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Sunday Reflections: Why I Like Being a Cybils Judge and You Should Consider It

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Today a box of books has shown up at my doorstep and I have another group of books I have to read sometime before December 20th(ish). All in all, between the beginning of October and the end of December I will have read over 130 YA speculative fiction titles. This is Cybils time.

Cybils-Blog-Header-2017The Cybils are an online Children’s and Young Adult awards list put together by bloggers of all sorts; librarians, teachers and readers. To become a judge you submit an application after the call for judges goes out and you hope that you get selected. The judging process is divided into two parts. The first round is a group of panelists who read all of the nominated titles and make a shortlist. That shortlist is sent to another group of judges who then select the title that they feel best represents the best of the best of that category for the year. Titles are nominated during the early part of October by the public. Yes, that means you.

I have been honored for the past few years to participate as a first round judge, primarily in the YA speculative fiction category, though once also in the YA contemporary fiction category. It’s one of my most favorite times of the year. Here’s what I love about being involved in the Cybils.

1. It forces me into an intense period of reading

Granted, I’m a reader. I love to read. But there is something magical that happens when you take an intense deep dive into a particular category. And because I am on a deadline, I can’t let myself make excuses not to read. So it doesn’t matter how much I want to binge watch the new season of a show on Netflix or go shopping and spend money I don’t have, I have to stay focused and on deadline. I’m participating in an activity that I’ve made an important commitment to and honoring that commitment is paramount, so I better manage my time and my reading. Participating in the Cybils helps me develop some discipline and organization around my reading.

2. Finding Out About Books I’ve Never Heard Of

My job is very much about YA literature, both in my library and on this blog. I make lists and check them twice. I attend professional conferences to learn about upcoming titles. I read professional review journals, online blogs and more. But no matter how deep into the world of YA literature I go, and I feel like I go pretty deeply, titles are always nominated that I have never heard of. I am fascinated every year to look at the final list of nominated titles to see what’s nominated (and what’s not). I am always forced to read books that I may have missed (or skipped) and find treasures that were until that moment unknown to me. The joy of discovery is always found on the nominated titles list.

3. Behind the Scenes Book Discussions

As we read books, there are behind the scenes discussions that happen and I value. I think each group may handle their discussions differently, but the speculative fiction category has always used a tool called Basecamp (similar to Slack) that allows you to have threaded discussions. Especially towards the ends, these discussions can get very specific and passionate. And because the panel that is put together is diverse, I get insights into books quite different than my own. For example, one year there was a book that I was passionately defending to be on the shortlist until another participant raised some issues about problematic content. I hadn’t noticed the content and didn’t feel quite the same way about it, but with discussion came to understand another point of view and that was valuable to me. It changed how I read books from that moment on.

In these discussions you are also forced to be able to really defend the titles you are championing. We talk about things like world building, character development, stereotypes and tropes, etc. Because of these conversations, you learn to read more critically and to discuss titles with more complexity and awareness. My understanding of and ability to evaluate YA literature grows each year that I participate, and I’ve been a Teen Services Librarian for 24 years now.

4. I am Forced to Make a Shortlist

I have never been very good at “best ofs”. If you asked me to name a favorite book, movie or song, I will give you ten. I like a lot of things about a lot of things. But participating in the Cybils forces me to narrow down my reading and create a shortlist which is then discussed with others who have created their own shortlists. There is value in having to sit down and really examine a body of work and say, “this is what I think is the best of the best and here are the reasons why.” It’s an exercise in discipline, which has value.

5. I Grow as a Reader and a Teen Services Librarian Each Year I Participate

I want to be both the best person and the best teen services librarian I can be. I feel like that is an important personal goal, and participating in the Cybils helps me to achieve that goal. Reading helps me achieve it. The discipline required to participate as a Cybils judge helps me to achieve it. And the deep dive into YA literature helps me to achieve it. Being forced to discuss – and listen – to other points of view about the books I read also helps me to achieve it. There is, for me, no negative part of being involved in the Cybils. I mean, my kids sometimes want me to cook them dinner more during the month of December, but I hate to cook so that is also a win for me!

Here’s the dates you need to know:

  • August 21: Call for judges
  • Sept. 11: Deadline for judging application
  • Sept. 18: Judges announced.
  • Oct. 1: Nominations open
  • Oct. 15: Nominations close
  • October 16-25: Publisher submissions
  • Oct. 1-Dec. 29: Round 1 reading period
  • December 1: Round 1 review copy deadline
  • Dec. 29: Short lists due from judges
  • Jan. 1: Finalists announced
  • Jan. 2-Feb. 12: Round 2 reading period
  • Feb. 12: Winners list due from judges
  • Feb. 14: Winners announced

If you are not familiar with the Cybils, you can find out more here. Check out this year’s list of nominated titles and keep coming back to learn more about what the judges think. You WILL learn about titles you probably haven’t heard of yet, no matter how much you read.

While you’re waiting for the 2017 Cybils to be announced, check out School Library Journal’s Best of 2017 Lists here

Friday Finds: December 8, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

A List of New YA Book Release Links for 2018

Take 5: Five Things I’ve Made with My Silhouette Cameo and Why I Recommend it for a MakerSpace

Amanda’s favorites of 2017

Collecting Comics: December 2017 Edition, by Ally Watkins

#SJYALit: Because Their Stories Matter, a guest post by Danielle Ellison

18 2018 YA Books To Have On Your Radar

Around the web

Marvel Launching Animated Property ‘Marvel Rising’ in 2018

Venture into the virtual world of Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One

Meet Forbes’ Youngest 30 Under 30 Member For Its 2018 Class

Support Intellectual Freedom : Keep “The Hate U Give” on Katy ISD Book Shelves

2018 Morris Award finalists announced

2018 Nonfiction Award finalists announced

2018 Teen Tech Week™ site now live

18 2018 YA Books To Have On Your Radar

Like many of you (I’m guessing), I keep multiple reading-related lists. I keep track of what I read each year. I keep track of what ARCs I’ve gotten and hope to read. I keep track of what books I either want to get when they come out or hope to track down as ARCs but haven’t yet. There’s the list of 2018 LGBTQIA+ books. Look, I like lists. Even just listing my lists was fun for me. So anyway, I scanned through all my various relevant lists and pulled together this new list (yay!) of 18 YA books I can’t wait to read. In some cases, it’s because I liked the author’s previous work. In some cases, it’s a debut that’s caught my attention. In some cases, it’s just that I like reading my friends’ work. My list could have easily been “88 2018 YA Books To Have On Your Radar.” Hop in the comments or catch me on Twitter @CiteSomething and tell me what you are anxious to read in 2018!

All descriptions from the publishers.

 

 

you'll miss meYou’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon (ISBN-13: 9781481497732 Publisher: Simon Pulse Publication date: 01/02/2018)

A moving, lyrical debut novel about twins who navigate first love, their Jewish identity, and opposite results from a genetic test that determines their fate—whether they inherited their mother’s Huntington’s disease.

Eighteen-year-old twins Adina and Tovah have little in common besides their ambitious nature. Viola prodigy Adina yearns to become a soloist—and to convince her music teacher he wants her the way she wants him. Overachiever Tovah awaits her acceptance to Johns Hopkins, the first step on her path toward med school and a career as a surgeon.

But one thing could wreck their carefully planned futures: a genetic test for Huntington’s, a rare degenerative disease that slowly steals control of the body and mind. It’s turned their Israeli mother into a near stranger and fractured the sisters’ own bond in ways they’ll never admit. While Tovah finds comfort in their Jewish religion, Adina rebels against its rules.

