Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Friday Finds: October 23, 2020

This week at TLT

Post-It Note Reviews: Voting, bands, ghosts, and more!

Cindy Crushes Programming: 5 Tips On How To Get Teens To Your Virtual Program, by Cindy Shutts

Feeling Empowered and Voting for the First Time, by Teen Contributor Morgan Randall

Book Review: Real Talk About Sex and Consent: What Every Teen Needs To Know by Cheryl M Bradshaw

On Taking My Teen to Vote for the Very First Time

First Time Voting, by Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

Around the Web

Haley Lu Richardson to Lead Romance Adaptation From ‘To All the Boys’ Producers

America’s School Funding Crisis: Budget Cuts, Rising Costs And No Help In Sight

Amazon orders ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ series

Lawyers say they can’t find the parents of 545 migrant children separated by Trump administration

This 14-year-old girl won a $25K prize for a discovery that could lead to a cure for Covid-19

Post-It Note Reviews: Voting, bands, ghosts, and more!

It’s hardly unique to say that 2020 has zapped my ability to concentrate AND that it’s worked hard to ruin reading for me. Why escape into fiction when you can doomscroll endlessly? Despite some days where concentrating on a book feels impossible, I am still reading. And these short post-it reviews are currently perfect for me, as longer form thoughts are hard to conjure up.

All descriptions are from the publishers. The handwritten post-it reviews are transcribed after the descriptions.

The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert (ISBN-13: 9781368053297 Publisher: Disney Press Publication date: 07/07/2020, Ages 12-18)

From Stonewall Award-winning author Brandy Colbert comes an all-in-one-day love story perfect for fans of The Sun is Also A Star

Marva Sheridan was born ready for this day. She’s always been driven to make a difference in the world, and what better way than to vote in her first election? 

Duke Crenshaw is so done with this election. He just wants to get voting over with so he can prepare for his band’s first paying gig tonight. 

Only problem? Duke can’t vote. 

When Marva sees Duke turned away from their polling place, she takes it upon herself to make sure his vote is counted. She hasn’t spent months doorbelling and registering voters just to see someone denied their right. 
And that’s how their whirlwind day begins, rushing from precinct to precinct, cutting school, waiting in endless lines, turned away time and again, trying to do one simple thing: vote. They may have started out as strangers, but as Duke and Marva team up to beat a rigged system (and find Marva’s missing cat), it’s clear that there’s more to their connection than a shared mission for democracy. 

Romantic and triumphant, The Voting Booth is proof that you can’t sit around waiting for the world to change—but some things are just meant to be. 

(POST-IT SAYS: Excellent character-driven story about activism, grief, and connection. I want to be Marva’s best friend. It’s election season—get this front and center on your displays!)

All Together Now by Hope Larson (ISBN-13: 9780374313654 Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux Publication date: 08/04/2020)

All Together Now is New York Times bestselling author and illustrator Hope Larson’s pitch-perfect graphic novel follow-up for fans of All Summer Long, music lovers, and anyone navigating the ups and downs of friendship.

Middle-schooler Bina is having the best time playing in her new band with her friends, Darcy and Enzo. But both the band and her friendships begin to crumble when Darcy and Enzo start dating, effectively relegating Bina to third-wheel status. 

To make matters worse, Bina’s best friend, Austin, starts developing a crush on her . . . one she is not sure she reciprocates. Now Bina must follow her heart. Can she navigate its twists and turns before the lights come up and the music starts playing?

(POST-IT SAYS: Really captures how complicated middle school relationships can be. Will especially speak to artists and musicians. Can be read on its own, though new readers will surely seek out book #1. Smart, honest, and engaging.)

Warm Blood Vol. 1 by Josh Tierney (ISBN-13: 9781733168700 Publisher: Buno Books Publication date: 05/19/2020)

The popular high-school mystery webcomic comes to print for the first time in this special edition from Buno. Join our hero Penny, a quiet girl who dreams of becoming a video game developer, as she navigates her first year at Greenwood High. There she must contend with a string of bizarre murders, potentially evil twins, rumors of shadow monsters, and a strange presence lurking just outside her window.

Helping Penny through it all are her friends, including her anime loving best buds from elementary school, a 4th wall smashing girl she meets on her first day, and a sweet awkward girl eager to be her BFF, and who happens to be very handy with a baseball bat. Josh Tierney is the creator of the Eisner, Harvey, Shuster, and Diamond-Gem nominated “Spera” series of fantasy graphic novels and co-creator of the sci-fi mini-series Halo-Gen. His projects are created in collaboration with artists from around the world.

