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Book Review: The Burning by Laura Bates

Publisher’s Book Description:

A rumour is like a fire. You might think you’ve extinguished it but one creeping, red tendril, one single wisp of smoke is enough to let it leap back into life again. Especially if someone is watching, waiting to fan the flames …

New school.
Tick.
New town.
Tick.
New surname.
Tick.
Social media profiles?
Erased.

There’s nothing to trace Anna back to her old life. Nothing to link her to the ‘incident’.

At least that’s what she thinks … until the whispers start up again. As time begins to run out on her secrets, Anna finds herself irresistibly drawn to the tale of Maggie, a local girl accused of witchcraft centuries earlier. A girl whose story has terrifying parallels to Anna’s own…

The compelling YA debut from Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project and bestselling author of Girl Up.

Karen’s Thoughts:

The Burning is very much designed to be feminist literature that ties in several issues of today – slut shaming, revenge porn, female sexuality and reproductive rights – and links them to historical issues of the past, including witch burning. There was a time when my teen patrons couldn’t read enough books about witches and the witch trials of the past and I would have loved to have had this book to hand to them. It deftly draws a distinct line between the fervency of the witch trials to the patriarchy and the ways in which we try to repress, control and then shame female sexuality.

This book is set in Scotland and Anna and her mom have just moved to escape the intense slut shaming and bullying that Anna was receiving online and in real life. Soon after her father passed away Anna found herself in love, at least it felt like love, and over time with some grooming and intense pressure and emotional coercion, Anna shares some nudes with her boyfriend. When he asks for me she refuses and he retaliates by leaking what she has already shared in an act of revenge porn.

Revenge porn has been defined by the government as “the sharing of private, sexual materials, either photos or videos, of another person without their consent and with the purpose of causing embarrassment or distress.”

Source: Psych Central https://psychcentral.com/blog/what-is-revenge-porn/

While in her new home and new school, Anna begins researching for a local history assignment and learns of Maggie, a woman who appears to have been accused of witchcraft. Anna develops a strong interest in and seems to have an even stronger link to this young woman, and the parallels between what the two have been and are going through are inescapable.

Because the Internet is forever, Anna soon finds herself once again being tormented by her past. And as her torment escalates, she is drawn even more deeply into the web of history surrounding Maggie. The two events are weaved together and used to talk about the ways in which we have tried to control, shame, and eviscerate young girls who dare to embrace their sexuality. The Burning doesn’t fail to point out, either, the double standard that we hold for girls and boys when it comes to bodies, sex, or sexuality.

Issues touched on include the historical witch trials, sexting, revenge porn, deepfakes, reproductive rights, bullying, slut shaming, and LGBTQ representation. There are frank discussions about sex, nude photos, and pornography in this book, though I think they are all obviously necessary to the book and handled well.

There’s a lot to unpack and discuss in The Burning, which isn’t surprising given the author’s previous work and writings. Laura Bates is an unabashed feminist who founded the Everyday Sexism project in 2012. In The Burning, Bates challenges us all to think deeply and critically about a lot of issues surrounding teen girls. Towards the end of the book several characters make radical choices and powerful statements that made me cheer. Definitely recommended.

This book will be released April 7th, 2020 from Sourcefire Books. I read an ARC of this book and immediately handed it over to my teenage daughter so that we can talk about it.

Information Literacy: We Need to Be Talking About Deepfakes (and The Burning by Laura Bates)

Weeks ago I was driving and heard a disturbing story on NPR that introduced me to the concept of Deepfakes. A deepfake is a video that is created by using an existing video but editing the video in such a way that it makes it look like another person is doing or saying what is being depicted in the video.

NPR: What You Need to Know About Deep Fakes and the 2020 Election

This is an example of a deepfake video. Tom Halland and Robert Downey, Jr. are not in Back to the Future

I was reminded of this topic once again while reading an ARC of the upcoming book The Burning by Laura Bates. Once again, YA literature proves itself to be on top of current events and encouraging teen readers to think deeply about important and relevant topics.

The Burning is the story of a teen girl, Anna, who moves to a new town to escape the torment and bullying she receives when a boy releases nude photos she shared with him. She is slut shamed and bullied to the point that simply going on seems impossible so her mother moves her to Scotland to start a new life. But as I hope we all know by now, the Internet is forever, and it isn’t too long before someone discovers Anna’s secret and the bullying and slut shaming start all over again.

This time, however, it’s different. It escalates to the point that somewhere shares a porn video that makes it appear that Anna herself is performing these sexual acts. It’s a deepfake, a friend informs her. It’s not a huge part of the story and not a lot of explanation is given, just enough to make teens aware that this is a thing that can happen. And in the context of this story, it makes sense. In this story of how social media can be used to bully and slut shame teens, adding the deepfake element is a profoundly simple yet effective way to get teens thinking about information literacy and the importance of questioning what they are seeing online.

Resources for Talking with Teens About Deepfakes

Forbes: The Best (and Scariest) Examples of Deep Fakes

KQED: Deepfakes, Can You Spot a Phony Video

Deepfakes: What They Are and Why They Matter

To help teens look deeply at the video content being shared online, you can share this checklist with them. Critical analysis is important when it comes to viewing and sharing online content, and we should make sure our teens have all the information and tools they need to be critical information consumers.

Sunday Reflections: Reflecting on My Reflections. On a Sunday, of course.

On Sundays, I often write posts that I call Sunday Reflections. They are much more personal, a choice I’ve made to live my life more authentically and more open to raise awareness about issues that I face in my life, both personally and professionally. I’ve talked about growing up as a teen with an eating disorder. I’ve talked about living as an adult with a mental health issue (I have depression, anxiety and on occasion panic attacks). I’ve talked a lot about being a teen librarian and being a parent, and how the two parts of my life often intersect, especially now that I am the parent of both a tween and teen. I’ve talked about being a survivor of sexual violence and trying to raise two daughters in a world that objectifies and sexualizes girls at such a young age. I’ve talked about the financial struggles of working in an underpaid profession and how challenges in maintaining a work/life balance while struggling to make ends meet has been challenging for both my husband and I. I’ve talked about how working with teens has opened my heart and mind to things I never understood before, like LGBTQIA+ issues and teenage homelessness. I’ve talked about the importance of representation and the harm of stereotypes. I’ve talked about what it’s like as a librarian who has always loved reading to raise a struggling reader. I’ve talked about learning, growing and changing my mind. Over the last nine years I’ve changed my mind more than once about things, because it’s okay to change your mind when you have new information.

Today I thought I would share with you some of my favorite Sunday Reflections from the past. Because, why not.

