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Book Review: Breakfast with Neruda by Laura Moe, reviewed by teen reviewer Lexi

breakfastwithnerudaPublisher’s Book Description

Michael Flynn is just trying to get through his community service after he made the dumb decision to try to blow up his friend’s car with fireworks–the same friend who stole Michael’s girl. Being expelled and losing his best buddy and his girlfriend are the least of his problems: Michael has learned to hide everything, from his sick hoarder mother to the fact that he’s stuck living in a 1982 Ford LTD station wagon he calls the Blue Whale. Then one day, during mandatory community service, he meets Shelly, a girl with a past, who’s also special enough to unmask Michael’s deepest secrets. Can he manage to be worthy of her love, a guy living in a car, unable to return to his chaotic and fit-to-be-condemned home? Shelly won’t give up, and tries to peel back the layers of garbage and pain to reveal Michael’s immense heart. (May 16, 2016 from Merit Press. ISBN: 9781440592195)

Lexi’s Thoughts

“The afternoon leans into laziness, and we linger, just being.”

I wouldn’t make it a day in Michael Flynn’s shoes. He has the art of surviving down to a T. Between living out of his car and his mandatory community service, Michael seems to be getting along just enough to make it to the next day. I would say he is doing fine but Michael is a boy who lives out of his car he named the Blue Whale, dumpster diving for a decent meal, and having to repeat his senior year for something he hadn’t even gotten to finish.

But even through all this he still somehow finds love. Enter Shelley, a fellow delinquent who chain smokes and comes from a rich family. She knows about his living situation and she makes light of it like she does most things. She doesn’t pressure him to be anyone he’s not and doesn’t pressure him to tell her why he lives in his car. This book is all about not only Michael’s secrets unraveling but also Shelley’s.

Michael’s secrets bury him almost as much as the clutter that buries his house. Michael trying to find out what Shelley’s secrets are is like grasping at the smoke she so frequently blows from her endless amounts of cigarettes.

Breakfast With Neruda is about secrets. It’s about love and understanding and betrayal and pain. All the necessary ingredients to make a connection to the reader. But it’s not only about all these common things but it’s about living with someone who has a hoarding problem. This is a book that opens the door to a real problem that is hardly discussed or addressed outside of entertaining tv shows that make the viewer cringe. This book gives us a story from an insider. A person who suffered and who got pushed out by all the junk that cluttered his home. A person who has to live in his own car while his sister lives in the backyard because of their mom’s problem.

The love is the fabric that covers this story but it is the hoarding and the theme of family relationships that make up the insides. It’s about what an outsider can’t see that this book is about. It is the most inner parts of a person’s life. It’s what is behind their door. Breakfast With Neruda is a saddening book but it’s also very uplifting in a way that i can’t really explain. I can say i have never read anything like it. I recommend people to read it to get a peek through the shades of what really goes on in a house of a hoarder.

I came for the love and stayed for the pain and secrets.

Penguin Teen on Tour, DFW Stop

Penguin Teen on Tour, DFW Stop//

On Tuesday, The Teen and I were able to catch the Penguin Teen on Tour stop at the Dallas Half-Price Books store. Authors on this stop included Alison Goodman (THE DARK DAYS CLUB), Sabaa Tahir (AN EMBER IN THE ASHES), Rachel Hawkins (The Rebel Belle series), April Genevieve Tucholke ( WINK, POPPY, MIDNIGHT) and Alwyn Hamilton (REBEL OF THE SANDS). I tried to tweet as many of the profound things these ladies were saying, and those tweets are shared below. I certainly didn’t catch everything, and there are some typos, but it was a really fun and fascinating discussion of everything from strong women in YA to the most troubling things these authors have researched. Let’s just say there was lots of talk about death and dying.

  1. Rachel Hawkins: Rebel Belle began with a little crazy and lazy, my two favorite azies #PenguinTeenOnTour

  2. Rachel Hawkins: Set out to make Rebel Belle different from Hex Hall by making the characters polar opposite #PenguinTeenOnTour

  3. AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is about character & how world they live in forms who they are says Tahir #PenguinTeenOnTour https://t.co/ER0dt4Blw5

    AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is about character & how world they live in forms who they are says Tahir #PenguinTeenOnTour pic.twitter.com/ER0dt4Blw5

  4. THE DARK DAYS CLUB was inspired by the idea of Jane Austen meets Buffy says Alison Goodman #PenguinTeenOnTour https://t.co/YrKEGUfyhS

    THE DARK DAYS CLUB was inspired by the idea of Jane Austen meets Buffy says Alison Goodman #PenguinTeenOnTour pic.twitter.com/YrKEGUfyhS

  5. Goodman researched regency for 8 months and even had a full outfit made & learned to dance #PenguinTeenOnTour

  6. Tahir: Woman are just strong, it's part of being a woman. #PenguinTeenOnTour

  7. Tahir: I wanted to create a character who has a core inner strength but doesn't know it yet because that's how a lot of us are

  8. Hawkins: Harper gets super strength but still remains more traditionally feminine. That's important to me. #PenguinTeenOnTour

