Lauren Kate: Five Fiction Favourites for 2011

Lauren Kate

author of Fallen, Torment
and Passion


The 5 best novels I read in 2011 are…

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

by Catherynne M. Valente

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

With exquisite illustrations by acclaimed artist Ana Juan, Fairyland lives up to the sensation it created when the author first posted it online. For readers of all ages who love the charm of Alice in Wonderland and the soul of The Golden Compass, here is a reading experience unto itself: unforgettable, and so very beautiful.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is a Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Fiction title for Continue reading

Is YA fiction a blessing or a curse?

Way back when, years and years ago, in the olden days when I was no longer a boy and not really a proper teen, I was faced with a dilemma. I had turned fourteen and I was done with kids’ books – Encyclopedia Brown just wasn’t cutting it any more. I could either stop reading or try a book written for adults. There didn’t seem to be much in the middle. I remember there was Hinton’s The Outsiders and there was A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines. Believing every teenager in the would was a smart mouthed misfit, teachers made us read Catcher in the Rye (I was, but that didn’t absolve them of their sin of assuming I was).  Judy Blume wrote some books, too, but they were for girls. And, of course, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4. But that was it, really.

I was fourteen. My parents wouldn’t allow me to watch M or R movies or AO TV but as far as books were concerned, I stood on the verge of adulthood and it was up to me whether I crossed over or stayed put. I crossed over, of course… And have never looked back.

If I were fourteen all over again today, (a horrible thought), I would never reach the book border between childhood and adulthood because since my day, they have inserted a vast country called Young Adult (YA) fiction between the two. Once a child enters the realm of YA fiction there is very little chance they will ever emerge.

I cannot complain about the rise and rise of YA fiction, not just because I would get pilloried for doing so, but because YA is having such a positive effect on teenage reading habits. More teens are reading than ever before. Reading is now, dare I say it, kinda cool.

(May I change metaphors, please?) The sink or swim model of my day has been replaced. Now kids are dumped into the ocean of adult fiction wearing YA floaties. (That was worth it, wasn’t it?)

I wouldn’t have worn the floaties.  Were I offered them way back when I may have been lost to reading. Intellectually, I wanted to skip the teenage years and enter adulthood. I enjoyed not understanding everything I was reading. I was excited by the challenges my ignorance presented. While reading adult fiction, I felt there was room to move, room to think, room to grow.

I have encountered many arguments for and against YA fiction. I cannot say I am convinced by either party.  My imagination, however, is stirred by the thought of a young Jane Austen browsing a library of adult books, of pulling down Tom Jones at fourteen and reading it guiltily. And of the Brontës reading Clarissa together or the works of Shakespeare. Or a young E.M. Forster reading The Betrothed.

Having read Nancy Phelan’s gorgeous memoir of her childhood, A Kingdom by the Sea, I know what joys an adult library can bring to an inquisitive young mind…

Though my father was paying for us to go to school I think he had more confidence in his own methods of education. Ever since I can remember he had been prone to share with us whatever he was reading at meals… Voltaire, Roman Law, Shakespeare, Dr Johnson, Dickens or Cicero. He believed we should be exposed to the best from the start and had little patience with Tales Retold for the Young. We were allowed the run of the library, for he held that what was Too Old for us would pass over our heads. I took advantage of this to display at school an illustrated edition of Mademoiselle de Maupin.

“Oooh!” said the Lower Fourth happily, snatching from each other. “Your father has Awful books.”

As I have said, I think I benefited from not being exposed to YA fiction as a teen but I am aware that there are thousands of people reading today who would not be were it not for YA fiction.

Do you think YA fiction helped or hindered your progress from childhood reading to adult reading? When did you start reading adult fiction? Do you continue to read YA fiction as an adult?

Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe

An astonishing memoir by one of Hollywood’s top actors

A wryly funny and moving account of an extraordinary life lived almost entirely in the public eye.

Teen idol at fifteen, international icon and founder of the Brat Pack at twenty, and one of Hollywood’s top stars to this day, Rob Lowe chronicles his experiences as a painfully misunderstood child actor in Ohio uprooted to the wild counterculture of mid-seventies Malibu, where he embarked on his unrelenting pursuit of a career in Hollywood.

The Outsiders placed Lowe at the birth of the modern youth movement in the entertainment industry. During his time on The West Wing, he witnessed the surreal nexus of show business and politics both on the set and in the actual White House. And in between are deft and humorous stories of the wild excesses that marked the eighties, leading to his quest for family and sobriety.

Never mean-spirited or salacious, Lowe delivers unexpected glimpses into his successes, disappointments, relationships, and one-of-a-kind encounters with people who shaped our world over the last twenty-five years. These stories are as entertaining as they are unforgettable.

ORDER YOUR COPY OF Stories I Only Tell My Friends HERE

About the Author

Rob Lowe is a film and television actor who has played such diverse characters as a teenage rebel (The Outsiders) and a White House senior staffer (The West Wing). Outside of acting, he is involved in politics. He lives with his wife and two sons in California.


Lowe, Actually

About to walk away from Hollywood, in 1982, Rob Lowe went for one last audition: Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders, which had every aspiring young actor jockeying for a role. The rest (from St. Elmo’s Fire to The West Wing and, now, Parks and Recreation) is modern matinee-idol history. In his soon-to-be-published memoir, the star relives the competition among his L.A. posse—the likes of Robert Downey Jr., Sean Penn, Charlie Sheen, Emilio Estevez, Patrick Swayze, and Tom Cruise.

By Rob Lowe• Photograph by Annie Leibovitz

There are plenty of dedicated, talented actors destined for jobs they hate, chasing in vain a dream that will never come. Soon I’ll have to start thinking about college and possibly reconsider my life’s direction. I’ve had just enough success to keep me chasing the dream, but not enough to ensure a career. I promise myself I won’t be one of the deluded ones, being the last to know that my moment didn’t come, and that I should’ve hung it up long ago. I’m going to be 17 soon. Am I already a has-been?

Luckily, I’ve made some great friends despite the time I’ve spent on my career. Jeff Abrams and I follow Magic Johnson’s arrival in L.A. and shoot hoops whenever we can. Jeff’s a huge Björn Borg fan, while I’m a Connors man, and we spend hours on the tennis court, attempting to learn the new “topspin” forehand. Along with Chris Steenolsen and Josh Kerns, we hang out and steal booze, go to beach parties and on road trips in Josh’s gigantic hand-painted “road beast”—a 1969 Impala. Good students and serious about school, we are hardly pro-level hellions, but we have some fun. To read more you’ll have to get yourself a copy of Vanity Fair…


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