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Review from this month’s School Library Journal: The Girl with the Wrong Name by Barnabas Miller

When I’m reviewing books for professional publications, I stay quiet about them on social media. I’m always really excited once a review comes out to be able to talk about the book, finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews, which originally appeared in the October 2015 issue of School Library Journal.

the girl with the wrong nameGr 9 Up—A search for answers only leads to more questions in this suspenseful mind-bending thriller. Theo Lane does not remember what happened to her on the night of June 17; she just knows she woke up bruised and with a giant facial gash. She’s repressed any memories of the trauma and, according to her friends, is not acting like her usual self. She avoids her friends and instead focuses on making secret documentaries. Her new subject, unbeknownst to him, is a young man named Andy, who is looking for a girl with whom he spent an amazing night. Theo throws herself into helping him solve his mystery. Before long, both are wondering what they might be forgetting as they run around New York City on a dizzying journey through clues that lead them to night clubs, weddings, a women’s shelter, and, most unexpectedly, Theo and Andy’s shared past. A major discovery near the end reveals truth far more twisted than Theo—or readers—could have predicted. Miller takes readers further and further down the rabbit hole, making it hard to guess if anything—or anyone—is ever as it seems. Some of the plot points push the boundaries of believability, but they all serve to keep readers guessing and racing along with Theo toward the shocking truth. Captivating characters and solid writing help maintain the frantic pace and the bewildering mystery.

VERDICT A riveting thriller for fans of unreliable narrators.Amanda MacGregor, Great River Regional Library, St. Cloud, MN


ISBN-13 :9781616951948

Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated

Publication date: 11/03/2015

Book Review: Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt

orbiting jupiterPublisher’s description:

The two-time Newbery Honor winner Gary D. Schmidt delivers the shattering story of Joseph, a father at thirteen, who has never seen his daughter, Jupiter. After spending time in a juvenile facility, he’s placed with a foster family on a farm in rural Maine. Here Joseph, damaged and withdrawn, meets twelve-year-old Jack, who narrates the account of the troubled, passionate teen who wants to find his baby at any cost. In this riveting novel, two boys discover the true meaning of family and the sacrifices it requires.



Amanda’s thoughts: 

Here’s your takeaway from what I’m going to write: Get this book. Get ready to cry. 


I was just telling the teens in my book club at the library that I had been having such a reading slump last month. I started and cast aside so many things. Then I’ve hit this great patch for the past few weeks where I’m reading so many phenomenal books that my top ten books of the year list is swelling to way more than that. Orbiting Jupiter is one of those books where I am so blown away by it that I just want to carry around a stack of copies to hand out to anyone I talk to—whether at the library or just in the world. The small summary up there exactly sums up the plot, but also does nothing to convey the real strength and depth of this devastating story. I’m not going to do much to fill all of that in, honestly. This is a book where the less you know, the more powerful the story is. I don’t want to give away too much. 


Here’s what you can know about Joseph: Joseph, the son of a plumber, is secretly seeing Madeleine, a well-to-do girl whose parents are often gone. When their relationship is discovered, her parents issue an injunction against Joseph to keep him away from Madeleine. She winds up pregnant. He winds up in a group home, then a high-security juvenile facility, then, eventually, with Jack’s family. Joseph is just about one of the most broken, scarred characters I have read in a long time. He’s gone through horrible things in his young life, both at home and in the facility, and now lives his life always on the defensive.


Jack’s family does their best to show him kindness, support, and love. He slowly starts to come out of his shell, eventually filling them in on their events prior to him landing at their house. A few teachers at school see beyond the label of troubled teen father and go out of their way to encourage him and help him. Jack tells him he has his back, no matter what. All the while, things with Joseph’s father are brewing in the background. And Joseph is always thinking of his daughter, Jupiter, and desperately wishing he could see her. His new life may be starting to look like it might be okay, but his old life is nipping at his heels, constantly pulling him backwards.


Schmidt’s spare writing is beautiful and the voice of Jack, our young narrator, is moving, compassionate, and, at times, appropriately naive. It’s an understatement to say I cried while reading this. It’s an understatement to say that Joseph’s story will stay with me. Schmidt has crafted a heartbreaking story about the redemptive power of love and second chances. No one ever said life was fair, but readers will walk away stunned at the cruel hand some people are dealt. 


