Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Teentopia: Taylor and Amanda

For the first Teentopia, we have two incredibly intelligent sisters answering our questions and indulging in our curiosity!

Meet Amanda:
I’m 15, in 10th grade, and homeschooled. I am a Christian; I walk with Christ. Art, of many different forms in general, is a huge interest of mine. I’m also looking into going into the field of medicine, but still debating.

And introducing Taylor:
I’m a high school senior with various interests and passions. I tend to love anything relating to the arts or the human mind. My purpose is to live like Christ, glorifying God and serving others.

What are some of your favorite recently-read books?

Amanda: Some of my favorite recently read books would be: The Hunger Games trilogy, The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, The Pendragon Series, The Outsiders, and Howl’s Moving Castle.

Taylor: Definitely on my top list of recent books would be Mockingjay (the last book in the Hunger Games series), Book of a Thousand Days, The Shunning, and The Confession (sequel to The Shunning).

How do you find out about and choose books that aren't assigned in school?

Amanda: I usually find out about new books and book series by word of mouth; from friends and relatives. I also learn about or becoming interested in reading new books through seeing movies made off of books and books written by an author I like though.

Taylor: I ask for recommendations from my friends and family, or I just discuss good books with them. Sometimes I even get into conversations about books with people I just met or barely know. Good books make for good discussions, and when someone’s description of a book they love captivates me, I have to go out and read it for myself.

On a related note, do you read reviews before you decide to read a book? Where?

Amanda: No, I actually don’t really end up reading any reviews until after I read a book, ironically. When I do read reviews though, I usually read them through school related websites.

Taylor: About 20% of the time I will read reviews about a book before I read the book myself. I only read reviews if I’m seriously debating on whether or not I want to read a particular book. Everyone’s view is biased, so when I have my mind set on reading a book, I will read it no matter what I’ve heard about it. Most of the time I just skip the reviews; I don’t want another’s view of the book to affect the way I will perceive it. Nevertheless, whenever I do happen to read the reviews of a book, I type the name of the book and the word “reviews” into Google. I don’t remember any particular sites I’ve used the most for reviews, but I do know that I’ve used Amazon a few times.

Do you read author's blogs/facebooks/twitters? If yes: before you read their book or after - and what kind of content do you like to see?

Amanda: I don’t recall having ever read an author’s facebook or twitter, and I don’t read many authors’ blogs, but I have read a couple blogs for some of the authors I really like. I usually read their blog after I’ve read their book or books however. What I usually like to see on an author’s blog kind of varies. I like to read about updates on books, inspirations for writing certain works, their personal interests or random activities; things like that.

Taylor: I’ve read an author’s blogs a few times, but I don’t do it often. If a series is really, really good, I’ll read some of its author’s blogs on the book’s website or on So far, the only two authors whose blogs I have read are DJ Machale (Author of the Pendragon series), and JK Rowling. What I’d like to see in their blogs are any current books they are working on, if any plans are being made for a movie in the future (I was dying to know about this with the Pendragon series), and things about their lifestyle, perspective, and surrounding influences and how those things have shaped the book(s) that they have written.

What kind of covers draw your attention?

Amanda: Vivid or creative covers really draw my attention. Since I’m really into Art, neat pictures or graphic designs catch my attention pretty quickly.

Taylor: I have a tendency to be drawn to covers that portray depth and meaning, because those are the types of stories I like to read. Anything from a simple cover of a girl with a conflicted expression to a complex cover of a confusing maze of graphic artistry can draw me in – it just all depends on if I feel depth from the cover. It can be a confusing scene that I want to figure out, or a sad person whose story I want to hear, or a cool design that shows creative sophistication. Whatever it is, it has to make me want to get lost in its story; it has to move me in some way. That being said, a book’s cover doesn’t even have to have illustrations for me to be drawn in – I’m often drawn by the title of the book itself. I think the title of a book is just as important, if not more, than the illustration. Oftentimes, the title is what gives me the most sense of depth and meaning, which, in turn, draws my attention.