  9. Goodman: I wanted to examine society's courtesies and see which ones are designed to hold you down #PenguinTeenOnTour

  10. Alison Goodman just told us how a lady went potty in regency times. So thankful for modern day toilets!

  11. Rachel Hawkins: I would be so happy in the shire eating breakfast and hanging out in the house - I want to be a hobbit #PenguinTeenOnTour

  12. Sanaa Tahir: I really want to turn into a talking dragon, it's my deepest, darkest fantasy #PenguinTeenOnTour

  13. Sanaa Tahir: I make my husband act out fight scenes with me #PenguinTeenOnTour

  14. Tahir: I wrote to make sense of my world and to put myself in it #PenguinTeenOnTour

  15. April: I realized I like playing god (on why she is a writer) #PenguinTeenOnTour

  16. Goodman: never have a passive character, your character must act. Don't just have things happening to them. #PenguinTeenOnTour


Video Games Weekly: Plants Vs. Zombies Garden Warfare 2

One of the biggest requests I get from parents visiting the library is a video game that isn’t “too violent” that their kid/teen will also enjoy playing. As you can guess, it’s really hard to find a shooter game that fits that category, since most shooter games like Call of Duty are rated M. Luckily, Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare exists!

Background: The very first Plants vs Zombies video game was released by a company called Pop Cap in 2009 on PC. It was a tower defense game, which means players use objects in order to protect their “tower” against enemies. In this case, players use silly plants with special powers to protect a house from zombies. Pro Tip: You can actually play the first Plants vs Zombies game for free on any web browser! I recommend this game all the time to kids/teens who are bored at library computers. It’s really fun, and one of the best tower defense games I have ever played! It’s also available on iOS and Android platforms.

Since Plants vs Zombies was so successful, the company decided to make a spinoff third person shooter / tower defense hybrid called Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare. It was an…interesting…choice, one that I personally was apprehensive about when it was released in 2014. I thought it would have been a better decision to make a sequel tower defense only game, but I applaud the company for trying something new. The first game was pretty well reviewed; it wasn’t mind blowing or amazing, but it didn’t suck either. Now, Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 is back for more.

Platform: Xbox One, PS4, and PC

Rated: E10+

Single or Multiplayer: Both. There is a variety of multiplayer options where you can play locally or you can play online with other players.

Storyline: Similar to the first Garden Warfare game, players control a plant in a suburban neighborhood that is now a battle site between plants and zombies. Crazy Dave is the only human in this universe, and he owns a house that has been converted into Headquarters for the plants army. You start the game playing as a sunflower and are immediately dropped into a battle, which teaches you the game’s controls. Quick note here, the artwork in this game is not my favorite. For example, the sunflower looks like this:

I’m sorry, but WHAT IS THAT? Of course, I can’t help but compare it to the original Plants vs Zombies game that came out in 2009, where sunflowers looked like this:

See what I mean? Anyways, the basic storyline is you go on missions to protect Crazy Dave’s house and defeat zombies. After you beat the tutorial, you are dropped in the middle of Crazy Dave’s backyard and are left to your own devices to figure out what to do next. I think this is the part that will drive away players who either didn’t try the first Garden Warfare game, or are inexperienced gamers. There is no guidance whatsoever as to how to continue solo missions, what the storyline is, where to play multiplayer games, and how to play local games, even though these are all options! This could be frustrating to new players, and I wish they did a better job explaining the full game rather than just giving a tutorial on the battle controls.

Gameplay: In the beginning tutorial battle, players learn the basic controls (the controls are standard shooter controls, so players who already play shooter games will catch on quickly) and play through a battle. Each battle is relatively the same, where players have to defend a tower against enemies. Enemies appear in waves, and as you progress, the waves get more difficult. There are various forms of zombies that can appear, and each have special powers, guns, armor, etc. If players are feeling fancy, they can choose to switch teams and play as zombies.

Garden Warfare 2 added new plants and zombies, as well as added new maps. In short, it has more content, which I appreciate because it doesn’t make the game feel as repetitive compared to Garden Warfare. Even though players are playing different versions of the same battle, there is enough variety to entertain players for a while.

Multiplayer: There are different ways to play multiplayer. The first is playing locally, which means you and another player in the same room can play together with a split screen. Only two players can play at a time, but it’s more fun to play Garden Warfare with another person. The second is you can play online, and the best one is a 24 person battle. Basically, it’s chaotic, which is the best kind of battle in my opinion.

Customization: One of Garden Warfare 2’s biggest strengths is the ability to customize practically everything. Players earn coins from battles, and they can use these coins to buy sticker packs from a vending machine in Crazy Dave’s backyard. These packs have everything from hats, new plants, new zombies, upgrades, etc. Because sticker packs have a randomized element, it inspires players play through many battles just to unlock that one…special…item…

Audience: This game is perfect for kids and teens who have an itch for a shooter game, but aren’t allowed to play rated M games. I’m sure adults would enjoy the game as well, but I’m sure adults would rather be playing Call of Duty or Halo instead.

