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Books, books, and more books! My neighbors probably wonder what exactly goes on over here at the house where UPS of FedEx stops nearly every day. The following are the books that have arrived here in the past few weeks. I will be reviewing many of them in the upcoming months on TLT. See something you’ve already read and need to make sure I don’t skip? Or something you’re super excited to read when it comes out? Let me know with a comment here or on Twitter, where I’m @CiteSomething.
All descriptions from the publishers.
One conversation is all it takes to break a world wide open.
Seventeen-year-old Macy Lyons has been through something no one should ever have to experience. And she’s dealt with it entirely alone.
On the outside, she’s got it pretty good. Her family’s well-off, she’s dating the cute boy next door, she has plenty of friends, and although she long ago wrote her mother off as a superficial gym rat, she’s thankful to have allies in her loving, laid-back dad and her younger brother.
But a conversation with a boy at a party one night shakes Macy out of the carefully maintained complacency that has defined her life so far. The boy is Sebastian Ruiz, a recovering addict who recognizes that Macy is hardened by dark secrets. And as Macy falls for Sebastian, she realizes that, while revealing her secret could ruin her seemingly perfect family, keeping silent might just destroy her.
The Fix follows two good-hearted teenagers coming to terms with the cards they were dealt. It’s also about the fixes we rely on to cope with our most shameful secrets and the hope and fear that come with meeting someone who challenges us to come clean.
Sky Pony Press, with our Good Books, Racehorse and Arcade imprints, is proud to publish a broad range of books for young readers—picture books for small children, chapter books, books for middle grade readers, and novels for young adults. Our list includes bestsellers for children who love to play Minecraft; stories told with LEGO bricks; books that teach lessons about tolerance, patience, and the environment, and much more. While not every title we publish becomes a New York Times bestseller or a national bestseller, we are committed to books on subjects that are sometimes overlooked and to authors whose work might not otherwise find a home.
Well-mannered Samuel and his mischievous younger brother Joshua are free black boys living in an orphanage during the end of the Civil War. Samuel takes the blame for Joshua’s latest prank, and the consequence is worse than he could ever imagine. He’s taken from the orphanage to the South, given a new name — Friday — and sold into slavery. What follows is a heartbreaking but hopeful account of Samuel’s journey from freedom, to captivity, and back again.
A moving story of grief, honesty, and the healing power of art — the ties that bind us together, even when those we love are gone.
Melanie and Damon are both living in the shadow of loss. For Melanie, it’s the loss of her larger-than-life artist mother, taken by cancer well before her time. For Damon, it’s the loss of his best friend, Carlos, who took his own life.
As they struggle to fill the empty spaces their loved ones left behind, fate conspires to bring them together. Damon takes pictures with Carlos’s camera to try to understand his choices, and Melanie begins painting as a way of feeling closer to her mother. But when the two join their school’s production of Othello, the play they both hoped would be a distraction becomes a test of who they truly are, both together and on their own. And more than anything else, they discover that it just might be possible to live their lives without completely letting go of their sadness.
Seventeen-year-old Delilah Green wouldn’t have chosen to do her last year of school this way, but she figures it’s working fine. While her dad goes on a trip to fix his broken heart after her mom left him for another man, Del manages the family cafe. Easy, she thinks. But what about homework? Or the nasty posse of mean girls making her life hell? Or her best friend who won’t stop guilt-tripping her? Or her other best friend who might go to jail for love if Del doesn’t do something? But really, who cares about any of that when all Del can think about is beautiful Rosa who dances every night across the street. . . . Until one day Rosa comes in the cafe door. And if Rosa starts thinking about Del, too, then how in the name of caramel milkshakes will Del get the rest of it together?
For readers of Girl Interrupted and Tweak, Cyndy Etler’s gripping memoir gives readers a glimpse into the harrowing reality of her sixteen months in the notorious “tough love” program the ACLU called “a concentration camp for throwaway kids.”
I never was a badass. Or a slut, a junkie, a stoner, like they told me I was. I was just a kid looking for something good, something that felt like love. I was a wannabe in a Levi’s jean jacket. Anybody could see that. Except my mother. And the professionals at Straight.
From the outside, Straight Inc. was a drug rehab. But on the inside it was…well, it was something else.
All Cyndy wanted was to be loved and accepted. By age fourteen, she had escaped from her violent home, only to be reported as a runaway and sent to a “drug rehabilitation” facility that changed her world.
To the public, Straight Inc. was a place of recovery. But behind closed doors, the program used bizarre and intimidating methods to “treat” its patients. In her raw and fearless memoir, Cyndy Etler recounts her sixteen months in the living nightmare that Straight Inc. considered “healing.”
In this unforgettable multicultural coming-of-age narrative—based on the author’s childhood in the 1960s—a young Cuban-Jewish immigrant girl is adjusting to her new life in New York City when her American dream is suddenly derailed. Ruthie’s plight will intrigue readers, and her powerful story of strength and resilience, full of color, light, and poignancy, will stay with them for a long time.