Review copy provided courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780544462229

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Publication date: 10/06/2015

Middle School Monday – What I Learned and Who I Saw at NerdCon Stories

MSMI spent the last weekend of my fall break in Minneapolis at the first ever NerdCon Stories conference. I’m exhausted, but I’m really glad I went. The conference was produced by Hank Green and his fabulous team who also produce VidCon, and things ran very smoothly. Hank started the conference by telling us that he didn’t know exactly what it was going to be – that he was waiting to see what we wanted it to be, which was refreshing. There were a number of brief (approximately 7 minutes) talks on “Why Stories Matter.” All of them were completely different, and all of them were brilliant.

To be honest, my favorite events will not surprise anyone who knows me – they were the ones involving Maureen Johnson. First, she moderated the Nerdfighter Q & A – with John and Hank. Second, she was on the ‘Is this a Kissing Book’ panel with Stephanie Perkins, et al. It was wonderful to see her in good health and at her normal amount of quirkiness. I was also able to observe her signing line from afar, as she graciously greeted each fan and interacted with them individually.

The Mainstage events were a conglomeration of musical performances, the aforementioned talks, puppet shows, gaming demonstrations, and talk-show style events. Some of them were more interesting than others. One noticeable event asked participants about their usual bed times and provided illumination as to why certain special guests were spectacularly incoherent during panels.

I think one of my favorite aspects of the conference was the openness and friendliness of the participants. I met a number of young people who were wither librarians or educators, or aspiring writers who were fascinating to speak with. They gave me hope for the future of the publishing industry.

CQ-Dz4IXAAEDPa4-2Finally, the con had wonderful signing lines that were seated! I got to meet Paolo Bacigalupi and tell him how amazing I found Zombie Baseball Beatdown. To my great delight, he’s considering a sequel. I met Holly Black, who was a life achievement accomplished. She loves the Curseworkers books as much as I and my students, and is looking for a way back into that universe. And lastly, I was able to meet the infinitely charming M.T. Anderson, who greatly appreciated the enthusiasm of the young man in front of me in line – who had no experience with his books, but was charmed by his involvement in the ‘guacanati.’

It was generally an exceptional experience, which I highly recommend to those considering it for next year.

Star Wars Reads Day 2015 at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County


The Children’s Librarian and I do a little cosplay for our event.

Saturday October 10th was Star Wars Reads Day – one of my favorite holidays of the year! Why? Well for one, I got to dress up like Princess Leia. Of all the princesses I think she is my favorite because she saved Han Solo and Luke Skywalker just as much as they saved her. Never forget that one of her best quotes ever is this: Someone has to save our skins! She then proceeds to do exactly that.

Star Wars Reads Day is also one of my favorite days because it’s really easy to program for. We had a fantastic day at The Public Library of Mt. Vernon and Knox County with a variety of activities for our tweens and teens, many of which we found of course on the high holy programming deity: Pinterest.

We made light sabers out of pool noodles and duct tape. This turned out to be very easy and very popular.


A staff member painted a white trash can to look like R2D2 and we did a bean bag toss. It should be noted that the staff member in question is not me, I could not do this. Look at how fabulous this looks!


We of course made Fortune Cookie Wookiees because how could you not!


Because we have a large number of Legos available for our programming, I put together a variety of Lego challenges for our tweens and teens to do. They were supposed to do various activities in 5 minute challenges, but in the end it turned out they really just wanted to build and play so that’s what I let them do. I have learned over the years that it is important to listen to your audience and be adaptable. Even though they did a free build, many of the participants still ended up building space ships and incorporating Star Wars Lego Minifigures that we bought for our event.




I also created a station that involved using my new favorite thing: The Button Maker! We wanted to do Star Wars Thumb Print Doodles (there is a Klutz book), but I thought we would take it a step further and make buttons out of the doodles. This too proved to be a very popular activity.



I also downloaded some free Star Wars silhouettes from and combined it with my second new love, the Fused app, to create these cool Star Wars buttons.


