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Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Food TPiB: Waffle It Edition

As I mentioned yesterday, right now my life is all about waffles!

And in my waffle obsessed state, I finally figured out a way that I – the person who hates to cook – can host an Unconventional Cooking Club with teens. Today, I will share with you the Waffle It! Edition.

It turns out, you can use a waffle iron to make a lot of stuff besides traditional waffles. The Teen, The Bestie, Thing 2 and I spent all of Thanksgiving week exploring – scientific method in action! – what does and doesn’t work in a waffle iron.

The Week of Waffling Dangerously

We began with cinnamon rolls.


Let’s not kid ourselves, I did not make a mix from scratch. Nope. I popped open a tube of ready made dough and we had amazing tasting cinnamon rolls in less than 5 minutes.

We moved on to cake . . .


We bought a $1.00 cake batter and a tub of icing. Mix it according to the directions. You can make a chocolate waffle cake in about 1 minute. And they taste like heaven. Seriously, we did this 3 times last week because it was gloriously good and better than traditional cake.

Then I thought we should try some real food. Thankfully, we had Thanksgiving leftovers. I made stuffing waffles, mostly because Robin dared me to and who can resist a dare. I topped than we reheated turkey and gravy and it was pretty good. The Mr. took it one step further and smothered his in mashed potatoes, turkey and gravy and this was almost better than Thanksgiving dinner.


Then I thought, I need something that is snacky to teens, so pizza obviously. We made pizza using bagels, spaghetti sauce, shredded cheese and pepperoni. The teens were skeptical but impressed. The pizzas themselves were a little thick for the waffle iron and we had to hold it close because it wouldn’t latch, but this was a good moment of problem solving and creative thinking.


We made omelets, which worked. We tried cookies, which failed. Although we did end up with a type of cookie crumble that we thought would taste really good on ice cream.

And along the way, we had a lot of fun.

As I mentioned yesterday, one of my most popular programs was a play on Iron Chef. So my plan is to redo this program with a Waffle It twist. We will supply waffle irons (I have seen new ones for as low as $15.00) and a variety of possible foods. Then we’ll let the teens see what they can come up with.

Some food bases I recommend include:

  • Various doughs, such as pop can biscuits and crescent rolls (note: corn bread came out really dry)
  • Things to make pizzas
  • Things to make sandwiches
  • Things to make deserts, including cake mix and various toppings
  • Buy a lot of Pam – and I mean a lot – and remind teens to spray their waffle iron in between each use to make it easy to clean

How to Set Up Your Program

Take a page out of the Chopped book and have three courses: an appetizer, an entree and dessert. For someone who hates to cook, I watch a lot of Chopped. The rounds are also fairly quick, 20 minutes and then 30 and 30 minutes, so you can do a program in around 2 hours.

Here are some resources you may find helpful:

Other Tips to Keep in Mind

Because there is a chance that teens will over spray their Pam and it will drip – not that I know this from experience or anything – be sure and use table cloths. Preferably use table cloths AND some type of surface like a thin plastic cutting mat or vinyl place mat.

There were only four of us experimenting in my home this past week, but when I have done programs like this in the past I start out with teens and then do eliminations until there are just a few teens competing against one another. Feel out the room and see how seriously they want to compete or if they just want to play and taste things, which is also perfectly fun as well.

Keep in mind there are a variety of waffle cookbooks out there that would make great tie-ins. You could also have your teens put together their own when they find out what works and what doesn’t and share it on your social media.


And finally, share this fun YouTube video with your Teens before you begin or on your social media to promote your program:

Tomorrow, the Mug It Edition!

Food Based TPiBs

Recently in Book Mail

One of the many really fun aspects of being part of Teen Librarian Toolbox is getting tons of books to consider for review. I try to mainly focus on books that deal with LGBTQIA+ characters, incorporate some kind of diversity, may fly under the radar, or are just exceptional books. I don’t spend a lot of time writing negative reviews unless it’s a book that is either really doing a disservice to a community/topic or is something that’s getting a lot of great press but my view differs. I figure we all have better things to do with our time than write about or read about a book that isn’t worth seeking out.


While I try to review a lot of the books that come my way, there are many that I get but choose not to review.  As I’ve shown you in the Houghton Mifflin Fall 2015 Roundup post, the Macmillan Fall 2015 Roundup post, and the previous book mail post in September, I get a lot more than I can/choose to review. I end up passing all of the ARCs (both the ones I read and the ones I skip) along to my teen pals in the young adult book club and teen advisory board that I run through my job at the public library. They then swap them back and forth and we talk about them in our meetings.


Here are the things that have arrived in recent weeks. Keep your eyes out for reviews of many of these titles. Even if it’s something we ultimately do not end up reviewing, getting a chance to see what’s out there or is forthcoming will hopefully help you as you consider what to pick up and read or order for your library. 


All annotations here are via WorldCat, Goodreads, or the publisher.



this is whereThis is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp (ISBN-13: 9781492622468, Publisher: Sourcebooks, Publication date: 01/05/2016)

10:00 a.m.
The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m.
The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

The auditorium doors won’t open.

Someone starts shooting.

Told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.


Underwater by Marisa Reichardt (ISBN-13: 9780374368869, Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Publication underwaterdate: 01/12/2016)

Morgan didn’t mean to do anything wrong that day. Actually, she meant to do something right. But her kind act inadvertently played a role in a deadly tragedy. In order to move on, Morgan must learn to forgive-first someone who did something that might be unforgivable, and then, herself. But Morgan can’t move on. She can’t even move beyond the front door of the apartment she shares with her mother and little brother. Morgan feels like she’s underwater, unable to surface. Unable to see her friends. Unable to go to school. When it seems Morgan can’t hold her breath any longer, a new boy moves in next door. Evan reminds her of the salty ocean air and the rush she used to get from swimming. He might be just what she needs to help her reconnect with the world outside. Underwater is a powerful, hopeful debut novel about redemption, recovery, and finding the strength it takes to face your past and move on.


other brokenOther Broken Things by Christa Desir (ISBN-13: 9781481437394, Publisher: Simon Pulse, Publication date: 01/12/2016)

From the author of Bleed Like Me, which Booklist called “edgy, dark, and turbulent with passion” comes another compelling and gritty novel about addiction and forbidden romance—starring a fearless, unforgettable heroine.

Natalie’s not an alcoholic. She doesn’t have a problem. Everybody parties, everybody does stupid things, like getting in their car when they can barely see. Still, with six months of court-ordered AA meetings required, her days of vodka-filled water bottles are over.

Unfortunately, her old friends want the party girl or nothing. Even her up-for-anything ex seems more interested in rehashing the past than actually helping Nat.

But then a recovering alcoholic named Joe inserts himself into Nat’s life, and things start looking up. Joe is funny, he’s smart, and he calls her out in a way no one ever has.

He’s also older. A lot older.

Nat’s connection to Joe is overwhelming, but so are her attempts to fit back into her old world, all while battling the constant urge to crack a bottle and blur that one thing she’s been desperate to forget.

