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Book Review: Detour by S. A. Bodeen

detourPublisher’s description:

Livvy Flynn is a big deal – she’s a New York Times-bestselling author whose YA fiction has sold all over the world. She’s rich, she’s famous, she’s gorgeous, and she’s full of herself. When she’s invited to an A-list writer’s conference, she decides to accept so she can have some time to herself. She’s on a tight deadline for her next book, and she has no intention of socializing with the other industry people at the conference. And then she hits the detour.

Before she knows it, her brand new car is wrecked, she’s hurt, and she’s tied to a bed in a nondescript shack in the middle of nowhere. A woman and her apparently manic daughter have kidnapped her. And they have no intention of letting her go.


Amanda’s thoughts:

I sometimes like to think that I’m not the kind of person who enjoys seeing various bad things happen to insufferable people—but I am totally that kind of person. I didn’t necessarily want to see any actual harm come to Livvy, but I did want to see what would happen when she’s knocked off her high horse and held captive in a basement for a few days. As the description says, she’s kidnapped by a woman and her kid (who, weirdly, is standing on a log playing a flute, seemingly just waiting for Livvy to drive along and have an accident right in front of her–that part’s a little convenient, but I’ll go with it). The woman seems to completely hate Livvy and seems to have some kind of history with her.  She wants Livvy to admit what she did, to figure it out, to remember. Livvy doesn’t know, but has plenty of time to think on it as she is left to rot in the basement. While in the basement, Livvy, who is already in a lot of pain from injuries, is further hurt. She’s attacked by bees, which her captors apparently know she’s allergic to, and goes into shock. She’s hungry, dirty, and in pain. Potential hope arrives in the form of a police officer, but it turns out Peg is having an affair with him and blackmails him into keeping her secret. When Peg’s uber-creepy nephew, Wesley, shows up, he makes it clear that he knows a lot about Livvy. She worries they’ve stolen her very private diary—soon her fans could know all about her past as a friendless, bullied kid with trichotillomania (pulling out her hair).


I’m not going to ruin the eventful last few chapters for you. The plot twits and shocks come fast and furious. Some of them were obvious, but some were not. I’m not sure I ever really found any empathy for Livvy, which is okay, because I’m good with unbearable characters remaining unbearable. I think she ended up seeing some things she didn’t like about herself and those around her by the end, but I didn’t need her to learn a lesson or anything from her ordeal. The obvious comparison here is to Misery, but teen readers might not make that connection. This is a good pick especially for reluctant readers who want a fast-paced story with lots of suspenseful twists and turns. The fact that the story is populated solely with odious people who make questionable choices makes this thriller even more interesting as we wait to see who will get theirs and how. 


Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781250055545

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Publication date: 10/06/2015

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

A close friend of mine grew up under deplorable conditions for modern times: no running water, intermittent electricity, less than plentiful food. I once asked her how she reacts when her children—who have seemingly everything compared to her at their age— complain about something. She smiled and told me, “Everyone’s worst is their worst.”


Growing up in a small town, from second through sixth grade, I was with the same twenty-five kids. I was an introvert with a speech impediment, which made me the perfect target. I once saw a quote “We read to know we are not alone.” Books saved me. Let me say that again: books saved me. For all those years that I never had a friend, I always had a book.


Bullying is all over the web now, and because of my experiences, I have to restrain myself from judging when parents are horrified that their child was left out of a birthday party or something similar. They seem like such minor travesties compared to the things I went through. But everyone’s worst is their worst.


In YA novels, some main characters endure tragic situations, and other characters seem to not have to deal with much at all. But everyone’s worst is their worst.


I’ve read reviews that bash a character for being whiney as they have to deal with their problems, some of which come across as meager compared to what other characters have encountered. And I find myself perplexed at the judgement.  Characters—and humans in general— rarely react the same way to a difficult situation. And no two difficult situations are the same. Because everyone’s worst is their worst.