Warm Blood includes work by Josh Tierney, Afu Chan, Saskia Gutenkunst, Joysuke, Winston Young, Naomi Franquiz, Marina Julia, Olivier Pichard, Jane Bak, Vlad Gusev, e jackson, Leiana Nitura, Blakely Inberg, Eva Eskelinen, F. Choo, Cleonique Hilsaca, Thomas Rouzière, Sandrine Han Jin Kuang, Mathilde Kitteh, Shanen Pae, Stephen Rodgers, Sara DuVall, Cat Sukiman, Xulia Vicente, Nuno Plati, Heikala, Crista Castro, Irma Kniivila, Stephanie Son,Cristina Rose Chua, María Ponce Esparcia, Kat Lyons, Gaby Epstein, and nims.

(POST-IT SAYS: If you like extremely strange, surreal, almost theater of the absurd-style stories, you’ll enjoy this. Loved all the different art styles. Weird in all the best ways.)

Stranger Things: Zombie Boys by Greg Pak, Valeria Favoccia (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781506713090 Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Publication date: 01/21/2020)

Following the events of season one of Netflix’s pop-culture sensation Stranger Things, our main characters struggle with returning to normal life after overcoming supernatural horror.

School is back in session in the normally quiet town of Hawkins, Indiana. Mike, Lucas, Dustin, and Will are still grappling with the traumatic encounters with the Demogorgon and the Upside Down in season one of the hit Netflix series. As tensions rise and fractures begin to form in the group, a new kid shows up to AV club with a Betamax Camcorder and an idea. The new Spielberg-wannabe friend, Joey Kim, wants to make a horror movie about a local legend, but when he sees Will’s drawings, he discovers that his new friends are local legends.

Written by best-selling author Greg Pak (Mech Cadet YuThe Incredible HulkStar Wars: Age of Rebellion) and drawn by Valeria Favoccia (Assassin Creed: ReflectionsDoctor Who: The Tenth Doctor).

(POST-IT SAYS: An original story that doesn’t take place in the TV show. Not fantastic, but I love the show and am reading all the additional material. Graphic novel fans will probably enjoy this quick read about a zombie movie.)

A Gift for a Ghost by Borja Gonzalez (ISBN-13: 9781419740138 Publisher: ABRAMS Publication date: 05/05/2020, Ages 14-18)

An untalented punk band and a parallel dimension—what could go wrong? 

In Borja González’s stunning graphic novel, two parallel stories reflect and intertwine in a tale of youthful dreams and desires. In 1856, Teresa, a young aristocrat, is more interested in writing avantgarde horror poetry than making a suitable marriage. In 2016, three teenage girls, Gloria, Laura, and Cristina, want to start a punk band called the Black Holes. They have everything they need: attitude, looks, instinct . . . and an alarming lack of musical talent. They’ve barely started rehearsing when strange things begin to happen. As their world and Teresa’s intersect, they’re haunted by the echo of something that happened 160 years ago.

(POST-IT SAYS: Beautiful art and a mysterious, quirky story make this quick read compelling. Quiet, sad, and creative characters provide real depth in this tale that is more told via the illustration clues than the words.)

Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang, Gurihiru (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781779504210 Publisher: DC Comics Publication date: 05/12/2020, Ages 12 up)

The year is 1946. Teenagers Roberta and Tommy Lee just moved with their parents from Chinatown to the center of Metropolis, home to the famous hero, Superman. Tommy makes friends quickly, while Roberta pines for home. Then one night, the family awakens to find their house surrounded by the Klan of the Fiery Kross! Superman leaps into action, but his exposure to a mysterious green rock has left him weak. Can Roberta and Tommy help him smash the Klan?

Inspired by the 1940s Superman radio serial “Clan of the Fiery Cross,” New York Times bestselling author Gene Luen Yang (American Born ChineseBoxers and SaintsThe TerrificsNew Super-Man) and artist Gurihiru (Avatar: The Last AirbenderThe Unstoppable Wasp) bring us a personal retelling of two different immigrants finding ways to belong.

(POST-IT SAYS: How can you pass up a book with this title? Superman tackles white supremacy, racism, and his own worries about his own identity. Definitely read the back matter, too!)

Unexpected Super Spy (Planet Omar Series #2) by Zanib Mian, Nasaya Mafaridik (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780593109243 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 09/29/2020, Ages 8-12)

Omar is back with a big mystery to solve in the second installment of this imaginative, highly-illustrated middle-grade series.

When Omar hears that his family’s favorite mosque is at risk of shutting down due to lack of funds, he knows he has to do something. And with the help of his best friend Charlie and another unlikely ally, a great idea is born—a school talent contest!

Omar and his friends are super excited about their plan, that is until Omar’s sister, Maryam, decides she and her friends are going to raise money, too, and the competition is on. The boys’ talent show is a huge success but disaster strikes right at the end—all the money goes missing. Omar has no choice but to become a super spy to track down a foe much more wily than his sister.

Omar’s amazing imagination brings the second story in his adventures to life as he navigates more of life’s ups and downs. From sibling brawls to speaking to the scary principal and becoming a community activist, bold illustrations and cheeky dialogue show how Omar perseveres through serious and silly adversity.

