Bookshelves

My articles, book reviews, and essays have been published in the New York TimesBoston GlobeSlateBuzzFeed, and numerous other publications. The articles listed here are just a few examples of the many I’ve written.

Book Reviews

NEW YORK TIMES | THE REAL BOY BY ANNE URSU

There is no one bad guy, people are simultaneously greedy and miraculous, and even a monster deserves understanding. In “The Real Boy,” magic is unruly, and legends feel steady under the feet until a new bit of information rolls in like thunder and unsettles history.

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BOSTON GLOBE | THE WALLS AROUND US & READ BETWEEN THE LINES

“The Walls Around Us” is, like Suma’s “17 & Gone” and “Imaginary Girls,” about female friendships and the darkness hearts can harbor. In her story, some people are guilty and damnable, and some are innocent and good — and the ones who fall in between are simply innocuous.

BOSTON GLOBE | OUT OF THE EASY & NAVIGATING EARLY

Set in post-World War II Maine, “Navigating Early” is historical fiction. But it’s also a friendship story, a father-and-son story, a tale about grief and recovery and adventure. It is a story with shadows of magical realism interspersed with the stuff of fables and echoes of an “Odyssey.” Heartbreaking. Joyful. It is all these things.

NEW YORK TIMES | DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE BY LAINI TAYLOR

Karou’s first story ends with an anguished epiphany, the promise of a new adventure and, of course, what Emily Dickinson called “the thing with feathers” and what Brimstone calls “the real magic,” hope.

BOSTON GLOBE | VIOLENT ENDS EDITED BY SHAUN DAVID HUTCHINSON

With its fractured format, “Violent Ends” reflects what its story strives to make clear: People are divided into so many different selves with so many different secrets, that it’s all but impossible to answer “Why?”

BOSTON GLOBE | Lies in the Dust, Conversions, Unfinished Life of Addison Stone & I'll Give You the Sun

Jude and Noah come to understand the truth about their mother’s passions, the enormity of art, the madness of love, and the depth of their bond. The tidy ending requires as great a suspension of disbelief as the plot’s magical elements, an exquisite surrender to wonder and possibilities. As Grandma Sweetwine says to Jude, “You have to see the miracles for there to be miracles.”

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New York Times | KIDS OF APPETITE, THE GRACES, REPLICA & EVERY HIDDEN THING

Arnold has a talent for stringing words together in just the right, jumbled order. His sentences are arrows. When Vic tells the sergeant interviewing him, “I’ve always wanted to be strong, Miss Mendes. I just wish there wasn’t so much fire,” it feels as if gravity has doubled down on your chest. But as Vic realizes, it’s much easier to face the flames when you know others are standing with you.

Essays

LA REVIEW OF BOOKS | THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH TURNS 50

Adults not only take short trips to the “Doldrums,” they make entire vacations out of existential despair. The adventure in Tollbooth doesn’t change; it’s the meaning we find in it that evolves.

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SLATE | ROALD DAHL’S MATILDA TURNS 25

As children we read to escape—to enter fantasy worlds where a bespectacled boy can discover he’s a wizard or a brave girl can find a magical passage through a wardrobe. But we also read to find reflections of ourselves. Matilda was the first novel in which I, a shy, bookish child, saw myself.

HORN BOOK MAGAZINE | WHAT MAKES A GOOD YA ROAD TRIP NOVEL?

How do I know a road trip book is really good? Because just like Kerouac’s roman candles, it makes me go “Awww!” at the end.

HORN BOOK MAGAZINE | THE LONG LIFE OF A MOCKINGBIRD: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD TURNS 50

To Kill a Mockingbird is perhaps our foremost example of the private reading experience writ larger by its communal–and now multigenerational–replication.

BUZZFEED | BEYOND MAGENTA

Cameron and the five other transgender young adults who are profiled in Susan Kuklin’s newest nonfiction work for teens, Beyond Magenta, have to create new gender terms. The old ones won’t work for them. They must grapple with stuff as seemingly arbitrary as pronoun usage as well as the complexities of sexuality, gender, and identity.

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SLATE | YA TAKES ON ATWOOD’S HANDMAID’S TALE

It’s impossible to predict what kind of world young women reading these novels 10, 15, 25 years from now will inhabit. Best-case scenario? Teens will be both amused and appalled by the idea of a society in which women’s bodies are not their own. Worst case? They’ll be living in one.

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Interviews & Profiles

BOSTON GLOBE | CAMBRIDGE’S LOIS LOWRY, ARCHITECT OF THE ORIGINAL YOUNG ADULT DYSTOPIA

“The Giver” is a precursor to these bestsellers and others in so many ways. It was a dystopian novel for young readers before post-apocalyptic settings became a trend; a title with adult appeal before parents started unabashedly perusing the teen sections of libraries; and beautifully written exploration of human connection when many thought children were not ready for such depth.

LA NAPOULE ART FOUNDATION | ARTIST WILL COTTON

“I think about audience a little bit, for sure. I mostly think about myself as audience, because I’m the only one I’m certain of. And what I want to do is believe this is a real place. And if there happens to be a figure in the picture, I want to feel like I could be that figure.”

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL | MEET MICHELLE COLTE, SLJ’S SCHOOL LIBRARIAN OF THE YEAR

Even though she has lived in Hawaii for 20 years, Colte still has a whisper of Wisconsin, her home state, in her voice. Her Twitter avatar shows a woman with a wide smile and a Dr. Seuss red-and-white striped Cat in the Hat topper pulled over dark blond hair. Judging by her tweets, it’s safe to bet that her favorite punctuation mark is the exclamation point.

Education & Technology

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL | FAN FICTION TAKES FLIGHT

These young people don’t see fan fiction as something residing in a murky corner of the Internet but as a creative outlet: a way to express love for an author’s work, a venue for exploring sexuality and emotions, and a liberating space to share and receive feedback on writing.

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL | YA AUTHORS WHO GIVE BACK

All of this good work raises a question: Are writers and readers just more empathetic? An October 2013 study published in Science found that “reading literary fiction may hone adults’ ToM [Theory of Mind], a complex and critical social capacity.” In non-geek speak, this means that psychologists determined that reading literary fiction increases empathy among adults.

CREATING ALTERNATIVE (EDUCATIONAL) REALITIES

VR creates an experience where learners, usually through headsets or special goggles such as Google Daydream or Oculus Rift, are fully immersed in a digital reality that’s completely separate from the real world. Examples of virtual reality include Google Earth and Hold the World with David Attenborough.

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL | Dancing about Geometry: Bringing the Arts into STEM

Would you perform a ballet that was inspired by a geometry lecture? What about a puppet show about engineering? Sounds outright odd, right? But maybe dancing about math would feel less strange if you knew that young learners would never forget the lesson.

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL | Inspire: Authors and the Creative Spark

Still, the power of inspiration is so significant that scientists have an interest in understanding it better. Studies have revealed important insight into inspiration’s role in human psychology and the creative process. Research supports what artists and writers know from experience: Inspiration is real, and though you can’t will it to appear, it can be encouraged to visit by having an open spirit and a prepared  mind.

Pearson | 21st-century skills: Teaching empathy? It’s complicated.

Until recently, most people thought that empathy was something you were born with. You either had it or you didn’t. However, research gathered by scientists and doctors over the past few decades shows growing evidence that empathy can and should be taught.