Readers of YA reflect this. All of their worsts are completely different. But they may need to read to know they are not alone. And while one reader may need to see a character survive worse things than they did, perhaps to commiserate or feel lucky they didn’t have it quite that bad, another reader may not. That reader may need to see someone who did have it easier than they did. Maybe so that they can stand tall and roll their eyes at the ease in which that character goes through life. Maybe to wipe their tears as they wish their road had been that simple. But perhaps, also, to discover and potentially embrace the concept that everyone’s worst is their worst. And the recognition of that goes beyond the page, because it applies to life. Everyone’s worst is their worst. No judgement needed.


S A  Bodeen by V Imagery and DesignS.A. Bodeen is the author of the YA novels The Compound, The Gardener, The Raft, and The Fallout, a Fierce Reads title. She is also the author of the Shipwreck Island series for middle-grade readers. She travels the country making school visits, and lives with her husband outside of Minneapolis. Visit her online at or on Twitter at @sabodeen. 

Middle School Monday – Middle School goes through Grade 8


Yes, I realize most of you know this, but how do you consider it when developing your collection?

fiercereadslogoI was recently invited to interview 4 of the Fierce Reads authors during one of their tour stops in my area (it’s not until next week – I’m so excited!) In preparation, their publicist sent me advanced copies of the titles they’ll be promoting on tour, and I’ve been working my way through them. One of the authors, Leigh Bardugo, is very familiar to me, and I’m really excited to meet her. I already have her Grisha Trilogy in my middle school collection. Another, Josephine Angelini, was an unknown quantity, but I just finished her Trial by Fire, and really enjoyed it. So my first consideration is, would this be good to add to my collection?

My initial instinct is yes, I have students who would really enjoy this title. I think it would appeal to my fans of Cassandra Clare’s novels as well as some of my Divergent and Hunger Games readers. My second instinct is to check the reviews and see where other professionals have gauged its interest level. Most are 14 and up, or 8th grade and up, one is 12 and up. Good. I can add it to my collection. But I know that’s not always going to be the initial reaction amongst my middle school librarian peers.

Self-censorship, or collection development censorship, is a real issue in the middle school library. While I believe it’s important to know your community and your patrons, I think there is a danger in going too far in limiting what is purchased for your middle school collection. I’m fortunate in that the community of readers I serve is extremely diverse. My readers run the full spectrum from very sheltered 11 year olds to extremely worldly 14 year olds, with everything in between. Occasionally that can be a struggle due to budget constraints, but in general it has been a great advantage.

I’m a firm believer in the idea that children and teens will find the books they are ready to read. The main problem, I think, is when the adults in their lives are not ready for them to be ready. This can sometimes include their librarians. But, if you fill your collection with titles that are only recommended for 6th through 8th grades, you are limiting your students access and doing them a great disservice. I include titles with interest recommendations of 3rd through 6th grade in our collection, why would I not add titles recommended for 8th grade and up? 6th grade and 8th grade are both a part of the middle school experience – and it’s important to remember it.

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

Monday my co-blogger Heather Booth sent me a text that said,” you might really like this app called Fused.” She had no idea what she was starting as I quickly became obsessed, for the MakerSpace and my teens of course! Using the app I was able to create these images:


The “Love You” overlay in this picture is from Aviary.


I used a silhouette of Thing 2 and blended it with a great pic of her.


I used a silhouette of The Teen doing The Dumplin’ Pose with a picture of crowns to create this ode to Dumplin’.


A picture of stairs overlaid with a silhouette that comes stock with the Fused app.

This pic was further enhanced using an effect in Space Effects and adding Text in Aviary. It took 4 apps to make this picture. I'm probably doing it wrong.

This pic was further enhanced using an effect in Space Effects and adding text in Aviary. It took 4 apps to make this picture. I’m probably doing it wrong.

Now I have been seeing images like this online for years and coveted knowing how to make them. And I’m not going to lie, there was a bit of a learning curve. Here’s how it works, you select a background image and a foreground image and the Fused app blends the two images together. It sounds simple, but there are a few key tricks that improve your outcome.

