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Sunday Reflections: Sometimes We Are Our Own Worst Enemy

When I was in high school, the movie Platoon came out. I had the soundtrack and on one of the tracks there was a bit of spoken dialogue in it. It went like this:

I think now, looking back
We did not fight the enemy
But we fought ourselves
And the enemy, was in us

And after working in public libraries for 20 years, I can’t help but think that sometimes we are our own worst enemies. We put up so many obstacles and stumbling blocks for ourselves that it can become impossible to be successful at what we do. We run campaigns to remind communities how important we are and then we put processes in place that make it impossible for us to be successful at the very things we claim make us relevant.

Let’s take, for example, the subject of programming. As a young adult librarian, programming has always and probably always will be a huge part of what I do. And yet I have worked at libraries where they have made it difficult to be successful at it. And by difficult I sometimes mean virtually impossible. And when I talk to my fellow YA librarians I hear the same types of stories over and over again . . .

Staff aren’t given the number of hours they need to develop successful programs.

They aren’t given the financial resources to develop and implement successful programs.

They have to jump through too many hoops to get the approval of people who know nothing about teens, what’s popular with teens, or even what makes a program successful.

They have to jump through death defying hoops to purchase supplies for programs.

And many of the same arguments can be made for collection development, reader’s advisory, outreach, etc.

Here’s an example. At one of the libraries that I worked at, the library had no budget for programming, it was entirely dependent on the Friends of the Library. Because of this, the way programs were financed was odd, to say the least. I had to buy all programming supplies with my own money and then submit my receipts to the Friends to get reimbursed. Yes, you read that right – WITH MY OWN MONEY. As a YA librarian with a new baby at home, there was no extra money in my personal budget to pre-finance library programs. After years of campaigning, we finally got the process changed and though it was still imperfect, it was certainly better than being asked to front my own checkbook for library programming.

For two years at a recent library job, my yearly programming budget was $500.00 and the only place I could order from was Oriental Trading. Those are some serious limitations and obstacles in place; suddenly your programming sprint becomes a hurdles race and the hurdles, they are seriously tall.

At ALA recently, I heard the same complaints over and over again: I have these great ideas, but my library system makes it almost impossible to do successful library programming. We don’t have the staff. We don’t have the funding. The wrong people are responsible for approving programs and they are afraid to try new things, they lack innovation, they lack knowledge of the target audience, they lack knowledge of current popular culture. The hoops I have to jump through are insurmountable. So we take the time to hire educated, experienced librarians hoping they will do great things for our library and then we put them on a path full of hurdles and roadblocks. We become our own worst enemies.

It’s always interesting for me to compare it to The Mr.s journey in his field. He was a store manager for a large grocery store chain and now works in the warehousing end of things. Sometimes he is in charge of putting together staff morale and appreciation events, something libraries should do more of by the way. He is given a task, given a budget, and then sent on his way. He has the resources he needs and gets it done. He’s given a corporate credit card so that he can make the purchases he needs to make from the places he needs to make them from. He turns in his receipts, makes sure he comes in at or slightly under budget, and he does what he needs to do to meet the goals of the task. But there are no real hurdles. I’ve watched him do this for almost 10 years now and I’m not going to lie, I get a little bit jealous.

In comparison, at a recent library position, the only one in my library branch authorized to make purchases was my branch manager. And she was only authorized up to a certain dollar amount. So I had to put all my orders together, forward them to someone else to place the order, and then there is a lot of back and forth as an item might be out of stock, prices might have changed, etc. And if I wanted to have food at a teen program, I had to make a really detailed grocery list and my branch manager, the highest paid person in the building, had to go to the grocery store and make my purchases. Or we both had to go. As you can imagine, I tended to try and avoid having food at my programs, which means that I didn’t repeat some of my most successful programs from previous libraries like Iron Chef and Cupcake Wars. And if you found you needed a last minute item, forget about it.

The processes we have in place can affect our decision making. They can limit our choices.  They can push the finish lines so far back that we have no chance of successfully pushing off the starting blocks.

Not every library, of course, is their own worst enemy. There are libraries out there doing it well and one of the reasons that they are successful is because they hire the right person to do the job, they trust them to do it, and then they give them the tools to do it successfully. They don’t put hurdles up, they take them down. Successful libraries get out of their own way, they choose not to be their own worst enemy and in doing so, they create a formula for success.

For reasons that I don’t fully understand, I listened to that bit of spoken dialogue from Platoon over and over again. I can recite the entire thing from memory. And throughout my career, I think often of this little bit about the enemy being in us because I see it all around me and I hear it in the stories of my professional peers: We fought ourselves and the enemy was in us. I realize that this bit of dialogue really has nothing to do with the public library, and yet it speaks so profoundly to this fundamental truth: sometimes libraries – our policies and processes – are, in fact, our own worst enemy.

