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Book Discussion: Autism in AFTERWARD by Jennifer Mathieu

afterwardWhen I initially began reading AFTERWARD by Jennifer Mathieu, I was certain I would be coming to you today to discuss this title as part of the Sexual Violence in YA Literature Project (The #SVYALit Project). However, as I got further and further into the book, this book became an important read – to me personally and I think to the larger topic of disability representation in YA lit – for its look at the way a young man’s struggle with Autism, and in particular being on the Autism Spectrum and suffering from a severely traumatic event, impacts him and his family. This book moved me in ways I could never have imagined.

You see, I am the aunt of three nephews who are on the Autism Spectrum. They are on the higher end of the spectrum, which means that there is little to no verbal communication, stimming, self harm, sleep disruption, the need for strict routines and predictability, etc. This is not an end of the spectrum that is represented very often in the mainstream media. While there has been some progress with the representation of ASD characters in the media, it has been my experience that they tend to be characters on the lower end of the spectrum. This means they often can communicate verbally and are portrayed as being charmingly “quirky”. Although it is obvious that these characters are not what would be considered neurotypical, it does not represent the lives of many families who are living with the daily reality of more severe Autism. When I read or watch these stories, I do not see my nephews and the struggles of their family. When discussing the topic of Autism, I often think to myself, we need to have more diversity in Autism representation.

Afterward is the story of two boys who are drawn together through a horrific event. Caroline’s brother Dylan is kidnapped by a man and is missing for a period of 4 or 5 days. He is found in the apartment of this man and in the presence of Ethan, another boy who was kidnapped and has been missing for about 4 years. Dylan is Autistic and although he does engage in some verbal communication, he is not able to tell his family what happened to him. It is clear, however, that he has been very traumatized by the events and his sister Caroline wants to know what happened to him so she can try and help him. This causes her to seek out and start up a friendship with Ethan. The book is then told from the dual POV of Caroline and Ethan.

There is a lot happening here in Afterward. This is a book about struggling with trauma and sexual violence; it is a book about emotional and mental health; it is a book about PTSD; it is a book about surviving. But it is also a book about Autism. And more importantly, it may be the only book that asks us to consider the impact of trauma not just on a family, but on a family that was already struggling to raise a young man on the spectrum.

And it asks us to consider what it is like for a teenager to not only love a brother who is on the spectrum, but to want to help this brother that she loves without being able to ask him what happened to him. And it was this part of the story that resonated with me the most. There are scenes where Caroline tries to calm down her brother using her toolbelt of techniques that her family has developed over the years. There are recorded episodes of Jeopardy watched over and over and over again, Caroline knowing every question and answer before they come because she has seen them so many times. For one of my nephews, it was Veggietales. And like Dylan, another one of my nephews repeatedly stacks blocks as a source of comfort. It sometimes felt like Mathieu had stared right through the windows at our family home to write this story.

And like many families, there is guilt and blame and anger and sorrow and grief. Dylan’s family was already dealing with all of these things, but now they are amplified by this traumatic event. Caroline in particular struggles with guilt because she was supposed to be watching Dylan in that moment that he left the house, as many on the spectrum do, and was wandering alone when kidnapped. In fact, wandering is one of the greatest safety concerns for individuals on the higher end of the spectrum and many families install locks, alarms and take other measures to help ensure the safety of their loved ones. But those steps take money, and money is something Caroline’s family doesn’t have a lot of.

Socioeconomic diversity is also something that is addressed in Afterward. Dylan’s family doesn’t have the money they need to get Dylan many of the Autism therapies that would benefit him, and they definitely don’t have the money to get him the counseling he needs after his kidnapping. It’s something that Caroline reflects on a lot, especially as she talks to Ethan, whose family does have money and is working hard to get him the therapy he needs.

As I mentioned, for me this book was personal. I saw my neurotypical nephew struggling to take care of his three ASD brothers in the character of Caroline. I saw a family struggling to navigate daily life and stay together in the face of stress and economic hardship, like my family and friends with children on the spectrum do. But most importantly to me, I saw an acknowledgement that there are kids on the higher end of the spectrum.

I do want to take a moment to point out that there is a lot of good #SVYALit and #MHYALit discussion happening here, particularly between Ethan and his therapist. There are discussions of how Ethan’s body could have responded physically to the sexual abuse even though it was not something that he wanted, discussions about whether or not he could have escaped and why he might not have tried to, and more. And although this is a good example of a positive therapy experience, it reminds us all that therapy is not a quick and easy fix but a process. In fact, the book takes place over the course of about a year and the therapy process is not a steady march forward, but a jagged line of progress and set backs. And it’s an important reminder for all that although survivors can in fact survive, they must embrace a new you in order to do so.

I felt that Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu was a moving and powerful read on many levels, but it was this reflection of my family that stuck with me the most.

Publisher’s Book Description

When Caroline’s little brother is kidnapped, his subsequent rescue leads to the discovery of Ethan, a teenager who has been living with the kidnapper since he was a young child himself. In the aftermath, Caroline can’t help but wonder what Ethan knows about everything that happened to her brother, who is not readjusting well to life at home. And although Ethan is desperate for a friend, he can’t see Caroline without experiencing a resurgence of traumatic memories. But after the media circus surrounding the kidnappings departs from their small Texas town, both Caroline and Ethan find that they need a friend–and their best option just might be each other. (Roaring Book Press, September 20, 2016).

Autism and Libraries

#ARCParty: July 2016 New #YALit Releases

 Here’s a look at some new #YALit releases coming out in June, July and August of 2016.

#ARCParty for July 2016 #YALit Releases

  1. We are getting to go through July #yalit ARCs #arcparty

    We are getting to go through July #yalit ARCs #arcparty
  2. "There is nothing innocent about Shadow House"
"the way out, that's disappeared too"

    “There is nothing innocent about Shadow House”
    “the way out, that’s disappeared too”
  3. June release
A family isolated in the woods, a teen trying to escape the tight rule of their father 

    June release
    A family isolated in the woods, a teen trying to escape the tight rule of their father
  4. June release
Eating disorders, anxiety, ballet, therapy

    June release
    Eating disorders, anxiety, ballet, therapy
  5. Science fiction
Teens joins the army

    Science fiction
    Teens joins the army
  6. A secret espionage organization for girls, WW2

    A secret espionage organization for girls, WW2
  7. "Could you driving the call?"
You wake up in a strange land, can you survive?

    “Could you driving the call?”
    You wake up in a strange land, can you survive?
  8. Army family life
Brother wounded in action in Afghanistan
Road trip, pilgrimage

    Army family life
    Brother wounded in action in Afghanistan
    Road trip, pilgrimage
  9. Father dies in prison;  technology
Assassins Creed

    Father dies in prison; technology
    Assassins Creed
  10. Post 9/11 issues;
Told from two points of view in different times;
Muslim life

    Post 9/11 issues;
    Told from two points of view in different times;
    Muslim life
  11. I have read this! It's like an episode of The Twilight Zone where everyone is turning into wax. 
Great title to add to lists of quirky towns like Nightvale, Rocks Fall Everyone Dies

    I have read this! It’s like an episode of The Twilight Zone where everyone is turning into wax.
    Great title to add to lists of quirky towns like Nightvale, Rocks Fall Everyone Dies
  12. The Teen, "Oh a plague, yay!"
Teen tests positive for a plague and is sent to a colony where all may not be as it seems

    The Teen, “Oh a plague, yay!”
    Teen tests positive for a plague and is sent to a colony where all may not be as it seems
  13. They were both excited about this
bored rich kids go wild, shoplift and go violent

    They were both excited about this
    bored rich kids go wild, shoplift and go violent

Book Review: A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody

Publisher’s description

week of mondaysWhen I made the wish, I just wanted a do-over. Another chance to make things right. I never, in a million years, thought it might actually come true…

Sixteen-year-old Ellison Sparks is having a serious case of the Mondays. She gets a ticket for running a red light, she manages to take the world’s worst school picture, she bombs softball try-outs and her class election speech (note to self: never trust a cheerleader when she swears there are no nuts in her bake-sale banana bread), and to top it all off, Tristan, her gorgeous rocker boyfriend suddenly dumps her. For no good reason!

As far as Mondays go, it doesn’t get much worse than this. And Ellie is positive that if she could just do it all over again, she would get it right. So when she wakes up the next morning to find she’s reliving the exact same day, she knows what she has to do: stop her boyfriend from breaking up with her. But it seems no matter how many do-overs she gets or how hard Ellie tries to repair her relationship, Tristan always seems bent set on ending it. Will Ellie ever figure out how to fix this broken day? Or will she be stuck in this nightmare of a Monday forever?

From the author 52 Reasons to Hate My Father and The Unremembered trilogy comes a hilarious and heartwarming story about second (and third and fourth and fifth) chances. Because sometimes it takes a whole week of Mondays to figure out what you really want.


Amanda’s thoughts

At the beginning of the story we see Ellie as someone who is totally devoted to her boyfriend. He takes up most of her time, she’s stopped doing fun things she used to do, pre-Tristan, and she’s a little pathetic. Okay—maybe more than a little. I wrote “BARF” a bunch of times in my notes, frustrated with her fixation of Tristan. But you know that will have to change, especially when Tristan breaks up with her… over and over again.


Ellie gets to live out the “if onlys” that the rest of us can only imagine. She tries some different things to try and change the outcome with Tristan—follows the “rules” for how to keep a man (gee, can you guess what word I wrote by that note? Yep: BARF). She figures if she’s not a “match” for Tristan, as he says, she’ll transform herself into whatever it is he might want. She doesn’t seem to ever grab onto the thought of “what am I supposed to learn from this?” and is just stuck on “how can I better manipulate my desired outcomes?” She thinks the thing that she has to do in these do-overs is to stop the break-up, but really she needs to figure out who she really is and how to live for herself. Once she realizes she’s been focusing on the wrong thing, she’s able to break the curse of it always being Monday.


This was the perfect book to read in the days I was finishing up packing to move. It was super readable, funny, and light (and “light” is not a disparaging term at all). While the story was pretty predictable—because it has to be, by nature of the plot—it was fun to watch Ellie try to figure out what she needed to do differently each Monday. It was also satisfying to watch her grow and change—or maybe it’s more accurate to say she grows and STOPS changing, as in stops trying to change who she is to fit the ideals other people set up for her and to see her become more herself. Fun, cute, and satisfying—even if it takes seven versions of the same day for Ellie to see what readers will be able to see from day one. 


Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780374382704

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Publication date: 08/02/2016


Middle School Monday: Summer.  Yes, Summer. By Julie Stivers


It’s summer! A magical time for school librarians…

[First, a shout-out to my colleagues in our school district and around the country who are librarians at year-round schools. You get no summer break. You transition directly from year to year. You are amazing. I couldn’t do it….]

For those of us on traditional schedules, what are we doing during the summer?

Reading.  Yes, I know that as librarians, books are not–and should not be–our sole purview. We want widespread access to information, equitable educational outcomes for our students, literacy integrated in every subject. But, come on, books! BOOKS. Summer gives school librarians time to read without pause. Find new books to recommend as class texts. And, of course, read books and authors that reflect our diverse schools. I’m going to be talking about some of my favorites over the coming weeks and I can’t wait to hear about your new finds.

Rethinking our library spaces.  In addition to a freshly painted wall [half chalkboard paint / half Carolina Blue], I sought help from a guru in our district (Thank you, @klallen!) and she had great ideas for redesigning the space to create more efficient zones for library activities [free reading / instruction / circulation]. My library is tiny! To free up space, we’re dismantling the circulation desk to just a small book drop and circulation computer.

Creating new spaces.  I’m turning my office into a space for students and bringing my desk out into the library. [Actually, my desk looks like it’s from 1952 and it is broken. I will probably just use a table.] I’m excited about being OUT in the library and am doubly excited to create another space for students to learn and play. Our school does not have an art teacher or program and I’m envisioning using this space for electives and other free time to give students creative and artistic reign to create, envision, make, tinker. Will I call it a MakerSpace? STEAM Lab? I don’t know! I think names matter–which is why I call myself a Librarian and the school space, a Library.  Anyone have any ideas for an art-focused “making” space?

Connecting with students. I’m going into school today to meet with four of my students who are coming into the library to help. My plan is for us to do some organizational work in the library, but we may end up just sitting around and talking. Either way, I’ll consider it a success. I’m lying. I hope we just sit around and talk.

You notice that lesson planning isn’t on this list? I’m resisting the temptation until the school year gets a bit closer, or even actually begins. I don’t want to burnout this year like I was this past year in May, so what is the most important item on our summer lists?

Relaxing.  Re-energizing.  Spending time with family and friends.

I hope you’re having a great one!  Please, please help me name our new learning space and I’d love to hear about any library tasks you accomplish over the summer, and any of your favorite new MG or YA reads.