The librarians were not the only ones to cosplay, we had several of our kids come in costume or bring fun props.



To be honest, the highlight of the day for the kids was probably when this young lady below walked in and I proclaimed, “Oh my gosh you have great buns!” I totally should have known better after working with tweens and teens for so many years, but I had some genuine bun envy because I don’t have enough hair to do legit Princess Leia buns. Needless to say, there was a lot of snickering.


And because it was Star Wars READS Day, we made sure and had plenty of new Star Wars books on hand for our tweens and teens to check out, and R2D2 was there to lead the way.


It was a great Star Wars Reads Day. Until net year, remember: Read More, You Must!

Sunday Reflections: That Time I Sat and Soaked in the Glorious Words of Roxane Gay

badfeministI don’t know how I became aware of Roxane Gay, but it probably has something to do with working on the #SVYALit Project and Christa Desir and Carrie Mesrobian. A lot of my life has been learned and changed by working with Christa Desir and Carrie Mesrobian on the #SVYALit Project to be completely honest. But somewhere along the line, I began following Roxane Gay, author of the book Bad Feminist.

This week I am staying in Ohio to work my library job, and yes my life is weird. But this week was also OLC, the Ohio Library Conference. And my direct supervisor is also an OLC committee member and so when she said I want you to go to OLC on Thursday I said yes, because that’s what you do when your boss wants you to do something. It turns out that Thursday was also the day that Roxane Gay was speaking, so I chalk the day up as a win.

In fact I also got to talk to authors Adam Silvera (More Happy Than Not) and Jasmine Warga (My Heart and Other Black Holes), which made the day even more of a win.

But listening to Roxane Gay, it was like sitting in a room full of thoughtful and reflective truthbomb after truthbomb. As she spoke, I couldn’t stop Livetweeting what she was saying. I thought that she came across as kind, gracious, humble, yet empowered and confident and challenging. She also read three or four of her essays and they were funny, insightful and sometimes charming. At the end of the day I stood in line to have a copy of the book signed and I couldn’t decide who to have it signed for: Myself, The Teen, Thing 2 . . . so in the end I asked her to sign it to all three of us and proclaimed, “maybe it will be our family heirloom” to which she replied, “well there’s no pressure there for an author.” We then went on to talk about what her favorite Channing Tatum movie is . . .

For me one of the main takeaways from everything that Roxane Gay was saying is that I didn’t have to be a perfect feminist – none of us are – but that you just have to keep trying. Recognize that each of us – you, me, the people you pass along the street – are not any one thing. I am not just a woman. I am not just a librarian, a mother, a wife – I am all of the these things and more. And my experience of events – even the same types of life events – are different than yours and that’s okay. There is no one universal experience, there is no right way to respond. And she demonstrated time and time again in her words that feminism is caring about all people, all of them, not just women.

And “She’s The Man” is probably the best Channing Tatum movie, in case you were wondering.


Live Tweeting Roxane Gay at #OLC15//

Live Tweeting Roxane Gay at #OLC15

  1. I am listening to @rgay read from BAD FEMINIST!!!! Right now!!!
  2. “The acknowledgement of my privilege doesn’t erase the way I am marginalized” – @rgay
  3. “I hate knowing history, it ruins things” – @rgay
  4. “I’m a bad feminist because I’m inconsistent and I objectify Channing Tatum” – @rgay
  5. “I don’t want to be treated like shit just because I’m a woman” – @rgay
  6. Feminism must be inclusive. We have more than one identity – @rgay
  7. People of all ages are afraid to claim feminism because it labels you as a man hater and outside the main. It’s the stigma. @rgay
  8. “People have to change, feminism doesn’t. The label is fine.” – @rgay
  9. “Privilege isn’t an accusation, it’s a statement of fact. So much of it is inherited. You don’t have to apologize, just consider it.” @rgay
  10. @rgay next book is called Hunger and it is about trauma and the body, what is it like to be obese . . .
  11. All privilege means is that you acknowledge what you have and what it costs others. – @rgay
  12. On trigger warnings: it’s too hard to anticipate what will trigger someone. We should be making students uncomfortable. @rgay
  13. Bk recs: Age of Innocence, Laura Ingalls Wilder, James Baldwin, Possessing the Secret of Joy, Zadie Smith, Michael Chabon – @rgay
  14. “There was no care in how she wrote about others” – @rgay on The Help
  15. “I think you can write about others and their differences, you just have to take care in it” – @rgay
  16. “Sometimes people just need you to bear witness and acknowledge that bad things happen” – @rgay
  17. “You don’t have to open yourself to atrocity every moment of every day, but be aware of the state of the world” – @rgay
  18. “We have more in common than we have differences” – @rgay
  19. @iSmashFizzle@rgay just said you were a smart, upcoming feminist who was going to do amazing things at this conference I am at!!!!
  20. You guys @rgay was so good and if you ever get a chance to listen to her you should go