Friday Finds – August 29, 2014

The ‘OMG, is it Friday?’ Edition

This Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: Endings and Beginnings
Take 5: YouTube 24/7
Middle Grade Monday – There aren’t any Wimpy Kid books in?!!
Book Review: Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
The 3rd Annual It Came From a Book Teen Art Contest (#ICFAB)
The #SVYALit Project: First Responders, part 1 (by author Christa Desir)
The #SVYALit Project: First Responders, part 2
The #SVYALit Project: The Specter of Rape in Not a Drop to Drink, a guest post by author Mindy McGinnis
Book Review: Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin
Around the Web

Which programs are cut first when budgets shrink? I’ll give you one guess.

Get some tips for designing your teen area (sarcasm.)

Christa Desir was at Huffington Post talking YA couples who need to break up.

Check out the Circulating Ideas podcast.

Book Review: Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin

Tagline: The Bourne Identity meets Divergent in this heart-pounding debut.

Back Cover Copy: 16-year-old Sarah has a rare chance at a new life. Or so the doctors tell her. She’s been undergoing a cutting-edge procedure that will render her a tabula rasa – a blank slate. Memory by memory her troubled past is being taken away.

But when her final surgery is interrupted and a team of elite soldiers invades the isolated hospital under cover of a massive blizzard, her fresh start could be her end.

Navigating familiar halls that have become a dangerous maze, with the help of a teen computer hacker who’s trying to bring the hospital down for his own reasons, Sarah starts to piece together who she is and why someone would want her erased. And she won’t be silenced again.

Karen’s Thoughts:

On a purely entertainment level, this book is a lot of fun. We open in a hospital room where some type of dangerous procedure is being done. The lights flicker. Mysterious stuff is left in the hands of Sarah. Then a blizzard hits and all hell breaks loose. There is a cat and mouse game in a tight location with a fairly minimal number of players. Like the Bourne Identity, it’s a lot of fun with a touch of mystery. The action sequences are mesmerizing, especially when our teens stumble upon a group of war survivors in the hospital who they must interact with in very delicate ways in order to help them understand that they are not the enemy.

The plot, however, starts to unravel as we realize who Sarah is and why, exactly, it is that a fleet of mercenaries have been sent in to hunt her down and extinguish her. In the end it just didn’t pack an emotional punch; Sarah herself, who she really is and what has happened, doesn’t seem to be threatening enough to justify all the hullabaloo that came after her. It’s a lot of expensive, life threatening, secretive assassination attempts for – well, nothing that seems worth all of this effort.

The James Bond Villain Effect

Tabula Rasa also suffers from the James Bond Villain Effect. You know how in a James Bond movie (yes, I’m old, keep reading) the villain has Bond right there in his trap and if he would just kill him already he would win but NOOOOOOOOOO the villain has to prove his villainy by discussing his plans? Yeah, that happens here. There’s a big ole’ info dump in a room full of people held captive by the villain and it would have worked much better if Lippert-Martin could have revealed all of this information more organically in the story. And there is no tension in this scene because we all know that how these scenes end.

That One Time, When a Character Said Incredibly Racist Things and It Just Didn’t Make Sense in the Context of the Rest of the Book

And then there was this disturbing piece of dialogue that happened at the beginning of the story that just whipped me right out of the story. The set-up: Sarah has just been intercepted by the teen boy computer hacker with an agenda of his own as mentioned in the back cover synopsis. He offers her an MRE, which is a pre-packaged, dehydrated meal that survivalists and the military use.

The boy: “Make me something, too. Not the beef enchiladas, though. They taste like Mexicans.”

Sarah: “Aren’t enchiladas supposed to taste Mexican?”

The boy: “No, I mean they taste like actual Mexicans. Unwashed ones.”

Then he realizes that he is talking to a girl who probably does in fact have some Mexican heritage in her, not that she would know because she has no memory of who she is. After an awkward conversation about whether or not she could be Mexican, they both decide that maybe he should stop talking now. He replies, “Yes, maybe I should, before you decide that I’m some huge racist jerk and not just an awkward idiot who was trying to be funny.” (pages 70 and 71).

It was a very odd exchange of racist dialogue that didn’t seem to fit his character and in fact never comes up again. It was completely irrelevant and unnecessary to THIS story as I read it and was so jarring that it took me right out of it. The author may have been trying to introduce a way for our characters to discuss Sarah’s background since she was literally a blank slate, but it would have been nice if she had done so without perpetuating a damaging stereotype. It should be noted that this is an ARC so maybe some of this dialogue has changed.

But Yes, Teens Will Like It

In terms of action, there is plenty of it here and as I mentioned, it’s a fun read. But when you get right down to the guts of it, the character development underwhelms, the motivation underwhelms, and the James Bond villain is a definite weak spot. The thing is, I think none of that will matter to teen readers who just want to read an action story with survival elements, which it delivers in spades. The action is good, there are some tense scenes, and I wanted both of our main characters to survive. So I give this one a very mixed and conflicted review.

Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lipper-Martin comes out in September 2014 from EgmontUSA. 978-1-60684-518-9.