Now, in order to make a different kind of life, Nat must pull together her broken parts and learn to fight for herself.


We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson (ISBN-13: 9781481475204, Publisher: Simon Pulse, Publication we are the antsdate: 01/19/2016)

From the “author to watch” (Kirkus Reviews) of The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley comes a brand-new novel about a teenage boy who must decide whether or not the world is worth saving.

Henry Denton has spent years being periodically abducted by aliens. Then the aliens give him an ultimatum: The world will end in 144 days, and all Henry has to do to stop it is push a big red button.

Only he isn’t sure he wants to.

After all, life hasn’t been great for Henry. His mom is a struggling waitress held together by a thin layer of cigarette smoke. His brother is a jobless dropout who just knocked someone up. His grandmother is slowly losing herself to Alzheimer’s. And Henry is still dealing with the grief of his boyfriend’s suicide last year.

Wiping the slate clean sounds like a pretty good choice to him.

But Henry is a scientist first, and facing the question thoroughly and logically, he begins to look for pros and cons: in the bully who is his perpetual one-night stand, in the best friend who betrayed him, in the brilliant and mysterious boy who walked into the wrong class. Weighing the pain and the joy that surrounds him, Henry is left with the ultimate choice: push the button and save the planet and everyone on it…or let the world—and his pain—be destroyed forever.


the year weThe Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin (ISBN-13: 9781481438414, Publisher: Simon Pulse, Publication date: 01/26/2016)

In the tradition of Sarah Dessen, this powerful debut novel is a compelling portrait of a young girl coping with her mother’s cancer as she figures out how to learn from—and fix—her past.

Few things come as naturally to Harper as epic mistakes. In the past year she was kicked off the swim team, earned a reputation as Carson High’s easiest hook-up, and officially became the black sheep of her family. But her worst mistake was destroying her relationship with her best friend, Declan.

Now, after two semesters of silence, Declan is home from boarding school for the summer. Everything about him is different—he’s taller, stronger…more handsome. Harper has changed, too, especially in the wake of her mom’s cancer diagnosis.

While Declan wants nothing to do with Harper, he’s still Declan, her Declan, and the only person she wants to talk to about what’s really going on. But he’s also the one person she’s lost the right to seek comfort from.

As their mutual friends and shared histories draw them together again, Harper and Declan must decide which parts of their past are still salvageable, and which parts they’ll have to let go of once and for all.

In this honest and affecting tale of friendship and first love, Emily Martin brings to vivid life the trials and struggles of high school and the ability to learn from past mistakes over the course of one steamy North Carolina summer.


I See Reality: 12 Short Stories About Real Life by Kristin Elizabeth Clark, Heather Demetrios, Stephen i see realityEmond, Patrick Flores-Scott, Faith Erin Hicks, Trisha Leaver, Kekla Magoon, Marcella Pixley, James Preller, Jason Schmidt, Jay Clark, Jordan Sonnenblick, Grace Kendall  (ISBN-13: 9780374302580, Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Publication date: 01/26/2016)

Through prose and comics alike, these heart-pounding short stories ask hard questions about a range of topics from sexuality and addiction to violence and immigration. Here is the perfect tool for starting tough discussions or simply as an introduction to realistic literary fiction. In turns funny, thought-provoking, and heartbreaking, I See Reality will resonate with today’s teens long after the last page has been turned.


symptomsSymptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin (ISBN-13:9780062382863, Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers, Publication date: 02/02/2016)

A sharply honest and moving debut perfect for fans of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Ask the Passengers.

Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. But Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in über-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s life.

On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it’s really like to be a gender fluid teenager. But just as Riley’s starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley’s real identity, threatening exposure. And Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything.

From debut author Jeff Garvin comes a powerful and uplifting portrait of a modern teen struggling with high school, relationships, and what it means to be a person.


Raging Sea (Undertow Trilogy book 2) by Michael Buckley (ISBN-13: 9780544348448, Publisher: Houghton raging seaMifflin Harcourt, Publication date: 02/02/2016)

In the first book of Michael Buckley’s Undertow trilogy, the Alpha arrived and the world was never the same. At the start of the second book, most of south Brooklyn is in ruins and the nation is terrified. Nearly everyone that Lyric Walker loves is either missing or presumed dead, including the mesmerizing prince Fathom. It’s up to Lyric to unite the Alpha before the second wave of a cataclysmic invasion wipes out mankind for good. The Undertow trilogy is an unforgettable reading experience that author E. Lockhart calls, “Allegorical and romantic, the book nevertheless reads like an action movie with especially awesome CGI.”


bleeding earthBleeding Earth by Kaitlin Ward (ISBN-13: 9780986448485, Publisher: Adaptive Books, Publication date: 02/09/2016)

Between Mother Nature and human nature, disasters are inevitable.

Lea was in a cemetery when the earth started bleeding. Within twenty-four hours, the blood made international news. All over the world, blood oozed out of the ground, even through the concrete, even in the water. Then the earth started growing hair and bones.

Lea wishes she could ignore the blood. She wishes she could spend time with her new girlfriend, Aracely, in public, if only Aracely wasn’t so afraid of her father. Lea wants to be a regular teen again, but the blood has made her a prisoner in her own home. Fear for her social life turns into fear for her sanity, and Lea must save herself and her girlfriend however she can.


Some of the Parts by Hannah Barnaby (ISBN-13: 9780553539646, Publisher: Random House Children’s some of the partsBooks, Publication date: 02/16/2016)

For fans of Love Letters to the Dead and I’ll Give You the Sun comes a heartrending story of a teen who sets out on an unusual quest.

For months, Tallie McGovern has been coping with the death of her older brother the only way she knows how: by smiling bravely and pretending that she’s okay. She’s managed to fool her friends, her parents, and her teachers, yet she can’t even say his name out loud: “N—” is as far as she can go. Then Tallie comes across a letter in the mail, and it only takes two words to crack the careful façade she’s built up:

Two words that had apparently been checked off on her brother’s driver’s license; two words that her parents knew about—and never revealed to her. All at once, everything Tallie thought she understood about her brother’s death feels like a lie. And although a part of her knows he’s gone forever, another part of her wonders if finding the letter might be a sign. That if she can just track down the people on the other end of those two words, it might somehow bring him back.

Hannah Barnaby’s deeply moving novel asks questions there are no easy answers to as it follows a family struggling to pick up the pieces, and a girl determined to find the brother she wasn’t ready to let go of.


markedMarked by Laura Williams McCaffrey (ISBN-13: 9780547235561, Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Publication date: 02/16/2016)

Sixteen-year-old Lyla lives in a bleak, controlling society where only the brightest and most favored students succeed. When she is caught buying cheats in an underground shadow market, she is tattooed—marked—as a criminal. Then she is offered redemption and she jumps at the chance . . . but it comes at a cost. Doing what is right means betraying the boy she has come to love, and, perhaps, losing even more than she thought possible. Graphic novel–style vignettes revealing the history of this world provide Lyla with guidance and clues to a possible way out of the double bind she finds herself in.



The Word for Yes by Claire Needell (ISBN-13:9780062360496, Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers, Publication words for yesdate: 02/16/2016)

At once honest and touching, Claire Needell’s debut novel is a moving look at date rape and its aftermath, at the love and conflicts among sisters and friends, and how these relationships can hold us together—and tear us apart.

The gap between the Russell sisters—Jan, Erika, and Melanie—widens as each day passes. Then, at a party full of blurred lines and blurred memories, everything changes. Starting that night, where there should be words, there is only angry, scared silence.

And in the aftermath, Jan, Erika, and Melanie will have to work hard to reconnect and help one another heal.

The Word for Yes will inspire necessary conversation about a topical and important issue facing our society. The book includes a thoughtful author’s note that provides resources for readers.


thanks for theThanks for the Trouble by Tommy Wallach (ISBN-13: 9781481418805, Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, Publication date: 02/23/2016)

Tommy Wallach, the New York Times bestselling author of the “stunning debut” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) We All Looked Up, delivers a brilliant new novel about a young man who overcomes a crippling loss and finds the courage to live after meeting an enigmatic girl.

“Was this story written about me?”
I shrugged.
“Yes or no?”
I shrugged again, finally earning a little scowl, which somehow made the girl even more pretty.
“It’s very rude not to answer simple questions,” she said.
I gestured for my journal, but she still wouldn’t give it to me. So I took out my pen and wrote on my palm.
I can’t, I wrote. Then, in tiny letters below it: Now don’t you feel like a jerk?

Parker Santé hasn’t spoken a word in five years. While his classmates plan for bright futures, he skips school to hang out in hotels, killing time by watching the guests. But when he meets a silver-haired girl named Zelda Toth, a girl who claims to be quite a bit older than she looks, he’ll discover there just might be a few things left worth living for.

From the celebrated author of We All Looked Up comes a unique story of first and last loves.


Dreamfever  (Dream Walker Trilogy) by Kit Alloway (ISBN-13: 9781250078117, Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, dreamfeverPublication date: 02/23/2016):

Finding out that she is the True Dream Walker hasn’t gone at all the way Joshlyn Weaver would have expected it to. The only special gift she seems to have is an ability to create archways, which really isn’t that special. In addition to her inability to connect with the Dream, she has also started having nightmares that are so terrible she can’t tell anyone about them. Not even Will.

Just when Josh thought her life couldn’t get any more complicated, the lost dream walker princess returns to claim her parents’ right to the throne, right as the Lodestone party threatens to take control of the government during the upcoming Accordance Conclave.

With the clock running down, Josh must rely on not only her friends, but also her enemies, to stop the radicals from taking power and controlling the Dream. But how can she expect to save everyone else when she’s struggling to pick up the pieces of her own shattered life?

Dreamfever will have you on the edge of your seat as Kit Alloway takes you even deeper into the world of the dream walkers, and will leave you begging for more!


snow jobSnow Job by Charles Benoit (ISBN-13: 9780544318861, Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Publication date: 03/01/2016)

Does who you are in high school brand you for life?
Nick sure hopes not. It’s senior year, and he has decided that his loser friends may be going nowhere fast, but he isn’t. Instead, Nick has created the perfect list of rules for remaking his life. But meeting dark-eyed Dawn and hanging out with teen thug Zod are nowhere on that list. And making illegal deliveries definitely isn’t on it. So why is Nick caught up with these people and their dangerous schemes? Will Nick’s list help him to be a hero—or turn him into a fall guy?



Timber Creek Station by Ali Lewis (ISBN-13: 9781467781176, Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group, Publication timberdate: 03/01/2016)

“He was fifteen when the accident happened. That was when everything kind of stopped.”

Danny Dawson lives on a cattle station in the Australian outback. The whole station is preparing for the annual cattle muster, and normally Danny would be bursting with excitement. But everything is different now. Because Danny’s beloved older brother died in an accident last year, and nobody will talk about it. Because his teenage sister is pregnant and won’t tell anyone who the father is. Because his mother can’t cope with any of it and has hired a house girl-a wide-eyed English backpacker named Liz who has never even seen a cow milked before-to deal with the family. Liz doesn’t understand how to cook hearty meals, how to clean laundry, and especially why the station’s Aboriginal workers are treated as second-class citizens. Liz helps Danny see that the way things have always been is not the way they should always be.

Timber Creek Station is the story of a grieving family, entrenched racism, and the surprising ways one boy-who thought he’d be stuck in one terrible place forever-can take a leap forward.


girl whoThe Girl Who Fell by S.M. Parker (ISBN-13:9781481437257, Publisher: Simon Pulse, Publication date: 03/01/2016)

In this gripping debut novel, high school senior Zephyr Doyle is swept off her feet—and into an intense and volatile relationship—by the new boy in school.

His obsession.
Her fall.

Zephyr Doyle is focused. Focused on leading her team to the field hockey state championship and leaving her small town for her dream school, Boston College.

But love has a way of changing things.

Enter the new boy in school: the hockey team’s starting goaltender, Alec. He’s cute, charming, and most important, Alec doesn’t judge Zephyr. He understands her fears and insecurities—he even shares them. Soon, their relationship becomes something bigger than Zephyr, something she can’t control, something she doesn’t want to control.

Zephyr swears it must be love. Because love is powerful, and overwhelming, and…terrifying?

But love shouldn’t make you abandon your dreams, or push your friends away. And love shouldn’t make you feel guilty—or worse, ashamed.

So when Zephyr finally begins to see Alec for who he really is, she knows it’s time to take back control of her life.

If she waits any longer, it may be too late.


Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor (ISBN-13: 9780544602007, Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Publication into thedate: 03/01/2016)

When fragile, sixteen-year-old Hope Walton loses her mom to an earthquake overseas, her secluded world crumbles. Agreeing to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic, but also a member of a secret society of time travelers. Trapped in the twelfth century in the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hope has seventy-two hours to rescue her mother and get back to their own time. Along the way, her path collides with that of a mysterious boy who could be vital to her mission . . . or the key to Hope’s undoing.
Addictive, romantic, and rich with historical detail, Into the Dim is an Outlander for teens.


girl in the wellThe Girl in the Well is Me by Karen Rivers (ISBN-13: 9781616205690, Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, Publication date: 03/15/2016)

A hilarious and heartwrenching story about a bullied girl whose search for a new beginning takes a dire wrong turn.   

Newcomer Kammie Summers has fallen into a well during a (fake) initiation into a club whose members have no intention of letting her join. Now Kammie’s trapped in the dark, growing increasingly claustrophobic, and waiting to be rescued—or possibly not.

As hours pass, the reality of Kammie’s predicament mixes with her memories of the highlights and lowlights of her life so far, including the reasons her family moved to this new town in the first place. And as she begins to run out of oxygen, Kammie starts to imagine she has company, including a French-speaking coyote and goats that just might be zombies.

