This is something I have been thinking about for a long, long time.

It’s been in the back of my mind a lot, but as you all probably know, two months ago, Veronica Roth’s Allegiant, the third book to the Divergent series, came out.

And…there was a lot  of backlash.

Author Samantha Shannon brought it up on Twitter a little bit afterwards, asking thought-provoking questions such about endings and society’s expectations of how stories end, especially one with such hype and acclaim as that of the Divergent trilogy.

So I know I am quite late to put together my thoughts, but I wanted to take things into consideration when the storm had quieted, a little. This isn’t a review of Allegiant. It’s an blog rant, I suppose, on the relationship between the author and the reader, between doing the story justice and doing the readers justice–they usually go hand in hand, but what if they clash? And when they clash, what happens?

There will, however, be spoilers. I think a lot of you have read this book already, but just in case–a disclaimer.




At the end of the series, at the end of Allegiant, the main character, Tris Prior, dies.

This is a very unusual decision for the author to carry out. Some considered it even egregious, and the book was slammed by readers almost based on the ending alone.

Now, I know that some readers did find faults with the story, with character development and with the writing, and offered a harsh, but fair critique. I respect that and understand that. Despite everything, we do need negative critics in this world.  However, some readers hated the book and the author solely because she did not deliver a happy ending on a silver platter with dancing fawns. There were vicious insults and physical threats involved.

Bookverse, we need to talk about that.

I realize that readers are very important to an author. In today’s world especially, when social media is so intertwined with the publishing industry, readers have more power than ever. Readers are not regarded as a passive species anymore, but as an active, dynamic, presence, and through Facebook, Twitter, and blogs and various other social platforms, the author is so accessible to the readers–they interact with us and prompt us and value our feedback. Readers have power over the author, and rightly so, because we are the ones who buy their art, so we must have a say. We shape the audience and the general populace. Sometimes, many times, authors are pressured to change stories to adapt to the mainstream tastes–sometimes even against their own will.

But in the end, we are just that–readers. We are not the author, and though we are fully entitled to enjoy or dislike a book of our own free will, we have absolutely no right to directly interfere with the author’s purpose, or the story to get a version that we want, and we cannot presume that we have such a right.

Because in the end, even before the readers, the authors owe themselves to the story.


I know that once, Veronica Roth wasn’t a smash-hit New York Times bestselling author with a rockstar celebrity status in the publishing world. Once upon a time, Veronica Roth was a college student who sat alone in her dorm room and wrote the novel of her heart. Ages before any of you guys ever caught a glimpse of Divergent, Veronica wrote the book, and in that moment, the story was hers. It was hers to tell. The story, the characters’ fates–it all belonged to her.

And people–she did it right. In the end, I believe she did the story justice.

Because the world of Divergent wasn’t like a scary movie set. It was brutal and broken and dark, through and through. In a world that seethed with danger and violence and tragedy–was it not realistic that even the main character could possibly die? I admire the courage Veronica took to stick to the guts of the world, to make the circumstances devastating and real and–dystopian. It’s not a suspenseful bedtime story where you’re taken through some frightening twists but all’s well in the end. There are consequences. And there is death.

Some may argue that Veronica crossed the line, that she killed off the main character to create a gut-wrenching scenario or to add shock value–but she didn’t. She clearly had the series planned out, and she explains it so, so well here. There was a clear character arc, and death was a vital part of it. If it was an illogical, brash ending, I would have joined in on the protests–but it wasn’t.

And to me–the ending felt right. I’m not one of those people who crave melodrama. Sure, I bawled my eyes out. Sure, maybe I was angry, a little bitter about the ending. But the feeling didn’t last long, through, because in my heart of hearts, I knew that was the only ending that would fit the story and the world she created.

So back to readers, and authors. One thing many wise readers understand (and it’s still something I’m struggling to grasp) is that authors are artists, and they contribute art to the world that is sometimes very difficult to understand. We, as the readers and consumers, are the judges and critics and admirers. But there is a fine balance between the reader’s rights and the author’s rights; the authors feed us wisdom and emotions and ideas, while we make it possible for them to carry on their work.