There are a little over 120 Sunday Reflections here on TLT. A vast majority of them have been written by me, though in the early days there were some occasional guest posts by others. I’ve learned that during really depressive times of my life, I don’t really write Sunday Reflections. Sometimes I’m also overwhelmed with all the negative I’m seeing in the world and in those times, I write less as well because I can’t figure out where to even start.

My sincere hope is that one day my daughters will one day stumble upon this blog, which I imagine will long be no longer updated by then, and have a better idea of who I am and what I tried to do in the world, the life I tried to live and the legacy I tried to leave behind. They are, of course, fully aware of this blog. No picture or post that references them is done so without their consent. My oldest, The Teen, has chosen to follow my example and life her life struggling with anxiety in very open ways because as she reminds me, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. And it’s not. It’s part of why I talk about it here, I don’t want her or her sister to be ashamed of any part of who they are or this life that they live.

I love being a teen librarian. I love and believe in libraries, in books, in the power of words and the importance of story to help develop compassion and wisdom and understanding. But more than anything else, I love my family. It’s a gloriously messy thing to be both a teen librarian and the parent of a teen, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Most days.

Friday Finds: February 21, 2020

This Week at TLT

New Books Alert: Feminist agendas, enchanted wolves, vampires, murders, and more

Cindy Crushes Programming: Mermaid Hair Clips

Book Review: The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid by Kate Hattemer

Thinking About Teen Programming in New Terms: Environmental Impact and Zero Waste Programming

Around the Web

Food Fight: How 2 Trump Proposals Could Bite Into School Lunch

YA Rom-Coms Releasing in 2020

Organizations Rally Library Advocates—Again—To Oppose Cuts in Proposed Federal Budget

New Books Alert: Feminist agendas, enchanted wolves, vampires, murders, and more

I’m a fast reader, and I find a lot of time to read, but I can’t even begin to keep up with amount of book mail I’ve been getting. It’s a good problem to have!

As always, reminder that 100% of what I get in book mail goes back out the door to find new homes with teachers, librarians, and young readers. Keep at eye on my Twitter (@CiteSomething) and maybe you’ll see some of these books ready for new homes soon!


All descriptions from the publishers.

The Queen’s Assassin by Melissa de la Cruz (ISBN-13: 9780525515913 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 02/04/2020 Ages 14-17)

Perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Red Queen, this is the first novel in a sweeping YA fantasy-romance duet about a deadly assassin, his mysterious apprentice, and the country they are sworn to protect from #1 NYT bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz.

Caledon Holt is the kingdom’s deadliest weapon. No one alive can best him in speed, strength, or brains, which is why he’s the Hearthstone Guild’s most dangerous member. Cal is also the Queen’s Assassin, bound to her by magic and unable to leave her service until the task she’s set for him is fulfilled.

Shadow of the Honey Glade has been training all her life to join the Guild, hoping that one day she’ll become an assassin as feared and revered as Cal. But Shadow’s mother and aunts expect her to serve the crown as a lady of the Renovian Court.

When a surprise attack brings Shadow and Cal together, they’re forced to team up as assassin and apprentice. Even though Shadow’s life belongs to the court and Cal’s belongs to the queen, they cannot deny their attraction to each other. But now, with war on the horizon and true love at risk, Shadow and Cal will uncover a shocking web of lies that will change their paths forever.

The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid by Kate Hattemer (ISBN-13: 9781984849120 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 02/18/2020 Ages 14-17)

A novel about friendship, feminism, and the knotty complications of tradition and privilege, perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli and Stephanie Perkins.

Jemima Kincaid is a feminist, and she thinks you should be one, too. Her private school is laden with problematic traditions, but the worst of all is prom. The guys have all the agency; the girls have to wait around for “promposals” (she’s speaking heteronormatively because only the hetero kids even go). In Jemima’s (very opinionated) opinion, it’s positively medieval.

Then Jemima is named to Senior Triumvirate, alongside superstar athlete Andy and popular, manicured Gennifer, and the three must organize prom. Inspired by her feminist ideals and her desire to make a mark on the school, Jemima proposes a new structure. They’ll do a Last Chance Dance: every student privately submits a list of crushes to a website that pairs them with any mutual matches.

Meanwhile, Jemima finds herself embroiled in a secret romance that she craves and hates all at once. Her best friend, Jiyoon, has found romance of her own, but Jemima starts to suspect something else has caused the sudden rift between them. And is the new prom system really enough to extinguish the school’s raging dumpster fire of toxic masculinity?

Filled with Kate Hattemer’s signature banter, this is a fast-paced and thoughtful tale about the nostalgia of senior year, the muddle of modern relationships, and how to fight the patriarchy when you just might be part of the patriarchy yourself.

Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold (ISBN-13: 9780062742353 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 02/25/2020 Ages 14-17)

Elana K. Arnold, author of the Printz Honor book Damsel, returns with a dark, engrossing, blood-drenched tale of the familiar threats to female power—and one girl’s journey to regain it.

You are alone in the woods, seen only by the unblinking yellow moon. Your hands are empty. You are nearly naked. And the wolf is angry.

Since her grandmother became her caretaker when she was four years old, Bisou Martel has lived a quiet life in a little house in Seattle. She’s kept mostly to herself. She’s been good.

But then comes the night of homecoming, when she finds herself running for her life over roots and between trees, a fury of claws and teeth behind her.

A wolf attacks. Bisou fights back. A new moon rises. And with it, questions.

About the blood in Bisou’s past, and on her hands as she stumbles home.

About broken boys and vicious wolves.

About girls lost in the woods—frightened, but not alone.

Votes of Confidence, 2nd Edition: A Young Person’s Guide to American Elections by Jeff Fleischer (ISBN-13: 9781541578975 Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group Publication date: 03/03/2020 Ages 11-18)

Every two years, media coverage of American elections turns into a horse-race story about who’s leading the polls and who said what when. Give young adult readers clear explanations about how our election process actually works, why it matters, and how they can become involved. Using real-world examples and anecdotes, this book provides readers with thorough, nonpartisan explanations about primaries, the electoral college, checks and balances, polls, fundraising, and more. Updated with statistics and details from the 2018 elections, the revised second edition will prepare the next generation of voters for what is sure to be a fascinating 2020 election cycle.

The Secret of White Stone Gate by Julia Nobel (ISBN-13: 9781728220031 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 03/03/2020 Series: Black Hollow Lane Series #2 Ages 8-12)

In this exciting sequel to The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane, Emmy’s adventures continue as she deals with a sinister organization, a missing father, and secrets she’s not sure who to trust with.

After spending the summer at home in Connecticut, Emmy cannot wait to return to Wellsworth for the new school year and reunite with her best friends, Lola and Jack. Before she leaves Emmy receives a note from her father telling her to hide the remaining relics The Order of Black Hollow Lane are after—and to trust no one.

