For school visit and lecture inquiries, please contact Christine Labov at the Penguin Random House Speaker's Bureau: clabov@ penguinrandomhouse.com. I am not available for Skype visits.
Below, organized by book title, are resources to use for your classroom or book club. Scroll down to find the book that interests you.
FOR FIRST-YEAR EXPERIENCE PROGRAMS:
WE WERE LIARS
We Were Liars contains many elements of the textual complexity alluded to in the Common Core State Standards for Reading (ELA Appendix A). Here is the Penguin Random House Common Core Road Map for We Were Liars.
Here also is the official We Were Liars Readers Group page, with discussion questions about the novel written by Dr. Rose Brock.
The novel rewrites and comments upon several works of classic literature:
- Like Liars, Shakespeare’s King Lear is the story of an impaired monarch bent on choosing between three daughters and the toxic competition that choice forces upon the women.
- Also like Liars, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights is the story of a poor boy of color brought into a wealthy white family, his ill-fated love affair with one member of that family, and the way the family’s disdain of him pushes him to monstrous deeds.
- Andrew Lang’s famous fairy tale collections (The Blue Fairy Book, etc.) are referenced in Liars. The novel retells numerous fairy tales, including:
- The King Lear-like tale “Cap O’ Rushes”, which is best known in English as collected by Joseph Jacobs, though variations have appeared in many countries.
- “Sleeping Beauty” (collected by both Perrault and Grimm).
- “Beauty and the Beast” (Villenueve/de Beaumont).
Liars has several features the ELA Appendix A refers to as qualitative measures of textual complexity:
- A complex structure: Liars is a first-person narrative, but that narrative includes fairy tale interstitials, hallucinatory episodes of violence and scenes that are repeated with new interpretations at different points in the story.
- Multiple levels of meaning and textual ambiguity. The narrator is unreliable. Is Cadence lying? Is Cadence hallucinating? Were the Liars justified in any way to commit the crime they committed? Was the crime successful in any way? Is the Sinclair family acting of their own free will or are they in some way merely moving through patterns established in fairy tales that existed long before them? And so on. The novel is open to many interpretations.
- Figuritive, ironic, ambiguous and purposefully misleading language.
THE BOYFRIEND LIST
THE BOY BOOK
THE TREASURE MAP OF BOYS
REAL LIVE BOYFRIENDS
The Boyfriend List paperback contains an author Q&A and discussion questions.
Some books that make for interesting conversations in conjunction with The Boyfriend List and its sequels include: Looking for Alaska by John Green, Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty (published for adults), Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld (published for adults), and The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti.
If your book club has very young members or if you want your reading list particularly wholesome, try: Girl, 15, Charming but Insane by Sue Limb or Ninjas, Piranhas and Galileo by Greg Leitich Smith, both of which touch on some of the same issues.
FLY ON THE WALL
The Fly on the Wall paperback contains a Q&A and discussion questions.
Fly on the Wall takes inspiration from high and lowbrow culture sources — most particularly Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Spider-man comics.
For a good read that articulates much of what I think about the place of sex in books for teenagers, readTanya Lee Stone’s Voya Essay, “Now and Forever: The Power of Sex in Young Adult Literature.”
There are no publisher discussion guides for Dramarama, but if you have access to adlit.org you can search the title and find some interesting questions in an article there. Here, too, are some of my favorite read-alikes and related movies beyond Camp Rock that would make for interesting comparisons:
• DVD documentary: Stagedoor
• DVD movie (fiction): Camp
• How I Paid for College by Marc Acito (contains adult situations)
• Withering Tights by Louise Rennison
• Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg
• Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson
There is a nice list of YA theater books here, on GoodReads.
Dramarama and Fly on the Wall both feature gay male characters. If you want to read or recommend more books about gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning teens, please look at these stellar booklists:
THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS
Here’s a PDF file of the Hyperion Discussion Guide for The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.
There’s a video of me reading from Disreputable History at the National Book Awards.
Audio recording: reading and chatting about the novel on Teaching Books.
Good for analytical projects and classroom discussion: YA Subscription’s video analysis of the book, with Kristin Cashore. Includes a comprehensive written summary.
Some interesting and spirited discussion of the book and its interpretations can be found at The Morning News Tournament of Books, here and here. More analysis of that whole business at the librarian blog, Tea Cozy — here and here.
HOW TO BE BAD
Readalikes that would make for good discussion on subjects of friendship: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares, Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson, TTYL by Lauren Myracle.
Other recommended co-authored books for teen readers in multiple voices: Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn; Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green; Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer.