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Book Review: Sick by Tom Leveen and ARC Giveaway

“There’s a whole bunch of really scared people out there,” Kat says. “They’re going to need to be dealt with.”

Something about the words she chose makes my skin crawl.

Jaime takes a cautious step away from the door, as if to make sure no one is going to try to bust through from the hall. “What are we going to tell them? he asks us. “About the food?”

“We’re not gonna be here long enough for it to matter,” Chad says.

“We might be,” Ravis argues.

“This is the United States of America,” Kat says, pretty calm under the circumstances. “We’re not in Rwanda here, you guys. Someone’ll show up, we’ve just got to sit tight.”

“Naw, no,” Chad says, wagging his head. “We gotta get the hell out is what we gotta do.:
“Where’s the key,” I ask Jaime. “To the bike lock.”

Jaime pats his pockets; keys jingle. “I got it. It’s safe.”

Chad squints at him. “Now wait just a damn minute,” he says. “Who the hell put you in charge?”

“Why does it matter?” Jaime retorts. “Thought you were getting out of here.”

“Listen, you Mexican piece of sh–“

“All right, stop,” I say, interrupting Chad as Jaime clamps his mouth tight. “You saw what happened to my cell. Jaime was right. We’re the only ones trying to be, like, proactive here. Far as I’m concerned, those idiots in the hall can flip out all they want. Until someone in a flak vest rappels into the auditorium, we’re it.

They look at each other. Jaime nods, relaxing ever so slightly while Chad sneers. I remind myself that we’re all under stress, a metric shit-ton of it. Otherwise Chad wouldn’t have said anything like that to Jaime. No way.

“Now, I won’t speak for anyone else,” I got on, “but I know for a fact that my sister is alive in the library. With other people, by the sound of it. So one way or another, I’m going in there to get her out. Meanwhile, you can all dickslap each other for who gets to be the Big Bad. But I got work that needs getting done.”

“This is the safest place to be right now,” Jaime says.

“Okay,” Chad says, shrugging. “Okay. Cool. That’s true. Oh, and by the way, how’s your little brother holding up?”

Jaime freezes so still and complete it unnerves me. I feel my legs tense, ready to jump in between him and Chad if he goes nuts.

Instead, Jaime turns around, away from Chad. Slowly, millimeter by millimeter, the tension in his shoulders melts, until his entire boyd seems to sag.

“You’re right,” he says quietly.

“Not tryin’ to be a dick,” Chad says. “I’m just sayin’.”

Jaime turns to me. “If you did get to your sister, then what? Try to get off campus?”

I sit down on Golab’s fake leather couch and hold my head in both hands. “I hadn’t gotten that far yet.”

“Wait a sec,” Travis says. “I thought you wanted to stay holed up in here, Jaime.”

“For the most part, yeah,” Jaime says. “But I also want to go get my little brother. And go home.

Being a teenager sucks. You’re not an adult, but not really a kid anymore. We spend most of our time pushing for all the adult stuff. Cars and money and all that. But when Jaime says home like that, I swear to God I drop to six years old because I understand instantly what he means.
I just want to go home too.

Brian and Chad are definitely not part of the in-crowd at Phoenix Metro High School; in fact, they can more often be found cutting class and know all the ways to hop the super armed fence and security around their high school campus. However, when a virus spreads around the town and turns the PMHS into a zombie feeding ground because of those security measures, Brian and Chad must fight their way through the school and the horde to rescue Brian’s sister and his ex-girlfriend, and anyone else still alive while breaking their way out of the school. Joined by members of their theater class, they witness horrors they cannot have possibly imagined before and are pushed beyond the boundaries of imagination. 

Leveen’s first splash into horror, Sick is definitely not for the faint of heart, and those who shy away from vivid details should look elsewhere- descriptions of mutilations (tearing of flesh, breaking of bones) echo throughout the pages, and the cannibalism that ensues once the victims come down with the zombie virus gives films like Resident Evil or World War Z (the movie) a run for their money. 

That said, Leveen’s characters are extremely detailed and the world absolutely gripping to readers who adore the genre. Definitely a recommended read for reluctant readers who want a good, classic zombie storyline. (Reader/Librarian warning: extreme gore, violence, and bad language throughout the book). 3 out of 5 stars. 

Pair with current zombie books like Jonathan Maberry’s Rot & Ruin series, or the Zombies vs. Unicorns anthology, more adult titles like World War Z and The Walking Dead novelizations or graphic novels, or even non-fiction titles such as The Zombie Survival Guide or The Official Zombie Handbook.

Sick comes out October 1, 2013; want to win our ARC? Tell us your FAVORITE zombie movie or zombie book in the comments, along with your Twitter handle or your email so we can contact you if you win! Drawing will be held October 8. Open to U.S. Residents.

TPiB: One School, One Book

Based on the popular ‘One Community, One Book’ programs that are run in numerous library systems, 6 years ago, I started a program at my current school called ‘Book for All Readers.’ (Henceforth this will be referred to as BFAR.)

Some background information – my school is a magnet school serving 6th through 8th grade students. We have multiple magnet themes, but one of them is ‘Leadership.’ This means we teach the students Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits and try to provide a wealth of opportunities for them to take agency in their own learning. The process I use to determine each year’s BFAR is a direct outgrowth of this philosophy.

Each year, the students at my school have the opportunity to nominate books to be considered for that year’s BFAR. The nomination period usually runs for three weeks – the first two so that all of the language arts classes have a chance to nominate during their regular circulation time, and the third week during our fall book fair (often a wellspring of nomination ideas.)

Students are given certain guidelines for what books they can nominate. It has to be available in paperback (because we are going to buy 15 to 20 copies.) It has to be a middle school appropriate title – I tell them, “No Green Eggs and Ham,” but what I really mean is, “No 50 Shades of Gray.” But most importantly, it has to be a book they read and loved so much they can’t stop telling people about it.

After the nomination period, I narrow down the list of nominations to 9 or 10 titles to discuss with my student advisory group, the Readers Club. This is usually fairly simple, since many students nominate books that have already won (?) or that either aren’t available in paperback or don’t have a published review recommending them for this age group. Students in Readers Club have a chance to explore all the titles, then we do ‘light voting.’ The students get 6 stickers to vote with and can either divide their stickers amongst the books they like or go all in and put all of their stickers towards one book. This gives me an idea of which books are likely to be the most popular amongst the general population. It is only an idea, though, since Readers Club is populated by students who are willing to spend 2 afternoons a month solely devoted to promoting the library (they are somewhat geektackular.)

With this guidance in hand, I choose 4 titles as that year’s contenders. Each group that comes to the library has an opportunity to hear about all four titles and vote for one. I print ballots on different colored paper for each grade level, so I can track the votes by grade level. After everyone has a chance to vote, we announce the winner on the morning news. Depending on the price of the title, we purchase 15 to 20 copies of the winner. Four copies of each runner up title are purchased, along with 3 to 4 copies of each sequel to the winner. (We have yet to have a winner that is not the beginning of a series.) I do a bulletin board with charts and graphs of voting for each title by grade level, etc.

The Readers Club helps me promote the winner by making posters, writing book reviews, and talking it up with their classmates. Then, each spring, we hold a celebration for the book that won. Generally, these celebrations are run as multiple centers, usually including stations for snacks, photo booth, crafts, t-shirt decorating, puzzles and games, and online quizes (which district are you from?) We try to have each of the centers relate to the book in some fashion, so we occasionally have centers like ‘hallway archery.’

The ultimate goal of the program is to get students excited about reading. The hope is that the BFAR process will influence students to take an active role in their own reading choices, get them talking about the books they love, and leave them feeling invested in the library program.

Sunday Reflections: Finding your mirror

We all have our days.

You know what I mean.

The days you find out you’re overbudget and then realize that someone used your last package of microwave popcorn that you’d been saving for a teen program snack, so you go out and buy some more instead of taking a lunch break and then no one shows up for your program after all.  The days you have to bust one of your favorite kids for doing something stupid enough that you can’t overlook it.  The days you’re bogged down at the reference desk dealing with grouchy folks who don’t really want to be there using the computers for whatever they need to use the computers for and you can’t get away to gush with the teens you see hanging out in the corner mooning over the new fiction.

And then we have the other days.

The ones you when a teen comes back to the library to tell you how much she loved the book you suggested to her.  The days a mom asks for your help again because you were so right the last time you pulled books for her overbooked son.  The days when you need to pull more chairs out of the storage closet because your teens actually did what you asked and each brought a friend to book club this week.

Do these days stick with you the way they stick with me?  As you make your way home in the evening, do you mull over the grouchy interaction, or the beaming teen?  I’d like to be able to say that I shrug off the folks who clearly got up on the wrong side of the bed and focus on the positive, but wow it is hard!