When the results come in, one twin tests negative for Huntington’s, and the other tests positive.

These opposite outcomes push them farther apart as they wrestle with guilt, betrayal, and the unexpected thrill of first love. How can they repair their relationship, and is it even worth saving?

From debut author Rachel Lynn Solomon comes a luminous, heartbreaking tale of life, death, and the fragile bond between sisters.

 

 

meet cuteMeet Cute: Some people are destined to meet by Jennifer L. Armentrout, Dhonielle Clayton, Katie Cotugno, Jocelyn Davies, Huntley Fitzpatrick (ISBN-13: 9781328759870 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 01/02/2018)

Whether or not you believe in fate, or luck, or love at first sight, every romance has to start somewhere. MEET CUTE is an anthology of original short stories featuring tales of “how they first met” from some of today’s most popular YA authors.

Readers will experience Nina LaCour’s beautifully written piece about two Bay Area girls meeting via a cranky customer service Tweet, Sara Shepard’s glossy tale about a magazine intern and a young rock star, Nicola Yoon’s imaginative take on break-ups and make-ups, Katie Cotugno’s story of two teens hiding out from the police at a house party, and Huntley Fitzpatrick’s charming love story that begins over iced teas at a diner. There’s futuristic flirting from Kass Morgan and Katharine McGee, a riveting transgender heroine from Meredith Russo, a subway missed connection moment from Jocelyn Davies, and a girl determined to get out of her small town from Ibi Zoboi. Jennifer Armentrout writes a sweet story about finding love from a missing library book, Emery Lord has a heartwarming and funny tale of two girls stuck in an airport, Dhonielle Clayton takes a thoughtful, speculate approach to pre-destined love, and Julie Murphy dreams up a fun twist on reality dating show contestants.

This incredibly talented group of authors brings us a collection of stories that are at turns romantic and witty, epic and everyday, heartbreaking and real.

 

love hateLove, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed (ISBN-13: 9781616958473 Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated Publication date: 01/16/2018)

In this unforgettable debut, a Muslim teen copes with Islamophobia, cultural divides among peers and parents, and a reality she can neither explain nor escape. 

American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy who’s “suitable” to her mother. And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe, just maybe, pursuing a boy she’s known from afar her entire life who’s suddenly falling into her orbit at school.

But unbeknownst to Maya, there is a danger looming beyond her control. When a terrorist attack occurs in another Midwestern city, the prime suspect happens to share her last name. In an instant, Maya’s community, consumed by fear and hatred, becomes unrecognizable, and her life changes forever.

 

 

lets talk about loveLet’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann (ISBN-13: 9781250136121 Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Publication date: 01/23/2018)

Striking a perfect balance between heartfelt emotions and spot-on humor, this debut features a pop-culture enthusiast protagonist with an unforgettable voice sure to resonate with readers.

Alice had her whole summer planned. Nonstop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting—working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating—no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.

But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).

When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library-employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.

Claire Kann’s debut novel Let’s Talk About Love, chosen by readers like you for Macmillan’s young adult imprint Swoon Reads, gracefully explores the struggle with emerging adulthood and the complicated line between friendship and what it might mean to be something more.

 

 

elenaThe Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson (ISBN-13: 9781481498548 Publisher: Simon Pulse Publication date: 02/06/2018)

From the critically acclaimed author of We Are the Ants and At the Edge of the Universe comes a mind-bending, riveting novel about a teen who was born to a virgin mother and realizes she has the power to heal—but that power comes at a huge cost.

Sixteen-year-old Elena Mendoza is the product of a virgin birth.

This can be scientifically explained (it’s called parthenogenesis), but what can’t be explained is how Elena is able to heal Freddie, the girl she’s had a crush on for years, from a gunshot wound in a Starbucks parking lot. Or why the boy who shot Freddie, David Combs, disappeared from the same parking lot minutes later after getting sucked up into the clouds. What also can’t be explained are the talking girl on the front of a tampon box, or the reasons that David Combs shot Freddie in the first place.

As more unbelievable things occur, and Elena continues to perform miracles, the only remaining explanation is the least logical of all—that the world is actually coming to an end, and Elena is possibly the only one who can do something about it.

 

 

american pandaAmerican Panda by Gloria Chao (ISBN-13: 9781481499101 Publisher: Simon Pulse Publication date: 02/06/2018)

An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her germophobia and crush on a Japanese classmate.

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth—that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

From debut author Gloria Chao comes a hilarious, heartfelt tale of how unlike the panda, life isn’t always so black and white.

 

i stopI Stop Somewhere by T.E. Carter (ISBN-13: 9781250124647 Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Publication date: 02/27/2018)

Ellie Frias disappeared long before she vanished.

Tormented throughout middle school, Ellie begins her freshman year with a new look: she doesn’t need to be popular; she just needs to blend in with the wallpaper.

But when the unthinkable happens, Ellie finds herself trapped after a brutal assault. She wasn’t the first victim, and now she watches it happen again and again. She tries to hold on to her happier memories in order to get past the cold days, waiting for someone to find her.

The problem is, no one searches for a girl they never noticed in the first place.

 

 

girl like thatA Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena (ISBN-13: 9780374305444 Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux Publication date: 02/27/2018)

A timeless exploration of high-stakes romance, self-discovery, and the lengths we go to love and be loved.

Sixteen-year-old Zarin Wadia is many things: a bright and vivacious student, an orphan, a risk taker. She’s also the kind of girl that parents warn their kids to stay away from: a troublemaker whose many romances are the subject of endless gossip at school. You don’t want to get involved with a girl like that, they say. So how is it that eighteen-year-old Porus Dumasia has only ever had eyes for her? And how did Zarin and Porus end up dead in a car together, crashed on the side of a highway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia? When the religious police arrive on the scene, everything everyone thought they knew about Zarin is questioned. And as her story is pieced together, told through multiple perspectives, it becomes clear that she was far more than just a girl like that. This beautifully written debut novel from Tanaz Bhathena reveals a rich and wonderful new world to readers; tackles complicated issues of race, identity, class, and religion; and paints a portrait of teenage ambition, angst, and alienation that feels both inventive and universal.

 

 

place betweenThe Place Between Breaths by An Na (ISBN-13: 9781481422253 Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books Publication date: 03/06/2018)

From master storyteller and Printz Award–winning author An Na comes a dark, intensely moving story of a girl desperately determined to find a cure for the illness that swept her mother away, and could possibly destroy her own life as well.

Sixteen-year-old Grace is in a race against time—and in a race for her life—even if she doesn’t realize it yet…

She is smart, responsible, and contending with more than what most teens ever should. Her mother struggled with schizophrenia for years until, one day, she simply disappeared—fleeing in fear that she was going to hurt those she cared about most. Ever since, Grace’s father has worked as a recruiter at one of the leading labs dedicated to studying the disease, trying to lure the world’s top scientists to the faculty to find a cure, hoping against hope it can happen in time to help his wife if she is ever found. But this makes him distant. Consumed.

Grace, in turn, does her part, interning at the lab in the gene sequencing department daring to believe that one day they might make a breakthrough…and one day they do. Grace stumbles upon a string of code that could be the key. But something inside of Grace has started to unravel. Could her discovery just be a cruel side effect of the disease that might be taking hold of her? And can she even tell the difference?

Unflinchingly brave, An Na has created a mesmerizing story with twists and turns that reveal jaw-dropping insights into the mind of someone struggling with schizophrenia.

