Teen Librarian Toolbox
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Book Review: Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Publisher’s Book Description:

It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.

Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew . . .

This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.

Published July 7 by Bloomsbury YA

Karen’s Thoughts: I spent most of The Teen’s toddler and early childhood years watching Cinderella over and over and over again. I know a few things about Cinderella, both in story form and in the Disneyfied version. I’m here to tell you, this is a wickedly cool twisted tale that will knock every readers socks off. Nothing was ever what I expected and it managed to surprise me at several turns.

This is both an amazing feminist and queer re-interpretation of Cinderella. Well, it’s not so much a re-interpretation as it is a look at what happens later after the story ended and how Cinderella’s legacy is used to manipulate and control women. It’s a dark dystopian in the tradition of The Handmaid’s Tale or newer feminist YA dystopians like The Grace Year. It’s poignant, chilling and powerful, and it puts a queer Black girl front and center, something that unfortunately doesn’t happen as often as it should in YA fantasy.

For every reader who wants to overthrow the patriarchy, this book is an entertaining read and a satisfyingly cathartic place holder and re-imagining of what that can look like. And it’s full of spooky twists along the way. Recommended.

Pandemic School, by Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

Today, teen contributor Riley Jensen is sharing her thoughts about starting school this upcoming year. Riley will be starting her senior year; it’s an important year with a lot of big decisions. She knows she wants to be a forensic scientist, which means college and tests and campus visits. She also has found her home, her people, in the theatre program. I did not think last year when I saw her perform that it would possibly be my last time seeing her perform on the high school stage. As her mom, this was very hard to read. We’ve cried a lot, talked a lot, and we’re trying to balance making the best decisions for her with the best decisions for our family with the best decisions for our community, all in the midst of a deadly viral pandemic in a state with really consistently high numbers of infection, hospitalizations and death. Here’s a look into the mind of a teen trying to navigate education in the pandemic.

This year while many other schools have made the decision to start school off virtually, my district decided that students would have a choice between online school and in person school. Only half of my schedule is actual academic courses while the other half is made up of extracurricular courses. So, I made the decision to do in person school since I can’t really be a teacher aide from home. Obviously students are required to wear masks and socially distance, but it can be hard to tell how many of the students will actually follow these instructions since they barely even listen to a dress code already.

Thinking about starting this school year has caused me a lot of anxiety. I have no way of knowing what my fellow students have done, who they have been in contact with or how well they’ve been following the recommended precautions. All I know is that if I get the virus at school I will be bringing it back home to my family.

It’s time to put on make up . . . But will the curtain go up again during senior year?

I also know that not everyone is taking this pandemic very seriously. I see people’s posts about them going out to restaurants or amusement parks or parties. I see them without their masks. I see them not being socially distant. I’m not completely innocent either. I’ve gone out and seen large groups of people. Nobody is really doing what they’re supposed to be doing anymore.

So, when I get back to school, I will be surrounded by people who have gone out and done things without a mask. I will be surrounded by people who don’t think this pandemic is that big of a deal. I will be surrounded by people who probably haven’t even looked at the number of cases in weeks. I will probably not be safe.

Senior photo by Rescue Teacher Photography

There are things I could do to make me more safe obviously. I could just show up to my extracurricular classes, but I don’t drive. I know that’s my own fault but that doesn’t change the fact that I still don’t drive. I could drop a few classes and sign up for early release, but then I won’t get all of the credits I need to graduate. At this point I don’t really know what to do, but I’m scared.

I am terrified of the thought that I might get sick and bring it home to my family. I’ve seen the statistics and I know that school is not a super awesome idea. It’s just so much to process. I barely even know what I want to do with my future, but now I have to figure out what to do without putting my whole family in danger of getting sick.

This whole thing is just stressful and scary and something that I never even thought I would have to think about. So, I’m just going to do my part in keeping everyone safe and hope that everyone else does the same. It seems that’s all anyone can really do at this point.

Friday Finds: August 7, 2020

This Week at TLT

Book Review: Queerfully and Wonderfully Made: A Guide for LGBTQ+ Christian Teens edited by Leigh Finke

Morgan’s Mumbles: 15 Journals to Keep by teen contributor Morgan Randall

Cindy Crushes Programming: Animal Crossing and the Virtual Library, by Cindy Shutts

New Books Alert: Book set in Nigeria, a prep school, a prison, a performing arts school, the world of K-pop, and more!

Have Some Doodles, by Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

Book Review: The Insomniacs by Marit Weisenberg

Around the Web

What is white privilege?

Mississippi School District Asks Over 100 Students to Quarantine After 7 Confirmed Coronavirus Cases

27 Best Middle-Grade Books About Anxiety

Universal Teams With LeBron James And Maverick Carter’s SpringHill On Adaptation Of ‘New Kid’

Most Teachers Concerned About In-Person School; 2 In 3 Want To Start The Year Online

Book Review: Queerfully and Wonderfully Made: A Guide for LGBTQ+ Christian Teens edited by Leigh Finke

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

Queerfully and Wonderfully Made: A Guide for LGBTQ+ Christian Teens

Beaming Bks. Aug. 2020. 260p. ed. by Finke, Leigh, ed. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781506465241.