But we can’t touch the art itself. We can’t demand for the author to rewrite the ending and publish it. In the end, we must respect that balance, in order for truly good art to be made.


So this post was actually quite emotional to write…any comments? Thoughts? Please feel free to share.

You know, on any other normal New Year’s Eve I would go to sleep, or stay up to see the ball drop, or whatever. I wouldn’t feel too keen on blogging as the last hours of 2013 slide by.

But this year…is different. Important.
First of all, I’ve been blogging on this thing for a year. A year. I thought, last year when I first started up the blog, that I was doing it because…everyone else had been doing it, I guess, because it was a Publishing Key Marketing Move and I wanted something to remember my writing process by, something to look back on in the future maybe when I was successful or something. 
Right now? I’ve been blogging for a year. And I don’t have much readers, but I love blogging. I love typing my thoughts out and ranting when the times get hard and gushing when I read a lovely book. It’s like shouting into a nearly empty canyon. It’s quite liberating, actually. 
Also…I grew. I learned. A lot. A. LOT.
I remember last year, when I was tucked into my little corner, worrying my heart and brain out over TeaNovel. I had just discovered the platform of YA authors. My dreams were naive and big; I was slowly, slowly finding myself through the writing world.
In 2013, I made writing a Serious Job. I’m still a student, and during the day, I still go to school and geek out with friends. But this year, I set goals for myself. I let myself peek at a chance of publication for TeaNovel. I discovered what it meant to rewrite and rewrite a novel. I discovered what a query was and what it meant to get a literary agent. (Which I really, really hope can happen to me someday!) 
In 2013, I set a foot in the publishing business. The day after my 8th grade graduation, I flew to New York, where I attended BEA in New York City. I had never been in a more inspiring convention center, surrounded by authors with their stacks of ARCs and watching, awe-struck, as the role models I admired from afar were literally standing ten feet away. I remember the first picture I took at BEA was a random snapshot of Sarah J. Maas standing next to Susan Dennard’s autographing station and I was sort of having an internal mini-breakdown. The fangirl kind, of course. It was like seeing your favorite movie stars on the red carpet, except the carpet was blue and they weren’t swirled up in some fancy Dior gown, but cardigans and dresses and All Things Authorly. 
I also attended my first three author events; Rae Carson & CJ Redwine, Sarah J. Maas, Marie Lu. Rae and CJ were lovely ladies; when I approached them after the event, they both gave me great writing encouragement. Sarah…well, I did a whole post on her back in September and she is just so amazing and inspiring and kickass and so so KIND. As for Marie–I remember going up to her in the signing line and just spilling–literally ranting–everything I’ve wanted to tell her in the past 2 years. Because Legend was the book that changed my life, and I am so, so grateful that it did. 
2013 was the year many stunning sequels came out (Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas and A Darkness Strange and Lovely by Susan Dennard were my two favorites), and the year that stunning trilogies came to an end. (And YES, I absolutely loved the ending to Allegiant.)
In November 2013, I wrote an 80K novel from scratch, in 30 days, and by near-pantsing, I crafted a story that I am very, very excited to work on in the new year. 
I know this sounds so silly, but 2013 has, in so many ways, bridged that enormous gap between 2012 and 2014. Sure, there was a lor of angst and frustration, and there were many times I thought I was never going to get anywhere in my writing, but when I look back, I see everything. It’s been such a developmental year and I am sure I am a different person today than I was back in 2012.
I’m so glad this year happened.
And I can’t wait for 2014. Now my eye is on Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor and Strange and Ever After by Susan Dennard (and Sarah J. Maas’s untitled Book 3 of the Throne of Glass series!). 
As for the New Year…
In 2014, I have only two resolutions;
1. To Grow.
2. To Do Epic Shit. 
It sounds so vague, but in my heart, I know what those resolutions mean to me, very, very clearly. 
Okay. Fine. A specific resolution. 
I want to start querying agents. (Which really branches under the To Grow category, but I think announcing things give it some validity.)
I want to read more books. See more. Experience things that surprise me. 
In 2014, I want to grow, to love, and to do epic shit. 

