Friday, 24 April 2015

Guest Post: Lance Rubin's Favourite Funny First-Person Narrators

Denton Little's Deathdate looks fantastic and I'm really looking forward to reading it, so I'm thrilled to have author Lance Rubin today, talking about his favourite funny first-person narrators!

At first, my YA novel Denton Little’s Deathdate was written in the third-person. It didn’t feel quite right, though, so I quickly made the switch to the first-person and never looked back. 

I’ve always loved a first-person narrator. It makes me feel like I’m hanging out with my most uninhibited friend. And if this friend is funny, I’m even more likely to keep reading.

Here, in no particular order, are my ten favorite funny first-person narrators. There are many other great ones I don’t have room for, and undoubtedly many more that I have yet to read, but this is a good place to start. 

1. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon

Christopher John Francis Boone, the 15-year-old autistic narrator of this book, lets the reader know right up top: “This will not be a funny book.” And yet, as Christopher tries to solve the mystery of his neighbor’s murdered dog, he’s often quite funny, his literal thought patterns hitting upon hilarious truths about the world. As readers, we’re never laughing at Christopher, though; Haddon helps us fully inhabit Christopher’s mind and come to understand the unique and inadvertently amusing way it operates.

2. Tyrell, by Coe Booth

With his dad in jail and his family in a homeless shelter, Tyrell’s had no choice but to develop a thick skin. As the reader, though, we know he’s way more vulnerable and big-hearted than he might let on, and his candid and astute observations about life made me laugh so much. His feelings about Novisha, his girlfriend, and Jasmine, a girl he meets at the homeless shelter, crackle with humor because they feel so embarrassingly true to how a teenage boy actually thinks. It’s easily one of the most authentic teen love triangles I’ve ever read.

3. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume

I finally read this last year, and I’m sorry I waited so long. Margaret Simon is such a relatable character—smart, honest, neurotic—and her experience of entering adolescence is as awkward as anybody’s, which is comforting. Not to mention funny. One of my favorite lines is Margaret’s description of her current crush: “It’s not so much that I like him as a person, God, but as a boy he’s very handsome.” A super read for girls and boys alike.

4. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews

“I have no idea how to write this stupid book.” So begins this laugh-out-loud-the-entire-time novel, narrated by the smart, sweet, and self-deprecating Greg Gaines. Whether he’s making bad movies with his funny, angry best friend Earl or being forced by his mom to get to know Rachel, a high school classmate who has cancer, I was always amused by Greg’s perspective on things. Which is why, by the end, it was even more of a gut punch when I found myself so moved.

5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, art by Ellen Forney

This book wowed me in the way its narrator Junior is able to keep a sense of humor even when he has every reason to feel furious with the world. (“My parents came from poor people who came from poor people who came from poor people, all the way back to the very first poor people. Adam and Eve covered their privates with fig leaves; the first Indians covered their privates with their tiny hands.”) It turns out that sense of humor is the very thing allowing Junior to cope, a point which is further driven home by his sharp and hilarious cartoon drawings that blend seamlessly with Alexie’s writing.

6. Better Nate than Ever, by Tim Federle

Nate Foster is another endlessly lovable underdog, a Broadway-obsessed outsider in his (perfectly-named) town of Jankburg, Pennsylvania who takes a secret journey to New York City to audition for E.T.: The Musical. Nate’s genuine wit sparkles on every page (regarding a shady stranger: “For a moment I wonder what the best way will be to make myself throw up on him when he tries to kill me”), and it’s beyond heartwarming to experience his discovery of a world where he finally feels like he belongs.

7. The Wrong Side of Right, by Jenn Marie Thorne

Less than a year after Kate Quinn’s mother passes away, she learns the father she never met is the Republican candidate for U.S. President. Kate ends up joining him on the campaign trail, and her wry, very human reactions to this crazy, high-stakes situation (regarding her yearbook photo being used on the news: “Because there I was, looking half homeless, dirty hair thrown into a ponytail, dead eyes, splotchy skin, strained smile. On national television.”) are what make this book such a satisfying read.

8. Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith

This wholly original book is about six-foot-tall praying mantises that wreak havoc on an Iowa town. But narrator Austin Szerba’s unique way of documenting such a strange history—drily referring to people as “real dynamos,” for example, as he simultaneously grapples with his own sexual confusion (he may or may not be falling in love with his best friend Robbie)--grounds the insanity, elicits the laughs, and elevates this book to classic status.

9. Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli

A mere five pages into this book, I already felt like Simon Spier was my best friend. He’s smart, self-aware, droll, and kind, and we get to know him further through his emails to Blue, the guy whose identity he doesn’t know even though they’ve been courting each other for months. Both Simon and Blue are not out of the closet, so when a classmate sees Simon’s emails and threatens to reveal his secret to the school, everything quickly unravels. All the characters feel completely real, but especially Simon, who charms from cover to cover. 

10. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

To say this book was ahead of its time is an understatement, as you can trace the current crop of voice-driven contemporary YA right back to it. I remember laughing out loud during study hall as Holden Caulfield describes his encounter with his teacher Mr. Spencer. (“Old guys’ legs, at beaches and places, always look so white and unhairy.”)  Somehow, sixty-four years after the book was first published, Holden’s voice still feels relevant and cathartic. Seeing as there will always be plenty of phonies in the world, I’m sure it will continue to be.

Great list, Lance! Particularly agreeing with Me and Earl, Simon vs, and Better Nate, three favourites of mine - and will definitely check out some of the ones there I haven't read. You can follow Lance on Twitter and Tumblr.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Ivy Pocket Blog Tour: John Kelly on Designing The Cover

I loved Ivy Pocket when I read the proof - it's a fabulous story with a brilliant lead who you'll warm to but laugh at - but seeing John Kelly's illustrations made it an even better book. I'm delighted to have a guest post from him on the process of designing the cover!

Ivy Pocket Cover: Fire, flood and defenestration.


Ivy Pocket is an incredible character.

She’s certainly incredibly delusional, incredibly dangerous, and incredibly unaware of the chaos that she creates wherever she goes.

So the cover for her very own book needs to really try and get this essential ‘Ivy-ness’ across to the reader.

The publisher’s first idea was to have some kind of complicated slipcase. It’s calm exterior would flip open to reveal an Ivy-generated Victorian domestic chaos within.

Escaped monkeys were mentioned. I was excited.

Sadly this wasn’t practical (the slipcase not the monkeys). Instead I was asked to illustrate Ivy beaming out her serenely smug and delusional grin from the front cover.

I designed a gilt frame to surround her. It illustrated certain key story elements; tiny hooded assassins, clouds of smoke, piles of cash, and a metaphorical banana skin to represent the effect Ivy has on the Universe.

That left the back cover free to show a scene of the mad chaos Ivy has caused. In it everyone would be fleeing in terror from the living, breathing accident that is Ivy Pocket.

I loved drawing this.

A small boy in a sailor suit scrambles up the curtains, a spectacled governess flees, the cowardly vicar hides beneath the coffee table, an angry cat hisses from a footstool, and a gentleman throws himself out of the window to avoid meeting Ivy.

Unfortunately there were no escaped monkeys allowed.

Once approved (no changes, hurrah!) I illustrated it with the digital paint programs ArtRage and Adobe Photoshop. I swap between them as ArtRage has lovely direct painting brushes that simulate oil and Acrylic strokes, whereas I prefer Adobe Photoshop for lighting effects and adjusting colour.

When the finished art was submitted, Katie Everson the designer at Bloomsbury felt it wasn't quite ‘manic’ enough. Not enough mayhem and property damage for an ‘Ivy Pocket’ book.


I do love Bloomsbury. They never say, “That’s too manic. You need to do less.”

So I went back and added fire, flood, but sadly no pestilence (unless the small boy has measles).

The final artwork has the roof caving in under a flood of water (Ivy probably left the bath running), the curtains are on fire (don’t ask), and there's a lot more shattered glass, smoke, and scattered tea things.

And an escaped dog.

Still no monkeys though.

I’m doing the next book soon. It’s called: ‘Somebody stop Ivy Pocket’.

Oh dear.

