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#SVYALit Project: Bone Gap and Survivor Stories, a guest post by author Laura Ruby

One of the best books I have read in 2015 is the upcoming Bone Gap by Laura Ruby. It is a stunning and haunting look at a world where you can easily fall between the gaps. If hard pressed to come up with a if you like, I would say that this is reminiscent of the very best of Ray Bradbury, think Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes. Today I am honored to have Laura Ruby here guest posting for The #SVYALit Project about Survivor Stories.

I had numerous beta readers for my YA novel BONE GAP—some for their expertise on horses and farms, some for their expertise on myth and language, others simply because they know a good story when they read one and they’d tell me where mine needed work. Out of the dozen-plus people who read this book pre-pub, only one person asked a question that I still can’t get out of my head. Clearly my character Roza is a victim of some sort of sexual violence, he said, but the details are somewhat mysterious. What exactly happened to her?

Well, I told him, Roza didn’t exactly share the specifics with me.

Yeah, okay, maybe this is snotty answer to a perfectly reasonable question from a thoughtful person. And maybe my answer is also a little bit bananas; I wrote Roza’s story, how could she—a figment of my imagination!—choose to keep the gory details of something so terrible entirely to herself?  And wouldn’t it be better for readers to get the whole story in all its humiliating, awful detail?  Don’t we need it to understand her?

What exactly happened?

What exactly?

The idea we are somehow owed the stories of victims of sexual violence is pervasive, and to my mind, rather astonishing, considering our burning hostility toward such victims, our collective tendency toward creepy voyeurism. In one of the more bizarre book reviews I’ve ever read, a reviewer claimed she threw Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist across the room because Gay summed up her own gang rape at the age of twelve like this:

“They kept me there for hours. It was as bad as you might expect.”

The reviewer argues that the details of Gay’s rape are necessary, “Not because I think we need another graphic, sensational account of violence, we need a graphic, realistic account of violence that proves it needs to be taken seriously and stopped.”

And yet, graphic, realistic accounts of sexual violence are everywhere and we still don’t take them seriously. Even photographs and videos don’t stand as proof; we use the evidence to pick apart the stories, to explain away the violence, to discount and dismiss. To blame the victim who got in the car went to the dorm room went to the frat house went to the party went on the date went to the woods with someone she loved.

Even love is used against victims. Even that.

Underneath the belief that we’re owed victims’ stories is the more insidious belief that what the victim really owes us is her/his/their pain. That because you’ve been violated, you must put words to that violation, and through the telling suffer again and again for some greater societal good, or simply to satisfy our morbid curiosity — “OMG, did you hear about…?!”

After the Bad Feminist review appeared, Ms. Gay was moved to write her story in the graphic detail the reviewer had demanded.

I read the whole account with my hand over my mouth.

It was exactly as bad as I expected.

I support rape victims who come forward and bravely recount their stories, as Gay did.  And I support rape victims who choose not to. I’m not a cop or a lawyer, I will not be investigating or prosecuting any cases. I am not owed this kind of confidence. And we, as a culture, haven’t earned this kind of trust. Too often we prove ourselves entirely unworthy of it.

Gay says: “We don’t know how to hear stories about any kind of violence, because it is hard to accept that these things are complicated, that you can love someone who hurts you, that you can stay with someone who hurts you, that you can be hurt by someone who loves you, that you can be hurt by a complete stranger, that you can be hurt.”

In BONE GAP, I didn’t write about the specifics of Roza’s sexual violation because I was more interested in the toll that violation took on her: the all-encompassing shame that sapped her strength and her will, the horror at the string of sociopaths who somehow sensed the nature of her wound and reveled in it, the sheer terror she felt when she finally stumbled into a person she might be able to trust.  Mostly, though, I wanted to write about her refusal to be defined by what was done to her.

If it’s remotely appropriate to ask victims of sexual violence anything, let’s instead ask how the violence affected them, how they have coped since, how we can help.

What exactly happened is that they survived.

Meet our Guest Blogger

Raised in the wilds of suburban New Jersey, Laura Ruby now lives in Chicago with her family. Ruby is also the author of the Edgar-nominated children’s mystery LILY’S GHOSTS (8/03), the children’s fantasy THE WALL AND THE WING (3/06) and a sequel, THE CHAOS KING (5/07) all from Harpercollins. She writes for older teens as well, and her debut young adult novel, GOOD GIRLS (9/06), also from Harpercollins, was a Book Sense Pick for fall 2006 and an ALA Quick Pick for 2007.

Publisher’s Book Description

Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?

Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.

As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap—their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures—acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.

Publishes March 3rd, 2015 from Balzer & Bray/HarperTeen. ISBN: 9780062317605

Middle Grade Monday: Funny Cats and Crooks, Mary Amato and Peter Jennings (#LastListEgmont)

Mary Amato and Patrick Jennings are each celebrating the release of new, humorous chapter books. Jennings’ Hissy Fitz is out now; Amato’s Good Crooks Book 3: Sniff a Skunk will be out on April 28, 2015. The authors, who have never met, finally get the chance to chat here.

AMATO: Patrick, I “get into character” in order to write. As you were writing Hissy Fitz, did you ever find yourself coughing up hairballs or eating cat food?

JENNINGS: I did quite a bit of hissing. The temperament of my narrator often affects mine, sometimes overly. I was a testier guy while writing the book. I also ate a lot of salmon. 

AMATO: Writers are really fun people to be around! I am haunted by characters until I finally give in and write his or her story. Were you haunted for a while by a cat before deciding to write Hissy Fitz?

JENNINGS: Yes, I was haunted by a cat like Hissy. Terrified, really. Her name was Dorothea, we called her Loobs, and she was intensely nasty to me and the other three cats that lived with us at the time. She chased one of them away into the jaws of, I assume, a coyote. I suppose it could have been the jaws of a Jeep. That ghost-white hellcat, who passed into the netherworld eight years ago, makes regular cameos in my nightmares. 

 Where did you come up with the idea of crooked parents for the Good Crooks books? Were your parents thieves and scofflaws? If not, did you wish they were?

 AMATO: I had wonderful parents, but I had an active imagination. Throughout childhood, I was quite certain several times a week that my real parents had been kidnapped and replaced by look-alikes. My father had a small dark spot on his hand, and I would frequently check to make sure the spot was there. You talk about cat nightmares…hmmn…I wonder if most writers have a lot of wild daydreams and nightmares.

