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Making the Match: Why finding the right book is important by Teri Lesesne (guest post)

One of my teens making a match!

A few weeks ago, I read about the YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) summer course entitled Making the Match.  I decided to email the instructor for this course, Teri Lesesne, to see if she would be interested in writing a guest post for us.  Teri is @professornana via Twitter and is a professor of library science at Sam Houston State University in Texas.  See what she has to say about why finding the right book is important and if you are able, I encourage you to take her course offered through YALSA!

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning bug and lightning, to paraphrase Robert Frost. The same is true when it comes to matching a reader and a book.  Coming close is not enough particularly for teens who might be less than enthusiastic readers. Finding the right book requires knowledge, skill, and sometimes a bit of luck.  What elements are important in this process? 

A first and often overlooked step is to have a thorough working knowledge of the readers we wish to assist.  In the case of tweens and teens, we need to know how they develop intellectually, morally, and developmentally.  We need to understand aspects of their culture.  I confess that I did not always consider some of the theorists I studied in college.  How did Maslow and Piaget and Havighurst and Kohlberg factor into helping readers find good books, books that would speak to them  leaving them to demand more?  Where readers are in terms of their development can often affect responses to reading.

The second step in matching readers and books relies on a knowledge of the books themselves.  How could we ever hope to find the right books unless we are reading dozens if not hundreds of books for tweens and teens?  Have we read selections from the YALSA lists?  Have we scanned the bestseller lists for titles we do not know? Have we read the movies made from books? Are there other places we can turn for suggestions of the books we should read?

Finally, matching readers and books requires we have an arsenal of strategies for getting books into the hands of the readers.  Booktalking is certainly key here, but how else can we let readers know about the really good books even when we are not available for booktalks? Shelf talkers, blogs, bibliographies, displays, and more are key strategies, too.
Seems simple on the surface.  However, we all know it is a complex and demanding task: finding that just right book. This summer I will offer a course through YALSA called Making the Match.  We will spend 6 weeks talking and sharing and learning together.  I hope some of you will join me.  Information about the course is on the YALSA site (http://www.ala.org/yalsa/onlinelearning/onlinecourses/making_the_match).  In the meantime, grab a book and read!

Thanks so much to Teri for appearing on our blog and I hope that this post inspires you to work even harder in making the match with our teens and the book!  — Stephanie

Book Review: Timepiece by Myra McEntire

They have altered history, and now it’s time to learn what the consequences are . . .

Be warned: spoilers for Hourglass (previously reviewed), the first part of Myra McEntire’s series, abound in this review. Read at your own risk.

Timepiece takes off where Hourglass left us, although it is told from another character’s point of view.  If you read Hourglass, you know that Emerson and Michael stepped back in time to save one man from death, and that man was Kaleb’s father.  Now we get to see what it like to have mourned your father and see him live again.  Kaleb wasn’t dealing so well with his father’s death in Hourglass, but how will he deal with his resurrection?

They say that every action causes a ripple of reactions throughout the universe, and the people from Hourglass have made earthquakes.  Now, time rips are becoming more frequent, new people can see them, and sometimes you can interact with them.  The rules are changing and no one is quite sure what it means.

To make matters worse, Jack is moving in and out of these rips and showing up in unexpected places wrecking havoc.  Jack, it turns out, is not the only player in town.  There are more people then we know interested in Emerson and the ability to move through time, very few of them with honorable motives.  But it turns out that Jack is actually the very person that our gang needs, so they must employ unique measures to try and find him – which is a lot harder to do when you can hide in time as well as a space.

The shift in the point of view was jarring at first, it takes you a few pages to figure out who, exactly, is telling this story.  But Kaleb, well, he is exactly the right person to be telling this story because he is the one with the highest amount of emotional investment.  Kaleb is really forced to wrestle with some important questions as to who he is and what he is capable of doing, which makes for some good character development.  In addition, Kaleb develops an interesting relationship with Emerson’s best friend, Lily.  In many ways the relationship between Kaleb and Lily is much more organic and believable than any of the other relationships in this series, and it is exciting to see the push and pull and steady development of attraction between the two.  Where Emerson and Michael seemed drawn together by the magnetic forces of their powers, Kaleb and Lily develop an attraction for each other based upon their thoughts and feelings and interactions.