Karen Rivers has created a unique narrator with an authentic, sympathetic, sharp, funny voice who tells a story perfect for fans of Flora and Ulysses, Reign Rein, and Counting by 7s. The Girl in the Well Is Me will have readers laughing and crying and laugh-crying over the course of its physically and emotionally suspenseful, utterly believable events.


This is Where the World Ends by Amy Zhang (ISBN-13: 9780062383044, Publisher: HarperCollins this is where the world endsPublishers, Publication date: 03/22/2016)

A heart-wrenching novel about best friends on a collision course with the real world from Amy Zhang, the critically acclaimed Indies Introduce and Indie Next author of Falling into Place.

Janie and Micah, Micah and Janie. That’s how it’s been ever since elementary school, when Janie Vivien moved next door. Janie says Micah is everything she is not. Where Micah is shy, Janie is outgoing. Where Micah loves music, Janie loves art. It’s the perfect friendship—as long as no one finds out about it. But then Janie goes missing and everything Micah thought he knew about his best friend is colored with doubt.

Using a nonlinear writing style and dual narrators, Amy Zhang masterfully reveals the circumstances surrounding Janie’s disappearance in an astonishing second novel that will appeal to fans of Lauren Oliver and Jay Asher.


the way i usedThe Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith (ISBN-13: 9781481449359, Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books Publication date: 03/22/2016)

In the tradition of Speak, this extraordinary debut novel shares the unforgettable story of a young woman as she struggles to find strength in the aftermath of an assault.

Eden was always good at being good. Starting high school didn’t change who she was. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, Eden’s world capsizes.

What was once simple, is now complex. What Eden once loved—who she once loved—she now hates. What she thought she knew to be true, is now lies. Nothing makes sense anymore, and she knows she’s supposed to tell someone what happened but she can’t. So she buries it instead. And she buries the way she used to be.

Told in four parts—freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year—this provocative debut reveals the deep cuts of trauma. But it also demonstrates one young woman’s strength as she navigates the disappointment and unbearable pains of adolescence, of first love and first heartbreak, of friendships broken and rebuilt, and while learning to embrace a power of survival she never knew she had hidden within her heart.


Essential Maps for the Lost by Deb Caletti (ISBN-13: 9781481415163, Publisher: Simon Pulse, Publication date: essential maps04/05/2016)

From beloved author and National Book Award finalist Deb Caletti comes a fresh and luminous novel about the grief that can tear us apart and the people who can make us whole again.

There are many ways to be lost.

Sometimes people want to be lost. Madison—Mads to everyone who knows her—is trying her best to escape herself during one last summer away from a mother who needs more from her than she can give, and from a future that has been decided by everyone but her.

Sometimes the lost do the unimaginable, like the woman, the body, Mads collides with in the middle of the water on a traumatic morning that changes everything.

And sometimes the lost are the ones left behind, like the son of the woman in the water, Billy Youngwolf Floyd. Billy is struggling to find his way through each day in the shadow of grief. His one comfort is the map he carries in his pocket, out of his favorite book The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

When three lives (and one special, shared book) collide, strange things happen. Things like questions and coincidences and secrets, lots of secrets. Things like falling in love. But can two lost people telling so many lies find their way through tragedy to each other…and to solid ground?


tell the windTell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan (ISBN-13: 9780544318175, Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Publication date: 04/05/2016)

In a world of opulent magic and merciless violence, two boys share a dangerous connection. One girl guards their secret. But when a deadly revolution erupts, will she be able to save either of them—or even herself?

“Writing with fine control and wit, Sarah Rees Brennan pits an underworld society against privileged overlords. The young golden-haired heroine sparring with her rich boyfriend and his dark-souled shadow-twin lends wry and sexy human interest to the depiction of political struggle. I suspect that word of this magical thriller will pass through the populace with the energy of wind, of fire.” —Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and Egg and Spoon.


Love Blind by Christa Desir and Jolene Perry (ISBN-13: 9781481416931, Publisher: Algonquin Young love blindReaders, Publication date: 04/12/2016)

It starts with a list of fears. Stupid things really. Things that Hailey shouldn’t worry about, wouldn’t worry about if she didn’t wake up every morning with the world a little more blurry. Unable to see her two moms clearly. Unable to read the music for her guitar. One step closer to losing the things she cares about the most.

For a while, the only thing that keeps Hailey moving forward is the feeling she gets when she crosses something off the list.

Then she meets Kyle. He mumbles—when he talks at all—and listens to music to drown out his thoughts. He’s loaded down with fears, too. So Hailey talks him into making his own list.

Together, they stumble into an odd friendship, helping each other tackle one after another of their biggest fears. But fate and timing can change everything. And sometimes facing your worst fear makes you realize you had nothing to lose after all.


can you keepCan You Keep a Secret? (Fear Street series) by R.L. Stine (ISBN-13: 9781250058942, Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Publication date: 04/12/2016)

R.L. Stine has built his legacy on scaring children and teenagers. Now he’s back with another spine-tingling tale of horror in this new Fear Street book about temptation, betrayal, and fear.

Eddie and Emmy are high school sweethearts from the wrong side of the tracks. Looking for an escape from their dreary lives, they embark on an overnight camping trip in the Fear Street Woods with four friends. As Eddie is carving a heart into a tree, he and Emmy discover a bag hidden in the trunk. A bag filled with hundred-dollar bills. Thousands of them. Should they take it? Should they leave the money there? The six teens agree to leave the bag where it is until it’s safe to use it. But when tragedy strikes Emmy’s family, the temptation to skim some money off of the top becomes impossible to fight. There’s only one problem. When Emmy returns to the woods, the bag of money is gone, and with it, the trust of six friends with a big secret.

Packed with tension and sure to illicit shivers in its readers, this new Fear Street book is another terrifying tale from a master of horror.


If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo (ISBN-13: 9781250078407, Publisher: Flatiron Books, Publication date: ifi was05/03/2016)

A new kind of big-hearted novel about being seen for who you really are.

Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret, and she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself, including her past. But Amanda’s terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that at her old school, she used to be Andrew. Will the truth cost Amanda her new life, and her new love?

If I Was Your Girl is a universal story about feeling different—and a love story that everyone will root for.


fierceA Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry (ISBN-13: 9781616205218, Publisher: Simon Pulse, Publication date: 05/10/2016)

In this stunning debut, legends collide with reality when a boy is swept into the magical, dangerous world of a girl filled with poison.

Everyone knows the legends about the cursed girl—Isabel, the one the senoras whisper about. They say she has green skin and grass for hair, and she feeds on the poisonous plants that fill her family’s Caribbean island garden. Some say she can grant wishes; some say her touch can kill.

Seventeen-year-old Lucas lives on the mainland most of the year but spends summers with his hotel-developer father in Puerto Rico. He’s grown up hearing stories about the cursed girl, and he wants to believe in Isabel and her magic. When letters from Isabel begin mysteriously appearing in his room the same day his new girlfriend disappears, Lucas turns to Isabel for answers—and finds himself lured into her strange and enchanted world. But time is running out for the girl filled with poison, and the more entangled Lucas becomes with Isabel, the less certain he is of escaping with his own life.