JENNINGS: Mary, this back-and-forth reminds me of your book, Please Write in This Book, where a teacher leaves a journal out with the title’s instructions written on its cover. The students in her class fill it with their words and drawings. There are so many voices in the book, and they are each so distinctive. Are you schizophrenic? If not, how did you manage this?

AMATO: I do hear voices. I bet you do, too. The difference between schizophrenics and writers is that writers want to hear voices. I’m delighted that so many people inhabit my head. I find myself extremely boring.

Speaking of voices. Kids’ voices are the best. My favorite comment from a reader was: “I’m so glad you’re not dead. Dr. Seuss is dead, but you’re not!” What has been one of your favorite comments?

JENNINGS: I remember one reader telling me that I was “a testament to my profession.” I think he was eleven. I had that letter on the fridge for a long time. I often get asked which of my books is my favorite, but one reader—a boy named Cortez—asked me, “Do you like your own books?” Then there was the kid who said that he’d “always thought reading was boring and stupid, but now I love it thanks to you.” Aw shucks.

You can find out more about their books as well as more Spring 2015 releases on: http://egmontslastlist.tumblr.com/

Find out more about Mary Amato at www.maryamato.com and @maryamato; check out www.patrickjennings.com and @TheHissyFitz.

About our Guest Bloggers

Mary Amato is an award-winning children’s book author, poet, playwright, and songwriter. Her MANY books have been translated into foreign languages, optioned for television, produced onstage, and have won the children’s choice awards in several states.

Patrick Jennings’s books for young readers have received honors from Publishers Weekly, The Horn Book, Smithsonian Magazine, the PEN Center USA, the Woman’s National Book Association, and the Chicago and New York Public Libraries. The Seattle Public Library awarded his book, Guinea Dog, the Washington State Book Award of 2011. His book, Faith and the Electric Dogs, is currently being adapted for the screen. His new book, Hissy Fitz, was published in January 2015. He currently writes full time in his home in Port Townsend, Washington.

Email: patrickpending@mac.com
Website: patrickjennings.com
Blog: PatrickJenningsEsquire.blogspot.com
Facebook Author Page: facebook.com/pages/Patrick-Jennings/430215403671950

Twitter: @PJenningsWrites

Publisher’s Book Descriptions

Good Crooks Book 3: Sniff a Skunk

A funny, silly series perfect for fans of Dav Pilkey, Tony Abbott, and Nancy Krulik. Mary Amato is a star of state master and children’s choice lists and returns to the age category of her popular Riot Brothers chapter book series with this new venture.

Good Crooks Book Three: Sniff a Skunk! brings back our favorite pair of do-gooder crooks in a hilarious adventure about an odiferous encounter with a skunk.

ISBN: 9781606845981

Hissy Fitz

A popular middle-grade writer moves to chapter books with this humorous tale about a cat that makes Grumpy Cat seem cheerful. Perfect for fans of Geronimo Stilton and Dog Diaries.

Hissy Fitz lives with some two-legged creatures who are destined to serve him in every possible way and understand his every whim. Sadly, these creatures are sorely lacking in their skills. For one thing–they touch him when they want to touch him. Don’t they know that the two-legged are there for him to touch when he wants to–meaning when he wants food? Petting wakes him up! They speak to him–don’t they know the two-legged should be seen–so Hissy knows where to order food–and not heard?! It’s becoming intolerable. What is this irascible cat to do?

Published January 2015. ISBN: 9781606845967

 

Sunday Reflections: Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend, Egmont’s Last List

A little over 3 years ago when I began TLT, I had no idea what I was doing. Sure you could argue that I still don’t know what I’m doing, but then I really didn’t know what I was doing. I began blogging as sort of a hail mary pass in a moment when my life was in extreme flux due to job issues – The Mr.’s – and I just knew that being a YA librarian was really and truly the heart of who I was. And one of the very first publishers to work with me was EgmontUSA.

Shortly after I began TLT, I somehow became connected with EgmontUSA. And I became friends with Alison Weiss, one of my main contacts there. Over the years I have done a variety of projects with EgmontUSA, including hosting an annual Egmont Week. In addition, EgmontUSA was one of the sponsors for the annual It Came From a Book Teen Art Contest that we jointly host with The Library as Incubator Project.

One of my favorite EgmontUSA moments came when they invited me to a small, intimate dinner at ALA in San Diego. Stephanie Wilkes was blogging with me at the time and we were invited to eat dinner with Lex Thomas (who are really two people) and Michael Grant. There are two things I remember most about this dinner. For one, I got to eat the most amazing steak. This was a really big deal because as the mother of a child with chronic health issues working part-time at a library, there is not a lot of steak on our dinner menu. The other is that I got to spend time talking with Michael Grant, the author of a wide variety of popular book series including the Gone series and, of course, Animorphs. And yes, I’ve been a librarian long enough to remember a time when you couldn’t own enough copies of the Animorphs series.

Karen having dinner with Michael Grant

I feel like I can honestly say that TLT wouldn’t be what it is today without the help of EgmontUSA. They were the first publisher to actively send me books to review, helping me have content for my blog. When I saw them again at other events they always seemed to remember who I was and showed me incredible kindness. As someone who works in public service and often gets yelled at because a patron walks in and realizes that they may have to wait a few minutes for a computer or because I have to explain once again that no I’m sorry we’re not getting any tax instruction books, it was so edifying to get to have those moments where someone remembered you, treated you with kindness and respect, and could talk enthusiastically about the books you love with you.

EgmontUSA also holds a place in my heart because they published some of my favorite titles, including The Hourglass series by Myra McEntire, the Ashes trilogy by Ilsa. J. Bick, Human.4 and The Future We Left Behind by Michael Lancaster, and Guitar Notes by Mary Amato.

I was incredibly sad when it was announced that EgmontUSA would be closing its doors. I wondered what it would mean for those authors who had or would soon be publishing titles under their house. There was a bit of a silver lining this past week when it was announced that Lerner is going to be acquiring those authors and titles, but in many ways it still feels like the end of an era for me personally.

This next week we are honored to be hosting Egmont’s Last List. Every day we will be featuring posts from some of EgmontUSAs authors who will be publishing their final titles with the Egmont logo on the spine. It’s a bittersweet honor, getting to work with EgmontUSA this one last time.

This Sunday, I can’t help but reflect on what Egmont has meant to me personally: as a librarian, as a reader, and as a blogger who is just looking for a way to learn and grow and be a YA librarian even in the midst of job changes and kids with health issues. Thank you so much to everyone who worked at Egmont for allowing me to continue to do what I love. Thank you to the authors for writing some of the books that I have loved and been deeply moved or entertained by. I wish you all great success in the future.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go snuggle up with my Egmont books.

