Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

Let’s talk about YA books that have scared the absolute &%*# out of me.  …………

Okay there are none until Libba Bray destroyed my peaceful dreams with this amazing book, The Diviners.  First in a 4 book series, Libba introduces Evie O’Neill, small-town girl who is bored out of her mind with small-town life and looking for excitement around every corner.  Evie has her own parlor tricks though to build up that excitement as she can ‘read’ memories, personality traits, and emotions from different objects.  After revealing a bit of a town scandal, Evie is sent to New York to stay with her uncle.

Is she sad about this?  Absolutely not!  She is pos-i-toot-ly thrilled to head to New York with the speakeasies and shopping and tons of movie theaters!  Evie just knows she is destined for fame and fortune and this is the way to get there.

Her uncle is the curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult, known to locals as “The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies”, and when a string of occult type murders begin occurring in New York, Evie is drawn into the mystery along with her Uncle Will and a cast of seemingly odd characters.

There are several different plot lines that I am assuming are leading up to be fulfilled in the future books but by and large, this book really freaked me out!  Libba Bray left nothing to the imagination and at the same time left everything to the imagination and mine ran so wild that I had to put the book away one night because I was actually scared.  Yes.  Of a book. 

I was immediately drawn to this book because I am a huge fan of all early 1900s type books, such as Anna Godbersen’s Bright Young Things series and What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell.  This book stepped it up a notch though because it added the mystery/horror element and made the readability appeal to guys and girls.

Also, don’t miss this super creepy book trailer.  I’ll just embed that bad boy right here:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBenU9-0yYc]

The creep factor is high and you won’t regret this read.  5 out of 5 for me and a series that I am pos-i-toot-ly dying to read the next book!

Oh yeah…and I happen to have an extra copy of this awesome book.  I’ll give you until 9/6 to enter using the Rafflecopter form below!!!!  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How Mental Illness Tried and Failed to Ruin My Life by Robison Wells

Variant by Robison Wells was one of my favorite books of 2011 and I became an instant fan of Robison Wells.  It’s a book that has one of those “What the Heck” just happened moments.  If you read my previous post, If You Give a Geek a Computer, you know that at some point I stumbled upon Wells’ webpage where he shares openly about his struggles with mental health issues.  And if you are a regular reader here at TLT you know that part of our mission is to increase awareness and understanding of the issues that affect teen lives.  Mental health issues can affect teens in one of two ways: they are either struggling with their own mental health issues (“Fifty-one percent of boys and 49 percent of girls aged 13-19 have a mood, behavior, anxiety or substance use disorder, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.”) or they are struggling to live in families with members affected by mental health issues.  Today, I am honored to share this guest blog post by author Robison Wells to help us better understand mental health issues.  Be sure and check out our Top 10 list from Tuesday for some good suggestions of ya titles that deal well with mental health issues. 
Ladies and gentleman, Robison Wells . . .
Author Robison Wells holding a copy of Feedback, the sequel to Variant.
Feedback is being released in October of 2012 by HarperTeen
I used to have a healthy brain. According to most measures of success, I was doing great: I had published three books in the local market and had just secured a fantastic three book contract with HarperCollins; I had finished a master’s degree and worked for Fortune 500 companies and groundbreaking startups; I had a wife and three kids, and a little house with a big garden. Everything really seemed to be going my way.


However, lurking under all of it was growing problem. It started one late night while I was working

for ConAgra foods, doing brand management for Orville Redenbacher popcorn. It was a stressful time: I was working 60-70 hours per week, and one night I was all alone at the office at about 9:00pm. And suddenly I was completely overcome by a paralyzing fear. It wasn’t fear of anything specific: at that moment I wasn’t afraid of meeting my deadlines or associating with coworkers. It was just an overriding desire—need—to crawl under my desk and hide, or, better yet, to get out of the office completely. To run and run and never look back. 

I didn’t know it at the time, but this was my first ever panic attack. My heart raced. My breathing was rapid and shallow. My face felt hot and flushed. And I had an overwhelming sense of doom.


Things got better. I was fine the next day, though a little bit rattled by the experience, and I went for months without having another attack. But as time went on they started to happen with more frequency. I’d be in a meeting and have a sudden, irrational need to get out of the room, to get out of the building. My wife would sometimes find me sitting on the floor in between the bed and the wall, or in the back of the closet, or on the kitchen floor, in the dark, at midnight.

Visit TeenScreen.org for more
 information and a complete
 look at this Infographic

It was getting worse, and it was getting worse fast. I finally visited my family doctor and he confirmed my suspicions: I wasn’t just overworked, or unable to deal with stress of family, work, and writing. Instead, I was diagnosed with a severe panic disorder.

Panic disorder is a mental illness, one in which your brain’s autonomic nervous system—the famous fight or flight response—is always turned on. Essentially, some switch was flipped in my brain, and my body suddenly thought that I was (and that I always was) being chased by a bear. I was always alert, like a rabbit who’s smelled a nearby wolf, and I could never concentrate or even sleep. My body simply wouldn’t let me relax because it thought that relaxation would result in my death. My brain was broken.

I don’t know the cause. As with most mental illnesses, there’s no easy answer—no smoking gun that can be pointed to to explain everything. It was probably stress. It was probably a genetic disposition toward anxiety problems. It was probably a lifelong list of unidentified symptoms.