I was recently in a meeting with several other teen librarians.  One was relating the difficulty of a string of those days.  She talked about how disheartening it all was and how it made her doubt whether or not she was doing the right things in her program.  As we listened, it became apparent to us that her program sounded great – she was doing everything right – but that those small comments and negative interactions, piled one on another, had really done a number on the librarian’s feelings about her program, as well as her perception of her own success.

It’s important, when this happens, to find your mirror.  You’ve got to find a way to see what you’re doing reflected back at you.  Just like we are so much more kind and forgiving to a friend’s appearance than we might be to our own, we need to be easier on ourselves when it comes to believing the good and accepting the not so good as part of the deal – a part that we can feed and let fester or a part that we treat with a critical or creative eye and shift it into a hidden asset.  Your mirror can be a friend that you can vent to, a Twitter rant that elicits a few interactions, a journal you revisit periodically, a blog, or more.

See yourself and your programs as others see you, and you will develop a better sense of how to accurately see your success.  It’s there, I’m sure of it.  Why else would you be reading a librarianship blog on a Sunday but because you care deeply about your career?  Like those NPR pledge drives when Ira Glass points out that if you’re listening to the pledge drive, you really are a die-hard listener who owes it to yourself to call in, we know that those of you who are reading TLT on Sunday morning in your robe while nursing a coffee on the couch care enough and are dedicated enough to their job that there’s no way you could fail.  Craft fails, bad RA interactions, reference questions from hell, breaking up the make out session in the dark corner – yeah, they’re going to happen.  But they don’t define your service any more than a little lipstick on your teeth defines your appearance.

Find a good mirror, listen to it, learn from it, and then move away from it and off in the direction you know you need to head.

Friday Finds – September 27, 2013

This Week at TLT

It’s Banned Books Week! 

In Defense of Banned Books

An important Banned Books Week read – The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa 

Our Cress Casting Call winner (chosen in a random drawing) was KikiD!

Book Reviews

5 Books to look forward to from Scholastic 

VOYA’s 2012 Nonfiction Honor List – Take 5

Previously at TLT

Redefining the 3 R’s for Banned Books Week

We reviewed The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

Around the Web

Maureen Johnson posted an interesting response to the David Gilmour kerfuffle.

Buzzfeed posted an awesome list of 11 quotes from authors on censorship and banned books.

New Divergent Movie posters are available!

Buzzfeed put together this list of reasons that Supernatural fans should read Unbreakable by Kami Garcia

Take 5: VOYA’s Nonfiction Honor List 2012

While historical fiction may be my Achilles hill (although I have now read 10 historical fiction titles this year – please hold your applause until the end of the post), nonfiction is something I like but just don’t ever read enough of.  As a reviewer for VOYA, they occasionally send me a nonfiction title to review.  For example, I reviewed Friend Me! Six Hundred Years of Social Networking in America by Francesca Davis Diapazza, which was a really interesting way to look at communication throughout history and compare it to our current social media craze.  I also just checked out and read Robotics: Discover the Science and Technology of the Future with 25 Projects by Kathy Ceceri, which had one of the best explanations of coding that I havw read and really helped the Tween understand what we were talking about.  Every year VOYA puts out its Nonfiction Honor List, and this year you can find it in the August 2013 issue of VOYA.  Here are 5 of my favorite titles from the list, which is always a really good list.

The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions from Pop Culture That YOu Should Know About . . . Before It’s Too Late.  Zest Books, 2012

Okay, so this is a no brainer.  It’s about the apocalypse! It’s pop culture! And, of course, it is from Zest Books, whom I adore for their fun nonfiction titles.  This is a great resource for so many reasons.  Readers of all ages can flip through and learn some fun tidbits about the apocalypse as depicted in various books, movies, televisions shows, songs and more.  It’s easy to flip through casually.  BUT, as a librarian I can’t help but think of how I can use it to put together apocalypse themed displays, trivia contests, and social media contests.  With The Walking Dead season 4 getting ready to premiere (October 13th), it’s a great time to be plugging into pop culture at the library.  Plus, Catching Fire comes out in November.

What’s For Lunch? How Schoolchildren Eat Around the World by Andrea Curtis.  Red Deer, 2012.

