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I loved this book, it is indeed everything, everything! But even more telling is The Teen’s reaction to this book. She finished reading it yesterday and then immediately started reading it again. She left for school today carrying the book in her hand. She used words like “perfect”, “amazing”, and “beautiful” to describe Everything, Everything, in a really loud and enthusiastically high pitched voice. When I suggested that she loan the ARC to The Bestie to read she said, and I quote, “But I want to keep just reading it over and over again. When the book comes out I’m going to buy all the copies and carry it with me everywhere.” So, obviously, we are giving it a rave review.
This innovative, heartfelt debut novel tells the story of a girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world. When a new family moves in next door, she begins a complicated romance that challenges everything she’s ever known. The narrative unfolds via vignettes, diary entries, texts, charts, lists, illustrations, and more.
My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.
But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.
Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.
This is a beautiful and beautifully written love story. This is also one of the few books that took a dramatic turn that I did not suspect and was stunned by. It was, quite simply, perfection. The characterizations were spot on and compelling, even Maddy who has this rare disease that most of us could in no way relate is in fact completely relateable and has a compelling teen voice. She has all the normal yearnings and desires and self doubt that a typical teenager has. She is trapped inside the seemingly perfect microcosm and yet even she can not escape the trials and tribulation of life, reminding us all that no matter how perfect we try to make our world and how much we try and control our lives and environment, there is a chaos that comes crashing in irregardless; life is, without a doubt, something beyond our control, practically imperfect and yet glorious all the same.
And then there is Olly. Olly is dark, mysterious and tormented. He is broken, yet kind and loving. If there is any flaw, it may be that Olly is an idealized romantic hero, the perfect boyfriend that so many of us want. Though he is, of course, in no way perfect.
The scenes between Maddy and Olly both sizzle and swoon. Many of them take place through email or over instant messages, but they perfectly capture those first few does he like me the way I like him doubts and insecurities that happen in the beginning stages of a relationship. They are gloriously awkward and tantalizingly full of promise.
Maddy also has a long-term care nurse who is devoted to her care and full of wisdom. She plays a crucial part near the end of the story.
I can’t tell you about the twists and turns that this story takes and how what appears to be a simple yet beautiful love story because something more moving and profound, I will just beg you to read it and take this emotionally compelling journey of love and self discovery with me. It is glorious and profound and moving.
EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING by Nicola Yoon comes out September 1st from Delacorte Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9780553496642
I picked up an ARC at TLA earlier this year which is the source for this review.
In 2013, there were 510,000 American children in foster care. 40% of foster children are between the ages of 13 and 21 years old. 9% of foster care teens will age out of the foster care system and are more likely to experience homelessness. You can find more Foster Care Statitics and follow a link to find your state statistics here. See also the Child Welfare Information Gateway. I have often felt that foster teens were very under-represented in YA literature. If you expand the definition to include teens who are being raised by relatives or family friends, like grandparents for example, than what I see happening in my local communities is not being reflected in YA literature at all. Today guest poster and librarian Kerry Sutherland discusses foster care in YA science fiction.
As a science fiction fan, I don’t usually seek out realistic fiction for pleasure reading. As a School Library Journal reviewer, I often receive realistic fiction to review, and my work on the In the Margins Book Award and Selection Committee revolves almost entirely on realistic stories that would appeal to young people in marginalized situations, so most of what I read that is contemporary and true-to-life comes from these two sources. A big part of adolescent development revolves around learning that the world doesn’t revolve around “me,” and that the “others” around us need our attention, concern, and empathy, so as I have been reading the many disturbing stories (some nonfiction) for my In the Margins work over the past year and a half, I began to wonder how young adult readers with my reading preferences might connect to these “others” if the situations in the stories they read are fantastic and outrageous. This question lurked in the back of my mind during my recreational reading, and I noticed that authors of some recent young adult science fiction not only include orphaned or foster teen characters but they integrate those characters’ vulnerability into the plot itself, so readers can’t help but make the connection between the characters’ orphaned or foster care status and the difficulties they face, even though the storylines themselves are spectacularly and entertainingly unrealistic. A line from the title story in one of my favorite short story collections of the past year, Jean Thompson’s The Witch, jumped out at me as I was thinking on this: “There is no greater powerlessness than being a child.” These three books absolutely enforce that sad reality, and in doing so, show many teen readers an alternate reality they might not otherwise understand or even care about: a reality where young people are without supervision, without care, and as such, vulnerable to exploitation for adult gain.
