4 Writing Rules I Can Live Without

There are certain writing rules I see brought up…constantly. They were pounded into my head in college. They’re reiterated all over the Net in numerous blog posts by numerous writers, readers, and industry professionals. But I have to say..some of these ‘rules’ killed my creativity as a new writer. In fact, back when I was in college I gave up writing all together because these so-called rules of ‘good writing’ made me question if I even LIKED writing. I believe my best writing comes from my head AND my heart. And sometimes…my heart just doesn’t want to follow the rules.

Now I’m not saying these rules have no validity or they are wrong. I think all of these rules are valid, actually. And they mean well, kind of like the grandmother who says ‘don’t go outside after dark or the Boogie Man will get ya!’ It’s great advice when we’re five, but if we followed Grandma’s advice for the rest of our lives…well, you’d be missing out on a lot.

So who says rules can’t be challenged or perhaps looked at from a different perspective? I know part of my joy in writing comes from pushing boundaries. Being true to my characters, regardless of the ‘rules’.

Writing Rule #1: Cliches are the devil. Avoid any and all cliches! 

If I had a penny for every time someone pointed out a ‘cliche’ in a book, I’d be… Oh, there I go with the cliches again. But—hey—it’s a phrase I use a lot. Because I’m, well, ME and I like it. I could make up my own phrase….but it would probably offend you (because I’m a rockstar at being crass) or make you go—huh? Just trust me on that.

Here’s the thing about the No Cliches rule….It has become a cliche (maybe it’s always been). Of all the advice I’ve been given, the ‘no cliches’ deal has been the most heavy-handed. The thing I see writers stress over more than anything else. But they aren’t really stressing over things that MATTER—like plot, character development, etc.

Instead they’re stressing over…

What do I name my characters? This name is far too common, and naming them something unusual is such a cliche.

My answer: Every name has probably been done before—this is NOT something to stress over. What name fits your character? What would they WANT to be named? Regardless of what you pick, someone will hate it or take issue with it. Accept that and move on.

What hair color should my MC’s best friend have? I can’t give her red hair! I read a blog that said it’s a cliche to have a redheaded best friend.

My answer: Well, I feel sorry for all you redheads out there who have a best friend. Because..guess what? You’re a damn cliche. Here’s the thing, dear writer. Do you ENJOY stressing/obsessing over hair color? Are you having fun? If the answer is no, then stop. Back away. A character’s hair color does not determine the quality of your book.  How well you develop that character, on the other hand, is what MATTERS. Think of ways to make that best friend her own unique person. If you’ve done that and people still can’t overlook the best friend’s hair color (and trust me—there will always be ONE), that’s their issue. Let THEM stress over it ;)

Oh, this line is so cliche. It’s ruining my book. How do I fix it?? Help!

My answer: Is the line coming from your character’s POV? Is your character a writer who knows NEVER EVER to use cliches? Unless every character is well versed in the ‘rules’ of writing, they’re going to use a cliche from time to time. Now I’m not suggesting you use that as an excuse to have a cliche phrase on every page. I’m just saying…once in awhile, it’s okay. Especially if it’s in a line of dialog or it says something about who the character is or how they think.

I really want to write a riches-to-rags story, but I can’t. It’s such a cliche :(

My answer: Haven’t you heard? Every story has been done before—that’s what ‘they’ say, anyway. And don’t ask me who ‘they’ is, because I don’t know. Does anyone know? Look, if you want to write a story about a girl who loses everything, if that’s what calls to you and what you’re passionate about—DO IT. Focus on what will make this riches-to-rags story YOURS. Use your voice. Your characters. Your special flav-ah. The thing about originality is…it can’t be forced. It has to be natural. And it’s usually that thought that comes to you at the most inconvenient of times.

Writing Rule #2: Oh, your character is a stereotype. Naughty, naughty! 

I’m not saying this is bad advice. Characters NEED to be well developed. They shouldn’t always be who we expect them to be. But (you knew that was coming, right?)…what constitutes a stereotype or a ‘stock character’ is SO subjective. And doing everything you can to avoid ‘the stereotype’ isn’t necessarily the best solution.

Let’s take the mean, blond cheerleader. You know the one who picks on our significantly less popular MC for no good reason. She’s almost always rich. Has a perfect boyfriend the MC lusts after.

Yeah..that’s pretty tired. BUT you can still have a mean, blond cheerleader in your story, if that’s what does it for you. Just turn that stock description on its ass and make her a real person. Give her compelling and realistic reasons to hate the MC. Give her insecurities, even if SHE’S not even aware of them. You don’t even have to tell the reader these things..just knowing them yourself and showing them through the narrative should be enough. Don’t give the cheerleader green hair, a tail, and a stutter to ‘avoid’ making her a stereotype. Just make her a realistic and believable human being.