A Fierce and Subtle Poison beautifully blends magical realism with a page-turning mystery and a dark,  starcrossed romance—all delivered in lush, urgent prose.

“A breathtaking story in which myths come to frightening life and buried wishes might actually come true. This is a hypnotic debut by a remarkable talent.” —Nova Ren Suma, author of The Walls Around Us and Imaginary Girls


Draw the Line by Laurent Linn (ISBN-13: 9781481452809, Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books, Publication draw the linedate: 05/17/2016)

After a hate crime occurs in his small Texas town, Adrian Piper must discover his own power, decide how to use it, and know where to draw the line in this stunning debut novel exquisitely illustrated by the author.

Adrian Piper is used to blending into the background at his Texas high school. He may be a talented artist, a sci-fi geek, and gay, but none of those social groups get him…at all.

In fact, the only place he feels free to be himself is at his drawing table while he’s creating his own world through the Renaissance-art-inspired superhero of his own design, Graphite.

But in real life, when a hate crime spurs Adrian into action, he must decide what kind of person he wants to be. Maybe it’s time to not be so invisible after all—no matter how dangerous the risk.


2626 Kisses by Anna Michels (ISBN-13: 9781481452465, Publisher: Simon Pulse, Publication date: 05/24/2016)

When Veda’s boyfriend unceremoniously dumps her right after graduation, Veda finds the perfect solution to heal her heartbreak by embarking on a summer-long quest to kiss twenty-six boys—one for every letter of the alphabet.

Breaking up with her boyfriend is not how Veda planned on starting her summer. When Mark makes it clear that it’s over between them, Veda is heartbroken and humiliated—but, more importantly, she’s inspired. So she sets out on the love quest of a lifetime: use the summer to forget about Mark, to move on, and move up. All she has to do is kiss twenty-six boys with twenty-six different names—one for each letter of the alphabet.

From the top of the Ferris wheel at her hometown carnival to the sandy dunes of Lake Michigan, Veda takes every opportunity she can to add kisses (and boys) to her list, and soon the break-up doesn’t sting quite as much. But just when Veda thinks she has the whole kissing thing figured out, she meets someone who turns her world upside down.


The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder (ISBN-13: 9781481432108, Publisher: Simon Pulse, Publication date: museum06/07/2016)

In this ode to all the things we gain and lose and gain again, seventeen-year-old Penelope Marx curates her own mini-museum to deal with all the heartbreaks of love, friendship, and growing up.

Welcome to the Museum of Heartbreak.

Well, actually, to Penelope Marx’s personal museum. The one she creates after coming face to face with the devastating, lonely-making butt-kicking phenomenon known as heartbreak.

Heartbreak comes in all forms: There’s Keats, the charmingly handsome new guy who couldn’t be more perfect for her. There’s possibly the worst person in the world, Cherisse, whose mission in life is to make Penelope miserable. There’s Penelope’s increasingly distant best friend Audrey. And then there’s Penelope’s other best friend, the equal-parts-infuriating-and-yet-somehow-amazing Eph, who has been all kinds of confusing lately.

But sometimes the biggest heartbreak of all is learning to let go of that wondrous time before you ever knew things could be broken…


american girlsAmerican Girls by Alison Umminger (ISBN-13: 9781250075000, Publisher: Flatiron Books, Publication date: 06/07/2016)

She was looking for a place to land.

Anna is a fifteen-year-old girl slouching toward adulthood, and she’s had it with her life at home. So Anna “borrows” her stepmom’s credit card and runs away to Los Angeles, where her half-sister takes her in. But LA isn’t quite the glamorous escape Anna had imagined.

As Anna spends her days on TV and movie sets, watching Hollywood’s D-list at work, she engrosses herself in a project researching the murderous Manson girls—and although the violence in her own life isn’t the kind that leaves physical scars, she begins to notice the parallels between herself and the lost girls of LA, and of America, past and present.

In Anna’s singular voice, we glimpse not only a picture of life on the B-list in LA, but also a clear-eyed reflection on being young, vulnerable, lost, and female in America—in short, on the B-list of life. Alison Umminger writes about girls, sex, violence, and which people society deems worthy of caring about, which ones it doesn’t, in a way not often seen in YA fiction.


Three Truths and a Lie by Brent Hartinger (ISBN-13: 9781481449601, Publisher: Simon Pulse, Publication date: three truths08/02/2016)

A weekend retreat in the woods and an innocent game of three truths and a lie go horribly wrong in this high-octane psychological thriller filled with romantic suspense by a Lambda Award–winning author.

Deep in the forest, four friends gather for a weekend of fun.

Truth #1: Rob is thrilled about the weekend trip. It’s the perfect time for him to break out of his shell…to be the person he really, really wants to be.

Truth #2: Liam, Rob’s boyfriend, is nothing short of perfect. He’s everything Rob could have wanted. They’re perfect together. Perfect.

Truth #3: Mia has been Liam’s best friend for years…long before Rob came along. They get each other in a way Rob could never, will never, understand.

Truth #4: Galen, Mia’s boyfriend, is sweet, handsome, and incredibly charming. He’s the definition of a Golden Boy…even with the secrets up his sleeves.

One of these truths is a lie…and not everyone will live to find out which one it is.

Middle School Monday – Christmas Present Selections


My nephew is in his last year of Middle School, and his mother says he is reading constantly. He has a continued fixation on 20th Century history, so I sought out some books I thought he might not have been exposed to for his Christmas presents. There is a wealth of excellent options these days, so I had to narrow down my choices.

codeMy first selection was Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac. This novel follows the story of Ned Begay, beginning with his childhood as he is sent from a Navajo reservation to a white church school to be reeducated. Eventually he joins the service at the age of 16 to be a ‘code talker.’ During World War II, young Navajo men enlisted to be a part of the service and communicate through an unbreakable code based on their native language. This should be right up my nephew’s alley, as he is somewhat obsessed with World War II. It’s also incredibly well written and exhaustively researched. I hope it opens his eyes to yet another facet of the history of World War II.

Next, I wanted to get him a Steve Sheinkin book, but which to choose? I debated between The Notoriousbomb Benedict Arnold, Port Chicago 50, and Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon. While I will probably get him the other two eventually, this time I settled on Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, mainly due to the sheer number of awards and honors it won. Bomb tells the story of the development of the atomic bomb in riveting detail. It is described as ” the story of the plotting, the risk-taking, the deceit, and genius that created the world’s most formidable weapon.” I’m hopeful that the science and espionage will intrigue him.

SymphonyCityDeadFinally, I wanted to pick something that might take my nephew a little out of his comfort zone and expose him to a ‘triumph of the human spirit’ narrative in hopes of strengthening his empathy skills while rounding out his knowledge base. For this I chose Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson. I’ve long been a fan of Mr. Anderson’s writings and was recently fortunate enough to meet him and have him sign a copy of this book. If I’d been planning ahead, I would have had him sign it to my nephew. Symphony for the City of the Dead tells the story of the siege of Leningrad, during which more than a million citizens died – most of starvation. During this long ordeal, Dmitri Shostakovich would compose the Leningrad Symphony, which would go on to represent the heart of the beleaguered city.