 

 

chaoticChaotic Good by Whitney Gardner (ISBN-13: 9781524720803 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 03/13/2018)

Cosplay, comic shops, and college applications collide in this illustrated novel, perfect for fans of Adam Silvera and Noelle Steveson!

Cameron’s cosplay creations are finally starting to earn her attention–attention she hopes to use to get into the CalArts costume design department for college. But after she wins a major competition, she inadvertently sets off a firestorm of angry comments from male fans online.

When Cameron’s family moves the summer before her senior year, she hopes to complete her costume portfolio in peace and quiet away from the abuse.

Unfortunately, the only comic shop in town–her main destination for character reference–is staffed by a dudebro owner who challenges every woman who comes into the shop.

At her twin brother’s suggestion, Cameron borrows a set of his clothes and uses her costuming expertise to waltz into the shop as Boy Cameron, where she’s shocked at how easily she’s accepted into the nerd inner sanctum. Soon, Cameron finds herself drafted into a D&D campaign alongside the jerky shop-owner Brody, friendly (almost flirtatiously so) clerk Wyatt, handsome Lincoln, and her brother Cooper, dragged along for good measure.

But as her “secret identity” gets more and more entrenched, Cameron’s portfolio falls by the wayside–and her feelings for Lincoln threaten to make a complicated situation even more precarious in this geek girl anthem from You’re Welcome, Universe author Whitney Gardner, complete with fully illustrated comic pages inked by Gardner herself.

 

 

tyler johnsonTyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles (ISBN-13: 9780316440776 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Publication date: 03/20/2018)

The Hate U Give meets All American Boys in this striking and heartbreaking debut novel, commenting on current race relations in America.


When Marvin Johnson’s twin, Tyler, goes to a party, Marvin decides to tag along to keep an eye on his brother. But what starts as harmless fun turns into a shooting, followed by a police raid.

The next day, Tyler has gone missing, and it’s up to Marvin to find him. But when Tyler is found dead, a video leaked online tells an even more chilling story: Tyler has been shot and killed by a police officer. Terrified as his mother unravels and mourning a brother who is now a hashtag, Marvin must learn what justice and freedom really mean.

Tyler Johnson Was Here is a stunning account of police brutality in modern America.

 

 

astonishingThe Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan (ISBN-13: 9780316463997 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Publication date: 03/20/2018)

Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a stunning and heartbreaking novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.

 

summer of jordiThe Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding (ISBN-13: 9781510727663 Publisher: Sky Pony Press Publication date: 04/03/2018)

Seventeen, fashion-obsessed, and gay, Abby Ives has always been content playing the sidekick in other people’s lives. While her friends and sister have plunged headfirst into the world of dating and romances, Abby’s been happy to focus on her plus-size style blog and her dreams of taking the fashion industry by storm. When she lands a great internship at her favorite boutique, she’s thrilled to take the first step toward her dream career. Then she falls for her fellow intern, Jordi Perez. Hard. And now she’s competing against the girl she’s kissing to win the coveted paid job at the end of the internship.

But really, nothing this summer is going as planned. She’s also unwittingly become friends with Jax, a lacrosse-playing bro-type who wants her help finding the best burger in LA; she’s struggling to prove to her mother―the city’s celebrity health nut―that she’s perfectly content with who she is; and she’s desperately trying to remain behind the scenes and off-camera where she feels she belongs, when she hangs out with Jordi, who documents her entire life in photographs.

Though crazy, summer’s been fun, and just as Abby starts to feel like she?s no longer the sidekick in her own life anymore, Jordi’s photography surprisingly puts her in the spotlight for the first time, and it feels more like a betrayal rather than a starring role. Can Abby find a way to reconcile her positive yet private sense of self with the image that other people have of her?

 

fly awayWe’ll Fly Away by Bryan Bliss (ISBN-13: 9780062494276 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/08/2018)

Alternating between his third-person account of senior year and letters from death row, a young man untangles the chain of devastating circumstances that led to his conviction. Powerful, thought-provoking, and heartbreaking, this novel about friendship, regret, and redemption is for fans of NPR’s Serial podcast and Marieke Nijkamp’s This Is Where It Ends.

Best friends since childhood, Luke and Toby have always had each other’s backs. And soon they will leave their small town, riding the tails of Luke’s wrestling scholarship, and never return. If they don’t drift apart first. Luke is dealing with an unwelcome change in his home situation, one that could take his younger brothers away. Meanwhile Toby’s father—an abusive alcoholic—has started taking more of an interest in Toby, and Luke is worried that when that interest becomes too intense, Toby won’t be able to defend himself.

Bryan Bliss’s hard-hitting third novel is told in alternating points of view between Luke’s letters to Toby from death row, and Luke and Toby’s third-person account of their senior year, expertly unfolding the circumstances that led to Luke’s incarceration. Tense and emotional, this searing novel explores family abuse, sex, love, friendship, and the lengths people will go to, to protect the ones they love. For fans of Jason Reynolds, Matt de la Peña, and Andrew Smith.

 

 

girl madeGirl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake (ISBN-13: 9781328476692 Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers Publication date: 05/15/2018)

“I need Owen to explain this. Because yes, I do know that Owen would never do that, but I also know Hannah would never lie about something like that.”

Mara and Owen are about as close as twins can get. So when Mara’s friend Hannah accuses Owen of rape, Mara doesn’t know what to think. Can the brother she loves really be guilty of such a violent crime? Torn between the family she loves and her own sense of right and wrong, Mara is feeling lost, and it doesn’t help that things have been strained with her ex-girlfriend, Charlie.

As Mara, Hannah, and Charlie navigate this new terrain, Mara must face a trauma from her own past and decide where Charlie fits in her future. With sensitivity and openness, this timely novel confronts the difficult questions surrounding consent, victim blaming, and sexual assault.

 

image notDriving by Starlight by Anat Deracine (ISBN-13: 9781250133427 Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) Publication date: 05/22/2018)

In this debut YA friendship story set in Saudi Arabia, two girls navigate typical teen issues—crushes, college, family expectations, future hopes, and dreams.

Sixteen-year-olds Leena and Mishie are best friends. They delight in small rebellions against the Saudi cultural police—secret Western clothing, forbidden music, flirtations. But Leena wants college, independence—she wants a different life. Though her story is specific to her world (a world where it’s illegal for women to drive, where a ten-year-old boy is the natural choice as guardian of a fatherless woman), ultimately it’s a story about friendship, family, and freedom that transcends cultural differences.

 

 

truthGive Me Some Truth by Eric Gansworth (ISBN-13: 9781338143546 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 05/29/2018)

Carson Mastick is entering his senior year of high school and desperate to make his mark, on the reservation and off. A rock band — and winning the local Battle of the Bands, with its first prize of a trip to New York City — is his best shot. But things keep getting in the way. Small matters like the lack of an actual band, or the fact that his brother just got shot confronting the racist owner of a local restaurant.

Maggi Bokoni has just moved back to the reservation from the city with her family. She’s dying to stop making the same traditional artwork her family sells to tourists (conceptual stuff is cooler), stop feeling out of place in her new (old) home, and stop being treated like a child. She might like to fall in love for the first time too.

Carson and Maggi — along with their friend Lewis — will navigate loud protests, even louder music, and first love in this stirring novel about coming together in a world defined by difference.