When Lola is framed for a serious crime she didn’t commit, Emmy knows that she and her friends are not safe. The Order wants Emmy to give up her father’s location… if she doesn’t, those she loves will pay the price.

Emmy and Jack need to figure out a way to clear Lola’s name without bending to the Order’s sinister demands. And Emmy needs to figure out who she can trust with her secrets before it’s too late.

Open Fire by Amber Lough (ISBN-13: 9781541572898 Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group Publication date: 03/03/2020 Ages 11-18)

A dramatic page-turner that captures the devastating toll of war and the impact of women’s struggles and solidarity, through the lens of a little-known slice of history.

In 1917, Russia is losing the war with Germany, soldiers are deserting in droves, and food shortages on the home front are pushing people to the brink of revolution. Seventeen-year-old Katya is politically conflicted, but she wants Russia to win the war. Working at a munitions factory seems like the most she can do to serve her country—until the government begins recruiting an all-female army battalion. Inspired, Katya enlists. Training with other brave women, she finds camaraderie and a deep sense of purpose. But when the women’s battalion heads to the front, Katya has to confront the horrifying realities of war. Faced with heartbreak and disillusionment, she must reevaluate her commitment and decide where she stands.

Most Likely by Sarah Watson (ISBN-13: 9780316454834 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Publication date: 03/10/2020 Ages 13-17)

From the creator of the hit TV series The Bold Type comes an empowering and heartfelt novel about a future female president’s senior year of high school.

Ava, CJ, Jordan, and Martha (listed in alphabetical order out of fairness) have been friends since kindergarten. Now they’re in their senior year, facing their biggest fears about growing up and growing apart. But there’s more than just college on the horizon. One of these girls is destined to become the president of the United States. The mystery, of course, is which girl gets the gig.

Is it Ava, the picture-perfect artist who’s secretly struggling to figure out where she belongs? Or could it be CJ, the one who’s got everything figured out…except how to fix her terrible SAT scores? Maybe it’s Jordan, the group’s resident journalist, who knows she’s ready for more than their small Ohio suburb can offer. And don’t overlook Martha, who will have to overcome all the obstacles that stand in the way of her dreams.

This is the story of four best friends who have one another’s backs through every new love, breakup, stumble, and success—proving that great friendships can help young women achieve anything…even a seat in the Oval Office.

The Wolf of Cape Fen by Juliana Brandt (ISBN-13: 9781728209616 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 04/07/2020 Ages 8-12)

Beyond the Bright Sea meets Echo in this story of a young girl who must break a magical bargain before an enchanted wolf steals her sister away.

First Frost has touched Cape Fen, and that means Baron Dire has returned. For as long as anyone can remember, Baron Dire has haunted the town come winter, striking magical bargains and demanding unjust payment in return. The Serling sisters know better than to bargain, lest they find themselves hunted by the Baron’s companion, the Wolf.

And then the Wolf attacks Eliza’s sister Winnie. They manage to escape, but they know the Wolf will be back. Because Winnie would never bargain, so that must mean that someone has struck a deal with Winnie as the price.

Eliza refuses to lose her sister and embarks on a journey to save her. If Eliza can learn the truth, she might be able to protect her sister, but the truth behind the bargain could put her own life in danger.

Crave by Tracy Wolff (ISBN-13: 9781640638952 Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC Publication date: 04/07/2020 Ages 14-17)

My whole world changed when I stepped inside the academy. Nothing is right about this place or the other students in it. Here I am, a mere mortal among gods…or monsters. I still can’t decide which of these warring factions I belong to, if I belong at all. I only know the one thing that unites them is their hatred of me.

Then there’s Jaxon Vega. A vampire with deadly secrets who hasn’t felt anything for a hundred years. But there’s something about him that calls to me, something broken in him that somehow fits with what’s broken in me.

Which could spell death for us all.

Because Jaxon walled himself off for a reason. And now someone wants to wake a sleeping monster, and I’m wondering if I was brought here intentionally—as the bait.

Somebody Told Me by Mia Siegert (ISBN-13: 9781541578197 Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group Publication date: 04/07/2020 Ages 13-18)

A novel of trauma, identity, and survival.

After an assault, bigender seventeen-year-old Aleks/Alexis is looking for a fresh start—so they voluntarily move in with their uncle, a Catholic priest. In their new bedroom, Aleks/Alexis discovers they can overhear parishioners in the church confessional. Moved by the struggles of these “sinners,” Aleks/Alexis decides to anonymously help them, finding solace in their secret identity: a guardian angel instead of a victim.


But then Aleks/Alexis overhears a confession of another priest admitting to sexually abusing a parishioner. As they try to uncover the priest’s identity before he hurts anyone again, Aleks/Alexis is also forced to confront their own abuser and come to terms with their past trauma.

Hard Wired by Len Vlahos (ISBN-13: 9781681190372 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 04/28/2020 Ages 14-18)

“A wildly inventive page-turner of a novel.” – Jessica Brody, bestselling author of Sky Without Stars and the Unremembered Trilogy

From acclaimed Morris finalist Len Vlahos comes a grounded sci-fi story about a boy who’s more than human, perfect for fans of Westworld and LIFEL1K3.

Quinn thinks he’s a normal fifteen year-old. He plays video games, spends time with his friends, and crushes on a girl named Shea. But a shocking secret brings his entire world crashing down: he’s not a boy. He’s artificial intelligence.

After Quinn “wakes up,” he sees his world was nothing more than a virtual construct. He’s the QUantum INtelligence Project, the first fully-aware A.I. in the world—part of a grand multi-billion-dollar experiment led by the very man he believed to be his dead father.

But as Quinn encounters the real world for the first time, his life becomes a nightmare. While the scientists continue to experiment on him, Quinn must come to grips with the truth: his mom and brother don’t exist. His friends are all adults who were paid to hang out with him. Even other super computers aren’t like him. Quinn finds himself completely alone—until he bonds with Shea, the real girl behind the virtual one. As Quinn explores what it means to truly live, he questions who he can trust. What will it take to win his freedom . . . and where does he belong?

Award-winning author Len Vlahos offers a perfect blend of science fiction and contemporary in this unputdownable, high stakes tale that explores big questions about what it means to be human.

How to Live on the Edge by Sarah Lynn Scheerger (ISBN-13: 9781541578890 Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group Publication date: 05/05/2020 Ages 13-18)

Eighteen-year-old Cayenne barely remembers her mother, who died of breast cancer when Cayenne was four. The women in her family have a history of dying young. Cayenne figures she’ll meet the same fate, so she might as well enjoy life now, engaging in death-defying risks like dodging trains and jumping off cliffs with her boyfriend.