Ruthie Mizrahi and her family recently emigrated from Castro’s Cuba to New York City. Just when she’s finally beginning to gain confidence in her mastery of English—and enjoying her reign as her neighborhood’s hopscotch queen—a horrific car accident leaves her in a body cast and confined her to her bed for a long recovery. As Ruthie’s world shrinks because of her inability to move, her powers of observation and her heart grow larger and she comes to understand how fragile life is, how vulnerable we all are as human beings, and how friends, neighbors, and the power of the arts can sweeten even the worst of times.
Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre retold against the backdrop of San Francisco’s most fabulous—and dangerous—elites
After losing her parents in a tragic accident, surfer girl Janie Mason trades the sunny beaches of Hawaii for the cold fog of San Francisco and new guardians—the Rochesters—she’s never even met. Janie feels hopelessly out of place in their world of Napa weekends, fancy cotillions, and chauffeurs. The only person she can relate to is Daniel, a fellow surfer. Meeting him makes Janie feel like things might be looking up.
Still, something isn’t right in the Rochester mansion. There are noises—screams—coming from the attic that everyone else claims they can’t hear. Then John, the black sheep of the family, returns after getting kicked out of yet another boarding school. Soon Janie finds herself torn between devil-may-care John and fiercely loyal Daniel. Just when she thinks her life can’t get any more complicated, she learns the truth about why the Rochesters took her in. They want something from Janie, and she’s about to see just how far they’ll go to get it.
Riya and Abby are:
Living on different continents.
Currently mad at each other.
About to travel around Europe.
Riya moved to Berlin, Germany, with her family for junior year, while Abby stayed behind in their small California town. They thought it would be easy to keep up their friendship-it’s only a year and they’ve been best friends since preschool. But instead, they ended up fighting and not being there for the other. So Riya proposes an epic adventure to fix their friendship. Two weeks, six countries, unimaginable fun. But two small catches:
They haven’t talked in weeks.
They’ve both been keeping secrets.
Can Riya and Abby find their way back to each other among lush countrysides and dazzling cities, or does growing up mean growing apart?
Seventeen-year-old Nora Holmes is an artist, a painter from the moment she could hold a brush. She inherited the skill from her grandfather, Robert, who’s always nurtured Nora’s talent and encouraged her to follow her passion. Still, Nora is shocked and elated when Robert offers her a gift: an all-expenses-paid summer trip to Europe to immerse herself in the craft and to study history’s most famous artists. The only catch? Nora has to create an original piece of artwork at every stop and send it back to her grandfather. It’s a no-brainer: Nora is in!
Unfortunately, Nora’s mother, Alice, is less than thrilled about the trip. She worries about what the future holds for her young, idealistic daughter—and her opinions haven’t gone unnoticed. Nora couldn’t feel more unsupported by her mother, and in the weeks leading up to the trip, the women are as disconnected as they’ve ever been. But seconds after saying goodbye to Alice at the airport terminal, Nora hears a voice call out: “Wait! Stop! I’m coming with you!”
And . . . they’re off.
13 Little Blue Envelopes meets Gilmore Girls in this fun, funny, and bittersweet summer adventure from Observer writer and the hilarious voice behind @GuyInYourMFA, Dana Schwartz.
Michael likes to hang out with his friends and play with the latest graphic design software. His parents drag him to rallies held by their anti-immigrant group, which rails against the tide of refugees flooding the country. And it all makes sense to Michael.
Until Mina, a beautiful girl from the other side of the protest lines, shows up at his school, and turns out to be funny, smart — and a Muslim refugee from Afghanistan. Suddenly, his parents’ politics seem much more complicated.
Mina has had a long and dangerous journey fleeing her besieged home in Afghanistan, and now faces a frigid reception at her new prep school, where she is on scholarship. As tensions rise, lines are drawn. Michael has to decide where he stands. Mina has to protect herself and her family. Both have to choose what they want their world to look like.
Chase’s memory just went out the window.
Chase doesn’t remember falling off the roof. He doesn’t remember hitting his head. He doesn’t, in fact, remember anything. He wakes up in a hospital room and suddenly has to learn his whole life all over again . . . starting with his own name.
He knows he’s Chase. But who is Chase? When he gets back to school, he sees that different kids have very different reactions to his return.
Some kids treat him like a hero. Some kids are clearly afraid of him.
One girl in particular is so angry with him that she pours her frozen yogurt on his head the first chance she gets.
Pretty soon, it’s not only a question of who Chase is–it’s a question of who he was . . . and who he’s going to be.
From the #1 bestselling author of Swindle and Slacker, Restart is the spectacular story of a kid with a messy past who has to figure out what it means to get a clean start.
From the author of Lucky Few comes a quirky teen novel about Internet fame, peer pressure, and remembering not to step on the little people on your way to the top!