If you think about it, just about every character can be reduced to a stock character description. A supportive best friend. A bad boy love interest. A jealous ex-girlfriend. Take me, for example. I’m a real person (I think) But if you reduce me to a basic description, you might say something like… angsty artistic chick. It’s true. I can be angsty. I’m artistic. And I’m definitely a chick. I’m also extremely linear, not terribly emotional, and…I’ve been known to be hyper-rational at times. Not really qualities you ‘expect’ in an artist, right? So do the same for your characters—give them qualities that defy expectations rather than making them as ‘weird’ or as ‘quirky’ as possible.

That said, some people will reduce your characters to stereotypes…because they can. Or because it makes them happy. Or for whatever reason, your characters didn’t ring true to them. Or..you know..maybe they just hate you. It doesn’t really matter.

The point IS….did you take the time to develop your characters? Does the protagonist have flaws and insecurities? Do they have inconsistencies (this is actually important—human beings are inconsistent creatures)? Does the ‘villain’ have positive qualities and organic reasons to be in conflict with the MC? Then IMHO you’ve done your job. Pat yourself on the back.

Writing Rule#3: Protagonists should be sympathetic

It’s true—a sympathetic main character is going to win a lot more hearts. I mean, why would we want to spend 300+ pages with someone we hate? We have to be able to root for or relate to these people on SOME level.

On the other hand, I think—if taken too literally–this rule can be rather limiting.  I think it encourages writers to make their protagonists too nice or too down on their luck or…just downright boring. Why does sympathetic have to mean ‘nice’, ‘moral’, ‘brave,’ etc?

Okay, so maybe I’m a wee bit biased when it comes to this rule. I’m a big fan of dark, conflicted main characters. I’m intrigued by characters who don’t always do the right thing. My favorite TV shows at the moment are Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Revenge. See a pattern here? I think these types of protagonists are far more difficult to write than your typical ‘nice guy’, but I also have a LOT more fun writing them….and reading and watching them, obviously.

Take my character Jasmine in Amplified, for example. She is a very FLAWED protagonist. I mean, the girl is book smart. But she knows nothing about the real world. Why would she? She was never taught ‘life’ skills. Her dad has always been distant. She has no siblings. She’s never gotten much affection or support. This is a girl who has a LOT of shit to figure out, to put it mildly.

Now I could’ve tried to make her more ‘sympathetic’. Have her NOT lie her way into the band. Or NOT make so many mistakes. But that wouldn’t have been true to her character. And at the end of the day, I go with my gut. What I feel is right. Most importantly—I follow the character’s lead. I don’t try and force them into a box because they might be more digestible to readers that way.

Does that have consequences? Most definitely. A lot of people relate to and like Jasmine, but she also has a lot of haters. And that’s okay with me. It might not be okay for YOU. Writing a highly flawed MC is NOT an easy thing to do. A lot of people are simply not going to ‘get’ your character. In fact, a lot of people will want to cause your character bodily harm ;)

But…I’ve also seen people react negatively to ‘nice’ protagonists. Because they’re too nice or too perfect or too watered down…or whatever. At the end of the day, you have to decide what sympathetic is to YOU. Whose story YOU want to tell. Lovers are gonna love and haters are gonna hate. That’s just the way it goes.

Writing Rule#4: Plots should not be predictable

Okay. I agree with this ‘rule’ on the surface. For example, the ‘who done it’ should NOT be obvious from the first chapter. Readers should not be unraveling the mystery before the protagonist does.

But what about a romance or coming of age story? Take it from me—people get PISSED when the lovebirds don’t end up together in the end. I know I don’t read or watch a romcom for a twisty/turny plot full of surprises. I pretty much expect them to end up together in the end. The fun part is ‘how’. My enjoyment of it is dependent on the characters. Who are these people? What makes them addicting? Do they do things we don’t expect along the way?

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great when you can take a typical love story and make it unpredictable. But if the lovebirds end up together HEA in the end? It’s predictable on SOME level. And I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. It depends on what you want in a book. Some people must have a HEA to enjoy a book. Others really love a dark, gut punch of an ending.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of straight-up HEA. I like a a good mix. The protagonist gets some of what she wants, but she has to make some compromises. I like endings that offer hope, even if the rest of the book is really dark.

The bottom line is…depending on the genre/type of book, some people LIKE predictable. Sometimes a book is more about character growth than what actually happens. And…I think that’s okay.

Now it’s your turn. Share your thoughts. Debate. Discuss. Just be civil :)

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The Official Amplified Playlist is up!

I’ve put up the Official Amplified Playlist (by scene) on the Amplified book website. Check it out!

It even includes a song I remixed for Black Lab–Lonely Boy.

If there is a scene you’d like me to post a song for and it’s not on the list, leave a comment here, letting me know which scene.