When Cayenne receives a series of video messages her mother made for her before dying, she isn’t sure she wants them. Her aunt Tee has been her true mother figure. But then Aunt Tee tests positive for a BRCA gene mutation—the one that doomed Cayenne’s mom—and decides to get a mastectomy to reduce her chances of developing cancer. As Cayenne helps her aunt prepare for the surgery, she finds herself drawn to her mother’s messages, with their musings on life, love, and perseverance. For the first time, Cayenne starts to question what it truly means to live life to the fullest, even when death might be written into her DNA.

Into the Streets: A Young Person’s Visual History of Protest in the United States by Marke Bieschke (ISBN-13: 9781541579040 Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group Publication date: 05/05/2020 Ages 14-18)

This lively book guides readers through the art and history of significant protests, sit-ins, and collective acts of resistance throughout US history. Photos, artwork, signs, and other visual elements highlight the history of social action, from American Indian resistance to colonists through Black Lives Matter and Women’s Marches.

Into the Streets introduces the personalities and issues that drove these protests, as well as their varied aims and accomplishments, from spontaneous hashtag uprisings to highly planned strategies of civil disobedience. Perfect for young adult audiences, this book highlights how teens are frequently the ones protesting and creating the art of the resistance.

If We Were Us by K. L. Walther (ISBN-13: 9781728210261 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 06/01/2020 Ages 13-17)

Morgan Matson meets Becky Albertalli in this story of two best friends who are forced to confront truths about their friendship, identities, and relationships their senior year at boarding school.

Everyone at the prestigious Bexley School believes that Sage Morgan and Charlie Carmichael are meant to be. Even though Charlie seems to have a new girlfriend every month, and Sage has never had a real relationship, their friends and family all know it’s just a matter of time until they realize that they are actually in love.

When Luke Morrissey shows up on the Bexley campus his presence immediately shakes things up. Charlie and Luke are drawn to each other the moment they meet, giving Sage the opportunity to steal away to spend time with Charlie’s twin brother, Nick.

But Charlie is afraid of what others will think if he accepts that he has much more than a friendship with Luke, that he’s never felt this way before. And Sage fears that if she lets things with Nick get too serious too quickly, they won’t be able to last as a couple outside of high school and miss their chance at forever. The duo will need to rely on each other and their lifelong friendship to figure things out with the boys they love.

Little Creeping Things by Chelsea Ichaso (ISBN-13: 9781728210520 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 06/02/2020 Ages 14-18)

A compulsively readable debut with a narrator you just can’t trust, perfect for fans of Natasha Preston.

As a child, Cassidy Pratt accidentally started a fire that killed her neighbor. At least, that’s what she’s been told. She can’t remember anything from that day. She’s pretty sure she didn’t mean to do it. She’s a victim too. But her town’s bullies, particularly the cruel and beautiful Melody Davenport, have never let her live it down. In Melody’s eyes, Cassidy is a murderer and always will be.

When Cassidy overhears what sounded like an abduction and Melody goes missing, Cassidy knows she should go to the cops, but… She recently joked about how much she’d like to get rid of Melody. She even planned out the perfect way to do it. It’s up to Cassidy to figure out what really happened, because if she comes forward without a suspect, she knows people will point fingers at her. Again. And she can’t let that happen.

But the truth behind Melody’s disappearance will set the whole town ablaze.

I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick (ISBN-13: 9781534449701 Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books Publication date: 06/02/2020 Ages 13-17)

The YA thriller of the summer.” —Bustle

For fans of Sadie and Serial, this gripping thriller follows two teens whose lives become inextricably linked when one confesses to murder and the other becomes determined to uncover the real truth no matter the cost.

What happened to Zoe won’t stay buried…

When Anna Cicconi arrives to the small Hamptons village of Herron Mills for a summer nanny gig, she has high hopes for a fresh start. What she finds instead is a community on edge after the disappearance of Zoe Spanos, a local girl who has been missing since New Year’s Eve. Anna bears an eerie resemblance to Zoe, and her mere presence in town stirs up still-raw feelings about the unsolved case. As Anna delves deeper into the mystery, stepping further and further into Zoe’s life, she becomes increasingly convinced that she and Zoe are connected—and that she knows what happened to her.

Two months later, Zoe’s body is found in a nearby lake, and Anna is charged with manslaughter. But Anna’s confession is riddled with holes, and Martina Green, teen host of the Missing Zoe podcast, isn’t satisfied. Did Anna really kill Zoe? And if not, can Martina’s podcast uncover the truth?

Inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, Kit Frick weaves a thrilling story of psychological suspense that twists and turns until the final page.

The Kinder Poison by Natalie Mae (ISBN-13: 9781984835215 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 06/16/2020 Ages 12-17)

Perfect for fans of Victoria Aveyard and Holly Black, The Kinder Poison is an enthralling fantasy adventure that follows a teenage girl chosen to be the human sacrifice in a deadly game between three heirs who will do anything for the crown.

In the magical kingdom of Orkena, Zahru has long dreamed of a life beyond the desert, even though she knows her lowly position as a stable girl who can commune with animals will never afford her such a luxury.

All that changes when the ailing ruler invokes an ancient tradition known as the Crossing. It’s a death-defying race across the desert, in which the first of his heirs to finish—and take the life of a human sacrifice at the journey’s end—will ascend to the throne and be granted unparalleled abilities.

As preparations and celebrations commence, Zahru jumps at the chance to experience a small taste of glamour by sneaking into the palace. But the minor indiscretion quickly turns into the worst mistake of her life as she gets caught up in a feud between the heirs and is ultimately forced to become the Crossing’s human sacrifice. Zahru is left with only one hope for survival: somehow figuring out how to overcome the most powerful people in the world.

My Eyes Are Up Here by Laura Zimmermann (ISBN-13: 9781984815248 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 06/23/2020 Ages 12-17)

Insightful, frank, and funny, My Eyes Are Up Here is a razor-sharp debut about a teenage girl struggling to rediscover her sense of self in the year after her body decided to change all the rules.

A “monomial” is a simple algebraic expression consisting of a single term. 30H, for example. fifteen-year-old Greer Walsh hasn’t been fazed by basic algebra since fifth grade, but for the last year, 30H has felt like an unsolvable equation—one that’s made her world a very small, very lonely place. 30H is her bra size—or it was the last time anyone checked. She stopped letting people get that close to her with a tape measure a while ago.

Ever since everything changed the summer before ninth grade, Greer has felt out of control. She can’t control her first impressions, the whispers that follow, or the stares that linger after. The best she can do is put on her faithful XXL sweatshirt and let her posture—and her expectations for other people—slump.

But people—strangers and friends—seem strangely determined to remind her that life is not supposed to be this way. Despite carefully avoiding physical contact and anything tighter than a puffy coat, Greer finds an unexpected community on the volleyball squad, the team that hugs between every point and wears a uniform “so tight it can squeeze out tears.” And then there’s Jackson Oates, newly arrived at her school and maybe actually more interested in her banter than her breasts.