(POST-IT SAYS: Great new series that every library needs! Fun and funny with a light mystery. Many illustrations and font styles will keep readers turning pages. Omar is British Pakistani and Muslim.)

Puppy Problems by PAIGE BRADDOCK (ISBN-13: 9780593117439 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 09/22/2020, Ages 5-8)

A goofy new puppy rocks the world of a high-strung dog and a snarky cat in this hilarious graphic novel for early readers.

Crackers is a rescue dog who’s a bit on the nervous side, but pretty comfy at home with Butter, a very plump cat who—like all cats—is all about himself. The two pets have a good life: big backyard, nice couch, good eats, and an owner who goes to work every day so they can pretty much do what they want.

Enter Peanut, a brand-new puppy with big floppy ears, unabashed energy, and no appreciation for the quiet life. The little dog is a chowhound who dips into everybody’s food bowl. He drools, he chews up stuff, he doesn’t get how stairs work, and he’s afraid of the dark. Yowl! Not to mention he’s hogging their owner’s lap. Even the squirrels in the yard are laughing at this goofy little canine.

Butter and Crackers have had it! This puppy has to go! But when the backyard gate is left open (the cat’s idea, of course!) and Peanut wanders out and gets lost, the older animals remember what it was like to be alone—and lonely. Butter and Crackers to the rescue!

Kids will laugh-out-loud at Paige Braddock’s funny, endearing art and dialogue. (She also cleverly never shows “our human,” the animals’ owner, as anything more than a pair of hands or unintelligble speech balloons.) This is a wonderful story about friendship and acceptance, with the funniest combination of pets to ever hit the page.

(POST-IT SAYS: What’s not to love?! Graphic novel! Animals! Pet adoption! A doxie! Really cute and fun. The little animals have huge personalities! I can’t wait for more installments!)

Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour (ISBN-13: 9780593108970 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 09/15/2020, Ages 14-17)

Nina LaCour delivers another emotional knockout with Watch Over Me, the much-anticipated follow-up to the Printz Award-winning We Are Okay

★ “Gripping; an emotion-packed must-read.” –Kirkus, starred review
★ “Moving, unsettling, and full of atmospheric beauty.” –SLJ, starred review 


Mila is used to being alone.

Maybe that’s why she said yes. Yes to a second chance in this remote place, among the flowers and the fog and the crash of waves far below.

But she hadn’t known about the ghosts.

Newly graduated from high school, Mila has aged out of the foster care system. So when she’s offered a teaching job and a place to live on an isolated part of the Northern California coast, she immediately accepts. Maybe she will finally find a new home—a real home. The farm is a refuge, but it’s also haunted by the past. And Mila’s own memories are starting to rise to the surface.

Nina LaCour, the Printz Award–winning author of We Are Okay, delivers another emotional knockout with Watch Over Me, a modern ghost story about trauma and survival, chosen family and rebirth.

(POST-IT SAYS: A stunning, heartbreaking look at what it means to be haunted. Readers will ache with Mila as she tries to be hopeful about her future while unable to heal from her traumatic past. Just lovely.)

The Tiny Mansion by Keir Graff (ISBN-13: 9781984813855 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 09/08/2020, Ages 8-12)

In this pitch-perfect middle grade adventure, twelve-year-old Dagmar must endure a summer living off-the-grid with her family in a tiny home.

The last thing twelve-year-old Dagmar wants is to spend her summer vacation squished into a tiny house with her dad, her stepmom, and her annoying five-year-old half brother. But after a sudden financial setback, her family is evicted from their Oakland apartment, and that’s just where they end up, parked among the towering redwoods of Northern California.

As Dagmar explores the forest around their new and (hopefully) temporary home, she discovers they are living next door to an eccentric tech billionaire and his very unusual extended family. There’s his brother, a woodsman who sets dangerous booby traps all over the place, and his sister, a New Age animal lover who meditates to whale songs in an isolation tank. And then there’s the billionaire’s son, Blake, who has everything he could ever wish for—except maybe a friend.

But when a wildfire engulfs the forest, everyone—rich and poor, kid and adult—will have to work together to escape. And with both families at risk of losing everything, it turns out it’s not the size of the home but the people you share it with that matters.

(POST-IT SAYS: Given the months of quarantine I’ve spent watching various tiny homes shows, this grabbed my interest. Unique setting/living situation, strong characters, and lots of whimsy. Good fun with a message.)

How It All Blew Up by Arvin Ahmadi (ISBN-13: 9780593202876 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 09/22/2020, Ages 14-17)

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda goes to Italy in Arvin Ahmadi’s newest incisive look at identity and what it means to find yourself by running away.

Eighteen-year-old Amir Azadi always knew coming out to his Muslim family would be messy—he just didn’t think it would end in an airport interrogation room. But when faced with a failed relationship, bullies, and blackmail, running away to Rome is his only option. Right?