It got worse before it got better. The panic disorder led to agoraphobia. (Agoraphobia is essentially the fear of having a panic attack, so it makes me afraid/unwilling to do things that might spark an attack. It’s become increasingly difficult to leave the house, or to go anywhere where there might be crowds. I lost my job because I was simply unable to enter conference rooms, or go to group meetings, or make stressful phone calls.)

And the agoraphobia led to the scariest of all symptoms: an obsessive-compulsive self-harm complex. It started with a fixation on the stairs. Every time I’d go down to my office (several times a day) I would fantasize about falling down the stairs—I’d think about how much better life would be if I did. Then it changed to an obsession with breaking my hand. Then an irrational, obsessive, all-consuming desire to bleed from my head.

It was at this point that my family doctor pulled some strings and got me in to see a real psychiatrist. (I’d been on a six month waiting list, but my insurance wasn’t great.)

The psychiatrist changed some medicines, adding a few and taking a few away. He sent me to a sleep lab to work on the insomnia (I’d only been getting 2-3 hours of sleep a night because my body was so on-edge.) He sent me to a psychologist for cognitive behavioral therapy. And things started to get better. Slowly.

So why am I telling you all of this? Three reasons.

First, it’s easier to talk about than to hide it. For a long time I used to make excuses for why I couldn’t go places. I also get migraines, so they’d be a convenient lie to get me out of a party. Or I’d tell my writing group that I had car problems, or that my family needed me at home. And, of course, lying only made it all worse. It’s always better to talk openly about your problems than to hide them—even when the problems are as big and as daunting as these.

Second, I talk about this because I want to remove the social stigma. Mental illness is exactly that: an illness. It’s no different than diabetes or pneumonia or cancer. No one feels like they need to hide pneumonia—like they should be ashamed of themselves, or that they should just “muscle through” the coughing and fluid-filled lungs and “be a man”. And yet that’s often the feeling with mental illness. And it’s just plain wrong. People with mental illness need to get help, from doctors and friends and family. And the more that I, and other sufferers, talk about mental illness, the more likely people will be willing to get that help. The more likely they’ll be to stop lying, to stop hiding their problems. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed about. It’s something to get treated.

Third, because I want to give you—those who are suffering from this or other mental illnesses—hope. I’m still sick—I had a horrible day yesterday—but I’m far better than I was six months ago. And I’m back to work, back to being successful. Three weeks ago I finished the best manuscript I’ve ever written. I still have my wife and three kids, and even though I’m not the perfect dad (I still can’t handle noise and chaos), I love my family. My mental illnesses—all of them—are not going anywhere, but they’re being managed, and I’m able to function somewhat normally. Nothing about mental illness is easy, but with the proper help and the support, you don’t have to be afraid of it—you don’t have to be afraid of your own brain. You can live a fulfilling life, and you can still achieve your dreams.
You can find out more about Robison Wells by visiting his webpage.  You can also follow him on Twitter @robisonwells.

For more information about teen mental health, please visit Teen Mental Heath.org or Teen Screen.org.

Win and ARC of Variant and Feedback!

And because I have them, I am going to give away my ARCs of Variant and Feedback to 1 lucky winner.  Just leave a comment with a way to get in touch with you (either an e-mail address or Twitter @) by Sunday, September 2nd to be entered to win.

Shelf Talkers: Bunheads

I saw that the season finale of Bunheads just happened and I’m still (im)patiently awaiting Season 3 of Dance Academy** so I know there are some hardcore dance nuts out there who love all things dance.  Years ago in another body in another lifetime, I was a dancer and spent 11 years in a ballet school and then danced on a national competition squad for 7 years.  I love all things dance.  Especially since when I bust a move, it’s leaning over in my office chair to get the Twix I dropped and completely busting my rear.  True story.  Okay, enough sharing time.  Here are some dance books to whet your appetite and keep you dance happy for a little while!

Dancing in Red Shoes Will Kill You by Dorian Cirrone is an oldie-but-goodie!  Tag line of this book: Ballet and big boobs don’t mix.  Kayla is a ballet dancer in an arts academy in Florida and has her heart set on getting a solo in Cinderella at the spring recital.  Instead, she’s cast as an ugly stepsister and then starts receiving messages and a pair of red pointe shoes in this odd mystery/body image teen book.  It’s just a good light read and had several laugh out loud moments because Kayla has a really genuine voice and a serious problem in the ballet world…boobs.
 (ISBN: 006005701X, HarperCollins, 2005)

Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe is a dance novel told in verse.  Sara is a new student at a prestigious New Jersey dance school and is immediately feeling overwhelmed with all day rehearsals, schoolwork, and the constant criticism.   But all of a sudden, choreographer Remington starts to show a lot of special interest in Sara.  He’s several years older than she is and unsure of herself and lonely, she begins to fall for his charms.  However, Sara discovers the power of writing and in doing so and through much self-reflection, she begins to question her choices and if this is really her dream or not.  For fans of Ellen Hopkins’ type books and those who love high drama.  Quote from the back of the book that I had to post: “Dare I tell them that since I came here to dance/I Have been giving pieces of my body away/To ridiculous diets,/To repeated injuries,/To Remington?/And that maybe/I think/With each bit of my body/I lose a little piece of my soul.’