Hahahaha I lied.

I didn’t completely disappear of the face of this blog.

Not yet.

Blog, I am completely, utterly, fairytale-swoon-esque, glitter and fairies, absolutely starstruck with Laini Taylor and her writing.

I read Daughter of Smoke and Bone about one or two months ago, and I remember being interested in it, even though that cover flap summary did fall a bit flat. But at urging of Samantha Shannon on Twitter, I decided to give it a go.

I liked Daughter. I love how it painted a slow romance and intrigue, how Laini handled everything so smoothly, so effortlessly. There was humor, there was magic, there was blood and a semi-apocalypse that grew into a bigger apocalypse in Book 2.

But I LOVED Days of Blood and Starlight. Laini Taylor said in an interview that Daughter and Days were very different book, with Daughter being a romance and Days being a war book. And it was so, so true. Daughter revealed Laini’s grace and talent, like a singer coming up as a contestant in a show with a simple, glittering dress, singing a sweet, beautiful ballad or something. I could sense something new. Something else. But Days—oh my goodness–it was like the singer coming back on stage and lighting it on fire and smoke while dancing in Katniss’s burning dress and belting out Idina Menzel’s “Defying Gravity.”

It was electric. Emotions were amplified and brought out with her expert prose. There was indeed violence and gore, and sex, but it was so well-handled that it was essential to the plot, and nothing seemed strained or overplayed. Themes resurfaced and I remember crying–literally crying during the scene when Akiva and Karou met again after the awful truth–it was full of stakes and tension and such raw emotion. I could sense every bit of sadness and betrayal and oh, oh my God. It wrote of a pure love that was the double-edged sword that hinted at hope and redemption, but also brought upon consequences of a deadly war between the seraphim (angels) and the chimaera (devils).

Laini Taylor does it perfectly. Even the humor is subtle and incredibly nuanced. It was heavily fantasy, but it also had a fairytale folklore element that made it so it wasn’t a cliche, archetypal high fantasy. The world of Eretz, where the seraphim and the chimaera dwelled, was so, so real. It was magical and ethereal and heartbreaking and a work of art.

Now I am eyeing the release date for Dreams of Gods and Monsters…

April 8, 2014.

Dear God, can I wait that long?

*grabby hands*

Okay, back to my writing.

It’s been a transformative few weeks. 

Right after NaNo, I jumped back into my old TeaNovel. I posted that lovely calendar for myself in a burst of energy. 
And then I reread TeaNovel.
It was…not as good as I expected. 
I began to see some of the flaws that I hadn’t seen before. I saw that though the pacing was good, the mood wasn’t set, and it was all a bit shallow. It didn’t have enough depth. 
And I was moaning and groaning to myself, whining that I had already rewritten TeaNovel 3 times, that I thought that I had mostly untangled knots that weren’t supposed to be there. 
I was afraid, really afraid that I would spend so much effort to do this, but in the end, it would all be for nothing. The publishing world really is fair. I believe in that strongly. 
Today I realized something. 
Now, I have to be willing to work. 

This isn’t the school world, where you write snippets of essays and turn them in for a grade, and if it was long and well-thought, it got high marks. Not to mention that the teachers are obligated to read the papers. 
The publishing world isn’t like that.
It is real. I am on the real arena, the real stage, being evaluated. In short, I have to ask myself: would someone spend potentially hours, weeks reading this? 
I was used to half-ass my way through school and get good grades. Now that I’m in high school, it’s considerably more challenging, but still I’m not walking along the edge, completely focused, my stakes hanging on the tightrope.  
But for writing, I finally realize what it means to completely devote yourself to something that you love, to be willing to put in hours and days and potentially months and years to dedicate yourself to this one story that could potentially fall short.
I have to try anyways. 
The fear is there, real and ever-present. It resembles a small house-elf, staring at me with its spiteful little eyes. “You can’t do it,” it says. “Go back and do legitimate things. You’re not good enough.”
I try to be patient with the little monster. Give it cake and listen to the sharp, brutal words. 
And I try really, really hard to take in the fear. 
It still is difficult. 
But what else can I do?
Because in moments like these, there is no choice other than to pour your heart into something like this. 
Don’t complain, Christina. You’re doing what you love and in the end, you have to work as hard as you wish for it.