 Gr 7 Up–This indispensable and compassionate guide for queer Christians challenges heteronormativity and cisgender as the default. The text pushes back against a culture of silence, invisibility, alienating theology, and close-minded attitudes. Teens are encouraged to express and explore their authentic selves. Chapters cover topics such as definitions of labels, how teens can deal with and protect themselves from unsupportive adults, self-care, getting accurate information, possible reactions and questions, discrimination, coming out, parental rejection, conversion therapy, and consent. There is some discussion of biblical evidence supporting or refuting various ideas, but the emphasis is on making sure readers know that being queer is completely okay and not incompatible with faith. Additionally, the text stresses that if teens feel fear or shame, their church and community have let them down. Graphs, statistics, text boxes, illustrations, and short personal narratives break up the main text. Back matter includes a glossary as well as a comprehensive resource list. Written by a team of contributors with backgrounds in mental health, ministry, art, education, and LGBTQ+ advocacy, this fantastic resource never stops reminding readers that they have value and deserve to live a full, beautiful life.

VERDICT An affirming, thorough, and supportive guide for understanding one’s identity as well as a pertinent resource for LGBTQ+ allies.

Morgan’s Mumbles: 15 Journals to Keep by teen contributor Morgan Randall

In last week’s post, I talked about keeping journals, and I wanted to share a list of ideas of journals to keep to spark ideas of something new for you to start right now. Feel free to mix up any of these in ways that work best for you, as journaling is a super individual practice and should be a very unique experience for each person. (I have inserted pictures of my notebooks, however, know that mine definitely aren’t the “prettiest” ones of these journals, they are practical applications in my life that work. Know that yours can be more creative than mine or far more simplistic, do whatever works best for you.)

Commonplace Book

Commonplace books (or journals) are a collection of quotes you hear, ideas, and random bursts of inspiration. These were mostly kept during the renaissance, but I think that is a thing a lot of people tend to subconsciously compile, be it through notes in our phones or random sticky notes. I personally enjoy keeping quotes that inspire me (and random bursts of inspiration) in its own area so that I always have something to look at when I need inspiration.

Bullet Journal

Bullet Journals can often be intimidating by the large community that surrounds them, personally I love the practice of having one place to collect ideas and create a planner that works for my schedule depending on the week. I have made complicated ones before, but currently, my process is rather simple. I only use a black pen and a few thin markers to color code. I create a calendar (for the year, month, and then weekly setups) along with habit, sleep, and anxiety trackers. This works for me, but feel free to add to it as much as you want.


I personally do not keep a journal, however, I plan on starting one soon, I know it is something a lot of people benefit from having and enjoy the process every day of having somewhere to reflect on their emotions and the daily events. I also think it is really cool to have a record of your life so that you can always have something to reflect back on to see exactly what was happening in your life (be it mentally or physically)

Dream Journal

This is another one I plan on starting soon because I oftentimes have really strange dreams and I like to look back on them to get ideas or try to decipher what they meant. This kind of journal would be somewhere where you write down your dreams every night (or whenever you have a dream that sparks your interest), and it would help you remember your dreams as well as be able to reflect on them (if that is something you are interested in).

Art Journal

Art journals come in all different forms (as do most journals) some people keep it more as a sketchbook, whereas others use it more as a collection of collages. I do both, depending on my mood, it is an easy way to create without the pressure of impressing anyone else because it is an art just for yourself. Below is a pencil sketch that normally I would have lost the paper to, but having it in a journal allows me to look back on it in case I decide one day to make it into an actual painting.

Travel Journal

This is NOT a journal you should currently be keeping, because you shouldn’t be traveling. But once the world opens back up, and you can safely travel I recommend you log those travel times in a journal where you collect records of events that happened on that trip, ticket stubs, and pictures. This will allow you to have a record of your vacations and be able to easily remember them all. This is also a great place to keep packing lists!

Reading Journal

This is another idea for logging what you are reading, collecting quotes, and writing reviews of books. If you enjoy annotating while you read, this might also provide you with more space to write all your thoughts and ideas out while you read. This can collect your opinions on books, and noteworthy points so if you want to look back to remember your opinion (or maybe an important quote) it is easy to access. This is my reading log (that I started in June), I haven’t updated it but I think it is a good layout if you need an idea for a log.

Writing Journal

If you are an aspiring author, or maybe you just have a lot of ideas and short bursts of inspiration. I recommend keeping a journal of your writings. I have a poetry journal, and one for book ideas. These can include plot structures, studies, character creation, and even actual writing. Let it flow natural and collect important things for your current or future self, while writing.

Gratitude Journal

I keep my gratitude reflection to a line each day in my bullet journal, but if gratitude is something you are consciously trying to work on maybe keeping a journal for it would be best. For some ideas of things to include, I would recommend a daily “Gratitude Log” where you write down the thing you were most grateful about each day, a running list of things that you are grateful for that sometimes you take for granted (maybe this is family, good books, morning coffee, or even just waking up), and (if this is something you can do) just write down everything that happens that you are grateful for. Let this book act as a reminder, when you have hard days, months, or even years that there is always something to be grateful for even if it’s hard to see.

Brain Dump Journal

This journal is exactly what it sounds like, a place to collect notes, ideas, lists, and anything else that doesn’t normally have a place. Let it grow organically and just be a space to get things out of your mind and onto paper.

Time Capsule Journal

My version of this is more of a junk journal. I collect random things from daily life that when put together into my journal form a “Time Capsule” of my life. Personally, my current journal is overflowing. It has random sketches, pictures, receipts, scraps of paper, and random notes given to me by people. This is all “junk” in theory, but I put it in a journal that I can always flip through and remember each moment for each item and lets me be able to easily look back on specific moments.