(ISBN: 0670013197, Viking/Penguin, 2011)

 I haven’t read Someday Dancer by Sarah Rubin yet, but I LOVE the cover art!  Reminds me so much of Dance Academy!

From Goodreads: Casey Quinn has got more grace in her pinkie toe than all those prissy ballet-school girls put together, even if you’d never guess it from the looks of her too-long legs and dirty high-top sneakers. It’s 1959, and freckle-faced Casey lives in the red-dust countryside of South Carolina. She’s a farm girl: Her family can’t afford ballet lessons. But Casey’s dream is to dance in New York City. And if anyone tries to stand in her way, she’s going to pirouette and jeté right over them!
Casey’s got the grit, and Casey’s got the grace: Is that enough to make it in Manhattan someday? Or might the Big Apple have something even better in mind? When she meets a visionary choreographer she calls “Miss Martha,” Casey’s ballerina dream takes a thoroughly, thrillingly modern twist!

 (ISBN: 0545393782, Chicken House/Scholastic Inc., 2012)

 This one is a bit different than a typical ballet dancer type dance book, but I absolutely loved it.  dancergirl by Carol M. Tanzman is about Alicia, a hardcore dancer who eat, sleeps, and breathes dance.  One day, one of her classmates uploads a video of Ali dancing to the internet and it becomes viral.  Which is awesome for Ali because she absolutely loves performing and she is loving all the attention that the video is getting.  But somehow, a video of her dancing in her underwear is uploaded to the computer and Ali starts to get the wrong kind of attention and stalker who wants to do more than just watch her.  Very creepy and completely could happen. 

 (ISBN: 037321040X, Harlequin, 2011)

Bunheads by Sophie Flack IS NOT ABOUT THE TV SHOW!  That was a super popular misconception when all of the news about the show started and I, for one, was bummed because I really loved this book.  Hannah Ward has been accepted to the Manhattan Ballet Company and starts the typical dance book drama with rehearsals, dancer, drama, etc. but the difference in this book is that Hannah falls for Jacob.  Jacob is not a dancer but just an everyday guy and a handsome musician.  Now, Hannah is torn between continuing on the path that she thought she always wanted or pursuing the life of a normal teenage girl.  This book is brave, a bit older than other YA novels, but it perfectly captures Hannah’s angst and missing out at so much in life because of her dancing.  (ISBN: 0316126535, Poppy, 2011)

I really had to include this one because this cover art is so fantastic!  In fact, I bought Various Positions for the cover art alone before I had even read the blurb or anything.  Perfect use of those collection development skills, right? This isn’t a book about what really happens at a dance academy. This isn’t a book about ballet. Yes, these things play a big role in the book, but there is much more to it all.  Georgia is a young, inexperienced in the ways of the world, girl who has just been admitted into a ballet academy. It is obvious during the first few chapters before she enters the academy that because she is so involved in ballet and her dance classes, that she is no where near as mature as her other 9th grade classmates. Because her family ignores her, except for an older sister, Georgia only knows things by witnessing actions of her friends or by doing a GOOGLE search on sex. Thus, her inexperience paired with a lack of familial support and attention leads her to mistake an male teacher’s attention with romantic prospects. I am fairly certain that many teenage girls witness a longing for an older man around this age. The giggly feeling of coming into womanhood and the looks from older boys would lead any girl to this conclusion that those who look MUST be interested.  This book is a wonderful representation of a troubled teenager’s misguided decisions and I really enjoyed the book. 
(ISBN: 0385668767, Doubleday Canada, 2011)

*For you Dance Academy lovers, season 3 began filming on Monday and will air in mid-2013!  I love this show so much!  And if you haven’t fallen victim to this show yet, all episodes of seasons 1 and 2 are on Netflix Streaming.  Prepare to spend the next few weeks glued to your TV and bring tissues.

Also, check out this Yalsa list of Fabulous Films for Young Adults 2012: Song and Dance

Top 10: Books dealing with mental illness (guest post by Kim Baccellia)

My early years growing up in Sacramento were filled with lots of confusion and fear.  At the time, I knew something wasn’t quite right with my father but the one time I did confine in a friend?  I was labeled ‘bad’ and a bad example.  Only later did I found out that most of the young women in my church were told to avoid me.  As if you could catch what was happening in my home.

I felt so alone.  My church wouldn’t help my family.  Other people would avoid us as if we had the plague.

Only recently, after my father’s death, did I have a name for what my father had.

Bipolar Disorder.

I wanted to know all I could about this mental illness as I believe knowledge is power.  What I found is there is still a stigma attached to it.  I’m happy that just recently there has been some YAs that have addressed this and other mental health issues.  I thought I’d share some of my favorites.  I believe these books NEED to be out there and I’m a huge advocate for them.


Young girl dealing with bipolar disorder flees being put in mental institution to find biological mother in small Texan town.  She later finds out that maybe she’s not as crazy as she thought.  I loved the way the author shows us a strong protagonist who refuses to be ignored while battling her own demons and the ones in her town.




I love Ellen’s books so much.  She’s not afraid to write unflinching tales  with their honest portrayals of teens.  IMPULSE is one of my favorites as it shows teens in a mental hospital dealing with some very intense issues.  The companion novel PERFECT is another must read.


