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Sunday Reflections: Teens Don’t Read Anymore

Teens don’t read anymore.

Anyhow, that’s what I keep hearing.

And then . . .

Yesterday, I took my teenage daughter and her friend to the North Texas Teen Book Festival in Irving, Texas. On a Saturday. That began at 8:00 A.M. If you know anything about teens, you know that the day and hour matter. Truly.


We were a small group of 3 in a sea of what I hear was over 7,000 people waiting to meet authors and talk about books. When I went outside to eat lunch around Noon there was still a long line of buses pulling up and letting off large groups of teens and their adult chaperones for the festival.


When I went into the book selling area there were hoards of teens carrying around baskets full of books that they were buying.


As I sat in sessions where teens asked intelligent questions about books that they had obviously read, others were being introduced to new books by new authors, taking notes about what they wanted to read next.


I think I won’t be too worried about the demise of teens, because I just spent 8 hours on a Saturday that began early in the morning with thousand of teens who swarmed to meet authors of books they loved in matching book club t-shirts and listened to them ask intelligent questions about books they had not only read but loved and were eager to discuss.

But teens don’t read anymore. Libraries are dying. Nobody reads physical books because they all use e-readers.

Or maybe not.

Friday Finds: April 22, 2016

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: They Don’t Care About Your Test Scores, They Are Just Trying to Survive

Middle School Monday: Django Wexler guest post

Book Review: The Awakening of Sunshine Girl by Paige McKenzie, reviewed by teen reviewer Lexi

#MHYALit: Shattered Illusions: Growing up with a Bipolar Father, a guest post by Kim Baccellia

Book Review: Original Fake by Kirstin Cronn-Mills with art by E. Eero Johnson

Video Games Weekly: Miitomo

#FSYALit: A Recap of the Discussion on Faith and Spirituality in YA Lit, presented by Karen Jensen and Ally Watkins at TLA 2016

Around the Web

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Want to win an ARC of Two Summers by Aimee Friedman? Leave comment below – one winner will be picked next Friday.


Book Review: Pride: Celebrating Diversity & Community by Robin Stevenson

Publisher’s description

PRIDEFor 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?




Amanda’s thoughts

First of all, let’s talk age groups. This is a great primer for kids ages 9-12. I plan to pass it along to my 4th grade son, whose favorite book is GEORGE by Alex Gino. Teens will certainly learn a lot from this book (as would adults looking for a quick crash course in LGBTQ issues), but I’d say its intended audience is more the middle school set.


This is a visually appealing, quick, and thorough look at Pride parades and celebrations, how they came to be, and what they celebrate. Stevenson covers large pieces of history and movements in accessible ways, often throwing in her own personal stories, which lend themselves to a conversational tone. The pages are covered in large, vibrant, fantastic pictures from celebrations, parades, and marches from all over the world. Pull-out quotes, smaller pictures on the sides, and text boxes with Queer Facts adorn the pages, providing extra information and helping break up the longer sections of information.


Stevenson looks at the history of discrimination, abuse, laws, resistance, fighting back, organizations (like The Mattachine Society and Daughters of Bilitis), demonstrations for basic civil rights, and the Lavender Scare of the 50s and 60s. She highlights activists, looks at changing policy and attitudes, covers the Stonewall Riot, and looks at the new groups, rallies, and marches that grew from that. She also often notes the sexism, racism, and classism within the movement and the additional discrimination and struggle many groups faced. She examines the roles of youths in various movements and looks at high school-based activism. Other chapters look at the rise of Queer Nation, marriage equality, PFLAG, community and subgroups within the community, coming out, acronyms, and pronouns. Short sections detail stories of teens coming out, trans kid, and LGBTQ families. As the title promises, Stevenson looks at Pride parades, the politics of Pride, intersectional activism and considerations, and symbols commonly seen at Pride. She includes sections here on drag queens and kings, dyke marches, trans marches, and alternative pride marches. Finally, she looks at rights, activism, and pride all around the world, covering many countries. A glossary, resources, and an index round out this title.