I received a copy of this ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The #SVYALit Project: The Specter of Rape in Not a Drop to Drink, a guest post by author Mindy McGinnis

A lot of people ask me about the specter of rape in NOT A DROP TO DRINK. While you’ll never find the actual word anywhere in the text, it hangs over the whole like a storm about to break. Lynn, Mother and Neva all express their fears in different ways, but each one of them is highly aware of the specific threats they face anytime they walk outside.

I’ve caught some flack for this, as well. Do I think that all men are simply waiting for the end of the world so that they can rape indiscriminately? Um, no. Stebbs, Eli, and even the man only referred to as Green Hat are good men who serve as counterpoints to the “bad guys” who wish to control the flow of goods – water, bullets, food… and women.  However, I think it’s very naive to paint a lawless world where some men don’t take advantage of women. In a place where your actions are held in check only by your own conscience there will be theft, murder and rape. 

Recently at a signing I had someone say to me, “It would be horrible to feel like you have to look over your shoulder every time you walk outside.” I definitely agree, but the statement stuck and I turned it over in my head as a I drove home. I look over my shoulder every time I walk outside right now. Maybe it’s hyper-awareness, maybe it’s all the self-defense classes, maybe it’s paranoia. Or – maybe it’s not. 
“Type of men who gather up seven of themselves to attack two women in the middle of the night generally won’t go back for dead friends.”
Mindy McGinnis, Not a Drop to Drink 

Maybe it’s just common sense.

If 60% of rapes are never reported and a whopping 97% of rapists never spend a day in jail, aren’t we already living in a world where this particular crime is dictated by a person’s conscience?
“Just know that there’s bad men in the world, and dying fast by your mother is a better way than theirs.”
Mindy McGinnis, Not a Drop to Drink 

It’s a frightening statistic, and one that makes the relationships between men and women in NOT A DROP TO DRINK even more realistic. Yet, even with this in mind I would not change anything about the book. Mother’s stark isolationism and mistrust is still unhealthy, and men like Stebbs and Eli still exist.

You just have to find them. And always, always be aware of the others.
About Not a Drop to Drink:
Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn’t leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

The companion novel In a Handful of Dust will be released September 23rd by Katherine Tegen Books:
The only thing bigger than the world is fear.

Lucy’s life by the pond has always been full. She has water and friends, laughter and the love of her adoptive mother, Lynn, who has made sure that Lucy’s childhood was very different from her own. Yet it seems Lucy’s future is settled already—a house, a man, children, and a water source—and anything beyond their life by the pond is beyond reach.

When disease burns through their community, the once life-saving water of the pond might be the source of what’s killing them now. Rumors of desalinization plants in California have lingered in Lynn’s mind, and the prospect of a “normal” life for Lucy sets the two of them on an epic journey west to face new dangers: hunger, mountains, deserts, betrayal, and the perils of a world so vast that Lucy fears she could be lost forever, only to disappear in a handful of dust.

In this companion to Not a Drop to Drink, Mindy McGinnis thrillingly combines the heart-swelling hope of a journey, the challenges of establishing your own place in the world, and the gripping physical danger of nature in a futuristic frontier. 

For the next #SVYALit Project Google Hangout On Air, we’re going to look at what happens when the world falls apart: post apocalyptic and dystopian fiction. 

It’s the End of the World as We Know It, what we can learn about current issues surrounding sexual violence through dystopian/post apocalyptic fiction
Date:September 24th (Noon Eastern)
About Mindy McGinnis:  I’m a YA librarian and author, represented by Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary. My YA debut, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, is a survival tale set in a world with limited fresh water. I’m an avid blogger, posting six days a week to my personal blog, Writer, Writer Pants on Fire, which features interviews with agents, established authors, and debut authors. Learn how they landed their agents, what the submission process is really like, and how it feels when you see your cover for the first time. I also do query critiques every Saturday on the Saturday Slash for those who are brave enough to volunteer. 

The #SVYALit Project: First Responders, part 2

When I was in the 8th grade, there was someone in my family who had regular access to me who was sexually molesting me. It was a progressive thing, grooming they call it. It began very subtly and slowly built in a way that made me question if what I thought was happening was in fact really happening. After I completed that year of school, I moved to go live with my mom in another state. So this person no longer had access to me. However, as Christmas approached I was going to have to go visit and I became terrified. I had escaped, and now I was going to have to go back into this place which was my very real version of hell. So I went to the school counselors office.

I’m going to be honest, I went to the school counselor to share my story thinking that when I was done the counselor would look at me and tell me that I was wrong, that I had misunderstood what had happened, because that’s how manipulative grooming can be – causing you to doubt (for a really good example of this please read The Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely). What happened, however, was that after I told her my story she looked at me and said, I’m sorry about what happened to you, it must have been terrifying, now I have to call the police. So I waited in her office that day for the police to come. And my mother came. And the thing is, everyone believed me. Finally, someone knew, they listened, and what’s most important is this: they made me feel safe.