This powerful, haunting tale follows a teen that cuts herself as one way to deal with the pain of her sexual abuse. 


I read this book in high school back in the later 1970s.  This is a very gritty portrayal of a schizophrenic teen who ends up in a mental hospital battling reality.  Little did I know why this book felt so hauntingly real to me.  My own father was dealing with the same issues.

 BAD GIRLS CLUB by Judy Gregerson
This book also deals with schizophrenia but only this time around it’s the parent.  What I loved about this book is how realistic it is on how a teen deals with her mentally ill mother without help.  I know how lonely that can be.  A must read.


This is a great novel that shows a teen dealing with panic attacks.


This story of a teen, who has to use prime numbers in everything, is haunting and very powerful.  One huge plus for this book is it shows a boy’s POV on how he deals with OCD.

This is another one of my favorites that deals with OCD and how how the teen tries to find inner strength.


I still remember hearing Jay read the beginning of this at a SCBWI Agent Day event and getting chills.  This is one of those haunting tales that stays with you.
(Please visit our previous TLT post 13 Reasons Why I Love Thirteen Reasons Why)


A huge plus for me in this novel is how Garsee shows what happens when someone doesn’t take their meds. I’ve seen this in my own family and it’s just as scary as it’s shown in this novel. 
Rinn’s haunting descent into madness is chilling. I love how it’s not over the top but rather subtle. You can’t tell if it’s the disorder talking or the ghost.

The ending is shocking and caught me off guard. Love that! 

A must read for paranormal fans that shows bipolar disorder in a realistic
(TLT review of The Unquiet)

Kim Baccellia is an author as well as a PR and Online Marketing associate for Mont9Books.  You can find her at @ixtumea on Twitter or at www.kim-baccellia.com.  You can also find her reviewing books at YA Books Central.  Find out about Kim’s books – Earrings of Ixtumea, Crossed Out and No Goddess Allowed – at her website.

Karen adds a couple of title to the list:
The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison (OCD)
Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown (OCD)
Cut by Patricia McCormick (Self injury)
Kissing Doorknobs by Terry Spenser Hesser (OCD)
Inside Out by Terry Trueman (Schizophrenia)

What titles are on your list of good reads that depict teens dealing with mental health issues in some way? Please share with us in the comments.

Stepping Through The Screen: Reality TV and Library Programming by Christie G

Everyone who knows me knows that I am an absolute competition reality TV addict.  I love watching competition shows that bring people together from all over, fighting it out to win a specific prize in front of television cameras.  While I am smart enough to know that the contestants for the shows are cast not only for their talents but also for their appearance and demographic profile, I’m willing to suspend my disbelief, delve into the fantasy, and root for a favorite.  Teens are the same way- ask them what they’re watching, and it can be anything from the new season of Survivor to Iron Chef America to Top Chef to The Great Escape.  Some of the most popular programs that I’ve done have tied in reality television with library programming and books within my collection….

Project Runway (Lifetime)
TV Concept:  With a limited budget, in an insanely small amount of time, create an outfit to fit the challenge and wow the expert judges, or be sent home.
Library Program:  Create your own fashion runway within the library, while the tween and teens have fun and challenge their fashion sense.  Connect with the local cosmetology school and see if they would be willing to send some of their graduating students to do hair and/or makeup for the tween/teen models the day of the challenge.  Have tweens/teens sign up to be contestants and their own models, and bring items from home for their challenge outfits.  Use a kicking but clean music background, and after the teens are dressed and prepped, have them walk the runway for their family and friends.  If possible, enlist volunteers to take digital pictures of the teens during hair/makeup prep and at the end like a real fashion show, and have the pictures available for download afterwards on a secure site so participants and their parents have those memories of the event.
Collection Connection:  Fashion books and magazines, how-to-sew books, how to crochet books, jewelry creation books, biographies of fashion designers and models from Coco Channel and Jimmy Choo to Heidi Klum.

See previous TLT TPIB Project Fashion for addition Project Runway inspired program ideas.

Fear Factor (Chiller)
TV Concept:  Contestants go through a variety of increasingly gross, fearsome, and dangerous challenges in order to win the game.
Library Program:  While we don’t want to make anyone sick or cause anyone harm, there are ways to twist this program to fit within the library.  First off, you can use the harmless tricks of a Halloween program for the gross or fear challenges:  take cold, cooked spaghetti noodles and peeled grapes with red food coloring, place them in an enclosed box, and tell the teens they’re something obnoxious, and make them put their hand in for a certain amount of time.  Second, you can do safe but nasty food challenges-  get a brain mold, and take green Jell-O and sink bacon and pimentos in it.  Do a Buddy the Elf round and make Spaghettio’s a la Buddy.  Mix up a baby food shake.  Or if you have access and really want to go for it, you can find chocolate covered grasshoppers and ants- completely edible.  For this type of program, whether it’s food or challenges, make sure to have a permission slip, and have a spot for allergies.
Collection Connection:  extreme sports books and magazines, books on cuisines from different cultures, weird and strange food books, grossology books, Guinness Book of World Records.
Cupcake Wars (Food Network) / Top Chef:  Desserts (Bravo TV)
TV Concept:  In Cupcake Wars, four sets of cupcake bakers compete against each other to have their cupcakes showcased at a superstar event in ever-increasing challenges.  In Top Chef:  Desserts, cheftestants compete in a series of 30 minute and elimination challenges showcasing their cooking skills in order to win the title of Top Chef.
Library Concept:  Partner with a local bakery and other sponsors and get vanilla cupcakes (or cake pops) and a variety of frostings, toppings, fruits and sauces.  Set up tables around the room with individual stations that each have a cupcake, and individual servings of each frosting, topping, and sauce that you have available, along with plastic ware, brushes, and any other decoration supplies that you think the teens might need.  Give the teens a set amount of time to dress up their vanilla cupcake to impress the judges in this cupcake war.  There are endless ways to spin this- ice cream sundaes, cookie sandwiches, dessert pizzas with the cookie crust already cooked, or smoothie concoctions.  See if there is a local culinary school in the area that would be willing to send their pastry chefs or students to be judges.  Again, since this is a food challenge, I recommend having a permission slip signed with allergies listed.
Collection Connection:  cook books and cooking magazines, chef biographies like Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson and No Reservations by Anthony Bourdain.

