Penguin Teen Canada Trivia Night: Fright Night

This fall, we’re testing our general knowledge and hanging out with some of our fave authors in a three-part trivia series! Join us for part two on Wednesday, October 28th at 7pm EST on Zoom. We’ll be joined by Nina LaCour (Watch Over Me), Kate M. Williams (For Better or Cursed), and Renée Ahdieh (The Damned) who will be asking questions about ghosts, witches, and vampires. RSVP here and we’ll “see” you there!

Watch Over Me
By Nina LaCour
272 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267466 | Dutton BFYR
Mila is used to being alone. Maybe that’s why she said yes to the opportunity: living in this remote place, among the flowers and the fog and the crash of waves far below. But she hadn’t known about the ghosts. Newly graduated from high school, Mila has aged out of the foster care system. So, when she’s offered a job and a place to stay at a farm on an isolated part of the California Coast, she immediately accepts. Maybe she will finally find a new home, a real home. The farm is a refuge, but also haunted by the past traumas its young residents have come to escape. And Mila’s own terrible memories are starting to rise to the surface.

For Better or Cursed
By Kate M. Williams
384 Pages | 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525707417 | Delacorte BFYR
Esme Pearl’s life used to be all about bumming rides and babysitting. All that changed when Cassandra Heaven came to town, and they discovered their complicated, and connected, legacy: Esme and Cassandra are Sitters, supernaturally gifted teens armed with an ever-changing grimoire of Sitter witchcraft to help them protect the innocent and keep evil demons at bay. But just as Esme is starting to adjust to – and maybe even like – her new normal, life lobs another glitter bomb her way. The Synod – the Sitterhood’s governing circle – has called a Summit, a once-in-a-generation gathering that promises training, education, and whole lot of icebreakers. Esme should be excited – a Summit might mean she can finally get the answers she desperately wants – but she can’t shake a building sense of panic. Especially since Cassandra’s not acting like herself; Esme’s dad is MIA; Pig is out of dog food; Janis is scared to be alone; and there’s a guy who seems too good to be true, again. Worst of all, it soon becomes clear, there’s no one watching the kids. It’s obvious the Summit is a hot mess, but will it be a deadly one, too?

The Damned
By Renée Ahdieh
416 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984812582 | Putnam BFYR
Following the events of The Beautiful, Sébastien Saint Germain is now cursed and forever changed. The treaty between the Fallen and the Brotherhood has been broken, and war between the immortals seems imminent. The price of loving Celine was costly. But Celine has also paid a high price for loving Bastien. Still recovering from injuries sustained during a night she can’t quite remember; her dreams are troubled. And she doesn’t know she has inadvertently set into motion a chain of events that could lead to her demise and unveil a truth about herself she’s not ready to learn. Forces hiding in the shadows have been patiently waiting for this moment. And just as Bastien and Celine begin to uncover the danger around them, they learn their love could tear them apart.


Questions or concerns? Follow us on Twitter or email us at YoungReaders@penguinrandomhouse.com!

Join Us for a HerStory Tea Time

Need some plans this long weekend? Join us for our first ever HerStory Tea Time on Monday, October 12 at 12pm PST/3pm EST! We’ll be chatting all things historical fiction with some incredible YA authors including Elizabeth Wein (The Enigma Game), Sherri L. Smith (The Blossom and the Firefly), Virginia Frances Schwartz (Among the Fallen), and Stacey Lee (The Downstairs Girl). Make sure to RSVP here to get the link!

The Enigma Game
By Elizabeth Wein
448 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735265288 | Penguin Teen Canada
A German soldier risks his life to drop off the sought-after Enigma Machine to British Intelligence, hiding it in a pub in a small town in northeast Scotland, and unwittingly bringing together four very different people who decide to keep it to themselves. Louisa Adair, a young teen girl hired to look after the pub owner’s elderly, German-born aunt, Jane Warner, finds it but doesn’t report it. Flight-Lieutenant Jamie Beaufort-Stuart intercepts a signal but can’t figure it out. Ellen McEwen, volunteer at the local airfield, acts as the go-between and messenger, after Louisa involves Jane in translating. The planes under Jamie’s command seem charmed, as Jamie knows where exactly to go, while other squadrons suffer, and the four are loathe to give up the machine, even after Elisabeth Lind from British Intelligence arrives, even after the Germans start bombing the tiny town.