Can’t wait.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Classic Children's/YA: Louisa Reid on Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery

I'm a big fan of Louisa Reid - her novels are the kind that are much darker than anything I normally read, but her writing is so exquisite that I have to steel myself to read them anyway. I'm really pleased to be on the Lies Like Love blog tour today, organised by the fantastic Faye Rogers, hosting Louisa talking about her favourite classic children's book.

“There’s such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I’m such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comforting, but then it wouldn’t be half so interesting.”

Anne Shirley, the heroine of ‘Anne of Green Gables’ by L M Montgomery is a wonderful creation precisely, as she says, because of her unpredictable character. Both serious and funny, loving and quick-tempered, clever and silly; unforgettable Anne makes this novel my favourite children’s book of all time.

It’s a hard thing to do, to choose a favourite children’s story. There are so many on my shelves. I’ve always loved Beatrix Potter, especially naughty Tom Kitten and the busy, dastardly rat - Samuel Whiskers; the stories about Little Grey Rabbit by Alison Uttley were firm childhood favourites, and I was a huge consumer of Enid Blyton – her Mallory Towers and St Clare’s stories mainly - but The Family at Red Roofs was my favourite and I read it many times; the fact that Blyton had given the children in this story some serious problems to manage and the gumption with which they went about overcoming them appealed to me on every level.

But my absolute favourite children’s story remains ‘Anne of Green Gables’. Who can resist the appeal of Anne Shirley, whose romantic notions and wild, as Marilla says “wicked”, imagination transform every day life in a powerful and magical way. Her desperate loyalty to those she loves, her honesty and goodness, but also silliness and tendency to daydream, make her both comedic and heroic. Anne’s huge heart and belief that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it, that we can always do better in future, is such an important message for children, and grown-ups too. I can forget to be an optimist and Anne reminds me that it’s possible. The love that Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert show to Anne - in spite of Marilla’s common-sense practicality – and the way she wins their hearts is part of the beauty of this story and the reader falls in love with these characters too. The family in this book is one which is fiercely protective and true; whenever the reader is shown Marilla’s soft side, you can’t help but be gladdened and comforted. And at Matthew’s death the only thing to do is weep. I just reread the chapter and sobs predictably ensued. It’s the writing that does it, the understated and honest emotion which is part of this book’s power. L. M. Montgomery’s story is full of wonderfully funny moments: Anne’s puffed sleeves and raspberry cordial, her dramatization of Elaine in the river adventure, her terrible hair dying disaster. She’s a girl like any other with her concerns about friendships and her freckles and fashion, but at the same time is so unique because of her imagination and ability to turn everyday moments into utter disaster or drama. I also loved Diana Barry, particularly because Barry was my maiden name and because she was such a staunch bosom buddy to Anne. And Gilbert Blythe. Say no more. My first and best book crush.

Another reason this book is so unforgettable is because of the evocation of place. Oh, I’d love to go to Green Gables. And of course, L. M. Montgomery is a brilliant writer, the irony with which she depicts the busybodies of the town is hilarious making this story just as entertaining to read now as it was when I was a child.

I was lucky enough to get the beautiful edition shown above as a gift from my first Puffin Party. My daughters now love the book just as much as I do .


'There were a few problems . . . bullying . . . a fire . . .'


I think she's verging on psychosis . . . now she's lashing out.


She's got no one else to fight for her.'

Sixteen year-old Audrey just wants to be normal. She's trying to fit in. But what happens when the person closest to you suffocates you with their love? What happens then?

About the Book
Title: Lies Like Love
Author: Louisa Reid
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publisher: Penguin
Format: Paperback
Published: July 3rd 2014

Author Information


Louisa Reid is a writer and teacher living on the Fen Edge. Her debut novel, BLACK HEART BLUE was published in 2012 by Penguin and was shortlisted for the North East Teen Book Award and longlisted for the Carnegie and Branford Boase awards. Her second novel, LIES LIKE LOVE was published in July 2014 by Penguin.

Author Links

Tour Schedule

Monday 20th April
Tuesday 21st April

Wednesday 22nd April

Thursday 23rd April

Friday 24th April
Books for Birds

Saturday 25th April

Sunday 26th April

Link to tour schedule;

There is a tour wide giveaway during the tour.
The prizes include;
One Signed Lies Like Love
One Signed Black Heart Blue
One Bundle of Swag

a Rafflecopter giveaway