Enjoy :)

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Harmonic Feedback, the movie trailer

So last summer I got a message from a proud mom who said her daughter and her daughter’s friends were making a movie of Harmonic Feedback. I was over the moon about this! It’s not every day that a writer gets this kind of incredible news. I’d take a movie made by a group of inspired and passionate teens over Hollywood any day. The mom was kind enough to keep me updated and send me pictures from the set, which you can see HERE.

Today I was sent the trailer they’d put together for the movie. It’s very well done and adorable—I think it reflects the book quite well. Thank you Helaine, Rachelle, and crew. You really made my year :)



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Amplified Sequel—Will there be one??

So, every week (via email, Facebook, Goodreads messages, and Twitter) I get different variations of the same question. Is there going to be an Amplified sequel? How is there NOT a sequel yet? I will hunt you down and stick a pencil in your eye if you don’t write a sequel! (Nobody actually said the last one, but I have gotten some angry demands) In fact, some people are downright MAD at me about it.

First off, it’s incredibly exciting to hear that people have become so invested in Jasmine and crew that they want a continuation of their journey. It really does thrill me to pieces–because I, too, want to continue that journey. That has always been my plan for this book.

But this is dependent on a couple of things–how well Amplified sells. If it does well, my publisher may consider a sequel. If Amplified doesn’t sell well, it will be a matter of when I have the time and resources to self-pub a sequel. But I WILL write one and I will put it out.

Here’s the thing about publishing that most of us writers know, but our readers may not.

Sales numbers often have a big impact on whether or not a publisher wants to pick up our next book. For an author who writes a killer, high-concept book that lands on the bestseller list, selling that next book is often less challenging. For quiet/midlist-ish authors like, say, me, selling that next book can be a bit more challenging. Basically, publishers are taking a risk on us every time they buy another book. They want to know they’re getting paid back—who wouldn’t, right?

So, how can you help? Support your favorite quiet authors by being LOUD. (I know many of you do this already, but sometimes it can stand to be repeated)

If you are hoping for a sequel to a book, it’s great when you write the author and let them know. But you can also email their publisher and express your interest. It means a lot more coming from you than it does us.

Tweet about it, tell your friends, tell others why they need to read your favorite author’s book.

Buy a copy—ereader or hardcopy (your choice) I understand the temptation to download illegal copies online. You work hard for your money and you don’t want to blow sixteen bucks on a book that sucks. But you’re hurting your favorite authors/artists more than helping them by doing this. That said, I’m not going to get all preachy here. I’ll just say…if you do end up liking the book, at least buy a copy :)

Hopefully that answers some of your questions. No more angry emails, ‘kay? :P

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Desperately Seeking Crit Partner

Okay, I’m not really THAT desperate–just so you know. But Desperately Seeking Susan was, like, my favorite childhood movie and I couldn’t help myself. Here’s the deal. I have a big writing year ahead of me…literally I’m juggling three projects at the moment (yes, that includes an Amplified sequel). I already have a regular crit partner I adore (Stephanie Kuehnert, take a bow), but I’ve decided I’d like a couple. Another person I can hit up with pages whenever, and they can hit me up and all is swell. No deadlines necessary, unless it’s an emergency or something.

Here’s my style: I don’t pull punches, but I’m not mean. I’m a freelance editor, after all. I keep it constructive. Sometimes I get very passionate about characters, and I like to make funny comments about them. You’re encouraged to do the same to me. Unless it’s my job, I’m not someone who will rewrite your lines or tweak your voice, and I definitely don’t want you to do that to me. You don’t need a formal invitation to send me anything–just do it. I won’t keep track of who has read more for the other, and I really hope you won’t either.

Biggest asset: I can make one hell of a playlist for your book. No, really. Need music? I can help.

Favorite authors/styles I LOVE: Stephanie Kuehnert, Courtney Summers, A.S. King, C.K. Kelly Martin are a few examples, but I love many more. Check out my GR shelf.

What I’m looking for (yes, these are requirements):

  • You don’t have to be published, but you can’t be a beginner. Editing is a paid gig for me and I don’t have a ton of extra time, so I don’t want to feel like I’m giving a bunch of advice or ‘teaching’. I want to feel like our skill levels are fairly equal. Better than me is welcome, but I don’t want to slow YOU down either.
  • Must have read and adored at least one of my books. No, I’m not a narcissist. It’s just…if you haven’t read my writing and loved it, why would you want to be my crit partner? I’m looking for PASSION, darling!
  • I must LOVE your writing. If you’re published and I’ve read and loved one of your books, even better. A regular crit partner is a big commitment for me. I want to look forward to everything you send me and vice versa.
  • Must write YA because it’s what I write and what I love. I like most genres (especially contemp), but high fantasy and sci-fi aren’t really my thing.
  • Must be willing to cowrite a story with me (just kidding). I AM hoping to find that person one day, though.
  • Must have a sense of humor. No, really. You MUST.