I’d like to say that after that moment, everything was fine and justice was served but the truth is, it wasn’t. The person who had done this to me was in the military and they took over the investigation and as far as I know nothing really happened. But one important thing did happen: I never had to go back and see this person. I was safe. There was no more lying in bed at night awake, terrified. That burden of fear and vigilance was gone. I still had a lot to process and heal, but the imminent threat had been removed and I was given a safe space to do that.

The idea of the first responder was first brought to my attention by Christa Desir, who blogged about it earlier today. But whether you are a first responder or someone that a sexual violence survivor chooses to share their story with, how you respond can make a world of difference. How we respond as others choose to share their stories with us can be the difference between making them feel safe or making them feel like they are once again being harmed.

In Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers, Regina is desperately fleeing the scene of an attempted rape when she stumbles to the door of a classmate named Kara. Kara tells Regina that she shouldn’t tell because no one would believe her, so Regina chooses to stay quiet.

“And I feel really bad for you, Regina . . . but there are some things worth keeping your mouth shut for.” – Some Girls Are, page 10

But really, it’s worse than it seems because Kara then uses Regina’s situation to socially annihilate her. It’s horrific. But it’s also easy to do because we know that more often that not, when sexual assault victims come forward in the school setting – especially if the assailant is popular – the victim will be not only be doubted, but they will be bullied, terrorized, and victimized again and again and again. It happens in Canary by Rachele Alpine. It happens in Fault Line by Christa Desir. It happens in Some Boys by Patty Blount. It happens in Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt. It happened in Steubenville. It happened to Jada. It’s part of the narrative that happens. We blame victims, we ostracize them, we re-victimize them, and we deny them the space to be supported, feel safe, and heal. We have taught sexual assault victims that it is better to stay quiet in the way that we respond to them, making it that much easier for our culture to not only reject their truth, but to re-victimize them again and again.

But that is not always what happens. In Live Through This by Mindi Scott the main character finally breaks down and tells a friend. That friends listens to her. She believes her. She takes her home and tells her to tell her family so that she can get the safe space she needs to heal. That friend responded in ways that validated our main character and allowed her to go home and ask for the support she needed to find healing.

In Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens the main character finally tells her family, her sister. And her sister believes her. And this reaction, this supportive response, is one of my favorite’s ever because her sister could just as easily chosen not to believe or to reject her in anger because of who it turns out the assailant is, but she doesn’t. When she hears her sister’s story she responds with grace and love and support.

In our discussions of YA literature, it’s important to look at not only the events of what happened in the story, but how others respond to it. As a culture, we still respond to victims of sexual violence in really harmful and negative ways. We have a tendency to ask, where were you, what were you doing, what were you wearing, were you drinking . . . But the truth is, a person doesn’t deserve to be raped no matter what the answer to those questions might be. The questions are irrelevant. When someone comes to you and shares their story, these are not the right questions to ask. In fact the only right question may be this: “how would you like me to help/support you?”

In Some Boys Are, Regina finally tells someone what happened to her. A boy who has every reason to hate her sees the bruises on her arms and realizes the truth. This boy, he has every reason to hate her and wish karmic retribution on her. But when she looks at him and says, I know you think I deserve it his response is perfect: “Nobody deserves that.”

For many of our tweens and teens, they will be that first responder as a friend chooses to share their story with them. It’s important that we help them understand that nobody deserves that, that they can listen and be supportive. That, too, is why we read YA literature.

Additional Resources:
Sexual Assault: How to Support a Friend
Supporting Someone Who Has Been Raped or Sexually Assaulted
RAINN: Help a Loved One
RAINN: Self Care for Friends and Family Members
The #SVYALit Project Index 

Please note: Individual states have varying laws about who is a mandated reporter. If you are an adult, you’ll want to be aware of what legal obligation you may have if someone shares their story with you.

The #SVYALit Project: First Responders, part 1 (by author Christa Desir)

When I was six years old, I got lost in a mall. I went out to the parking lot to look for my car and got in a stranger’s car instead, someone who told me he could help me. The half hour that followed changed my life, though I said nothing about it at the time. As a matter of fact, I said nothing about it until almost ten years later.

My best friend in high school was the first person I ever disclosed my sexual assault to. Sitting on the floor in her tiny room, she told me that something terrible had happened to her years earlier. So I told her what had happened to me. Also years earlier.
When I go to speak to high school students about the issue of sexual violence, one of the first things I say to them is that there is a really good chance that someone will disclose sexual violence to them at one point in their lifetime. Run the stats and there’s a good chance that someone will disclose sexual violence to every single one of us. But for teenagers, the chance that they’ll be the firstperson that their friends disclose sexual violence to is really high. Because 44% of people sexually assaulted are under the age of 18 (RAINN). And the reality is teenagers tell their friends things first.
So I wanted to talk a little today about how critical it is not to retraumatize a survivor if they do disclose rape to you. And that’s particularly important if you are the first person they disclose to. Words matter. How you respond to rape matters. It can have a huge impact on the journey a survivor takes toward healing. As a rape victim advocate, I was told that the first twenty-four hours after rape are the most important in terms of minimizing rape trauma syndrome.