Verdict: Primary purchase for libraries looking to increase their shooter games selection to include younger players. Be sure to have the first Garden Warfare game available, since players might want to play through the first one in order to understand how to navigate Garden Warfare 2’s complex battle options.

Questions? Comments? Tweet them at me!

By: Alanna Graves
Twitter: @LannaLibrarian


$40 on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Plants-vs-Zombies-Garden-Warfare-Xbox/dp/B00ZGPJ0TG/ref=sr_1_1?s=videogames&ie=UTF8&qid=1458944070&sr=1-1&keywords=plans+vs+zombies+garden+warfare+2

Book Review: Character Driven by David Lubar

characterdrivenWhat do Better Off Dead, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Lizzie McGuire all have in common?

Besides the fact that they seriously date me, I mean.

Character Driven by David Lubar all bring these references to mind in both voice and in the way the main character breaks the fourth wall.

Cliff, that is his real name, stands figuratively on the edge of a cliff. He seems like a stereotypical teenage boy – he really, really wants to get laid. Desperately. And here he narrates his quest for us, speaking directly to the reader. Sometimes he lies. Sometimes he introduces things out of sequence. Sometimes he goes for the big gotcha. Through it all, Cliff engages the reader with a compelling voice and situations we can all relate to (self doubt, trying to make connections, managing our feelings).

But there is more to the story. You see, some of the things you think Cliff is lying about – some of the very things he tells you are not true – are in fact half true. He’s really trying to tell you something. Like all of our teens, he sincerely is trying to tell us something important, we just have to learn how to listen. Because some truths aren’t easy to reveal, and Cliff desperately needs us to hear his story. As someone who works with teens, I found this aspect of the story fascinating. I have worked with many teens who are trying desperately to be heard and I thought that Lubar did a really good job of this.

Character Driven by David Lubar is a very compelling yet nontraditional read. By having the main character speak directly to the reader as he shares his journey of trying to write his truth down, Lubar really pulls you in. Yes, other authors have used this technique, but Lubar does it well and its effective. On the surface, it reads like a dark 80s comedy about a teenage boys quest to get him some (and when he does – or does he? – that’s a fun bit of the story as well), but there is deeper meaning to this story. The reveal is heartbreaking and very realistically captures a life that unfortunately many of our teens are in fact living.

There are probably literary names for the various devices that Lubar uses to tell this story, but I am not that reviewer. What I do know is that my teen readers will be drawn to this story, they will read it quickly, and then they will be moved to think about this character and all the things that happen to him, both good and bad. I recommend it.

About CHARACTER DRIVEN by David Lubar

“Call me Cliff. By an accident of birth, I am well named for this story. Think about it. Cliff. Precipice. Edge. There you have it. I’m Cliff. Cliff Sparks.”

With only one year left of high school, seventeen-year-old Cliff Sparks is desperate to “come of age”―and find a girlfriend. But he’s never had much luck with girls. So when he falls for Jillian, a new classmate, at first sight, all he can do is worship her from afar. At the same time, Cliff has to figure out what to do with the rest of his life, since he’s pretty sure his unemployed father plans to kick him out of the house the minute he turns eighteen.

Time is running out for Cliff. He’s at the edge, on the verge, dangling―and holding on for dear life.

Released March 1st from Tor Teen

Enter to win Summerlost by Ally Condie

Summerlost coverAlly’s first middle grade novel publishes today, and you can enter to win a copy here. Keep reading for a message from Ally.

Dear Readers,

I think most of us have had our hearts broken. Sometimes we can see it coming, and sometimes it comes down with the unexpected force of a sudden gale of wind or a rising of waters that we thought were still and safe. Loss is universal to human experience, but the way we each feel and recover is one of the most personal things we do.

In Summerlost, Cedar is dealing with the loss of her father and younger brother. And my intent was to show how hard their deaths are for her. But this is also a book about the healing power of friendship. Most of us have been broken-hearted; I hope that most of us have also discovered the miracle of friendships that were just what we needed. Cedar and Leo’s friendship is based on someone I met when I was twelve. Like Leo, my friend was fun and liked to enlist me in crazy adventures (although we never gave a secret guided tour of our town the way they do in Summerlost). And, like Leo, he thought I was wonderful and of worth at a time when I needed it most.

SUMMERLOST is my attempt to pay tribute both to the pain we feel and the friendships that save us. Thank you so much for supporting this book, and for your willingness to give Cedar’s story a try. I hope it makes you think of a wonderful friend of your own, whether that is someone you met in the pages of a favorite book or outside, in the world where it is often hard and beautiful to live.

Best wishes and happy reading always,

Ally Condie

What’s New in LGBTQIA+ YA March and April 2016

It’s time for another roundup for new and forthcoming YA (and sometimes not YA) books featuring LGBTQIA+ characters.  The titles I’m including here have LGBTQIA+ main characters as well as secondary characters (in some cases parents). Know of a title I missed in this list? Or know of a forthcoming title that should be on my radar for an upcoming list? Leave a comment or tweet me @CiteSomething. This list covers March 2016 and April 2016 titles. Head over to this link for the previous post (January and February 2016 titles) in this series. All annotations here are via the publishers.