In fact, Kaleb and Lily are such dynamic characters that I found I cared less about Emerson and Michael and I appreciated the shift in focus.  I am not really a swooner and am often one who reads quickly through the romance to get to the action scenes, but Kaleb has a certain charm and pathos that even I found compelling; he will definitely make teen girls swoon.  So for those looking for some swoon in their sci fi, this is definitely the right series for them.

But don’t let the romance fool you, Hourglass and Timepiece are also some meaty science fiction with a uniquely developed look at time travel, paradoxes, and a cast of characters that each have their own unique abilities.  The town in Timepiece even seems to serve as a version of the Hellmouth, where these people are being drawn together by forces with unknown intentions to bring about unknown plans.  Each step is obviously bringing us closer to some monumental showdown which, given the premise of the series, seems likely to occur in any number of time periods.

As much as I liked the story and the action in Hourglass, add to that a more well rounded, developed cast of characters and you get storytelling magic.  Since I gave Hourglass 5 out of 5 stars, and I felt that Timepiece was in many ways a stronger story, I have to give it 5+ stars.  All the action and all the stellar pacing is still there.  In addition, all the science fiction juicy goodness is still there, but this entry into the tale just had a little something more in terms of character development.  The stakes have been raised, the ante upped, and the consequences have the potential to be much more significant affecting not only our cast of characters, but the world as we know it.

Demand for this title should be high (it crashed Netgalley when the ARC was made available) and teens everywhere should be asking for it, a definite purchase for your collection.  Timepiece also gets bonus points for continuing to have amazing covers and for how the covers tell the arc of the story so far.  Releases on June 12, 2012 from EgmontUSA.  This review refers to an unpublished ARC and there may be changes before it is released.

Trend Watch: Contagion

What’s next on the Trendwatch? Contagions!  Suddenly in the ya books I’m reading communities – and countries – are being taken down by the age old arch nemesis of mankind: the virus.

Caution: While reading these titles please report any sudden coughing, sneezing or itching to the local authorities.  In order to prevent the spread of contagion, please wear appropriate protective gear and remember to wash your hands.  Any person showing any signs of contagion must report those signs immediately. Happy reading.



In Quarantine: The Loners by Lex Thomas, previously reviewed by Stephanie Wilkes, teens carry a virus that kills all the adults and find themselves quarantined in the high school.  Like in Lord of the Flies, the survival instinct takes over and the teen’s go all gangster’s paradise on each other.  Daniel Kraus recently reviewed Quarantine for Booklist and points out that there are shocking moments of ultraviolence, but as these contagion books point out the looming threat of biological contamination does not bring out the best in human nature. (Total side note: Quarantine shows a rich, complicated relationship between brothers and does a great job of depicting a character with Epilepsy and showing how vulnerable this makes him in this situation.  I also appreciated how the MC made some important decisions to help others even though it cost him a lot.)

In Starters by Lissa Price, previously reviewed by me, everyone who didn’t get the vaccine for a life taking diseases has been wiped off the face of the planets leaving in its wake a new caste system that leaves young people scrambling for survival.  It also creates an illegal black market for technological body snatching.  There are only two groups of people now: starters and enders.  (Look for the companion novel, Enders, coming out in the fall.)

In Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin, a plague hangs over the land with a darkness that hangs over the land like a thick, oppressive fog.  With Masque, Griffin creates a world so darkly macabre that Poe himself would be jealous with envy.  This is a twisted world where your only hope of salvation is a specialized mask and like all good capitalist societies, the pursuit of the almighty dollar is placed above the welfare of the people.  There are twisted underground leaders, dying people lining the streets, possible mad scientists, and a superbly menacing crocodile scene.

Then last night I finished reading The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe.  Here, 16-year-old Kaelyn writes in a journal to her best friend on the mainland from her island paradise.  It begins slowly and innocently, an itch under your skin, a cough, a sneeze.  Then all inhibitions break down and you are being incredibly frank with the people around you, sharing how you really feel with no holding back or nod to the polite rules of society.  And then – you die.  As it becomes clear that this is a deadly outbreak, the government comes in and quarantines the island.  One by one the people around you die, schools are closed, society breaks down, and you are trying to find away to make sure you stay safe. 

I appreciated in this contagion tale the way some of the characters – some of the teens – really rose to the occasion and tried to find ways to help others and selflessly do what is good and noble.  Whereas in Quarantine you see teens immediately devolving into reckless survival mode, in The Way We Fall you see thoughtful, introspective teens looking out to continue community.  Not all of them, of course, because if we have learned anything – it’s that the end of the world brings out the worst in human nature.  They are different books telling different stories, each effective in their own ways.

Like with dystopian fiction, you find yourself reading these tales of contagion and putting together your survival kit in your head.  While reading The Way We Fall I developed phantom itches.  At least, I hope they were phantom itches.  So grab a book – and a face mask – and snuggle in for an eerie read about microbes gone rogue.

Do you have any contagion titles you have read recently to add to the 2012 Trend Watch? And what did you think of these ones?  You can view the other trends here.

Can you forgive the bully? A guest post by author Patty Blount

There’s a t-shirt popular among writers that says, “Writers block: when your imaginary friends won’t talk to you.” (Note to self: buy t-shirt.) It’s a well-accepted fact that writers are probably the only group of people who DON’T panic when they hear voices in their minds.

At any given time, there are about half a dozen characters who are jabbering away in my head and will not shut up until I write them out.  To date, Dan, the main character from SEND (coming August, 2012 from Sourcebooks Fire), was the hardest character for me to exorcise for a couple of reasons. First, he was male and I’d never written a male lead before, especially not from the first person POV. Second, he was obviously NOT a hero – he’d done a terrible thing and even though he was paying for it, his crime hit a bit too close to home for me.

Dan started talking to me after some real-life angst converged with a day job directive I got just before I came down with a cold.  It started back in 2004 when my oldest son was in sixth grade. He’d hit puberty early and was already shaving. He suffered from bad acne, wore glasses and braces, and stood a foot taller than his classmates. They all thought it was great fun to torment him over his differences.  It went on from September until April when my son finally blurted out he no longer wanted to live.  Ironically, I am writing this post the night before my son’s twentieth birthday. Every birthday he’s had – and ever will have – celebrates not just his birth, but his triumph. (There are lasting scars, even with the help we obtained from his teacher, the principal, and therapist.)  I am convinced that had Facebook and Twitter existed back then, I would be telling you a very different story today.

I was working on a contemporary romantic trilogy at the time and had just finished book 1 in the series. I started book 2, but had to shelve it so I could focus on Dan, whose voice was suddenly speaking louder than all the others in my mind. I knew only the barest of facts – that he was once a bully.  When my new boss challenged me to incorporate social media into my work, I remember blinking and asking, “What’s a twitter?”  I did the research and learned not only how people use social networks, but also how they abuse them.  And the voice in my head said, “I did that.”

I wrote a few test chapters and one day, while I was home sick with a bad cold, I caught some daytime talk show I usually never watch. The focus was ‘sexting’ – a crime popular with teenagers who had absolutely no clue they were breaking any laws.  And that’s where it got really interesting… turns out, there WERE no laws to address abuse of the Internet, and cell phone network (though many laws have since been enacted) so some teens were convicted of distributing child pornography and listed on the national sex offense registry. This so profoundly frightened me, I IMMEDIATELY sat both of my sons down when they got home from school that day, and set forth the laws for proper cell phone use.  I drowned another cold capsule and stretched out for a nap and that’s when Dan told me what he’d done.

“I clicked Send,” he whispered. “How was I supposed to know that picture would go viral? How was I supposed to know Georgie would kill himself?” (Georgie was changed to “Liam” in the published version.)   

When one of the teens profiled on the talk show explained how he had to move away because people think he’s a violent rapist after they learn he’s on the sex offense registry, Dan scoffed and said he’d moved four times and even had to change his name.  “Tough to live, knowing what I did.” He told me.

That’s when I grabbed a notebook and started brainstorming. Living with guilt became my theme. How would a kid deal with that kind of remorse?  What about his parents? His friends?  What kind of man would he grow up to be?

The result of all that brainstorming was the first draft of SEND, in which main character Daniel Clements is a mid-twenties motivational speaker, who lives out of hotel rooms between speaking engagements. He talks to high school and middle school students about his experiences in juvenile detention and on the sex offense registry and eventually meets a pretty guidance counselor who turns out to be his victim’s sister.

In early 2010, a former literary agent pointed out a fatal flaw. “You’ve got what is essentially a teenage problem in a story built around adult characters.”

Uh oh.

So I rewrote the whole book – this time, with Dan back in his teens starting over in one of the four new towns he’d moved to. (In the published version, I changed Dan’s name to Ellison after my editor pointed out that Clements was uncomfortably close to Clementi, the name of the Rutgers student who leaped from the George Washington Bridge.)  

When I started writing this story, it was pure fiction. In the years that have passed, my plot has sadly become a headline that repeats with disturbing regularity. Still, I wonder how many of these bullies are truly murderous and how many are like Dan – just dumb kids who did something they can’t undo, can’t take back, can’t make right?  I wanted that part of Dan – the guilty part, the remorseful part – to come through.

It was a challenging project…  After all my family had been through, I wanted to hate Dan. He was a bully, after all, and easy to blame for my son’s issues. I didn’t want to write him and I damn well didn’t want to like him. But even after all the torture I’ve heaped on him in this story, I couldn’t help doing either. In the end, I forgave Dan.

I’m not, however, ready to forgive my son’s tormentors.

Would you?  Would you be able to forgive your bully, or the bully who nearly drove your child to suicide?
About Patty Blount
Native New Yorker Patty Blount writes instruction guides by day and novels by night. On a dare by her oldest son, Patty wrote her first novel in an ice rink during his hockey practice. Though never published, Penalty Killer was the subject of so many seventh grade book reports, the English teacher requested a copy and later returned it, covered in red ink. Powered by a serious chocolate obsession, Patty is always looking for great story ideas. Her boss suggested she learn about social media so Patty began researching Twitter, LinkedIn, and other networks, and had bad dreams about pictures going viral. She wrote her debut novel, Send, when she woke up. (Okay, not really.)
Patty lives on Long Island with her family, a fish, and lots of books.
About Send: Keeping his secret is making him crazy… revealing it could get him killed. Look for “Send”, a young adult novel coming in August 1, 2012 from Sourcebooks, Inc.

It only took one click.

Read more TLT posts about bullying, including a booklist and a look at 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher here.

Book Review: Lexapros and Cons by Aaron Karo

Chuck Taylor’s OCD has rendered him a high school outcast. His endless routines and habitual hand washing threaten to scare away both his closest friend and the amazing new girl in town. Sure he happens to share the name of the icon behind the coolest sneakers in the world, but even Chuck knows his bizarre system of wearing different color “Cons” depending on his mood is completely crazy.


In this hilariously candid debut novel from comedian Aaron Karo—who grew up with a few obsessions and compulsions of his own—very bad things are going to happen to Chuck. But maybe that’s a good thing. Because with graduation looming, Chuck finds himself with one last chance to face his inner demons, defend his best friend, and win over the girl of his dreams. No matter what happens, though, he’ll have to get his hands dirty.





Let me just tell you…I freaking love Chuck Taylor.  This was one male protagonist that I could immediately jump up and down and point my finger and scream “Yes…Karo got it right!  This is the perfect male voice!!!”  Why?  Because the first page of the book immediately dives into what 99% of the male brain is wired for when they are in their teens: masturbation.  It’s not a gross reference and in fact, it is a hilarious intro into a book that I might have otherwise passed over.  Chuck figures out that he is OCD because for an entire year, he keeps up with how many times he masturbates on a post-it note. 

Because of this whacker tally (ha, ya see what I did there?) and an extensive search on the internet in means to self-diagnose himself, he has come to the ultimate conclusion of being OCD.  His parents decide to help him with his disorder and arrange for him to start seeing a psychiatrist, which he reluctantly agrees to.  And of course, all changes in Chuck’s life when a new transfer, Amy, stirs a longing to ‘get better’ so that Amy will see him differently.  