After a shout-out from one of the Internet’s superstar vloggers, Natasha “Tash” Zelenka suddenly finds herself and her obscure, amateur web series, Unhappy Families, thrust in the limelight: She’s gone viral.
Her show is a modern adaption of Anna Karenina—written by Tash’s literary love Count Lev Nikolayevich “Leo” Tolstoy. Tash is a fan of the 40,000 new subscribers, their gushing tweets, and flashy Tumblr gifs. Not so much the pressure to deliver the best web series ever.
And when Unhappy Families is nominated for a Golden Tuba award, Tash’s cyber-flirtation with a fellow award nominee suddenly has the potential to become something IRL—if she can figure out how to tell said crush that she’s romantic asexual.
Tash wants to enjoy her newfound fame, but will she lose her friends in her rise to the top? What would Tolstoy do?
Dan Emmett was just eight years old when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. From that moment forward, he knew he wanted to become a Secret Service agent, one of an elite group of highly trained men and women dedicated to preserving the life of the President of the United States at any cost, including sacrificing their own lives if necessary. Armed with single-minded determination and a never-quit attitude, he did just that. Selected over thousands of other highly qualified applicants to become an agent, he was eventually chosen to be one of the best of the best and provided protection worldwide for Presidents George Herbert Walker Bush, William Jefferson Clinton, and George W. Bush.
I Am a Secret Service Agent skillfully describes the duties and challenges of conducting presidential advances, dealing with the media, driving the President in a bullet-proof limousine, running alongside him through the streets of Washington, and flying with him on Air Force One. With fascinating anecdotes, Emmett weaves keen insight into the unique culture and history of the Secret Service with the inner workings of the White House. I Am A Secret Service Agent is a must read for young adults interested in a career in federal law enforcement.
It’s the summer of 1976 on Fire Island, where sunbathing, lobster bakes, and the Bicentennial celebration reign.
Jean, a sometimes cruel, often insecure, and always envious rich girl, is accustomed to living in her glamorous older sister’s shadow. So when Gil Burke, a handsome newcomer with uncertain ties to one of the most powerful families in the exclusive enclave of Sunken Haven, notices Jean—not her sister—Jean is smitten.
Then Fritz, a girl from outside the gilded gates who humiliated Jean in the Island’s tennis championship last year, meets Gil. The chemistry between them is undeniable, and she quickly falls Gil herself. Soon the girls are competing for much more than a tennis trophy, with higher stakes than either of them can imagine.
Through the alternating perspectives of Jean and Fritz, Adele Griffin captures the angst of feeling like you don’t belong and the urgency of first love with vivid language and perceptive wit.
For as long as he can remember, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau has been told that a promising future lies ahead of him. After all, his mother is the great Sacagawea, who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their expedition of discovery. And thanks to his mother, Baptiste’s life changes forever when Captain Clark offers him an education in the bustling new city of St. Louis.
There, his mother charges him to “learn everything” – reading, writing, languages, mathematics. His life becomes a whirl of new experiences: lessons, duels, dances, elections. He makes friends and undertakes unexpected journeys to far-off places.
But he also witnesses the injustices Clark, as a US agent for Indian Affairs, forces upon the Osage, the Arikara, the Mandan, and so many others. He sees the effect of what some call “progress” on the land and on the people who have lived there for generations. And he must choose what path he will take and what place he will have in a rapidly changing society.
When sixteen-year-old Ellie Baum accidentally time-travels via red balloon to 1988 East Berlin, she’s caught up in a conspiracy of history and magic. She meets members of an underground guild in East Berlin who use balloons and magic to help people escape over the Wall—but even to the balloon makers, Ellie’s time travel is a mystery. When it becomes clear that someone is using dark magic to change history, Ellie must risk everything—including her only way home—to stop the process.
Redwall meets Watership Down as brilliant storytelling combines with spine-tingling action in a tale proving that anyone—even little rabbits—can achieve great things.
In a classic fantasy world of anthropomorphic rabbits, three young siblings are on the run from the villainous Gorm tribe who have killed and enslaved their clan. Podkin, once destined to be clan leader, has always been spoiled, but now he must act bravely as he, his older sister, and baby brother flee for their lives.
Facing pursuit and treachery, the three collect allies in their search for refuge, until at last they are ready to fight back against the Gorm and attempt to rid the land of an evil scourge.
A brave teen recounts her debilitating struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder—and brings readers through every painful step as she finds her way to the other side—in this powerful and inspiring memoir.
Until sophomore year of high school, fifteen-year-old Allison Britz lived a comfortable life in an idyllic town. She was a dedicated student with tons of extracurricular activities, friends, and loving parents at home.
But after awakening from a vivid nightmare in which she was diagnosed with brain cancer, she was convinced the dream had been a warning. Allison believed that she must do something to stop the cancer in her dream from becoming a reality.