Food Journal

For me, this is a collection of recipes I have tried (or would like to try) and other random food-related things. These “random things” are nutrition facts, substitutes for items, grocery lists, and even notes about what I am eating and how it makes me feel. I recently went vegetarian and am in the process of going vegan (or at least completely cutting out dairy and only using farm-fresh/locally sourced eggs), so this allows me space to consciously keep track of foods I enjoy and new restrictions I am placing on my diet.

Music Journal

Similar to a reading journal, this is a space to create spreads/collages of songs, albums, and artists. If you enjoy listening to and dissecting music, I recommend keeping a journal like this to create a space for you to reflect on new songs and albums. And allow you to rate them, mark down what you liked and didn’t like, and even how it made you feel. If you enjoy creating music, take this a step farther and include things you enjoy in music and would like to try, along with lyrics that you think of or composition ideas.

Inspiration Journal

This is probably the vaguest, but I recommend keeping a journal of something that specifically inspires you. I have a few journals like this. One is a collection of historical figures that inspire me (and that I wasn’t taught about in school), one is a workout plan/log, and one on sustainability. Create a journal full of things that inspire you.

Philosophy and Theology Journal

This one is slightly more targeted at people who enjoy studying thought processes and ideologies. Create a place where you can collect notes on major philosophers and their thought processes. And if you are religious/spiritual, or enjoy studying those things, extend this into theological beliefs and study the differences between religions and how they have evolved over time. If you are religious/spiritual, you can extend this into a prayer or meditation journal if you are comfortable with it.

Here are some additional TLT posts that you may find helpful in your journaling journey.

Morgan RandallTeen Contributor

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

Cindy Crushes Programming: Animal Crossing and the Virtual Library, by Cindy Shutts

Animal Crossing New Horizon is already one of the most popular games ever released. It is super popular with teens and adults. I bought a Switch during Quarantine to play and I have spent over 400 hours playing since. It is a game where you move on to an island and have to build it up along with your house. You will befriend different animal characters who have personality types such as snooty, sisterly, jock and many others. This game  is played much like the Sims but no one dies.  I knew I wanted to do programming around it.

Playing the Game:

One type of programming is playing the game with teens. I got advice from Krista Hutley from the  Wilmette Public Library who told me that using Zoom is the best way to post dodo code. This will prevent people who are not signed up from attending. We had sign-up online and we emailed everyone the zoom link. We wanted to keep our program just teen also to keep everyone safe. I collected recipes in the game and extra items and placed them on my island. I built a mini library on my island so I could pretend to do Storytime and also give RA.

I did have some issues with the program. The library internet could not handle this program. I had tested it before even at work, but I had someone who was my friend come to my island. I did not realize our internet at work was Nat Type D when you need Nat Type A or B. Also one teen had internet issues. Even with the issues the teens had a lot of fun and we were able to talk about how much we all loved animal crossing. With our virtual programming we try to have two librarians attend one to run the program and one to make sure everyone is behaving.

I made a Take and Make Necklace kit using the DIY Recipe Bottle. This was a fun kit and I am enclosing the instructions. This craft looks like it is going quickly.

Take and Make Craft DIY Recipe Bottle


  • Jump Ring
  • Mini Bottles that contain Metal Eye Hooks
  • Necklaces
  • Mini Recipe card. I found this online. I just printed them off and sized them to fit in the bottle.


1. Take the cork out of the bottle and then place a DIY Recipe Card in the bottle.  Put the cork back in the bottle.

2. Screw the metal hook eye in the center of the cork by hand.

3. You can use your figure scissors or pliers to move to open and close the jump ring. Open the jump ring and place on the metal eye hook.

4. Then take the necklace  in the middle and place it in the jump ring.

5. Close the jump ring.  You now have a necklace!

6. Be careful, the Bottle are made of glass!

Escape Room

I also made an Animal Crossing Escape room. I used google forms to create it. I wrote a story in google docs first. I made it a chose your own adventure. I wrote about 18 pages of text. I had to write the script for every choice they made. This was a lot of fun. I love working on it. I then put it in google forms. I had different pages for different answers. I did realize I had to make the final pages be submit pages so I could record the data of how many people did the escape room. I used this video to help me create the formatting in google forms.


Here is the link to try it out. It is being released today!

Cindy Shutts, MLIS


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

New Books Alert: Book set in Nigeria, a prep school, a prison, a performing arts school, the world of K-pop, and more!

It’s been pretty quiet on the book mail front here. With so many places being shut down during the pandemic, much of the reading to be done has moved to being digital. Thank goodness I’m starting to get a few paper books again, as I’m not a fan of reading on electronics. Who knows what the future holds (truly at this point, who knows what tomorrow holds), but I really hope we don’t lose paper ARCs.

Interested in what you see here? Be sure to order from your local indie store! Two of my favorite stores are The Red Balloon in St. Paul, MN and The Children’s Book Shop in Brookline Village, MA.

As always, reminder that 100% of what I get in book mail goes back out the door to find new homes with teachers, librarians, and young readers. Keep at eye on my Twitter (@CiteSomething) and maybe you’ll see some of these books ready for new homes soon!

All descriptions from the publishers.