Soon, late nights with new friends and dates in the Sistine Chapel start to feel like second nature… until his old life comes knocking on his door. Now, Amir has to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth to a US Customs officer, or risk losing his hard-won freedom.

At turns uplifting and devastating, How It All Blew Up is Arvin Ahmadi’s most powerful novel yet, a celebration of how life’s most painful moments can live alongside the riotous, life-changing joys of discovering who you are.

(POST-IT SAYS: Loved the format—traditional narrative mixed with the monologues from interrogation. An emotional read with vivid characters that tells an important story of identity, culture, acceptance, and family. A great read.)

Field of Screams by Joel Sutherland

The Nightmare Next Door by Joel Sutherland

Ghosts Never Die by Joel Sutherland

Night of the Living Dolls by Joel Sutherland

(HAUNTED SERIES Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 09/01/2020, Ages 8-12)

Summary of Fields of Screams: Will they escape before it’s too late?

Darius and Ryan are excited to visit Scarecrow Farm. It’s always been a spooky good time—the perfect spot to go on Halloween.

But when they arrive, it’s nothing like they remember. The place looks run-down, and Darius can’t shake the feeling that they shouldn’t be there. When the two boys get lost in the corn maze, they start to panic—especially when they meet something terrifying hidden among the corn.

Can Darius and Ryan escape before they become the latest victims of the maze?

(POST-IT SAYS: The kids at my school love “scary” books, so I see these as popular, easy recs. Fast-paced, spooky reads that are sure to be a hit with fans of Goosebumps. Satisfying twists and creepiness. Wide appeal.)

Cindy Crushes Programming: 5 Tips On How To Get Teens To Your Virtual Program, by Cindy Shutts

It is hard to get teens to come to virtual programs. I have been trying to find a way to make sure our patrons can find information about our program. How are you getting the word out about your programs?

Share your program on the local resident groups and mom groups on facebook.

Teens are unlikely to see the advertisement, but their parents or guardians  will. This allows them to sign up their teens. Make sure to include the sign up link when you make a post. All of our programs with Zoom registration is required just to make sure we can email the link to the patron ahead of time. We are trying to avoid Zoom bombing.

Make a Facebook Event

This is very useful because it reminds the patron about the programs in the patron mark they are interested in going to get a reminder before the program. Also include the registration link in the event because this is how you can get the Zoom link to them.

Sample of Craft in Library

If you are doing a craft remember to have a sample craft out so parents and teens can see. We do this with Take and Makes. If we have registration for a craft, we make sure to send them a link of our video so they can view it. Here is one of our craft videos from when my wonderful coworker Ariel Nelson and i did a foot scrub kit

Contact Teachers and School Media Specialists

The teachers we work with are amazing and often our biggest champions. They are the ones working so hard to get our teen through the pandemic. I have even more respect for them now then I did before. If I have a really great program I want the teens to know I will email the teachers and School Media Specialists ahead of time. I do not use this resource every time because I do not want to overwhelm them. I also joined a community resource group for the schools on Facebook. This is a way I can contact teachers and parents at the same time without having a big long email.

Inside Building Signage or Curbside Advertising

This is what we would do pre pandemic. We would post our teen programs with signs where teens or parents and guardians could see them and be interested. Now we have curbside pickup, we can add advertisements in their books or verbally tell them about the program.  We do not have many teens in the building which is how I used to advertise. Word of mouth was my number one way to get teens to come to programs. I used to have a huge after school crowd and now I am lucky if I see 4 teens in one day. I am glad the teens are being safe of course, but I do miss seeing them and hearing about their day. That is why I really like doing zoom programs because I can talk to them.

Cindy Shutts, MLIS

Cindy is passionate about teen services. She loves dogs, pro-wrestling, Fairy tales, mythology, and of course reading. Her favorite books are The Hate U Give, Catching FIre, The Royals, and everything by Cindy Pon. She loves spending times with her dog Harry Winston and her niece and nephew. Cindy Shutts is the Teen Services Librarian at the White Oak Library District in IL and she’ll be joining us to talk about teen programming. You can follow her on Twitter at @cindysku.

Feeling Empowered and Voting for the First Time, by Teen Contributor Morgan Randall

I went and voted on the fifteenth for the first time, and here are some things I wish I had known before going into the polls to vote.

It was really important for me to get out and vote this year not only because it is a major election that is crucial in shaping the future of our nation, but also because this year, being the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, made this very important for all women. However, I was very anxious about going to vote, not because I was unsure about who I was casting my ballot for but because I felt like I had never been exposed on the way to go about voting. Plus, I am registered to vote in the county where my college is, not at home. So I couldn’t go with my parents or any of my friends (who are registered to vote back home).

Luckily, my college had it clearly marked where voting was taking place so it was easy to find where to go. I also was very thankful that everything maintained a distance of six feet apart, and everyone was wearing masks. When we entered we were given a finger protector so that no one was touching the screen or anything else directly. We were also told about keeping our phones off and away. When I got through the line, which went extremely quickly because there were a lot of voting stations, my voter registration was checked and then I was also given a card with my verification of identification and my ballot. The lady even told me how the machines worked.