Food is a huge issue, especially school food.  Today, 1 in 5 children go to bed hungry and for many American children, their only meals may be those that they have at school.  But is Ketchup a vegetable? (I say no by the way).  This is an interesting look at how children around the world eat lunch at school and how our school meals compare.  I am fascinated with Bento Box lunches from Japan.  I pack my daughters lunch each day and can assure you, they greatly pale in comparison.

Screen grab of a Bento box lunch image search on Google, aka not what my lunches look like

Learn to Speak Fashion: A Guide to Creating, Showcasing and Promoting Your Style by Laure deCarufel.  Owlkids, 2012.

Pair this with The Look Book, Fashion 101, and The Book of Styling (all from the style section on the Zest Books webpage), and you have a pretty thorough collection for budding fashionistas.  Learn to Speak Fashion provides details for putting together everything from your personal wardrobe to a runway show.  And we have already outlined some great fashion programs for you to use as a tie-in, see Project Fashion and Project Fashion, part 2.  And think of all the craft ideas you can do around fashion, from making Duct Tape accessories to upcyclying your jeans.

Rightfully Ours: How Women Won the Vote, 21 Activities by Kerrie Logan Hollihan.  Chicago Review, 2012.

I am the mom to 2 little girls and helping them understand how women used to be treated, how we got to the place that we are at, and how we need to keep fighting for equality (women still earn less then men for doing the same jobs, for example) is really important to me.  I don’t want them to take this life that they are living for granted and become so complacent that we lose the rights that we have gained.  So this book was a title that I jumped on.  It is chuck full of photographs, a timelines and even some hands-on activities (which make this a great title for schools).

The Secret Life of Money: A Kid’s Guide to Cash by Kira Vermond.  Owlkids, 2012.

I never carry cash so my kids think you can just whip out a magic plastic card and take things home from the store.  Financial literacy is so very important, and complicated.  The writing style of Secret Life is very irreverent, which makes it more accessible and less boring.  I remember economics from high school, it could be very dry.  The format of this title helps break down those barriers of interest while still providing the information teens need to become better financial stewards.

It was really hard for me to just pick five from the list.  In fact in this post I actually talk about and recommend 10 nonfiction titles great for tweens and teens.  I just wanted to point that out because I think I don’t talk about nonfiction enough.  Or read it enough.  Many of the titles I didn’t include were equally awesome and cover things like adventure (The Impossible Rescue, which is awesome), civil rights (We’ve Got a Job), and animals.  You can never go wrong with animals.    Check out your August 2013 VOYA for a complete look at the list.  Tell me in the comments, which titles would you add to your 2012 Nonfiction Honor List?

Scholastic Book Fair: September

Now that school is back in session, it’s time to resume our Scholastic Book Fair here on TLT.  Here are five new titles from Scholastic.

Seeing Red by Kathryn Erskine

“So everyone just sits there and says nothing? How’s anything ever going to get better?” 

Red Porter’s daddy has died.  While Red and his mom try to figure out how to deal with their grief, they are also wrestling with truths happening in their community and the injustice they see around them.  Set in Virginia in the 70s, Seeing Red tackles issues of racism and segregation through the eyes of a hurting young man.  This is a powerful statement about speaking up in the face of injustice, even in the most difficult of times. Erskine is the National Book Award Winner of Mockinbird and Seeing Red does not disappoint.  It has a starred review in Booklist which declares “This is an important book that deserves the widest possible readership.”

The Hypnotists by Gordon Korman

A “mesmerizing” adventure.

This one we read as our family read aloud and we all liked it.  We includes 2 parents, a tween, and a 4-year-old. It begins with an awesome, perilous bus ride through New York.  Jackson Opus doesn’t know it yet, but he doesn’t just have a strong power of persuasion, he has the power to hypnotize others.  He is soon invited to participate into a special program, who may or may not have good intentions.  It’s hard to tell when know one will tell him what, exactly, is going on.  You can always count on Korman for fun and he does not fail to deliver here.  First book in a new series, definitely recommended.  A great read for young Percy Jackson fans.

Whatever After: Dream On by Sarah Mlyowski

Good night, sleep tight
Don’t let the magic mirror bite . . .

Okay, let me start by saying I thought that this series was 3 books and done, so I was surprised to find this title at the Tween’s bookfair this past weekend.  When she saw it she immediately said we had to buy it.  We read it that same day.  This time Abby and Jonah are having a friend sleepover, a sleepwalking friend named Robin who accidentally walks through the magic mirror.  This series continues to be a fun, playful and empowering twist on fairy tales.