March 2016


under threatUnder Threat by Robin Stevenson (ISBN-13: 9781459811317 Publisher: Orca Book Publishers Publication date: 03/01/2016)

Franny is close to her parents, adores her horse and is head over heels in love with her girlfriend, Leah. But Franny’s parents are abortion providers at the local hospital, and an anonymous stranger is prepared to do whatever it takes to stop them. A stranger who phones at all hours. Who knows where they live. Who knows Franny’s name. When Leah’s older brother, Jake, refers to her parents as baby killers, Franny starts to wonder if perhaps the threats aren’t coming from a stranger at all. If she tells the police about her suspicions, she could lose her girlfriend. But if she doesn’t—and if she’s right—she could lose her parents.




seven waysSeven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate (ISBN-13: 9781419719448 Publisher: Amulet Books Publication date:03/08/2016)

In Seven Ways We Lie, a chance encounter tangles the lives of seven high school students, each resisting the allure of one of the seven deadly sins, and each telling their story from their seven distinct points of view.

The juniors at Paloma High School all have their secrets, whether it’s the thespian who hides her trust issues onstage, the closeted pansexual who only cares about his drug-dealing profits, or the neurotic genius who’s planted the seed of a school scandal. But it’s Juniper Kipling who has the furthest to fall. No one would argue that Juniper—obedient daughter, salutatorian, natural beauty, and loyal friend—is anything but perfect. Everyone knows she’s a saint, not a sinner; but when love is involved, who is Juniper to resist temptation? When she begins to crave more and more of the one person she can’t have, her charmed life starts to unravel.

Then rumors of a student–teacher affair hit the fan. After Juniper accidentally exposes her secret at a party, her fate falls into the hands of the other six sinners, bringing them into one another’s orbits. All seven are guilty of something. Together, they could save one another from their temptations—or be ruined by them.

Riley Redgate’s twisty YA debut effortlessly weaves humor, heartbreak, and redemption into a drama that fans of Jenny Han and Stephanie Perkins will adore.


on the edgeOn The Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis (ISBN-13: 9781419719035 Publisher: Amulet Books Publication date: 03/08/2016)

A thrilling, thought-provoking novel from one of young-adult literature’s boldest new talents.

January 29, 2035. That’s the day the comet is scheduled to hit—the big one. Denise and her mother and sister, Iris, have been assigned to a temporary shelter outside their hometown of Amsterdam to wait out the blast, but Iris is nowhere to be found, and at the rate Denise’s drug-addicted mother is going, they’ll never reach the shelter in time. A last-minute meeting leads them to something better than a temporary shelter—a generation ship, scheduled to leave Earth behind to colonize new worlds after the comet hits. But everyone on the ship has been chosen because of their usefulness. Denise is autistic and fears that she’ll never be allowed to stay. Can she obtain a spot before the ship takes flight? What about her mother and sister? When the future of the human race is at stake, whose lives matter most?


fjordFjord Blue by Nina Rossing (ISBN-13: 2940157684983 Publisher: Harmony Ink Press Publication date: 03/10/2016)

After a year of partying, getting into fights, and finally crashing his father’s vintage Bonneville in a car chase, seventeen-year-old Benjamin has pushed his parents to their limit. It’s not like he can tell them why he’s so angry at life, or that he’ll do anything to distract himself from the lust he feels toward his best friend’s sexy cousin, Dino. He can’t even protest when he’s sent away from Miami to spend the summer working on his grandparents’ farm in the desolate fjords of Western Norway.

The farm is isolated and old-fashioned, and so are Ben’s religious grandparents. It’s cold and wet, and Ben is miserable and restless. Relief comes in the form of Even, the eighteen-year-old blond Viking farmhand who offers Ben friendship and a new outlook on his situation. But Even is hiding issues of his own.

Ben’s grandparents want him to inherit the farm, but the only thing keeping Ben there is his desire to know Even better. As the feelings between the two young men grow, things kept hidden are slowly revealed–for good and ill–and they must turn to unlikely places for encouragement.


half lostHalf Lost (The Half Bad Trilogy #3) by Sally Green (ISBN-13: 9780670017140 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date:03/29/2016)

The magical, stunning conclusion to the internationally acclaimed Half Bad trilogy.

The Alliance is losing. Their most critical weapon, seventeen-year-old witch Nathan Brynn, has killed fifty-two people, and yet he’s no closer to ending the tyrannical, abusive rule of the Council of White Witches in England. Nor is Nathan any closer to his personal goal: getting revenge on Annalise, the girl he once loved, before she committed an unthinkable crime. There is an amulet, protected by the extremely powerful witch Ledger, which could be the tool Nathan needs to save himself and the Alliance. But the amulet is not so easily acquired. And lately Nathan has started to suffer from visions: a vision of a golden moment when he dies, and of an endless line of Hunters, impossible to overcome. Gabriel, his closest companion, encourages Nathan to run away with him, to start a peaceful life together. But even Gabriel’s love may not be enough to save Nathan from this war, or from the person he has become.