Using vulnerable children is the focus of medical researchers in Kristen Lippert-Martin’s Tabula Rasa, where inmates of juvenile detention centers, most of whom are wards of the state and without an adult who has an emotional interest in them, are targets for experiments that involve erasing their memories. Not surprisingly, most of these kids “jumped at the chance” to participate in these experiments, knowing that the opportunity might be their only hope to have a future as an adult without their painful pasts as emotional baggage. How many of these children, like so many in reality, are in custody for no other reason than their status as orphans or foster children who have acted out their frustration, depression, and confusion in attempts to take control over their lives? A nurse at the research facility tells Sarah, the main character, that she is “a girl with a violent past, a bad attitude, and no future. Just like the rest of them.” What little she knows of Sarah, who has, at this point, difficulty with her memory, is what the authorities have told her, and her last statement is very telling of her general judgment of all her teenage patients who have been culled from detention. No future – so the present treatment of these neglected children is of no consequence, as they have no value except as experimental material. Hopeless and expendable, and as Sarah discovers of the woman who killed her mother and now targets Sarah: “I am a thing to her. Nothing more.”
The disturbing experimentation in Caragh O’Brien’s The Vault of Dreamers involves indigent children as well, who are mined of their dreams which are then sold to the rich for their entertainment. Students at a high school for the arts promoted as a reality television show are monitored, without their knowledge or consent, for seeds of dreams that expand in the brains of a group of comatose children who belong to no one and are kept locked away, alive in a dream state, cared for physically by those who only do so in order to use them. How different is this than the fate of the main character Ruby’s love interest, Linus, who donates blood on a monthly basis to pay his rent? Linus chooses to donate in an effort to save his friend Otis’s partner, Parker, who has Alzheimer’s Disease, but the doctor at the school infirmary insists that Linus doesn’t “have to let them tap you. I can’t see that it’s making any difference for him. I’ve told Otis that many times.” Linus is seventeen now, and nearly an adult who can make such a decision on his own, but his donations started when he was thirteen, just after running away from foster care, when “nobody looked too hard for me when I cut out on my own.” An orphan, he had nowhere to go, and fell prey first to a photographer looking for a swimsuit model and then to Otis, who may mean well and treat Linus kindly, but by the time Ruby meets Linus, the balance of power is becoming more level and the vampiric nature of the relationship is coming to light. As an orphan and then a forgotten foster child, Linus was an easy target for Otis, who finds nothing wrong with trading parental concern for blood, and a young Linus was willing to take a chance, because really, how many choices did he have at the time?
Taking chances is what Billy the Kid in one of my favorite series, Michael Grant’s BZRK, is all about. Billy the Kid, as he calls himself, enjoys the freedom that his disinterested foster parent allows, as he comes and goes as he pleases and spends enough time gaming online that his scores, posted in a forum, draw the attention of the insane and anonymous leader of the guerrilla group BZRK. Billy uses this opportunity to throw himself into the exciting and adventurous life BZRK offers. At thirteen years old, he takes ridiculous chances with his life with the encouragement of his compatriots (which include other teens) who do the same, and ultimately, this “scrawny mixed-race kid” ends up nearly decapitated in the name of the cause, his life a sacrifice in the harsh reality of battle. Ignored and then used, Billy, who refers to himself online as “unconnected, sick of where he was, looking for . . . well, looking” finds a home and a purpose, losing his life in his quest to fit into a group led by someone who looks at the participants, including this thirteen year old child, as expendable weapons in her fight. Does he make friends? Does he feel accepted? Absolutely. He is mourned and missed by his partners, but this, of course, doesn’t compensate for a young life lost. Without parents who care for him, he makes choices that lead to his death, choices no thirteen year old should be expected to make. Throwing one’s self into the line of fire for any reason is clearly a decision meant for an adult mind, but Billy chooses the purpose and excitement this real-life game offers, along with the companionship of others who are misfits for a variety of reasons, brought together for a cause that is greater than their leader’s – acceptance.