Tricks and Tips To Keep in Mind

1. It is helpful, though not necessary depending on what you hope to create, if your background image is a black and white silhouette. I found an app called Silhouette to help create this image, more on this in a minute.

2. A big key to your success if having 2 images that are both well taken photographs and that line up well together. For example, I tried to combine a baby silhouette picture of my girls with a current picture of them to show how they have grown and it was hard finding two pictures that lined up well so there faces weren’t being obscured in weird ways. Like, in one attempt you could only see Thing 2’s chin, which didn’t create a very successful end product.

3. Having a nature picture or just a cool colored photo works well, too. Try taking a picture of a neon sign, a sunset, or clouds. These images blend well with others and you don’t have to worry as much about the ways the pictures line up. This image uses a picture of the moon a friend of mine took (used with permission) and a silhouette provided in the Fused app.



A silhouette of Thing 2 blended with a picture of the cloudy sky that I took.

First Step: Create Your Background Silhouette Using the Silhouette App

As I mentioned, I used an app called Silhouette to create the background silhouette for blending purposes. Here you need to start with a picture that has a stark contrast to begin with. If you can, pose yourself or your subject in front of a white or a dark wall and take your photo in black and white. Here’s my initial photo that I used:


I then used the Silhouette app to make it into the black and white silhouette I needed for the Fused app:


A picture with a darker background and a lighter focal point, say a person, will create a white or negative space silhouette.

Darker background with a lighter focal point=white (negative space) silhouette

Darker background with a lighter focal point = white (negative space) silhouette

A picture with a lighter background and a darker focal point will create a black silhouette.

A lighter background with a darker focal point=a black silhouette

A lighter background with a darker focal point = a darker silhouette

Either one works, they just work differently as the Fused app will color in the white space – the negative space – with your other photo. Of course black and white are relative terms, I should probably say negative and positive space The Mr. would say, because you can use an RGB slide bar to colorize your silhouette.

Left: A silhouette of Thing 2 colorized blue Right: Same silhouette blended with a pic of the sky after being spiffed up with the Space Effects app

Left: A silhouette of Thing 2 colorized blue
Right: Same silhouette blended with a pic of the sky after being spiffed up with the Space Effects app

There is also an Invert option that can be used to toggle between a colored or a white silhouette:

The same silhouette from directly above using the Invert option.

The same silhouette from directly above using the Invert option.

It is also helpful to have as little in the background as possible to create your silhouette. Ideally, you would pose your subject in front of a blank wall in a contrasting color.

The above silhouette examples were made using this initial picture, taken at night and lightened. It would have worked better without the dark edges near the top of the frame.

The above silhouette examples were made using this initial picture, taken at night and lightened. It would have worked better without the dark edges near the top of the frame.

And as I mentioned, you do not have to use a black and white silhouette, I just found that Fused app worked better if I did. Insructables has some more information on how to create a photo silhouette. Digital photography school also has some information about photographing silhouettes.

Don’t want to use an app? Here’s a tutorial for creating a silhouette using

Second Step: Using the Fused App

After saving this to my camera roll, I uploaded it as my background picture in Fused. As my foreground I used this picture:


The Fused app gives you several blending options and you just kind of play around with them to find an option that you like best. Within each option it also has a slide bar which allows you to increase the contrast and blend. I used the “screen” option with the two pictures above to create this:


Please note, Fused does not actually have an add text option. I added the text using the Aviary app that I reviewed last week.

I love and highly recommend both of these apps. It takes a little bit of time and trial and error, and some attention to details, to get a good end product; however, as I learned more what worked and what didn’t it became easier to use. The key is having good pictures to start with and it probably won’t surprise you to know that I have tons of those to experiment with.

If you want to get highly sophisticated and have access to Photoshop, here’s a tutorial for creating the same types of effects using that program.

And here is a free online program you can use to create a double exposure effect.

I made this really quickly with the free online double exposure program.

I made this really quickly with the free online double exposure program.