They Wish They Were Us

They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman (ISBN-13: 9780593114292 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 08/04/2020, Ages 14-17)

Gossip Girl meets One of Us Is Lying with a dash of The Secret History in this slick, taut murder mystery set against the backdrop of an exclusive prep school on Long Island.

In Gold Coast, Long Island, everything from the expensive downtown shops to the manicured beaches, to the pressed uniforms of Jill Newman and her friends, looks perfect. But as Jill found out three years ago, nothing is as it seems.

Freshman year Jill’s best friend, the brilliant, dazzling Shaila Arnold, was killed by her boyfriend. After that dark night on the beach, Graham confessed, the case was closed, and Jill tried to move on.

Now, it’s Jill’s senior year and she’s determined to make it her best yet. After all, she’s a senior and a Player—a member of Gold Coast Prep’s exclusive, not-so-secret secret society. Senior Players have the best parties, highest grades and the admiration of the entire school. This is going to be Jill’s year. She’s sure of it.

But when Jill starts getting texts proclaiming Graham’s innocence, her dreams of the perfect senior year start to crumble. If Graham didn’t kill Shaila, who did? Jill vows to find out, but digging deeper could mean putting her friendships, and her future, in jeopardy.

Fighting Words

Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (ISBN-13: 9781984815682 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 08/11/2020, Ages 10-12)

A candid and fierce middle grade novel about sisterhood and sexual abuse, by Newbery Honor winner and #1 New York Times best seller Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

“Fighting Words is raw, it is real, it is necessary, a must-read for children and their adults–a total triumph in all ways.” –Holly Goldberg Sloan, New York Times bestselling author of Counting by 7s

Ten-tear-old Della has always had her older sister, Suki: When their mom went to prison, Della had Suki. When their mom’s boyfriend took them in, Della had Suki. When that same boyfriend did something so awful they had to run fast, Della had Suki. Suki is Della’s own wolf–her protector. But who has been protecting Suki? Della might get told off for swearing at school, but she has always known how to keep quiet where it counts. Then Suki tries to kill herself, and Della’s world turns so far upside down, it feels like it’s shaking her by the ankles. Maybe she’s been quiet about the wrong things. Maybe it’s time to be loud.

In this powerful novel that explodes the stigma around child sexual abuse and leavens an intense tale with compassion and humor, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley tells a story about two sisters, linked by love and trauma, who must find their own voices before they can find their way back to each other.

Dating Makes Perfect

Dating Makes Perfect by Pintip Dunn (ISBN-13: 9781682814970 Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC Publication date: 08/18/2020, Ages 14-18)

The Tech sisters don’t date in high school. Not because they’re not asked. Not because they’re not interested. Not even because no one can pronounce their long, Thai last name—hence the shortened, awkward moniker. But simply because they’re not allowed.

Until now.

In a move that other Asian American girls know all too well, six months after the older Tech twins got to college, their parents asked, “Why aren’t you engaged yet?” The sisters retaliated by vowing that they won’t marry for ten (maybe even twenty!) years, not until they’ve had lots of the dating practice that they didn’t get in high school.

In a shocking war on the status quo, her parents now insist that their youngest daughter, Orrawin (aka “Winnie”), must practice fake dating in high school. Under their watchful eyes, of course—and organized based on their favorite rom-coms. ’Cause that won’t end in disaster.

The first candidate? The son of their longtime friends, Mat Songsomboon—arrogant, infuriating, and way too good-looking. Winnie’s known him since they were toddlers throwing sticky rice balls at each other. And her parents love him.

If only he weren’t her sworn enemy.

Vicious Spirits

Vicious Spirits by Kat Cho (ISBN-13: 9781984812377 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 08/18/2020 Ages 12-17)

New romance and dangers abound in this companion to the crowd-pleasing Wicked Fox.

After the events of Wicked Fox, Somin is ready to help her friends pick up the pieces of their broken lives and heal. But Jihoon is still grieving the loss of his grandmother, and Miyoung is distant as she grieves over her mother’s death and learns to live without her fox bead. The only one who seems ready to move forward is their not-so-favorite dokkaebi, Junu.

Somin and Junu didn’t exactly hit it off when they first met. Somin thought he was an arrogant self-serving, conman. Junu was, at first, amused by her hostility toward him until he found himself inexplicably drawn to her. Somin couldn’t deny the heat of their attraction. But as the two try to figure out what could be between them, they discover their troubles aren’t over after all. The loss of Miyoung’s fox bead has caused a tear between the world of the living and the world of the dead, and ghosts are suddenly flooding the streets of Seoul. The only way to repair the breach is to find the missing fox bead or for Miyoung to pay with her life. With few options remaining, Junu has an idea but it might require the ultimate sacrifice. In usual fashion, Somin may have a thing or two to say about that.

In Vicious Spirits, Kat Cho delivers another beguiling and addictive read full of otherworldly dangers and romance.Show Less


Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor (ISBN-13: 9780593113523 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 08/18/2020, Ages 10-12)

Nnedi Okorafor’s first novel for middle grade readers introduces a boy who can access super powers with the help of the magical Ikenga.

Nnamdi’s father was a good chief of police, perhaps the best Kalaria had ever had. He was determined to root out the criminals that had invaded the town. But then he was murdered, and most people believed the Chief of Chiefs, most powerful of the criminals, was responsible. Nnamdi has vowed to avenge his father, but he wonders what a twelve-year-old boy can do. Until a mysterious nighttime meeting, the gift of a magical object that enables super powers, and a charge to use those powers for good changes his life forever. How can he fulfill his mission? How will he learn to control his newfound powers?