The teen characters in these three science fiction thrillers may be sad mirrors of the ugly truth that foster care is a broken system, but their stories also offer hope in the form of teen and adult allies who help the teens take control of their lives and insist on respect from their peers and adults, as well as assert their right to personal dignity, regardless of the outcome. For readers in custodial situations, the concept is empowering; for readers fortunate enough to appreciate a family of their own, these characters shed light on the emotional lives of peers who otherwise may go unnoticed. Empathy for fictional characters may lead to connections to real children in need of a friend who is open to understanding, an advocate who will not judge them or their situation, a teen like themselves who will accept them as an individual regardless of their home (or lack thereof) situation. Sometimes it just takes one person to reach out and make a difference in someone’s life, and I am hopeful that with the influence of young adult fiction that honestly represents the emotional difficulties and vulnerabilities of orphaned and foster children, the young adult reader of even the most unrealistic of fiction may be the someone who makes that difference.
I am the teen librarian at the Ellet Branch of the Akron-Summit County Public Library in Akron, Ohio, and have a PhD in American literature from Kent State University, along with a MLIS from the same. I am a book reviewer for School Library Journal and RT Book Reviews magazine, as well as a published author of fiction, poetry, professional and academic work. I love cats, Henry James, NASCAR, and anime. I read everything, because you only live once.
The Bourne Identity meets Divergent in this heart-pounding debut.
Sixteen-year-old Sarah has a rare chance at a new life. Or so the doctors tell her. She’s been undergoing a cutting-edge procedure that will render her a tabula rasa—a blank slate. Memory by memory her troubled past is being taken away.
But when her final surgery is interrupted and a team of elite soldiers invades the isolated hospital under cover of a massive blizzard, her fresh start could be her end.
Navigating familiar halls that have become a dangerous maze with the help of a teen computer hacker who’s trying to bring the hospital down for his own reasons, Sarah starts to piece together who she is and why someone would want her erased. And she won’t be silenced again.
A high-stakes thriller featuring a non-stop race for survival and a smart heroine who will risk everything, Tabula Rasa is, in short, unforgettable. (Egmont)
From the author of the Birthmarked trilogy comes a fast-paced, psychologically thrilling novel about what happens when your dreams are not your own.
The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success: every moment of the students’ lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students’ schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when first year student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. In fact, she suspects that there are sinister things going on deep below the reaches of the cameras in the school. What’s worse is, she starts to notice that the edges of her consciousness do not feel quite right. And soon, she unearths the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding—and what it truly means to dream there. (Roaring Brook Press)
Love The Hunger Games? Action-adventure thrillers with a dystopian twist? BZRK (Berserk) by Michael Grant, New York Times best-selling author of the GONE series, ramps up the action and suspense to a whole new level of excitement.
Set in the near future, BZRK is the story of a war for control of the human mind. Charles and Benjamin Armstrong, conjoined twins and owners of the Armstrong Fancy Gifts Corporation, have a goal: to turn the world into their vision of utopia. No wars, no conflict, no hunger. And no free will. Opposing them is a guerrilla group of teens, code name BZRK, who are fighting to protect the right to be messed up, to be human. This is no ordinary war, though. Weapons are deployed on the nano-level. The battleground is the human brain. And there are no stalemates here: It’s victory . . . or madness.