While I was at the book store, I picked up a couple of titles for the Angel Tree. I’ve had store employees express etiquetteappreciation in the past for the fact that I choose tween and teen recipients from the Angel Tree. I get the feeling that most donors gravitate towards the younger ages. I’m more comfortable picking for the older children, though, so it’s a win-win situation. For the 12 year old girl recipient, I chose a copy of Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger. I’m fairly comfortable with this choice as I’ve found the book to have broad appeal across my student population. I’m hoping that the young lady will enjoy it enough to seek out the rest of the series. For the 13 year old female Angel Tree request, I rebelchose a copy of Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins. I try to always pick at least one Rachel Hawkins book for an Angel Tree gift, as I feel that they have extremely wide appeal, especially in the south. I wanted Rebel Belle for the complexity of the main character as well as the humor of the novel. My hope is that it will be greatly enjoyed while prompting the young lady to think of herself and others more complexly.

To be honest, I wish I had more middle schoolers to choose books for this holiday season. Does anyone need a recommendation?


MakerSpace: Rethinking Food in Programming, Again? Yes, Again.

makerspaceThing 2 loves waffles, which is why The Mr. had a moment of brilliance: let’s buy a waffle iron. It did not realize that this small purchase – we bought ours at the local thrift store for $3.00 because we are poor – would become the inspiration for what may become one of my most popular program ideas. But let’s back up and lay some groundwork first.

Food programs tend to be incredibly popular for me. This is not surprising, teens love to eat. A lot. The library I currently work at – The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County in Ohio – has an amazingly well developed and attended adult cooking club. They also have a program room with a full kitchen, including an oven and stove. I have thought about having a teen cooking club but there is one problem: I do not cook. At all. This is not an exaggeration.

I have also gone back and forth with the idea of food based programs because I am the parent to 1 of the 1 in 13 kids today who has severe food allergies. If she eats the wrong things we all suffer for days as she writhes in pain and suffers a variety of other effects that I will do you the courtesy of not describing. She won’t have an anaphylactic reaction, but it will cause her protracted health issues. And nobody likes to see their children suffer. For a while I was totally anti-food at programs for this very reason, but as she gets older I realize that I’m actually more anti-food for younger kids at programs. Teens, of course, can better understand their food issues and needs and can make better decisions in a environment with food. I would still like to see some programming that doesn’t involve food, because we live in a socially food based society and I want to remind teens that other things matter: like books and making and relationships.


Pizza! At a recent TLT TAB and Book Discussion Meeting

Also, as part of the Maker Workshops I have recently taken with School Library Journal – and I highly recommend that you take them when you have the chance – I am reminded of several things:

1) Learning to make food is indeed a type of making.

2) Kids and Teens need adults to teach them about food, food choices and yes – how to cook. This is part of my problem, there was no one to teach me how to cook so I don’t know how and I don’t embrace it.

3) 1 in 5 kids goes to bed hungry every day. Having food at programs – especially if you have food based programs where kids and teens are learning about food while eating food – can be a good way to help address this important need in our local communities.


As part of the LJ Lead the Change Maker Workshop that I participated in this summer, we heard from Spoons Across America. Spoons Across America’s “is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to educating children, teachers, and families about the benefits of healthy eating. We work to influence the eating habits of children through hands-on education that celebrates the connection to local farmers and the important tradition of sharing meals around the family table.” They presented a variety of ways that libraries could involve kids and teens in learning about food and meal preparation, depending on your library’s space and resources. You can learn more about them and the ideas that they shared at their website.

Libraries are about education, and there is a lot of education needed around the topic of foods. I discuss food a lot in parenting and those same discussions can be the foundation for some good program ideas. We talk about making healthy food choices. I have to talk with my daughter, recently turned age 7, about her food issues and how she can navigate them and make healthy food choices for her. We have talked about religious customs and food. We talk about food processing, distribution and yes, because I am me, we talk about how the food chain would break down in the event of an apocalypse so knowing how to grow your own food and recognize edibles in the wild is important. (What, doesn’t everyone talk about this with their kids?)

I think I am also self conscious about how we talk about food and use food in our programming because I have had (and probably still have) an eating disorder. And I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I have a complicated relationship with food. I want to teach teens about good eating choices but not overly emphasize food, eating, diets, or body size. Coming from my background, it can be difficult for me to know if I am doing this well or not. I don’t want to imprint my food issues on the next generation of teens, but I’m not sure that never talking about food is a good way of addressing that problem either.


But at the end of the day, teens want and need food. Just as they need in everything else, they need good eating opportunities, education and mentors. Because yes, they learn eating habits from the people around them. I didn’t develop anorexia on my own, I developed it in a world where adults reminded me time and time again that being super thin was the ideal, that being fat was to be feared and loathed, and that anything less than perfection meant that I was a personal failure unworthy of love, respect and value. As teen librarians, we can do little things to help break these cycles and to help teens question these messages.

And to be honest, I’m still trying to figure out how to acknowledge that being and eating healthy is important while still learning to love myself in the body that I am currently in while working towards a healthier way of life. It’s a delicate message to balance: love yourself but always work towards being healthy. I was unhealthy when I was anorexic. And I’m unhealthy now that I am over weight. Somewhere in the middle of it all I was healthier and I felt at my best and that is what I am working towards and want to teach my teens to work towards. Not am image, but a feeling of health, and yes that comes in all different shapes and sizes. But I think the feeling is the goal, that feeling of having enough energy to engage in and enjoy the various activities that you love and to be able to engage with the people around you.

Tomorrow I will share with you one of two fun food based program ideas that I have recently found. Wednesday I will share another. And then on Thursday as part of our #MHYALit discussion we will talk about the book BELIEVARAXIC, a book about teens with eating disorders. And this too is part of our discussion of food in the life of teens. It’s an ongoing discussion. It’s a complicated discussion. At least it is for me.

Body Image and Eating Disorders

Hunger and Poverty

Food Based TPiB

Sunday Reflections: My NaNoWriMo Month

sundayreflections1It’s official: I just validated my word count and am now a 2015 NaNoWriMo winner.

And you know what? It was hard. Especially this time of year, when the holidays are ramping up and my kids were getting sick and my work schedule got all wonky. But I did it. And after validating my novel, I realized that one of the teens in our library’s shared NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program classroom had validated hers earlier today, and a second is only about 1,500 words away from being done too.


So now I’m wiped out and I’ve got a list of projects to start and catch up on that’s about as long as my arm, but I’m proud of setting the goal and sticking to it all month long. I got in the habit of writing, of carving out that time–tired though I might have been–to work for a little while each day on it. I’m hoping to carry this over into other projects I have too: other craft projects, home improvement projects, spending time with friends, or just sitting alone in my room reading a book. It sometimes felt selfish, or frustrating, or fruitless to be spending so much time working on a largely self-serving project, but you know what? Everyone survived. The house isn’t any messier than it was on October 31st (well, maybe it is a little), the kids are no less engaged, and I found that taking the time (not finding the time; you have to take it) to work on my own project is an ok thing to do.It’s ok to take that kind of time for ourselves. More than that, it’s worthwhile, even if it never goes anywhere.