Award-winning Nnedi Okorafor, acclaimed for her Akata novels, introduces a new and engaging hero in her first novel for middle grade readers set against a richly textured background of contemporary Nigeria.

Punching the Air

Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi, Yusef Salaam (ISBN-13: 9780062996480 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 09/01/2020, Ages 14-17)

From award-winning, bestselling author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five comes a powerful YA novel in verse about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated. Perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds, Walter Dean Myers, and Elizabeth Acevedo. 

The story that I thought

was my life

didn’t start on the day

I was born 

Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. “Boys just being boys” turns out to be true only when those boys are white. 

The story that I think

will be my life 

starts today

Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it? 

With spellbinding lyricism, award-winning author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam tell a moving and deeply profound story about how one boy is able to maintain his humanity and fight for the truth, in a system designed to strip him of both.

Never Look Back

Never Look Back by Lilliam Rivera (ISBN-13: 9781547603732 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 09/01/2020, Ages 13-17)

Acclaimed author Lilliam Rivera blends a touch of magical realism into a timely story about cultural identity, overcoming trauma, and the power of first love.

Eury comes to the Bronx as a girl haunted. Haunted by losing everything in Hurricane Maria—and by an evil spirit, Ato. She fully expects the tragedy that befell her and her family in Puerto Rico to catch up with her in New York. Yet, for a time, she can almost set this fear aside, because there’s this boy . . .

Pheus is a golden-voiced, bachata-singing charmer, ready to spend the summer on the beach with his friends, serenading his on-again, off-again flame. That changes when he meets Eury. All he wants is to put a smile on her face and fight off her demons. But some dangers are too powerful for even the strongest love, and as the world threatens to tear them apart, Eury and Pheus must fight for each other and their lives.

Featuring contemporary Afro-Latinx characters, this retelling of the Greek myth Orpheus and Eurydice is perfect for fans of Ibi Zoboi’s Pride and Daniel José Older’s Shadowshaper.

Sing Like No One's Listening

Sing Like No One’s Listening by Vanessa Jones (ISBN-13: 9781682631942 Publisher: Peachtree Publishing Company Publication date: 09/01/2020, Ages 12-16)

A moving story of grief and healing – sure to be a pure joy for any musical theater aficionado.

Nettie Delaney has just been accepted into a prestigious performing arts school—the very same school her superstar mother attended. With her mother’s shadow hanging over her, Nettie has her work cut out for her—and everyone is watching. To make matters worse, Nettie hasn’t been able to sing a single note since her mother died. Whenever she tries, she just clams up. But if Nettie’s going to survive a demanding first year and keep her place in a highly coveted program, she’ll have to work through her grief and deliver a showstopper or face expulsion.

All may not be lost, however, when Nettie stumbles upon a mysterious piano player in an empty studio after class. Masked behind a curtain, can Nettie summon the courage to find her voice? Or will the pressure and anxiety of performing come crashing down?

All about finding and raising your voice, and not throwing away your shot, Vanessa Jones’s well-crafted journey of grief and healing will pull readers along with its strong narrative voice and satisfying sense of mystery.

Miss Meteor

Miss Meteor by Tehlor Kay Mejia, Anna-Marie McLemore (ISBN-13: 9780062869913 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 09/22/2020, Ages 14-17)

A gorgeous and magical collaboration between two critically acclaimed, powerhouse YA authors offers a richly imagined underdog story perfect for fans of Dumplin’ and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.There hasn’t been a winner of the Miss Meteor beauty pageant who looks like Lita Perez or Chicky Quintanilla in all its history.But that’s not the only reason Lita wants to enter the contest, or her ex-best friend Chicky wants to help her. The road to becoming Miss Meteor isn’t about being perfect; it’s about sharing who you are with the world—and loving the parts of yourself no one else understands.So to pull off the unlikeliest underdog story in pageant history, Lita and Chicky are going to have to forget the past and imagine a future where girls like them are more than enough—they are everything.


Shine by Jessica Jung (ISBN-13: 9781534462519 Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers Publication date: 09/29/2020, Ages 14-18)

Crazy Rich Asians meets Gossip Girl by way of Jenny Han in this knock-out debut about a Korean American teen who is thrust into the competitive, technicolor world of K-pop, from Jessica Jung, K-pop legend and former lead singer of one of the most influential K-pop girl groups of all time, Girls Generation.

What would you give for a chance to live your dreams?

For seventeen-year-old Korean American Rachel Kim, the answer is almost everything. Six years ago, she was recruited by DB Entertainment—one of Seoul’s largest K-pop labels, known for churning out some of the world’s most popular stars. The rules are simple: Train 24/7. Be perfect. Don’t date. Easy right?

Not so much. As the dark scandals of an industry bent on controlling and commodifying beautiful girls begin to bubble up, Rachel wonders if she’s strong enough to be a winner, or if she’ll end up crushed… Especially when she begins to develop feelings for K-pop star and DB golden boy Jason Lee. It’s not just that he’s charming, sexy, and ridiculously talented. He’s also the first person who really understands how badly she wants her star to rise.

Get ready as Jessica Jung, K-pop legend and former lead singer of Korea’s most famous girl group, Girls Generation, takes us inside the luxe, hyper-color world of K-pop, where the stakes are high, but for one girl, the cost of success—and love—might be even higher. It’s time for the world to see: this is what it takes to SHINE.