Okay, so I may very well get zero responses. This is the first time I’m trying a method like this…so we’ll see.

If you want to apply (ha, that sounds so pretentious), send me an email at contact (at) thetaratracks (dot) com that includes the following:

  • Why you want to be my crit partner or you’d think we’d be a good match or whatever
  • Your favorite band (no, I won’t hold this against you–just curious)
  • A first chapter
All submissions will be kept private, of course. APPLICATION DEADLINE: MARCH 7TH BY 5PM PST.
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There’s no limit to the imagination (my rebuttal)

An author I was on a panel with recently called me out at both the panel and in a recent blog post for a comment I made about the imagination. This author basically feels that imagination is limited by our vocabulary/words.

I am responding to this because 1) I understand where this author is coming from, but I completely disagree and 2) my comment was taken out of context

When I was 14…I came up with this motto (or thought I did at the time, lol)–there’s no limit to the imagination.

What did I mean by this?

Well, I came from a troubled home. I felt trapped. Like there was no way out and nowhere to go. So one day (I remember this like it was yesterday) I was writing in my notebook and “there’s no limit to the imagination” came out. I discovered a way to cope. Somewhere to put all the rage inside of me. A world I had control over for once. A place I actually felt SAFE and free to be myself without getting my ass beat. Without being ridiculed. Without people telling me I wasn’t good enough or smart enough or beautiful enough…or whatever enough. Without limitations from the external world. Anything was possible.

I truly believed there was no limit to MY imagination. I believed that I could be more. That I was capable of MORE. And you know what? My belief in this as a teen saved me in many ways. It got me through some of the hardest years of my life. It helped me become the writer I am today, and it will continue to help me grow as a writer. And I’m far from alone there.

You want to reduce that to “Disneyspeak”? Go ahead. You want to use big words and mathematical calculations to prove a limitless imagination is bullshit? Awesome! I suck at math, so have at it. You want to tell kids that their imaginations are limited by their vocabulary? Fine. Be a buzzkill.

But perhaps you aren’t considering the psychological value here. Even if our imagination was limited by words (and I don’t believe this), I’m not seeing the harm in encouraging kids to strive for more. To channel their feelings into something productive, even if it seems impossible. Who is anyone to say what anyone else is capable of? I’ve seen autistic people on the severe end of the spectrum accomplish things doctors with fancy degrees never thought possible.

And then there’s my cat. He dreams on a regular basis. Don’t believe your pets dream? Here’s a fun article: http://www.usatoday.com/life/lifestyle/pets/2010-06-29-dogs-cats-dream_N.htm Do I think my cat capable of having an imagination? I do. I don’t believe it’s actually been proven that our pets don’t have imaginations. If so, please do link me to the study. Needless to say, my cat DOES speak to me, but he’s sure as hell not using words. He communicates through sound, pitch, gestures, etc.

When I am writing music, melodies come to me first. I play entirely by ear. I cannot read music AT ALL. If you describe a certain key, I won’t know what you’re talking about until I hear it. Melodies just come to me, much like my characters do. Melodies are not words. They don’t have a color or a shape. How do you even describe what it sounds like accurately to people who don’t read music or aren’t familiar with keys/notes? Sure, you can be metaphoric. I’ve done it. Can you literally describe what a melody looks, tastes, sounds, and smells like? I’m stumped… So how does a melody in my head equate to words? I’m not understanding that concept. At all.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.




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Music Revolution Contest with Tara Kelly, Stephanie Kuehnert, and Jeri Smith-Ready


Tara: Let me just say this was very hard. I really enjoyed many of these recs and appreciate the time all of you took to come up with them. Thank you all so much!!

Grand Prize Winner for AMPLIFIED: Jake for all of his recs. I loved every one of them! And I’ve also found a new band for my WIP–Broken Iris is awesome!

Runner up for AMPLIFIED: Corey for the Florence + The Machine rec. LOVED this song–excellent pick :)

Winners: I sent you both emails, but do email me if you did not receive them.

Stephanie’s Winners:

Grand Prize: Dani

Runner-Up: Corey

In celebration of the release of Amplified (Oct 25th *squee*), two lovely music lovin’ authors have joined me in hosting a contest. Discovering new music is one of my favorite pastimes…so I’d like you to help me. Due to tight budgets, this contest is US only (sorry).