No, there is no guidebook on the “right way” for friends/family to respond to rape. What helps some people may not help others. And most first responders aren’t professionally trained. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t do our best for survivors. The truth is, sometimes “I’m sorry” is enough. Sometimes listening, really hearing, is all a survivor needs from you.
When rape victim advocates talk to survivors in ERs, our primary objective is to give them back as much power as we can. To give them choice. To help them feel comfortable. To let them decide what they need. If a person discloses rape, there is nothing wrong with asking, “What can I do to help?” There is nothing wrong with saying, “I believe you.” There is nothing wrong with just sitting next to them and saying, “I’ll be here whenever you need me.” These words are a big deal. They mean a lot.
I think when someone is disclosing to you, the best thing you can do is let them tell their story. Don’t probe for details. Don’t ask them for more than they want to give you. Don’t insist that THIS SHOULD BE THEIR COURSE OF ACTION. Let them decide what they want to happen. Don’t judge them for whatever choices they made before or after the rape. Don’t ask things that feel like you’re blaming them (How much did you have to drink? What were you doing at that party? Haven’t you heard about that guy?) Offer support. Offer to get them in touch with someone who could help or give them a phone number for RAINN. Be present and focus on what they want and need.

Additional Resources:
Sexual Assault: How to Support a Friend
Supporting Someone Who Has Been Raped or Sexually Assaulted
RAINN: Help a Loved One
RAINN: Self Care for Friends and Family Members

Christa Desir is an author, editor, and rape victim advocate. Her debut YA novel Fault Line is out now. Bleed Like Me will be published by Simon & Schuster in October 2014.

The 3rd Annual It Came From a Book Teen Art Contest (#ICFAB)

The Library as Incubator Project and Teen Librarian Toolbox is proud to announce the 3rd Annual “It Came From a Book” Teen Art Contest!!!

This awesome art contest for teens is in its 3rd year, and we are so excited!  Our amazing partners this year are: The Library as Incubator ProjectEgmontUSA, and Zest Books – this project would not be possible without them!

The basics: read any book and create a piece of art inspired by the story.  Your artwork can be any type – photography, painting, drawing, sculpture, manga – we want to see it all!  Submit a JPG image file of your artwork (a scan or digital photo) to 2014teenartcontest@gmail.com by 11:59pm CST on November 1, 2014.  Be sure to include the following information with your entry to be sure that it is eligible:

  • Subject line: ICFAB Art Contest
  • Your full name
  • Your library (school or public)
  • The title and author of the book that inspired your art
  • Include the statement “I affirm that this is an original piece of artwork.”

All teens are encouraged to enter!  Every entry will receive a confirmation e-mail, so look for that by the end of October.

There will be TWO rounds of judging.  Artwork that makes it on to the second round will be posted in a gallery here on our website and open for public voting.  Entrants will receive an e-mail regarding the results of the first round of judging.

Tell your family & friends – voting will be open from Monday, November 10th until Sunday, November 16th at midnight.  One winner, announced on November 24th, will receive FREE books from EgmontUSA, Zest Books, and Teen Librarian Toolbox, as well as some great swag from the Library as Incubator Project.

For Librarians: Be sure to download this year’s poster to promote the contest with your teens!  And let us know if you run your own art contest in conjunction with ours.  We’d love to hear from you! You can get all the downloads at The Library as Incubator Project website: http://www.libraryasincubatorproject.org/?p=14581

Book Review: Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

I have been wanting to read Some Girls Are for some time now because it has been recommended to me for The #SVYALit Project. And to be honest, This Is Not a Test is one of my favorite zombie books ever. So yesterday I was driving with the fam for one last summer fling and I grabbed the book on my way out the door and yep, I read it in one day because it was fantastic. I have been trying to slog my way through another book, which will remain nameless for the moment, so being excited to read Some Girls Are was just the kick in my reader pants that I needed. It hasn’t taken me a week to read a book since I was like 7 so I was getting to the point of despair.

If you want the short summation of how I feel about Some Girls Are, consider this: Last night I was half way through when my girls came into the room and turned on a shark movie. I didn’t even put the book down to watch the shark movie, I just kept reading. For those of you who have spent enough time with me, this is a really big deal. Shark movies are event tv in my house, one of our favorite things ever. But I could not – I did not want to – stop reading Some Girls Are.

The other really amazing thing about Some Girls Are is that the main character, Regina, is really a kind of horrible person – and yet you are completely sympathetic to her. 

When we first meet Regina, she is the designated driver at a party. She goes into the den to take her best friend and Queen Bee Anna home when Anna’s boyfriend, Donnie, attempts to rape her. She gets away, but this event is the beginning of her social decline because others manipulate it to their own social advantage. This is a Queen Bees and Wannabees system where the little sharks are just looking for ways to eat the bigger sharks alive and when Regina reaches out in a moment of real vulnerability and desperation, she gets bitten in the ass is some majorly disturbing ways. It turns out that Regina has been riding on the social coattails of Anna and her free ride is about to be over.