Lexapros and Cons tackles several tough topics: 1) OCD, 2) psychiatrist visits, 3) first love, 4) masturbation, 5) outcast relationships in high school, and 6) becoming yourself.  All with a male main character that could be any random teen boy you see today.  This is possibly the most refreshing male voice that I’ve read since The Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.  Not only is Aaron Karo brave enough to tackle the hard topics, he does so with a hilarious voice and creates a character that, while flawed and at times annoying, you cannot help but love and laugh out loud.  


A perfect book for reluctant teen readers…one chapter had a high school class rolling on the floor when I read it aloud.  Sample first and then push it hard because you’ll love it. (Stephanie Wilkes)

Editor’s Note: Be sure to check out The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison for another look at a main character with OCD.

Sequel Preparedness: Human.4 by Mike Lancaster

Later this year, in November to be exact, the world as we know it will change – again.

It began with a quiet little book titled Human.4 by Mike Lancaster.  Human.4 is a classicly creepy science fiction tale that immediately brought to mind some of the best episodes of The Twilight Zone.  The best part: it is incredibly creepy but appropriate for readers of all ages.

We begin by zooming in to a small town.  Not a lot happens here, as it the case with most small towns.  But every year there is an annual talent show.  It is here that the world as we know it changes for everyone.  Well, everyone except for 4 individuals who happened to be hypnotized at the moment the change occurred.

Kyle didn’t mean to volunteer for his best friends hypnotism act, he was more surprised than anyone to see his hand go in the air.  But the biggest surprise of all – it seems to have worked.  When Kyle and the other 3 volunteers awake from the hypnosis everyone in the audience – perhaps the whole world – is completely still.  And when they do start moving again, they are very, very different.

With very precise steps, Kyle begins wandering around his town and noticing those subtle changes and realizes that things are not what they seem.  Even though the people in his town are still there – they’re not exactly THERE.  More disturbingly, they don’t seem to notice that Kyle is there.  He no longer seems to matter, or be quite visible.  The realization of what has unfolded, and what it means for Kyle and the .4, is a spectacularly interesting science fiction twist.

One of the best parts of Human.4 is the storytelling technique.  It is presented as a study from someone in the future analyzing a series of cassette tapes left by Kyle with the admonition they should “please remember us.”  There are even little interjections where scientists discuss the implications of what Kyle is saying.  It was such a creative way to tell this creepy tale.

Like I said, this book packs a powerful, creepy punch in a very traditional way.  No gore, no gimmicks – just a slowly building creep factor that sucks you in.  5 out of 5 stars and appropriate for middle grade and teen readers (and adults!) of all ages.

Check out Mike Lancaster’s web page – analogue signals – for updates and a book trailer for the companion novel, 1.4.

The girl in the fiberglass corset: a story about scoliosis and eating disorders

The first time I had to wear it in public, I threw up.  It was at my brother’s baseball game and there I was running to the bathroom to hurl.  You see, unlike the corsets of old, it didn’t make me look thinner.  No, it made me look . . . well, large.  It being a fiberglass cast that went around my torso to help correct my spine.  I had scoliosis.

I remember it was the same year I read Deenie by Judy Blume and thought, wow that would suck.  Later that year they called us all in to the nurses office and had us bend over and touch our toes.  It turns out that I, too, had scoliosis.  My spine was curved.  For 2 years I had to wear a fiberglass corset 24/7 and then for another 2 years I had to wear it at night.  Nothing says have a good night’s sleep like a fiberglass corset digging in your hips.

My scoliosis diagnosis also led me down another dangerous path: eating disorders.  You see, I couldn’t stand how big the corset made me look, and I didn’t want people to notice, so I wore oversized clothes and began to shrink, both literally and figuratively.  I tried to make myself as small as possible so no one would notice the fiberglass cast and how it contorted my body and made me feel like a freak of nature.

By the time I was in high school I was down to eating just a granola bar for lunch and as little dinner as I could get away with eating.

By the time I was 19 I was 5 foot 9 and weighed 102 pounds.  I was eating just a granola bar or blueberry muffin a day, washing it down with one can of Pepsi.  This is when I began dating the Mr. and if you asked him what his first impressions of me were he would not say I was thin or beautiful.  No, he would tell you that I slept a lot.  I was tired all the time because food is our energy and I simply didn’t have any.