The Blossom and the Firefly
By Sherri L. Smith
320 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781524737900 | Putnam BFYR
Japan 1945. Taro is a talented violinist and a kamikaze pilot in the days before his first and only mission. He believes he is ready to die for his country . . . until he meets Hana. Hana hasn’t been the same since the day she was buried alive in a collapsed trench during a bomb raid. She wonders if it would have been better to have died that day . . . until she meets Taro. Here, with achingly beautiful prose, Smith weaves a tale of love in the face of death, of hope in the face of tragedy, set against a backdrop of the waning days of the Pacific War.

Among the Fallen
By Virginia Frances Schwartz
304 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823441020 | Holiday House
Though haunted by nightmarish flashbacks and withering in the miserable conditions of Tothill prison, an infamous Victorian workhouse, Orpha perseveres, doing what she can to befriend and protect the other girls imprisoned alongside her. She doesn’t speak about what happened – no one would listen. No one would believe her. But then a mysterious letter arrives, offering her a place at Urania cottage. This experimental home aims to rehabilitate so-called fallen women – many of them victims of sexual abuse, suffering not only the trauma of their experiences, but the blame and loss of reputation and livelihood. It sounds too good to be true – but with nowhere else to go, Orpha decides to take her chance. Soon she discovers her unknown savior is none other than Charles Dickens, whose writing deals extensively with the plight of the lower class, and whose friendship and guidance offers Orpha a new way to express herself. With the support of the other women of Urania and the promise of a real future, Orpha will have to confront the darkest parts of her past – and let go of her secrets.

The Downstairs Girl
By Stacey Lee
384 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781524740955 | Putnam BFYR
By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady’s maid for the cruel daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. But by night, Jo moonlights as the pseudonymous author of a newspaper advice column for the genteel Southern lady, “Dear Miss Sweetie.” When her column becomes wildly popular, she uses the power of the pen to address some of society’s ills, but she’s not prepared for the backlash that follows when her column challenges fixed ideas about race and gender. While her opponents clamor to uncover the secret identity of Miss Sweetie, a mysterious letter sets Jo off on a search for her own past and the parents who abandoned her as a baby. But when her efforts put her in the crosshairs of Atlanta’s most notorious criminal, Jo must decide whether she, a girl used to living in the shadows, is ready to step into the light. With prose that is witty, insightful, and at times heartbreaking, Stacey Lee masterfully crafts an extraordinary social drama set in the New South.

Dream Casting “Breathless:” A Guest Post from Jennifer Niven

We asked author Jennifer Niven (All the Bright PlacesHolding Up the Universe) for a guest post today and she delivered! Not only did she provide an excellent dream cast for an adaptation of her upcoming novel, Breathless, but she also gave us an inside look at how personal Breathless is to her – and how sometimes art seems to imitate life.

Dream Cast

I almost always write my books with actors in mind for the characters. Particularly when the book is so personal—as Breathless is—it helps give me enough objectivity to write the character. Hopefully we will see Breathless on the big screen. If so, my dream is to cast the actors I had in mind while writing the book—assuming, of course, I’d have an unlimited budget and ultimate power to make those decisions!

For Claude Henry, I envision the amazing Sophia Lillis (I Am Not Okay With This). To me, she is Claude— freckles, short red hair, fire, emotional depth, attitude, and all. For the dreamy and charismatic Jeremiah Crew (who was inspired by my own dreamy and charismatic husband), I picture the magnetic Rudy Pankow (Outer Banks) or multi-talented Luke Eisner (Tall Girl).