So once the major participant of some major (and majorly destructive) social destruction campaigns, Regina is now the target and it turns out she has made a lot of enemies who are delighting in her downfall.


As I mentioned, Regina’s downfall begins when Kara twists the truth of Regina’s sexual assault as social collateral. Here is what on the outside looks to be a classic case of slut shaming, but the truth is so much worse because it is all being purposefully orchestrated by one individual to annihilate an enemy and step up the social ladder on her fallen back. It is the ultimate example of how girls are often the worst enemy of girls; instead of reaching out – or “leaning in” if you will – to help each other out, some will go to any lengths to cut a sister down to raise herself up. And the irony is, Regina, now the victim, did it first. As we learn the things that Regina did, man that girl can cut a person. It’s just all so stinking brilliant, heartbreaking but brilliant.

Regina is trying to process what happened to her and everywhere she turns that event is being used against her in horrific ways.

Also brilliant is the superb pacing the Summers brings to this story. The revelations come at just right the spots so just as you start to think, man that Regina sucks, something happens that makes you feel empathy again. And then, just as you are feeling that empathy, you are reminded of just how bitchy Regina not only was, but can be. It’s like voting for presidential candidates, you end up rooting for the lesser of two evils.

And yet, Regina also doesn’t come across as truly evil. She is conflicted. She is damaged. She feels shame and remorse, and as events unfold we come to understand that she doesn’t just feel this shame and remorse because she is now the target, but that she felt it at the time when she was engaging in social warfare as the perpetrator. Darn you Summers and your complex character development.

So, this book is basically a must read. It contains not one but two instances of sexual violence and they have important and long lasting ramifications for our main characters. But Some Girls Are is is also a really strong addition into our discussions about bullying and the social dynamics of high school, which of course mirror the social dynamics of all of life. And in this era of I don’t need feminism because back and forth that we see among women, it is also an important look at how complex the relationships among women can be and a subversive rally cry to just cut that backstabbing crap out and support one another.

Here’s the thing, two of the characters who have the most reason to hate and find glee in the social destruction of Regina end up being the only two people who help her out. This too is a brilliant part of the story because they have every reason to hate Regina, and the sometimes they give in to that temptation, but Summers injects in them the heart and soul that our story needs and reminds us all that in the midst of it all, we can choose grace and forgiveness. It’s not an easy choice for our characters, it’s not always a consistent choice, but sometimes people can rise to the occasion.

Pair this with Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver and 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

And in my new shark scale of ratings of 1 shark to a Sharknado (which is highly recommended), Some Girls Are is a Sharknado.

Middle Grade Monday – There aren’t any Wimpy Kid books in?!!

I was recently asked by a staff member to come up with a list of suggestions for her 3rd grader who has read the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books ‘a million times.’ I run into this problem quite often. Students get fixated on a particular author, series, or format of books and are reluctant to try anything new. I understand their pain; I have favorite books that I reread on a regular basis. They are both comforting in their familiarity and enlightening in their ability to show me new aspects to the story and/or characters each time.

This list is for all of those students who are fixated on the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series of books and need emergency care when they are all checked out. It’s not intended to be exhaustive, and seems to land heavily on the male protagonist side. Most of them are also the first book in a series – yay, more to read! Please feel free to add your suggestion in the comments!

“In this funny, uncannily wise portrait of the dynamics of a sixth-grade class and of the greatness that sometimes comes in unlikely packages, Dwight, a loser, talks to his classmates via an origami finger puppet of Yoda. If that weren’t strange enough, the puppet is uncannily wise and prescient. Origami Yoda predicts the date of a pop quiz, guesses who stole the classroom Shakespeare bust, and saves a classmate from popularity-crushing embarrassment with some well-timed advice. Dwight’s classmate Tommy wonders how Yoda can be so smart when Dwight himself is so clueless. With contributions from his puzzled classmates, he assembles the case file that forms this novel.”

“Rafe Khatchadorian has enough problems at home without throwing his first year of middle school into the mix. Luckily, he’s got an ace plan for the best year ever, if only he can pull it off: With his best friend Leonardo the Silent awarding him points, Rafe tries to break every rule in his school’s oppressive Code of Conduct. Chewing gum in class–5,000 points! Running in the hallway–10,000 points! Pulling the fire alarm–50,000 points! But when Rafe’s game starts to catch up with him, he’ll have to decide if winning is all that matters, or if he’s finally ready to face the rules, bullies, and truths he’s been avoiding.”


“Roan’s one dream is to leave home and attend Pilot Academy like his older brother, father, and grandfather. But just as Roan is mysteriously denied entrance to Pilot School, he is invited to attend Jedi Academy–a school that he didn’t apply to and only recruits children when they are just a few years old. That is, until now…

This inventive novel follows Roan’s first year at Jedi Academy where, under the tutelage of Master Yoda, he learns that he possesses more strength and potential than he could have ever dreamed. Oh, and he learns other important things too–like how to make a baking soda volcano, fence with a lightsaber, slow dance with a girl, and lift boulders with the Force.”