Pretty Funny for a Girl

Pretty Funny for a Girl by Rebecca Elliott (ISBN-13: 9781682631478 Publisher: Peachtree Publishing Company Publication date: 10/01/2020, Ages 12-16)

A candid and laugh-out-loud journey of family, friends, and fierce mistakes.

Haylah Swinton is an ace best friend, a loving daughter, and an incredibly patient sister to a four-year-old nutcase of a brother. Best of all, she’s pretty confident she’s mastered making light of every situation—from her mom’s new boyfriend to unsolicited remarks on her plus-sized figure. Haylah’s learning to embrace all of her curvy parts and, besides, she has a secret: one day, she’ll be a stand-up comedian star.

So when impossibly cool and thirstalicious Leo reveals he’s also into comedy, Haylah jumps at the chance to ghostwrite his sets. But is Leo as interested in returning the favor? Even though her friends warn her of Leo’s intentions, Haylah’s not ready to listen—and she might just be digging herself deeper toward heartbreak. If Haylah’s ever going to step into the spotlight, first she’ll need to find the confidence to put herself out there and strut like the boss she really is.

Rebecca Elliott’s hilarious and authentic narrative voice is sure to capture readers’ hearts as her plus-sized, teenage heroine navigates learning to love the body she’s in while dealing with friends, family, and boys.

These Violent Delights

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong (ISBN-13: 9781534457690 Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books Publication date: 11/17/2020, Ages 14-18)

Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

The Love Curse of Melody McIntyre

The Love Curse of Melody McIntyre by Robin Talley (ISBN-13: 9780062409263 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 12/01/2020, Ages 14+)

Perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli and Nina LaCour, this #ownvoices romantic comedy from New York Times bestselling author Robin Talley has something for everyone: backstage rendezvous, deadly props, and a seemingly insurmountable obstacle to True Love.

Melody McIntyre, stage manager extraordinaire, has a plan for everything.

What she doesn’t have? Success with love. Every time she falls for someone during a school performance, both the romance and the show end in catastrophe. So, Mel swears off any entanglements until their upcoming production of Les Mis is over.

Of course, Mel didn’t count on Odile Rose, rising star in the acting world, auditioning for the spring performance. And she definitely didn’t expect Odile to be sweet and funny, and care as much about the play’s success as Mel.

Which means that Melody McIntyre’s only plan now is trying desperately not to fall in love.

Have Some Doodles, by Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

During this pandemic a lot of people have an excessive amount of free time. It can be hard to find things to do that will fill all that time, so here are some simple doodles that could take up some time. Also, this is an easy programming idea to share because you don’t need a lot of supplies.

Basic Banner:

  1. Draw two squiggly lines with some space between. These lines should be parallel to each other and horizontal.
  2. Connect the two lines at both sides.
  3. At two corners that are diagonal from each other draw a small swirl, but don’t connect the swirl to the line.
  4. The swirls will be connected to the squiggly lines with two straight lines. One at the point where the swirl stops and one where the swirl curves in.
  5. This is the point where you can trace over the banner with a black pen.
  6. Now, you will need two colors that are close to each other. One will be the color of the banner and the other will be the color of the shadow. Color the main part of the banner and the outside of the swirl the lighter color. Color the inside of the swirl the darker color, so it looks like a shadow.

Color Gradient Words:

  1. Get two colors that are close to each other so you can achieve the gradient.
  2. With the lighter color, write out whatever word you want. You may want to make the word a fairly large size.
  3. With the darker color, go about halfway down each letter and go over the bottom half.
  4. Now, you can either leave the word the way it is or you can trace the word however you want.

Separated doodle:

  1. Draw two semi-circles with a good amount of distance between them.
  2. Fill in the semi-circles with the same color that they were drawn with.
  3. Trace the flat parts of the semi-circles with a black pen.
  4. In the space between the two semi-circles write whatever word you want.
  5. Once you have your word you can do whatever you want to it to add flare.

Here are some more doodle examples:

Also, here are some great books about doodling and lettering:

Riley, Teen Reviewer

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

Book Review: The Insomniacs by Marit Weisenberg

Publisher’s Book Description: A sharp and romantic novel about two suburban teens who can’t sleep uncovering the secrets of their neighborhood by night. Think The Summer I Turned Pretty with flashes of Rear Window!

When seventeen-year-old competitive diver Ingrid freezes up and sustains a head injury at a routine meet, her orderly life is turned upside down. Now housebound and sedentary on doctor’s orders, Ingrid can’t sleep and is haunted by the question of what triggered her uncharacteristic stage fright.

The only thing she remembers about the moment before the dive is seeing Van, her neighbor, former best friend, and forever crush, on the sidelines. Then one sleepless night, she sees Van outside her window…looking right back at her. They tentatively begin “not sleeping” together every night but still living separate lives by day.

Ingrid tells herself this is just temporary, but soon, she and Van are up every night together, increasingly intertwined in helping each other put pieces of memory together. As Van works through his own reasons for not being able to sleep, both of them are pulled into a mystery that threatens to turn their quiet neighborhood into a darker place than they realized. 

Karen’s Thoughts:

I read this book yesterday and writing my review now while my thoughts are fresh. For the most part, I would highly recommend this book except an issue regarding consent and the power dynamics of age and position involved, which I will discuss in a moment.