 

 

not the girlsNot the Girls You’re Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi (ISBN-13: 9781250151810 Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Publication date: 06/19/2018)

Lulu Saad doesn’t need your advice, thank you very much. She’s got her three best friends and nothing can stop her from conquering the known world. Sure, for half a minute she thought she’d nearly drowned a cute guy at a party, but he was totally faking it. And fine, yes, she caused a scene during Ramadan. It’s all under control. Ish.

Except maybe this time she’s done a little more damage than she realizes. And if Lulu can’t find her way out of this mess soon, she’ll have to do more than repair friendships, family alliances, and wet clothing. She’ll have to go looking for herself.

Debut author Aminah Mae Safi’s honest and smart novel is about how easy it can be to hurt those around you even if —especially if—you love them.

 

 

 

 

#SJYALit: Because Their Stories Matter, a guest post by Danielle Ellison

 Today, author Danielle Ellison joins us as part of our Social Justice in YALit Discussion. You can find all of the #SJYALit Posts here.

sjyalit

As much as I want to write this guest post, I also don’t want to. It’s a familiar feeling, for me, of why I was nervous to write my newest book and why I am terrified of my next one: I’m not representative of what I’m writing.

In a world of YA where Own Voices matter, where representation matters, where diversity is important—and as someone who stands in support of that—I didn’t want to write a book with a gay teen. I also don’t want to have a MC who is a person of color, which my next in this series. But I am anyway because their stories matter.

Their stories matter.

##

My day job is working with teenagers. I love my job and I love my teens, fiercely, even when they say or do or act in messed up teenage ways. I love being a pro-claimed library mom to them.

I don’t love the other parts.

I don’t love having to bite my tongue when I listen to my LGBTQ+ teens talk about being are too afraid to come out to their families because they know if they do, they’ll be homeless.

I don’t love watching one of my teens, who is a fantastic makeup artist and future (self-proclaimed) drag queen, wear beanies and sweats to school because he believes if he dresses as who he is, he will get beat up by rednecks. (His words.)

sweetheartsham

I feel pride when I see seventh graders speak out about their gender identity, about their pronouns, about the name they want to be called instead, and stand up to peers who ridicule. (I never knew that much about myself, or the world, in seventh grade because my peers were more invested in boy band drama.) While I embrace that pride, I don’t love hearing some of those same kids talk about how his mom tried to make him wear a dress to picture day. Or how her dad keeps introducing her as his dead name in public, even though dad doesn’t call her that at home. Or how kids at school say comments that imply being a “they” means they have two people inside their head, and in which case wouldn’t that just make them crazy?

I have listened to, cried with, been angered for, sat helplessly by and listened to LGTBQ+ teens (and adult friends) no matter what their gender, identity, race or pronoun, deal with issues of acceptance, trust. How they can’t walk down the street holding their partner’s hand just in case. How they get stares for looking “different”. How they fear every day that today may be the last day they have the rights they fought for.

I’m lucky. I don’t have those fears. I don’t have, and never have had to, face the reality that my parents, my family, my friends could turn their backs on me if they found out who I was wasn’t who they wanted me to be. That doesn’t mean I don’t care, that I won’t fight, that I won’t support, listen to, march with, fight for those who do. In fact, it means the opposite. It means I will.

As fiercely as I love my teens, writing, my job, I love people. I believe that fear shouldn’t be present in their lives, and it makes me sad—and it makes me angry—that humans in our “free” country have to experience any of that.

##

These stories matter.

It’s the aftermath of them, too, that matter. It’s the other teens, the ones who lend clothes and give rides and offer bedroom floors to their friends “just in case”. It’s the ones who listen, who care, who fight and argue and march alongside their friends. It’s the stories of those who just love other humans…not because they’re LGBTQ+ or a person of color. Not because of any social issue other than being a friend.

Those stories matter too.

And that’s why I write these stories I’m afraid of. There are more stories out there to be told, and there are some out there being shouted off rooftops. We just have to be brave enough to listen.

About The Sweetheart Sham:

In a small town like Culler, South Carolina, you guard your secrets like you guard your cobbler recipe: with your life. Georgia Ann Monroe knows a thing or two about secrets: she’s been guarding the truth that her best friend Will is gay for years now. But what happens when a little white lie to protect him gets her into a fake relationship…and then the boy of her dreams shows up?

Enter Beau Montgomery: Georgie’s first love, hotter than ever, and much too much of a southern gentleman to ever pursue someone else’s girl. There’s no way to come clean to Beau while still protecting Will. But bless their hearts, they live in Culler—where secrets always have a way of revealing themselves.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains a hilarious “fakeship,” a scorching-hot impossible relationship, and a heartwarming best-friendship that will make you want to call your best friend right here, right now.

Buylinks: https://entangledpublishing.com/the-sweetheart-sham.html

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33025418-the-sweetheart-sham

About Danielle Ellison:

danielleellison

Danielle Ellison is a nomad, always on the lookout for an adventure and the next story. In addition to writing, she’s the founder and coordinator of the NoVa TEEN Book Festival. When she’s not busy with books, she’s probably watching her favorite shows, drinking coffee, or fighting her nomadic urges. She is newly settled in Oklahoma (for now) with her cat, Simon, but you can always find her on twitter @DanielleEWrites.

Collecting Comics: December 2017 Edition, by Ally Watkins

collectingcomics

Welcome to the December 2017 edition of Collecting Comics! Here are a few suggestions of things coming out this month that your teens and tweens will enjoy!

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Gotham Academy, Second Semester, Volume 2: The Ballad of Olive Silverlock by Brendan Fletcher, Becky Cloonan, and Karl Kerschl, illustrated by Adam Archer (DC Comics, December 5). In this final volume of the popular Gotham Academy series, we learn the fate of Olive, who has been possessed by her ancestor, Amity Arkham, who wants nothing more than to destroy Gotham City. Will the rest of the Detective Club be able to save her? Collects issues #9-#12 and #4 of the comic book series. This one features a lot of Gotham references, so give it to your Batman fans.

I Am Groot by Chris Hastings, illustrated by Flaviano (Marvel, December 5). When the Guardians of the Galaxy get stuck in a wormhole, a small Groot finds himself on his own in an alien world where no one can understand him. He must make a journey to the center of the world if he wants to find his family again! Collects issues #1-#5 of the comic book series.

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Star Wars: Rogue One Graphic Novel Adaptation by Allesandro Ferrari (IDW Publishing, December 12). This graphic adaptation of the popular Rogue One film features Jyn Erso, daughter of the Death Star’s creator, who is trying to save her father from Imperial control and steal the plans for the Death Star. Leads directly into the opening scene of Episode IV. All of your young Star Wars fans will be lining up for this one.

Lumberjanes Volume 7: A Bird’s-Eye View by Shannon Waters and Kat Leyh, illustrated by Carey Pietsch, Ayme Sotuyo, and Maarta Laiho (BOOM! Box, December 12). The High Council is coming to camp for inspection and everyone is trying to make everything perfect, even though there’s a storm brewing and kittens from the boy’s camp are manifesting magic powers. The multiple Eisner-award winning series is back with a new trade volume! Collects issues #25-#28 of the comic book series. Lumberjanes is perfect for fans of summer camp adventures and friendship stories.

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Brave Chef Brianna by Sam Sykes, illustrated by Selina Espiritu (BOOM! Studios, December 12). Brianna has big cooking dreams. She wants to open her own restaurant. But the only place she can afford to do it is in Monster City…where she’s the only human. Will her restaurant succeed?? Collects the entire limited series.