Working the machine was a lot easier than I was expecting, as it walked me through what to do. Let me select all the positions I wanted to vote for, then allowed me to review it, and then review again before putting my ballot in to be printed out. I put the ballot in and all my selections from the computer were printed onto my ballot. It was really easy and took way less time than I imagined.

Then I went and put my ballot into a box, to be turned in. And I got my “I Voted” sticker, leaving that building made me feel so proud and empowered.

Morgan RandallTeen Contributor

Morgan recently graduated high school and is currently enrolled to attend college in the fall getting her BA in Theatre and Dance with an emphasis on Design and Technology. She loves theatre, writing, reading, and learning. But something that has always been important to her is being a voice for those who feel like they don’t have one, and being a catalyst for change in any way possible.

Book Review: Real Talk About Sex and Consent: What Every Teen Needs To Know by Cheryl M Bradshaw

When I’m reviewing books for professional publications, I stay quiet about them on social media. I’m always really excited once a review comes out to be able to talk about the book, finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews, a STARRED review, which originally appeared in an issue of School Library Journal.

Real Talk About Sex and Consent: What Every Teen Needs to Know

New Harbinger. (Instant Help Solutions). Oct. 2020. 200p. pap. $17.95. ISBN 9781684034499.

 Gr 8 Up–This comprehensive guide to the legal, emotional, social, and physical aspects of consent shows teens that this issue is much more complicated than just saying “yes” or “no.” Bradshaw, who is a registered psychotherapist, focuses on creating healthy relationships that are safe and respectful, have boundaries, and involve enthusiastic consent. Readers are given the skills to communicate effectively and clearly. Bradshaw provides many examples of scenarios and scripts that depict what consent looks and sounds like. Aimed at all genders and all sexualities, chapters examine getting to know yourself and your desires, identities, and attractions; gendered stereotypes and dynamics; pornography, nudes, and sexting; laws regarding age, power dynamics, and the ability to consent; warning signals; solutions and approaches to conflict; factors that may affect consent; and how to recognize sexual assault and get help. Conversational, honest, and accessible, with an emphasis on consent as a complete way to approach intimacy, this resource is invaluable. Repetition and summaries drive home which aspects are involved in total consent. The text makes it clear that all people deserve respect and the ability to be in control while emphasizing that consent is an ongoing component of healthy, happy, safe, and respectful relationships. Back matter includes resources (books, videos, articles), sexual assault intervention training and programs, and where to find support.

VERDICT: A truly vital and nuanced guide that is as empowering as it is educational.

On Taking My Teen to Vote for the Very First Time

Earlier today, you heard my teenage daughter Riley Jensen talking about going to vote for her very first time. I thought I would share a little bit about what I did to prepare her as both a librarian and a mother.

Regular readers know that the Jensens are feminists, so we’ve been talking about the right to vote since she was in my womb. I took her with me when I went and voted for Barack Obama, both times. So she was no stranger to the polling place or the importance of using your voice.

Trying to get her registered to vote over the summer during a pandemic was a bit harder then I realized it would be. We were able to do it by mail, but when her voter registration card came in the mail they had spelled her name incorrectly. She also only had a driver’s permit which expired on her birthday, and trying to replace it or get the photo ID she would need to vote was challenging. But we dotted all of our i’s and crossed all of our t’s because I knew that especially in this election where the outcome seems so life changing, she would be devastated if she didn’t get to vote.

Then we talked about making a plan to vote. We live in a small, conservative Texas town and there were rumblings of armed Trump supporters being sent out to “patrol the polling places”. Which meant that I told her that I wanted us to go as a family for her first time voting not just because I wanted to share the moment with her – which I did – but because I was concerned about her safety. She has anxiety and I didn’t want anything to happen at the polling location to cause a panic attack or make her feel like she couldn’t safely vote. So her father and I went with her to share the moment, to help make sure her anxiety was okay during a new situation, and to keep her safe in the event that there were any safety issues.

The morning of we sat down and talked her through the process step by step. We let her know what she would need to do waiting in line, with each person she saw inside the building, and how the actual process of voting worked. We reminded her that she could fill out any, all or none of the categories if she didn’t feel comfortable or didn’t feel like she knew enough about an issue. I reminded her that on the actual issues you had to be very careful about the wording because they were often worded in a way designed to trick voters. Because she knew what party she wanted to vote for, we looked up who those candidates were and reminded her that in most of the races, their party affiliation would be next to their name.

The most important thing we told her is that after she filled out her ballot, that she should double check that it says what she wants it to before she submits it. This is important in all situations, but when you are a person with anxiety taking a moment to double check your work can help later when anxious thoughts come up or when you start seeing the inevitable social media posts proclaiming that people’s votes are being changed by the computers.