Laura Zimmermann’s debut is both laugh-out-loud funny and beautifully blunt, vulnerable and witty, heartbreaking and hopeful. And it will invite readers to look carefully at a girl who just wants to be seen for all she is.

Take Me With You by Tara Altebrando (ISBN-13: 9781681197487 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 06/23/2020 Ages 13-17)

“Repeatedly surprising and genuinely chilling.” – E. Lockhart, bestselling author of We Were Liars and Genuine Fraud

From the acclaimed author of The Leaving comes a new psychological thriller that challenges our trust in the electronic devices we keep close.

Eden, Eli, Marwan, and Ilanka barely know each other beyond having a class or two together. But when they are all summoned via messaging app to an empty classroom after school, they find a small cube sitting on a desk. Its sides light up with rules for them:

Do not tell anyone about the device. Never leave the device unattended.

And thenTake me with you . . . or else.

At first they think it’s some kind of prank or a social experiment orchestrated by the school administration. Still, they follow its instructions until the newly-formed group starts to splinter. Nobody has time for these games—their lives are complicated enough. But the device seems increasingly invested in the private details of their lives. And disobeying its rules has scary—even life-threatening—consequences . . .

This timely thriller probes our dependence on personal technology and challenges the notion that our devices are keeping us connected. The truth may very well be the opposite.

Goddess in the Machine by Lora Beth Johnson (ISBN-13: 9781984835925 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 06/30/2020 Ages 12-17)

Andra wakes up from a cryogenic sleep 1,000 years later than she was supposed to, forcing her to team up with an exiled prince to navigate an unfamiliar planet in this smart, thrilling sci-fi adventure, perfect for fans of Renegades and Aurora Rising.

When Andra wakes up, she’s drowning.

Not only that, but she’s in a hot, dirty cave, it’s the year 3102, and everyone keeps calling her Goddess. When Andra went into a cryonic sleep for a trip across the galaxy, she expected to wake up in a hundred years, not a thousand. Worst of all, the rest of the colonists—including her family and friends—are dead. They died centuries ago, and for some reason, their descendants think Andra’s a deity. She knows she’s nothing special, but she’ll play along if it means she can figure out why she was left in stasis and how to get back to Earth.

Zhade, the exiled bastard prince of Eerensed, has other plans. Four years ago, the sleeping Goddess’s glass coffin disappeared from the palace, and Zhade devoted himself to finding it. Now he’s hoping the Goddess will be the key to taking his rightful place on the throne—if he can get her to play her part, that is. Because if his people realize she doesn’t actually have the power to save their dying planet, they’ll kill her.

With a vicious monarch on the throne and a city tearing apart at the seams, Zhade and Andra might never be able to unlock the mystery of her fate, let alone find a way to unseat the king, especially since Zhade hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with Andra. And a thousand years from home, is there any way of knowing that Earth is better than the planet she’s woken to?

He Must Like You by Danielle Younge-Ullman (ISBN-13: 9781984835710 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 07/14/2020 Ages 14+)

An authentic, angry, and surprisingly funny and romantic novel about sexual harassment, from award-winning author Danielle Younge-Ullman.

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 dupming 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.

A Wicked Magic by Sasha Laurens (ISBN-13: 9780593117255 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 07/28/2020 Ages 14-17)

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina meets The Craft when modern witches must save teens stolen by an ancient demon in this YA fantasy-thriller debut.

Dan and Liss are witches. The Black Book granted them that power. Harnessing that power feels good, especially when everything in their lives makes them feel powerless.

During a spell gone wrong, Liss’s boyfriend is snatched away by an evil entity and presumed dead. Dan and Liss’s friendship dies that night, too. How can they practice magic after the darkness that they conjured?

Months later, Liss discovers that her boyfriend is alive, trapped underground in the grips of an ancient force. She must save him, and she needs Dan and the power of The Black Book to do so. Dan is quickly sucked back into Liss’s orbit and pushes away her best friend, Alexa. But Alexa has some big secrets she’s hiding and her own unique magical disaster to deal with.

When another teenager disappears, the girls know it’s no coincidence. What greedy magic have they awakened? And what does it want with these teens it has stolen?

Set in the atmospheric wilds of California’s northern coast, Sasha Laurens’s thrilling debut novel is about the complications of friendship, how to take back power, and how to embrace the darkness that lives within us all.

They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman (ISBN-13: 9780593114292 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 08/04/2020 Ages 14-17)

Gossip Girl meets One of Us Is Lying with a dash of The Secret History in this slick, taut murder mystery set against the backdrop of an exclusive prep school on Long Island.

In Gold Coast, Long Island, everything from the expensive downtown shops to the manicured beaches, to the pressed uniforms of Jill Newman and her friends, looks perfect. But as Jill found out three years ago, nothing is as it seems.

Freshman year Jill’s best friend, the brilliant, dazzling Shaila Arnold, was killed by her boyfriend. After that dark night on the beach, Graham confessed, the case was closed, and Jill tried to move on.

Now, it’s Jill’s senior year and she’s determined to make it her best yet. After all, she’s a senior and a Player—a member of Gold Coast Prep’s exclusive, not-so-secret secret society. Senior Players have the best parties, highest grades and the admiration of the entire school. This is going to be Jill’s year. She’s sure of it.

But when Jill starts getting texts proclaiming Graham’s innocence, her dreams of the perfect senior year start to crumble. If Graham didn’t kill Shaila, who did? Jill vows to find out, but digging deeper could mean putting her friendships, and her future, in jeopardy.

Skywatchers by Carrie Arcos (ISBN-13: 9781984812292 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 08/18/2020 Ages 12-17)

From National Book Award Finalist Carrie Arcos comes a thrilling, genre-bending mystery about the history of the Cold War and the UFO phenomenon. Perfect for fans of In the Woods by Tana French and Netflix’s Stranger Things.

California, 1952. It’s the early years of the Cold War, and the threat of invasion from the Communist-controlled Soviet Union has people in a panic. President Truman has put out a call to civilians to act as radar—and Teddy, John, Caroline, Eleanor, Bunny, Frank, and Oscar eagerly answer. The teens are members of their high school’s “Operation Skywatch” club in an effort to protect the country from attack. Across the country, people of all ages are looking to the sky.

But they’re not prepared for the strange green light they see when on duty, which looks like nothing they’ve been trained to look out for. And when the mysterious object lands in the forest, Teddy, John, Caroline, and Bunny go in to investigate. Then they go missing. Three days later, John, Caroline, and Bunny all emerge from the forest—with no memory of what happened. And without Teddy.