The 14 Fibs of Gregory K by Greg Pincus

“For every kid who equates math with torture but wants his own way to shine, here’s a novel that is way more than the sum of its parts.

Gregory K is a writer living in a family of mathematicians.  He wants to go to author’s camp, but first he has to pass math class.  What’s someone in his position supposed to do? Tell a lie or two, of course.  Gregory figures the probability of being caught is zero, proving how bad he actually is at math.  This book was fun, and we loved how they used mathease (that’s what we call math speak, right?) to bring humor to this story about a boy who often feels like he doesn’t really fit in with his family.  In some ways this is kind of a Math Curse for older readers, trying to make math fun and in reach while still being an enjoyable read.

The Pet War by Allan Woodrow

“It’s on!”

We have a dog in my house. The Tween is in love with dogs.  She asks me pretty much every day if we can get another one.  The answer is no.  Otto and Lexi can not agree: Otto wants a dog, Lexi wants a cat.  I’m on the mom’s side, she wants to know who is going to pay for everything.  Soon the challenge is on: whoever can raise the money first gets to choose the family pet.  I didn’t read this title, but the Tween wants you to know that it is “funny” and “cute”.  She totally recommends it.

Why The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa is an Important Banned Books Week Read

1984. Fahrenheit 451. Brave New World.  These are all great, classic reads that highlight the dangers of censorship.  Two of them happen to be among my favorite books of all time.  Brave New World is not.  But sometimes, authors can slip in powerful statements against censorship in the most surprising of places.  Exhibit A: The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa.

The Immortal Rules is the first book in The Blood of Eden series by Kagawa.  It is set in a world where vampires rule.  Not sparkly vampires, but tyrannical vampires who will, in fact, suck you dry if you do not comply.  All humans are forced to register with the new vampire government and are forced to basically pay a blood tax.  Those humans that don’t register remain outside the city limits on the fringe where they barely survive, scrounging for food and praying for safety.  One wrong step and you may suddenly find yourself being used as an example.  Not a good example, but a food example.

This is where we meet Allie.  Allie refuses to register and is hanging with a rag-tag gang who despise the vampire monsters.  And Allie likes to read, which has basically been outlawed.  Understanding the danger of knowledge, the vampires have burned the libraries and tried to destroy all the books.  Allie remembers her mother reading to her as a little girl, and she knows how.  Occasionally she stumbles upon a book and she takes them to her “home”, trying to keep her stash secret.  It is in this world that we find a great defense against censorship:

“Words define us,’ Mom continued, as I struggled to make my clumsy marks look like her elegant script. ‘We must protect our knowledge and pass it on whenever we can. If we are ever to become a society again, we must teach others how to remain human.”

“There will come a time when man is no longer concerned only with survival, when he will once more be curious as to who came before him, what life was like a thousand years ago, and he will seek out answers for a hundred years or so, but humans’ curiosity has always driven them to find answers.” 

“I recognized it instantly. It was a made-up story, a fantasy, the tale of four kids who went through a magic wardrobe and found themselves in a strange new world. I’d read it more times than I could remember, and although I sneered at the thought of a magical land with friendly, talking animals, there were times when I wished, in my most secret moments, that I could find a hidden door that would take us all out of this place.” 

Allie despises the fact that those around her choose to cower in fear and ignorance.  She speaks often of the fact that if they understood what they were capable of, what the world could be like, they would choose to rise up and fight against the vampires.  Which is the very reason that the vampires have burned the books.  They understand that knowledge and story are powerful things.  That they can inspire.  That they can ignite. That they can lead those they wish to rule to challenge that rule.  And in this world we see a subtle, powerful and glaring reminder of just why we must fight for the freedom to read.  The knowledge found in the pages of books can empower us all, and those who wish to rule us would love to take that power away.  The best way to do that is to ban the books.  The Immortal Rules takes us on an exciting journey in this vampire filled world and uses this journey to remind us all, we must fight against censorship because we must fight for our right to rule ourselves.  Also, this is just a really good series.  And there are some really interesting twists.  Read it for Banned Books Week.

Banned Books Week: When the censorship comes from inside the building

When our fearless leader Karen asked me to write a post on the experiences I’ve had as a school
librarian with book challenges, I was flummoxed. I’ve never had an item challenged. It’s not that I’ve never had a parent concerned about a title in the collection – I’ve had several that I can remember. It’s just that these concerned parents merely wanted to be heard, to have their concerns acknowledged. Honestly, most of my parents are either so hands-off that they aren’t concerned with what their child is reading, or they are so hands-on that their children are well aware of what they are and aren’t allowed to read. I have been very fortunate.