See previous TLT TPIB Food Fight, based on The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski for more Food Network inspired ideas.

Craft Wars (TLC) / Chopped (Food Network)
TV Concept:  In Craft Wars, crafters are to create a stunning craft using unconventional materials and use of the sponsor’s craft closet in order to win over the expert judges.  In Chopped, chefs are given baskets of ingredients and are tasked to incorporate those ingredients into a beautiful dish for the judges progressing from appetizer through dessert.
Library Concept:  Take simple lunch sacks, and pop in left over crafts materials that you want/need to get rid of- those spare buttons, the odd pipe cleaner, the random sticky foam shapes, withdrawn books or DVDs that are damaged beyond use for the Friends of the Library book sale.  Create your own “sponsor’s craft closet” by setting up a table of glue sticks and bottles, scissors, popsicle sticks, construction paper, and anything else you want the teens to use.  Have the teens open the bags, then give them a certain amount of time to create whatever craft they want to create.  They HAVE to use whatever was in the paper sack in the craft, but they can use anything they want from the supply table. 
Collection Connection:  any and all crafting books and magazines, PS I Made This,  lifestyle magazines, origami books, drawing books, biographies of those in the entertainment and style world like Tori Spelling (host of Craft Wars).
There are so many more that you could do:  Survivor or Amazing Race-style scavenger hunts, Minute to Win It Family Night Games, Ninja Warrior challenges…  the list goes on!  What type of programs do you do in your library, and what type of reality TV programs can you think of that would connect with your teens?

Libraries are the Beating Heart

Six years ago on September 1st I was supposed to give birth to a baby, but that baby never came.  He, or she, left my body way back in February of that year, leaving an emptiness that threatened to consume me.  So I turned to the books in my library to help me.  I read every book in my library about miscarriage and pregnancy loss and dealing with grief.  And then, when I had read everything that sat on my library’s shelves, I borrowed from other libraries.  And with each book I read, I made connections with the words that helped to fill that emptiness in me.  With each story shared there were new strands of life that wove me back into the fabric of life because I knew that I was not alone but a part of a bigger tapestry; My loss became a communal experience through story.

Three and a half years ago I gave birth to a little girl and from the get go, it was obvious she was tormented by a pain we couldn’t identify or understand.  We went to doctors and then we went to more doctors and we stayed up all night with a weeping, wailing child.  But somehow, by some stroke of luck, I found one needle in a haystack of research that led me to another haystack until needle by needle, question by question, we were able to start putting the pieces together to try and help her.  That little girl, she cried 24/7 the first 9 months of her life.  She was in so much pain she looked like she was having seizures.  She stopped breathing and turned blue.  But it was the library that helped us save her.

Several weeks ago The Mr. started having health problems.  And as we went to see doctors and asked questions it appeared that maybe some of the little problems that you ignore over the years can actually mean something.  This time I turn to my library not for research, but for comfort.  I turn the pages of books and try to escape the crushing pain of fear and uncertainty.  I enter into the magical woods of The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater and allow myself to hope for magic.  I open the pages of Ask the Passengers by A. S. King and remind myself to love.  I read Guitar Notes by Mary Amato and remember to make music.  I read Unwholly by Neal Shusterman and think about the politics of the day.  I jump into body after body in Every Day by David Levithan and remember that there are people living lives every day that are full of strife and anguish and uncertainty and once again, I am not alone.  My story is uniquely my own, but a part of the whole.  We are all bound together by our stories.

You see, libraries are the beating heart of our communities.  They are places for us to find answers and to ask the questions we didn’t even know we should be asking.  They are the places where we meet and share our stories while we allow others to share with us.  They are the places where we remember to think and hope and dream.  They are the places where we remember to be more and do more and love more.  They are the places where the jobless come hoping to turn their lives around.  They are the places where new parents come to learn how to feed their child, or get them to sleep through the night, or even learn something as simple as how to play little games with them.  We are the places where generations comes to share their childhood favorites with the next generation and weave their stories together.

Libraries are the places where we throw parties and celebrate the accomplishment of learning how to read, where we fight for the right to read what we want, and where we open unknown doors and sneak into new places and allow their inhabitants to change us.