For Claude’s no-nonsense best friend, Saz, I imagine someone like Maitreyi Ramakrishnan (Never Have I Ever). For Claude’s mom, Lauren, I see Alicia Silverstone or Drew Barrymore.

For her dad, Neil, I picture Michael Sheen. For Wyatt Jones, her hometown crush, Reece King or Chance Perdomo (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina).

And as for the young people she befriends on the island—Sofia Hasmik (All the Bright Places) as Wednesday, Ross Lynch (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) as Grady, and an older Keith L. Williams (Good Boys) as Emory. And as Jared I see the person who inspired the character—a real-life reader and friend named Jared whom I wrote into the story. 🙂

Fun Facts

At the end of my senior year of high school, days after I turned eighteen, my dad told me that he and my mom were splitting up. All my life, it had been the three of us—Mom, Dad, me. My parents were everything. And suddenly, my world turned upside down.

Years later, I visited an island off the coast of Georgia to write this book and met my now husband. He is that barefoot boy of nature who inspired Jeremiah Crew. The one who taught me how to find shark teeth. The adventures in the book are adventures my husband and I had while we were falling in love.

So Breathless is personal both to the teenage Jennifer and the adult Jennifer in ways I never saw coming when I first began working on the story of a girl named Claude whose parents separate days after her high school graduation.

Here’s a little breakdown of just some of the ways in which it’s personal…

Then (teen Jennifer):

  • I grew up in a small Midwestern town with a gay best friend. We constantly dreamed of leaving that town and going out into the world together in pursuit of our big dreams.
  • My parents and I moved there from somewhere else when I was ten.
  • Like Claude, I’m an only child.
  • The Joy Ann Cake Shop was the bakery in our town. Their specialty was thumbprint cookies. J
  • A week before my high school graduation, my dad came into my room to tell me that he and my mom were splitting up. He also asked me not to tell anyone about the impending separation, not even my best friend.
  • Five days after graduation, my mom and I moved away from my hometown, my best friend, all my friends, the boy I liked, my dad, my dog, and my home. Whereas Claude and her mom go to a remote GA island for the summer, my mom and I went to the remote NC mountains.
  • That was the summer I had sex for the first time.
  • It was also the summer I really started writing seriously and began finding my voice. (Although instead of a novel, it was a play about Zelda Fitzgerald.)

Now (adult Jennifer):

  • I traveled to Cumberland Island—one of the islands that inspired the setting for the book—and met my husband, Justin Conway. The real-life Jeremiah Crew. (I had named the character long before I met my husband.) The only notable difference—apart from being older than Claude and Miah— is that there was no Wednesday, he didn’t pull me from the water after I’d swum out too far, and we’ve never actually argued.
  • I wrote Jeremiah Crew before I even knew my husband, but in addition to having the same initials, there are so many eerie similarities, almost as if I conjured him—walking barefoot all over the island, similar backstory in terms of family troubles and having to raise his siblings, becoming sober, having to grow up too fast and be responsible at a young age.
  • Every adventure we have in the book (except for the bike riding one) is an adventure my husband and I had while we were falling in love. The fireflies guiding our way through the dark. Wandering the grounds of the ruins at night. Long beach walks under a blood moon. Waiting for the turtles to appear. Sinking into the pluff mud (me in my sundress and rain boots, him in his Ranger Panties, the same shorts Jeremiah wears in the book). Getting trapped in a basement with the ghost of a woman who loves jewelry. All the things we shared with each other when no one else was listening.
  • We agreed from the first day we met to always, always share everything about ourselves, just like Claude and Miah do.
  • He taught me how to hunt for shark teeth by making circles in the sand.
  • He carried me through the creek when the tide came in and the water was too high.
  • There is an inn on Cumberland and ruins on Cumberland, but a lot of the setting—including the Geechee culture— is also inspired by Sapelo Island, where we’ve spent some time as well.
  • Jared is a real person—a devoted reader of All the Bright Places who works at the inn on Cumberland Island.
  • Wednesday is a reader who won an auction to appear as a character in the book.
  • Claude’s relationship with her mom is very similar to mine with my mom. All my life we’ve always been Penny and Jennifer, Jennifer and Penny. The Niven women.
  • Much of the family history of the Blackwoods comes from my own Niven family history.
  • Now my husband and I live part-time in Los Angeles and part-time in coastal Georgia, just fifteen minutes from Cumberland Island by boat. We still go over and hunt for treasure and wade through the pluff mud and walk the beach under blood moons whenever we can. <3