MakerSpace: Making Fingerprint Pokemon Go Buttons

Pokemon Go is big – you’ve probably heard. So my library is like many libraries and we are trying to plan a Pokemon Go program for our patrons while the program is still hot. Yes, I know Pokemon has been popular for 20 years now, but this is a new level of popularity and we want to tap into the zeitgeist in a timely manner.

We’re in the brainstorm stages, but one thing I know for sure we want to do is continue to use one of our most popular Teen MakerSpace stations – our button makers – to get teens creating. So I spent a part of last week researching Pokemon related button making ideas. And then it hit me, our fingerprint buttons are already so popular, so why not try making Fingerprint Pokemon Buttons.

Which is how I stumbled down the rabbit hole of Pokemon characters. I know Pikachu and a few of the characters I have caught playing Pokemon Go, but my knowledge of Pokemon is definitely lacking. So I had to research and find characters from Pokemon that might be easier to translate in the fine art form of fingerprint art.

Pikachu, it turns out, is actually kind of the easiest. In fact, I have perfected my fingerprint Pikachu and plan on putting that on my next resume.


Not Just a Button, a Pokebutton


I particularly wanted to play around with the idea of the Pokemon being in the Pokeball, but having the red portion of the Pokeball didn’t really work. Making the black bars creates the illusion of the Pokeball, but I had to make them shorter in order to provide space for the fingerprint Pokemon. The Pokeball template ended up looking like this:

pokeballtemplate1Although we definitely want to encourage our fingerprint button makers to be creative and make whatever they want, we have found that many participants want examples that they can follow. So I made a page of examples: Pokeball ExamplesPokeball Examples-page-001

Pokeball Examples 002

Some of my fingerprint Pokemon examples were a little, um, less than successful. It’s okay, you can laugh.

Scan0030 Scan0032

My finished template page ended up looking like this:

pokeballtemplatesIt’s just one of the many activities that we will do for our Pokemon Go program, but it was a fun one to put together. And you have to admit, teen librarians have some of the most interesting resumes out there.

Sunday Reflections: It Starts in Local Communities – And it Starts with You!

A man laid down on the ground with his hands up in the air, he was shot anyway. There were bombings in Kabul and a mass shooting in Germany. The Republican convention ended with the notion that we should hang the democratic presumptive nominee for treason and the leaked news that members of the DNC and media colluded to make sure she got the nomination.


The world is a mess.

It’s easy to get pessimistic and feel like we are in the end times here just waiting for the apocalyptic event that tips the scales and has us all living out our own post apocalyptic version of The Walking Dead.

But there are things we can do. Things we MUST do.

First, vote. If you are of voting age, then please make sure to register to vote and to exercise that right. It’s not just the presidential election that matters, numerous seats in the Senate are up for the taking and we need to make a statement and fill those with people who understand that they are public servants. Vote out big money and corporate influence. Vote. Vote. Vote.

Vote for education.

Vote for families.

Vote for jobs.

Vote for unity.

Second, start changing the world one person at a time, one community at a time. Get involved locally. Volunteer. If there aren’t opportunities, create them.

Get to know your neighbors.

Make sure your local community has artistic, creative, and meaningful ways for people of all ages to engage in. Make sure they are accessible. For example, my local community doesn’t have a lot to offer youth, but it has an active soccer program which is accessible to only a few – you have to have the money to play and parents who work 9 to 5 work schedules so you can go to practice and games. Same for the softball program. That’s . . . not a lot. Opportunity is nothing if it also doesn’t have accessibility.

I happen to live in a community that doesn’t have a regular public library. There is a small public library that is part of the high school, but it doesn’t have the same breadth of collections, hours and programming that an independent library has. So a local friend of mine who is a HS librarian (different town) and I are working to put together a YA book club and discussion group. It’s not a lot, but it’s what we know.

Inspired by author Christa Desir, I now host Spaghetti Sundays at my house. I make a big pot of spaghetti and whoever wants to come comes and we hang out. Again, it’s not a revolutionary act, but it’s something I can do to help build relationships and bring positivity into the lives of my girls and our local community.

Of course as a librarian there are tons of things I do to help change my community and my teens for good, but I don’t work in the same community that I live and I know many of us don’t.

If you’re like me and you feel discouraged and overwhelmed, then let’s start trying to do what we can. (And yes, I know many of us are.) What we need is for our communities to feel connected, the people in our communities to feel respected and valued, and for our children to feel empowered and have hope.