The Insomniacs really grabbed me from the get go. Our main character, Ingrid, has suffered a major concussion in a diving accident and now she can’t sleep at night. She soon learn that estranged childhood friend and hot dude Van across the street also is having problems with insomnia. Van, having been through this issue before and having had counseling, knows a lot about the psychology of insomnia which leads to some interesting discussions about mental health and sleep tucked into this book.

The two soon realize that the reason they can’t sleep may be tied together by the same events and involve an abandoned house next door. So they spend their nights staring out Ingrid’s bedroom window which has the best view and bonding. Secrets are shared and old memories are dissected as they discuss why, exactly, Ingrid stopped hanging around with Van, Max and Wilson. The four of them used to be best friends but they day in which her father very publicly left was the day that changed everything.

On the surface, this book is a moody mystery about neighborhood secrets. But this book is really a deep exploration into emotions, identity, growing up and changing, and family dynamics. One of the things that I truly loved about this book was that it was raw, earnest and felt authentic. Some of the YA I read throws me right out of the narrative because the teens often seem like mini adults that have been arbitrarily and conveniently slapped with the YA label to make it marketable as YA; not so with The Insomniacs, these teens were realistically and messily plodding through complicated age appropriate feelings with the world awareness and experience of a 17-year-old. They were confused by the actions of others, they did things they knew were wrong and continued to do them because they didn’t have the tools to do them differently, and they made mistakes that negatively effected their relationships because, again, they didn’t have the emotional tools to do those things differently. In other words, they were authentic teens trying to figure out how to navigate a world of complex emotions and feelings.

The mystery element was intriguing from page one and it involves a lot of elements that are related for both Ingrid and Van. Every step of the way you want to keep reading to find out what, exactly, is happening in the house next door and why it’s keeping Ingrid and Van awake each night.

The book does involve a discussion about the age of consent and positions of power in an adult-teen relationship that I think could have been more fully addressed. Although a majority of the characters clearly condemn this relationship and parties are held accountable, the teen involved makes comments that seem to minimize or justify the relationship and that made me feel uncomfortable as someone who understands the power dynamics that are often at play here.

Most of the characters are presumed white and straight, though Van is a biracial teen with Japanese and white parents. Issues discussed include mental health, therapy, divorce and parental alienation, adultery, consent and abuse, drug use, and addiction. Family and friendship are big themes in this book as well. Bonus points because it involves a teen involved in a sport we don’t see mentioned much in YA – competitive diving – and it really looks deeply into the pressures that teens face academically and trying to get into college, including athletic scholarships. The Insomniacs really understands the complexity of teen life and the issues that they face.

At times this book reads like a long, languid dream, an apt mood for a book about teens who can’t sleep. It was different in pace and tone and incredibly intriguing. Plus, I liked the characters and wanted them to succeed on their own and as a couple who clearly should and wanted to be together. It’s definitely a deep and complex novel that takes on heavy teen issues with the gravitas I think that they deserve. Overall, I recommend this book, with the caveat that I would have liked to have seen the issues of consent more fully developed.

This book comes out September 1st from Flatiron Books

Post-It Note Reviews: Graphic novels and memoirs, a middle grade about racism and friendship, and a beautiful YA about drag and identity

Making my way through my library hold list and I’m appreciative of my local library’s contactless curbside pickup option. I currently have 56 books (staggered) in my hold queue and keep adding more. So surprising, I know.

All descriptions from the publishers. Transcriptions of the Post-It notes follow the description.

Stepping Stones (Peapod Farm Series #1) by Lucy Knisley (ISBN-13: 9781984896841 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 05/05/2020, Ages 8-12)

This contemporary middle-grade graphic novel about family and belonging from New York Times bestselling author Lucy Knisley is a perfect read for fans of Awkward and Be Prepared.

Jen is used to not getting what she wants. So suddenly moving the country and getting new stepsisters shouldn’t be too much of a surprise.

Jen did not want to leave the city. She did not want to move to a farm with her mom and her mom’s new boyfriend, Walter. She did not want to leave her friends and her dad.

Most of all, Jen did not want to get new “sisters,” Andy and Reese.

As if learning new chores on Peapod Farm wasn’t hard enough, having to deal with perfect-at-everything Andy might be the last straw for Jen. Besides cleaning the chicken coop, trying to keep up with the customers at the local farmers’ market, and missing her old life, Jen has to deal with her own insecurities about this new family . . . and where she fits in.

New York Times bestselling author Lucy Knisley brings to life a story inspired from her own childhood in an amazing journey of unlikely friends, sisters, and home.

(POST-IT SAYS: I adore all of Knisley’s books for older readers and am so glad to see her doing graphic novels for kids now. Shows how complicated families and change can be. A painfully honest look at Jen’s frustrations will leave readers ready to see what happens in forthcoming books.)

The Fire Never Goes Out: A Memoir in Pictures by Noelle Stevenson (ISBN-13: 9780062278272 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 03/03/2020, Ages 14-17)

From Noelle Stevenson, the New York Times bestselling author-illustrator of Nimona, comes a captivating, honest illustrated memoir that finds her turning an important corner in her creative journey—and inviting readers along for the ride.

In a collection of essays and personal mini-comics that span eight years of her young adult life, author-illustrator Noelle Stevenson charts the highs and lows of being a creative human in the world.

Whether it’s hearing the wrong name called at her art school graduation ceremony or becoming a National Book Award finalist for her debut graphic novel, Nimona, Noelle captures the little and big moments that make up a real life, with a wit, wisdom, and vulnerability that are all her own.