The Prizes (enter to win all or just the book of your choice)

Grand Prize from Tara Kelly:


A signed hardcover of AMPLIFIED, a soundtrack to Amplified (in the form of an iMix playlist gifted to you), and a swag pack



Runner-Up Prize from Tara Kelly:

Signed Amplified bookmarks and a musical surprise

Grand Prize from Stephanie Kuehnert:






Runner-Up Prize from Stephanie Kuehnert:

A mix CD and signed bookmarks

Grand Prize from Jeri Smith-Ready:


A signed paperback of the anthology ENTHRALLED: PARANORMAL DIVERSIONS, an iMix of Logan’s playlist (gifted to you)




Runner-Up Prize from Jeri Smith-Ready:

SHADE swag pack

How To Enter

Each author is posting a playlist of some of their or their character’s favorite songs, and we want recommendations from you based on those songs. (If I like Come Here Boy by Imogen Heap, what other song (by a different artist) might I like?)

If you want to be entered into all three author giveaways, choose one song from each author playlist and give each of us a recommendation based on that song. If you are only interested in one or two of the giveaways, then just make recommendations to those authors. Leave your recommendations as a comment to this post.

Contest Ends October 25th

The contest will end on October 25th! Each of us will pick our favorite song recommendationand that will be our grand prize winner (for a total of 3 winners). We’re looking for awesome music we’ve never heard before, so put some thought into those choices :) As an added treat, we’ll also be choosing 3 runner-up winners because it’s hard to just pick one each. 

Tara’s Playlist

My tastes are obscure, but I did my best to pick more mainstream artists/songs. Hopefully most of you have heard of these bands or songs. If not, click on the song link and you’ll be directed to a YouTube video.

Right In Two by Tool

Come Here Boy by Imogen Heap

Switchback by Celldweller

Song To Say Goodbye by Placebo

Teardrop by Massive Attack

Stephanie’s Playlist

On A Plain by Nirvana

Violet by Hole

The 59′ Sound by The Gaslight Anthem

Lullaby by The Cure

I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Sleater-Kinney

Jeri’s Playlist

Here are the songs, all plucked from Logan’s “Sucks to Be a Ghost (Sometimes)” soundtrack, which can be found here: http://jerismithready.com/books/shade/music/ You can also click on the youtube links below

Thistle and Weeds by Mumford & Sons

Ready to Fall by Rise Against

Make This Go On Forever by Snow Patrol

Don’t Let Me Die Still Wondering by Flogging Molly

Rhythm of Love by The Plain White T’s

Happy song hunting!

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Judge my book, not me

To be clear–this isn’t a gripe about bad reviews of my books. I come from a music background. I’m pretty used to my art being torn to shreds. Are bad reviews ever pleasant for me to read? No. Do I obsess over comments ripping apart my writing skills (be it writing, character development, plot, etc)? Way too much (but I’m working on that) Do I accept bad reviews as part of being an author? Most definitely.

One thing I didn’t deal with so much in music was people making assumptions about who I am and what I stand for, based on my songs (granted, my lyrics were always pretty abstract). Sure, I got comments about my hair, my body, or my clothes. I was too young .Too old. Too this or that. One time someone told me I sang like Shakira ‘with a frog stuck in her throat’. Ouch, I know.

I’ve found that people judge authors more on the inside than the outside (although appearances do get bashed, don’t get me wrong) This experience of being judged as a person, of people I have never spoken to or met in my life publicly making statements about what they think I believe in and who I am….is brand new to me. Quite frankly, it’s not something I find easy to swallow. After getting a few emails and seeing several reviews where people are making assumptions about ME based on my book, I feel the need to put this out there. This isn’t just about me, though. I’ve seen my fellow authors go through this as well.

Straight up? I find reviews judging/making assumptions about the author as a person completely unfair. They aren’t helpful or really even useful. Book reviews should be just that–BOOK reviews. Yeah, I know there are some books out there where…come on…a certain belief or idea is pushed very heavily. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. I’m not saying there aren’t authors out there who don’t have an agenda or message they are trying to push.

But…I’m not one of them.

Has autism affected my life in a very personal way? Yes, it has.

Is that what inspired me to tell Drea’s story? Of course.

Did I write Harmonic Feedback to wave my finger at the world and tell them what to think about Asperger’s or to try and ‘teach’ them something? That wasn’t my intention. As I said in my author’s note, I was telling one girl’s story and one girl’s story alone. The book wasn’t about defining Asperger’s or ADHD…because–quite frankly–nobody can do that. People on the spectrum are not boxes of symptoms, they are real, unique people who happen to have social difficulties.

Was Drea simply a vehicle to ‘push’ my views about autism? Absolutely not. Drea has some strong viewpoints…because that’s who she is. I’m not Drea. We do have similarities (our bluntness, for example), but we are quite different.

Why did I include an author’s note–if I’m not out to teach something? My publisher requested that I include the note because they thought it would be a good idea. I agreed to this because I thought people might like to know about my personal experience with autism, especially those on the spectrum.