What I have had to deal with, though, was even more insidious. It became apparent several years ago that certain titles from the library’s collection were disappearing. I figured this out mostly because students wanted the titles and while the catalog claimed they were in, they were never on the shelf. This was at a time in the past when I had a full time assistant who ran the circulation desk and supervised shelving, so items seldom went missing. Right now I run the library on my own and the students check in and out their own materials – things go missing constantly – but that’s a story for another day.

A sampling of the titles that were going missing included Carolyn Mackler’s The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, Meg Cabot’s Ready or Not, and 101 Questions About Sex and Sexuality. I was understandably frustrated by this situation, as were the students. We combed the shelves for these titles, but they were nowhere to be found.

At this point I was torn. It was equally conceivable that we had a self-appointed censor or that we had students who were just too embarrassed to check out these titles. I decided that the best remedy for this situation would be to purchase 2 replacements for each item that had gone missing from the collection. Then, if any of these items went missing, I would purchase 2 replacements for them. So each time a book went missing, two would pop up in it’s place. My thought was that if students were too embarrassed to check these items out and were smuggling them out of the library, they must be important, somehow, and we needed more. And, if we happened to have a self-appointed censor, they would quickly see that they were fighting a losing battle.

I’m happy to say that this strategy was entirely successful, even if it did have some unintended consequences. About a year later, while shifting the reference collection, I found the missing books. Each one had been carefully hidden on the shelf behind the least used reference books. So now we have 4 copies of  101 Questions About Sex and Sexuality, 5 copies of Ready or Not, but only 2 copies of The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things (it circulates enough that we’ve had several fall apart.) And now each year I have to have a special talk with each of the 6th grade classes when they find 101 Questions About Sex and Sexuality. This talk generally explores the topics of:

  • who chooses the items that are purchased for the library?
  • how are the items selected?
  • which books are for sharing and which are just for you?
  • and the differences between 8th graders and 6th graders interests.

One genuinely surprising outcome of all of this is that students feel comfortable coming to the library for information on ‘sensitive’ topics. While I’m sure some of the students are still reluctant to approach me, I frequently get requests for information about human growth and development topics, including my favorite question ever, “How does the baby fit inside?”

I did eventually find out which one of my staff members had appointed herself as school library censor. She retired and someone finally told on her. I’m still not sure what she was trying to accomplish.

An Anonymous Letter to those Who Would Ban Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Last week, I Tweeted about an incident that happened surrounding the book Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.  Rainbow Rowell had been disinvited to a school after parents complained about the content in her book, Eleanor and Park.  I compiled those tweets into a post which you can read here.  In response to the situation, a reader reached out to me and asked that I please share the following anonymously.  Here it is in its entirity.  Warning, there are triggers as it discusses abuse.

By the time I was in the 8th grade, my parents were divorced.  One year I lived with my mom and the next I lived with my dad.  My mom had moved out of state and there I was, a young barely teenage girl living with my dad.  It began slowly, so slowly I almost didn’t know anything was happening.

First, the shower curtain was replaced with a clear shower curtain.  My dad always seemed to need to brush his teeth while I was showering.  So I began locking the door.  Soon, the bathroom door lock was broken.  So I began pulling out the drawers in the bathroom sink so he couldn’t open the door.  He would stand outside the door banging and yelling, “You open this fucking door right now.”  Soon I stopped showering.

Swimming had always been one of my favorite things to do.  But he took that too.  Often, when we would go swimming, he would grab the front of my bathing suit and pull it down.  It didn’t matter who was around.  I would pretend I had homework.  I would pretend I was sick.  I would do anything to get out of going swimming.  That too was often a fight.

The next year it was time once again to live with my mother.  That year was a breath of fresh air.  No one watched me shower.  No one watched me dress.  But as Christmas slowly approached, so did the fear of what would happen when I had to go visit my dad.  So one day, I went and talked to the school counselor.  You see, I wasn’t sure if what I thought was happening that year really was happening.  It felt wrong, it terrified me, but nobody talks about those types of things.  I knew it wasn’t rape, but what was it?  So I went to the school counselor thinking she would tell me that everything that had happened was misconstrued and I would know that I was wrong.

