her search across the stars for Xan. Entangled delivers a fun cast of characters and satisfying conclusion.

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A Thousand Nights

My last few trips to the library have been fairly discouraging, none of my picks holding my interest long enough for me to finish. However, I’ve been two for two on the latest novels I’ve read- A Thousand Nights and The Adoration of Jenna Fox.

A Thousand Nights
By: E. K. Johnston
Rating: 5 out of 5
Genre: Fantasy
After taking the place of her sister as Lo-Melkhiin’s bride, the main character develops powerful magic as she resists a king who killed all three hundred of his previous wives.

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Because  I enjoyed fantasy more when I was younger, I was surprised how much I loved A Thousand Nights for its prose, world-building, and strong female lead. Derived from the premises of the classic  A Thousand and One Nights,  which contains stories like Aladdian or The Forty Thieves, this novel creates a brand new story that feels like legend.

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