Breathless
By Jennifer Niven
400 Pages | Ages 14+
ISBN 9781524701963 | Knopf Books for Young Readers
Before: With graduation on the horizon, budding writer Claudine Henry is making plans: college in the fall, become a famous author, and maybe–finally–have sex. She doesn’t even need to be in love. Then her dad drops a bombshell: he’s leaving Claude’s mother. Suddenly, Claude’s entire world feels like a lie, and her future anything but under control.
After: Claude’s mom whisks them away to the last place Claude could imagine nursing a broken heart: a remote, mosquito-infested island off the coast of Georgia. But then Jeremiah Crew happens. Miah is a local trail guide with a passion for photography–and a past he doesn’t like to talk about. He’s brash and enigmatic, and even more infuriatingly, he’s the only one who seems to see Claude for who she wants to be. So when Claude decides to sleep with Miah, she tells herself it’s just sex, nothing more. There’s not enough time to fall in love, especially if it means putting her already broken heart at risk.

Jennifer Niven: website | twitter | instagram

Penguin Teen Canada Trivia Night: Love is Love is Love

This fall, we’re testing our general knowledge and hanging out with some of our fave authors in a three-part trivia series! Join us for the first one on Wednesday, September 30th at 7pm EST on Zoom. We’ll be joined by Heather Smith (Barry Squires, Full Tilt), Arvin Ahmadi (How it All Blew Up), and Danielle Younge-Ullman (He Must Like You) who will be asking questions about dancing, Italy, and restaurants. RSVP here and we’ll “see” you there!

Barry Squires, Full Tilt
By Heather T. Smith
232 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267466 | Penguin Teen Canada
It’s 1995. When the Full Tilt Dancers give an inspiring performance at the opening of the new bingo hall, twelve-year-old Finbar (Barry) Squires wants desperately to join the troupe. Led by Father O’Flaherty, the Full Tilt Irish Step Dancers are the most sought-after act in St. John’s, Newfoundland (closely followed by popular bagpiper, Alfie Bragg and his Agony Bag). Having watched Riverdance twice, Barry figures he’ll nail the audition. And good thing too — it’d be nice to be known for something other than the port wine stain on his cheek. With questionable talent and an unpredictable temper, Barry’s journey to stardom is jeopardized by his parents’ refusal to take his dreams seriously. Thankfully, Barry has the support of a lively cast of characters: his ever-present grandmother, Nanny Squires; his adorable baby brother, Gord; an old British rocker named Uneven Steven; a group of geriatrics from the One Step Closer to God Nursing Home; and Saibal, a friend with whom Barry gets up to no good.

How It All Blew Up
By Arvin Ahmadi
272 Pages | Ages 14+
ISBN 9780593202876 | Viking Books for Young Readers
Eighteen-year-old Amir Azadi always knew coming out to his Muslim family would be messy–he just didn’t think it would end in an airport interrogation room. But when faced with a failed relationship, bullies, and blackmail, running away to Rome is his only option. Right?
Soon, late nights with new friends and dates in the Sistine Chapel start to feel like second nature… until his old life comes knocking on his door. Now, Amir has to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth to a US Customs officer, or risk losing his hard-won freedom.
At turns uplifting and devastating, How It All Blew Up is Arvin Ahmadi’s most powerful novel yet, a celebration of how life’s most painful moments can live alongside the riotous, life-changing joys of discovering who you are..