Friday Finds – February 27, 2015

This Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: The Skin I’m Not Comfortable In, looking back and looking forward at a life with an eating disorder

Book Review: Elena Vanishing: A Memoir by Elena and Clare B. Dunkle

Medication, Depression, and I Was Here

Middle Grade Monday – Shannon Hale

What’s new in LGBTQIA+ this (late) winter

An updated pop up mobile makerspace, what I know now and how I’m adding more technology

Serving Full T.I.L.T. : Empathy, remembering what it’s like to be a teen and how it helps us be better teen services librarians

Evaluating Potential Technology for a Makerspace: Cubelets, Little Bits, MaKey MaKey, Raspberry Pi, Sphero

Lists, Letters, and More: YA Books with Characters Who Write

FSYALit: Catholicism in YA, a guest post by Katie Behrens

Around the Web

At Huffington Post – ‘Survival Sex’ And The LGBTQ Youth Who Are Turning To It

Six lessons on young adults’ literature from a 13-year-old

This week in authors being smart on the internet:

At the Washington Post – Why digital natives prefer reading in print. Yes, you read that right.

A thoughtful response to the $7.25 per hour wage for a library director in Kentucky, from dollymegan.com.

New Line options the movie rights to Gayle Forman’s newest novel.

From Latin@s in Kid Lit - Depression in YA and the Latin@ Community

Learner Publishing acquired Egmont’s USA list

FSYALit: Catholicism in YA, a guest post by Katie Behrens

Today as part of our Faith and Spirituality in YA Lit Project, guest Katie Behrens is discussing Catholicism in YA literature.

When I was confirmed in the Catholic Church at the age of 16, I really meant it. I knew there was a lot about the faith that I didn’t know and maybe some stuff I didn’t understand, but I knew the Church was important to me. I was your typical, book-loving public school kid, but I also felt a great longing for life to be bigger than it seemed. The Catholic Church, filled with beauty and mystery and 2,000 years of theology, was where I found myself.

Unless you know Catholics who take their faith seriously, you could easily assume that it’s a dying religion of a bygone era. That’s the stereotype I get from the media, at least. Fictional Catholic characters usually “go through the motions” of religious practice out of obligation, rather than personal conviction. My experience is the opposite. In college, I met hundreds of people my age who were full of life and joy because of their Catholic faith. They might be a minority, but believe me, Catholic teens definitely exist.

For a religion that unites an estimated 1.2 billion people worldwide, Catholicism can be very misunderstood. Catholics ARE Christians. We do read the Bible, but we also look to tradition and the great writings of the past for guidance. However, many baptized-and-confirmed Catholics don’t know what the Church really teaches or why. In the U.S. at least, the past several generations have received poor instruction about the Church’s teachings and mission. We all acknowledge it – if you attended CCD between 1970 and 2000, you probably didn’t get the full picture.  Even worse is the painful and horrible reality of the priest abuse scandals brought to light in the past 20 years. It caused great hurt within the Church, and cast doubt on the clergy.

All of these factors contribute to a pretty pitiful representation in YA lit. Priests and religious (monks and nuns) are all too often used as a stand-in for ultimate and crushing authority in the lives of teens. Catholicism is seen only in its “rules” and not as a diverse and complex body of believers. It’s especially obvious in stories set in a Catholic school, like The Chocolate War. The primary Church representative, Brother Leon, manipulates the schoolboys against each other for his own gain. A power-hungry, corrupt priest is a stereotype, no question. Is there corruption in the priesthood? Unfortunately yes – they’re humans just like us. But that seems to be the only role they play in stories (I’m looking at you, Dan Brown), and it’s become a tired trope.

Catholicism for teen protagonists isn’t so much a stereotype as it is a flat, empty character trait. Maybe they say their family is Catholic, and then a sentence or two dismisses its importance to the story. Is that the fault of the author? Not necessarily. The world is filled with devout Catholics and cultural Catholics and “cafeteria” Catholics (so-called because they pick and choose what they believe). A character who says she’s Catholic can fall anywhere on that spectrum. We all want characters that present faith in a positive light, no matter what we believe, but the reality is that lived faith is messy.

I want to focus on three books that positively resonated with my experience as a Catholic. The first is Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel Boxers & Saints. The corresponding stories of Little Bao and Vibiana are centered on the Boxer Revolution in China at the turn of the 20th century. Faith is shown to be real, something for which people choose to die. In Saints, Vibiana sort of falls into Christianity and eventually embraces it in the face of death. St. Joan of Arc appears to her and inspires her, even when it would be easier to renounce it all. We also see characters who bully in the name of Christ, a priest who makes difficult decisions in serving his congregation, and the stark reality of martyrdom. Yang, a Chinese American Catholic, beautifully weaves these stories of faith and identity together with humor and grace.

My second recommendation is The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork. There’s so much wonderful and deeply honest discussion of faith between different characters, but I think there’s a particularly Catholic flavor to it. Daniel Quentin (D.Q.) is dying when he meets Pancho Sanchez, but he’s resolved to suck the marrow out of what remains of his life. The priest in charge of the orphanage, Father Concha, is a non-sentimental man who greatly cares for the children (not a stereotype!). Pancho was raised Catholic, and when pushed on the topic, he says, “Faith’s what makes you pray. It’s why people say the Rosary and light candles to Jesus and Mary and all those saints. It’s what you go to church for. It’s why you’re good when you want to be bad. It’s what you think is gonna happen to you after you die.” He doesn’t have to say much more about what he thinks of religion, because his actions through the rest of the novel make it clear what Pancho believes. There’s a great exchange between D.Q. and Pancho later in the story that goes like this:

Pancho: “You gotta believe.”

D.Q.: “I believe. Help my unbelief.”

Pancho: “What’s that?”

D.Q.: “Nothing. Something I remembered.”

That “something” is from the Gospel of Mark, chapter 9, where a father asks Jesus to heal his epileptic son. It’s an emotional moment where humanity meets divinity. The fact that Stork can sneak scripture into character conversation definitely earns my respect.

My third pick is a recent read for me: The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab. For most of Caro’s life, her older sister Hannah has been gone at a convent, but Hannah returns one day and won’t explain why. Caro has to get used to Hannah in her life again, all the while balancing friends, school, boys, and whatever she does or doesn’t believe about religion. Jarzab does an amazing job showing the complexities of faith, especially what happens when it’s used to shut the world out. The priest with whom Caro forms a friendship speaks eloquently and accurately about Catholicism – and he loves science (that’s right! We do!). Caro herself wrestles with the big questions and comes to a place of peace amidst her confusion. It’s not a perfect novel – sometimes scenes are forced, and I highly doubt that Hannah’s religious order would have allowed her to stay as long as she did when she was obviously unhappy. It’s still one of the best representations of real Catholic faith I’ve seen in realistic YA fiction.