As you can see, Stevenson covers a lot of ground in this book. She gives just enough information to explain the significance of an event or idea without bogging young readers down with too much information. Is there a lot more to say about every single subject covered here? Of course. But this book is an excellent resource for the younger set. It gives a quick but thorough look at LGBTQ history (mainly in North America) from the 1950s on and really does focus on the activism, community, and celebration of not just Pride but the LGBTQ movement as a whole. This book is an excellent and necessary addition for all collections. Buy Stevenson’s book and pair it with Gay & Lesbian History for Kids by Jerome Pohlen, which is great for the 12 and up crew. 


Review copy courtesy of the author and publisher

ISBN-13: 9781459809932

Publisher: Orca Book Publishers

Publication date: 04/19/2016


#MHYALit: How to Manage, reflections on anxiety by Ally Watkins

Today for #MHYALit co-coordinator Ally Watkins shares some personal reflections.

You can read all the #MHYALit posts here.


I’m one of the organizers of this project, though you may not know it. Karen has been writing about her experiences since January. Amanda has been knocking out amazing book reviews. But I’ve found it harder to talk about this issue because it’s so close to me.

My mental health is in a lot of ways, deeply private. There’s stigma and misunderstanding wrapped up into it, and I never know how people are going to react, so I tend to keep it pretty close until I know how it’s going to be received. It’s a chronic illness. I’ll always have it, and explaining that over and over again can be exhausting. Some days it’s easy to talk about, and some days I never want to talk about it again. But I I’m ready now.

I’m Ally and I live with severe anxiety.

“There is difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder,” Laura Turner writes in this great essay, and it’s true. I find a hard time putting words to the difference between feelings of anxiety and what I experience. What is true is that I have three anxiety disorders and I have at least two secondary depressive disorders.

My anxiety is managed by medication and therapy. Managed is an important word. Because here’s the thing no one wants to talk about: I’m never going to be cured of my mental illnesses. It’s a hard truth. And it’s a grief process of sorts–coming to terms with the fact that the life that I want, a life free from mental illness, isn’t possible.

And it’s an even harder truth, at times, for other people than for me. I live in my head and I mostly understand my reality. Others don’t have that luxury and they are faced with my illnesses afresh and repeatedly. I have incredibly supportive family and friends, and in their great love and affection for me, they don’t like to see me suffer. So while they would never tell me to buck up and get over it, it’s still tough for them to watch me struggle. And for those of them less familiar with mental illness, it’s hard for them to understand that despite my strict adherence to my medication and therapy regime, you can’t medicate out every symptom. There are some things you just have to work through or grit your teeth and bear. My behavior to them may seem erratic or hostile when I’m in survival mode. So it’s hard for me, and it’s hard for the people in my life to watch. My mental illness makes me more difficult to love. And that is not easy an easy thing to know.

I’ve had two relationships fall apart due to my mental health. One because the other person couldn’t bear the strain that my symptoms were putting on our friendship. And one because the steps that I need to take to protect myself from own brain weren’t compatible with the other person’s needs. These things deeply hurt and I grieved the loss of both of these friendships. But also: I understand. My needs are no more important than anyone else’s. But one of the things that I’ve also had to learn is that my needs are no LESS important than anyone else’s. My very best friend in the world has her own mental health struggles and she understands. We have our own language surrounding symptoms and attacks and episodes. I know what words to say to her to make her understand that my days are bleak and shrunk down with fear. I know what text to send when I’m tunneled so deeply into panic that I can barely move. She knows what to ask to find out if my brain is destroying itself. The comfort I take from her support is immeasurable. I’ve surrounded myself by an immediate group of friends who push me to take care of myself and that’s the best support system I could ever ask for.

My therapist says I’m really good at self-care. Self-care, to me, is an ongoing process of small decisions. It’s knowing that I can’t handle that party because of my social anxiety. It’s having my own car so I can escape when the panic attack comes. It’s spending weekends hibernating in my bedroom, banking quiet and peace and rest. It’s deciding which phone calls to take and which texts and emails to answer after work. If it sounds like my life is small, that’s because it is. Anxiety shrinks my world. Terror is very draining. But seven years into my diagnosis, I’ve learned what I have to do to live my life. I can go to a conference and see my friends if I understand that I’ll crash into letdown anxiety for several days when I get back. I can have a fun weekend with friends or family if I’m willing to explain to them why I can attend this one event only if I conserve my energy by skipping another. Spontaneity is nearly impossible for me. I have contingency plans for sudden attacks. I carry chocolate and Xanax with me. I worry about worry. I monitor and check myself constantly. And sometimes it all exhausts me. But it’s my life. And the alternative is much worse.