No one person can do it alone, but together we can change the world.

Friday Finds: July 22, 2016

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: What Does the World Look Like for Teens?

Thank God It’s Monday! Blog Tour: My Best and Worst Mondays

MakerSpace: Community Feedback

What’s New in LGBTQIA+ YA July and August 2016

Video Games Weekly: Video Games 101: Coming this Fall! What you need to know about the newest consoles

Take 5: Quirky Towns in YA Lit

#MHYALit: There is Hope When You’re Dealing with Depression by Jodie Andrefski

Around the Web

Sony Options Hot YA Novel ‘This Savage Song’

14% of Americans — 48 million people — are “food insecure,” and it’s about to get much worse

What the ‘First Black Woman’ Librarian of Congress Means

Teen inmates to be moved off Rikers amid push for age-appropriate policies

Amandla Stenberg To Star In Adaption Of Nicola Yoon’s ‘Everything Everything’‘Hamilton’ Star Daveed Diggs Joins Young Adult Film ‘Wonder’

The Final Divergent Movie Is Skipping Theaters for a TV Debut

‘Hamilton’ Producers Adapting Neil Gaiman’s ‘Interworld’ for TV



Book Review: As I Descended by Robin Talley

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 July 2016 issue of School Library Journal.


as i descendedTALLEY, Robin. As I Descended. 384p. ebook available. HarperCollins Publishers. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062409232.

Gr 10 Up—Something wicked comes to Virginia’s elite Acheron Academy in this modern retelling of one of Shakespeare’s darkest works. Overachiever and second-most-popular girl Maria, who is bisexual, and her scheming girlfriend, Lily, who is disabled and a lesbian, are determined to have Maria win the coveted Kingsley Prize, which guarantees entrance into any college and will enable the couple to stay together after high school. A séance reveals cryptic prophecies and opens the door to a plethora of spirits, leaving the girls unable to control their own action. Their cruel and manipulative plans to unseat the most popular girl are just the first of many schemes that go horribly wrong. Before long, Maria and Lily are not the only ones admitting to interacting with spirits. Students are having bad dreams, hearing phantom noises, and seeing ghosts. The couple’s desire for power grows, and what looked like ruthlessness now seems like madness. As the tragedy unfolds, no one at Acheron is safe—least of all Maria and Lily. Talley’s novel is ambitious but successfully so. The work address racism, classism, and homophobia, all couched in a horror retelling of Macbeth. Notably, all four of the main characters—Maria, Lily, Mateo, and Brandon—are not straight. Those familiar with the source material will not be surprised at how the story plays out, but knowing the eventual outcomes does not diminish Talley’s dark tale about fate and ambition. VERDICT A highly recommended, absorbing read with wide appeal.—Amanda MacGregor, Great River Regional Library, Saint Cloud, MN

#MHYALit: There is Hope When You’re Dealing with Depression by Jodie Andrefski

Today as part of the #MHYALit Discussion we are honored to host author Jodie Andrefski. You can find out more about the #MHYALit Discussion and see the posts here.

thesocietyIn The Society, the main character, Sam, had been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and then did not receive mental health treatment. On top of that, she was going through an extremely stressful time in her life—her father went to prison, her parents divorced, and she was the victim of extreme bullying. Sam felt like she just didn’t fit in at school, and often fell into the low side of her bi-polar disorder, the depression side. Because she did not have a positive support system in place that she turned to, Sam ended up dealing with all of the stressors in her life in a very unhealthy manner. And unfortunately, Sam is not alone in this.

Too many teens are going through similar stressors in their lives, whether they’ve been given a mental health diagnosis or not. In fact, many teens are not even afforded mental health care because they don’t realize that help is out there or because they themselves or the people around them, don’t recognize the signs that there is a deeper problem. Something more than a “bad day.” Or they may not have health care coverage, so they think that there are no options available. Too often, these teens may feel like there is no hope in the midst of the depression they are feeling. I’m here to encourage you and tell you that this is not the case.

In my previous work as a county crisis worker, I’ve met with many teens dealing with issues very similar to Sam’s—stress from school, home, friends, relationships, and more. The common thread that I saw repeated was how each teen felt alone or as if they didn’t fit in, and that no one would really understand what they were feeling or experiencing. As a result, it often took a long time for the individuals to reach out. They may have first tried to deal with their stress using unhealthy coping mechanisms like acting out, withdrawing from their friends or social activities, self-harming, using drugs or alcohol, or, in extreme cases, attempting suicide. This is an alarming trend.