Do you feel like YA books accurately represent teen culture? How so? Is there anything (themes, character types, genres, time periods, etc) you'd like to see more of in YA books?

Amanda: I feel that YA books do a pretty good job at representing teen culture. There is a good variety to their books, and a lot of them do seem targeted towards teen audiences. I’m not sure I’d say there is anything I’d like to see more of in YA books.

Taylor: Sadly, yes. I say “sadly” because I feel that a majority of YA books focus on drama, sex, relationships, and image. From what I’ve seen of the teen culture, and what I’ve experienced myself, most teens seem to focus on these four things. I like books that have these things, yet send out morals as well, such as the fact that these things are not all there is to life. However, a lot of books I’ve read seem to have excessive drama without meaning, sex for entertainment, and characters that, even by the end of the book, think that having a boyfriend or girlfriend is the most important thing in life. Can’t we have more books that focus on these things but also show meaning and morals and depth too?

I would like more Christian books, or at least books with Christian themes like loving others, forgiving others, and using your own suffering to help those around you. In other words, I want more wholesome books that you can gain beneficial morals from. I’d also like to see more books about teens struggling with mental disorders. I’ve read one about a guy with autism, but I have yet to read about a teen struggling with an anxiety disorder (like me). Basically, I’d love to see any books about the outcasts, or people that aren’t the norm. We already have enough books a

Anything you want to see less of?

Amanda: Personally, I would like to see fewer books that primarily consist of teenage high school relationship drama. I just feel like I see and read so many books like that, and it begins to get a bit boring after a while. Not that books like that can’t be great, I would just like something new is all.

Taylor: YES. Please, let’s cut down on the drama, relationships, sex, and image obsession. I understand if they are added to progress an idea or theme in the book, but when they are added solely for entertainment purposes, I cannot stand it! I need to see the meaning!

How do you read books? (paper, e-reader, phone, audio, etc)

Amanda: I like to read actual paper books. I like the feeling of being able to sit or lay down and open my book up. I don’t really read books on the computer or anything unless I’m required to. I have enjoyed listening to some books on tape, but I still prefer paper books.

Taylor: I read paper books, and have tried a few audio ones too. I don’t read electronic books because they just don’t have the same feeling – I can’t flip the pages with my hands, use my special bookmarks, and make notes on it. I can’t even drop the electronic “book” without it being damaged (yes, I’m clumsy)! I prefer paper books all the way, and I prefer them over audio too because I like imagining the voices myself and reading at my own pace.

What do you think about all the YA books that have recently been made into movies?

Amanda: Most of the books that are made into movies are ones that I really like coincidentally. I personally always find the books better then the movies.

Taylor: For most of the ones I’ve seen and read, I think that the movies have done a pretty good job at portraying the original books. Of course, I still think that a lot of the movies cannot compare to the books (such as the Harry Potter series). When something is so good and masterfully written, the movie can only become second best no matter how hard it tries to fully capture its predecessor. As for the selection of books that are made into movies, though I’m not too fond of all of them (Twilight, for example, is decent), what I like is that when a book seems to have a huge fan base, companies strive to create a movie out of it. I like this because it makes a lot of people happy. I know the excitement of finding out that your favorite book will soon be a motion picture; it’s quite an amazing feeling.

What book have you read that you think deserves more attention?

Amanda: Definitely the Pendragon Series. It’s one of my all time favorite series and an amazing read. I don’t hear about a lot of people that have read the series though.

Taylor: I think The Shunning and the two books that follow it deserve more attention, quite simply because… they’re just so good! Not only do the books portray a unique perspective and story (they delve into the Amish life, telling of a girl adopted into an Amish family, who struggles with her heritage and seeks answers in the “outside world”). The characters in the story are as dynamic as can be, with flaws, regrets, failures, successes, dreams, quirks, and beautiful characteristics of all kind. The relationship between the main character and her adoptive parents, as well as the various friendships throughout the story, are realistic yet uplifting. Even though the series hugely reflects Christian values, I would recommend it to anybody. It is informative of a culture, it shows a variety of different perspectives, it delves into complex relationships, and it masterfully portrays the struggle of self-discovery and acceptance.