As she mentioned in her post, we went on the very first day of early voting and waited in line a little over an hour. Everyone was masked up and socially distanced, so we felt very safe in that way. And there were no outside poll enforcers or whatever they were threatening, for which I was very glad. I’m not going to lie, with all of the chatter I did feel afraid and I hate that.

It has been amazing watching my daughter become the amazing young woman that she is. She’s intelligent, informed and passionate and seeing her put that into action at the polls and getting to share that with her was truly a powerful moment for me. I hope the election turns out the way that she wants it to, so that her future is safer.

As a parent and a teen services librarian, here are some things we need to discuss with teens about voting:

  1. How to register to vote
  2. How to research the candidates and the issues on the ballot
  3. How to make a plan to vote, including sample ballots and things like early voting, absentee voting and in person voting on election day
  4. What will happen inside the polling location and what the rules are
  5. How to be politically active and engaged throughout your life, not just during election season

First Time Voting, by Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

Recently, I went out for the first time to vote with my family. In a lot of ways it was different than I expected, but I’m glad I got to go out and do it. It’s important to me to be able to use my right to vote to help make a difference.

My parents and I got to the polling station fairly early to avoid too long of a line. I had never really thought about the waiting part of waiting. I guess I just kind of thought that you would get in and get out, but it wasn’t like that at all. We waited for probably more than an hour in a decent size line.

Another thing that I didn’t anticipate was all the things you weren’t allowed to do near the polling station. I knew you couldn’t wear anything related to a certain person running, but there was a lot of other stuff. There was no political discussion in the lines at all and you couldn’t take pictures either. A person even came around to check shirts. There was just a lot more rules than I expected.

A picture of Riley going to vote, but outside the parameters because you weren’t allowed to have cell phones

Also, the voting environment was totally different than I had pictured. I had always imagined this super secluded thing, like you couldn’t even see the other people while you voted. I had all of this in mind, but then I go into this one room with like 7 other people and sit at a little table. On that table is this computer-like thing with two things blocking both sides.

In a way, voting was both more formal and less formal than I had expected. it was almost like whatever I thought it was actually the opposite. But, overall, it was an important thing for me to do.

Riley, Teen Reviewer

I am a senior in high school and an avid reader. I have been reviewing books on this blog since 2012. I love musical theatre and listen to show tunes a lot. I also love murder books (both fiction and nonfiction), and want to go to college to be a forensic scientist after high school. Reading is one of my favorite things to do, so I just put that hobby to good use for my mom.

Friday Finds: October 16, 2020

This Week at TLT

Book Review: You Know I’m No Good by Jessie Ann Foley

Take 5: Creepy(ish) Teen Reads for the Month of October (and always)

Morgan’s Mumbles: Taking Mental Breaks, by Teen Contributor Morgan Randall

On Writing Black Sidekicks and Fleshing Out Supporting Characters, a guest post by Ben Philippe

An Examination of the Troubled Teen Industry, Thirteen Years in the Making, a guest post by Jessie Ann Foley

Dyslexia Awareness Month: What Makes a Book Dyslexia Friendly?

Break Means Break Not Work: A Treatise Against Homework Over School Breaks, By Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

Around the Web

The History of Black Towns and Communities in the U.S., From Tulsa to Rosewood

8 Million Have Slipped Into Poverty Since May as Federal Aid Has Dried Up

CDC: Almost all of the US kids and teens who’ve died from COVID-19 were Hispanic or Black

Eric Hale is the first Black man named Texas Teacher of the Year: ‘I’m not the first to deserve it’

Twitter suspends accounts claiming to be black Trump supporters

HBO Developing Adaptation Of Ibi Zoboi’s ‘Pride’

Book Review: You Know I’m No Good by Jessie Ann Foley

You Know I'm No Good

Publisher’s description

This razor-sharp novel from Printz Honor winner and Morris Award finalist Jessie Ann Foley will appeal to fans of Rory Power and Mindy McGinnis.

Mia is officially a Troubled Teen™— she gets bad grades, drinks too much, and has probably gone too far with too many guys.

But she doesn’t realize how out of control she seems until she is taken from her home in the middle of the night and sent away to Red Oak Academy, a therapeutic girls’ boarding school in the middle of nowhere.

While there, Mia is forced to confront her painful past at the same time she questions why she’s at Red Oak. If she were a boy, would her behavior be considered wild enough to get sent away? But what happens when circumstances outside of her control compel Mia to make herself vulnerable enough to be truly seen?

Challenging and thought-provoking, this stunning contemporary YA novel examines the ways society is stacked against teen girls and what one young woman will do to even the odds.

Amanda’s thoughts

The thing about 2020 is that it’s hard to find joy in anything or to be able to concentrate on anything. One afternoon, I picked up this book, read two pages, and put it down. It was immediately clear to me that this book was not for this day. I needed something lighter. Something different. So I set this book aside for a week, then came back to it. I knew I would. I’ve loved Foley’s other books and think this one may be her best yet.