While it’s completely normal for teens to have a rollercoaster of emotions, feeling down for an extended period of time could be a red flag that something more is going on. Some signs to look for either in yourself or a friend who you may suspect may be dealing with depression are:

  • Difficulty sleeping, or sleeping much more than usual
  • Feeling sad or down for most of the day
  • Lack of interest in hobbies or extracurricular activities previously enjoyed
  • Lack of energy
  • Regularly being cranky or irritable
  • Persistent headaches, stomachaches or other aches/pains
  • Significant weight loss or gain (without trying)
  • Abusing drugs and/or alcohol
  • Self-harming (ie cutting, burning, etc)

The reality is, a startling number of teens are dealing with depression and other mental health disorders, with teen girls being more than three times more likely to be diagnosed with depression than boys.  According to the 2014 SAMSHA report, approximately 2.8 million adolescents in the US aged 12 to 17 had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. That’s over 11 percent of the adolescent population, and according to some recent studies, that number is rising. We need to be aware of what to look for, and reach out to friends and our kids if we see them exhibiting warning signs.

There is help out there. Each county has crisis hotlines to call where you can talk to a trained crisis counselor if you feel like you are going through a tough time and don’t know where to turn. Even if you don’t have medical insurance, there is no charge to call a crisis hotline. There are also some great websites available with resources on depression and other mental health issues, as well as stressors like bullying like Sam faced.

If you are being bullied or are feeling depressed or having thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else, there is help out there. Please reach out.

Some websites to visit are:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
To Write Love on Her Arm

If you would like to chat right away to a trained crisis counselor via text message, send a text to 741741, and a counselor will respond via text message. (Part of TWLOHA)

You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1 (800) 273-8255
Counselors are available 24/7 in both Spanish and English languages.

Meet Our Guest Author

Jodie Andrefski lives in a tiny town in PA that no one has ever heard of with her teenage daughter. She received her BS in Secondary English Education from Penn State, then taught a few years before changing focus and going back to school for her Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling.

Andrefski always loved both reading and writing, and wrote for several websites and magazines before deciding to write novels. She writes YA Contemporary, most of which involves at least some kissing. The Girlfriend Request was her debut novel through Entangled Crush, and The Society is her most recent release through Entangled Teen in May 2016. She’s a firm believer that just about anything can be cured with chocolate or by watching an episode or two of a favorite show on Netflix.


Welcome to Trinity Academy’s best-kept secret.

The Society.

You’ve been handpicked by the elite of the elite to become a member. But first you’ll have to prove your worth by making it through Hell Week.

Do you have what it takes?

It’s time to find out.

Samantha Evans knows she’d never get an invite to rush the Society—not after her dad went to jail for insider trading. But after years of relentless bullying at the hands of the Society’s queen bee, Jessica, she’s ready to take down Jessica and the Society one peg at a time from the inside out.

All it’ll take is a bit of computer hacking, a few fake invitations, some eager rushees…and Sam will get her revenge.

Let the games begin. (Published 2016 by Entangled Teen)

Take 5: Quirky Towns in YA Lit

twilightzoneFrom a very young age, I was obsessed with The Twilight Zone. My very favorite episode is the episode Time Enough At Last where the banker survives the end of the world and finally has time to read all the books he wants and then he breaks his glasses and there is no one left to fix them for him. Noooo!! This dream come true episode becomes my worst nightmare.

My other favorites include those episodes where something seems just a little bit off about a town or a society. Like when we find out that the girl who just wants to be beautiful and fit in is an outcast does in fact meet conventional beauty standards, it’s just that the world around her is so very different. Or we find out that a town is really inhabited by aliens.

Which brings me to today’s book lists. You see, I like quirky towns. Not just Stars Hollow quirky, but town with mysteries or secrets. Think Twin Peaks or Wayward Pines. It’s one of the reasons why I love A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd, about a town that once had magic but seems to have lost it (great book, please read it). So today’s list is all about town that have quirky characteristics, dark secrets, or some other thing that makes it not quite like a regular town.