Am I anti-drug or was I trying to teach a lesson about drugs? No. Drea didn’t like taking them..she didn’t feel they helped her. That being said, I know people who were very much helped by prescription medication, including myself. As a teen, I lost friends to drugs. At the time I felt pretty alone because I didn’t know how to help them. I felt responsible somehow… and I know a lot of teens feel this way at one point or another. My intention was to give those readers a story that made them feel less alone, not to tell them what choices to make or to promote some kind of ‘anti-drug’ message.

Am I promoting sex before marriage? Actually I’m going to direct you to John Green’s post about this…because I agree completely: http://fishingboatproceeds.tumblr.com/post/10644709551/do-you-believe-in-saving-sex-for-marriage

Do I think foul language is the only way to portray realism? No. But I do believe in being true to my characters. Some teens swear and some don’t.

Was I just jumping onto the ‘autistic narrator’ bandwagon, trying to get in on the success of books like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night? Nope. In fact when I was writing Harmonic Feedback, there were very few autistic spectrum teen narrators out there. My book was sold two years before it was published. While there are a few more books out there with autistic narrators, I’d hardly call the market saturated with them. You could say the same for neurotypical teens. Are all neurotypical teen YA voices the same? Neither are the voices of teens on the spectrum, IMHO. Autism isn’t a ‘trend’…it’s a reality for a lot of people.

So…now I’d like to hear from you. When I’m reading…I almost never think about the author or what their intention is. I’m completely focused on the story (good or bad). Do you find yourself judging the author as you read or assuming the author is the main character? Why/why not? Don’t worry..I will respect all opinions here. I’m just really curious about other perspectives…

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Realistic YA Revolution WINNERS!

Below are the winners picked via random number generator (don’t know why I haven’t tried that before–so much easier.) Your names are below the picture of the book. Congrats all!

I will email all of you when I get a chance this weekend to get your addresses. However, if you see this first and can email your address–great! Send an email to contact (at) thetaratracks (dot) com

Also, if you won a book you already have or don’t want for whatever reason, please let me know so I can draw another winner for it. Thanks!

Please do visit this post for a compilation of all the recommended realistic YA, including the top 5 most recommended books and authors.

Andrea: hersforreading at gmail


Cindy Sherwood: cwillettsherwood at yahoo

Ashley Pérez: ashley at ashleyperez

Harmony: harmonybookreviews at yahoo

Tracy: tracy.dickens at yahoo

Paul W. Hankins: paulwhankins at aol

Dani Nguyen: daniellesaunders1984 at hotmail

Kathryn Hickle: catieg23 at yahoo

Lyn Miller-Lachmann: lynml at me

Callie Kingston: calliekingston at gmail

Alexa: alexabarry at notenoughbookshelves

Katie Carroll: ktlc1113 at aol

Zoe: zoetheplatypus at gmail

Elizabeth: greentara28 at gmail

Geceosan: geceosan at yahoo

Doug Solte: dougthewriter at gmail

Dana G.: happyx55555 at gmail

And as an added bonus, I’ve decided to throw in a hardcover of Harmonic Feedback!

Maggie Desmond-O’Brien: mdesmondobrien at yahoo

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Realistic YA Revolution Recommendations (including top 5 books and authors)

Over 150 books recommended. You guys rock! And…I have a very long list of to-read books now. Thank you all for participating and spreading the word!

As promised, I have broken the recommendations down into the Top 5 (or 6) most recommended books. But I have also added a Top 5 Most Recommended Authors category because a few authors were mentioned a LOT and another category for books that were mentioned 3+ times.

Due the sheer amount of books, I didn’t have time to double check if each one was realistic (although I took off a few that I knew were paranormal) I also only included books that were actually specified in the comments (rather than ‘any book by Laurie Halse Anderson’, for example) However, I did keep track of author name mentions and included them when compiling the numbers for ‘Most Recommended Authors’.

Top Five Six Most Recommended Realistic YA Books (in alphabetical order by title):

Each had a minimum of six mentions/recommendations–three were tied!

Ballads Of Suburbia By Stephanie Kuehnert
Harmonic Feedback By Tara Kelly (Wow, guys. Totally unexpected–thank you!)
Sweethearts By Sara Zarr
The Secret Year By Jennifer Hubbard
The Sky Is Everywhere By Jandy Nelson
Twenty Boy Summer By Sarah Ockler

Top Five Most Recommended Realistic YA Authors (in alphabetical order by first name):

These multi-published authors received a minimum of 9 mentions each–wow!

Courtney Summers (I just have to add that she got 18 mentions–EIGHTEEN!!!)
Melina Marchetta
Sara Zarr
Sarah Dessen
Sarah Ockler

Popular Realistic YA Books(in alphabetical order by title):

These books each got 3-5 recommendations!