He Must Like You
By Danielle Younge-Ullman
336 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735265691 | Penguin Teen Canada
Libby’s having a rough senior year. Her older brother absconded with his college money and is bartending on a Greek island. Her dad just told her she’s got to pay for college herself, and he’s evicting her when she graduates so he can AirBnB her room. A drunken hook-up with her coworker Kyle has left her upset and confused. So when Perry Ackerman, serial harasser and the most handsy customer at The Goat where she waitresses, pushes her over the edge, she can hardly be blamed for dumping a pitcher of sangria on his head. Unfortunately, Perry is a local industry hero, the restaurant’s most important customer and Libby’s mom’s boss. Now Libby has to navigate the fallout of her outburst, find an apartment and deal with her increasing rage at the guys who’ve screwed up her life–and her increasing crush on the one guy who truly gets her. As timely as it is timeless, He Must Like You is a story about consent, rage, and revenge, and the potential we all have to be better people.


Questions or concerns? Follow us on Twitter or email us at YoungReaders@penguinrandomhouse.com!

Putting the YA in FRIYAY: Heather Smith’s Guide to St. John’s, Newfoundland

A pandemic is no time to travel but we’re always dreaming about the next place we’d love to visit when things are safe again. Thanks to Heather Smith, St. John’s, Newfoundland is now high up on our list – it’s the setting for her latest YA novel, Barry Squires, Full Tilt.

Keep scrolling for Heather’s top five reasons to visit St. John’s!

Heather and her husband outside of Fred’s

1. The People

Get off the plane at the St. John’s International Airport and you might bump into a stranger who’ll treat you like a long-lost friend. “How was your flight, my duck? Bit bumpy at the end there, wasn’t it? We got some wicked wind here, I tells ya. Where are ya staying to anyway? The Newfoundland Hotel? Jeez b’y, that’ll cost you a pretty penny. Why don’t you stay with me? Uncle Dwight’s not in the basement anymore, God rest his soul. Don’t worry, I’ve changed the sheets. Purex was only $4.99 at Pipers this week. I got Aunt Bev a bottle too. She doesn’t get out as much as she used to. Not since the accident.”

Newfoundlanders are a hospitable bunch. Chatty too. Over the course of your stay, you’ll be called duck, love, darlin’, hon, trout, and the ubiquitous ‘buddy’ or ‘missus’. Ask a question and you’ll get a life story. Accept a cup of tea and you’ll get a turkey dinner, a tall tale, and a pair of Nan’s handknitted socks. Don’t worry, your confusion over whether you’re a houseguest or a hostage is completely normal. Some would argue it’s part of the experience.

Of course, Newfoundlanders aren’t perfect. You’re sure to meet a hard ticket who’ll call you something unsavoury, but look on the bright side – at least you can return home with a funny story about the dude in Dildo who said you had a face on ya like a boiled boot.

2. The Food

There are a lot of traditional foods in Newfoundland and Labrador and there are many fine restaurants in and around the St. John’s area that present them in new and interesting ways. You wouldn’t believe what some of these places can do with a slice of bologna! Chinched on Bate’s Hill even make their own! They also do a mean charcuterie board that features house made meats, local cheeses, and homemade mustards and pickles. Delicious! Other notable restaurants include Mallard Cottage and Hungry Heart Café. There’s also Chafe’s Landing which just happens to be located in Petty Harbour, the birthplace of Alan Doyle! (If you’re lucky you might get held hostage by some of his kin!)

3. The Landscape

As soon as the plane emerges from the fog you will see the most rugged beauty you’ve ever seen in your whole entire life. (No exaggeration, Newfoundlanders never stretch the truth.) By the way, did I mention that you might meet Gordon Pinsent? He hands out handknitted socks to newcomers at the airport. Nice guy. I shared a Chinched bologna sandwich with him on Signal Hill once. What’s Signal Hill you ask? Read on, my duck!

Newfoundland in the summer

4. The Touristy Stuff

Downtown St. John’s:

The Duke of Duckworth (Get some beer!)
The Ship Inn (Get some more beer!)
Fred’s Records (Get some music!)
Caine’s Deli (Get a cold plate!)
The Golden Tulip (Get some jewellery!)
Nonia (Get some handknitted socks!)