Told in alternating points of view, Carrie Arcos expertly explores the unbelievable-but-true history of “skywatchers” during the Cold War and the UFO phenomenon through the eyes of three teens, a man sent to determine the validity of what happened, and a town caught up in fear. Inspired by real events!

Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis (ISBN-13: 9781984814531 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 08/25/2020 Ages 12+)

A can’t-put-down, creepy thriller about the daughter of a horror film director who’s not afraid of anything—until she gets to Harrow Lake.

Things I know about Harrow Lake:
1.It’s where my father shot his most disturbing slasher film.
2.There’s something not right about this town.

Lola Nox is the daughter of a celebrated horror filmmaker—she thinks nothing can scare her.

But when her father is brutally attacked in their New York apartment, she’s quickly packed off to live with a grandmother she’s never met in Harrow Lake, the eerie town where her father’s most iconic horror movie was shot. The locals are weirdly obsessed with the film that put their town on the map—and there are strange disappearances, which the police seem determined to explain away.

And there’s someone—or something—stalking her every move.

The more Lola discovers about the town, the more terrifying it becomes. Because Lola’s got secrets of her own. And if she can’t find a way out of Harrow Lake, they might just be the death of her.

The Whitsun Daughters by Carrie Mesrobian (ISBN-13: 9780735231955 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 08/25/2020 Ages 14+)

From a critically acclaimed author, a twisty and gorgeously written YA ghost story about young women separated by centuries but connected by a desire to control their futures.

“How quickly everything in the world disintegrates. Everything but the loneliness of young women.”

So begins The Whitsun Daughters, a story of three contemporary teenage girls—sisters and cousins—in a small Midwestern town, narrated by the ghost of a young woman who, over a century earlier, lived and loved on the same small patch of farmland the girls now call home.

The book follows both the present-day story of the three Whitsun girls and the story of Jane Murphy a century earlier as they fight to assert their own desires in worlds determined to ignore and minimize them. The Whitsun girls struggle with an unplanned pregnancy. Jane is determined to defy her arranged marriage and have both the baby she carries and the young man she loves.

The Whitsun Daughters leaves readers with a profound sense of the unbreakable thread connecting generations of young women who sought and continue to seek control their destinies.

Cindy Crushes Programming: Mermaid Hair Clips

Background: I have been observing how popular mermaids, unicorns and fantasy creatures are at my library. I did a fairy tale hair bow program last year and had a great crowd and  so I thought I would do a mermaid hair clip. This is a cheap and simple craft. It only takes about half an hour.

Supplies:

  • Sharpies
  • Hot Glue Guns and Glue
  • Seashells
  • Alligator Curl Clips
  • Optional Ribbons
  • Fake Pearls

Steps:

  1. Pick out a seashell. There are many shapes and sizes of seashells to choose from. You can buy bulk orders of sea shells online from places like Amazon and other online vendors.
  2. Color with sharpie. I chose mermaid colors–blues, pinks and purples.
  3. Let the sharpie dry thoroughly before moving on to the next steps.
  4. Once dried, you can add embellishments. I used a leftover mermaid scale ribbon to attach to my seashell. I also added a plastic pearl as a focal piece.
  5. Hot glue the seashell to the hair clip. Make sure patrons know which side of the seashell they want to be viewable before they hot glue.
  6. Wait for it to dry and place in hair to make sure it works.

Pinterest Board of DIY Hair Clips

38 Brilliant Mermaid Crafts for Teens

Mermaid Makeup Tutorial

Final Thoughts: This was such a simple craft. If your teens love mermaids this is a must do. Let your teens take control of their creations. They will often make much better looking crafts than you make.

This would be a great program to do with the 2020 Summer Reading theme Imagine Your Story.

Book Review: The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid by Kate Hattemer

Publisher’s description

A novel about friendship, feminism, and the knotty complications of tradition and privilege, perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli and Stephanie Perkins.

Jemima Kincaid is a feminist, and she thinks you should be one, too. Her private school is laden with problematic traditions, but the worst of all is prom. The guys have all the agency; the girls have to wait around for “promposals” (she’s speaking heteronormatively because only the hetero kids even go). In Jemima’s (very opinionated) opinion, it’s positively medieval.

Then Jemima is named to Senior Triumvirate, alongside superstar athlete Andy and popular, manicured Gennifer, and the three must organize prom. Inspired by her feminist ideals and her desire to make a mark on the school, Jemima proposes a new structure. They’ll do a Last Chance Dance: every student privately submits a list of crushes to a website that pairs them with any mutual matches.

Meanwhile, Jemima finds herself embroiled in a secret romance that she craves and hates all at once. Her best friend, Jiyoon, has found romance of her own, but Jemima starts to suspect something else has caused the sudden rift between them. And is the new prom system really enough to extinguish the school’s raging dumpster fire of toxic masculinity?

Filled with Kate Hattemer’s signature banter, this is a fast-paced and thoughtful tale about the nostalgia of senior year, the muddle of modern relationships, and how to fight the patriarchy when you just might be part of the patriarchy yourself.

Amanda’s thoughts

Here’s the thing: as an adult, with lots of distance to reflect on my teenage self, there are times I see a lot of myself in a character (or a real teen, for that matter) and feel a sense of connection and nostalgia, but also feel embarrassment and frustration. Enter Jemima Kincaid, strident feminist who makes many missteps and has a lot to learn. Oh, hi there, teenager who is “different” from everyone and proudly so, who totally hates everything related to high school traditions and expectations. I see you. I feel you.

Jemima attends a private school in Virginia. She’s straight, wealthy, and a feminist. She hates the patriarchy (“chauvinistic asshattery”) but doesn’t yet think too hard about the ways she’s internalized things from it, the way she’s complicit in it. Her best friend is Jiyoon, but Jemima is not always a great friend to her, or to anyone. She’s part of the ruling body of the senior class but see’s herself as a total outsider disliked by everyone. Jemima is anti-Powederpuff, anti-prom, anti-dress code, anti-whatever-you’ve-got. She has good reasons to be against those ridiculous traditions and rules, but she’s also just against things, period. She challenges rules and traditions, looking to push boundaries and innovate wherever she can.

Jemima makes many missteps and realizes that, at times, she’s a “crappy feminist.” Jiyoon calls her out for her internalized misogyny. Jemima hooks up with a charismatic but problematic boy, someone she’s super physically into but is not the most enlightened or kind human around. Perhaps Jemima’s biggest revelation over the course of the story is her relationship to the statement “I’m not like the other girls.” What was once a badge of pride for her becomes more complicated as she begins to understand more about herself, her peers, and, yes, her internalized misogyny.

I really loved this very real and honest look at how complicated friendship, feminism, relationships, and high school can be. Full of jealousy, secrets, and conflicted feelings, this novel authentically explores the way we learn to do and be better while making many mistakes along the way. Smart and insightful.