In college I began my journey of recovery.  They say you are never fully recovered; like a drug addict, you simply learn to manage I guess. I eat 3 square meals a day and generally am at peace with who I am, but it took me a while to get there.  All teens struggle with body image and self acceptance issues, but some of them will spiral into full blown eating disorders of some sort.  It is important that we add books in our collections, both fiction and non, to help raise awareness and help teens find stories that they can relate to.  Having read the story of Deenie helped me in my journey with scoliosis; it was comforting to read that someone else thought and felt the things that I was feeling.  That’s what story does for us – helps us know we are not alone.

The title of this post is a play on the book title The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross.  A good read to be sure, but the title always makes me think of my fiberglass corset – long ago dead and buried thankfully.  View our Top 10 list of books about eating disorders and body image for stories to share with your teens.  Please be sure to add 101 Way to Help Your Daughter Love Her Body by Brenda Lane Richardson to your collections.  And of course, if you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, it is important that you talk to a doctor.

Top 10 Tuesday: Body Image and Eating Disorders

Yesterday we talked about The List by Siobhan Vivian.  One detail that didn’t come fully to light in our coverage is the story of Bridget, who develops an eating disorder.  Her description on the “list” says this: what a difference a summer makes.  What they don’t know is how she lost that weight over the summer, and how that statement affects her downward spiral.  I felt that Bridget’s story, her story of how she counted calories and avoided food, was a thoughtful depiction of anorexia that rang true.  So today, in honor of The List by Siobhan Vivian, and in honor of teens everywhere trying to learn to love their bodies, we have put together this Top 10 List of books on Body Image and Eating Disorders.  Click the book cover and it will take you to the books Goodreads summary or TLT review.

“Dead girl walking,” the boys say in the halls.
“Tell us your secret,” the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.
Juniors
Prettiest:
Bridget Honeycutt –
What a difference a summer can make
“My subject will be shame.”
“She was fat. Worse than that, she was a monster. A five-foot-four-ninety-eight-pound monster.” Chap. 1, p. 10
“There’s this part in the book, the first time he trhows up, where Charlie is just miserable. And I remember while I was writing that, that he just wanted relief, even if it was temporary, of the pain he was dealing with, specifically his ever eating, generally his life, and suddenly I knew how Charlie was going to deal with all of it.” – Jenny Torres Sanchez
“I am the middle sister. The one in between. Not oldest, not youngest, not boldest, not nicest. I am the shade of gray, the glass half empty or full, depending on your view. In my life, there has been little that I have done first or better than the one preceding or following me. Of all of us, though, I am the only one who has been broken.” 
“Anorexia . . . is not something to be ashamed of. It’s not something to be proud of. It isn’t anybody’s ‘fault.’ It’s an illness – a life-threatening illness – and it’s treatable.” – afterword
I’M TELLING YOU THIS BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T ASK. I’VE GOT IT ALL HERE, GROWING LIKE A TUMOR IN MY THROAT.
Do you ever get hungry? Too hungry to eat?
For more books on Body Image and Eating Disorders, check out the user created list at GoodReads or the Bare Bones list at Reading Rants! Out of the Ordinary Booklists.
Be sure and leave us a comment telling us what you think about these books, or share a book you think we missed.

Why YA? To never forget… The List (Siobhan Vivian) as discussed by Stephanie Wilkes

Today, TLT member Stephanie Wilkes shares her Why YA? post.  You can write one too. Here’s how.

I’ve contemplated this post for several weeks now because the reason I read YA didn’t seem like something I could just pin down for a blog post.  There are so many different reasons and in my interview when I joined the TLT team, I gave away the book that made me into a YA reader.  I kept telling Karen that I was going to write this post and for several days I have just stared at my reminder post-it, seeking inspiration.  Then, during a recent outreach visit to my old high school, I found it.