About Fused

BlendPic and InstantBlend are apps similar to Fused that you can also try. I was not able to use InstandBlend as successfully as I was Fused and I have not tried BlendPic. All of them have additional in app purchases. I paid for the upgrade for the Fused app after deciding I really liked it to remove the watermark from my images. In future upgrades of the app I hope that they consider better undo options.

About Silhouette

It’s free and does cool things so no harm, no foul.

Fused also can be used to make videos, but I have no idea how to do that part yet.

Now I’m sure there will be someone out there who will tell me there is a much easier way to do this. :)

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

From the new bind-up of UGLIES and PRETTIES. A letter from me to you all on the tenth anniversary of Uglies.

A photo posted by Scott Westerfeld (@scott_westerfeld) on

At some point in the last few years I really began paying attention to the words we use and what they mean. There are campaigns to remind people not to use “That’s so gay” as an insult. Or the “R” word. As we realize the origin of words and how they are used to put people down by comparing them to another people group, it has become increasingly clear to me that a great deal of the common phrases we use are in fact incredibly problematic.

And as we, as a society, work towards breaking down the stigma about mental health issues, I think it is also important that we begin to recognize and question the ways in which we use language associated with mental health issues incorrectly. I was reminded of this once again as a fellow librarian pointed out the picture above regarding Scott Westerfeld’s dedication in a new edition of the Uglies series.

Here’s the thing. Schizophrenia is a very real and very difficult mental health issue that many people struggle with:

People with the disorder may hear voices other people don’t hear. They may believe other people are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts, or plotting to harm them. This can terrify people with the illness and make them withdrawn or extremely agitated. (NIMH:

Approximately 1.1% of the populations is diagnosed as Schizophrenic and it is debilitating and requires treatment.

In comparison, trying on different roles and personalities is a very normal part of adolescent development; it is part of the journey of self discovery, definition and acceptance that all teenagers engage in. In my teenage years I went through a preppy, glam rock, and grunge phase. None of this was abnormal and it’s not “schizophrenic”.

This is an example of how we casually use terms associated with mental health issues incorrectly. And we all do it. Crazy. Psycho. Hysterical. Manic. Schizophrenic. These are just a few of the words that we use incorrectly and often to disparage or discount others, thus making it harder for those who are truly struggling with very real mental health issues to find the help that they need. They suffer in silence because they know that the stigma surrounding mental health issues is very real, we remind them every day when we use language incorrectly.

This is not a post disparaging Scott Westerfeld. Keep in mind that a variety of editors, publishers, etc. signed off on this. I myself have used this term in the same ways that it is used here, suggesting that someone who is displaying inconsistent personality traits is schizophrenic. Chances are that you have as well. Words have real meanings, and there is power in that. We should all be careful in the words that we choose and the ways that they impact those around us, directly and indirectly.

Our teens need to know that the fact that they don’t quite know who they are yet is perfectly normal; it’s not schizophrenic, it is in fact completely normal adolescent behavior. It’s not some type of anomalous behavior that should be labeled with a term that applies to a real mental health issue. And those teens that are struggling with mental health issues need to know that they are valued, respected and supported.

Friday Finds – October 2, 2015


Sunday Reflections: Yes, Teens Still Read! Texas Teen Book Festival Recap

Middle School Monday – The Shrunken Head (Curiosity House #1) – Giveaway!

App Review: Aviary (The quest for the perfect photo app continues)

Recently in Book Mail

Video Game Weekly: Terraria

Book Review: The Creeping by Alexandra Sirowy (reviewed by Teen Reviewer Lexi)

A Look at the Akron Public Library Mini Maker Faire

Around the Web

This is a great post on passive programming.

So is this great list of creepy reads.

The Cybil’s are coming – go forth and nominate!

The Kirkus Prize finalists were announced.

Laurie Halse Anderson Wins NCTE Intellectual Freedom Award

This week in authors being brilliant on the internet: Libba Bray.

The Guardian speaks truth about censoring books for teens.

Book Review: Prison Island, a Graphic Memoir by Colleen Frakes

prisonislandThe other day a fellow librarian contacted me and said she needed some good YA nonfiction recommendations, to which I replied PRISON ISLAND!