“Nick is the shortest seventh-grader in the history of the world (he’s pretty sure), doesn’t fit in with any groups or clubs (who needs ‘em?), and spends more time inside than outside his locker (they’re roomier than you’d think). Things only get worse when a well-intentioned guidance counselor forces Nick to join the school’s lamest club-along with fellow misfits Molly and Karl-in her quest to cure all three of their “peer allergies.” What starts off as a reluctant band of hopeless oddballs morphs into an effective and empowered team ready to face whatever middle school throws at them, including bullies, awkward romance, zany adults, and a brave new world of surprising friendships.”

Michael K. just started fifth grade at a new school. As if that wasn’t hard enough, the kids he seems to have made friends with apparently aren’t kids at all. They are aliens. Real aliens who have invaded our planet in the form of school children and a hamster. They have a mission to complete: to convince 3,140,001 kids to BE SPHDZ.

But with a hamster as their leader, “kids” who talk like walking advertisements, and Michael K as their first convert, will the SPHDZ be able to keep their cover and pull off their assignment? – See more at: http://books.simonandschuster.net/SPHDZ-Book-1!/Jon-Scieszka/Spaceheadz/9781442419865#sthash.Es9qN7tU.dpuf

 “Michael K. just started fifth grade at a new school. As if that wasn’t hard enough, the kids he seems to have made friends with apparently aren’t kids at all. They are aliens. Real aliens who have invaded our planet in the form of school children and a hamster. They have a mission to complete: to convince 3,140,001 kids to BE SPHDZ.

But with a hamster as their leader, “kids” who talk like walking advertisements, and Michael K as their first convert, will the SPHDZ be able to keep their cover and pull off their assignment?”

“Take Timmy Failure — the clueless, comically self-confident CEO of the best detective agency in town, perhaps even the nation. Add his impressively lazy business partner, a very large polar bear named Total. Throw in the Failuremobile — Timmy’s mom’s Segway — and what you have is Total Failure, Inc., a global enterprise destined to make Timmy so rich his mother won’t have to stress out about the bills anymore. Of course, Timmy’s plan does not include the four-foot-tall female whose name shall not be uttered. And it doesn’t include Rollo Tookus, who is so obsessed with getting into “Stanfurd” that he can’t carry out a no-brainer spy mission. From the offbeat creator of Pearls Before Swine comes an endearingly bumbling hero in a caper whose peerless hilarity is accompanied by a whodunit twist. With perfectly paced visual humor, Stephan Pastis gets you snorting with laughter, then slyly carries the joke a beat further — or sweetens it with an unexpected poignant moment — making this a comics-inspired story (the first in a new series) that truly stands apart from the pack.”

“Ten-year-old Nathan Abercrombie is having a really bad day. First, Shawna Lanchester, the prettiest girl in his class, doesn’t invite him to her party. Then he gets picked last in gym class. Things couldn’t get any worse…until he gets doused with an experimental serum that turns him into a half-dead zombie!
Nathan soon discovers that being half dead isn’t all bad. He doesn’t need any sleep, so he can stay up all night and play games online. He doesn’t feel any pain, so there’s no need to worry about Rodney the bully anymore. Still, Nathan would rather be human. Will he find a cure? Or will Nathan be half-dead forever?”

“The Dry Creek Middle School drinking fountain has sprung a leak, so principal Walter Russ dashes off a request to Flowing Waters Fountains, Etc.

…We need a new drinking fountain. Please send a catalog.
Designer Flo Waters responds:
“I’d be delighted…but please understand that all of my fountains are custom-made.”
Soon the fountain project takes on a life of its own, one chronicled in letters, postcards, memos, transcripts, and official documents. The school board president is up in arms. So is Dee Eel, of the water-supply company. A scandal is brewing, and Mr. Sam N.’s fifth grade class is turning up a host of hilarious secrets buried deep beneath the fountain.”

” Ignatius B. Grumply moves into the Victorian mansion at 43 Old Cemetery Road hoping to find some peace and quiet so he can crack a wicked case of writer’s block. But 43 Old Cemetery Road is already occupied by eleven-year-old Seymour, his cat Shadow, and an irritable ghost named Olive. It’s hard to say who is more outraged. But a grumpy old ghost just might inspire this grumpy old man–and the abandoned kid? Well, let’s just say his last name’s Hope.”

“Read the hilarious, candid (& sometimes mean) diaries of Jamie Kelly, who promises that everything in her diary is true…or at least as true as it needs to be. In this book, Jamie contends with Angeline, the school’s prettiest, most popular girl (who Jamie thinks is a goon!) and the impending visit of her troll-like little cousin. Will Jamie survive? Will she go mad? Will she send her mom’s nasty casserole to starving children in Wheretheheckistan? You’ll just have to read the first installment of Dear Dumb Diary to find out!”