This is a TED Talk she gave a while ago.

I actually watched it for the tenth time when this message finally sank into me, but she gives great points and charming anecdotes, with that dry, Maggie humor of hers.

The point of the video? Don’t blindly believe in the labels others stick onto you. Stay true to your own self.

It’s a great talk.Watch it.

It’s October, which means fall and Halloween and cool holidays. It means honeycrisp apples and excessive coffee and tea. It also means that I have been in school for over a month.

That is CRAZY.

Anyways, the things that I am super pumped for!

1. Books.

Come on. With THREE huge series reaching its conclusions, how could I not be freaking out?

House of Hades by Rick Riordan
I have been a steadfast Camp Half-Blood fan since I was a 3rd grader, and I remember for my tenth birthday, I got The Last Olympian as a present–right when it came out. Now, four years later, it’s hard to imagine that things have changed so much. I’m such a different person, yet still mostly the same, and I’m still in love with Percy Jackson–and so is my brother. The Mark of Athena destroyed me in the best way possible, and I am biting my crossed fingers that the conclusion to this series will be EPIC in the most mind-blowing way possible.

Allegiant by Veronica Roth:
I remember reading this series in the fall of ’11, right when it came out. Back then, I thought it was amazing and kickass and refreshing. It also was one of the first YA books I read and vaguely recognized as YA (after The Hunger Games) and the hype has finally caught up! The series takes in Chicago (Chicagoan pride <3) and I'm sad and thrilled and really, really looking forward to the end.

Champion by Marie Lu
Again, I think I was one of the early crowd–I read Legend in early 2012, and this book CHANGED MY LIFE. I don’t even know why or how. All I remember was setting down the book at theater practice, stunned and completely blown away, and walking around for the next freaking WEEK with the book hangover. It was the book that SNAPPED me into YA, and inspired me to take on writing again after my derivative, childlike fantasy novel that I did in 6th grade. It totally shifted my gears and it changed my course entirely. When/if I ever meet Marie, I am going to thank her. For everything she did in Legend to inspire me, even though I don’t completely understand how.

2. NaNoWriMo!

Chill, it’s still a month till the race. But people are readying their weapons and gears. For me, I have the idea of my story, in the vaguest forms. I know the plot and Things I Want To Include and the last line of the story and how it begins. That’s pretty much it.

But anyways! Never mind that. I’m proud to say that I’m a participant in Boot Camp NaNoWriMo, a NaNo community hosted by the amazing Susan Dennard. In November, you can catch me moderating the forums and shenanigans over here: Come and participate!

Last Wednesday, I met Sarah J. Maas, author of the Throne of Glass series.

It wasn’t easy–it was a school night. I lived about 30 miles from Naperville. My school was hosting this curriculum night thing–so my parents had to attend.

But tenacity was in my blood. I vowed to see Sarah, and my lovely dad supported me. So right after school, we took off for Anderson’s Bookshop, Naperville.

When I arrived at the store, it was 4 pm and the event was to start at 7. Waiting wasn’t long at all; hours passed easily in a bookshop.

At around 6 pm, I was buying a copy of Little Women at the front register. Then I saw Sarah walking down the street. She turned…and walked into the bookstore.

When I saw her, I said–no, squeed–“There’s Sarah!”

In a millisecond following, I fortified myself not to collapse all over the countertop and drool.

Because she was there. I had never been so excited to see an author in my life.

So we introduced ourselves. She was very, very friendly and I commend her for not being scared off by my 14 year old fangirling vibes.

Sarah then went to all the autographing table and engaged in book-event-business-y stuff and I ran into the shelves to hide.