Other great Catholic characters and themes can be found in more classic works. For the teen that likes reading older stuff, you only have to point them to Flannery O’Connor, G.K. Chesterton (especially The Ball and the Cross and The Man Who Was Thursday), C.S. Lewis’ work for grown-ups (The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, and his Space Trilogy), Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, and J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien, a devout Catholic, famously said that “The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision.”

Did you notice the racial diversity in the three selections?  It was unplanned on my part, but it speaks to the inherent diversity within the Catholic Church. All across the globe, people are united by the same beliefs and love for God (the word ‘catholic’ means ‘universal’). As we call for greater ethnic diversity in YA lit, we should also expect more stories of authentic faith.

Meet Our Guest Blogger

Katie Behrens is a 2013 graduate from UW-Madison’s School of Library and Information Studies. She’s currently obsessed with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast, and her first reread of The Lord of the Rings. Katie is a project manager for The Library as Incubator Project and occasionally blogs at thirstydaughter.wordpress.com.

About the Books Discussed:

Boxers and Saints by Gene Yuen Lang

One of the greatest comics storytellers alive brings all his formidable talents to bear in this astonishing new work.

In two volumes, Boxers & Saints tells two parallel stories. The first is of Little Bao, a Chinese peasant boy whose village is abused and plundered by Westerners claiming the role of missionaries. Little Bao, inspired by visions of the Chinese gods, joins a violent uprising against the Western interlopers. Against all odds, their grass-roots rebellion is successful.

But in the second volume, Yang lays out the opposite side of the conflict. A girl whose village has no place for her is taken in by Christian missionaries and finds, for the first time, a home with them. As the Boxer Rebellion gains momentum, Vibiana must decide whether to abandon her Christian friends or to commit herself fully to Christianity.

Boxers & Saints is one of the most ambitious graphic novels First Second has ever published. It offers a penetrating insight into not only one of the most controversial episodes of modern Chinese history, but into the very core of our human nature. Gene Luen Yang is rightly called a master of the comics form, and this book will cement that reputation.

The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork

Two young men — one dying of cancer, one planning a murder — explore the true meanings of death and life in the tense and passionate new novel from the author of MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD.

When Pancho arrives at St. Anthony’s Home, he knows his time there will be short: If his plans succeed, he’ll soon be arrested for the murder of his sister’s killer. But then he’s assigned to help D.Q., whose brain cancer has slowed neither his spirit nor his mouth. D.Q. tells Pancho all about his “Death Warrior’s Manifesto,” which will help him to live out his last days fully–ideally, he says, with the love of the beautiful Marisol. As Pancho tracks down his sister’s murderer, he finds himself falling under the influence of D.Q. and Marisol, who is everything D.Q. said she would be.

The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab

Caro Mitchell considers herself an only child—and she likes it that way. After all, her much older sister, Hannah, left home eight years ago, and Caro barely remembers her. So when Caro’s parents drop the bombshell news that Hannah is returning to live with them, Caro feels as if an interloper is crashing her family. To her, Hannah’s a total stranger, someone who haunts their home with her meek and withdrawn presence, and who refuses to talk about her life and why she went away. Caro can’t understand why her parents cut her sister so much slack, and why they’re not pushing for answers.

Unable to understand Hannah, Caro resorts to telling lies about her mysterious reappearance. But when those lies alienate Caro’s new boyfriend and put her on the outs with her friends and her parents, she seeks solace from an unexpected source. And when she unearths a clue about Hannah’s past—one that could save Hannah from the dark secret that possesses her. Caro begins to see her sister in a whole new light.

  Additional #FSYALit Posts:

Lists, Letters, and More: YA Books with Characters Who Write

National Words Matter Week is March 1-7, so it’s the perfect time to set up a display of books featuring characters who write. What are they writing? Well, everything!

 

The characters in these books write lists, letters, zines, diaries, poetry, even obituaries. As a teen who was obsessed with writing (those are just some of my teenage diaries in that picture over there), I always loved finding characters in books who wrote. What did I write as a teen? Lists, letters, zines, diaries, poetry… no obituaries. I edited the school newspaper and the literary magazine. Thanks to the world of zines (a world of mine you can read more about here, as well as my personal connection to Hard Love, my favorite YA book about zines, here), I had pen pals from all around the world and was never short on letters that needed replying to. I still love it when I find characters who focus on writing. I love a good epistolary novel, or getting to peek in a character’s diary.

 

Here are a few picks, both old and new, to get your display started. Summaries via the publisher or WorldCat. Have more titles to add? Leave us a comment or tweet us at @TLT16 or @CiteSomething

 

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira (2014)

When Laurel starts writing letters to dead people for a school assignment, she begins to spill about her sister’s mysterious death, her mother’s departure from the family, her new friends, and her first love.

 

 

Me Being Me is Exactly as Insane as You Being You by Todd Hasak-Lowry (3/24/2015)

Through a series of lists, a narrator reveals how fifteen-year old Darren’s world was rocked by his parents’ divorce just as his brother, Nate, was leaving for college, and a year later when his father comes out as gay, then how he begins to deal with it all after a stolen weekend with Nate and his crush, Zoey.

 

 

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero (2014)

Sixteen-year-old Gabi Hernandez chronicles her senior year in high school as she copes with her friend Cindy’s pregnancy, friend Sebastian’s coming out, her father’s meth habit, her own cravings for food and cute boys, and especially, the poetry that helps forge her identity.

 

 

Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger (1999)

After starting to publish a zine in which he writes his secret feelings about his lonely life and his parents’ divorce, sixteen-year-old John meets an unusual girl and begins to develop a healthier personality.

 

 

Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian (2013)

Sex has always come without consequences for seventeen-year-old Evan. Until he hooks up with the wrong girl and finds himself in the wrong place at very much the wrong time. After an assault that leaves Evan scarred inside and out, he and his father retreat to the family cabin in rural Minnesota—which, ironically, turns out to be the one place where Evan can’t escape other people. Including himself. It may also offer him his best shot at making sense of his life again.

 

 

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and illustrated by Maira Kalman (2011)

Sixteen-year-old Min Green writes a letter to Ed Slaterton in which she breaks up with him, documenting their relationship and how items in the accompanying box, from bottle caps to a cookbook, foretell the end.