What novel are you most looking forward to in 2012?

Amanda: Surprisingly, I haven’t currently heard about many books coming out in 2012 that I’m too interested in.

Taylor: At the moment, I can’t think of any books coming out in 2012 that I’m most looking forward to, but I do know of some that have already come out that I’m dying to read. First, I can’t wait to read The Reckoning, which is the third book of The Shunning. Also, I’m really looking forward to reading the Game of Thrones series, which was recommended to me by a friend, and the I Am Number Four series, because I enjoyed the movie.

Do you use any book-specific sites to keep track of what you've read?

Amanda: No actually, I’ve never really used any kind of site like that.

Taylor: No I don’t, though that is a really good idea. I’ve always wanted to start keeping track of what I’ve read through a book site, so I plan on doing that soon.

What's the most important element to you: characters, plot, writing style?

Amanda: I honestly think all three of those are incredibly important in a book, but if I had to choose one, I would have to pick the characters. Just one insanely amazing character can make you fall in love with a book.

Taylor: That is a tough question. What usually makes me get into a story the most is when I fall in love with its characters. However, the plot is also incredibly important – it paces the events and shows the story’s purpose. But writing style… I would have to argue that the writing style is the most important out of all of these. I believe that your writing style determines all other things. The ability to organize a good plot is dependent on writing style. The ability to create lovable characters with depth is likewise dependent on writing style. You need to know how to write in a way that will captivate the reader and make him or her feel what you want them to feel from the story. You need to find your own unique voice – one that no other author has. That voice can only be shown through your unique writing style.

I'd like to thank Amanda and Taylor for being my guinea pigs on this new monthly Teentopia feature! Also, the girls said that they will be able to stop by this week and answer your questions, so please leave your questions for them in the comments!

Don't forget: Come back on January 25th to pitch EIGHT editors from Entangled Publishing. Young Adult or Adult; Novels and novellas! Details here.


  1. This has been a very insightful interview. It's nice to hear these things from teens instead of adults telling us what they think to be true about teens' interests and how they find out about books.

  2. I'm not Christian, but I've been seeing a lot of contemporary YA romances from Christian authors that look really good. Like the Austen adaptions by Jenni James and The Next Door Boys by Jolene Perry.

    I definitely agree about electronic books not being the same as print books :)

  3. Thank you for stopping by Amanda and Taylor!!! :)

  4. I just stopped by to say how much I loved this post. I hope you all continue doing Teentopia interviews. Taylor and Amanda, you gave such great, clear answers and I immediately had to share this with my own little sister because we, too, are Christians and have been thinking along the same lines as to what we'd like to see in the YA (and MG) market. So thank you both so much for sharing. This post is one of my favorite YAtopia posts, and I've been sharing it with as many people as I can reach! :)

    Take care and thanks again!

  5. Thanks so much everyone, I'm glad you liked it! Taylor and Amanda did a great job getting their views across, it was definitely a learning experience!

  6. Great interviews! I'm so glad we've started the Teentopia feature. As a writer, it's always good to hear what readers are looking for or not looking for. Thanks, Taylor and Amanda!

  7. Question: have you ever seen a book trailer? If so, did it make you want to read the book? What do you think about them?

    Taylor: I've seen a few book trailers, but not many. One of them I could have cared less about, but the other did actually make me want to read the book it advertised. I personally don't find book trailers any more effective than the back of a book that you read, because the basic concept of the book, however it is advertised, is what I'm looking for. However, I suppose trailers could be more effective in making a book more desirable to read, such as by adding music and images.

    Amanda: I've seen some book trailers as well, but not many. The ones I saw seemed pretty good, but didn't really capture my interest. I'm not sure I'd find all book trailers uninteresting, but I have yet to see one that really catches my attention.