Mia, who’s “gifted” and really smart, likes writing “almost as much as [she] likes cutting class to smoke weed in the parking lot behind the bankrupt Sears at Six Corners” (pg 4). She calms down her overactive brain with books, drugs, and boys. Books rarely do harm, unless you throw them hard enough, but drugs and boys prove to be toxic choices. Mia’s big thing is acting like she doesn’t care. Hardly a revolutionary attitude to cop as a teenager, but while it may be derivative, it gets her through. Mia’s run out of second chances, and her dad and stepmom ship her off to the wilds of Minnesota to get some help. It’s a traumatic departure—she’s essentially kidnapped—and suddenly all of her vices are gone and she’s left with just her own self and a bunch of other “troubled” girls.

It’s here that Mia beings to really think about herself, her choices, what’s happened to her, and what she wants out of life. Many of these ruminations are spawned from therapy sessions, but Mia has long been in therapy. It’s only here, now, that she seems able to actually hear what she’s being told and truly understand her life. She grapples with wondering if she’s “bad” or just “not good.” How does her mother’s murder, when Mia was only 3, fit into her life, really? Is suffering and trauma hereditary? How should we deal with difficult women?

At home, Mia didn’t have real friends, just people who could hook her up with stuff or get into trouble with her. But at Red Oak, she actually connects with some of the other girls, sharing their pain and secrets. Mia beings to see how she’s been used by boys and hurt by girls and women. Finally facing some painful realities (including the understanding that her first sexual encounter was rape), Mia starts to see that she deserves better, that she needs to fight, to stand up for herself. And, most importantly, she needs to be the one who defines who she is, not rumors or bad choices or the names she gets called. She is more than just what has been done to her, or what’s been said about her, or what she’s done. Unfortunately, healing is rarely linear, and Mia takes a big swerve off her path of progress when she and another girl run away from the facility and have to figure out what they truly want in life.

This is one of those great books that manages to be both devastatingly sad and hopeful. Mia is a fierce character who works hard to keep her walls built up around her, but experiences real, believable growth over the course of the story. She is flawed, vulnerable, and resilient. A really moving look at trauma, choices, recovery, and healing.

Review copy (ARC) courtesy of

ISBN-13: 9780062957085
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/13/2020
Age Range: 14 – 17 Years

Take 5: Creepy(ish) Teen Reads for the Month of October (and always)

It’s spooky season, one of my favorites. So I’ve been trying to read more spooky, creepy, thrilling, murdery books. Though one could I argue that’s what I normally read. Here’s a look at 5 books I’ve recently read, some old and some new and one not yet published, that are great reads for those looking for a little creep factor in their life.

Five Total Strangers by Natalie D. Richards

Publisher’s Book Description:

A hitched ride home in a snow storm turns sinister when one of the passengers is plotting for the ride to end in disaster.

When Mira flies home to spend Christmas with her mother in Pittsburgh, a record-breaking blizzard results in a cancelled layover. Desperate to get to her grief-ridden mother in the wake of a family death, Mira hitches a ride with a group of friendly college kids who were on her initial flight.

As the drive progresses and weather conditions become more treacherous, Mira realizes that the four other passengers she’s stuck in the car with don’t actually know one another.

Soon, they’re not just dealing with heavy snowfall and ice-slick roads, but the fact that somebody will stop at nothing to ensure their trip ends in a deadly disaster.

Karen’s Thoughts:

Here’s a totally true story. Years ago, The Mr. and I were trying to fly from Ohio to Mississippi to spend Christmas with my mom and we were being chased by a wicked storm. After being rerouted for the 5th time, we met up with two total strangers in the airport and rented a car together and drove from Atlanta to Mississippi. We were in our early twenties and didn’t even have cell phones yet, so this was not a great idea. We did call before leaving the airport and gave my mom everyone’s driver’s license information in case we never made it there alive. So when I saw the premise of this book, I was excited. Just the prospect of being in a car with strangers in a snow storm is terrifying, and here was an entire novel about it. And Natalie D. Richards is one of my go to authors for creepy reads. She does not disappoint here. Everyone’s hiding secrets, no one is really who they appear to be, and the storm itself is an interminable foe. Teens will enjoy this wild ride.

Hotel Ruby by Suzanne Young

Publisher’s Book Description:

Stay tonight. Stay forever.

When Audrey Casella arrives for an unplanned stay at the grand Hotel Ruby, she’s grateful for the detour. Just months after their mother’s death, Audrey and her brother, Daniel, are on their way to live with their grandmother, dumped on the doorstep of a DNA-matched stranger because their father is drowning in his grief.