(POST-IT SAYS: I wanted a little more depth than this scattered memoir gives, but as it’s Stevenson, it was still an enjoyable look at how complicated life, love, and success can be. Fragmented but beautiful.)

Catherine’s War by Julia Billet, Claire Fauvel (Illustrator), Ivanka Hahnenberger (Translator) (ISBN-13: 9780062915597 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 01/21/2020, Ages 10-14)

A magnificent narrative inspired by a true survival story that asks universal questions about a young girl’s coming of age story, her identity, her passions, and her first loves.

At the Sèvres Children’s Home outside Paris, Rachel Cohen has discovered her passion—photography. Although she hasn’t heard from her parents in months, she loves the people at her school, adores capturing what she sees in pictures, and tries not to worry too much about Hitler’s war. But as France buckles under the Nazi regime, danger closes in, and Rachel must change her name and go into hiding.

As Catherine Colin, Rachel Cohen is faced with leaving the Sèvres Home—and the friends she made there—behind. But with her beautiful camera, Catherine possesses an object with the power to remember. For the rest of the war, Catherine bears witness to her own journey, and to the countless heroes whose courage and generosity saved the lives of many, including her own.

Based on the author’s mother’s own experiences as a hidden child in France during World War II, Catherine’s War is one of the most accessible historical graphic novels featuring a powerful girl since Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi—perfect for fans of Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, Anne Frank, or Helen Keller.

Includes a map and photographs of the real Catherine and her wartime experiences, as well as an interview with author Julia Billet.

(POST-IT SAYS: This story of resistance and sacrifice provides another important view of WWII. Lovely art and strong themes of courage and connection will engage readers and back matter provides more info and context.)

What Lane? by Torrey Maldonado (ISBN-13: 9780525518433 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 04/14/2020, Ages 10-13)

“STAY IN YOUR LANE.” Stephen doesn’t want to hear that—he wants to have no lane.

Anything his friends can do, Stephen should be able to do too, right? So when they dare each other to sneak into an abandoned building, he doesn’t think it’s his lane, but he goes. Here’s the thing, though: Can he do everything his friends can? Lately, he’s not so sure. As a mixed kid, he feels like he’s living in two worlds with different rules—and he’s been noticing that strangers treat him differently than his white friends . . .

So what’ll he do? Hold on tight as Stephen swerves in and out of lanes to find out which are his—and who should be with him.

Torrey Maldonado, author of the highly acclaimed Tight, does a masterful job showing a young boy coming of age in a racially split world, trying to blaze a way to be his best self.

(POST-IT SAYS: An important addition to the growing number of middle grade books that address Black Lives Matter. About racism, friendship, being biracial, and allyship. The conversational tone and strong voice give this wide appeal.)

Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook, Ryan Estrada, Hyung-Ju Ko (Illustrator) ( ISBN-13: 9781945820427 Publisher: Iron Circus Comics Publication date: 05/19/2020, Ages 14+)

When Kim Hyun Sook started college in 1983 she was ready for her world to open up. After acing her exams and sort-of convincing her traditional mother that it was a good idea for a woman to go to college, she looked forward to soaking up the ideas of Western Literature far from the drudgery she was promised at her family’s restaurant. But literature class would prove to be just the start of a massive turning point, still focused on reading but with life-or-death stakes she never could have imagined.

This was during South Korea’s Fifth Republic, a military regime that entrenched its power through censorship, torture, and the murder of protestors. In this charged political climate, with Molotov cocktails flying and fellow students disappearing for hours and returning with bruises, Hyun Sook sought refuge in the comfort of books. When the handsome young editor of the school newspaper invited her to his reading group, she expected to pop into the cafeteria to talk about Moby Dick, Hamlet, and The Scarlet Letter. Instead she found herself hiding in a basement as the youngest member of an underground banned book club. And as Hyun Sook soon discovered, in a totalitarian regime, the delights of discovering great works of illicit literature are quickly overshadowed by fear and violence as the walls close in.

In BANNED BOOK CLUB, Hyun Sook shares a dramatic true story of political division, fear-mongering, anti-intellectualism, the death of democratic institutions, and the relentless rebellion of reading.

(POST-IT SAYS: There’s a lot packed in here—censorship, activism, protest, Korean history, political unrest, propaganda, resistance, political awakening, and more. Add this look at 1980s South Korea to your lists and displays about youth activism.)

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta (ISBN-13: 9780062990297 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/26/2020, Ages 14+)

Stonewall Book Award Winner!

A fierce coming-of-age verse novel about identity and the power of drag, from acclaimed UK poet and performer Dean Atta. Perfect for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo, Jason Reynolds, and Kacen Callender.

Michael is a mixed-race gay teen growing up in London. All his life, he’s navigated what it means to be Greek-Cypriot and Jamaican—but never quite feeling Greek or Black enough.

As he gets older, Michael’s coming out is only the start of learning who he is and where he fits in. When he discovers the Drag Society, he finally finds where he belongs—and the Black Flamingo is born.

Told with raw honesty, insight, and lyricism, this debut explores the layers of identity that make us who we are—and allow us to shine.

(POST-IT SAYS: Absolutely perfect and beautiful and unforgettable, just like Michael. A powerful and affirming exploration of identity, sexuality, gender, and relationships. One of my favorite reads of 2020 so far.)