One of my best friends (since 2nd grade) is now a high school English teacher and one of her requirements to complete her certification is to have community visits to her classroom.  So, of course, I offered to come in and talk about books that are not required reading in hopes of securing more readers and library users.  Kristin teaches at our high school and before I went to her class, I had to drop off my son at my mother’s house.  The same house I grew up in.  I drove the same drive that I took ten years ago and was amazed at how many flashbacks I had while driving down those back roads.  So much has changed but for the most part, all of it is still the same.  
I walked down the same hallways that I did as a student and down some of the new hallways built after they added on to the school.  The hallways smelled the same…the bathrooms smelled the same.  And then, at lunch, when I was in the cafeteria, I spotted my senior portrait on the wall (high ACT scores got to have their pics on the wall in our Renaissance Club).  I walked over and was instantly blow away by this picture.  I made a goofy face and took a pic with it and when I got home, I just sat and stared at this pic and thought about how much my life has changed in ten years.  
First thing I noticed?  Fake happiness.  Present me, happiness that is real.  Second thing, hair like all my friends…highlighted, curled…not me.  Present me, hair that I LOVE.  The night before I took that pic?  Went out with friends and drank…a lot.  Witnessed my boyfriend kiss another girl.  Got amazingly sick.  Threw up all the way to pictures the next day and made my Mom REALLY MAD.  And then came home and cried for hours and hours.  And then, while looking at that pic, I stopped dead in my tracks and realized why I read YA.
I read YA because there are millions of teenagers out there who don’t have a clue.  They have no idea that we, the adults who work with them, have experienced heartache, happiness, “falling in love” tingles, and the pain of being stabbed in the back by your best friend.  And while most adults run as quickly as possible from those feelings and that time in their lives, I choose to embrace it.  Embracing the hurt and the happy makes me a better teen librarian because I can offer real sympathy.  I can offer a kind ear, I can pick up on body language, and I can tell who has a crush on whom from across the room.  
And along that line, I can offer them books to help them realize that life doesn’t always suck and that sometimes, it sucks hardcore.  One book I just recently finished was the perfect example of the girls in my high school and at times, I was like each and every one of them.  In fact, Siobhan Vivian’s The List is quite possibly one of the best books that I’ve read this year.
At the beginning of each school year, a list is posted.  The prettiest and ugliest of each grade.  So right off the bat, we are introduced into our cast of eight…the pretty girls and the ‘ugly’ girls.  It’s a story of how girls see themselves and how others view them.  At times, I could identify with all of the girls and their feelings and one of the first books that truly took a realistic view at girls and their behavior and instead of offering resolution, because not all of the stories were resolved, offered a snapshot into a life and then, as you closed the book, made you call into question your own actions.

It is these types of books that give teens power.  And especially the girls in the book.  Each one of them is empowered because of this list in some way, shape or form and it is up to them to learn how to use this power wisely (and now I feel like the whole ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ Spiderman-quotey).  So, not only these 8 girls are affected by The List but also their friends, their boyfriends, and everyone around them.  It makes you remember that so much of your high school life is dictated by others opinions of you or what people say behind your back and at times, it is extremely painful.  And sometimes we make decisions that we might not have made otherwise and I know we have all been there.

 Why do I read YA?  Because I never want to forget.  Thanks to the hundreds of YA authors for keeping it real and reminding me everyday that I’m human and that the pain and happiness made me into the awesome nerdfighter I am today.  And thank you for empowering me as an adult to always passionately serve my teens and give them an outlet to learn more about the world and about themselves. 

The Feminist in Me by Siobhan Vivian (guest post)

High school can be cruel.  Everyone wants to put a label on you: Jock, Geek, Loner, Stoner, Prep.  There are even school sanctioned labels: Most Likely to Succeed, Prom Queen.  Labels, sometimes, can make or break us.  How do we live up to them – or live them down?  Today we are honored to have a guest blog post by the talented ya author Siobhan Vivian.  What label does she give herself? And how did you she come to write the amazing THE LIST?  Read on to find out.
I am a feminist.
And though that facet of my personality might not be the first thing you pick up on when you meet me, I do hope it’s a theme you see present in all my young adult novels. Real girls, real problems. That’s always been my inspiration, where I set my moral compass as a writer. And in my new novel, THE LIST, it is front and center.

THE LIST takes place at a typical American high school called Mount Washington, where they have an annual tradition. Every year, on the Monday before homecoming, an anonymous person hangs a “list” all over school. Copies are stapled to locker doors, hidden in homeroom desks, hung on bathroom mirrors.
On this list are the names of eight girls…those deemed to be the “prettiest” and the “ugliest” of each grade.