Set in modern-day Europe, the final book in the Half Bad trilogy is more than a story about witches. It’s a heart-poundingly visceral look at survival and exploitation, the nature of good and evil, and the risks we take for love.


the-great-american-whatever-9781481404099_hrThe Great American Whatever by Tim Federle (ISBN-13: 9781481404099 Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers Publication date: 03/29/2016)

From the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of Five, Six, Seven, Nate! andBetter Nate Than Ever comes a laugh-out-loud sad YA debut that’s a wry and winning testament to the power of old movies and new memories—one unscripted moment at a time.

Quinn Roberts is a sixteen-year-old smart aleck and Hollywood hopeful whose only worry usedto be writing convincing dialogue for the movies he made with his sister Annabeth. Of course, that was all before—before Quinn stopped going to school, before his mom started sleeping on the sofa…and before Annabeth was killed in a car accident.

Enter Geoff, Quinn’s best friend who insists it’s time that Quinn came out—at least from hibernation. One haircut later, Geoff drags Quinn to his first college party, where instead of nursing his pain, he meets a guy—a hot one—and falls hard. What follows is an upside-down week in which Quinn begins imagining his future as a screenplay that might actually have a happily-ever-after ending—if, that is, he can finally step back into the starring role of his own life story.



my year zeroMy Year Zero by Rachel Gold (ISBN-13: 9781594934827 Publisher: Bella Books Publication date: 03/29/2016)

Lauren thinks she has a pretty good life—so why is it that she feels crazy most of the time? She figures it’s nothing she can’t fix by getting her first girlfriend and doing better at school. But how is she ever going to find a girlfriend in Duluth, Minnesota?

When she meets a group of kids who are telling a science fiction story online and gets invited down to the Twin Cities, she gets more attention than she ever expected, from two very different girls: charming Sierra and troublesome Blake.

Blake helps Lauren understand that she’s not the crazy one in her life. But Blake’s attention—and insights into life and living with bipolar disorder—threaten to destroy everything Lauren has created for herself, including her relationship with Sierra.


April 2016


southSouth of Sunshine by Dana Elmendorf (ISBN-13: 9780807575680 Publisher: Whitman, Albert & Company Publication date: 04/01/2016)

Kaycee Jean McCoy has lived her entire life in Sunshine, Tennessee. Sweet tea flows through her veins and “yes ma’am” is ingrained in her DNA. In Sunshine, going to church is basically mandatory, and gay had better be your mood and not your sexual orientation. Kaycee may not agree with the town’s socially accepted bigotry, but she’d rather fit in–even if it means letting gross Dave Bradford kiss her on occasion–than make waves. That is, until the beautiful, sexy, impossibly cool Bren Dawson moves into town. Kaycee is swept up in a whirlwind of exciting new emotions and lets her guard down. One night under a fat country moon, Kaycee’s best friend catches them kissing, and Kaycee’s whole world goes to hell in a handbasket. What is she willing to risk for the sake of love? And what will she risk for acceptance?



islandThe Island of Beyond by Elizabeth Atkinson (ISBN-13: 9781467781169 Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group Publication date: 04/01/2016)

Eleven-year-old Martin can hardly imagine a worse summer. His dad is sending him to his great-aunt Lenore, who lives on a tiny island called Beyond. Martin’s dad wants him to like “normal” boy things–playing sports and exploring the outdoors. Martin’s afraid he’ll never be the son his dad wants him to be. Being stuck in the middle of nowhere won’t change that.

But nothing about Beyond is what Martin expects. Not peculiar Aunt Lenore, not mysterious Uncle Nedâ-and certainly not the strange, local boy who unexpectedly befriends Martin. Solo can canoe and climb trees and survive on his own in the wilderness, and Martin’s drawn to him in a way he doesn’t quite understand. But he’s not sure he can trust Solo. In fact, can he trust anything about this strange island, where everyone seems to be keeping secrets?



away we goAway We Go by Emil Ostrovski (ISBN-13: 9780062238559 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 04/05/2016)

Westing is not your typical school. For starters, you have to have one very important quality in order to be admitted—you have to be dying. Every student at Westing has been diagnosed with PPV, or the Peter Pan Virus. No one is expected to live to graduation.

What do you do when you go to a school where no one has a future? Noah Falls, his girlfriend Alice, and his best friend Marty spend their time drinking, making out, and playing video games on awaywego.com. But when an older boy named Zach (who Noah may or may not be in love with) invites Noah and Marty to join his secret Polo Club, the lives of both boys change as they struggle to find meaning in their shortened existence.

With an innovative format that includes interstitial documents, such as flyers, postcards, and handwritten notes, Away We Go is a funny, honest look at first love and tragic heartbreak.



new guyThe New Guy (and Other Senior Year Distractions) by Amy Spalding (ISBN-13: 9780316382786 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Publication date: 04/05/2016)

A ridiculously cute, formerly-famous new guy dropping into your life? It’s practically every girl’s dream.

But not Jules McCallister-Morgan’s.

I realize that on paper I look like your standard type-A, neurotic, overachiever. And maybe I am. But I didn’t get to be the editor of my school’s long-revered newspaper by just showing up*. I have one main goal for my senior year-early acceptance into my first choice Ivy League college-and I will not be deterred by best friends, moms who think I could stand to “live a little,” or boys.