Prison Island is a memoir told in graphic novel format about McNeil Island in the state of Washington. It was one of the last remaining prison islands. Colleen Frake’s family was one of the families that lived and worked on the island. It’s an interesting life and the book brings it vividly to life in both words and pictures. As I read I couldn’t help but think about what a great companion piece this would be to Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko.

Prison Island is published by Zest Books, one of my favorite publisher’s for quirky YA nonfiction, and you can find sample pages, like this one, on their website:

prisonisland2Full of heart, humor and an interesting look at a typical teen living a not so typical life, Prison Island is a fun entry point into the memoir category. It’s also a great book to put into the hands of reluctant readers. I enjoyed this and definitely recommend it.

Publisher’s Book Summary:

McNeil Island in Washington state was the home of the last prison island in the United States, accessible only by air or sea. It was also home to about fifty families, including Colleen Frake’s. Her parents—like nearly everyone else on the island—both worked in the prison, where her father was the prison’s captain and her mother worked in security. In this engaging graphic memoir, a Xeric and Ignatz Award-winning comics artist, Colleen Frakes, tells the story of a typical girl growing up in atypical circumstances.

Published by Zest Books in 2015. Book provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

For more nonfiction graphic novels for teens check out:

Persopolis by Marjane Satrapi

Smile and Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

March, Book 1 and March, Book 2 by John Lewis

Yummy : the Last Days of a Southside Shorty by Greg Neri

A Look at the Akron Public Library Mini Maker Faire

In September I went and visited the Akron Public Library in Ohio to check out it’s Mini Maker Faire. They had around 60 individuals and groups participate, setting up booths throughout the library. They began marketing the event early, giving people time to make their creations:


While browsing the various exhibits I met some very awesome teen makers, like Matt who is a 16-year-old that does 3D printing. His mother was there proudly supporting him and she told me how Matt had gone out and gotten a job so that he could buy himself a 3D printer. He makes a variety of gaming pieces. In addition, he made a Thor hammer and a Darth Vader.


I also met Witt. He makes handcrafted miniatures in painstaking detail and some of them are fully functional.


There were also several local robotics teams in attendance.



The Akron Public Library also used this time to highlight several of their own spaces and projects. They currently have a digital media studio:


And they are in the process of acquiring some new technology, like a laser cutter and engraver, that will become open to the public sometime in October:




When I talked to the librarians at APL they were still working out the final details about how the public would be able to use these maker tools and where their final location inside the library would be.

The Teen Librarians from APL were also demonstrating their Makey Makey and Squishy Circuits which they will be using in teen programming:




They were playing video games using Playdough and making music using potatoes.

The event itself was well organized and had good signage. Signage is a thing I always pay attention to. They even had a one page sheet that listed every participant, what kind of activity they did and where you could find them. And the various booths were organized by type. For example, all of the textile makers were together in the Fiber Arts Zone. Similarly, all the robotics teams were located together in the Technology Center.

And finally, I just want to share this cool activity that one of the groups in the Fiber Arts Zone had for participants to do (I think it was a local quilting group) that would be good for Storytime or a younger maker activity: an interactive felt quilt!


I picked up a lot of cool ideas for maker activities at this event. I also enjoyed getting to see and talk to teens who were passionate about making, many of them completely on their own. If you have a Maker Faire happening near you, definitely check it out.

Book Review: The Creeping by Alexandra Sirowy (reviewed by Teen Reviewer Lexi)

“If you hunt for monsters you’ll find them”


Twelve years ago Stella and Jeanie vanished while picking strawberries. Stella returned minutes later, with no memory of what happened. Jeanie was never seen or heard from again.

Now Stella is seventeen, and she’s over it. She’s the lucky one who survived, and sure, the case is still cloaked in mystery—and it’s her small town’s ugly legacy—but Stella is focused on the coming summer. She’s got a great best friend, a hookup with an irresistibly crooked smile, and two months of beach days stretching out before her.