Misfit City Volume 1 by Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith and Kurt Lustgarten, illustrated by Naomi Franquiz (BOOM! Box, December 19).  Nothing fun has happened in Wilder’s hometown since they filmed a cult classic movie there in the 80s. But then she and her friends happen upon a centuries-old pirate map…and they discover their town might not be so boring after all! Collects issues #1-#4 of the comic book series. Give this one to your adventure readers.

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Ms. Marvel Volume 8: Mecca by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona (Marvel, December 26). An old enemy resurfaces and begins to target those closest to intrepid teenage hero Kamala Khan. She begins to suspect that something even more sinister is at work. Collects issues #19-#24 of the comic book series. Your superhero fans will love Ms. Marvel, the Pakistani-American teen trying to balance family, friends, and superhero-ing in her hometown of Jersey City.

See you in 2018!

Amanda’s favorites of 2017

Yes, it’s list time. What follows are 17 of my favorite 2017 books that I reviewed and excerpts of my reviews. I pretty much exclusively read contemporary fiction. Even though I’m a voracious reader, I’m sure I missed a lot of great titles this year. I always enjoy reading the many lists that crop up this time of the year, but I also always want more variety and to hear from more people. So here’s my list—will you share yours with us too? Leave us a comment or hit me up on Twitter where I’m @CiteSomething. 

 

history-twoHistory is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

Both the history and the present are riveting, unexpected storylines. Griffin and Theo’s relationship is powerful and complicated, especially once they break up. I loved seeing them get together and watching their close friendship morph into intense first love. They have loving, supportive families. The third member of their squad, Wade, barely blinks when the two start dating—he just doesn’t want to feel like a third wheel with his longtime best friends. When Theo begins to date Jackson while in California, Griffin tries to keep his cool, jealous, but figuring the relationship won’t last. After Theo dies, Griffin has the love and support of his family, Theo’s, and Wade, but it’s through Jackson that Griffin tries to seek solace. Though at first not really excited to get to know Jackson at all, Griffin realizes that he’s really the only person who can understand exactly how he feels. Plus, he believes Theo is watching him, and he thinks Theo would like to see him working so hard to get along with Jackson and to understand what they had.

 

Predictably, growing closer to Jackson and learning more about his time with Theo is agonizing for Griffin. It’s all hard to hear and pretty heartbreaking. Through this entire grieving process, Griffin is growing more and more heartbroken, learning things about Theo that hurt him and avoiding pretty enormous things that need to be dealt with. One of those things is Griffin’s “quirks,” as he thinks of them—really OCD and depression and the whole thinking Theo is currently with him somehow thing. Though surrounded by love and support, Griffin is hellbent on forging his own way through the quagmire of grief.

 

This profoundly devastating, heartbreaking, and brilliantly rendered look at love and grief will captivate readers. An absolute must-read. Bump this to the top of your TBR lists and be ready to not move until you finish it. (See full review here.)

 

 

carefulThe Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu

Haydu has written a profound story examining grief, doubt, tradition, expectation, and identity. Haydu’s story brings up huge questions about sacrifice and protection, about truth and perception. We are asked to consider, right alongside Lorna and crew, if love if a decision. Lorna and her friends know grief and pain, but they are still young. They are still learning that loss and heartache are inherent in love. And they can’t protect themselves from that—not by chalking things up to a Curse, not by drinking certain teas, not by building cages around their hearts, not by anything. They don’t yet know that we are all Affected, that we are all Cursed. In their isolation, they don’t understand that everyone has lost loved ones, that everyone blames themselves. Thanks to the relentlessness of Angelika, the Devonairre Street girls feel like they are the only ones protecting themselves, denying themselves, and stumbling under the dizzying weight of grief and guilt. Lorna, Delilah, Charlotte, and Isla’s whole lives are filled with people making them feel Other because of this. They don’t yet understand these are the prices we pay for being alive, for being the survivors. Their search for this understanding, their stumbling for answers and finding new pain, is heartbreaking. This beautifully written story is not to be missed. A powerful and deeply profound exploration of love, tragedy, and life itself. (See full review here.)

 

 

american-streetAmerican Street by Ibi Zoboi

Before long, she gets to know her cousins better and learns that they are tough girls who no one wants to mess with, girls who are fiercely loyal and protect their family. Fabiola has to figure out what being in Detroit means for her. She maintains rituals and beliefs from her heritage, but also learns how to fit in in her new neighborhood—one that is full of drugs, guns, violence, and secrets. Fabiola relies on vodou and spirits (lwas) to help guide her toward understanding what she needs to do as things get more complex in Detroit. Meanwhile, she’s also started a new relationship with Kasim, the best friend of her cousin Donna’s abusive boyfriend, Dray. Also, don’t forget, she’s trying to figure out how to get her mom, who is now in a detention center in New Jersey, to Detroit. Things take a dramatic turn when Fabiola begins working with a detective who is determined to bust Dray for dealing drugs. In exchange, the detective will help Fabiola’s mother get out of the detention center and get a green card. Wherever you think that part of the story is going, you’re wrong. The many twists and turns that part of the plot takes blew my mind. By the time I got to the end, the only coherent thought I was capable of writing in my notebook was “WHOA.”

 

Zoboi’s debut is complex and gritty (I kind of hate that word, but it gets the job done), with characters that will stick in my mind a long time. Though narrated by Fabiola, we get small first-person passages from all of the other characters, allowing us to know them more deeply. These passages reveal pasts and secrets, some of which will send you reeling. This powerful and well-written story of an immigrant girl’s new life in the United States is absorbing and unpredictable. I hope this finds its way to bookshelves in all public and school libraries. (See full review here.)

 

 

we-are-okayWe Are Okay by Nina LaCour

I love Nina LaCour. When this book showed up in my mailbox, I was delighted. Because here’s the thing: I’m going to guess I haven’t been alone in having a really hard time concentrating on a book lately. I started and abandoned a whole bunch of books in January. I read this until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore. Then the next morning, I read it while waiting for my doctor. For once, I wanted her to be running behind, because I was down to about twenty pages. I finished it later that same day, sobbing over my gummy candy and desperately hoping my kid would stay playing outside for a few more minutes so I could just keep on crying. It was exactly the book I needed to read at that moment in time. It’s a relatively quick read, and since it’s Nina LaCour, you know it’s going to be a deep and beautifully-written story. This is one of those books where I just don’t even want to say much of anything beyond OH MY GOD, GO READ THIS, IT’S STUNNING. I want the story to unfold for you like it did for me. I hadn’t so much as read the flap copy. I didn’t need to. It takes a while to figure out where the story might be going, and even once the pieces start to fall into place, it never feels predictable. This is, hands down, one of saddest books I have read in a very long time. But here’s how I mean that: you won’t cry all the way through. It’s not all doom and gloom. There is a lot of love and friendship to be found here. But Marin’s grief and loneliness will just destroy you. (See full review here.)

 

 

hate-uThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This book is so important. It’s also so good, but it’s SO IMPORTANT. And I’d say it’s timely, but violence against black people—specifically police violence against black people—is not a new thing. So the story feels very “ripped from the headlines,” but the damn headlines never change. The names of black people murdered by police officers pile up and you know that list is only going to get longer. So yeah, this book feels very of right now—but “right now” is actually a pretty long period of time. It’s things like the mentions of Twitter, of increased media attention on protests and victims’ stories, Tumblr, and other very contemporary things that make it feel like it’s happening RIGHT NOW, right this very second. Again, chalk that up to the fact that the date might change, but the story never does. Plenty of 90s references (thanks to Chris and Starr’s love of Fresh Prince and her parents’ interests and influence) help add to the feel of being timely and timeless all at once. This book will age well, and I write that while heaving a big sigh, because, again, in real life, the damn story never changes.