It started with avoiding sidewalk cracks and quickly grew to counting steps as loudly as possible. Over the following weeks, her brain listed more dangers and fixes. She had to avoid hair dryers, calculators, cell phones, computers, anything green, bananas, oatmeal, and most of her own clothing.
Unable to act “normal,” the once-popular Allison became an outcast. Her parents questioned her behavior, leading to explosive fights. When notebook paper, pencils, and most schoolbooks were declared dangerous to her health, her GPA imploded, along with her plans for the future.
Finally, she allowed herself to ask for help and was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. This brave memoir tracks Allison’s descent and ultimately hopeful climb out of the depths.
The Vanderbeekers have always lived in the brownstone on 141st Street. It’s practically another member of the family. So when their reclusive, curmudgeonly landlord decides not to renew their lease, the five siblings have eleven days to do whatever it takes to stay in their beloved home and convince the dreaded Beiderman just how wonderful they are. And all is fair in love and war when it comes to keeping their home.
A modern classic in the making reminiscent of the Penderwicks series, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street is about the connections we make and the unexpected turns life can take.
An ode to Put the Damn Guns Down, this is National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestseller Jason Reynolds’s fiercely stunning novel that takes place in sixty potent seconds—the time it takes a kid to decide whether or not he’s going to murder the guy who killed his brother.
A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually USED his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator? Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.
And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if WILL gets off that elevator.
Told in short, fierce staccato narrative verse, Long Way Down is a fast and furious, dazzlingly brilliant look at teenage gun violence, as could only be told by Jason Reynolds.
Calling My Name, by debut author Liara Tamani, is a striking, luminous, and literary exploration of family, spirituality, and self—ideal for readers of Jacqueline Woodson, Jandy Nelson, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Sandra Cisneros. This unforgettable novel tells a universal coming-of-age story about Taja Brown, a young African American girl growing up in Houston, Texas.
Liara Tamani’s debut novel deftly and beautifully explores the universal struggles of growing up, battling family expectations, discovering a sense of self, and finding a unique voice and purpose. Taja Brown lives with her parents and older brother and younger sister, in Houston, Texas. Taja has always known what the expectations of her conservative and tightly knit African American family are—do well in school, go to church every Sunday, no intimacy before marriage. But Taja is trying to keep up with friends as they get their first kisses, first boyfriends, first everythings. And she’s tired of cheering for her athletic younger sister and an older brother who has more freedom just because he’s a boy. Taja dreams of going to college and forging her own relationship with the world and with God, but when she falls in love for the first time, those dreams are suddenly in danger of evaporating.
Told in fifty-four short, episodic, moving, and iridescent chapters, Calling My Name follows Taja on her journey from middle school to high school. Literary and noteworthy, this is a beauty of a novel, a divine and tender enchantment. Calling My Name deftly captures the multifaceted struggle of finding where you belong and why you matter.
The Closest I’ve Come is a raw and funny novel that is at once heartbreaking and heartwarming, a must-read from talented debut author Fred Aceves.
Marcos Rivas wants to find love.
He’s sure as hell not getting it at home, where his mom’s racist boyfriend beats him up. Or from his boys, who aren’t exactly the “hug it out” type. Marcos yearns for love, a working cell phone, and maybe a pair of sneakers that aren’t falling apart. But more than anything, Marcos wants to get out of Maesta, his hood—which seems impossible.
When Marcos is placed in a new after-school program for troubled teens with potential, he meets Zach, a theater geek whose life seems great on the surface, and Amy, a punk girl who doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. These new friendships inspire Marcos to open up to his Maesta crew, too, and along the way, Marcos starts to think more about his future and what he has to fight for. Marcos ultimately learns that bravery isn’t about acting tough and being macho; it’s about being true to yourself.
A poignant and empowering teen novel of grief, unrequited love, and finding comfort in one’s own skin.
Aden isn’t looking for love in her senior year. She’s much more focused on things like getting a solo gig at Ike’s and keeping her brother from illegal herbal recreation. But when Tate walks into Calculus class wearing a yarmulke and a grin, Aden’s heart is gone in an instant.
The two are swept up in a tantalizingly warm friendship, complete with long drives with epic soundtracks and deep talks about life, love, and spirituality. With Tate, Aden feels closer to her mom—and her mom’s faith—than she has since her mother died years ago. Everyone else—even Aden’s brother and her best friend—can see their connection, but does Tate?
Navigating uncertain romance and the crises of those she loves, Aden must decide how she chooses to see herself and how to honor her mom’s memory.
A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.
Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?
Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.
The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?
Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.
When Dimple Met Rishi features a fierce main character who wants very much to be engaged in technology, a characteristic that made me jump for joy. Dimple acknowledges her rich family heritage while also trying to find her own personal way in this world. She thinks, says and does strongly feminist things. I adore Dimple.
Rishi wants very much to honor his parents and struggles a little more with following his heart as opposed to his parents wishes, particularly when it comes to career choices. Rishi will make you cringe with embarrassment, laugh with joy, and he will make your heart melt in the things he does for others.
