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Meeting Cassie Clare: The YA family

I’m a book nerd. Obviously. So what to book nerds do when they find out when they’re going on vacation? They go online and see if any of their favorite authors are going to be there at the same time. At least that’s what I did last summer when I found out I was going to San Diego, and by divine intervention or dumb luck, the author of one of my favorite book series, Cassandra Clare, was going to be in town right in the middle of my vacation.

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Of course I had to go. I made room in my luggage for her most recent publication, City of Lost Souls, and headed west. I somehow convinced my parents to use the rental car and drive me to the “Mysterious Galaxy” bookstore, where a hundred teen girls and tween girls with their mothers packed into the little store. It was the floor or standing room only by the time I arrived.

I knew about Cassie through social media, Tumblr, Twitter and the like, and I am happy to report she is just as sweet and sarcastic as she seems online. She read aloud the “manor scene” from Jace’s point of view, an obvious big hit for those who have read the books. (And if you haven’t, I definitely recommend them if you like YA fantasy.)

She then opened the floor for questions. She talked about her books and what’s coming next for her beloved characters and the Shadowhunter realm in general. She also talked about her personal life, what she likes to read, where she gets her ideas from. These answers held the most interest for me. She said she never reads books in the same genre as what she’s writing, she’ll read something more contemporary, like John Green or a murder mystery. She explained that if she reads something in the same genre she’ll start to worry, “Oh my god, this book has a talking cat, I have a talking cat, I have to kill the cat!” she joked. There are always going to be similarities in books, that’s what makes it a genre, she said.

After her talk, it was time for the signing. We lined up outside in the bookstore in the lovely San Diego dusk and waited. One of the best things about going to nerdy events is that everyone there is a nerd. Some are bigger nerds than others, but everyone, at some level, is a nerd, which means more than likely you’ll have more in common with them than you would the average Joe on the street. In line there was no shortage of talk on Harry Potter, Hunger Games, the Green brothers and nerdfighteria, Doctor Who, Sherlock, the list could go on and on. Name any nerdy fandom you can think of, it was represented there. It’s great to be surrounded by people who love (OK, are obsessed with) the same things you do, without inhibition, and you can just let go and be yourself. I’ve also found people at these kind of events are incredibly nice and courteous, especially compared to say a sporting event. When we’d gone through the line, the girl I had been talking with asked me for my Twitter handle, said “It was so nice to meet you!” and gave me a big hug. We still fangirl together over Twitter occasionally.

Cassie herself was, as I mentioned earlier, lovely. She greeted me when I walked up and asked me where I was from. Her movie was being casted at the time, and they had announced who would be playing Alec earlier that day, so naturally I gushed about how attractive he is. She responded enthusiastically, saying “I met him the other day and I was just like, ‘What’s it like to be so tall and incredibly good-looking?” She also told me she was taking a poll, and asked who my favorite characters were from each series. I replied, “Is it cliche if I say Jace and Will?” She said something to the effect of, Ah, the Herondale boys. Of course not! and told me they were in the lead. She was a sweetheart and posed for a picture with me after she signed my book. It was an overall great experience, and just another reason I love my YA fiction family.

 

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Graceling: One of the most underrated teen book series

Everyone’s heard of the Hunger Games. They’re a huge phenomenon, especially with the movies coming out. I’m not going to bash the Hunger Games, I love them (except maybe Mockingjay), and they’re about the only post-apocalypse/distopian society books I can stand. That being said, although they’re definitely a huge step above Twilight, there are better teen books out there with plot lines that are much more complex than the Katniss-Gale-Peeta love traingle.

Take Kristin Cashore’s Graceling, Fire and Bitterblue for example. Never heard of them? You’re not alone. Her debut novel, Graceling, was released in 2008, but it wasn’t until a couple years later that I got my hands on it. The story centers on a teenage girl named Katsa who is graced with fighting. Because of her skills she is used by royalty as an assassin, but then she meets a boy, Prince Po, who helps her realize she doesn’t have to do what she’s told. They fall in love (triangle free), but their love is not the purpose of the story: It’s a story of oppression, rebellion, bravery, forgiveness and deceit.

Next, instead of creating a sequel, which would’ve been the obvious next step, Cashore wrote a companion for Graceling called Fire. Set in the same realm as Graceling, Fire takes many years earlier in a different kingdom. This story follows another strong herione, Fire, a beautiful but strange creature. There is one common character between the books, and while it’s not imperative that the reader have finished Graceling, the back story of this character is beautifully and terribly unwoven throughout Fire which lead to many of those “ah-ha” moments that we readers all love.

Then, in 2012, Bitterblue was released, a sequel to Graceling that takes place eight years later. This book takes a more somber turn and addresses some of the most serious issues in the series. It follows the story of young Queen Bitterblue as she uncovers the truth of her past. She must unravel the tangled web left by her father and restore order to her kingdom, all while moonlighting as a poor castle servant and learning the truths of her people. Favorite characters from Fire and Graceling come together, bringing resolution to the kingdom. However, the ending is ultimately left open to interpretation (or another novel, hint hint).

Series like this make me wonder what else is out there that doesn’t get as much attention from the media. Part of me wants these books to get the recognition I know they deserve, but the other part wants to keep them as my own personal treasures. However, I have now shared with you the greatness that is the saga of the gracelings, and I expect you to take full advantage of that.

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