So fast forward to 7 pm. The people were assembled in chairs, a good-sized group. Sarah came in and instantly put us at ease.

I really can’t describe it. Sarah was incredibly down-to-earth and kind. Though I had read her story to publication time and time again, she managed to make it sound fresh and engaging and hilarious. She highlighted her geeky side of childhood and confessed to having a life-sized cardboard cutout of Legolas from LOTR that was lipsticked all over–which all had us howling in laughter. She sounded humble, she sounded grateful, she was real–she spoke about how she grew and how Celaena, the main character in the series, grew with her.

But somehow, the whole event seemed surreal. While waiting in line for the signing, I chatted with a few people (Namely, Katie: and we geeked out over all sorts of books and how trilogy thirds like Champion and Allegiant were coming out this fall. It was amazing to talk with people who actually knew the books and could carry on a conversation. We talked about the saddest deaths in Harry Potter (I voted Fred Weasley, Katie voted Hedwig) and then I found myself standing in front of Sarah J. Maas.

It wasn’t until then that it all became very, very real.

I stacked the books that I had brought–and the books that my friends had begged me to bring–all in one pile.

“My friends and I love you,” I said.

And that was the beginning of everything that spilled out. Sarah was so amazing, and she listened and smiled while I told her how I discovered her on NaNoWriMo, how I followed her blog, how on the day Crown of Midnight came out I swore to my dad, “This is going to be a NYT Bestseller”–and it did. I showed her my friends’ fan art, told her how she was such an inspiration for a young, unknown writer. I told her how she deserved Every. Bit. Of. Success. that she got because hell, she had been working on it for ten years and more and how when she was on The List, we all felt like we were on the list with her.

And at one point, Sarah stood up, and walked around the table to give me a hug, and told me she just KNEW I was going to be published one day, and it was one of the most gratifying moments of my life.

And when my shaking hands finally took the signed books off the table, I walked to a corner of the bookstore, gingerly set down the books, and knelt there, just staring at her books. My brain was completely numb.

It’s hard to tell someone else just how much Sarah J. Maas means to me, how much her writing and her story to publication speaks to me. But she was struck down, again and again, and she stood up. When she first got her book deal, she put up a video thanking the people that helped her–and sobbed in it. The journey took her through everything and she came back and she is one of the authors that deserves her success, and every bit of it. The whole time I talked, she kept thanking me. 

I am so INCREDIBLY grateful for the night I had, for the sacrifices my dad made to drive me to and back from the event.

And I so, so, wish that I could give back. I wish that one day–one day–I could give her a book I wrote and thank her, again and again, for what she did to me.

…One day.

Yesterday, it poured.

I live around Chicago, so rain isn’t too rare an occurence, but yesterday, it rained in kind of that ominious inky sky, downpouring sheets of rain kind of way.

My brother was going for this tournament of his. It was in Naperville, and I found out that morning that authors Rae Carson and CJ Redwine were going to be in town.

I had actually been keeping my eye on that Sarah J. Maas event, but I thought, hey, why not?  I liked Rae Carson–I had LOVED her Girl of Fire and Thorns books. Plus, I had never been down to Anderson’s before.

So long story short, I found myself sitting in the small, cozy bookshop of Anderson’s that afternoon.

The event started out quietly–just the two authors first introducing each other, giving reading recommendations, and then answering questions from the crowd of about 20-25. Not too big–it was great. I sat in the second row and managed to get a good view of the authors. Rae and CJ were witty and amazing and I found myself nodding along to CJ’s Strong Female Characters argument (check out Erin Bowman’s kick-butt post on that: and I asked a question of my own.

I wanted so badly to buy their books but I forgot to bring money. So after the event ended and the signings commenced, I slunk quietly to the bookshelves and settled down with a book. After a bit, the crowd had cleared and the chairs were packed up, the two authors wandered over to the bookshelves. And Rae Carson was there, standing literally two feet away from me, scanning the Sci-Fi and Fantasy shelf.