BZRK unfolds with hurricane force around core themes of conspiracy and mystery, insanity and changing realities, engagement and empowerment, and the larger impact of personal choice. Which side would you choose? How far would you go to win? (Egmont)
When I’m reviewing books for professional publications, I stay quiet about them on social media. I’m always really excited once a review comes out to be able to talk about the book, finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews, which originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of School Library Journal.
BROWN, Don. Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans. illus. by Don Brown. 96p. bibliog. ebook available. notes. HMH. Aug. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780544157774.
Gr 7 Up–A murky watercolor storm spreads across pages, darkening and becoming more ominous as it builds in Brown’s deeply affecting look at Hurricane Katrina. Dynamic sketches capture shocking scenes, such as residents fleeing down claustrophobic highways as the 400-mile-wide storm looms in a nearly completely dark spread. Brown depicts broken levees, flooded homes, and inhabitants scrabbling to not drown in their attics. A stunningly powerful spread shows water everywhere and two lone people trapped on a roof. The images demonstrate the utter devastation and despair while the at times spare text powerfully reveals the voices of the victims. The many failures of President Bush, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Mayor Ray Nagin, and others are repeatedly noted, as is the heroism of various organizations and ordinary people. Brown walks readers through the ghastly conditions at the Superdome, the horrors of hospitals with no electricity, and the nightmarish reality of dead bodies everywhere. The story becomes grimmer at every turn: ineffectual police and rescue efforts, looting, the lack of housing for rescued victims, and 5,000 missing children. The muted watercolors effectively capture the squalid and treacherous conditions of every inch of New Orleans. The final pages show the rebuilding efforts but note the lasting effects of vastly decreased populations.
VERDICT This astonishingly powerful look at one of America’s worst disasters is a masterful blend of story and art and a required purchase for all libraries.–Amanda MacGregor, Great River Regional Library, St. Cloud, MN
Today as part of the #SVYALit Project (Sexual Violence in Young Adult Literature), we are honored to host author Ash Parsons. You can find all the #SVYALit Project posts here.
There are many beloved, necessary novels in YA literature which deal with characters experiencing and exposing or otherwise escaping abuse (sexual and other). These books are valuable. These books are beloved for a reason. My issue is not with these books, but with the sense that they are often perceived as depicting the proper “way” which survivors of abuse should act to “save themselves.” The exposure-and-escape narrative is so prevalent that it can sometimes feel like other stories about abuse, stories which depict the consequences of action or inaction, or the manifold ways which abuse is experienced or endured, are somehow less valid or are “wrong.” This is a subtle, poisonous pressure which the heroic narrative (and by extension, our society) places on survivors. Our culture’s emphasis on competition, on winners and losers, on victory, places every encounter in a win/lose, triumph-over-adversity binary. In other words, if you don’t fight, you can’t win. Or worse, if you don’t fight, you somehow are to blame.
It’s understandable that readers and writers often want and need to tell stories of escape and triumph over abusers, but there are many other stories that need to be told. When you study national statistics and spend even a little time with survivors of abuse, hidden stories emerge over and over. While it is impossible to tell with absolute certainty, statistics indicate that far more abuse remains hidden than ever gets exposed.*
When I wrote Still Waters I wanted to show that exposure is sometimes the wrong course of action. Or at least I wanted to show how a character could perceive that speaking out could be the wrong course. I wanted to write characters that felt trapped not because they lacked courage, insight, or resources, but because – actually – they had made an informed decision using the knowledge at hand and had determined their best course was to outlast the abuse, instead of speaking out about it.
I hate the implication, even the language, which we use to speak of abuse – “fight” “speak out” “take action” “come forward” – the language itself is oppressive to survivors who through whatever circumstance or choice– do not speak out. In the hero’s narrative, we like to think in oppositional terms – the hero faces the dragon, and the dragon is slain.