There’s more to say about NaNoWriMo, but I’ll be honest, folks: I’m done writing for the day. It’s time to take a break and celebrate (and let’s be honest: do laundry and play catch up on that stuff that I set aside and need to get back to now).

Good luck to all you WriMos burning the midnight oil to get your count in (the @NaNoWordSprints feed helped me immensely!) and to anyone who didn’t do it this year, or thought about it but postponed, or who started it but didn’t continue, I hope next year is your year!

Friday Finds – November 27, 2016

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: Behold the Power of Books

Book Review: Other Broken Things by Christa Desir

Middle School Monday – Manners & Mutiny by Gail Carriger

On Writing Interracial Relationships in YA, a guest post by Kate McGovern

Book Review: Rules for 50/50 Chances by Kate McGovern

TLT is Thankful for YOU: A Merit Press Giveaway

Around the Web

When the ignorant are arrogant and insulting, it upsets people? Who knew.

A $5 computer.

Will Illuminae make it to the big screen?

Authors give thanks for their favorite books.


TLT is Thankful for YOU: A Merit Press Giveaway

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving so I thought I would tell you how thankful I am for YOU – our readers. We could still do this if no one was reading, and I honestly probably would because I love it, but it sure is nice to have people reading and talking with us. So thank you! As an expression of our thanks, we’re giving away 5 titles generously donated by Merit Press. Just leave a comment down below to be entered to win, being sure we have a way to get in contact with you if your name is chosen out of the hat (like a Twitter handle). We’ll be accepting entries until the end of November at Midnight. And because this is a giveaway to say thanks to our readers, it’s open to every one.

Here are the Books

merit1Unlovely by Celeste Conway

If he falls for a beautiful dancer, does he risk his heart? Or his life?

• Unlovely is narrated in dark mystery wrapped around a world teens love, that of dancers and dancing.

• Bewitching writing, an eerie story, and a here-and-now thriller, combine for a captivating read of love, loyalty, and dark revenge

• Celeste Conway’s book The Melting Season was featured by the New York Public Library as among 2006’s best teen reads. She also has written two middle-grade novels and teaches writing at Berkley College

“A perfect combination of romance and horror with (dare I say this?) some culture thrown in.” –Lois Duncan, author of Stranger with My Face and Locked in Time

Accidents happen. But they happen more often when the beautiful ballet dancers return each summer to the island. When he hears the ruthless way that the loveliest dancer talks about boys getting what they deserve when they break girls’ hearts, Harley, home for the summer after his first year of college, wonders if he’s losing his mind. He knows for sure that he’s losing his heart to this girl…But then, strange incidents start happening all over the island and Harley is caught between desire and fear: could he also be in danger of losing his life?

merit2Perdita by Faith Gardner

Granted, Arielle has a vast, excitable imagination. But she’s not imagining how strange and out of control her life becomes after the death by drowning of her older sister’s best friend, Perdita. Not only does this death echo the death of Arielle’s own older brother, ten years before, it leads to dreams and visions in which Perdita seems to be reaching out to Arielle, asking for her help. The only other explanation—that Arielle’s high-strung emotions have finally caused her to break with reality—is even more terrifying. A story that builds to greater and greater heights of suspicion and fear, Perdita is also a multi-layered literary achievement that leaves no emotion untouched.

merit3The Yearbook by Carol Masciola

Misfit teen Lola Lundy falls asleep in a storage room in her high school library and wakes up to find herself 80 years in the past. The Fall Frolic dance is going full blast in the gym, and there she makes an instant connection with the brainy and provocative Peter Hemmings, class of ’24. His face is familiar, and she realizes she’s seen his senior portrait in a ragged old yearbook in the storage room. By the end of the dance, Lola begins to see a way out of her disastrous Twenty First Century life: She’ll make a new future for herself in the past. But major mental illness lies in Lola’s family background. Has she slipped through a crack in time, or into an elaborate, romantic hallucination based on the contents of an old yearbook?

Infinite Number BGcvr.inddAn Infinite Number of Parallel Universes by Randy Ribay

As their senior year approaches, four diverse friends joined by their weekly Dungeons & Dragons game struggle to figure out real life. Archie’s trying to cope with the lingering effects of his parents’ divorce, Mari’s considering an opportunity to contact her biological mother, Dante’s working up the courage to come out to his friends, and Sam’s clinging to a failing relationship. The four eventually embark on a cross-country road trip in an attempt to solve–or to avoid–their problems.

Told in the narrative style of Akira Kurosawa’s RASHOMAN, AN INFINITE NUMBER OF PARALLEL UNIVERSES is at turns geeky, funny, and lyrical as it tells a story about that time in life when friends need each other to become more than just people that hang out.

merit5Half in Love with Death by Emily Ross

It’s the era of peace and love in the 1960s, but nothing is peaceful in Caroline’s life. Since her beautiful older sister disappeared, fifteen-year-old Caroline might as well have disappeared too. She’s invisible to her parents, who can’t stop blaming each other. The police keep following up on leads even Caroline knows are foolish. The only one who seems to care about her is Tony, her sister’s older boyfriend, who soothes Caroline’s desperate heart every time he turns his magical blue eyes on her.

Tony is convinced that the answer to Jess’s disappearance is in California, the land of endless summer, among the runaways and flower children. Come with me, Tony says to Caroline, and we’ll find her together. Tony is so loving, and all he cares about is bringing Jess home. And so Caroline follows, and closes a door behind her that may never open again.

Inspired by the disturbing case of Charles Schmid, ‘the Pied Piper of Tucson’, Half in Love with Death is a heartfelt thriller that never lets up.

All book descriptions are the publisher’s descriptions. And a heartfelt thank you to Merit Press for these books to give away.

Book Review: Rules for 50/50 Chances by Kate McGovern

RULESPublisher’s description:

Seventeen-year-old Rose Levenson has a decision to make: Does she want to know how she’s going to die? Because when Rose turns eighteen, she can take the test that tells her if she carries the genetic mutation for Huntington’s disease, the degenerative condition that is slowly killing her mother.

With a fifty-fifty shot at inheriting her family’s genetic curse, Rose is skeptical about pursuing anything that presumes she’ll live to be a healthy adult-including her dream career in ballet and the possibility of falling in love. But when she meets a boy from a similarly flawed genetic pool and gets an audition for a dance scholarship across the country, Rose begins to question her carefully laid rules.


Amanda’s thoughts:

Rose’s mother was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease when Rose was 12. She’s now about to turn 18 and finds it hard to make any decisions or see any hope for her future when there’s a 50/50 chance that she, too, will develop the disease. To call her “skeptical” is too light of a term. She’s incredibly pessimistic and scared to pursue things she loves because of the potential loss and disappointment that could come should she carry the gene. She thinks of her life in terms of maybe only having x amount of healthy years left, a thought process that has been paralyzing her for a long time, but finally jars loose other ways of thinking and living…. eventually.