You can say that I work with teens, but the truth is that I work with lovers and dreamers; I work with our here and now and I work with our future . . . When communities have thriving libraries with strong beating hearts, those communities thrive.  It sends a strong message: we value education, we value innovation and dreaming, we value you. 

There is a connectedness that you feel when you walk into the library.  Here in one building lies our past, our present and our future.  In here we find our hopes, our dreams, and yes, our failures.  Here, in one building, are both the answers and the questions and the freedom to decide what they mean for ourselves.

For 19 years I had the distinct honor of living in Ohio communities with thriving libraries that beat loudly as the heart of their communities.  And now I live in a community without one (I commute 45 minutes to work).  There is no magic in the air here, just commerce and industry and asphalt.  There is no smell of leather and paper.  Dreams and magic don’t waft in the air.  Children don’t sing and shake eggs as their parents sit together and participate in community.  Everywhere you turn it seems we are running out of money; but what happens when we stop our beating heart from beating?  What happens to our communities when we shut the doors on the past and put out the flames of the future?  What happens when we get rid of our librarians who teach our children to sing and dance and shake an egg and love a good story?  What happens when we forget to think and dream, to ask and to answer questions?

For the longest time I worked the Reference desk and wondered why all these people were coming in and asking about diseases and diagnoses that they had just received at the doctors office.  I remember once a woman called and asked what the life expectancy of a certain disease was.  I looked it up and my breath caught – the book said two years.  I tried to get her that day to go back and see her doctor, I could not be the one to deliver the answer to this reference question.  But in the end, I read her exactly what it said over the phone and she thanked me; she thanked me for doing exactly what she had asked me to do.  In time, with my own story, I learned the importance of digging deeper and why these patrons kept coming and asking those questions.  We need the opportunity to find answers.  I have helped an adopted child learn about the whereabouts of her birth mother after Hurricane Katrina.  I have helped bruised women asking for books about fixing relationships learn how to contact the local shelter.  I have helped families celebrate and mourn, name their children, and save their children’s lives – including my own.

I love being a librarian.  I love walking in the doors of a library.  I love opening the pages of a book.  I am honored every day to be a part of the beating heart of a community.  Support your libraries just as you would take care of your heart.  Healthy libraries are the same as healthy hearts, and without them our communities die.

Edited to add: Please visit this infographic at StateStats shared by JenBigHeart for some great factual information to compliment this piece. You may also want to check out this post with an infographic which estimates how much libraries save teen patrons a year if they use their libraries. Also, please feel free to link to or quote this piece however you would like to share with your communities and advocate for libraries.  If you do share this piece, please consider posting a link to your advocacy efforts in the comments. Thank you, Karen Jensen, Teen Librarian’s Toolbox

More Advocacy Tools
How Libraries Stack Up Infographic: 2010
ALA Infographic on Library Budget Cuts in 2011
TLT: Advocacy and Marketing posts

Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

“Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’d been told that she would kill her true love.” – first line, The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater.
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic Press, September 2012
ISBN 978-545-42492-9

All souls that will die in the next 12 months travel the ghost road on St. Mark’s Eve, which is where you will find Blue Sargent.  Although Blue comes from a family with intense psychic powers, the only power Blue has in the power to emphasize theirs.  She does not see what they see until the night she sees a spirit who identifies himself only as Gansey on the path.

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

Soon, Blue and Gansey are joined together in a quest to find the ley line, a place of intense magic and deep, powerful secrets that runs through their town.

The Raven Boys is pure, magical storytelling; rich in its use of language and fully fleshed out characters.  Even the shadows and the auras around the edges of the characters have meaning.  Every flick of the wrist, every thread out of place, every accent on the tongue – they all have meaning.  And each character plays off of the other like the pinball bouncing around inside the game, every action causes a reaction and even the details that you think don’t matter sometimes do.  In fact, you will want to re-read this book simply to see the pieces that you missed and see how they all fit together.

I have often said that I wish that I reviewed books based on their quotability factor (or at least I have thought it in my head), and The Raven Boys was full of quotes that I read over and over again.  My favorite was the way that Stiefvater the various Raven Boys; Noah is smudgy, Adam has a weathered look to his uniform that indicates his real status in life, Ronan is sharp and Gansey has layers that sometimes slip.  In fact, each of the 4 Raven Boys are their own treasures to uncover and each page you turn brings new insight.  Each of the boys will break your heart in their own ways, not just in swoony ways, but in the depths of their stories and in the revelation of their secrets.

I don’t even have the skill to tell you how amazingly good this book was.  It was lush.  It was haunting.  And in many ways, for me, it is this generation’s It by Stephen King; here is a story about a group of people who become friends, drawn together by a magical quest with their fates tied into one another in ways both horrific and divine.  This time there is no clown in the sewer, but very real people motivated by greed to unlock a magical door that can only be compared to Arthur attempting to pull Excalibur out of the stone.  And like all magical quests, things are often not what they seem, nor are the people who take them.

Anyone who has ever entered the woods and felt that they were in a magical place will recognize at once the glory that Stiefvater brings to The Raven Boys; here the woods are truly magical and time acts as if there are no rules.  Here there are legends of sleeping kings who offer a promise and trees that speak in Latin.  Here is the glory of fantasy right in a town that looks like yours or mine – and that makes the magic that much beautiful because, for just a moment, you think you can walk outside and find it yourself.