But let me rewind just a bit.

It was 2009, and I came across a news story on Good Morning America, about a high school in New Jersey not far from where I grew up. The media had found out about a tradition, one that had gone on for years and years and years, where a secret group of senior girls would make a list targeting the freshmen girls.
This had gone on for about fifteen years without much in the way of authority intervention. But someone leaked this particular years’ list to the media. And they jumped all over it. No matter how hard the principal of the school tried, he could not get any of the girls to give up who, exactly, had written this list.
This particular list at this particular school was more sexual in nature. And, it’s important to note that the things these senior girls were writing were completely made up. Some of the digs were terribly mean and cruel. But some were a little more flattering, if you can imagine. Think about the way some girls use the word “slut” as a term of endearment.
Obviously, it’s no surprise that girls can be cruel to each other. But what really struck me were the reactions to this media scrutiny from the girls at this high school. They flooded the comments sections of these articles. Some were happy that people were finally bringing this terrible tradition to light. Others thought this was a big fuss about nothing.
And then I spotted this comment. 
“I know a lot of girls were upset because they weren’t on the list.”
That to me showed a real power; that the judgments of a group of anonymous people could hold so much sway. Some girls were so desperate to be seen, to be singled out in any context was something to aspire to.
Now, I had already written about the judgments that teen girls face in regards to their sexuality in NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL. But there was something really interesting and sticky about this story. I couldn’t let it go.

And, when I thought about it a bit more, I noticed that though this particular list was billed as a “slut list’ it was actually based more on appearances. “Pretty” girls had kind things written about them, “ugly” girls had mean, jokey things written about them.

So I made up a character named Jennifer, who’d basically been called ugly her whole life. I wanted her to have been put on the yearly list, named the ugliest girl in her class for four years straight. And then, for senior year of homecoming, that something similar might happen to her.

I pitched it to my editor, David Levithan, who loved it.

But then he said, “Well…what about the other seven girls on the list? What’s their story?”

And suddenly, my very small book became a lot bigger.

My book features eight girls. The novel follows each of them for one week in their lives. It’s basically eight short stories. And to make these girls real, I realized I would need to go beyond Jennifer’s experience and dig into my own issues with beauty and identity.

As much as I was accepted in high school (I was loud, I was funny) I was also very much an outcast.

The more I thought about my own high school experience, I realized that there were so many times where the difference between feeling pretty and ugly was so precariously thin.
I’ve always been inspired by THE CHOCOLATE WAR. It’s a wonderful book and very, very, accurately captures the struggles of peer pressures on young men.

To me, the war that girls are facing today is the pressure to be considered beautiful.

They are looking for a definitive answer. One that would dictate who they are and how they should feel about themselves.

We’ve always been told that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The girls of today are seeking validation. To be considered beautiful equaled permission to be confidant, to be proud, that you have worth.

I am hoping that my book can start a dialog that brings them to understand that it can’t be a random survey. It can’t be something we seek outward.

Ultimately, I want my readers to end THE LIST and think about the impact that these issues has on their lives. Are they the ones who judge? And are they also judged? And how does that affect them?

If we are able to reinforce girls from the inside out, we make them more powerful. And as a feminist, I couldn’t imagine a better outcome.

About Siobhan

Siobhan Vivian was born in New York City on January 12, 1979 . . . which might sound like a long time ago, but really isn’t. She grew up in Rutherford, NJ, where she got into trouble for such things as constantly talking out of turn, bringing a stray dog into school in a stolen shopping cart, passing notes to her friends, telling jokes, sneaking out, and not doing her homework.

Siobhan attended The University of the Arts, where she graduated with a degree in Writing for Film and Television. She received her MFA in Creative Writing: Children’s Literature from The New School University.

Siobhan has worked as an editor of several New York Times best-selling novels at Alloy Entertainment, a scriptwriter for The Disney Channel, and she currently teaches Writing Youth Literature at the University of Pittsburgh.  Visit Siobhan at her webpage or follow her on Twitter @siobhanvivan.  Be sure to check out her other ya titles A Little Friendly Advice, Same Difference and Not That Kind of Girl.