At least, that was the plan before I knew about Alex Powell**.

And before Alex Powell betrayed me***.

I know what you’re thinking: Calm down, Jules. But you don’t understand. This stuff matters. This is my life. And I’m not going down without a fight.


* Okay, I sort of did. But it’s a sore subject.

** I mean, I guess everyone knows about Alex Powell? Two years ago, you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing about viral video boy band sensation Chaos 4 All. Two years ago, Alex Powell was famous.

***Some people think I’m overreacting. But this. Means. War.

Filled with romance, rivalry, and passive-aggressive dog walking, Amy Spalding delivers a hilariously relatable high school story that’s sure to have you falling for The New Guy.



seventh gradeMy Seventh-Grade Life in Tights by Brooks Benjamin (ISBN-13: 9780553512502 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 04/12/2016)

Football hero. Ninja freestyler. It’s seventh grade. Anything is possible.

All Dillon wants is to be a real dancer. And if he wins a summer scholarship at Dance-Splosion, he’s on his way. The problem? His dad wants him to play football. And Dillon’s freestyle crew, the Dizzee Freekz, says that dance studios are for sellouts. His friends want Dillon to kill it at the audition—so he can turn around and tell the studio just how wrong their rules and creativity-strangling ways are.

At first, Dillon’s willing to go along with his crew’s plan, even convincing one of the snobbiest girls at school to work with him on his technique. But as Dillon’s dancing improves, he wonders: what if studios aren’t the enemy? And what if he actually has a shot at winning the scholarship?

Dillon’s life is about to get crazy . . . on and off the dance floor in this kid-friendly humorous debut by Brooks Benjamin.



savingSaving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki (ISBN-13: 9781626722712 Publisher: Roaring Brook Press Publication date: 04/19/2016)

Montgomery Sole is a square peg in a small town, forced to go to a school full of jocks and girls who don’t even know what irony is. It would all be impossible if it weren’t for her best friends, Thomas and Naoki. The three are also the only members of Jefferson High’s Mystery Club, dedicated to exploring the weird and unexplained, from ESP and astrology to super powers and mysterious objects.

Then there’s the Eye of Know, the possibly powerful crystal amulet Monty bought online. Will it help her predict the future or fight back against the ignorant jerks who make fun of Thomas for being gay or Monty for having lesbian moms? Maybe the Eye is here just in time, because the newest resident of their small town is scarier than mothmen, poltergeists, or, you know, gym.

Thoughtful, funny, and painfully honest, Montgomery Sole is someone you’ll want to laugh and cry with over a big cup of frozen yogurt with extra toppings.



PRIDEPride: Celebrating Diversity and Community by Robin Stevenson (ISBN-13: 9781459809932 Publisher: Orca Book Publishers Publication date: 04/19/2016)

For LGBTQ people and their supporters, Pride events are an opportunity to honor the past, protest injustice, and celebrate a diverse and vibrant community. The high point of Pride, the Pride Parade, is spectacular and colorful. But there is a whole lot more to Pride than rainbow flags and amazing outfits. How did Pride come to be? And what does Pride mean to the people who celebrate it?





unicornUnicorn Tracks by Julia Ember (ISBN-13: 9781634768788 Publisher: Harmony Ink Press Publication date: 04/21/2016)

After a savage attack drives her from her home, sixteen-year-old Mnemba finds a place in her cousin Tumelo’s successful safari business, where she quickly excels as a guide. Surrounding herself with nature and the mystical animals inhabiting the savannah not only allows Mnemba’s tracking skills to shine, it helps her to hide from the terrible memories that haunt her.

Mnemba is employed to guide Mr. Harving and his daughter, Kara, through the wilderness as they study unicorns. The young women are drawn to each other, despite that fact that Kara is betrothed. During their research, they discover a conspiracy by a group of poachers to capture the Unicorns and exploit their supernatural strength to build a railway. Together, they must find a way to protect the creatures Kara adores while resisting the love they know they can never indulge.


drag teenDrag Teen by Jeffery Self (ISBN-13: 9780545829939 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 04/26/2016)

A fantastic, fabulous, funny YA debut from Jeffery Self, one of the gay icons of the YouTube generation, that follows one high school student on a drag race to his future.

Debut YA author Jeffery Self takes us on a road trip with an insecure high school senior who has one goal: to be the first in his family to leave Clearwater, Florida, and go to college. The problem is, he has zero means of paying for school — until his friends convince him to compete in a drag teen competition for a college scholarship.

Middle School Monday: Rachel Hawkins’ Lady Renegades

lady renegadesI know ya’ll are probably getting tired of me talking about how much I enjoy Rachel’s novels… But in case you missed it, I reviewed the first in this series (Rebel Belle) here, the second in the series (Miss Mayhem) here, and I just generally blather on about how great her books are here. The final installment in the saga of Harper Price, paladin extraordinaire, releases next Tuesday, April 5th. If you’ve read the first two, you’re going to want to preorder a copy.