Your teen readers will devour this book, more than once I imagine.  5 out of 5 stars for its magnificent storytelling and amazing character development.  Highly recommended.

Banned Books Week Roundup: Read In, Speak Out for Libraries!

You may have noticed, but it’s election season.  And back to school time. Which means it is also time to start thinking about Banned Books Week.

Banned Books Week at ALA
You can get information and graphics for Banned Books Week at ALA

Banned Books Week is a reminder to us all to celebrate our freedom to read.  Access to information – to new thoughts and ideas, no matter how radical they may be – is the cornerstone of democracy.  And yet every year, we hear case after case of someome attempting to (and sometimes succeeding) remove that access by having materials removed from school and public libraries across the nation.  Without the materials in libraries, that means our patrons have to find ways to access the information themselves, often costing money they don’t have, especially in these hard economic times.

I took a moment to look at what it would cost our teens to buy the books they want and need for both pleasure reading and school, and this is what I came up with as a modest estimate.

So if our teens didn’t have access to books at their school and public libraries, they would have to come up with an average of $1,218.63 to buy 4 of the most popular book series (Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, Twilight and The Mortal Instruments) and an average of 4 books a month for school.  Keep in mind, this figure would be significantly higher if any of those 4 books a month for school are non-fiction because non-fiction titles have a higher price point.
This is why libraries are so important – they support the educational goals, both academic and personal, of all the members of our communities, including our teens.  But removing books from the library compromises that access.
Banned Books Week is an excellent time to remind teens – and your communities – about the importance of reading and libraries.  Remind your communities to vote for libraries! And the best way to cast your vote is by being a library user and supporter.
Looking for some ways to promote Banned Books Week this year? Check out these previous articles:

Banned Books Week: Teen fiction is . . .
Redefining the “3 Rs” for Banned Books Week (Radical, Rebellious, Righteous)

Also, here’s a look at a recent incident involving the book Pretty Amy by Lisa Burstein and another way in which teens are denied access to information.  Recently, a major teen magazine decided to pull its review of Pretty Amy because they felt it was inappropriate for their audience.  They didn’t let teens decide for themselves by presenting an honest review, they simply refused to review it.

What if Amy wasn’t pretty: A tale of censorship
Let’s Talk Access! And why libraries are radically unsafe places and that is a good thing
Amy speaks: Pretty Amy’s censorship uncensored (a guest post by Lisa Burstein)

Banned Books Week is an excellent time to brush up on your advocacy and marketing efforts, so stop by our section on Advocacy and Marketing and read all about it.
How about some posters and bookmarks?  Yeah, we’ve got those to.  You can find some at the TLT Graphics section of our FB page or find some that I designed for frequently challenged author Chris Crutcher last year.
Want one final – and exciting – way to speak out about Banned Books Week?  Join our BBW “Read In” and share a guest blog post about a book from the BBW list that you love.  Simply send me your review, or story, at kjensenmls@yahoo.com by Friday, September 28th.  Join us during Banned Books Week for a guest post by Lisa Burstein, author of Pretty Amy, books reviews and more.
You can get official information for Banned Books Week at BannedBooksWeek.org

Shelf Talkers: Knocked Up Teens

So, many of you don’t know but I, Stephanie, am pregnant and have been a bit absent from the blog lately.  Karen has done an excellent job on keeping everything looking spiffy and flowing and I’ve been about as much help as a bucket with a hole in it.  BUT, I am feeling pretty good today and I’d thought I’d talk up a few books that have to deal with…pregnancy.  Sort of a taboo topic at times when working with teens but with the popularity of shows such as 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom, many teens are exposed to pregnancy through pop culture and some even first hand.  There are some excellent books dealing with pregnancy and different pregnancy issues, and even some fun ones, so I’m going to highlight a few of my favorites.  As always, if you know of some others, please leave them in the comments section!

 Let’s just kick things off with a controversial pair, shall we?  Great.  Bumped and it’s sequel, Thumped, are two of my all time favorite teen pregnancy books because of Megan McCafferty really makes use of the direction society is headed with regards of marketing, social media, and teens and then integrates it with futuristic look at what would happen if only teenagers could reproduce.  Adults over a certain age could no longer have children and so they contracted teen boys and girls to surrogate their children.  And we’re not talking about a hush-hush deal either.  We’re talking about full blown sponsorships from companies for the teens who are the most desirable for creating top-notch babies and these teens have AGENTS.  It’s really some crazy stuff and then entire time I read, I couldn’t decide if I was cringing in anticipation of what would happen next or if I was secretly really enjoying this book.  This series follows Melody and Harmony, twins separated at birth and long lost to each other.  Melody is immersed in this preg-tastic world and Harmony lives in a religious compound and is considered ‘godfreaky’.  I loved these books because the resolution in the end is perfect and my teens that have read them are appalled and shocked at this type of lifestyle…which is the exact reaction I think McCafferty was looking for.  Well played, Megan, well played.
(Bumped, ISBN: 0061962740, Pub Date: 4/2011, Balzer + Bray;
, ISBN: 0061962767, Pub Date: 4/2012, Balzer + Bray)