But the dragon can devour. Or there might be more than one dragon, all breathing fire. Or the hero may spend a season in the dragon’s grasp and then escape. There are countless different narratives which may happen, all different stories beyond slaying the dragon.
In no way do I mean to imply that fighting isn’t a good thing, just that there is a skewed emphasis on fighting in our stories. That it is cast as the “right” action because of cathartic release -we want our characters to fight and to win.
But that’s not always the way it works out in life. One of the reasons I wrote this book is because I wanted to have both the physical abuse of Jason and sexual abuse of Cyndra to be part of the tapestry of another story. A different story- what I mean is, the story isn’t “how I escaped abuse.” While their home situation absolutely helps form the pixelated picture of where they are and why they are there, it’s not the primary focus of the plot.
I used to teach in a rural 7th-12th grade school. After that, I became a foster parent. Through both of these experiences I was reminded how much young people can hide, and how frequently they are highly motivated to do so. Often young people’s decisions to hide awful injustices is due to a clear-eyed understanding of “what would happen next.”
In foster parent classes we learned that the number one reason for case referrals was parental abandonment. The second was neglect. Sexual abuse was near the bottom of the list because it is so often hidden successfully by the abused. Not in collusion with their abuser, but in desperation – because the devil you know is better than the fire of the unknown, or worse, all the horrible stories that you also know. Normalization of abuse is both a misapprehension and a coping mechanism. Survivors often do not realize the true extent of their abuse (in other words, that it isn’t “normal”). This is because telling themselves that it “isn’t that bad” is a coping mechanism as well as a lesson which may have been ingrained through their family culture or their community at large.
I wanted to write a story where a character, Cyndra, experienced sexual abuse and didn’t “do anything” about it. I didn’t want to make it the purpose of the story for either character (Cyndra or Jason) to “triumph” over their abuser, or for them to even try. I wanted to write Cyndra not to accept, but to endure, and to triumph (if we simply must bow to the heroic language) through her resilience. Through writing this character, I also wanted to reflect the reality for all too many young people. Statistical analysis indicates that sexual violence and abuse go unreported the vast majority of the time, often because the survivor has compelling reasons to keep the abuse hidden. This is a truth lived daily by many adolescents, which I wanted to reflect in my work.
Sometimes dragons are endured.
The Children’s Bureau (an Office of Administration for Children and Families – which is part of the larger US Department of Health and Human Services) – puts out an annual report, Child Maltreatment: National Data About Child Abuse and Neglect Known to CPS Agencies. 2013 is the most recent published year. According to this report, child protective service referrals nationally are statistically divided as follows:
“Four-fifths (79.5%) of victims were neglected, 18.0 percent were physically abused, and 9.0 percent were sexually abused. In addition, 10.0 percent of victims experienced such “other” types of maltreatment as “threatened abuse,” “parent’s drug/alcohol abuse,” or “safe relinquishment of a newborn.” States may code any maltreatment as “other” if it does not fit in one of the NCANDS categories.” (http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/cm2013.pdf#page=20 )
The aggregated national data largely reflects what I learned in foster parent classes – abandonment/neglect is the number one reason for CPS referral, by a staggeringly large margin. Sexual abuse is way, way down the list, actually below “other” as a category of referral.
Now let’s take that knowledge, that data, and hold it in mind next to some other data. According to statistics reported by RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) “Sexual assault is one of the most under reported crimes, with 68% still being left unreported.1” (https://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/reporting-rates )
And according to the FBI, “child sex abuse is at epidemic levels where tens of thousands of children are believed to be sexually exploited in the country each year. “The level of paedophilia is unprecedented right now,” Joseph Campbell of the FBI told the BBC.” (Time Magazine – linkhttp://time.com/3978236/american-children-sold-sex/)
Last but not least, the findings of a study published in the British Medical Journal Lancet, “Children in highly developed countries suffer abuse and neglect much more often than is reported by official child-protective agencies, according to the findings of the first in a comprehensive series of reports on child maltreatment”
“The official statistics agencies produce are conservative estimates of probably the lowest level of child maltreatment,” says Dr. Cathy Spatz Widom, a psychology professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who specializes in the long-term effects of child abuse and is a lead author on one of the Lancet studies.” (– Time Magazine -http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1863650,00.html)
You can see what I’m getting at here. The first statistic, the percentage of cases which are referred to DHR, coupled with the last one, shows you the hidden story. By and large, sexual abuse is not reported, neither by the survivor, nor by anyone who may come into contact with the survivor.