 

 

There’s so much more I could tell you about–Starr’s wonderful and supportive family, the complex interactions between gang members (and ex-gang members), the way you will be cheering out loud when Starr finally finds her voice and begins to speak out about what happened–but the bottom line of all of it is this: This book is profound. It is important. It manages to be funny and devastating at the same time. This intense look at systemic racism, police violence/accountability, and the lives of people affected by both needs to be read by everyone. EVERYONE. It’s only February, but I’d go so far as to say that this is probably the most important book of 2017. (See full review here.)

 

 

what-girls-are-madeWhat Girls Are Made Of by Elana Arnold

There are people who are going to read this book and judge Nina harshly. Here is who I suspect those people will be: people who are not teenage girls; people who have never been teenage girls; people who completely forgot what it’s like to be a teenage girl; people who literally cannot imagine being a teenage girl; and people who don’t understand the realities of teenage girls. Reading this book requires being aware of the fact that being a teenage girl means processing, internalizing, and subverting a lifetime of your gender being socially constructed. It means bending and breaking under the weight of expectation. It means digging deep to find your worth when you’re surrounded by an entire world that tries to define it for you. It means being fed conflicting and dangerous messages, then being left to untangle them, alone, and find out the truth for yourself. Being a teenage girl is not easy; Elana Arnold shows us exactly why in this stunning and thoughtful book.

 

This meditation on the idea of unconditional love—whether it is, indeed, unconditional, whether this idea is dangerous or appealing (or both), and determining who sets conditions and why—is devastating, smart, complex, and utterly real. Nina is aching, learning, screwing up, holding on too long, letting go, bending, breaking, and recreating. Arnold shows us that none of that is simple. It’s not easy, in any way, but she is doing it all, largely alone. She is hurting and growing and being. She is becoming. Her story is so painfully familiar and common and will surely resonate with readers. A powerful and unforgettable look at the things that define teenage girls. (See full review here.)

 

 

pointe-clawPointe, Claw by Amber J. Keyser

This is absolutely 100% a book about what it means to inhabit a girl’s body. It’s a book about growing up, changing, seeing ourselves, and being seen. It’s about expectations, anger, jealousy, relationships, shame, love, friendship, and support. There is a constant conversation about women and women’s bodies–Jessie, her fellow dancers, Dawn, Dawn’s makeup-selling mother, the girls at the strip club, the men who observe all of them… there is SO MUCH to unpack and think about. Much like Vadim’s dance (which, by the way, I was left sobbing after the description of their performance), this book is experimental and risky. And, like his dance, it is successful and surprising. The metamorphosis each girl undergoes is powerful; Dawn’s is downright shocking. I can’t say enough good things about this strange, disturbing, and extremely compelling look at girlhood, bodies, and identities. Raw, weird, and wonderful.  (See full review here.)

 

 

upsideThe Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Growing up can mean growing apart, which is a hard revelation for twins Cassie and Molly Peskin-Suso. When Cassie, who is a lesbian, begins dating Mina, a pansexual Korean American, Molly feels a little cast aside. Molly, who has an anxiety disorder, has silently nursed 26 crushes and is working on finally risking the rejection she fears and starting to date. Cassie wants Molly to hook up with Mina’s best friend, Will, but Molly might be more interested in sweet and endearingly geeky Reid. While the girls are navigating these new worlds of romance, things don’t slow down in other parts of their lives. Cassie and Molly’s moms are finally getting married, so there’s a wedding to plan, much to the delight of Pinterest-savvy Molly; plus there are jobs, friends, and a busy baby brother. Molly, Cassie, and all of the secondary characters are well-developed and distinctive. The outspoken girls have honest, humorous, and sometimes awkward conversations with each other, their friends, and their supportive and loving moms about relationships and growing up. Albertalli’s keen ear for authentic teen voices will instantly make readers feel that they are a part of Cassie and Molly’s world, filled with rich diversity (Cassie and Molly’s family is Jewish and interracial), love, support, and a little heartache. In the satisfying conclusion, Molly and Cassie learn that letting new people into their lives does not have to mean shutting out others. (See full review here.)

 

 

how-to-makeHow to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake

I read this book in one sitting. I used to do that a lot—read books in one chunk of time—but don’t so much anymore. While I do typically read a book in one to two days, the time is broken up—I need to write something, I need to run errands, I need to parent, I need to do whatever. My busy brain isn’t the biggest fan of letting me settle into any one thing for too long. But with this book, I was hooked from page one and had no interest in moving until I was done reading. I am not a person who says “all the feels.” I do not tend to feel “swoony” over books. As a fairly cynical, scowly person, those kinds of expressions are just not me. BUT. I kept thinking of both expressions as I read. And when I was done, I shut the book and just held onto it, thinking, well, that was a completely satisfying read. And, really, how often do we read books that just feel completely, absolutely, perfectly satisfying?

 

Blake’s characters are vibrant and multifaceted. Though so much of this book is about pain, loss, and grief, there is also just so much love in this story. Compassion comes from the places we would expect (Emmy, Luca) and from surprising places, too (Jay, Pete). Both Grace and Eva are fragile but resilient. They both find family in new ways—ways neither would have chosen (a dead mom, an irresponsible and alcoholic mom)—and find support and care and love there. And their relationship, though not always easy, is meaningful and achingly lovely. I do not generally want characters who date in YA books to stay together forever (see my earlier remark about being cynical and scowly). But I love Grace and Eva together. This is an easy recommendation for fans of contemporary stories. Again, it’s rare that I find something just completely satisfying, and this book felt perfect in every way. Go read it! (See full review here.)

 

 

tash heartsTash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee

Seventeen-year-old Kentucky filmmaker and Tolstoy superfan Tash Zelenka’s summer takes an unexpected turn when her web series, Unhappy Families (a modern adaptation of Anna Karenina) goes viral. The newfound fame causes tension between Tash and her best friend Jack, who also works on the series. Tash is easily caught up in the increased social media attention, her fans’ expectations, and the criticisms. She is also grappling with her complicated relationship with her sister, Klaudie, who drops out of acting in the series to more fully enjoy her last summer before college. Plus, Tash must deal with her flirtation with vlogger Thom, her confusing feelings for Paul (Jack’s brother and Tash’s other best friend), and her worries about the end of the series and her impending college applications. Tash is also beginning to come out to people as romantic asexual and needs to figure out how to share her identity with Thom, whom she will be meeting soon at the Golden Tuba independent web awards. Tash and her group of artsy theater friends are vibrant, creative, and thoughtful. They may not always totally understand one another, but their admirable and complicated friendships have so much heart. The much-needed asexual representation plays a significant role in the story, with readers privy to Tash’s thoughts on identity and conversations with friends about what the term means. (See full review here.)