Then along comes a corpse, a little girl who washes up in an ancient cemetery after a mudslide, and who has red hair just like Jeanie did. Suddenly memories of that haunting day begin to return, and when Stella discovers that other red-headed girls have gone missing as well, she begins to suspect that something sinister is at work.

And before the summer ends, Stella will learn the hard way that if you hunt for monsters, you will find them.

Lexi’s Review

This book is spooky good! The whole read had me on the edge of my seat flipping pages to see what mysterious thing would happen next.

The main thing that stood out to me about this whole wonderfully written book was the characters. There was not one character you didn’t like in some way. For me my favorite character was Sam. He seemed like a young boy with an old soul. He would be every teenage girl’s dream guy in the way he is the utmost gentleman. In the story his role is very crucial. He is the key to Stella’s character development. Stella’s character development was the main reason why this book made such an impact on me. She is relatable in the way that you can see how she struggles with being herself and being who she thinks everyone else wants her to be. Which I feel as a teen in high school this struggle is felt everyday. We want people to like us but we are afraid that people won’t like who we are and so we pretend to be something we are not. Stella portrays this struggle in such a way that I felt it was me facing the obstacles. With a best friend like Zoey, Stella felt like she had to be this certain type of girl, but as I was saying about Sam being a key in her change, he helped her realize how far she had gone from who she once was. This could also be put on the fact of having such a traumatic childhood experience. From what I read I concluded that the only reason she chose Zoey when given the ultimatum between Zoey and Sam was because she developed abandonment issues from just recently having her mother leave her and her father. Her mother is also a peculiar character in this story. Unlike most separations it was the mother who left the child and father in this story. I found this strange and it made me question if this had to play a bigger role in the book itself. What I came up with was that it gave Stella more of a reason to lean towards Zoey since she had such a strong feminine personality. But it could have just been to mix things up a bit.

I also really loved the suspense. How you weren’t sure if it was one person or another or not a person at all. Being so close to Halloween (well, like a month which is like right around the corner) this book is perfectly set. The eeriness of the killings had me paranoid after I read it. I just love when a book freaks me out like this one did.

This book had me on a rollercoaster of emotions as well. Every scene had me either laughing, crying or mentally cursing at the characters. Their actions clearly spoke of actions made by teens. You can tell their age by the writing and this is what a handful of young adult novelist seem to miss when writing their story. Teenagers aren’t adults. We don’t always think logically. We let our emotions lead us astray and we sometimes need someone to help us get back on track.

So,4 out of 5 jack-o-lanterns would recommend this book to every Halloween lover and non Halloween lover who really enjoys a good thriller.

Happy Hunting!

Published in August 2015 by Simon & Schuster. ISBN: 9781481418867

Video Game Weekly: Terraria

This week, I planned to review Super Mario Maker for the Wii U (which I am extremely excited about), but my copy has yet to arrive in my mailbox! So, I am reviewing an older game that I have played for over 100 hours (believe it or not, this is pretty normal for hardcore gamers). It is like Minecraft’s distant cousin.


Platform: This game is available on many platforms, including some of the older game consoles, and it’s pretty cheap (pricing and pruchasing info at the end of this post)!

Rated: T for Teen. There is mild blood, and the game has cartoon violence. For example, when your character dies, your character does kind of explode into body parts. Also, there are some “adult” references that may or may not go over teens’ heads. For example, you can craft ale that will give you character boosts, and there are jokes about licking mushrooms for stamina.

I should also mention the world has a “Hell” area, which is accessed by digging as far down as possible. You can fight demons in Hell, mine “hellstone”, etc.

Single or Multiplayer: Both! The game is way more fun when playing with friends.

Quick Synopsis: Terraria came out for the PC in 2011 when I was in undergrad, and I spent many weekends playing it with friends instead of doing my homework. After its initial release in 2011, Terraria became so popular that it was revamped for other platforms.