Friday Finds – October 9, 2015

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: The Weight and Meaning of Words, thinking about the casual ways in which we use words associated with mental health issues

App Review & Blended Pic Tutorial: Fused (with an assist from the Silhouette app)

Middle School Monday – Middle School goes through Grade 8

Everyone’s Worst is Their Worst: A guest post by S.A. Bodeen

Book Review: Detour by S. A. Bodeen

Video Games Weekly: Super Mario Maker

Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

Book Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Around the Web

LGBTQIA+ YA Masterlist from GAYYA

From BuzzFeed – Kids With Parents In Prison Often Deal With Untreated Trauma

This week in authors being smart on the internet…A.S. King: A Letter to Teachers: Stop telling teens that you don’t like them!

Understanding Dyslexia and the Reading Brain in Kids


We have a long way to go.

Book Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

nessPublisher’s description:

A new YA novel from novelist Patrick Ness, author of the Carnegie Medal- and Kate Greenaway Medal-winning A Monster Calls and the critically acclaimed Chaos Walking trilogy, The Rest of Us Just Live Here is a bold and irreverent novel that powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable.

What if you aren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.


Amanda’s thoughts:

2015 has really delivered some fantastic books. Add this one to my favorites list. I’m pretty much in love with this book, but I’ll try to not just gush on and on. TRY.


Here’s how this book is structured: Each chapter begins with a little summary, so we get:

Chapter the first, in which the Messenger of the Immortals arrives in a surprising shape, looking for a permanent Vessel; and after being chased by her through the woods, indie kid Finn meets his final fate.


But then the chapter goes on to talk about other stuff entirely–the things that are going on with the people who just live in the town, not the the kids referenced in the chapter setup. Tiny little bits from that storyline that carries through in the chapter descriptions show up in the main story, but from the view of Mikey and friends, who are mostly just witnessing whatever this Immortals business is from afar. It’s a brilliant setup.


It’s a month prior to graduation and Mel, Mikey, Henna, and Jared are spending their last few weeks all together before their post-high school lives split them up. Outside of the constant background threat of possible undead masses coming to destroy the town, the kids lead pretty normal lives. Mike is full of anxiety about his friends, his future, and his family. He suffers from OCD and can’t stop getting stuck in repetitive loops. Mel, who’s one year older than her brother Mike, is making up for the year of school she lost while battling anorexia. Henna, the object of Mike’s affection, is not super excited to be heading to a war-torn African country for the summer. And Jared? Well, he’s a little less normal. He’s three-quarters Jewish and one-quarter God. His mother was a half-Goddess. So what exactly is Jared a god of? Cats. Mikey starts to stress out more when Nathan moves to town five weeks before graduation. Henna seems interested in him, much to Mikey’s dismay, and he can’t help but think it’s super suspicious that Nathan’s arrival happens to coincide with a resurgence of supernatural activity.