Set in and around Boston, Rose meets Caleb at a fundraiser for rare genes diseases and research. Caleb’s mother and two younger sisters have sickle cell, something Rose thinks of as “a walk in the park compared to Huntington’s. It doesn’t even kill you anymore.” They start to hang out at an incredibly unstable time in Rose’s life. She’s debating getting tested when she turns 18 so she can find out if she’ll develop Huntington’s. She’s looking at colleges both near home and all the way across the country—though how can she leave home and leave her father and grandmother to care for her mother alone? Suddenly everything is converging at once. Rose’s mother seems to be getting worse just as Rose, a dancer, gets the opportunity to audition for her dream school, where she could potentially earn a full-ride scholarship. But she can’t stop thinking of what the results of the genetic testing might be. It’s a lot to try to figure out, so you can’t exactly blame Rose for sometimes being insufferably self-centered, secretive, and not exactly forthcoming.


Prior to this, the only things I really knew about Huntington’s were from reading various things about Woody Guthrie’s life. Through Rose’s mother, we really get to see how truly devastating and unpredictable the degenative disease can be. It is not easy to watch her mother stutter, lash out, break things, fall, and seem to be slipping away.


McGovern’s story also deals in many small ways with race (as her guest post from today touches on). Lena, Rose’s best friend, is Chinese. Caleb is African-American. Rose talks about being half Jewish. The characters have many smallish conversations about race. Rose tells Caleb she doesn’t even think of him as black. Caleb laughs at this and says to her, “If you don’t see me as black, maybe you’re not seeing me as me. Because I am black.” Conversations like this crop up again and again.


There are a lot of smaller threads to this story that round out who Rose is and what her life is like. We see a lot of her life as a dancer, little of her life in school, and how narrow her life has become at home. It seems she’s always dealing with something with her mother or waiting for something to happen or worrying about it. It’s a wonky time in her life and everything is viewed through the lens of this disease. Eventually, Rose has to decide if it’s better to know your future or to just wait and see what happens. She has to decide if the risk of eventual loss is worth the risk of being happy right now. And she has to decide if what she thinks she wants is the same thing as what she actually wants. Rose seems to not yet have put together that life is always uncertain and we’re not guaranteed anything, disease or no disease. She has to learn that everything is always a risk. 


McGovern’s debut is a solid read. The unique details of the plot make it stand out from other books about teens dealing with various diseases. Caleb is far more patient with Rose than could reasonably be expected of him, but readers will cut the often frustrating Rose a break as they watch her deal with the current circumstance of her life. Strong families for both characters are a bonus. This should appeal widely to fans of contemporary YA who don’t want their romances too mushy or their sad books too dark. A smart and affecting look at the things we can and can’t control. 


Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780374301583

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Publication date: 11/24/2015

On Writing Interracial Relationships in YA, a guest post by Kate McGovern



I get this question a lot about Rules for 50/50 Chances: Why include “race stuff” in an already heavy book?


I understand the intention behind the question. In Rules, Rose, the main character, is dealing with her mother’s deteriorating health and the looming possibility that she might have inherited the same devastating illness. That’s a lot of ground to cover already. Why also throw in sometimes fraught conversations about race between Rose, who is white, and her boyfriend Caleb, who’s black?


But even if it’s unintentional, I worry about the implication that a book that isn’t, at its core, “about race” can’t feature racially diverse characters whose racial identities affect their perspectives—and who sometimes talk about race.


RULESThat Rose and Caleb are a mixed-race couple isn’t an accident. It’s a choice I made for a few reasons. First, it’s what I know. My partner is Indian American. My ex was Jamaican British. Over the years, I’ve dated white guys, black guys, Asian guys, mixed guys—okay, let’s not delve too much into my dating history, but long story short: in the cities where I’ve lived (New York, London, Boston), dating across racial lines is nothing unusual.


That’s true for more and more teens all over the country, too. But while we’re starting to see these relationships reflected in YA literature more routinely—one of my favorite debuts this fall, Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything, features a relationship between an African-American/Japanese girl and a white guy—I still don’t think we’re seeing them often enough.


And often when we do see them, they’re the central issue at play. I loved Una LaMarche’s Like No Other, in which an Orthodox Jewish girl and an African-American boy fall in love. Jacqueline Woodson’s If You Come Softly breaks my heart every time I re-read it. But I wanted to write a different kind of book—one that featured an interracial relationship in a context where it’s totally NBD that the two main characters aren’t the same race.


At the same time, I didn’t want to write a book where race never comes up. Mixed relationships come in all stripes, just like non-mixed relationships, and I’m sure there are some mixed couples who never mention race or talk about their differences. (I don’t think I know any of those couples, but hey, they’re probably out there.) I wanted race to be present in Rose and Caleb’s relationship—to be the catalyst for and the subject of some complicated, sometimes uncomfortable conversations between them. I wanted their racial identities to be what they are for most of us: pieces of who they are that do indeed affect their experiences of the world. But I didn’t want race to be the central problem of the story.


For me, that felt true. It’s been my truth, certainly—and a truth I don’t see reflected often enough on the page.


The publisher is offering a finished book giveaway to one of our readers (US only please). We’re using the hashtag #Rulesfor5050Chances if you’d like to share via social. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Want to read more? Check out the other stops on the blog tour:

11/16: Dear Teen Me

11/17: Stories & Sweeties

11/18: Love is Not a Triangle

11/19: Book Addict’s Guide

11/20: Once Upon a Twilight

11/23: Fiction Fare

11/24: Teen Librarian Toolbox


Meet Kate McGovern

Kate McGovern_credit Liz VidyarthiKate McGovern has written both fiction and nonfiction for the educational market, and has taught theatre, literacy, and creative writing to kids in Boston, New York, and London. She received her bachelor’s in American Studies from Yale. She currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Visit her online at or follow her on Twitter at @mskatemcg.

Middle School Monday – Manners & Mutiny by Gail Carriger

MSMI will not leave you in suspense, dear reader, I am entirely thrilled with this, the fourth and last installment of Ms. Carriger’s Finishing School series. It is a delight. In fact, I am hard pressed to discover what details I can expose without spoiling your own experience of its pleasures.

The Picklemen are up to no good, again. Monique de Pelouse and Soap (as well as many other previously loved and/or hated minor characters) pop back up to add to the story and the carefully orchestrated denoument of the series. And Sophronia and her band of friends (sadly minus Sidheag) save the day, of course.

My favorite part, however, is that we as readers discover along with Sophronia, that many of the people in her life are much more than they seem in some of the most delightfully devious ways. But I will have to leave it to you to discover whom.

I could not be happier with the outcome of this series, along with its ties to her other books. Ms. Carriger is firmly down as one of my favorite authors. I strongly recommend this title, as well as every other one in the Finishing School series to any collection serving students in grades 6 and up.