So I screwed up my courage and spoke. She recognized me from the event. I told her she was an inspiration to me and how I was a writer too, and how I wanted to be published some day. At this point CJ Redwine had joined us. So it was the three of us, talking about writing and publishing. The two ladies were so kind and humble and there and real. 

And at one point CJ asked me, “What’s your name?”

“Christina,” I said. “Christina Li.”

“Christina Li,” Rae said. “I’m going to look for your name on the bookshelves one day.”

And that’s what made me nearly teary and absolutely giddy with happiness. To have an author–A NY Times bestselling author–look me in the eye and say that to a young unknown teen…I was speechless. And endlessly grateful.

And I spent the rest of the afternoon reading The Bone Season, which was stunning and complex and completely, totally epic. It lived up to my expectations and more.

My kind of a perfect afternoon.


School has begun, which means that a LOT of things are picking up pace. Summer has changed, from slogging, hazy days that pass by in a trickling morass, and into days full of getting lost in hallways and meeting new teachers and seeing your old friends and gearing up for another school season.
Speaking of seasons…
Wow. There’s a LOT of hype surrounding a book called The Bone Season, by Samantha Shannon. TV shows, magazine articles–it’s been featured in everything from the Today show (the very first pick of their new book club!) and the People magazine. I briefly saw Samantha Shannon back in June, at BEA–I really had NO idea that she was part of such an explosive series! 
And look at that cover…

Delicious, I know. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

But I’m also reallyreallyreally pumped for something else. 
Yup. You saw that. Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas. Coming out this Tuesday.
That has gotta be the most badass cover I’ve ever seen. 
I’ve heard people who managed to snag an ARC at BEA gush and froth at the mouth over it and say it’s the best book ever and no, they refuse to read other fantasy books this year because nothing else can quite manage to attain the awesomeness of Celaena. 
I am SO. SO. excited. Like, jumping-off-my-chair-because-I-know-it’s-gonna-kick-serious-butt excited. 
In other news, I’m taking a wee break from TeaNovel. But it doesn’t matter, because my time will be occupied with piles of schoolwork and that timer that ticks down the days until Crown of Midnight comes out.

You know how I said I checked out a bunch of Middle Grade books to avoid YA for a while? Well, I lied, sort of. I did check out that one YA book, that was decidedly not dystopian or sci-fi.

The Storyteller, by a German author named Antonia Michaelis. 

It begins the day Anna finds the child’s doll on the floor of the student lounge. When it’s claimed by Abel, the school drug dealer, Anna becomes determined to learn more about this mysterious boy with the military haircut and deep blue eyes. She follows him after school and discovers a secret: Abel is caring for his six year old sister Micha, alone. Anna listens as he tells her a fairy tale , the story of a little orphan queen pursued by hunters across the oceans for the treasure she carries: her pure, diamond heart.

It’s a story with parellels to reality. Social services and Micha’s abusive father could take her from Abel if they discover the truth. 

Despite friends’ warnings, Anna is drawn to Abel and Micha, and falls under the spell of the story of the little queen and her desperate voyage. 

But when people Abel has woven into his tale turn up dead, it’s Anna whose heart is in danger. Is she in love with a killer? And has she set out on a journey from which there is no return?
Antonia Michaelis has written a spell-binding tale of suspense, danger, and transformative love.


I don’t even know where to start.

It was a new idea, a combination of fairy tale and dark reality, scarred and edgy to the core, but beautiful and lyrical. Antonia Michaelis truly pulls out a beautiful, original tale and executes it almost flawlessly. I wanted to cry and laugh and cry, but I could only stare on in stone silence, at the simple, haunting cover, and wonder how it could hold so much power in the pages and words. The book caught me, held me, and when I closed the it, I felt that aching, gut-wrenching bittersweet feeling, the hollowness that settled in my heart. It was not fangirling or gushing over characters–describing it as that would be almost sacrilege. I felt a deep love and heartbreak in finishing it, and it would only be the utmost appreciation I could ever offer as a reader.

The combination was perfect. Please read it. I love it so much, and hope that you will too.