 

The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty (2004)

Three female students from Ashbury High write to three male students from rival Brookfield High as part of a pen pal program, leading to romance, humiliation, revenge plots, and war between the schools.

 

 

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend (1982)

From teenage Adrian’s obsession with intellectuality after understanding “nearly every word” of a Malcolm Muggeridge broadcast to his anguished adoration of a lovely, mercurial schoolmate, from his view of his parents’ constantly creaking relationship to his heartfelt but hilarious attempts at cathartic verse, here is an outrageous triumph of deadpan and deadly accurate, satire.

 

 

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (2014)

Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

 

Famous Last Words by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski (2013)

During a summer internship as an obituary writer for her local northern New Jersey newspaper, sixteen-year-old Samantha D’Angelo makes some momentous realizations about politics, ethics, her family, romance, and most importantly–herself.

 

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn (2010)

16-year-old Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on her favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. Dash, in a bad mood during the holidays, happens to be the first guy to pick up the notebook and rise to its challenges.

What follows is a whirlwind romance as Dash and Lily trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations all across New York City. But can their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions, or will their scavenger hunt end in a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

 

If you would like to recommend additional titles on this topic, please leave us a comment. We always look forward to hearing what books others value and recommend.

Evaluating Potential Technology for a Makerspace: Cubelets, Little Bits, MaKey MaKey, Raspberry Pi, Sphero

As part of my research for updating my Makerspace for The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, I went straight to a source that I knew had done a large amount of the work for me already: The Robot Test Kitchen. At RTK, a group of librarians have evaluated a wide variety of technology tools that are typically incorporated into library Makerspaces as part of an iLead project. I highly recommend looking through the side and reading each individual post. However, for my purposes I wanted to create a quick comparison chart to help guide conversation and my own decision making. I used in the information from RTK and put it into a quick reference spreadsheet.

See the entire comparison chart with click through links here

I then got a hold of Heather Booth and asked her to rank the technology choices based on the following criteria: small budget, unlimited budget, small groups, big groups, teen ease of use and fun, and librarian skill. For example, I asked her what technology she would recommend for me, a librarian who didn’t have a high comfort level with coding, programming, etc. She then sent the question out to her colleagues at RTK and here are their thoughts.

Heather Booth:

1. Small budget
MaKey MaKey – it’s fun, expandable, reusable, and encourages creativity

2. Unlimited budget
Giant set of LittleBits – unlimited combinations, great support, encourages creativity

3. Small groups
Sphero – because you need a handheld device for each, smaller is better. Pair up & work together.

4. Big groups
This is hard… the nature of it all is that small groups just seem to work better. Maybe if I had to pick, it would be MaKey MaKey because I can imagine a whole room full of kids each paired up and working on creating cool stuff.

5. Teen interest/fun
I think the Sphero wins hands down here, with a big set of Cubelets a close second, but as I’ve said before the allure of Sphero would last longer than Cubelets with teens.

6. Librarians with low tech skills
MaKey Makey or Sphero.
7. Librarians with decent tech skills or willing to experiment more
Arduino/Raspberry Pi. Then I’d ask them to write about what they did for a guest post on RTK so I could learn from them ;)

 

Michelle Kitty:

I agree on the Little Bits being okay for bigger groups. The same with Makey Makey you can get working in groups on bigger projects.
I’d also put little bits for low tech skills. The way things fit together makes them pretty easy.

 

Sharon Hrycewicz:

I would think little bits, if you have enough of them, would be good for big groups.  The projects are endless.

Have you or are you using any of these technologies? Share your thoughts in the comments. Using a different type of tech not discussed here? Let us know what it is and what you think of it in the comments. I’m interesting in hearing what other people think.

 

Here’s some additional information about Raspberry Pis

Here’s some additional information about Little Bits in SLJ

Serving Full T.I.L.T. : Empathy, remembering what it’s like to be a teen and how it helps us be better teen services librarians

Image from http://imgkid.com/the-breakfast-club-quotes-brian.shtml

In the summer before I began my Junior year of high school my family moved. Again. That’s what happens when you are a military family. But even though you know it’s going to happen, it doesn’t make it suck any less. A few weeks into the new semester at a new school I received a devastating phone call. My best friend in the universe had been in a car accident. That morning my mother woke up and drove me the 3 hours to visit her in the hospital. One week later, the phone rang again early in the morning and I knew. With the shrill trilling ring of that phone I knew: my best friend had died.

A few days later I sat outside a pizza place as our friends inside laughed and joked and told stories about Teri. But I didn’t understand how they could do that, how they could eat, how they could laugh, how they weren’t dying inside. This wasn’t my first experience with death, that had come earlier when a friend of my father’s took his own life. It was just my first experience with death in a way that was so immediate and personal. I had already lost so much, moving and starting over, and now this person was gone. This person that I had made batches and batches of rice krispie treats with (it was our favorite). This person I had obsessed over Duran Duran with. This person that had shared my first concert experience with (yes, it was Duran Duran). This person that had helped me navigate my first dates, my first boyfriend, my first everything.

Years later, as a teen librarian, I would be in a room full of teens many times when they had just learned of the death of a classmate or friend. The boy who was in a car accident drag racing on a Saturday night. The girl with childhood cancer. The boy who took his own life. And as those teens sat in the room with me, crying and remembering their friend, I am always taken back to this moment, this memory of Teri. And because I could remember, I could empathize. I felt their pain so genuinely because I know visceral how this pain feels.

Image from http://www.hercampus.com/school/fairfield/8-times-breakfast-club-influenced-our-lives

The thing I have often found about the staff who complain about teens in the library is that they have forgotten what it is like to be a teen. I understand wanting to forget, being a teen sucked in epic ways. That constant struggle between wanting independence and the adults around you fighting for control. The expectations. The stress. The way the adults around you want you to be act like an adult but still treat you like a kid. Then there are friends and boyfriends and the high school hierarchy. Your body often feels like it is betraying you, causing you to rage with anger in one moment when in the next you are reduced to a puddle of insecurity and sometimes tears. The zits that pop up on your face that make you want to wear a paper bag. The anticipation of when you like a new person at school, the heartache when you learn that they don’t feel the same way. That first kiss. That moment when you realize it’s all over.