There is a lot to love about this book. The structure is intriguing, the writing is smart and funny, and the characters are incredibly interesting and well-developed. I love how they interact with each other and care for each other. At one point, Mike’s OCD has made him wash his face until it’s raw. Jared dabs some moisturizer on it for him. In Mike’s narration, he says, “Yeah, I know most people would think it weird that two guy friends touch as much as we do, but when you choose your family, you get to choose how it is between you, too. This is how we work. I hope you get to choose your family and I hope it means as much to you as mine does to me.” These friends care deeply for one another (and explore just what exactly might be found in the depth of those feelings, with Mike noting very matter-of-factly that he and Jared have hooked up in the past–“And fine, he and I have messed around a few times growing up together, even though I like girls, even though I like Henna, because a horny teenage boy would do it with a tree trunk if it offered at the right moment….”). Their stories dovetail at times with the story of the indie kids waging war against a potential apocalypse (those poor indie kids, always battling the undead, ghosts, and vampires. At one point, Mike notes there are two more indie kids dead. Henna says, “This is worse than when they were all dying beautifully of cancer.” GOD I LOVE THIS BOOK), but they prove that daily teenage life is just as fraught and dramatic as the lives of The Chosen Ones.


Here’s what I want to talk about for the rest of the review: Mental health, therapy, and medication. Friends, I was cheering out loud while reading this. The characters have many frank discussions about these topics and I FINALLY felt like someone really did a great job showing the good that therapy and medication can do. An ongoing conversation many of us have been having is about the worrisome messages some books send regarding mental health and the stigma of diagnosis, treatment, and medication. (You can go back to my piece Mental Health Medications are Not Your Enemy for some more context.) As much as I want to quote every line related to these topics, I’ll just share a few. For background, Mikey has seen a therapist for his OCD and anxiety and been medicated in the past. He’s not currently seeing someone or being treated. Jared finds him endlessly washing his face. He says:

“There’s no shame in therapy, Mike… Or medicine. You shouldn’t have to go through this.”


When Mikey finally tells his mother (who is a self-absorbed politician) that he thinks he needs to see a psychiatrist again, that he needs to be medicated, she just says okay and helps him do that. For all of her other failings, she understands he needs help and makes sure he gets it.


Mike talks to his therapist about how awful the OCD is, how debilitating the anxiety feels, how he worries that if he can’t break himself out of a loop, the only way to end it will be to kill himself. He says, “I feel like I’m at the bottom of a well. I feel like I’m way down this deep, deep hole and I’m looking up and all there is is this little dot of light and I have to shout at the top of my lungs for anyone to hear me and even when I do, I say the wrong thing or they don’t really listen or they’re just humoring me.” His struggles are very much on the page and he wrestles with what to do to overcome them. His therapist says he’d like to start him back on medication. Mike makes a face.

“… Why are you making that face?”

“Medication is a … failure?”

“The biggest one. Like I’m so broken, I need medical help.”

“Cancer patients don’t call chemotherapy a failure. Diabetics don’t call insulin a failure.”

His therapist goes on to ask why he feels he’s responsible for his anxiety. During their fantastic discussion, he says to Mike, “Medication will address the anxiety, not get rid of it, but reduce it to a manageable level, maybe even the same level as other people so that—and here’s the key thing—we can talk about it. Make it something you can live with. You still have work to do, but the medication lets you stay alive long enough to do that work.”

As a person with anxiety disorder, as a parent raising a kid in therapy and on medication for anxiety disorder, as someone deeply invested in wanting teenagers to understand that there is help for their depression, or anxiety, or whatever, I applaud these scenes. They never felt preachy or forced. Mikey is honest, Jared is compassionate, the therapist is effective and optimistic.


It’s impossible to capture the brilliance of this book in a review, but I’m hoping you’ll go out and pick it up and experience it for yourself. This is the kind of book you finish reading and want to reread again just to savor it. I can’t wait to start recommending this to teens at the library. 


Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9780062403162

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 10/06/2015



Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

16060716I waited almost 2 years for this sequel to the genius The Diviners, but it was so worth it. It follows a group of young people with exceptional abilities as they navigate life in New York City in the 1920s. Each character has a thread in the story, which somewhat crossed in Diviners, but all weave together to form a more complete picture by the end of Lair of Dreams.

Following closely on the end of The Diviners, we see Evie O’Neill living the life of a party girl after her break with her Uncle Will and her self outing as a diviner. She’s living on her own and working as “America’s Sweetheart Seer” at a radio station where she does a show reading objects for audience members. Behind her devil may care facade, Evie is struggling to deal with both the recent trauma of defeating ‘Naughty John’ and the more distant loss of her beloved brother.