Other places of note:

Signal Hill National Historic Site (Home of Cabot Tower)
The Narrows (the passage from St. John’s Harbour to the Atlantic – stunning views!)
Cape Spear (North America’s most easterly point)
The Rooms (Fabulous museum and art gallery)
Any hike along the East Coast Trail (more spectacular views!)

5. The Weather (Bahahahahahhahaha!)

Don’t worry, it won’t all be RDF*. If you go in the summer, you’ll be sure to get some fine days – enjoy them while you can!

*Rain, drizzle, and fog.


Now that you know what to expect in Newfoundland, make sure you pick up Barry Squires, Full Tilt when it comes out on September 22!

Barry Squires, Full Tilt
By Heather T. Smith
232 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267466 | Penguin Teen Canada
It’s 1995. When the Full Tilt Dancers give an inspiring performance at the opening of the new bingo hall, twelve-year-old Finbar (Barry) Squires wants desperately to join the troupe. Led by Father O’Flaherty, the Full Tilt Irish Step Dancers are the most sought-after act in St. John’s, Newfoundland (closely followed by popular bagpiper, Alfie Bragg and his Agony Bag). Having watched Riverdance twice, Barry figures he’ll nail the audition. And good thing too — it’d be nice to be known for something other than the port wine stain on his cheek. With questionable talent and an unpredictable temper, Barry’s journey to stardom is jeopardized by his parents’ refusal to take his dreams seriously. Thankfully, Barry has the support of a lively cast of characters: his ever-present grandmother, Nanny Squires; his adorable baby brother, Gord; an old British rocker named Uneven Steven; a group of geriatrics from the One Step Closer to God Nursing Home; and Saibal, a friend with whom Barry gets up to no good.

Other books by Heather:

The Agony of Bun O’Keefe
By Heather T. Smith
232 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735267466 | Penguin Teen Canada
It’s Newfoundland, 1986. Fourteen-year-old Bun O’Keefe has lived a solitary life in an unsafe, unsanitary house. Her mother is a compulsive hoarder, and Bun has had little contact with the outside world. What she’s learned about life comes from the random books and old VHS tapes that she finds in the boxes and bags her mother brings home. Bun and her mother rarely talk, so when Bun’s mother tells Bun to leave one day, she does. Hitchhiking out of town, Bun ends up on the streets of St. John’s, Newfoundland. Fortunately, the first person she meets is Busker Boy, a street musician who senses her naivety and takes her in. Together they live in a house with an eclectic cast of characters: Chef, a hotel dishwasher with culinary dreams; Cher, a drag queen with a tragic past; Big Eyes, a Catholic school girl desperately trying to reinvent herself; and The Landlord, a man who Bun is told to avoid at all cost. Through her experiences with her new roommates, and their sometimes tragic revelations, Bun learns that the world extends beyond the walls of her mother’s house and discovers the joy of being part of a new family — a family of friends who care.

Chicken Girl
By Heather T. Smith
232 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735267466 | Penguin Teen Canada
Poppy used to be an optimist. But after a photo of her dressed as Rosie the Riveter is mocked online, she’s having trouble seeing the good in the world. As a result, Poppy trades her beloved vintage clothes for a feathered chicken costume and accepts a job as an anonymous sign waver outside a restaurant. There, Poppy meets six-year-old girl Miracle, who helps Poppy see beyond her own pain, opening her eyes to the people around her: Cam, her twin brother, who is adjusting to life as an openly gay teen; Buck, a charming photographer with a cute British accent and a not-so-cute mean-streak; and Lewis a teen caring for an ailing parent, while struggling to reach the final stages of his gender transition. As the summer unfolds, Poppy stops glorifying the past and starts focusing on the present. But just as she comes to terms with the fact that there is good and bad in everyone, she is tested by a deep betrayal.

Heather Smith: website | twitter | instagram