Image from http://www.hercampus.com/school/fairfield/8-times-breakfast-club-influenced-our-lives

One of my favorite staff training exercises is to invite my co-workers to try and remember what it was like when they were teens. What was your favorite song or tv show or movie, I’ll ask. What did they mean to you? What were your fears? What were your favorite moments? Biggest embarrassments? You don’t even have to ask them to share it out loud, that’s not the point. The point is to remember. And when you remember, when you put yourself back in the shoes of your teenage self, you can better understand and empathize with teenagers today.

Serving Full T.I.L.T. (Teens in Libraries Today) series:

January 14 By the Numbers, making the case for teen services using basic demographic information (Karen Jensen)

January 21 Sarcasm, Spice and Everything Awesome: The Developing Teen (Rebecca Denham)

January 28 Teen Brain Science 101 (Heather Booth)

February 4 Asset Building 101, How using the 40 Developmental Assets can help us plan and evaluate teen programming (Karen Jensen)

February 11 Diverse teens, diverse needs (Eden Grey)

February 18 Sharing stories, how knowing and sharing the stories of our teens can help make the case (Heather Booth)

February 25 Empathy, remembering what it means to be a teen and how it makes us better teen services librarians (Karen Jensen)

March 4 A Teen Services 101 Infographic (Rebecca Denham and Karen Jensen)

March 11 Talking Up Teens: Discussing Teen Services with Library Administration (Eden Grey)

An updated pop up mobile makerspace, what I know now and how I’m adding more technology

I recently began working at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County in Ohio and one of the things we are trying to do is really address programming, particularly including more technology into our programming with a limited budget and a tight space. I really like the basic framework of the Mobile Makerspace I had put together and used in my previous library location, but I now know some things I would do differently and have the opportunity to make some slight modifications. Today I am sharing some of my thoughts with you regarding the basic framework of my Makerspace. In the coming weeks I will be sharing some of my research and thoughts about purchasing some additional technology.

Things I considered when putting my newest proposal together:

Current space issues at the library, not only programming space but storage space. Like many libraries, PLMVKC was not built with the idea of having a Makerspace in mind. And storage is maxed out. So floor space and storage space are an important consideration for me, as it is for a lot of libraries.

The need to create regular, predictable programming with little to no preparation time. Regular programming seems to work best, but with more programming comes less program research and preparation time. So I’m looking to have a strong basis for programming that doesn’t require constant research, purchasing, and prep time.

Creating a programming outlet for tweens and teens that could easily be filled by other staff members in the event of a personal emergency. A lot of traditional library programming can be staff dependent, which can become problematic in the event of a sick day or personal emergency. I want to have some strong foundations in place so that other staff members can step in and sub in a pinch.

Including more technology for STEM/STEAM programming. This is a good goal and I like to do it in creative ways, like using apps and software to make memes, photos, GIFs, stop motion movies and more. In addition, I would like to have some tools available to get into coding and programming as well as some basic robotics. Many of these latter things are well over my head, but Heather Booth is a champion of the idea that you can get a group of teens together and learn together, which is definitely better than avoiding because you don’t know how to start.

Creating a base for programming that has built in versatility, room to add or incorporate additional technology components as they become available. Also, I need to create a Makerspace in stages since we don’t have the funding for a huge, up front purchase. I’m starting with a base proposal and have 3 additional proposals written to add more technology components as we progress.

Previous programming success, knowing what worked well and what I would like to change drives some of my new planning. At Betty Warmack Branch Library I tried to put together a Raspberry Pi Makerspace as part 2 of my proposal. Christie Gibrich successfully implemented this at her branch location, but I did not in part because I didn’t have the programming and coding skills necessary to really get it off the ground. In addition, because of budget issues, we tried to cut some corners that we probably shouldn’t have and we didn’t have a good interface for the Raspberry Pi’s. Heather Booth has done some good Raspberry Pi programming using her library’s meeting room overhead projector. This means teens have to work in groups, but it is a good work around if you have more limited funds and can’t afford a 1:1 tech scenario for your teens.

Background

In order to meet a variety of these goals, I still want to keep my Makerspace primarily Lego based. There are so many elements you can add over time and yet the Lego components themselves can be quick and fun in a pinch. For example, you can use a Raspberry Pi to make a remote control Lego car. At the same time, on a day when you notice a lot of bored tweens/teens in the library you can roll out a cart of Lego with no planning or prep what so ever and get creative juices flowing with easy builds and challenges.

Some basic background information: Research has shown that the thriving cities are those that engage in and have space to participate in the arts (see Fostering Creative Cities commissioned by The Wallace Foundation and “Rise of the Creative Class” by Richard Florida).  This is why many libraries are creating Makerspaces: “Kids gather to make Lego robots; teens create digital music, movies, and games with computers and mixers; and students engineer new projects while adults create prototypes for small business products with laser cutters and 3D printers. Many libraries across the US have developed makerspaces—places to create, build, and craft—and they are experiencing increased visits and demand as a result. For public libraries, they are places to promote community engagement. For academic libraries, they are places where students and faculty feel welcome to do classwork and research.” (from American Library Association http://www.americanlibrariesmagazine.org/article/manufacturing-makerspaces)

In addition, research shows that there are many personal benefits for those that build with blocks, like LEGOS.  The benefits include the development of: Motor skills and hand-eye coordination; Spatial skills; A capacity for creative, divergent thinking; Social skills; Language skills; Practice science and math skills

For complete information, visit http://www.parentingscience.com/toy-blocks.html

And we know that when our kids succeed, our communities thrive and benefit.

Goals

The basic goals of my updated Makerspace remain the same, the difference is that this time I am trying to incorporate more technology. There are various ways that this can be done, some which can/will incorporate the Legos and some which will not. Some discussions of additional technology will be coming soon.

Materials and Cost

The basics of the new Makerspace would still incorporate the Legos, with the hope that we would additionally add some ways to incorporate more technology with the Legos. For example, we can use iPads and a variety of apps to do things like create art and stop animation films. Eventually, my goal is to add even more tech like Raspberry Pis or Mindstorms to do some Lego based robotics and programming.

Legos:

Initially, I focused on purchasing large bulk loads of Legos to get a high number of bricks. What I learned was that this meant we had a large number of standard sized blocks. This time I am adjusting the order to include some sets that would include more unique Lego pieces. Less traditional block pieces help increase the variety and creativity of the projects you can create. For the best builds, you need a large number of bricks AND a variety of unique pieces.