There is a strong sense of culture and family that runs throughout this story. In fact, it is one of the few YA titles you can find with teens that have both parents alive and in happy marriages.
So here’s the one thing that I struggled with. For context, keep in mind that I am fiercely feminist and very Western. My formative years were spent in Southern California and my family was surprised when I took my husband’s last name when we married. Keep this information in mind when I tell you that as a reader, I really struggled with the arranged marriage aspect of this story. To be clear, this isn’t truly an arranged marriage, both sets of parents just manipulate events so that the two teens will meet because they believe they will be compatible. I just personally struggled with the manipulation and lack of honest discussion about their intentions and I recognize that this is a personal cultural view that I wrestled with while reading this book.
And the truth is, our parents have a lot of influence and control over many aspects of our lives, so my cultural belief in autonomy isn’t even a very realistic one. I have told my children they couldn’t play with certain other children because of behavior issues or other concerns. Who my children know and interact with is determined in part by the play dates I set up for them when they were younger, by the neighborhood we live in, by the activities we engage in, etc. So it was interesting to me as a feminist parent to read this book and think in challenging ways about the nature of relationships and the influence I have over my teenager’s life. And again, it comes back around to me to culture and cultural bias. As an adult reader, this book challenged me in many ways. Teen Karen would have thought about none of these things and just enjoyed the book.
In the end, this story if not only a romance, it is very much about finding out who you are and what you want in life. I very much enjoyed the characters and the various ways they interacted and grew. I personally am not much of a romantic reader, but I spend a lot of time talking with teens about books and I know that they will love this book because it’s cute, it’s funny, it’s romantic, and it has strong main characters that you will love. It is deservedly getting rave reviews across the board. You’ll definitely want to add this to your collections and get into the hands of teen readers. Highly recommended.
May 30, 2017 from Simon Pulse
Please Note: This Post Will Contain Discussions of Triggering Topics and Spoilers for the Book/Show
You are probably aware that 13 Reasons Why the book by Jay Asher has been made into a popular Netflix show. And you’ve probably seen a lot of discussion about this show. In fact, if you’re life looks anything like mine then you have seen a plethora of articles and posts about how everyone should watch the show followed by a discussion of how everyone shouldn’t watch the show. I’ve read more than 10 articles, not to mention all the Facebook and Twitter discussion.
A Little Background
Years ago when I read the book, I liked it and recommended it. I have not re-read the book in preparation for watching the show. If you are not aware, it is a book that deals with bullying, sexual violence and suicide. These are all tough topics to tackle.
The basics: Clay Jensen, a shy high school student, returns home from school one day to find that he has received a mysterious package in the mail. It contains seven double-sided cassette tapes used by Hannah Baker, a classmate who has recently committed suicide. Each tape details a reason that she killed herself.
To give you a little more background about me, I am the survivor of sexual abuse and I have been suicidal as a result of that abuse. I also periodically struggle with depression, anxiety and panic attacks. So I can relate to this book on so many levels.
What I Told My Teen
In addition to working with teens, for over 20 years now, I also parent a teen. She began watching the Netflix show and we watched a couple of episodes of the show together. I was struck immediately by how graphic the show was. Please note that it comes with a M for mature content warning. So I decided to watch ahead to see how the topics of sexual violence and suicide were handled.
After doing so, I told my teen that I did not want her to finish watching the show. I have never censored what she reads, and I would allow her to read the book, but I told her that she couldn’t finish watching the show.
My Reasons Why
For one, I just don’t watch depictions of sexual violence on tv or in the movies. That is a full stop no for me. The sexual violence depicted in this tv show is very graphic. You can make the argument that it’s necessary and is done to help illustrate how horrific sexual violence is, but the depiction of sexual violence on the screen is a no go for me. For one, no matter how well done it is, you know that there are depraved individuals watching who are, to be blunt, getting off on it. For another, I always wonder how having to film these types of scenes is for the actors involved. And these scenes are, for so many people, very triggering. Below we will discuss how mental health experts suggest that suicide should not be depicted on the screen, and I feel the same way about sexual violence.
Then there is the idea of suicide as revenge. In 13 Reasons Why the main character, Hannah, commits suicide and leaves a series of cassette tapes that tell everyone the role they played in her suicide. It’s the ultimate revenge fantasy – I will take my own life and you will feel guilty for it. It’s also an incredibly unhealthy message to send to teenagers, many of whom are already thinking about the suicide as revenge fantasy as they try to navigate their daily lives. In the midst of my abuse, I too thought a lot about suicide as the ultimate form of revenge. I thought that if I took my life then my abuser would be haunted forever for what they had done to me. But adult me now realizes this simple truth: the people that hurt you are often bad people, they aren’t going to care that you are gone. It’s true that sometimes good, decent people make mistakes that hurt us and they would feel guilty, but it’s also true that a lot of abuse is perpetuated by people who don’t care about others so they aren’t going to feel guilt. Surviving abuse is, I have found, the best form of revenge.