After By Amy Efaw
Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour By Morgan Matson
Anna And The French Kiss By Stephanie Perkins
Brooklyn, Burning By Steve Brezenoff
Chasing Brooklyn & The Day Before By Lisa Schroeder
Cracked Up To Be By, Fall For Anything, & Some Girls Are By Courtney Summers
Dirty Little Secrets By C.J. Omololu.
Five Flavors Of Dumb By Antony John
Fixing Delilah By Sarah Ockler
Forbidden By Tabitha Suzuma
Invincible Summer By Hannah Moskowitz
Guitar Girl By Sarra Manning
Hold Still By Nina La Cour
Lock & Key By Sarah Dessen
Marcelo In The Real World By Francisco X Stork
North Of Beautiful By Justina Chen
Once Was Lost By Sara Zarr
Saving Francesca & The Piper’s Son By Melina Marchetta
Sea By Heidi R Kling
Speak By Laurie Halse-Anderson
Stay By Deb Caletti
Thirteen Reasons Why By Jay Asher

120+ Realistic YA Books You Need To Check Out:

I apologize for the lack of alphabetizing here. Word was giving me issues and only alphabetizing SOME of them *sigh* Readers have recommended books from all over the world–many of these books have been recommended more than once!

48 Shades Of Brown And Monica Bloom By Nick Earl
A Door Near Here By Heather Quarles
A Little Wanting Song & Graffiti Moon By Cath Crowley
A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend By Emily Horner
After Ever After By Jordan Sonnenblick
After The Kiss By Terra Elan Mcvoy
After The Moment By Garret Freymann-Weyr
Albatross By Josie Bloss
All We Know Of Heaven By Jacquelyn Mitchard
Breathless By Jessica Warman
Crash Test Love By Ted Michael
No And Me By Delphine De Vigan
Nothing By Janne Teller
Before I Die By Jenny Downham
The Chosen One By Carol Lynch Williams
Almost Home By Jessica Blank
How To Say Goodbye In Robot By Natalie Standiford
And Then Everything Unraveled By Jennifer Sturman
Ball Don’t Lie And Mexican Whiteboy By Matt De La Peña
Elsewhere By Gabrielle Zevin
Enthusiasm By Polly Shulman
Stalker Girl By Rosemary Graham
Exposed By Kimberly Marcus
Beautiful By Amy Reed
Beautiful Malice By Rebecca James
Between Shades Of Gray By Ruta Sepetys
Boy Meets Boy By David Levithan
Broken Soup By Jenny Valentine
Burned By Ellen Hopkins
Paper Towns By John Green
Crash Into Me By Albert Borris
The Mockingbirds By Daisy Whitney
But I Love Him By Amanda Grace
By The Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead, Luna, & Rage By Julie Anne Peters
Camo Girl By Kekla Magoon
Carter Finally Gets It By Brent Crawford
Audrey Wait! By Robin Benway.
Withering Tights By Louise Rennison
Confessions Of A Triple Shot Betty By Jody Gehrman
Crazy Beautiful By Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Daughter Of Xanadu By Dori Jones Yang
Deb Caletti By Six Rules Of Maybe
Diary Of A Crush By Sarra Manning
Doing It By Melvin Burgess
Down To The Bone By Mayra Lazara Doyle
Love Is The Higher Law By David Levithan
Dreamland By Sarah Dessen
Far From You By Lisa Schroeder
Fat Cat By Robin Brande
Flash Burnout By Lk Madigan
Freefall By Mindy Scott
Funny How Things Change By Melissa Wyatt
Fury By Shirley Marr
Geek Girl By Cindy Bennett
Sundays At Tiffany’s, James Patterson
The Things A Brother Knows & Anything Dana Reinhardt
Geography Club By Brent Hartinger
Glimpse By Carol Lynch Williams
Going Too Far By Jennifer Echols
Gravity Brings Me Down, Natale Ghent
Just In Case, Meg Rosoff
Grounding Quinn By Stephanie Campbell
Her And Me And You By Lauren Strasnick
High Dive By Tammar Stein
Honey, Baby, Sweetheart By Deb Caletti
How To Save A Life By Sara Zarr
I Know It’s Over & One Lonely Degree by C.K. Kelly Martin
I Now Pronounce You Someone Else By Erin Mccahan
Into The Wild Nerd Yonder By Julie Halpin
Seth Baumgartner’s Love Manifesto By Eric Luper
Mindblind By Jennifer Roy
The Miracle Stealer By Neil Connolly
Life, After By Sarah Darer Littman
I’ll Be There By Holly Goldberg Sloan
If I Stay & Where She Went By Gayle Forman
The Absolute Value Of -1 By Steve Brezenoff
Jellicoe Road By Melina Marchetta
Jumping Off Swings, Lessons From A Dead Girl, & Pearl By Jo Knowles
