I’m about half an hour early in celebrating the release day for this book, but just couldn’t wait for it to be officially June 8th. 

Why the excitement?

For starters, SETH BAUMGARTNER’S LOVE MANIFESTO by Eric Luper is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read — snorting, laugh-out-loud, funny. But what makes it even more terrific is that the humor is mixed with drama, hope, and the kind of heartbreak that only comes with being a teenager in love.

Poor Seth is having a rough day when the book opens. His girlfriend has just dumped him during her dinner break from work, and across the restaurant, he’s just spotted his father on a date with a woman who is most definitely not his mother. The fact that all of this happens at Applebee’s somehow adds to the sting.

As Seth nurses his own relationship wounds and tries to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding his father’s…(mistress? Is that what she is?)…he decides to explore the very nature of love itself by starting his own podcast on the topic. The podcasts are as witty and insightful and wonderful as the perfectly imperfect characters in this YA romantic comedy.  It is just all-around brilliant and great fun, too. And did I mention there’s golf?  And really bad chicken salad sandwiches?

Eric is one of my writing critique partners, but I’d love this book whether I knew him or not.  It’s one of those YA novels, in the spirit of John Green and David Levithan, that both boys and girls are going to love. Available today (yay!!!) from Balzer and Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins.

And one more note…Eric is running a very cool contest to celebrate Seth’s arrival in the world. You can win books, audiobooks, an iPod shuffle, and great things like that. Click here for information on how to enter.

BUG BOY by Eric Luper: Not Your Mother’s Historical Fiction

Eric Luper’s historical YA novel BUG BOY comes out on Tuesday, and I can’t resist a little book celebration for one of my critique pals. If you know  , then you know he’s one of the nicest, funniest guys you’ll ever meet.  If you’ve read his first YA novel, BIG SLICK, you know he can spin a timely, fast-paced gambling story like nobody’s business.  Now there’s BUG BOY – a gambling story from days gone by that shows his talent for writing historical fiction as juicy and fast-paced as anything set in modern times.

This is a book that’s going to make teen boys fall in love with historical fiction without ever knowing what hit them. Set in 1934 Saratoga, BUG BOY is about an apprentice jockey who finds himself living the high life when his big opportunity comes knocking. But secrets from his past, pressure from a race course thug, and the attention of a beautiful young woman from the other side of the fence make his life more complicated than he could have imagined.   One teacher note: BUG BOY is probably best for older middle school and high school students, since the realistic portrayal of rough track life includes some language and sexual situations. Actually, I’m betting that a bunch of adult readers are going to discover and love this book, too – it has incredible crossover appeal, especially for horse racing and history fans. If you need it right this very second (and you probably do) click here to buy it from an indie bookstore near you!

Fascinating, gritty, and full of tension, BUG BOY is a sure win
. Congrats, Eric!

Big Slick

It’s confession time.  I gave my 17-year-old nephew a pre-read book for Christmas.  I read it really carefully, though and didn’t get chocolate on it or anything.  At any rate, I’m not sorry, because the book was Eric Luper’s debut novel Big Slick, and it was fantastic.

In poker terms, a big slick is when you start a hand of Texas Hold ’em with an Ace and a King showing. It’s a strong starting hand, but in the case of main character Andrew Lang, things fall apart quickly.  Lang is a boy genius of sorts — the youngest player at Shushie’s underground poker club, and he has a knack for the game.  But he borrowed money from  his dad’s dry cleaning business to enter a tournament and digs himself deeper and deeper in trouble with every page in Big Slick.  Add to that mix some family tension, a really cute little brother, a loyal best friend, and a hot goth girl who works with Andrew at Dad’s dry cleaning business, and you have a seriously compelling plot. 

This is a book that teenaged boys — and girls, since there’s a cool, strong female character, too — will love.  It’s not one of those YA novels that you’ll want to share with most middle school kids, though.  The language is intense sometimes, and there’s a pretty steamy romance scene. It’s definitely more of a high school title — and a perfect one for reluctant readers at that age.

Even though I’m not a poker player (okay…this is an understatement.  I’ve been to Las Vegas exactly once, and the people gambling all around me made me nervous enough to break out in hives), I loved this book.  Probably because it isn’t really just about poker after all. When all the cards are turned, Big Slick is a fast-moving, gutsy novel about finding your way in the world, making mistakes, and making good.

Nine Things from NYSRA

I spent Thursday and Friday at the NYS Reading Association Conference in Saratoga Springs.  Here’s a roundup of the highlights…

1. The Authors Progressive Banquet was fun and stress-free. I didn’t even spill anything.  I was a little concerned about how the logistics would work, because the authors start the evening at one table and then rotate, switching tables for each course. Turns out you got NEW silverware every time you moved and didn’t have to take it with you.  That worked out well, though I think I might have been drinking from another author’s water glass at one point. It’s hard to say…

2. I found out about four minutes ahead of time that all the authors would be giving a brief, two-minute talk to the ENTIRE group in the ballroom during that banquet, which caused me to panic momentarily, but not for long because there just wasn’t that long to worry about it. I think I said something coherent.

3. I was on a quilt!


 NYSRA had authors sign quilt squares and put them together into three gorgeous quilts for a raffle. Wasn’t that a great idea?

4.  I got to meet Eric Luper (

) and hear his presentation about his YA novel Big Slick and his journey from reluctant reader to novelist.

High school teachers, take note:  Eric is smart and engaging and funny, and I predict that pretty soon he’ll be booked solid for school visits because he’s going to connect with teen boys in a big way.  Plus, he has wicked-cool poker chip key chains as giveaways. What more could you want?

5.  I spent some time chatting with Susan Goodman, who writes children’s non-fiction and has a funny book about elections called See How They  Run coming out this May. My students are going to love this one!

6.  I met Mitali Perkins and got to tell her in person how much I liked Rickshaw Girl.

7. I heard Anita Silvey talk about current trends in children’s publishing.  She said fantasy and science fiction are still strong, historical fiction is on the rise,  publishers are looking for “no-blush” MG and Tween books that families can enjoy together, and this is the age of the graphic novel.  Shaun Tan’s The Arrival is now on my must-read list.

8. I gave a presentation called “Historical Fiction as a Bridge to Content Area Literacy” and got to share bunches and bunches of my favorite HF titles.  We talked about dozens of titles from different time periods — some well known and some that flew under the radar.  I shared excerpts from Spitfire, Sarah Miller’s Miss Spitfire, and Elizabeth Bunce’s A Curse Dark as Gold (March, 2008), which is a shining example of how historical fantasy can be used to introduce students to a time period (in this case, the Industrial Revolution).

9.  Not exactly conference-related, but still a highlight… I had perhaps the best chocolate chip cookie of my life at Four Seasons Natural Foods in downtown Saratoga.  It was really, really crunchy….a sweet ending to a fantastic two days of talk about reading, writing, and why we love stories so much.