As a further point, it’s important to note that mental health experts state that suicide should never be depicted on the screen. For reasons that we don’t clearly understand, suicide can be a very chain reaction type of thing, especially among teenagers. When a school experiences a suicide, there are often a couple more. People struggling with depression and suicidal ideation are very susceptible to this topic. And the suicide in 13 Reasons Why is very, very graphic. It goes against the recommendations of the organizations that are committed to mental health.
I also have concerns about the way mental health is depicted in the show. There is little to no genuine discussion about mental health issues in this show. We are led to understand that Hannah has depression, but what does that mean? Does Hannah have depression AND she was the subject of this awful crime and bullying? Or does Hannah have depression BECAUSE she was the subject of this awful crime and bullying? Depression can be a product of brain chemistry, but you can also have situational depression. Depression is not only one thing and it doesn’t manifest in the same way for all people. I felt that the show did a very poor job of handling the mental health aspects.
The teens in this show almost never seek out the help of an adult. As Clay listens to the tapes, he never discusses any of what is happening with an adult. We do find out that Hannah did in fact reach out to one adult, her school counselor, and that this adult fails her. This scenario actually played out in real life just this past weekend as my daughter’s friend reached out to her school counselor about a rumor that was being spread in school and this counselor told her to “just let it blow over”. I spent the weekend dealing with the very real life ramifications of a poorly trained and unengaged school counselor so this scenario isn’t far fetched or unbelievable, but it is dangerous. In a show filled with adults, having the only adult that these teens reach out to fail reinforces the teenage belief that adults aren’t there for teens. Now I know it was necessary to propel this story forward, but I also acknowledge that it is a dangerous reinforcement of a commonly held teenage belief: adults are self-absorbed, adults don’t care, adults are incompetent. Teens struggling with mental health issues need to know that they can and should reach out to the adults in their lives to seek help.
In teen reactions I have seen to the show there has been a lot of if only . . . If only Clay had told Hannah that he loved her. If only Clay had done this or that or the other. This also is a dangerous idea because it blames the survivors. The truth is that no one is responsible for mental illness. It’s an illness and the actions of others don’t cause it. The things that happened to Hannah could not have happened, she could have been the most popular, happiest girl in school, and she still might have died by suicide, because that’s how depression works. Clay is not responsible for what happens to Hannah. He is not to blame. And nothing he could have done would have saved her. And it’s important that everyone understand this. Depression and mental illness are very real, complicated diseases. If Hannah had diabetes and she died from the complications of diabetes, we would not blame Clay or suggest that if Clay had just told her he loved her she would have been okay. And that is true of mental health issues as well. It’s important that everyone watching this show understands that. And I’m not sure that everyone does and it is very concerning.
In the end, one of the arguments made against this show is that it romanticizes suicide, and I can see where that argument holds. I also want to acknowledge that for a lot of teens, this book and the show have been very positive and affirming. They state that it helped them by affirming that they are not alone in their feelings. So I hate to universally dismiss a show that my teens have had positive identification with. As I mentioned, there are strong reactions on both the pro and con side of this show, and I feel that they are both valid. I, personally, tend to be more in favor of the book and less in favor of the show for the reasons mentioned.
One thing that I think about over and over again is how everyone says that teens should be watching this show and talking about it with adults. The truth is, not every teen has an adult to talk about the show with. My teen could finish watching the show and I would talk to her about it, but not all teens have present and engaged parents. And yes, you could read the book in the classroom and talk about it, though I would remind us all that we are librarians and not social workers or psychologists. I don’t think you can watch the show in a classroom given the rating. So that leaves us with this: here is a show that everyone says teens need to watch and talk to an adult with to process, but many teens don’t have an adult to talk with and process this show. I can’t help but think about all those teens who have watched this show and don’t have a trusted, knowledgeable adult to help them process their thoughts and feelings about this.
We do talk about sexual violence and depression in my house. I have talked since the moment my kids were born with them about bodily autonomy and consent and healthy relationships. They know what rape is, and other forms of sexual violence. And we are very aware of mental health issues. My kids have seen me spend a couple of days in bed in a deep depressive state. They know that a year and a half ago my best friend died by suicide and they have seen the effects it has had on me. These are not issues I shy away from or try to protect my kids from. I just thought that this show was too much for them at this time. So we’re not watching it.
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, released its biennial National School Climate Survey, which documents the experiences of LGBTQ students from across the country, in mid December 2016. The good news is that things have improved slightly from their 2013 survey. The bad news is that it’s still really ugly out there.