Jumpstart The World By Catherine Ryan Hyde
Kissing The Bee By Kathe Koja
Leaving Paradise By Simone Elkeles
Leftovers And Such A Pretty Girl By Laura Wiess
Leverage By Joshua C. Cohen
Like Mandarin By Kristin Hubbard
Living Dead Girl By Elizabeth Scott
Lonely Hearts Club By Eulberg
Losing Faith By Denise Jaden
Love Inc. By Yvonne Collins & Sandy Rideout
Love Sick By Jake Coburn (2005)
Lovesick By Jake Coburn
Lucas By Kevin Brooks
My Heartbeat By Garrett Freymann Weyr
Stargirl By Jerry Spinelli
Say The Word By Jeannine Garsee
Miles From Ordinary By Carol Lynch Williams
Missing Judy By Anne Cassidy
Mostly Good Girls By Leila Sales
My Big Fat Manifesto By Susan Vaught
My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters By Sydney Salter
My Invented Life By Lauren Bjorkman
No More Us For You By David Hernandez
Not That Kind Of Girl By Siobhan Vivian
Nothing But The Truth (And A Few White Lies) By Justina Chen Headley
Nothing Like You By Lauren Strasnick
Blood On My Hands By Todd Strasser
Heist Society By Ally Carter
Oymg By Amy Fellner Dominy
Moonglass By Jessi Kirby
Illegal By Bettina Restrepo
The Earth, My Butt, And Other Big Round Things By Carolyn Mackler
Sugar And Ice By Kate Messner
Ordinary Beauty By Laura Wiess
Sixteenth Summer By Michelle Dalton
Popular By Alissa Grosso
The Pull Of Gravity By Gae Polisner
Sean Griswold’s Head By Lindsey Leavitt
Sorta Like A Rock Star By Matthew Quick
Raw Blue By Kirsty Eagar
Recovery Road By Blake Nelson
Salvaged And Rise By Stefne Miller
Saving June By Hannah Harrington
Sierra Jensen Series By Robin Jones Gunn
Beige & Boy Proof By Cecil Castilucci
The Wish House By Celia Rees
Sing Me To Sleep By Angela Morrison.
Sliding On The Edge By C. Lee Mckenzie
Something Like Hope By Shawn Goodman
Split By Swati Avasthi
Stolen By Lucy Christopher
Story Of A Girl By Sara Zarr
Teenie By Christopher Grant
Tyrell By Coe Booth
The Anatomy Of Wings By Karen Foxlee
The Duff By Kody Keplinger
The Girl With Mermaid Hair By Delia Ephron
The First Part Last By Angela Johnson
Choker By Elizabeth Woods
Tell Me A Secret By Holly Cupala
Ten Miles Past Normal By Frances O’roark Dowell
Scrawl By Mark Schulman
The Basic Eigh By Daniel Handler
The Big Crunch By Pete Hautman
The Disreputable History Of Frankie Landau-Banks
My Life Undecided By Jessica Brody
The Freak Observer By Blythe Woolston
The Key To The Golden Firebird By Maureen Johnson
The Princess Of Las Pulgas By C. Lee Mckenzie
The Running Dream By Wendelin Van Draanen
The Sky Always Hears Me And The Hills Don’t Mind By Kirstin Cronn-Mills,
The Snowball Effect By Holly Nicole Hoxter
The Summer Of Skinny Dipping By Andrea Howells
Take Me There By Carolee Dean
The Tension Of Opposites By Kristina Mcbride
Winter Longing By Tricia Mills
Freak Magnet By Andrew Auseon
A Match Made In High School By Kristin Walker
Psych Major Syndrome By Alicia Thompson
The Deadly Sister By Eliot Schrefer
All Unquiet Things By Anna Jarzab
The Trouble With Half A Moon By Danette Vigilante
Small Town Sinners By Melissa Walker
Shine By Lauren Myracle
This Girl Is Different By Jj Johnson
What Can’t Wait By Ashley Hope Perez
Hush By Eishes Chayil
A Good Long Way By Rene Saldana, Jr.
This Thing Called The Future By J.L. Powers (South Africa)
The Queen Of Water By Laura Resau And Maria Virginia Farinango (Ecuador)
Words In The Dust By Trent Reedy (Afghanistan)
Abe In Arms By Pegi Dietz Shea (Liberia)
Total Constant Order By Crissa-Jean Chappell
Trapped By Michael Northrop
Truth & Dare, Edited By Liz Miles
Two-Way Street By Lauren Barnholdt.
Waiting To Score By J.E. Macleod
Wasteland By Francesca Lia Block
What Happened To Goodbye By Dessen
What Happens Here By Tara Altebrando
Waves By Sharon Dogar
Where The Truth Lies By Jessica Warma
Where Things Come Back By John Corey Whaley
Willow By Julia Hoban
With Or Without You By Brian Farrey
You Against Me By Jenny Downham
You Don’t Know Me By David Klass

And don’t worry, I plan on announcing the WINNERS of the contest tonight! Stay tuned :)

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