Furthermore, as regards sexual abuse, “a 2000 study found that family members account for 34 percent of people who abuse juveniles, and acquaintances account for another 59 percent. Only 7 percent were strangers.” ( http://www.newsweek.com/2015/07/03/hunt-child-sex-abusers-happening-wrong-places-345926.html )
There is sadly ample reason to believe that the sexual abuse of children and youth is hidden epidemic. As much as we like to hear the heroic narrative of exposure and escape, it is simply not the case for the majority of survivors.
A gritty, powerful debut that evokes The Outsiders. You won’t be able to look away.
High school senior Jason knows how to take a punch. Living with an abusive father will teach a kid that. But he’s also learned how to hit back, earning a reputation at school that ensures no one will mess with him. Even so, all Jason truly wants is to survive his father long enough to turn eighteen, take his younger sister, Janie, and run away.
Then one day, the leader of the in crowd at school, Michael, offers to pay Jason to hang out with him. Jason figures Michael simply wants to be seen with someone with a tough rep and that the money will add up fast, making Jason’s escape plan a reality. Plus, there’s Michael’s girl, Cyndra, who looks at Jason as if she sees something behind his false smile. As Jason gets drawn deeper into Michael’s game, the money keeps flowing, but the stakes grow ever more dangerous. Soon, even Jason’s fists and his ability to think on his feet aren’t enough to keep his head above water.
Still Waters is an intense, gritty thriller that pulls no punches—yet leaves you rooting for the tough guy. A powerful, dynamic debut. (Publisher’s Book Description)
Published April 2015 by Philomel Book. ISBN: 9780399168475
We spent Saturday afternoon looking through some of our September and October 2015 releases. Here’s what we saw and are adding to our TBR list.
This tweet has a typo. It’s supposed to say I “coveted” this title at TLA, not covered.
Walter Wilcox has never been in love. That is, until he meets Naomi, and sparks, and clever jokes, fly. But when his cop dad is caught in a racial profiling scandal, Walter, who is white, and Naomi, who is African American, are called out at school, home, and online. Can their bond (and mutual love of the Foo Fighters) keep them together?
With black-and-white illustrations throughout and a heartfelt, humorous voice, Bright Lights, Dark Nights authentically captures just how tough first love can be…and why it’s worth fighting for.
Walter can’t believe it when his crush on Naomi is reciprocated. She’s the smart, funny, harp-playing sister of his friend Jason. They banter over a family dinner at her place and make plans to go to a Foo Fighters concert. Naomi’s parents don’t want her dating anyone, period, so they keep things on the down low. Walter is kind of a quiet guy who likes to stay off people’s radar anyway, plus he suspects Jason won’t be thrilled to find out that Walter is dating his sister.
All of this is happening while Walter’s dad is constantly in the news for alleged racial profiling. At first Walter can’t believe that there’s any truth to this story, but starts to wonder about it as more details come to light. His dad, meanwhile, seems to be making things worse by trying to respond to every comment on the internet that is about his case. Walter sees the hatred being spewed from all sides online and, predictably, it starts to show up in his real life, too. Walter and Naomi tell her parents that they are dating, and Naomi’s parents don’t think it’s a good idea because of what is going on with Walter’s dad and how it is stirring up their community. The teens try to argue that what is going on with his dad and the conversations it is generating in their community has nothing to do with them. Naomi’s parents eventually back down, but her dad says, “I just want to make this very clear, what we’re talking about. Walter, you’re a white boy, and, Naomi, you’re a black girl. I don’t have any issue with that, and wish you the best. But what your father is involved with right now involves white and black. Those two words have a lot of history that you kids just don’t know about. And that’s what worries me.” Naomi responds with, “That’s your generation.” And, of course, Naomi’s dad is right—before they know it, their relationship is under scrutiny, with pictures of them ending up online and people speculating if Walter’s son dating a black girl is just damage control or what.