On a more serious note, Sara Zarr’s excellent novel, How to Save a Life, is a heartbreaking look at one teen who is trying to make a new life for her baby and another teen who is trying to get back to normal after the death of her father. Jill MacSweeney just wishes everything could go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she’s been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends—everyone who wants to support her. And when her mom decides to adopt a baby, it feels like she’s somehow trying to replace a lost family member with a new one. Mandy Kalinowski understands what it’s like to grow up unwanted—to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, one thing she’s sure of is that she wants a better life for her baby. It’s harder to be sure of herself. Will she ever find someone to care for her, too?
As their worlds change around them, Jill and Mandy must learn to both let go and hold on, and that nothing is as easy—or as difficult—as it seems.
  Excellent book.  (ISBN:
0316036064, Pub Date: 10/11, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) (Read Karen’s review of How to Save a Life here)

And last, but certainly not least, Mothership, by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal.  I haven’t read this one yet but I’ve read several reviews that call this book a must read. Elvie Nara was doing just fine in the year 2074. She had a great best friend, a dad she adored, and bright future working on the Ares Project on Mars. But then she had to get involved with sweet, gorgeous, dumb-as-a-brick Cole—and now she’s pregnant.  Getting shipped off to the Hanover School for Expecting Teen Mothers was not how Elvie imagined spending her junior year, but she can go with the flow. That is, until a team of hot commandos hijacks the ship—and one of them turns out to be Cole. She hasn’t seen him since she told him she’s pregnant, and now he’s bursting into her new home to tell her that her teachers are aliens and want to use her unborn baby to repopulate their species? Nice try, buddy. You could have just called.So fine, finding a way off this ship is priority number one, but first Elvie has to figure out how Cole ended up as a commando, work together with her arch-nemesis, and figure out if she even wants to be a mother—assuming they get back to Earth in one piece. (ISBN: 1442429607, Pub Date: 7/12, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers)

So, while there are tons of books that really discuss teen pregnancy, these are the ones that are on the top of my list today.  Believe me that I haven’t forgotten about Angela Johnson’s The First Part Last…another one of my favs.  Until next week!  

**Stephanie’s Note: Italicized portions came from Goodreads book summaries.   

Top 10: Teen titles that deal with obesity and body image

The past couple of days, we have been talking body image and the depiction of obese teens in teen fiction.  So here’s our list of the Top 10 Titles that deal with body image with an emphasis on titles that deal with teens struggling with obesity.

Obesity and Teens in Teen Fiction: a discussion
Every Day by David Levithan, a book review
Butter by Erin Jade Lange, a book review
A Second Opinion: Every Day by David Levithan
Coming Soon: a review of Skinny by Donna Cooner

Fat Kid Rules The World by K. L. Going
“Whats ironic,” he adds, shaking his head, “is that everyone’s so busy trying not to look like they’re looking at you that they’re really not looking at you.”

Shattering Glass by Gail Giles
“Simon Glass was easy to hate. I never knew exactly why, there was just too much to pick from. I guess, really, we each hated him for a different reason, but we didn’t realize it until the day we killed him.”
Hunger by Jackie Morsel Kessler
“Living means constantly growing closer to death. Satisfaction only temporarily relieves hunger. Find the balance, and plant your feet.”
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher
“From a distance,’ he says, ‘my car looks just like every other car on the freeway, and Sarah Byrnes looks just like the rest of us. And if she’s going to get help, she’ll get it from herself or she’ll get it from us. Let me tell you why I brought this up. Because the other day when I saw how hard it was for Mobe to go to the hospital to see her, I was embarrassed that I didn’t know her better, that I ever laughed at one joke about her. I was embarrassed that I let some kid go to school with me for twelve years and turned my back on pain that must be unbearable. I was embarrassed that I haven’t found a way to include her somehow the way Mobe has.”
Butter by Erin Jade Lange

“If you can stomach it, you’re invited to watch… as I eat myself to death.”

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
“The Fat Girl Code of Conduct:
1. Any sexual activity is a secret. No public displays of affection.
2. Don’t discuss your weight with him.
3. Go further than skinny girls. If you can’t sell him on your body, you’d better overcompensate with sexual perks.
4. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever push the relationship thing. ”

Skinny by Donna Cooner
“It just wasn’t fair. God made some people naturally skinny and some people naturally fat. I’d never know how my life would have been different if I’d been one of the ones He made skinny. I didn’t know how He chose. This one will be blonde, with long thin legs and great skin. This one will be short and fat with legs that rub together when she walks. I just knew I wasn’t one of the lucky ones.”

Perfect by Ellen Hopkins
Is that what you are
if you choose to improve
the basic not perfect you?” 

The List by Siobhan Vivian
“Sometimes, when you get something new, you trick yourself into believing it has the power to change absolutely everything about you.” 

The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend by Kody Keplinger
“Calling Vikki a slut or a whore was just like calling somebody the Duff. It was insulting and hurtful, and it was one of those titles that just fed off the inner fear every girl must have from time to time. Slut, bitch, prude, tease, ditz. They were all the same. Every girl felt like one of these sexist labels described her at some point.” 

What’s on your list?

Please see our previous Top 10 List on Body Image and Eating Disorders

Some articles about obesity in teen fiction:
ALAN “Meant to Be Huge”
Plus Size Teen Fiction
Weighing in on Weight by Rae Carson