Underground work in the city disrupts a spirit who walks through the dreams of the living and steals their life force. To the living, the symptoms appear to be some sort of sleeping sickness, as the victims never awake and a hive-like rash spreads across their bodies. Because it began in the immigrant Chinese community, they are blamed for it and find themselves increasingly isolated, persecuted, and at one point rounded up for who knows what treatment – internment, deportation? Many, if not all, of those rounded up are American citizens.

In the midst of this, Henry, who can walk in dreams, meets another dream walker, Ling Chan. Together they search for Henry’s lost love, Louis, whom he had to leave behind in Louisiana. As they explore the dream world they can access together, they delve deeper into the mystery of the sleeping sickness. In this dream world, Ling Chan meets a young girl who is on her way from China to San Francisco, then New York, to be married. They develop a close friendship and she teaches Ling much about manipulating the dream world.

Meanwhile, Memphis is manipulated into healing someone with the sleeping sickness and exposes his renewed abilities. He is still wooing Theta, who is still hiding her true identity and her diviner ability. Meanwhile Sam, in trying to help Jericho save the museum in Uncle Will’s extended absence, is manipulating Evie through the advantageous misunderstanding of the media that he and Evie are betrothed. To both Evie and Sam’s dismay, they begin to have feelings for each other. As Sam and Jericho delve deeper into Uncle Will’s past to try to save the museum, they begin to uncover some of the mystery behind the diviners and the secret government program set up to use them. Sam and Evie spend some time investigating and learn more of what happened to Sam’s mother. We see glimpses of these government agents and what is going on behind the scenes, including their use of eugenics tents at fairs to identify possible diviners. Sam also inadvertently reveals his own diviner ability in a desperate moment.

There is so much more going on in this 613 page work of art. It is a complex and extremely detailed imagined world with multiple plots, motives, and themes. In some ways it struck me as almost X-Files like in that it has multiple ‘monster of the week’ plots as well as an overarching conspiracy of epic proportions. But this is both a compliment and a simplification. Libba Bray has created a masterpiece in this work.

When a coworker asked what I was reading and I tried to describe it, I was somewhat overwhelmed. It’s easier to explain the surface plot of what is going on than the themes behind it, but this is what I ended up telling her. At it’s heart, Lair of Dreams  is an excoriation of the ideology behind ‘American Exceptionalism.’ This ideology that asserts our unique values of democracy and personal liberty has historically only been within the reach of those white, heterosexual, neurotypical males with access to either property or education through family heritage. What Bray has created exposes the many ways in which this ideology either ignores or twists so much of our history as a nation. In Lair of Dreams, she exposes all of the damage and evil we have done to our people over the course of our history as a country. In many ways, despite all of our advances, it is the damage and evil we continue to do.

I cannot sing high enough praises in recommending this book to any collection serving both Young Adult and Adult readership. I wholeheartedly wish I could send multiple copies to every high school in the nation.


If Adults Are the People Buying YA Literature, Should We Still Call It YA? I Say Yes!

whyyaOn Monday, David Thorpe at An Awfully Big Blog Adventure pointed out that current statistics indicate that 80% of YA fiction titles are purchased by adults. This percentage has seemingly increased since the last time we talked about this here at TLT back in 2012 when we discussed that We NEED YA Books for Teens. At that time the percentage was in the high 50s. And since then we have seen a huge increase in adults openly embracing their love of reading YA. They even participate in things like the Forever YA Book Club (and I am a member of the DFW chapter). I have no problem with adults reading and enjoying YA fiction. I am an adult who reads and enjoys YA fiction. But I do have a problem with adults taking over the YA market in such a way that we start considering whether or not we should even call the market YA. The answer is: we should. Teens need, want and read YA fiction. The YA category in bookstores and libraries makes it that much easier for teens to find the books they want, need and read. Like the Juniors section at your local clothing store or the Country category at your local record store, it’s a label designed to help the target market easily find the product they are looking for. It doesn’t exclude others, but it does help increase access. It also is a label of validation. By writing, publishing and marketing age appropriate books for teen readers that they can more easily identify with, we as a society communicate to our teens that we respect them, we value them, that they have a space among us to call home. I said a lot of these same types of things on Monday when I tweeted about this so rather than repeat myself, I Storified the tweets for you. There are also some tweets from others that were wise and affirming. And if you are interested, here is another passionate defense I make about YA literature titled Dear Media, Let Me Help You Write That Article About YA Literature.