I was diagnosed when I was 22, though my symptoms started manifesting as early as 5th grade. My mom tried to get me help when I was a teen, but I was a punk kid with anxiety so I refused, despite her best efforts. When I was diagnosed, I began to cling to stories of  teens and young adults that were like me, whose adolescences were also plagued by anxiety and sadness and fear. My relationship with books, always a strong one, shifted. I searched for characters like me, that had lived my experiences, that understood. I desperately wanted to see myself on the page.

I found Jade in THE NATURE OF JADE by Deb Caletti, who panicked like I did, and who had a name for it, besides “those times in the bathroom between classes i cried for no reason and couldn’t breathe.”

And I found Megan in MIRACLE by Elisabeth Scott–her symptoms and problems were different, but I understood how she could have felt so deeply alone when everyone around her was saying she should be fine and glad to be alive.

And I found Kiri in WILD AWAKE by Hilary T. Smith, who is spiraling out of control before her very eyes, a feeling I am so familiar with.

And I found sweet Finley in SOME KIND OF HAPPINESS by Claire Legrand, whose childhood feelings and inner life so mirrored mine.

And I found Briony in CHIME by Franny Billingsley, who is learning to tread new paths.

And I felt a little less alone. A little less like a broken freak.

And I want that so desperately for the kids we serve. Don’t you?

#FSYALit: A Recap of the Discussion on Faith and Spirituality in YA Lit, presented by Karen Jensen and Ally Watkins at TLA 2016

Tuesday, April 19th, Ally Watkins and I presented an overview of the #FSYALit discussion (which is ongoing) at the TLA Annual Conference in Houston, Texas. Here are the slides we discussed.

And here are some of our notes:




  • We are white christian women, our voices are very much the least important in this conversation
  • We did speak to titles that spoke to our experiences, but we worked really hard not to have conversations about books that didn’t
  • We sought out guest posters that were part of these religious experiences
  • This project wasn’t about debate IN ANY WAY. One of the things Karen said stuck with me: in discussions about religion, it’s hard not to feel that you’re coming from the right place. This isn’t about what we think or feel.


  • The hub is on the front page of TLT under “projects”


  • Here are the parameters of the projecct


  • Faith and spirituality are two different things, though they are not mutually exclusive.
  • This intersection shown here is what many people think of with regards to their own faith and spirituality.


  • Bryan Bliss wrote NO PARKING AT THE END TIMES, and also did a guest post for us, including comments from his agent Michael Bouret and his editor Martha Mihalick. He talks about the importance of honesty in YA lit, and that includes the inclusion of the faith lives of teens.


  • These statistics only serve to illustrate the importance of this project: if 60% of teens are engaging in some sort of religious activity on a weekly basis, our collections need to reflect their realities.


  • As such, we have to understand that the religious activities of the teens are as varied and diverse as the teens themselves.


  • Some more facts and statistics. While millennials and younger adults may be leaving religion, teens aren’t millennials. Faith is part of many teens’ lives.


  • Obviously, juvenile books are OVERWHELMINGLY focused on Christianity. This is starting to change, but what this means is that we have to be careful in collection development not just to pick up what’s easiest or most readily available. We have to be thoughtful and intentional in picking out books that reflect our community and showcase different beliefs and belief systems.


  • TLT’s own Amanda MacGregor reviewed WHAT IF I’M AN ATHEIST for us and that review can be found on the hub. This is an informational NF book packed with statistics, what-if questions. Easily readable and quick, Amanda said such a book would have made her feel less alone as an atheistic teenager.


  • As neither of us are Buddhist, and we didn’t ever get any Buddhist guest posters, I don’t particularly feel comfortable endorsing any books. These are a couple that have Buddhism as a part of the story, and one that doesn’t.


  • We had a guest post on Catholicism by Katie Behrens and she mentioned the books listed. You can find her book on our hub
  • Boxers and Saints is Gene Luen Yang’s look at the Boxer Rebellion told through two eyes: Little Bao, a Boxer and worshipper of Chinese gods, and Vibiana, a Chinese girl who has found friendship and faith in Christianity.
  • The Opposite of Hallelujah is one of my favorite books on faith. It’s about a teenage girl, Caro, whose sister Hannah is coming home after years of living in a convent. Caro barely remembers her and is unsettled by her presence in her life again. This one is a quiet read about grief, faith, life, and includes a beautiful transfer student, a science-nerd priest who admits he doesn’t have all the answers, and a family who’s just trying to hold it together.