This novel is a very personal look at racism. Walter is forced to think about race and racism in ways that he hasn’t yet had to. It affects not just his relationship with Naomi but also with his dad and his friends. He sees how easily hatred can spread on the internet and how hard it is to know the truth of a situation. He is confronting Big Things and trying to understand them from different points of view. This would be a great book to use in a literature class in high school because of the content and the discussions it would generate. In my notes I had written that this book is timely, given its plot about racial profiling from police, but the reality is that this book and its conversations about racism has always been and will always be timely. As with Emond’s other books, I loved the interplay between the story and art. The city spreads out over pages and spot art shows little peeks at scenes from around their school, neighborhood, homes, and dates. Emond has a great ear for dialogue—Walter and Naomi’s conversations are both clever and deep. I’m hoping the great cover and interesting format of being partially illustrated will help move this book off the shelves and into the hands of readers. Emond leaves readers with plenty to think about in this love story that is as sweet as it is complicated.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication date: 08/11/2015
As students head back to school it’s important for us to remember that ” nearly half of the nation’s children between the ages of 5 and 17 attend schools in communities where a large chunk of families are struggling to get by” (Source: Huffington Post). One of our ongoing issues of focus is that of teens and poverty. Here are a selection of posts what we have already done below, and we will be doing more because we here at TLT feel like this is one of the greatest issues facing our teens today.
Something is rotten in the state of Heropolis! Or, rather, several somethings are rotten, and maybe not quite what you think. Well, really, it’s a very broad and layered situation with various levels of understanding and complexities to points of view. Obviously, this is not just another book where a kid discovers he has super powers.
Imagine a world where super heroes and villains (or metahumans) are real. This is the world Evan Quick knows. Instead of turning on the TV to see celebrities like Taylor Swift and Justing Beiber, he watches news stories about real life super heroes saving the day (Masks) against both natural disasters and those caused by super powered villains (Hoods.)
Evan’s compassionate and rational mathematician parents have always indulged their only child’s love of super heroes. For his 13th birthday, they buy him a special pass to the super hero theme park, Camp Commanding, owned by and based on the exploits of Evan’s favorite hero, Captain Commanding. Upon arrival, Evan is directed to a special area to be given a gift and entered for a chance to win his very own hero suit; he assumes it’s just part of the special pass package. He’s selected as a winner and directed into another special chamber to be fitted. The full body measurement scans are super tingly! Unfortunately for Evan, he’s involved in an accident at the park which causes it to close early, before he can return to pick up his special suit. When he goes back to pick it up several days later, the special area is no longer there and has been replaced by restrooms. He’s too embarrassed to ask questions and returns to life as normal. Or so he thinks.
Mix in an isolated school, a washed out superhero mentor, and multiple twists and turns, and you have a thoroughly engaging, thought provoking read. One of my favorite aspects of this novel is how all of the characters are complex and multifaceted(as well as ethnically diverse.) A highly recommended novel for all middle school collections – especially where superheroes are popular – although isn’t that everywhere?
Thirteen years ago today, at 4:45 pm or thereabouts, I gave birth to my first child. As I pushed her out of my body and they gave her to me hold, I thought this is the most glorious moment I will ever know in my life. A few days later, I spent the entire day crying. I walked around my house and could not with any sheer force of will or determination get myself to stop crying. I cried while I loaded the dishwasher. I cried while I took a shower. I cried and I cried and I cried. My mother and my stepfather talked about it in hushed voices as I silently went through my day, tears streaming down my face.