 

 

Ali - Saints and MisfitsSaints and Misfits by S. K. Ali

We first meet Janna, wearing a burkini, while she’s in Florida with her dad and his family. She’d rather not be hanging out with them, but after her friend’s cousin sexually assaults her at a gathering, she needs to get out of town. Farooq, who Janna mostly just refers to as “the monster,” is well-respected in their community, a sort of golden boy at their mosque, who has memorized the entire Qur’an (but doesn’t appear to actually understand any of it). Janna keeps the assault to herself for much of the story, busy navigating the many parts of her life, but the monster is always around and Janna is fearful and angry. Janna’s brother, Muhammad, has recently moved home, taking a year off from college, and is courting Sarah, a study circle leader at their mosque, who Janna feels is, annoying, “the most perfect Muslim girl.” Janna spends time with Mr. Ram, her elderly Hindu neighbor, tries to figure out what to do about her crush on white, non-Muslim Jeremy, and hangs out with friends. She takes part in an Islamic Quiz Bowl team, too, getting to know more about people like Nuah, a nice dude who is friends with the monster, and Sausun, a niqab-wearing girl who becomes a surprising ally for Janna.

 

As Janna finds her voice, she struggles with how to fit in (both with her Muslim friends and her non-Muslim friends, as well as within her divided family), with what is important to her, and with how to make real connections with the people in her life. This is a thoughtful and engaging look at identity and finding your footing in your own life. As with the other books from Salaam Reads, this should be in all collections.  (See full review here.)

 

 

gentlemansThe Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

A trio of high-born, determined, and wildly charismatic teenagers get more than they bargained for in this rollicking 18th-century Grand Tour of the Continent gone awry. Endearing rake Lord Henry Montague (or Monty) and his biracial best friend (and unrequited love), the infinitely patient Percy, leave England to drop Monty’s fiercely intelligent sister Felicity off at finishing school. The friends then spend a year traveling. After the Grand Tour, Monty will return home to help his demanding father run their estate and Percy will go to Holland to law school. If Monty’s dad catches wind of him still “mucking around with boys,” Monty will be cut off from the family. The trip is intended to be a cultural experience. However, no one could have predicted that one seemingly petty theft would set off an adventure involving highwaymen, stowaways, pirates, a sinking island, an alchemical heart, tomb-raiding, and a secret illness. From the start, readers will be drawn in by Monty’s charm, and Felicity and Percy come alive as the narrative unfolds. The fast-paced plot is complicated, but Lee’s masterly writing makes it all seem effortless. The journey forces Monty and friends to confront issues of racism, gender expectations, sexuality, disability, family, and independence, with Monty in particular learning to examine his many privileges. Their exploits bring to light the secret doubts, pains, and ambitions all three are hiding. This is a witty, romantic, and exceedingly smart look at discovering one’s place in the world. (See full review here.)

 

dress-codesDress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens

There is SO MUCH to love about this novel. It’s a profoundly loving look at friendship, the kind of friendship where friends truly support each other and give each other room to grow, change, and figure life out. It’s also a really complex look at expectations, perceptions, identity, and fluidity. It’s also an incredibly necessary and supportive look at teenagers experimenting with who they are and finding so much love and support in even the most unlikely of places. Like Billie says at one point, “Feeling don’t sort like laundry.” Nor should we want them to. So much of the joy comes from sifting through everything, discovering who you are, in the process of finding yourself. Billie and her friends are unfinished and imperfect, but they’re grateful for what they have and willing to do the hard work of figuring out who they are. This thoughtful look at love, friendship, identity, sexuality, and fluidity is not to be missed. Brilliant. (See full review here.)

 

 

they bothThey Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

Puerto Rican Mateo and Cuban-American Rufus meet through the Last Friend app, an app designed to help you meet up with someone to spend your last day with. Their connection is immediate, intense, and one that deserves far longer to play out than the time allotted to them. Rufus, a bisexual foster kid, has really only had fellow foster kids Aimee, Malcolm, and Tagoe to turn to since his parents and sister died not long ago. And he can’t spend his last day with them for complicated reasons involving the police and a nameless gang. Mateo has really only ever had his dad, who is in a coma (his mother died in childbirth), and his best friend Lidia, who he doesn’t want to die in front of. Neither Mateo nor Rufus could have possibly expected to find such a powerful match on their End Day. Together, they struggle with the guilt and pain of both living and dying all while falling in love at the absolute worst time. On their End Day, they laugh, dance, sing, “skydive,” share their stories, say goodbyes, witness others’ End Days, cry, hurt, heal, and live.

 

The chapters alternate between Mateo and Rufus, with many brief chapters about the lives of those that surround them—their friends, people at the Death-Cast call center, the nameless gang, and others—showing how Rufus and Mateo’s lives were linked with their own. Every chapter is bursting with life and plans and regrets, and every chapter brings us one step closer to that inevitable ending. Told with warmth and humor and so much love, Silvera creates a stunningly powerful examination of what it means to really live your life. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Mateo and Rufus, but isn’t that how life always works?

(See full review here.)

 

 

releaseRelease by Patrick Ness

In my notes for this book, I noted a lot of passages and just wrote “YES!” or “I’m cheering!” or “OMG, I love Adam.” He is loved and supported (by his friends). He is vulnerable and feels undeserving of love. He is hurting but working through it. He is scared and confrontational. He contains multitudes. His relationship with Linus, sweet, patient, lovely Linus, is a thing of beauty. There is a lot of on the page sex and intimacy, which especially goes to prove the real difference between Linus and Enzo. There are wonderfully frank discussions of sex and sexuality between Adam and Angela, including a fantastic exchange about labels, fluidity, and the liberation that the right label can bring.

I read this book in one sitting. I didn’t want it to be over. It’s heartbreaking, beautiful, funny, odd, smart, and just truly stunning. This is easily one of my favorite reads so far in 2017. 

(See full review here.)

alfonsoI Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina, Stacey Robinson, and John Jennings

Alfonso is feeling pretty good about life. He loves playing his trumpet, acting, attending his arts high school, being a bike messenger, and flirting with Danetta. The best thing in his life, though, is that his father, who has been incarcerated Alfonso’s entire life, is being released, finally exonerated of a crime he did not commit. But while out shopping for a suit to wear to meet his father, Alfonso is shot and killed by a white off-duty cop. Once dead, Alfonso joins a group of ghosts on a train. These ghosts are the ancestors who are seeking justice and rest. Alfonso learns about their lives and the ways they were killed by police while also going to see scenes from his past as well as what he’s missing in the present. Alfonso is able to see how his parents are coping, to follow the white police officer who killed him, and to see how his name lives on in the media, the justice system, and the many large protests that spring up after his death. An Ancestors Wall at the end lists the names of victims of police violence. This look at the prison industrial complex, the Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality, and the various systems of violence and oppression that have always existed in this country is devastating and important. 

(See full review here.)

closest ive comeThe Closest I’ve Come by Fred Aceves

Marcos is so achingly honest and vulnerable. He longs for connections—real, meaningful connections, where he can truly talk about his life. His loneliness is palpable. He makes mistakes but owns up to them and learns from them. Despite having every reason in the world not to, he allows himself to be real and open, tentatively at first, seeking so hard to find understanding and compassion, and to offer it to others. He’s loyal, smart, and brave enough to move beyond the expectations for him. It takes guts to make new friends, to be authentic (all while still trying to figure out just who you are), to try new things. It takes guts to go home day after day only to be greeted by abuse and neglect and indifference. It takes guts to tell your friend he’s making the wrong choice, to tell a girl you might be in love with her, to tell the police what’s been happening at home. Though the story is filled with violence and sadness, it is ultimately a hopeful story. Aceves shows how terribly painful life can be, but also how beautiful it can become through friendships, support, growth, and hope. A powerful look into the life of one kid trying to answer the question of “who am I?” in the midst of both bleak circumstances and increasingly deep friendships. 

(See full review here.)