174 page report (which is available as a PDF) looks at discrimination, harassment, assault, biased language, school resources and support, and more, and examines how these factors affect educational performance, safety, and mental health of LGBTQ teens. The report is filled with statistics, charts, and graphs that drive home the point that LGBTQ students face a lot of opposition at school and frequently don’t feel safe or supported. Being knowledgeable of the potential struggles and understanding where they (and you!) can go to find useful resources (books, websites, helplines, etc) is a major step in the right direction. As GLSEN reports, “The survey has consistently indicated that specific school-based supports are related to a safer and more inclusive school climate, including: supportive educators, LGBT-inclusive curriculum, comprehensive anti-bullying policies, and supportive student clubs, such as Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs).” Also, “For the first time, GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey also includes insights on bisexual student experiences, school policies that specifically affect transgender students, and anti-bullying student education. The survey also asks students about discriminatory policies and practices around extracurricular activities and traditions like graduation, portraits, homecoming and prom.” (See here for the media release, where this quote came from, for more quick facts.) This report should be required reading for anyone who works with teenagers.
The following data is taken from the survey results.
Findings of the 2015 National School Climate Survey include:
Anti-LGBTQ Remarks at School
• Just over two-thirds of LGBTQ students heard the word “gay” used in a negative way often or frequently at school.
• More than half of LGBTQ students heard homophobic remarks such as “fag” or “dyke” often or frequently at school.
• Just under two-thirds of LGBTQ students heard negative remarks about gender expression often or frequently at school. Remarks about students not acting “masculine enough” were more common than remarks about students not acting “feminine enough.”
• Two-fifths of LGBTQ students heard negative remarks specifically about transgender people, like “tranny” or “he/she,” often or frequently.
• More than half of LGBTQ students heard homophobic remarks from school staff, and nearly two-thirds heard remarks from staff about students’ gender expression.
School Safety, Harassment, and Assault at School
• Close to 9 in 10 LGBTQ students were harassed at school.
• Sexual orientation and gender expression were the most common reasons LGBTQ students were harassed or assaulted at school.
• Nearly three quarters of students reported being verbally harassed at school because of their sexual orientation; more than half were verbally harassed because of their gender expression.
• Over a quarter of students reported being physically harassed at school because of their sexual orientation; 1 in 5 were physically harassed because of their gender expression.
• About 1 in 6 students reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year, primarily because of their sexual orientation, gender expression, or gender.
• Relational aggression, i.e. spreading rumors or deliberate exclusion, was reported by the vast majority of students.
• About half of students reported experiencing some form of electronic harassment (“cyberbullying”) in the past year.
• Over half of students were sexually harassed at school in past year.
The high incidence of harassment and assault is exacerbated by school staff who rarely, if ever, intervene on behalf of LGBT students.
The majority of LGBTQ students who were harassed or assaulted at school did not report these incidents to school staff.
• The most common reasons that LGBTQ students did not report incidents of victimization to school staff were doubts that effective intervention would occur, and fears that reporting would make the situation worse.
• Less than a third of LGBTQ who had reported incidents of victimization to school staff said that staff had effectively addressed the problem.
• When asked to describe how staff responded to reports of victimization, LGBTQ students most commonly said that staff did nothing or told the student to ignore it; 1 in 4 students were told to change their behavior (e.g., to not act “so gay” or dress in a certain way).
The report goes on to discuss:
*absenteeism (“[A] lack of safety may lead to missing school, which can result in a student being pushed out of school by school disciplinary or criminal sanctions for truancy or dropping out of school as a result of poor academic achievement or disengaging with school due to the days missed.”)
*academic achievement (“We assessed the relationship between school safety and educational aspirations for students in our survey and found that LGBTQ students who reported higher levels of victimization based on their sexual orientation or gender expression were more likely than other students to report lower educational aspirations.”)
*psychological well-being (“Previous research has shown that being harassed or assaulted at school may have a negative impact on students’ mental health and self-esteem. Given that LGBTQ students face an increased likelihood for experiencing harassment and assault in school, it is especially important to examine how these experiences relate to their well-being.”)
Additionally, it looks at discriminatory policies, discriminatory discipline, restrictions, and prohibitions regarding public displays of affection, attending dances, forming a GSA, writing about LGBTQ topics, etc. It breaks the data down by race, ethnicity, school type, location, region, and more.
GLSEN offers many recommendations for turning these statistics around, such as giving students more access to LGBTQ-related information (literature, history, etc), forming GSA groups, providing professional development to increase the number of supportive teachers and staff, ensuring school policies are not discriminatory, having anti-bullying and harassment policies that make it clear that they provide safety for LGBTQ students, and teaching an inclusive curriculum.
LGBTQ students experienced a safer, more positive school environment when:
– Their school had a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) or similar student club
– They were taught positive representations of LGBT people, history, and events through their school curriculum
– They had supportive school staff who frequently intervened in biased remarks and effectively responded to reports of harassment and assault
– Their school had an anti-bullying/ harassment policy that specifically included protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.
Previously at TLT:
Check out my previous post GLBTQ YA Resources for Building a Collection and Supporting Teens, which compiles articles and websites for great suggestions on books to add to your library collections and how to support GLBTQ youth. Another previous post here at TLT is Back to School: How to support and respect LGBTQIA+ students. More posts can be found by searching the tag LGBTQIA+ on the blog.