It wasn’t always like that. Sometimes I would rock her to sleep at night and marvel at this wonderful little person that I was holding in my arms, amazed that I had a part in creating such a magnificent thing. There were moments of glory in between the moments of feeling lost and fearful and overwhelmed. And tired. I was so desperately, desperately tired. It was a tired that creeps into your bones and I think never leaves. Parenting is exhausting in ways I never imagined the human body could be so exhausted.
This was not my first and it was not my last episode of depression. I sunk once again into a dark pit of despair when I lost my second child. And then I sunk into the pit once again when I gave birth to Thing 2. It happened again when we moved. And it is happening now.
I have thought a lot over the years about mental health in the life of teens. Of course I think about the teens that I have known, that I do know, that I will know who struggle with mental health issues. But I also think a lot about what having a family member who struggles with mental health issues has on a teen. And this summer, I have been thinking it a lot as we work together as a family to navigate this dark season of my psyche. I can’t help but wonder, does she remember it happening when she was 4. Or when she was 6. Or when she was 8.
On the morning of the day when we were having a small, intimate memorial service for our unborn baby she was 4. I remember sitting at the table with her and eating breakfast before church. This small, precious child grabbed my hand as tears streamed down my face and spoke softly, “I love you for God” she proclaimed. To this day it is one of the moments I remember most in my life. If our inner lives were really like the movie Inside Out, it would be one of my core memories; a hint of joy mixed with overwhelming sadness.
This summer has been a weird summer for us. As I sank into a dark pit of depression and anxiety and panic attacks, The Mr. came down with a serious case of pneumonia and pleurisy. Together we made an awesome pair of parents. But the family that climbs its way out of a pit of despair together stays together, or at least I hope that is the case.
So as we approached this time in which we would celebrate one of the three people I love most in this world, I couldn’t help but wonder what this summer has been like for her. I am a writer. I don’t claim to be a good one, but I have always written out my feelings. I have journals and journals full of epically bad and melancholy poetry. I have this blog. So I asked The Tween, now The Teen, to write about her feelings. And she did. This is what it has been like for her to have a mother trying to climb her way out once again of a period of depression and anxiety . . .
“My mom has suffered from depression off and on ever since she lost Casey, her second child. I was only four when Casey passed away. She told me the only reason she didn’t stay in her room was because of me. When Thing 2 was born mom’s depression didn’t show as much but then Dad got a new job in Texas. We had to move all the way to Texas and Mom’s depression returned. She she only wanted us to be happy when she was telling me about her depression. Now that mom and dad have jobs in different states, her depression is more visible than before. It’s the same reason as when we moved to Texas. She just wants us to be happy. She still carried on with her normal every day tasks. She still gets up, eats, and takes care of my sister and I. Some days her depression is barely noticeable. On others she just makes it seem like nothing is wrong. Usually she keeps her mind busy with us or her works, that’s when it’s least noticeable. When she doesn’t really have anything to occupy herself with is when it gets the best of her. She asks me if I think it is affecting me but I don’t feel sad or unloved. Actually, I feel the exact opposite. I know that I am loved by many people and I love them all back. Sure sometimes we all have depressed days, but we still keep on going. If we didn’t we would all lose ourselves. So I don’t see my mom as another person with depression, I see her as the woman who was brave enough to continue life. In the end I am not ashamed, I am blessed to have this woman as my mom.”
Today, I am Pooh Bear, full of simple hope and love, waiting in my thoughtful spot for Christopher Robin. This child, my heart, is brave and strong and compassionate and kind. I am glad that today I am in a position where I can celebrate her. If there are tears running down my face, they are today tears of love and joy and pride and gratitude. My family, my children, this child, have walked with me in the times when I have needed someone to walk with me. I am so honored that on this, her 13th birthday, I get to call this child mine.