 

Take 5: Five Things I’ve Made with My Silhouette Cameo and Why I Recommend it for a MakerSpace

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I’ve had my personal Silhouette Cameo for about a month now and last week, we ordered one for The Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County. I’ve only tapped the surface of what I can do with the machine and it has a lot of uses. For example, it can take the place of an Ellison Die Cut machine and the need to store multiple dies for doing displays and name tags.

To give you an idea of why I recommend it, let me share with you five projects I’ve done with my Silhouette Cameo.

1. T-Shirts

When you think of craft vinyl cutters, you are probably thinking t-shirts. This is what they are used most for and I’m not going to lie, I love this! I have made a ton of t-shirts. Each time I make a shirt, I learn more about how to use my machine. I’ve made my kids spirit shirts for school, holiday shirts, and just some shirts that feature their favorite characters or saying.

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I even made TLT t-shirts for all the TLTers.

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2. Tote Bags

It also transfers really well onto tote bags.

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3. Screen Printing

You can do a reverse weed on your cut and make a screen for screenprinting. I am using this process to make screens for a TMS stencil and a Libraries Rock stencil for the 2018 Teen Summer Reading Challenge.

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4. Vinyl Window Clings

You can buy special vinyl cling material to make vinyl window clings. I used this to make gear shaped clings for our Teen MakerSpace windows.

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5. Computer Bling

You can also design and make your own computer bling. Here’s a cut out I designed using a heartbeat font and the shapes feature to celebrate my love of a certain time traveling time lord. Since taking this picture I have also added a Teen MakerSpace cut out.

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As I mentioned above, I am just now learning of the various ways I can use my Silhouette Cameo. You can also cut paper, which is great for doing in library displays. In the Teen Makerspace we will be mainly focusing on paper crafts as well due to the cost of the vinyl versus paper. Though we will also use our Silhouette Cameo for special programs like our annual Summer of T-Shirts events.

Teaching the teens to use a vinyl cutter will help them learn things like layout and design, math (yes, there is math involved in making sure your design will fit onto a t-shirt), and basic technology skills.

The initial investment is quite high. A Silhouette Cameo bundle pack, and you’ll want a bundle so you get the additional tools that you need, is $269.00. And there is an ongoing cost in that you need materials to cut with your machine.

Even if you decide not to let the public have access to a vinyl cutter, I do recommend it for library use. It has a much broader range than cutting tools libraries have used in the past like an Ellison or Accucut and takes up a lot less space.

Here’s a look at some of the guides and reviews I shared early on while learning how to use my Silhouette Cameo. I will say the Silhouette Cameo is not intuitive at first and it doesn’t come with a manual, so you’ll definitely want to start with the Silhouette Cameo 101 post.

Silhouette Cameo 101: The Manual It Doesn’t Come With, But Should

MakerSpace Mondays: The Silhouette Cameo – Vinyl 101

MakerSpace: Using a Silhouette Cameo to Do Screenprinting

MakerSpace Mondays: The Silhouette Cameo – a review

 

A List of New YA Book Release Links for 2018

tltbutton7December is here, which means it’s time to start thinking about 2018 YA Lit releases. I’ve already submitted my first book order for January 2018 titles. Here for your convenience (and really, for mine) is a list of links to booklists put together online so far for 2018. In the coming weeks we’ll be sharing some of our best of 2017 and must haves for 2018.

18 YA Novels That Are Currently Being Developed For TV And The Big Screen

YA Releases of January, 2018 (42 books) – Goodreads

A note about Goodreads lists: as these are less professionally curated, I use them for informational purposes only, making sure to do further research on unknown titles or authors. These lists are not recommendations.

Friday Finds: December 1, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: The TLT Gift Giving Guide

The Importance of School Visits, by Kate-Lynn Brown

#ARCParty: A Look at Some January 2018 #YALit Titles

What’s New in LGBTQIA+ YA November and December 2017

Teen Politic: The True Politics of Being a Teen Services Librarian in Our Public Libraries

Call for submissions: YA A to Z project

Around the Web

This is what students think about ‘fake news’ and the media

Book Vending Machine Helping Young Victims Of Hurricane Harvey

‘The Kiss Quotient’ Is A Refreshing Own Voices Romance With A Heroine On The Autism Spectrum

7 Socially Conscious Books to Read After The Hate U Give

The State of the YA Novel: 2017

#RoyalEngagement reading list: Here’s what to check out for you prince & princess fix

 

Call for submissions: YA A to Z project

yaatozEvery year, TLT picks a project to work on in addition to our usual book reviews, professional discussions and makerspace and program recaps. Once we decide on our project, we ask you, are brilliant Teen Librarian Toolbox readers, to help us out. These projects began in 2014 with the Sexual Violence in Young Adult Literature Project. We have since then covered faith and spirituality, mental health, poverty, and social justice. You can find all the previous projects here at our projects index.

 

For 2018, we want to create an index of YA literature! YA A to Z will begin in January, which is coming up REALLY QUICKLY, so we need to get cracking on getting some guest posts lined up. 

 

There are 52 weeks in a year, that means every 2 weeks we will cover a new letter. For example, the first 2 weeks of January we will cover the letter A. The next 2 weeks we will cover the letter B. What will that look like? It can look however you want it to look.

 

You can guest post for us about book titles, authors and topics. You can make a book list or you can have an in depth discussion. You can talk programming. You can do an interview. You can be funny or you can be serious. You can be creative. In fact, if you have ever thought I have always wanted to talk about x, y or z but couldn’t figure out a forum for that, THIS is your forum for that.

 

Here is a Google Form that you can fill out to let us know what you would like to talk about here. We try to make guest posting as simple as possible here at TLT, but here is a simple guide if you have any questions.

At the end of 2018, we will have an A to Z guide of YA lit and it will be awesome! Please keep in mind that all previous projects will continue so if you want to write about sexual violence, faith and spirituality, mental health, social justice or poverty, those projects are ongoing.

Schedule: 

  • January – Letters A & B
  • February – Letters C & D
  • March – Letters E & F
  • April – Letters G, H & I
  • May – Letters J & K
  • June – Letters L & M
  • July – Letters N & O
  • August – Letters P & Q
  • September – Letters R & S
  • October – Letters T & U
  • November – Letters V & W
  • December – Letters X, Y & Z

 

Possible post ideas to jump-start your thoughts: 

A: Asexuality, abortion, abuse, anxiety

B: Barriers, bands, book clubs, biographies

C: Cover art, consent, class, courage

D: Disability, diversity, discovery, dance, displays, demisexuals

E: Erasure, exceptions, empowerment

F: Formats, favorites, fat, faith, families

G: Gender, grief, genderqueer, graphic novels

H: Hair, historical fiction, hate, horror

I: Identities, immigration, international YA, inclusion

J: Jobs, justice, jail, jealousy

K: Kindness, kissing books

L: LGBTQIA+, lesbians, lessons, labels

M: Mental health, music, Muslims, movies

N: New books, narration, neutral, normal, nonfiction, nonbinary

O: Orphans, optimism, opinion, organize, out

P: Programs, politics, parents, passages, pet peeves, periods, patriarchy

Q: Queer, questions, qualifications, quiet, quotes

R: Racism, rape, relationships

S: Sex, sexuality, social justice, suicide

T: Technology, teen issues, therapy, transgender, top ten lists

U: Unity, underground, unlikable characters

V: Value, victims, violence

W: Websites, weight, writing, writers

X: Xenophobia

Y: YA wishlist, YA of yore, You need to know about _____

Z: Zombies