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781984849120
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Publication date: 02/18/2020
Age Range: 14 – 17 Years

Thinking About Teen Programming in New Terms: Environmental Impact and Zero Waste Programming

We think about programming in a lot of different ways: outcomes and objectives, goals, target audience, staff time, developmental appropriateness, appeal factors, cost, etc. I’ve written articles, posts, and contributed to an entire book that talks about these very considerations. And outside of yearly Earth Day programs, I haven’t thought a lot about programming in terms of environmental impact. Until now.

Late last year I stumbled upon a post by Lindsey Krabbenhoft at Jbrary that talks about Zero Waste Programming. This post asks us to look at programming in terms of how much waste each program creates and to make a target goal of have a certain percentage of your programming be zero waste. I’ve been thinking about this post a lot.

A great majority of teen programming in libraries either involves gaming or crafting/making. Gaming is a pretty self-contained program. The materials can be used over and over again. This is especially true if you work in a library that circulates video games, which I highly recommend. You can just pull video games from your circulating collection for each gaming program and then they still get used by the larger community during the rest of the week. But when it comes to waste and environmental impact, not all programming is created equal.

What Does Zero Waste Mean?

In comparison, a craft/diy/making program usually results in the purchase of a lot of crafting materials. Every piece of fabric cut can result in fabric scraps. Every pipe cleaner snipped results in pipe cleaner ends in the trash. Don’t even get me started on the environmental impact of glitter, which is just bits of microplastic unless you are making a concerted effort to buy environmentally friendly glitter. So a bulk of our programming has built in waste. Even as we’re trying to do good in our local communities we are often doing harm by the amount of waste we are producing in our libraries.

The Programming Librarian on Cheap and Zero Waste Programs

Even when we do upcycling programs that turn old CDs into candy dishes and disco balls, we’re still creating other types of waste. In many ways it can be argued that upcycling programs create a net zero good because we’re still producing waste, even as we use things like discarded books and cds as our primary medium.

Using donated Legos, multiple use robots, and other items that can be used multiple times over long periods can help reduce programming waste

There are some exceptions here. Plarning, for example, creates very little waste. Plarning is the act of turning plastic bags into yarn and crocheting with it. You can make sitting mags or small area rugs completely out of plarn and it helps to re-use those plastic bags that you see littering the sides of our highways. You can also turn Capri Sun like pouches into wallets and purses, turn tin cans and condiment jars into decorative jars to hold your stuff (I’m sure that’s the technical term), and turn plastic bottles into plant holders and bird feeders. These are all good ways that we can think about the environmental impact on our craft programs.

And libraries have always been very good about holding onto a lot of those snips and scraps for future programming. Every library I have worked in has struggled to find enough storage space for all of those leftover bits and pieces that we famously hold on to just in case. Librarians are excellent hoarders.

A t-shirt can be turned into a tote bag to help reduce waste in programming and at home

My library system recently had a craft supply swap to help address this problem in another creative way. All 15 libraries in our system was invited to send in the supplies that they didn’t want and the staff member organizing this event (not me, for the record) put together a type of craft supply flea market that everyone came in and browsed. One person’s trash is, after all, another person’s treasure. It’s a great way to get craft supplies out of storage and turn them into programming.

But what is the next step? I think the article in Jbrary is correct, we need to take the next step and make a conscious effort to engage in zero waste programming. This means that for every program that we put together we need to do an audit to see how much waste we will create. At the end of the day, our goal should be zero. As often as we can, we should try and make sure our programs create zero waste for our communities.

One of the benefits to the Teen MakerSpace that I ran at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County is that it could be a natural dumping ground for all those bits and pieces. We watched a lot of teens turn that smallest bits of seemingly nothing into the most amazing pieces of art. But not every library has a space like this.

This means we may have to rethink the way that we do a lot of our programming. Maybe we need to seek out more programming like gaming, which allows us to use the same tools over and over again. Maybe we decrease the amount of crafting, diy and making we do and engage in more social oriented programs. Maybe it means that we repeat our programs more often.

Don’t get me wrong, zero waste programming isn’t going to solve the environmental crisis looming over us. A vast majority of the waste polluting our environment is being caused by large corporations. And recent rollbacks on environmental regulations are not going to help the situation any. Plastics and microplastics, septic waste, etc. are all of vast concern and aren’t something that most of us can really address at our local public libraries.

Infographic Source: https://graphicriver.net/item/global-environment-problems-solution-infographics/10428141?irgwc=1&clickid=0KYWyowZwxyOU0QwUx0Mo3cgUknQ6g35xwVczE0&iradid=275988&irpid=1244580&iradtype=ONLINE_TRACKING_LINK&irmptype=mediapartner&mp_value1=&utm_campaign=af_impact_radius_1244580&utm_medium=affiliate&utm_source=impact_radius

But we can start looking at our own programming and consider the local environmental impact that we have. We can set a goal to make a certain percentage of our programs zero waste to help minimize our library’s carbon footprint. And we can call in local agencies to do zero waste training to help our patrons learn how they can produce less waste at home.

Steps to Move Towards Zero Waste Programming and Decreasing Your Library Programming Environmental Impact:

  1. Analyze the types of programs that you do and the amount of waste they produce. Do a programming audit and make sure that you are offering a wide variety of programming options. Diversify the types of programs that you offer to decrease the amount of waste you produce.
  2. Invest in program supplies that you can re-use multiple times for engaging programming. Some examples include: Board and video games, robots, Legos
  3. When doing craft or making programs, look for recylcing and upcycling options. Use what you have first and buy as few new supplies and materials as possible.
  4. Host craft material swaps in your library system or for your community.
  5. Set a target goal for each year of what percentage of your programming you want to be zero waste. Track your programming and make sure you meet that goal, increasing it each year.

Every Sunday at my house I have a group of friends over for dinner. I used to buy paper plates and plastic cups and plastic utensils because it was easier to do clean up. Since encountering this article last year and as I talk more and more with The Teen who has a lot of climate change anxiety, we’ve changed a lot of things in our home. We no longer buy 2 liters of pop to drink on Sunday nights, we now buy kool aid and mix it in a reusable picture. We now use our regular plates, utensils and cups and just take the time to do the dishes afterwards. My trash can is less full every week as I take it out to the curb on trash day. We are not by any means a zero waste family, but we have started thinking a lot more about the amount of waste we produce. With new information, we made changes at home. As the education centers of our local communities we can be creating these same types of a-ha moments for our patrons through the types of programs that we offer.

We need to be doing the same things at our libraries. I hope that you will join me in making changes at home and at your library to create more zero waste opportunities. Let your goal in 2020 be to make 25% of your library programs zero waste.

Please share your zero waste program ideas with us here in the comments.