Also check out:
The Human Rights Campaign’s Welcoming Schools Project, which “is one of the few LGBT and gender-inclusive programs in the country that has a K-5 focus with resources to help elementary schools and educators address bias-based bullying—including anti-LGBT slurs and gender put-downs.”
From their site: GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe and affirming schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN’s research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.
Because Karen (@tlt16) loves me, she regularly visits authors on whom I have the most indelible of crushes. This includes, almost exclusively, Kiersten White. I’ve never had the great fortune to meet her, but Karen regularly visits her table at conferences on my behalf. She is lovely like that. This time, I asked her to seek out a copy of the ARC of Beanstalker, Kiersten’s first middle grade novel:
Once upon a time, a girl skipped into the forest and became a zombie.
Wait, no, that’s not how this story is supposed to go. Let’s try again.
Once upon a time, a boy did a horrible job as a sheep-sitter and burned his tongue on stolen pie.
No, children in these stories are always good and virtuous. From the top.
Once upon a time, a king and queen tried to find a princess for their son to marry, and he wound up fleeing from a group of very hairy vampires.
What about, once upon a time, a bunch of fairy tales got twisted around to be completely hilarious, a tiny bit icky, and delightfully spooky scarytales… in other words, exactly what fairy tales were meant to be. Grab some flaming torches, maybe don’t accept that bowl of pease porridge, and get ready for a wickedly fun ride with acclaimed author Kiersten White and fairy tales like you’ve never heard them before.
Coming July 25!
She did get a copy! I await its arrival with baited breath!
When I first began transforming my teen space into a Teen MakerSpace, I was adamant that the space had to be tech, tech, tech heavy. All tech, all the time. I pushed back hard against suggestions that I should do things like have gel pens or paint. Part of my concern was legitimate, cost and clean up. Having consumable materials increases your cost right out of the gate. But there are a lot of consumables in tech making as well; see, for example, the 3D pen. You constantly have to replace the filament.
The clean up concern is legitimate as well. We work hard to try and keep our surfaces and floors protected, but there have been accidents. Tables and counters are easier to protect than floors, we simply cover them with cutting mats and it works pretty well.
I have slowly changed my idea of what a makerspace can and should be, in part because of my teens. It turns out, they like to do a lot of traditional arts and crafts just as much as they like to do coding, robotics and electronics. And many of our teens don’t have access to the tools necessary to learn these traditional types of arts and crafts anymore than they have access to the tech to learn coding and electronics. So we – so I – have expanded my idea of what a makerspace is. If it involves making something, I will consider it for the space. So today I am sharing with you 5 of their favorite more traditional arts and crafts activities that we do in our Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (OH).
Making things out of clay has turned out to be really popular for us. We have a toaster oven in the space that we use to bake the clay. They make anything from figures to jewelry using the clay. Desiree, one of our TMS assistants, has become quite good at clay art.
We have a dedicated teen coloring station with blank cartoon and graphic novel strips that teens can create, but we also just print off coloring sheets. We provide colored pencils, markers, and gel pens. I really pushed back against gel pens in the beginning because they are so expensive but found a great set at a reasonable price and we keep them locked up when the room isn’t staffed. It’s a relaxing activity and it’s pretty easy from a staff perspective, and the teens love it.
Although many of our teens do use our supplies, we have a small handful of teens that come regularly and bring their own supplies and art books. They will also often draw pictures for us. A couple of times they have drawn pictures of us, which is an incredible honor.
Who knew this childhood favorite would once again be so popular? We buy plain Shrinky Dink sheets at the local craft store and the teens are welcome to create anything they would like. They often trace and color their favorite manga characters. But you can also use Shrinky Dinks to do things like create jewelry.
Lego can be very tech savvy. For example, you can use Legos to create a Rube Goldberg machine. Legos can also be combined with tech like LittleBits or Raspberry Pi to make remote control vehicles or small robots. But sometimes, the teens just like to build with them. In fact, we now host a daily Lego challenge. We put up a sign with a small pile of Legos and ask teens to do things like build a car, make an animal, or even create a campfire scene. We get a lot of our daily challenges out of this book.
I suppose in some ways this is just an extension of the coloring/drawing type of activities, but I have to go on the record as saying that I pushed back hard against buying pain and paint brushes. For one, we really do try and limit the amount of money we spend on consumables because you have to replace them a lot. But the truth is, it’s not as high of a cost as I thought it might be. You can buy a value pack of acrylic paint at Michael’s for $8.00. And a value pack of brushes for around $5.00. We don’t provide high quality materials by any means, but they get the job done. The teens not only paint on paper, but they will bring in t-shirts to paint, they paint their cell phone cases to personalize them, and more.
So here’s my takeaway.
1) The idea of a makerspace is always evolving.
2) Don’t be afraid of more traditional arts and crafts.
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