What should we call YA (this link will take you to the Storify story)

If Most YA is Bought by Adults, Should We Still Call it YA?

Once again it has come up that a majority of YA fiction tends to be purchased by adults and the question was asked, should we still call it YA if adults are the ones mostly buying (and presumably reading) it? And here is my answer (with some help from my friends on Twitter).

  1. I have a lot of thoughts about this, but my basic answer is yes. Other useful info in the post as well. …
  2. Re last RT: TEENS DESERVING THEIR OWN BOOKS! So please don’t let the fact that adults are buying/reading YA take YA away from them.
  3. Re last RT: TEENS DESERVING THEIR OWN BOOKS! So please don’t let the fact that adults are buying/reading YA take YA away from them.
  4. There are so many signals society already sends that let teens know we don’t value them. Keep YA, and Keep YA for Teens.
  5. I begrudge no adult who wants to buy and read YA for whatever reason, but let’s not change YA because they do. Teens NEED YA.
  6. As a YA librarian, I can assure that TEENS WANT, NEED, AND READ YA. Every day I talk with them. Trust me.
  7. Yes, they need to know where/how to find the books that reflect their lives. Adults already have large sections. …
  8. I would love to know more about this as well. I mean, I buy YA. I read YA. I also have a Teen. And I work w/teens. …
  9. .@TLT16 @JensBookPage Teens have limited disposable income. Most of their things are purchased by adults.
  10. .@TLT16 @JensBookPage We never say “most teen clothing is purchased by adults! maybe we should call it something different!”
  11. There was almost no YA when I was a teen. I read adult books. What a difference it would be if I had access 2 the YA books 2day. I needed YA
  12. I needed to know that my peers thought, feared, and worried about the same things. That I wasn’t alone. That I wasn’t abnormal.
  13. I needed to know that there were other sexual assault survivors, that there were other anorexics, others who were lost.
  14. Anything good that teens have, adults want to claim for themselves, which leads to pushing teens out of it. grrrr. @TLT16
  15. I couldn’t relate to the things in the adult fiction I read. I didn’t know what it meant to be married. To be a mom. I struggled 2 connect.
  16. When I see my teens reading YA, I see how much it matters. How much it helps them in this personal journey.
  17. I needed YA when I was a teen because it probably saved my life. Thank you, Wintergirls. …
  18. The “but adults read YA too” argument reminds me too much of “but all lives matter”- yes they do, but that’s BESIDE THE POINT @TLT16
  19. I see my teenage daughter reading Sarah Dessen, & Kissing in America and more to help her navigate teenage friendships. I am thankful 4 this
  20. I see her dipping her toes into YA romance as she is just starting to think about this & I am grateful it is there for her.
  21. Basically, I’m thankful teens today have the YA they want & need to navigate the teen years. Let them keep it. #yasaves
  22. And yes, YA is well written & funny & entertaining. That doesn’t mean it still can’t be for teens. They deserve quality. They deserve fun.
  23. I’m now going to call my baby & ask her what she’s reading today because that’s another thing about YA, it bonds, builds bridges, open doors
  24. In fact, if you are an adult that cares about any teen, you should read YA and then talk to the teens in your life about it. Communication!

Edited to add this link shared on Twitter by Hippodilly Circus: A Letter to Teachers, Stop Telling Teens You Don’t Like Them

Video Games Weekly: Super Mario Maker

supermariomakerThis week, I’m reviewing Super Mario Maker, which I have been anxiously awaiting for weeks! Super Mario Maker is probably the most unique Mario game Nintendo has put out in recent years, and I’m looking forward to showing you why!