Audrey and her family only plan to stay the night, but life in the Ruby can be intoxicating, extending their stay as it provides endless distractions—including handsome guest Elias Lange, who sends Audrey’s pulse racing. However, the hotel proves to be as strange as it is beautiful. Nightly fancy affairs in the ballroom are invitation only, and Audrey seems to be the one guest who doesn’t have an invite. Instead, she joins the hotel staff on the rooftop, catching whispers about the hotel’s dark past.

The more Audrey learns about the new people she’s met, the more her curiosity grows. She’s torn in different directions—the pull of her past with its overwhelming loss, the promise of a future that holds little joy, and an in-between life in a place that is so much more than it seems…

Welcome to the Ruby.

Karen’s Thoughts: I’ve wanted to read this one for a while now so when I went searching for something October scary, I knew it was finally time. Who doesn’t love a creepy hotel? I thought this was a really creepy read that slowly builds and then when things are revealed, I was not let down. I was mesmerized by the world of the Ruby and the characters that inhabit it. This is the perfect October read.

Little Creeping Things by Chelsea Ichaso

Publisher’s Book Description:

When she was 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, and her town’s bullies, particularly the cruel and beautiful Melody Davenport, have never let her live it down.

But then Melody goes missing, and Cassidy thinks she may have information. She 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. And then she gets a chilling text from an unknown number: I’m so glad we’re in this together.

Now it’s up to Cassidy to figure out what really happened before the truth behind Melody’s disappearance sets the whole town ablaze.

Karen’s Thoughts: Small towns, big secrets. A variation on the word creepy is right there in the title, so it makes the list. This is a pretty twisted psychological thriller with small town secrets, bullies, stalkers, serial kills and siblings trying to survive childhood trauma. There are some twists and turns and red herrings along the way. It is a satisfying read.

Throwaway Girls by Andrea Contos

Publisher’s Book Description:

Caroline Lawson is three months away from freedom, otherwise known as graduation day. That’s when she’ll finally escape her rigid prep school and the parents who thought they could convert her to being straight.

Until then, Caroline is keeping her head down, pretending to be the perfect student even though she is crushed by her family and heartbroken over the girlfriend who left for California.

But when her best friend Madison disappears, Caroline feels compelled to get involved in the investigation. She has her own reasons not to trust the police, and she owes Madison — big time.

Suddenly Caroline realizes how little she knew of what her friend was up to. Caroline has some uncomfortable secrets about the hours before Madison disappeared, but they’re nothing compared to the secrets Madison has been hiding. And why does Mr. McCormack, their teacher, seem to know so much about them?

It’s only when Caroline discovers other missing girls that she begins to close in on the truth. Unlike Madison, the other girls are from the wrong side of the tracks. Unlike Madison’s, their disappearances haven’t received much attention. Caroline is determined to find out what happened to them and why no one seems to notice. But as every new discovery leads Caroline closer to the connection between these girls and Madison, she faces an unsettling truth.

There’s only one common denominator between the disappearances: Caroline herself.

Karen’s Thoughts: I debated adding this book to this list because it’s actually a pretty heavy book with serious discussions and doesn’t fall very well onto a list of creepy books for the sake of being creepy and fun. BUT if you have teens looking for a good psychological feminist thriller that is dark, this IS the book for that teen. I reviewed it earlier on TLT and said, “This is a heavy book, full of complicated conversations and relationships. There is no happy ending, even with a lot of important plot lines resolved. It’s a dark exploration of meaningful and realistic topics that populate the landscape of teen lives. It’s moving and powerful . . . and it’s important. Pretty politically relevant as well. Definitely recommended.”

The Cousins by Karen McManus

Publishers Book Description:

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of One of Us Is Lying comes your next obsession. You’ll never feel the same about family again.

Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story are cousins, but they barely know each another, and they’ve never even met their grandmother. Rich and reclusive, she disinherited their parents before they were born. So when they each receive a letter inviting them to work at her island resort for the summer, they’re surprised . . . and curious.

Their parents are all clear on one point–not going is not an option. This could be the opportunity to get back into Grandmother’s good graces. But when the cousins arrive on the island, it’s immediately clear that she has different plans for them. And the longer they stay, the more they realize how mysterious–and dark–their family’s past is.

The entire Story family has secrets. Whatever pulled them apart years ago isn’t over–and this summer, the cousins will learn everything.

Karen’s Thoughts: When I was a teen, one of my favorite movies was Evil Under the Sun based on the book by Agatha Christie. What can I say, I was a weird teen. The Cousins immediately brought the works of Agatha Christie to mind, more so even then her earlier books One of Us is Lying and Two Can Keep a Secret did. This book is about family secrets and it’s strength is the character development. Again, it’s not so much a creepy book as it is a really good mystery, which I always love. This book doesn’t come out until the end of 2020, so you’ll have to wait a bit to find out more about these family secrets. But you can read about more family secrets in a small town that actually involves a haunted house in Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus, so that’s the perfect October read while you wait to satisfy your Agatha Christie-like cravings with The Cousins later this year.

I’m on the hunt for more creepy reads, so what have you been reading?