“Dork Diaries follows eighth grader Nikki Maxwell as she chronicles through text and sketches her move to a snooty new school; her epic battle with her mom for an iPhone; her enthusiasm for drawing and art; and a love/hate fascination with the new school’s queen bee, a girl named Mackenzie, who becomes Nikki’s rival in a schoolwide art competition. Nikki writes about friendships, crushes, popularity, and family with a unique and fresh voice that still conveys a universal authenticity. Nikki’s sketches throughout her diary add humor and spunk to the book, a surefire hit with tween girl readers.”

Michael K. just started fifth grade at a new school. As if that wasn’t hard enough, the kids he seems to have made friends with apparently aren’t kids at all. They are aliens. Real aliens who have invaded our planet in the form of school children and a hamster. They have a mission to complete: to convince 3,140,001 kids to BE SPHDZ.

But with a hamster as their leader, “kids” who talk like walking advertisements, and Michael K as their first convert, will the SPHDZ be able to keep their cover and pull off their assignment? – See more at: http://books.simonandschuster.net/SPHDZ-Book-1!/Jon-Scieszka/Spaceheadz/9781442419865#sthash.Es9qN7tU.dp

Take 5: YouTube 24/7

If you spend any time with Tweens, you know that they are obsessed – OBSESSED – with YouTube. And Vine and Instagram. But seriously, YouTube. When The Tween’s friends come over their favorite thing to do is sit around and watch YouTube videos. YouTube – and social media in general – is so popular that the Teen Choice Awards recently added several categories giving out awards to a new type of star that has circumvented traditional pathways to superstardom. 

And although there are some legitimate concerns about tweens and teens using social media, particularly about things like online privacy, digital footprints and online bullying (cyberbullying), social media is also allowing teens to be creative, learn technology skills, think proactively, and take initiative. 

Here are a few YouTubers that are super popular, and you can find a full list of the Teen Choice Award social media nominees at SugarScape to get more information on who is popular right now.


Bunny goes by the handle Grav3yardgirl. She is a woman in her 20s (almost 30s) who shoots a variety of YouTube videos including a segment called Follow Me Around and Does It Really Work. For the follow me around segments, she literally goes into a store and you follow her around. And for the does it really work segment she tests out various products to see – you guessed it – if it really works. Here she is testing out the Soda Stream product:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nul0L4itTa0]

Bethany Mota

Bethany Mota is a teen and fashion blogger from California. She is so popular she has a line of clothing at Aeropostale and she recently guest judged on Project Runway. I know this because we watch PR every week and as they panned over the guest judges The Tween squealed, I think that’s Bethany Mota. She was instantly recognized. You can visit here channel here.

Ricky Dillon

The Tween and her best friend are in lurve with Ricky Dillon in the same way that many others are screaming over 5 Seconds of Summer and One Direction. He was one of the award winners at the Teen Choice Awards. You can see his YouTube channel here.

Jack and Jack

Jack and Jack are teenage comedians who were recently featured on the Teen Choice Awards. They have a draw bigger than many of the music and film stars that the media celebrates. You can see their YouTube channel here.

Challenges, challenges everywhere

I know the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has kind of taken the world by storm, but the truth is challenges of all sorts are kind of a big deal on YouTube. This is how The Tweens in my library spend their time, doing the challenges and watching them. There is a smoothie challenge, where you mix gross things together and have to drink it. The blindfold make-up challenge, which is all the rage in my household. You basically blindfold yourself and put make-up on someone. Yes, even I have been on the receiving end of an epically bad make-up. If you do a YouTube search for the word “challenge” a big list will come up. Abandon your fear and put some tarps on the library floor and you could have a challenge day at the library. But if the weather is nice, I recommend going outside. Seriously, some of them can get messy and a lot of them require being willing to trustingly allow others to put gross food in your mouth.

This is what happens when you do the Blindfold Make-Up Challenge on your 5-year-old sister

There is a new documentary out called Instafame: A Documentary About A Teen’s Relationship With Social Media Fame that highlights the way ordinary teens are rising to fame quickly and in nontraditional ways thanks to the reach of social media. There is a lot of attention in the press about the sudden rise of social media fame among teens, which is definitely something I am paying attention to both as a parent and a librarian. The Tween and her friend spent the night brainstorming recently about starting their own YouTube channel. I eventually told them they could do crafts from books to see if the instructions were easy to follow on this blog and that they had to use nicknames. They spent the rest of the night coming up with names, mascots, etc. It will be interesting to see if they will follow through or if they move on to the next trend quickly.

And although I spend a lot of time telling The Tween to put down her phone and go outside and play, I keep reminding myself that I used to spend an inordinate amount of time watching MTV to see which video would come on next. And yes, I am old enough to remember when MTV still played music videos. So I guess I’m not freaking out about watching YouTube too much, because everything I see these tweens doing I know we did it all before, just in slightly different ways. 

What are you tweens and teens obsessing over on YouTube? Share in the comments.