Platform: Wii U

Rated: E for “Everyone”, but don’t let that fool you. This game is rated “E” because there isn’t violence, gore, sex, etc. but that doesn’t mean that kids/teens will be able to beat every level they attempt. For example, there is a level called “Pit of Panga: P-Break” which is the most “difficult” level in Super Mario Maker [for now] that has made grown men cry when they FINALLY beat it. Watch this YouTube video if you don’t believe me (warning: turn down your volume) :

Single or Multiplayer: Single player. You can, however, have teens play with the same policy that my brother and I had while growing up: When you die, I’ll play.

Quick Synopsis: First of all, the video game character “Mario” dates back to the ‘80s. The first Mario arcade game came out in 1983 called Mario Bros. It was a sidescrolling platform jumper, which means Mario runs left to right, and can jump up and down. The goal was always to save Princess Peach from the evil Bowser, and you have to beat levels in order to find her.

Since then, there have been many Mario themed video games, but Super Mario Maker has completely changed the sidescrolling platform jumper genre. Instead of players beating levels designed and created by Nintendo game developers, players create their own levels for other players to beat. This is genius for so many reasons! First of all, adult players [like myself] who have been playing Nintendo games since they were kids can experience some serious nostalgia. Second, Super Mario Maker never feels boring because players from around the world are constantly releasing new levels for others to play. Players can sort of “beat” the game by either defeating the “10 Mario Challenge”, where players are given 10 lives to beat 8 sample levels, or by defeating the “100 Mario Challenge” where they have 100 lives to beat a certain number of levels, but every time you fail a challenge, you have to start over with new levels. This gives the game a long shelf life since the game is always changing and is full of surprises.   Third, this is a great STEM learning opportunity for kids/teens, which I will get to later.


Playing Levels: Players can either use the Wii U Gamepad, Wii Remote, Wii Pro Controller, or a classic controller. In a level, Mario can move right, left, jump up, or slam down. Mario can also change into different “costumes” if the they are available in a level. The goal for each level is to reach the “end”, usually by hitting a switch.

Creating Levels: Players who are creating their own level have to use the Wii U Gamepad to drag and drop items on a course. Players can use a variety of enemies, artwork, and items from previous Mario games to create their level. This is fun because players can also “blend” items to make non-conventional combinations. This makes levels interesting for both older and younger players because every time Mario approaches an item, the player has no clue what is going to happen! I should also mention that in order for a level to be posted online, the creator has to be able to beat it themselves. This is a great game mechanic because it prevents mean people from posting impossible levels! Once your level is complete, the level is posted to the “Course World” where other players can comment and rank your level.

If you’re interested in watching a player create a level, here’s a good YouTube video:

Amiibo: A quick note about Amiibos. Amiibos are tiny figurines that players can purchase to unlock special content from Nintendo, but they are not required in order to play the game. With the Wii U, you place the Amiibo on the Wii U Gamepad near the NFC reader. If you use an Amiibo in Super Mario Maker, it unlocks more costumes for Mario.

STEM Appeal: There is a lot of STEM appeal for teens who are interested in game development. In the video game medium, a game has to have a “balance” in order for it to be considered a “good” game. That balance is mainly between game mechanics and difficulty, although there are other theories/contributing factors that make a good game. By playing Super Mario Maker, teens get a quick introduction to learning that balance. A teen’s goal is to create a level that is challenging enough to make players have a difficult time beating it, but not TOO difficult where it becomes impossible and makes players give up quickly. Remember that “Pit of Panga: P-Break” level that I talked about earlier? That level has been widely popular with hardcore gamers because it nearly impossible to beat, but casual gamers such as myself haven’t even attempted it because I don’t want to invest the time/effort. So, teens have to think about their level’s audience, skill level, and difficulty when creating a level. You know, like a game developer.

Verdict: I definitely recommend this as a core purchase for video game collections. It may or may not do well at a Teen Game Night program because you can only have one player at a time, but teens can pass the controller around when they die. Alternatively, you can ask teens to create a level together and see how it does in the online Course World. Make sure you have an internet connection, otherwise you will not be able to access levels created by other players, nor post your own.

By Alanna Graves
Twitter: @LannaLibrarian


$59.99 on Amazon