Now that David has left town without a trace (helped by Bee and Ryan) Harper has nothing to do but try to live a normal girl’s life for the summer before her senior year. She and best friend Bee have lifeguard jobs at the local pool and are working on their tans…until David starts sending new paladins to kill them. Harper convinces Ryan and Bee that they need to try to summon David back to town, so they attempt to break into his old house to find a book to help them. Aunt Jewel, who is in on the situation, has to help them out when the police come – explaining that Harper is distraught over her breakup with David. They eventually do find a spell and try to summon David, but end up with Blythe instead. Magic *shrugs*. Blythe has a plan to find David and help him come back to himself, but it involves an epic road trip with Harper and Bee. The girls manage to convince their parents to let them go with the help of some magic and Aunt Jewel. They do eventually find David, but will it be in time, or has he already gone totally psycho oracle on them?

In typical Rachel Hawkins style, this conclusion to the trilogy is a gripping adventure liberally laced with her trademark sense of humor. She has a real gift for writing authentic teenage characters as well as a finely tuned sense of the nuances of female friendships. Both of these are key ingredients in this novel. (I would have enjoyed more time with the aunts, but since I’m not the intended audience, I will chalk that up to a personal preference.) Otherwise, this was a wholly satisfying conclusion. Also, props on the Princess Bride easter egg.

#MHYALit: The Fantasy of Being Thin and YA Lit, a guest post by Katelyn Browne

Last week, we had several conversations about the book Kill the Boy Band and body shaming. You can read post 1 and post 2 for background. In the midst of all these online conversations, Katelyn Browne contacted me and said I want to write a post about “the fantasy of being thin”. Today, we are honored to present that post to you.


I don’t think I’m alone when I say that Kate Harding changed my life. She continues to do good work as a feminist writer–I was on the Amelia Bloomer List committee that recognized her book about rape culture, Asking for It–but for me, it was Shapely Prose (RIP) that forever altered my understanding of myself and my ability to exist in the world.

In 2007, a post called The Fantasy of Being Thin (aka TFoBT) spelled out a cultural mythology I’d never been able to name or claim. In short, it describes the magical thinking that associates weight loss and/or thinness with character development. The list of examples ranges from “When I’m thin, I’ll be really extroverted and charismatic, and thus have more friends than I know what to do with” to “When I’m thin, I won’t be depressed anymore.”

Kate’s initial post about TFoBT served to explain why, in part, it’s so hard for many people to fully convert to fat acceptance for themselves, even after they’ve come around theoretically on fat acceptance for others. But today, I want to talk about the ways in which TFoBT is such a perfect, pernicious trope to hang a YA novel on.

TFoBT squares so completely with dominant American cultural values that it’s almost invisible. Of course weight is an issue of character and morality. Of course thin people take better care of their bodies than fat people, so of course they’re more morally sound. Of course anyone could be thin if they had enough self-discipline, and of course all fat people are binge eaters who don’t understand nutrition. Of course fat bodies are hilarious and desexualized, and no worthy partner would be attracted to a fat person.


YA fiction is, by its nature, about the adolescent development process of taking ownership for your own life, taking responsibility for your own decisions, and building the relationships that will carry you into adulthood. Because we’re conditioned to view thinness as a visible indicator of invisible virtue (self-discipline, self-esteem, self-care, a right relationship with food and exercise, and enough class markers to fill their own essay), it makes “sense” that weight loss is an appropriate outward journey to signify that internal character development.

Recently, we saw this in Sarah Dessen’s Saint Anything: Mac’s secret backstory is a weight-loss plotline that signifies his journey to seeing value in his own life, while simultaneously making him worthy of romantic love. (Sarah Dessen has a long and complicated track record with weight-loss tropes; Keeping the Moon, which has long been my favourite of her books, has a more complicated version of this same ideal going on as Colie struggles to inhabit her post-weight-loss body.)

For girls, it so often dovetails with the other obvious moral “truth” of YA media: that girls who care too much about their looks are vain, but girls who are good are naturally beautiful. We see this intersection in books like Fat Cat by Robin Brande, where Cat’s paleo-esque diet is motivated by science and vague notions of health; becoming thin and popular and loved happens as a side effect.

We see it in middle-grade books like Shelley Sackier’s Dear Opl, where weight is an indicator of mental health, and both are throughly rolled in with physical health.

We see it in Jen Larsen’s Future Perfect. Ashley gets non-specified weight-loss surgery because her grandmother bribes her to–she’s too good to care about her appearance, but the pursuit of her education comes with a magical opportunity to stop being fat.

And speaking of magical opportunities, my thirteen-year-old self read a paperback series book called Stranger in the Mirror about a gajillion times; its main character wishes on a magical meteorite that she can be as thin and beautiful as her sister, whose boyfriend she’s in love with. Instead of magical insta-weight loss, she wakes up with a sudden love of running, and the sense of self-discipline she gains from running wins her a romantic interest. (Stranger in the Mirror was co-written by Cherie Bennett; you may remember Bennett’s Life in the Fat Lane, about a beauty queen who has a metabolic disorder that causes her to gain weight for exactly as long as it takes to learn a Serious Moral Lesson about appearance, at which point she’s able to start losing it all again.)