Friday Finds: February 14, 2020

This Week at TLT

Writing Whiteness, a guest post by Kate Hattemer

When Fairy Tales Meet Filipino Legends: The Stories That Shaped My Childhood, a guest post by Rin Chupeco

Book Review: The Last Confession of Autumn Casterly by Meredith Tate

My Agenda for Middle Grade Books, a guest post by Greg Howard

Kicky’s Post It Note Reviews: A Teen Reviews He Must Like You, My Eyes are Up Here and Four Days of You and Me

Sunday Reflections: Dear Adults, Please Stop Talking About How Much You Hate Your Body in Front of My Children

Around the Web

To Stop Picky Eaters From Tossing The Broccoli, Give Them Choices

Virginia will eliminate a state holiday honoring Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. It’ll make Election Day a day off instead

Books to Give Your Person on Valentine’s Day

Five Questions for A.S. King about Dig.

Is Your School a De Facto Book Desert?

How ‘To All the Boys’ helped usher in the age of the Asian American YA rom-com

In 2021 Budget Proposal, Trump Once Again Seeks to End Federal Library Funding

More Happy Than Not is being adapted for TV on HBO Max

Writing Whiteness, a guest post by Kate Hattemer

In a racial justice training I did at the school where I teach, the facilitator asked us to cast our minds back to our early understandings of race. It made me think. I’m a white woman, and despite attending an elementary school that was majority Black, I grew up barely cognizant of my whiteness. I remember being reprimanded for announcing, “I’m not wearing no coat” — that was not how we spoke — and I remember noticing that my honors classes in high school were almost all white, counter to the demographics of the school. That’s about it.

Small Kate in soccer uniform; photo credit Charlie Hattemer

Yet from an early age, I was aware I was a girl and I would be treated differently because I was a girl. I remember a kindergarten classmate shoving me up against a door to kiss me. I remember noticing that the lists of presidents and astronauts and scientists in my children’s encyclopedia were all men. In high school, when I fell deep into the world of competitive trivia games, I remember my teachers and coaches casually posing theories as to why girls weren’t fast on the buzzer. (I was fast on the buzzer.)

I have a lot of childhood memories of being oppressed. I don’t remember so well the experience of being on top.

This is common, I think, and understandable. In a weird way, it can be a whole lot more comfortable to examine ways you’ve been hurt by oppressive systems than to reckon with the ways you’ve been complicit, and perhaps still are complicit, with systems that hurt others. My whiteness informed every day of my childhood — the way I was treated by teachers and shopkeepers and passersby, the places we lived, the jobs my parents had, and on, and on, and on, in many ways I’m sure I don’t know — yet I barely knew I was white. I was just, you know. The default. Not black, not brown. I knew I was Swiss. Did that count?

Unsurprisingly, this discomfort is mirrored in children’s literature. In the past few years, as white authors have felt the need (from both the industry and our own consciences) to diversify our books, I’ve seen — and, yes, I’ve written — a familiar pattern. There’s a white protagonist (WP) who has at least one friend of color (FOC). Maybe WP visits the FOC’s house and eats some authentic kimchi or tacos, or maybe WP notes that FOC has a different hair-care routine. Or maybe WP witnesses a microaggression visited upon the FOC; the WP doesn’t understand at first, but the FOC explains, and the WP comes to a greater understanding of what it’s like for the FOC to move through the world.

I’m not saying this is a problem. It’s certainly better than all-white casts, and it’s better than the colorblind casts of math textbooks, where Latosha has to calculate the chances that the six marbles Xiyuan drew from José’s bag would all be green. But I worry it’s skipping a step. It’s eliding over the fact that white characters, too, have a race. When race is only an issue for our characters of color, the story reinforces the idea that race is not a problem for white people. Yes, white characters should see the way their friends of color deal with race, but they too need to reflect upon and reckon with their whiteness, by the way that their worldview has been unknowingly shaped by their powerful position in the structures of white supremacy.

Poster at protest; credit/caption “Our Feminism Must Be Intersectional Rally/March Pittsburgh” by feral godmother is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

Jemima Kincaid, the white, straight, and wealthy protagonist of my new novel, is a committed feminist. She believes in justice and equity. She deeply wants to change the problematic traditions and toxic masculinity that drive the culture of her private school. But Jemima has huge blind spots. Throughout the book, she works to scrape off that cruddy crust of white feminism and internalized misogyny, but it’s there, and it’s sticky. She learns some things. She remains totally clueless about others. She is eighteen years old.

I’ve learned some things too, and I know I remain totally clueless about others. So I’ll keep reading and listening. I’ll keep thinking about how my whiteness shapes my experience of the world, and I’ll keep thinking about my white characters. Do they grow? Do they learn? Do they change? I don’t believe they have to. Literature doesn’t need a moral. But I do believe that literature should be considered, every aspect of it. If we’re going to keep writing white protagonists, we need white protagonists to reckon with race — not as something they aren’t, but as something they are.

Meet Kate Hattemer

Photo credit: Emma Hattemer

Kate Hattemer is a native of Cincinnati, but now writes, reads, runs, and teaches high school in the DC metro area. She is the author of The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy, which received five starred reviews, The Land of 10,000 Madonnas, and Here Comes Trouble. Find her online at her website, www.katehattemer.com/, on Instagram @katehattemer, or on Twitter @katehattemer.

About THE FEMINIST AGENDA OF JEMIMA KINCAID

A novel about friendship, feminism, and the knotty complications of tradition and privilege, perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli and Stephanie Perkins.

Jemima Kincaid is a feminist, and she thinks you should be one, too. Her private school is laden with problematic traditions, but the worst of all is prom. The guys have all the agency; the girls have to wait around for “promposals” (she’s speaking heteronormatively because only the hetero kids even go). In Jemima’s (very opinionated) opinion, it’s positively medieval.

Then Jemima is named to Senior Triumvirate, alongside superstar athlete Andy and popular, manicured Gennifer, and the three must organize prom. Inspired by her feminist ideals and her desire to make a mark on the school, Jemima proposes a new structure. They’ll do a Last Chance Dance: every student privately submits a list of crushes to a website that pairs them with any mutual matches.

Meanwhile, Jemima finds herself embroiled in a secret romance that she craves and hates all at once. Her best friend, Jiyoon, has found romance of her own, but Jemima starts to suspect something else has caused the sudden rift between them. And is the new prom system really enough to extinguish the school’s raging dumpster fire of toxic masculinity?

Filled with Kate Hattemer’s signature banter, this is a fast-paced and thoughtful tale about the nostalgia of senior year, the muddle of modern relationships, and how to fight the patriarchy when you just might be part of the patriarchy yourself.

ISBN-13: 9781984849120
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Publication date: 02/18/2020
Age Range: 14 – 17 Years