Duct Tape and Other Craft Items

In my initial Makerspace, I included a large Duct Tape component. I would still include some Duct Tape, as well as a variety of other craft supplies including Rainbow Looms and other miscellaneous things. It’s nice sometimes to have a new, impromptu activity to change up your routine. Sometimes my teens would come in and ask to do something that would surprise me. Have a planned activity, but be open to letting teens dictate the ebb and flow of your programming. Have these types of activities also helps if you have to have a staff member sub for you. Have some basic books as part of your professional collection as well so they can be pulled into the program to give tweens/teens ideas. Have copies of the books in your circulating collection so that they can check them out, but definitely have some non-circulating copies so they are always on hand when you need them.

Other Elements You Can Incorporate:

Bristle Bot Kits (http://www.makershed.com/products/brushbot-party-pack) (Makes 12 for $34.99) : You can add the bristle bot motor components to small Lego builds, like cars or robots, to get your pieces moving in the most rudimentary fashion. Part of the challenge is allowing teens the ability to test what sizes and shapes work best.

Snapcircuits Electronics Kit (http://www.amazon.com/Elenco-Snap-Circuits-SC-300-Physics/dp/B00CIXVIRQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1421259870&sr=1-1&keywords=snapcircuits) ($64.99) : These are simple kits that have up to 300 different things you can build. Great to have on hand to pull out as part of a stations based activity or on a snowy day when you don’t have a program planned.

In addition to some basic kits that you can have on hand, there are a variety of other tech elements you can purchase and include in a Makerspace. Later this week, I will share a comparison chart culled from the information at The Robot Test Kitchen regarding a variety of technology tools you can include. In addition, several of the people from Robot Test Kitchen will share their thoughts. Some of the elements we will be discussing include:

Makey Makey Standard Kit (http://www.makershed.com/products/makey-makey-standard-kit) (49.99)

Sphero Robot Kit (http://store.gosphero.com/collections/education) ($799.99)

Cubelets 6 Robotics Kit (http://www.amazon.com/Modular-Robotics-cb-kt-six-Cubelets-Six/dp/B00PAD96TS/ref=sr_1_2?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1421260697&sr=1-2&keywords=cubelets) ($149.99)

What’s new in LGBTQIA+ this (late) winter

Every other month I’ll be doing a roundup of new and forthcoming YA books (and sometimes some non-YA books) featuring LGBTQIA+ characters. I’ll try to include as many titles as possible. Know of a title I missed in this list? Or know of a forthcoming title that should be on my radar for an upcoming list? Leave a comment or tweet me @CiteSomething. This list covers February 2015 and March 2015 titles. All annotations here are via WorldCat or the publishers. My previous post, from December, can be found here.

 

February 2015

Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton (ATOM, February 5, ISBN 9780349002064):

Megan doesn’t speak. She hasn’t spoken in months. Pushing away the people she cares about is just a small price to pay. Because there are things locked inside Megan’s head – things that are screaming to be heard – that she cannot, must not, let out. Then Jasmine starts at school: bubbly, beautiful, talkative Jasmine. And for reasons Megan can’t quite understand, life starts to look a bit brighter. Megan would love to speak again, and it seems like Jasmine might be the answer. But if she finds her voice, will she lose everything else?

 

Promposal by Rhonda Helms (Simon Pulse, February 10, ISBN 9781481422321):

Prom should be one of the most memorable nights of your life. But for Camilla and Joshua, some elaborate promposals are getting in the way. Will they be able to land their dream dates in time for the dance?

Promposal (n.)—an often very public proposal, in which one person asks another person to the prom, eliciting joy or mortification.

Camilla can’t help hoping her secret crush, Benjamin, might randomly surprise her out of the blue with a promposal. But when she’s asked to prom by an irritating casual acquaintance—who’s wearing a fancy tux and standing in front of a news crew—she’s forced to say yes. However, all hope is not lost, as a timely school project gives Camilla a chance to get closer to Benjamin…and it seems like the chemistry between them is crackling. Is she reading into something that isn’t there, or will she get her dream guy just in time for prom?

Joshua has been secretly in love with his best friend Ethan since middle school. Just as he decides to bite the bullet and ask Ethan if he’d go to prom with him, even if just as friends, he gets a shocking surprise: Ethan asks Joshua for help crafting the perfect promposal—for another guy. Now Joshua has to suppress his love and try to fake enthusiasm as he watches his dreams fall apart…unless he can make Ethan see that love has been right in front of his eyes the whole time.

The road to the perfect promposal isn’t easy to navigate. But one thing’s certain—prom season is going to be memorable. (SEE MY REVIEW HERE)

 

Dark Rites by Jeremy Jordan King (Bold Strokes Books, February 17, ISBN 9781626392458):

The actors in the 1922 production of Weinstein’s Wonderacts have a secret: they aren’t just performers, they’re members of a Circle, a coven dedicated to enlightenment through magic. To enhance their power, they have their eye on the new girl in the cast, Margarite, a natural witch. But the coven’s leader, Vincent, isn’t satisfied. He’s hungry for more, to become a Complete Man. He turns to a mysterious wanderer for counsel, but could the teacher’s intentions and rituals be malevolent? Being the only one with true gifts, it’s up to Margarite to save her friends from enacting these dark rites.

 

 

March 2015

Top 250 LGBT Books for Teens: Coming Out, Being Out, and the Search for Community by Michael Cart and Christine A. Jenkins (Huron Street Press, March 2, ISBN 9781937589561):

Identifying titles that address the sensitive and important topics of coming out, being out, and the search for community, this catalog spotlights the best gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, and questioning books written for teens. The authors cover fiction of all kinds, as well as graphic novels and general nonfiction aimed at readers in middle school and high school, and include recent publications as well as classics that continue to be read and enjoyed by 21st-century teens. Information on how to find library programs, services, and additional resources for LGBTQ teens is also provided, making this a one-stop sourcebook for LGBTQ teens, their families, friends, and classmates, as well as teachers and librarians.

 

Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz (Simon Pulse, March 3, ISBN 9781481405966):

From the award-winning author of Break and Teeth comes a raw and honest exploration of complicated identities in a novel about a girl living on the fringe of every fringe group in her small town.

Etta is tired of dealing with all of the labels and categories that seem so important to everyone else in her small Nebraska hometown.

Everywhere she turns, someone feels she’s too fringe for the fringe. Not gay enough for the Dykes, her ex-clique, thanks to a recent relationship with a boy; not tiny and white enough for ballet, her first passion; not sick enough to look anorexic (partially thanks to recovery). Etta doesn’t fit anywhere—until she meets Bianca, the straight, white, Christian, and seriously sick girl in Etta’s therapy group. Both girls are auditioning for Brentwood, a prestigious New York theater academy that is so not Nebraska. Bianca might be Etta’s salvation…but can Etta be saved by a girl who needs saving herself? (SEE MY REVIEW OF THIS TITLE HERE.)