Maybe it’s just a little thing. Maybe you feel like this book that uses a character’s weight to mirror their moral development is different, or is a subversion, or really deserves it. And this is somewhere that I think deeply about Karen’s recent post about the way trope-weary adults read books, versus teens who don’t have decades of mimetic knowledge piled on their shoulders. When I was thirteen, these books didn’t make me angry. They filled me with hope, with the false knowledge that once I grew up and learned to love myself and so forth, my body would change into something worthwhile.

(There’s a whole ‘nother essay here about how deeply Protestant-work-ethic-y this all is, but I’ll save it.)

For today, all I want you to come away with is this: the Fantasy of Being Thin is not neutral, even though it feels as natural as breathing to everyone who’s known since preschool that fat = bad. We need other narratives around fat bodies. (Yes, I love Gabi: A Girl in Pieces and This One Summer and that other book that’s on the tip of your tongue, but we need more.)

Meet Our Guest Blogger

Katelyn Browne is the Youth Services Librarian at the University of Northern Iowa. She is also currently a member of the Amelia Bloomer Project and curates the Feminist Task Force’s Women of Library History project. You can find Katelyn on Twitter at @brownekr.

Sunday Reflections: My Favorite MakerSpace Moments (So Far)

Our Teen MakerSpace is in full swing now at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (Ohio). We have hired and trained two MakerSpace Assistants, who it turns out are incredibly awesome. And every day we have anywhere from 10 or more teens come into the space. Word of mouth is definitely spreading as we have a couple of new people every day it seems and usually they come because their friend told them they could make buttons. Our button makers have a tremendous draw. They come for the buttons, but they usually stay for more.

Today I thought I would share two of my favorite MakerSpace moments from last week.

Impromptu Chainmail

My assistant director, Mary, does chain mail jewelry. She happened to be in the space with the assistants and I when she mentioned this and the teens were intrigued. And she just happened to have a case of her supplies up in her office, so she went and grabbed it and we had an impromptu chain mail lesson. The teens were incredibly impressed and everyone walked out with a bracelet made by Mary.


It was particularly interesting because just the other day Mary made the comment that in her experience boys were not as interested in making bracelets. And yet it was boys who were most fascinated in the chain mail bracelets, which defied her expectations. In fact, we were all surprised by how willing everyone was to drop what they were doing, how fascinated they were – I think we all learned something about being willing to let go of our expectations and be open to just doing and seeing what happens.

We have also been working on trying out some photo printing on Shrinky Dink jewelry (more about this in an upcoming post). So I happened to have a couple of Shrinky Dink photo charms available. So my bracelet ended up looking like this:


Mary made the bracelet, The Mr. drew the picture, and I mixed it with an abstract background using a photo app. It’s my favorite bracelet. And, it is a reminder to all of us that not every moment has to be planned. Sometimes the greatest interactions occur when you least expect if you keep yourself open to them.

The Lego Murder Mystery

A couple of days later, one of our regulars decided she wanted to learn how to make a stop motion animation movie. I was blown away by her end product.

You’ll notice her incredible patience and attention to detail. In particular, please observe how she cut out a piece of scrapbook paper to use as a rug to wrap the dead body in. This detail is important because of what happens next.


Soon after she was done, her father walked in to pick her up. “Do you want to see my muder?”, she enthusiastically yells out to him. And then she plays the video. He watches. And then he says, with a completely straight face, “I’m so disappointed in you . . . you know you’re supposed to use vinyl sheeting.”

I died laughing. This is one of the best parent/teen interactions I have ever seen.

On Makers and Takers

Spending time with my teens in the Teen MakerSpace has me thinking a lot about access and opportunity. It came up earlier this week when I was promoting the Teen MakerSpace on the local radio station. And I reflected on it some more when I read Paul Ryan’s apology about the way he characterized the poor. You see, he has been known to say that there are makers and takers in this world, and the poor are takers. This is a popular rhetoric. But I can’t help but think about how you can’t be a maker if you don’t have anything to make with.

We’ve been watching our teens become makers; exploring things they might never have had the chance to explore. That teen that made the stop motion animation movie above – I was blown away by her final product. She has some real talent. She came up with a solid story. She paid attention to details and engaged in some creative problem solving to create the elements she needed to tell her story. She may never become a movie producer, but she practiced skills that will help her in any aspect of life.

It may not be a big program with thousands of attendees giving us stats that look good in an annual report, but these moments make it all worth it because we are watching teens succeed and celebrating their success.

Friday Finds: March 25, 2016

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: That’s Me in the Corner, Losing My Confidence (as a Reviewer)

Middle School (Is a Battlefield) Monday: Guest post by Anna Staniszewski

One Book, Two Radically Different Opinions: An experiment in reading

Book Review: The Way I Used To Be by Amber Smith

Book Review: Sea Change by Frank Viva

Video Games Weekly: Pikman 3

#FSYALit: There You’ll Find Me, a guest post by Dahlia Adler

View from Behind the Lens: It’s a Wrap! a guest post by Lynette Pitrak

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