After I told her my story, she sat back in her chair and said, “I’m sorry.  I am legally required to call the police now.  I promise you, this is going to be okay.  You don’t have to go back there.”  And I didn’t, I never went back.  And I was so glad because someone had told me what I needed to know and helped me.  They had finally helped me give voice to the fear inside me and affirmed that I was right to think what was happening was abuse.

I couldn’t help but think of my own story when I read Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.  There is no bathroom door at Eleanor’s house, and like me, she is forced to find ways to take showers – or not to take them as the case may be – when her stepdad is not around.  As I read her story I knew exactly what she was feeling, and I wished this story had been there for me when I was a teen.  I wished that someone had told me that abuse can be many things.  But I was glad to hear that someone was giving my story a voice and telling teens today – you shouldn’t have to live like this, it is not okay.

When I read Eleanor and Park, I cried.  I cried because no one should have to go through the things that Eleanor goes through.  I cried because I knew every moment of fear and despair and doubt that she felt.  I cried because someone was finally telling my story.  If we say that teens can’t or shouldn’t be reading Eleanor and Park, we are saying that they shouldn’t be reading my story – that I should keep quiet and be ashamed, even though I did nothing wrong.  Even though that very quiet and shame is what allowed this to happen to me, because I wasn’t quite sure if it was abuse or not.  Imagine what a difference this book would have made.

Book Review: How Not to Be a Dick by Meghan Doherty

Let’s get the obvious out of the way, shall we: The book has the word Dick right there in the title.  And yes, it says it a lot inside the book.  It’s a problem, particularly for school librarians.  I asked Robin and she said no, she would not in fact be purchasing this book for her library.  Fair enough, she is a middle school librarian and you can argue that this is not the target audience.

Here’s what you need to know: This book title and its approach actually taps into a pretty big pop culture trend.  Yes, many adults will hate it, but what are you going to do? *shrugs*  None other than Mr. Wil Wheaton himself has made it his personal campaign to help people not be a dick.  And there is even a Don’t Be a Dick Day.  And the message IS in fact a good one: be kind to others, do the right thing.  That’s why this book is an etiquette guide, and it has good information.
The objective of HNtBaD is pretty straight forward: “Remember that we’re all in it together.  Remember to take a breath and think of those around us” (p.9)  It’s a message we can all get behind.  Also, yes, please do excuse yourself from the table if you must break wind (complete with fun illustrated picture – there are fart clouds).
But let’s talk packaging.  Not gonna lie, this book is clever and cute.  It has a retro-50s vibe to it with its animations.  Think Dick and Jane (get it – Dick).  It reminds me of these old school ads (but without the retrograde sexism):

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IwDwmTXaAE]

Will that resonate with teen readers?  That is questionable, but this is not aimed specifically at teen readers.  In fact, there are entire chapters on how not to be a dick at work.  In my 20 years working, I have worked with some people who could have read this book.  And I am sure I have worked with people who would have liked to highlight a few sentences and leave it sitting around on my desk.  There are some good nuggets of information in here.  My favorite discusses the communal refrigerator in the breakroom: “No matter how much better it is than your soggy sandwich, don’t eat other people’s lunch from the fridge” (p.98)  Word.  This is where there is a bit of disconnect for me, I think the people who would get and appreciate the fun, clever packaging context are probably older readers, while the content is often geared to younger adults, particularly the sections on school.  But then again, maybe they don’t need to understand the meta because the humor, writing style and companion art comes through loud and clear.

Side note: I asked the group of tween and teen girls sitting in my house doing their nails and they did not know who Dick and Jane were and they also didn’t understand why the illustrations would be funny.  Also, my tween has been scandalized by having this book sit around the house, she assures me and will not bring herself to say the title.  But I also know plenty of teens that would be pick this book up solely because of the title and maybe learn a little nugget here and there through their titters.

I liked this book; it was clever in its packaging and delivery while providing some solid information that a lot of teens and young adults (we’re talking people in their 20s here) could use.  There is some good discussion about bullying, interacting with others, and being online.  Really, it is useful information.

So would I buy the book for my public library? I would.  But I would put it in the adult nonfiction collection.

GIVEAWAY NEWS: I have a copy to give away.  Leave a comment by the end of the week, September 28th, and I’ll draw one winner.  Be sure to leave a follow back or return email so I can get a hold of you.  Open to U.S. residents.