Wax by Gina Damico

quirky2Publisher’s Book Description: Paraffin, Vermont, is known the world over as home to the Grosholtz Candle Factory. But behind the sunny retail space bursting with overwhelming scents and homemade fudge, seventeen-year-old Poppy Palladino discovers something dark and unsettling: a back room filled with dozens of startlingly life-like wax sculptures, crafted by one very strange old lady. Poppy hightails it home, only to be shocked when one of the figures—a teenage boy who doesn’t seem to know what he is—jumps naked and screaming out of the trunk of her car. She tries to return him to the candle factory, but before she can, a fire destroys the mysterious workshop—and the old woman is nowhere to be seen.

With the help of the wax boy, who answers to the name Dud, Poppy resolves to find out who was behind the fire. But in the course of her investigation, she discovers that things in Paraffin aren’t always as they seem, that the Grosholtz Candle Factory isn’t as pure as its reputation—and that some of the townspeople she’s known her entire life may not be as human as they once were. In fact, they’re starting to look a little . . . waxy. Can Poppy and Dud extinguish the evil that’s taking hold of their town before it’s too late? (Coming August 2nd, 2016 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Karen’s Thoughts: This was a very fun read that I thought would make a classic TZ episode. And like Human.4 below, it works really well for all ages, including younger middle school students.

Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar

quirky5Publisher Book Description: Twin Peaks meets Stars Hollow in this paranormal suspense novel about a boy who can reach inside people and steal their innermost things—fears, memories, scars, even love—and his family’s secret ritual that for centuries has kept the cliff above their small town from collapsing.

Aspen Quick has never really worried about how he’s affecting people when he steals from them. But this summer he’ll discover just how strong the Quick family magic is—and how far they’ll go to keep their secrets safe.

With a smart, arrogant protagonist, a sinister family tradition, and an ending you won’t see coming, this is a fast-paced, twisty story about power, addiction, and deciding what kind of person you want to be, in a family that has the ability to control everything you are. (Kathy Dawson Books June 2016)

Karen’s Thoughts: This is an utterly fascinating book about privilege, consent, power and morality. The basic premise – that people can steal a part of your mind and control you – is creepy as all get out, but it makes a good foundation from some serious reflection and discussion.

(Don’t You) Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn

quirky1Publisher’s Book Description: A place where no one gets sick. And no one ever dies.


There’s a price to pay for paradise. Every fourth year, the strange power that fuels the town exacts its payment by infecting teens with deadly urges. In a normal year in Gardnerville, teens might stop talking to their best friends. In a fourth year, they’d kill them.

Four years ago, Skylar’s sister, Piper, was locked away after leading sixteen of her classmates to a watery grave. Since then, Skylar has lived in a numb haze, struggling to forget her past and dull the pain of losing her sister. But the secrets and memories Piper left behind keep taunting Skylar—whispering that the only way to get her sister back is to stop Gardnerville’s murderous cycle once and for all. (Harper Teen 2014)

Karen’s Thoughts: I don’t remember a lot of the specifics of this book, but it’s been 2 years since I have read it and it still often comes to mind. It is truly eerie and haunting.

Human.4 by Mike Lancaster

quirky3Publisher’s Book Description: Kyle Straker volunteered to be hypnotized at the annual community talent show, expecting the same old lame amateur acts. But when he wakes up, his world will never be the same. Televisions and computers no longer work, but a strange language streams across their screens. Everyone’s behaving oddly. It’s as if Kyle doesn’t exit.

Is this nightmare a result of the hypnosis? Will Kyle wake up with a snap of fingers to roars of laughter? Or is this something much more sinister?

Narrated on a set of found cassette tapes at an unspecified point in the future, Human.4 is an absolutely chilling look at technology gone too far. (Egmont 2011)

Karen’s Thoughts: I read this book years ago. I bought this book. It’s very entertaining and interesting. And yes, it was the first book that made me go: this would make a great Twilight Zone episode!

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

quirky4Publisher’s Book Description: Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?

Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.

As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap—their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures—acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are. (Balzer & Bray 2015)

Karen’s Thoughts: Naming this list quirky towns basically defies the exquisiteness of this title. This isn’t so much a “quirky” town as it is a haunting town that will stick to your bones. It’s now a Printz Award Winner, in part because of it’s haunting brilliance and storytelling. It most reminds me in style and tone of Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, which in my book is the highest compliment I can give it. But it is also truly unique, compelling and memorable. Also, it drops some important feminist truth bombs. I got a signed copy for The Teen at ALA because I hope this will be a book that she will read again and again and cherish forever.

What are your favorite books that take place in a quirky town? Please add to this list by sharing your recommendations in the comments.