Terraria is a survival side-scrolling game with a sandbox feel (if this sounds like gibberish, you can view my definitions post from last week. You begin Terraria by creating a 16-bit character (male or female), and you can personalize everything from their hair to skin color. Each color is selected on a rainbow spectrum, so theoretically, you can have a female character with red hair and purple skin.

After you are done creating a character, you can choose the size of the world you want to explore as well as your difficulty. “Softcore” mode means when your character dies, you only lose half of the money in your inventory, do not lose any of your items, and you will respawn at your home base. “Mediumcore” mode means your character will lose all of the money and items in your inventory, but you will respawn at your home base. “Hardcore” mode is the most difficult mode, because when your character dies, you cannot respawn. Your character becomes a ghost, and will be deleted when you exit the game. I am a wimp and only play on “Softcore” mode, because I like NOT losing everything in a cave.

You can also select the size of the world, and what biomes you want. There are many different biomes and layers to the world, which means there are different enemies, resources, and bonus items.

After you are done selecting a world and difficulty, you are dropped into a forest biome with only a copper pickaxe, copper axe, and copper shortsword. You also have a computer character known as an NPC, who helps you figure out the controls and crafting items.

There isn’t a goal in the game per se, other than survive and kill boss enemies. Players begin with these three tools as a way to start collecting resources from the world. As you collect resources, players can create items ranging from bricks, furniture, swords, shields, armor, potions, etc. The idea is the more resources you gather, the easier it is to make better stuff.

Controls: Terraria is a 2D side scrolling game. This means that your character can only run left, right, jump up, or dig down. The controls vary because it depends on what platform you are using. I play Terraria on my computer, which means I use my keyboard to move my character and activate items in my inventory while I use my mouse to click on objects.

When I say “activate” my items, what I mean is you can only “hold” one object at a time, like a sword or a potion, but you can have “activated” items that affect your character’s health and strength. Take a look at this picture below:

This is a sceenshot of a player’s “inventory”. The top row functions like a shortcut. For example, if I want to hold that awesome pink sword in the top left hand corner, I only have to hit “1” on my keyboard. This is useful for when you are fighting enemies like giant floating eyeballs, and you have to quickly change from holding a sword to holding a health potion.

STEM Appeal: This game is very similar to Minecraft where there is some STEM appeal, but it not as obvious as Minecraft. For one thing, Minecraft lets you download modifications (also called “mods”), which means you have a lot more flexibility to create a STEM focused world for teens to play in (or download it from MinecraftEdu link: . You can download mods for Terraria on the PC, but I personally have not done this. You cannot download mods on other platforms.

Like Minecraft, teens can learn a variety of STEM skills like geometry, circuits, engineering, strategy, teamwork, communication, and physics. While there is no “goal” in Terraria, players often build elaborate home bases both for fun and to protect themselves from enemies. Take a look at this giant castle that I found on Google.

In order to build something this elaborate, players have to collect resources from their world in order to craft “better” objects. So, this castle probably took forever to build because the players had to gather the appropriate resources to create bricks, walls, doors, furniture, etc. Or, they used cheats, but let’s pretend they didn’t.

The one huge difference between Terraria and Minecraft is the inherent reliability on teamwork in order to progress in the game. If you are playing with other people in Terraria, you absolutely have to work together in order to survive fighting enemies and collect resources. Although you don’t have to work side by side in the game world, you naturally communicate your goals, actions, and findings to your teammates. This is what makes Terraria fun to play with friends!

Verdict: I highly recommend purchasing this game for Teen Game Night programs if your teens are tired of Minecraft. Teens will still learn STEM skills like they do in Minecraft, but it has a different world environment that is fun to explore with friends. I also recommend this as a core purchase for video game collections.

by Alanna Graves

Pricing and Purchasing Options:

Available on PlayStation 3 (digital code only) $19.99 on Amazon

PlayStation 4 $19.99 on Amazon

PS Vita $19.99 on Amazon (

Xbox 360 $19.54 on Amazon

Xbox One $19.88 on Amazon

Apple Store $4.99

Google Play Store $4.99

PC Download on Steam $9.99