 

Honey Girl by Lisa Freeman (Sky Pony Press, March 3, ISBN 9781632204257):

How to survive California’s hottest surf spot: Never go anywhere without a bathing suit. Never cut your hair. Never let them see you panic.

The year is 1972. Fifteen-year-old Haunani “Nani” Grace Nuuhiwa is transplanted from her home in Hawaii to Santa Monica, California after her father’s fatal heart attack. Now the proverbial fish-out-of-water, Nani struggles to adjust to her new life with her alcoholic white (haole) mother and the lineup of mean girls who rule State Beach.

Following “The Rules”—an unspoken list of dos and don’ts—Nani makes contact with Rox, the leader of the lineup. Through a harrowing series of initiations, Nani not only gets accepted into the lineup, she gains the attention of surf god, Nigel McBride. But maintaining stardom is harder than achieving it. Nani is keeping several secrets that, if revealed, could ruin everything she’s worked so hard to achieve. Secret #1: She’s stolen her dad’s ashes and hidden them from her mom. Secret #2: In order to get in with Rox and her crew, she spied on them and now knows far more than they could ever let her get away with. And most deadly of all, Secret #3: She likes girls, and may very well be in love with Rox.

 

Read Between the Lines by Jo Knowles(Candlewick Press, March 10, ISBN 9780763663872):

Does anyone ever see us for who we really are? Jo Knowles’s revelatory novel of interlocking stories peers behind the scrim as it follows nine teens and one teacher through a seemingly ordinary day.

Thanks to a bully in gym class, unpopular Nate suffers a broken finger—the middle one, splinted to flip off the world. It won’t be the last time a middle finger is raised on this day. Dreamer Claire envisions herself sitting in an artsy café, filling a journal, but fate has other plans. One cheerleader dates a closeted basketball star; another questions just how, as a “big girl,” she fits in. A group of boys scam drivers for beer money without remorse—or so it seems. Over the course of a single day, these voices and others speak loud and clear about the complex dance that is life in a small town. They resonate in a gritty and unflinching portrayal of a day like any other, with ordinary traumas, heartbreak, and revenge. But on any given day, the line where presentation and perception meet is a tenuous one, so hard to discern. Unless, of course, one looks a little closer—and reads between the lines.

 

Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story by David Levithan (Penguin Young Readers Group, March 17, ISBN 9780525428848):

Especially for those of us who ordinarily feel ignored, a spotlight is a circle of magic, with the strength to draw us from the darkness of our everyday lives.

Watch out, ex-boyfriends, and get out of the way, homophobic coaches. Tiny Cooper has something to say—and he’s going to say it in song.
Filled with honesty, humor, and “big, lively, belty” musical numbers, Hold Me Closer is the no-holds-barred (and many-bars-held) entirety of the beloved musical first introduced in Will Grayson, Will Grayson, the award-winning bestseller by John Green and David Levithan.

Tiny Cooper is finally taking center stage . . . and the world will never be the same again.

 

Fifty Yards and Holding by David-Matthew Barnes (Bold Strokes Books, March 17, ISBN 9781626390812):

Victor Alvarez is in serious trouble. Now seventeen and flunking out of high school, he’s been chosen as the leader of the violent street gang he’s been a member of since he was thirteen. Riley Brewer has just broken a state record as the star of their high school baseball team. When Riley and Victor meet by chance, a connection begins to grow. When friendship turns to love, both young men realize their reputations contradict who they really are. Once their secret relationship is discovered, Victor realizes their lives are at risk. Refusing to hide in order to survive, Riley vows that only death can keep him apart from Victor.

 

 

Me Being Me is Exactly as Insane as You Being You by David-Matthew Barnes (Simon Pulse, March 24, ISBN 9781442495739):

A heartfelt, humorous story of a teen boy’s impulsive road trip after the shock of his lifetime—told entirely in lists!

Darren hasn’t had an easy year.

There was his parents’ divorce, which just so happened to come at the same time his older brother Nate left for college and his longtime best friend moved away. And of course there’s the whole not having a girlfriend thing.

Then one Thursday morning Darren’s dad shows up at his house at 6 a.m. with a glazed chocolate doughnut and a revelation that turns Darren’s world inside out. In full freakout mode, Darren, in a totally un-Darren move, ditches school to go visit Nate. Barely twenty-four hours at Nate’s school makes everything much better or much worse—Darren has no idea. It might somehow be both. All he knows for sure is that in addition to trying to figure out why none of his family members are who they used to be, he’s now obsessed with a strangely amazing girl who showed up out of nowhere but then totally disappeared.

Told entirely in lists, Todd Hasak-Lowy’s debut YA novel perfectly captures why having anything to do with anyone, including yourself, is:

1. painful
2. unavoidable
3. ridiculously complicated
4. possibly, hopefully the right thing after all.

 

Half Wild by Sally Green (Penguin Young Readers Group, March 24, ISBN 9780670017133):

Half Bad Trilogy series book 2. 

“You will have a powerful Gift, but it’s how you use it that will show you to be good or bad.”

In a modern-day England where two warring factions of witches live amongst humans, seventeen-year-old Nathan is an abomination, the illegitimate son of the world’s most powerful and violent witch. Nathan is hunted from all sides: nowhere is safe and no one can be trusted. Now, Nathan has come into his own unique magical Gift, and he’s on the run—but the Hunters are close behind, and they will stop at nothing until they have captured Nathan and destroyed his father.

 

Playing a Part by Daria Wilke, Marian Schwartz (Scholastic, Inc. March 31, ISBN 9780545726078):

The first young adult novel translated from Russian, a brave coming-out, coming-of-age story.

In June 2013, the Russian government passed laws prohibiting “gay propaganda,” threatening jail time and fines to offenders. That same month, in spite of these harsh laws, a Russian publisher released PLAYING A PART, a young adult novel with openly gay characters. It was a brave, bold act, and now this groundbreaking story has been translated for American readers.

In PLAYING A PART, Grisha adores everything about the Moscow puppet theater where his parents work, and spends as much time there as he can. But life outside the theater is not so wonderful. The boys in Grisha’s class bully him mercilessly, and his own grandfather says hateful things about how he’s not “masculine” enough. Life goes from bad to worse when Grisha learns that Sam, his favorite actor and mentor, is moving: He’s leaving the country to escape the extreme homophobia he faces in Russia.

How Grisha overcomes these trials and writes himself a new role in his own story is heartfelt, courageous, and hopeful.