  • Karen and I both write at length about THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND, a story about a girl feeling ostracized from her youth group after an unnamed event that happened sometime in the past. But when she goes on a wilderness trip and gets lost with two other friends, she has to find out what she’s really made of. This one speaks a LOT about church culture, power dymanics, and a lot of other important things.
  • We also talked about CONVICTION, which was a Morris Award finalist. Conviction is Braden, whose father has been accused of a terrible crime. Throughout the book, in the present and in flashbacks, we watch Braden wrestle with what the truth is and what his responsibility is to it.
  • Author Melissa C Walker wrote a post for us about writing a faith (evangelical christianity) that wasn’t her own
  • Librarian Jen Leitch discussed PURITY by Jackson Pearce for us.
  • Librarian Katelyn Brown discussed how she connected with Miranda Keanally’s THINGS I CAN”T FORGET
  • Guest post: I Was a Sixteen Year-Old Jesus Freak (Just Not In the Way You Think) a guest post by Terra Elan McVoy.


  • Author Shveta Thakrar did a post for us about Hinduism in YA, illustrating several titles such as
  • Born Confused, a cross-cultural comedy about a Hindu girl who is appalled that her parents have arranged for her to meet a “suitable boy”…until she actually meets him.


  • We had a guest post about Muslim representation by the AMAZING Kaye…who is now writing her own book about a Muslim family! We are so excited for her
  • Marvel is a comic about a teenage Pakistani-American Muslim girl who gets coated in a weird chemical when she sneaks out one night…and suddenly has superpowers. She has to help people. It’s part of who she is, and that’s rooted in her culture and religious beliefs, also. So she becomes Ms. Marvel.
  • WRITTEN IN THE STARS is about a Muslim American teenager facing an arranged marriage that she doesn’t want: she’s fallen in love with someone else. But when her parents take her to visit Pakistan, she finds out that they want her to marry her arranged match…now!


  • The Jewish experience is just as a vast as any other religion and these books cover it really well
  • We had really interesting conversations with some Jewish friends about one particular title: LIKE NO OTHER: Devorah is a Hasidic good girl, never having challenged her upbringing. Until she meets Jaxon, a fun loving, completely non-Jewish boy. They get stuck in an elevator together during an emergency and suddenly start sneaking out to see one another. But how much are they willing to risk to be together? We’ll talk a little more about this in an upcoming slide.


  • We had a couple of different posts on different opinions on Mormonism. Sam Taylor wrote a post on Mormon representation, and she successfully booktalks all of the books shown here and a couple of more. Her post can be found on our hub!


  • Our friend librarian Maureen Eichner talks about the representation of Christian Orthodoxy in YA lit. This quote from her helps illustrate the importance of religious and spiritual representation in young adult lit.


  • We had an EXCELLENT post by scholar and former Printz committee member Robert Bittner about GLBTQ teens and religion. Teens aren’t just one thing at a time, and we need to remember to look for books that serve our GLBTQ teens that identify with a faith system.


  • You didn’t think the two of us weren’t going to talk about feminism, did you??
  • Post on Rae Carson’s books
  • Tessa Gratton’s post



  • Always err on the side of asking people of that faith! And if you don’t have a good answer, that’s ok! Talk to your teens about this. Ask them what they thought, if they were well-represented.


  • You have to take your own beliefs out of the equation. The two of us are both women that belong to one faith, but we serve patrons of all faiths. The entire community has to be represented, and our teens deserve to be exposed to faith and belief systems that aren’t otherwise familiar to them.


  • Here are some best practices


Video Games Weekly: Miitomo

If you follow me on Twitter, you have probably noticed that I’ve been playing through Tearaway Unfolded.  I read about it in a video game review, written by Regina Townsend on Teen Services Underground.  The game is awesome, but since it has been already well reviewed, I’m going to talk about a sort-of-but-not-quite video game this week.

tearaway unfolded

What is Miitomo?: In late March, Nintendo released a new freemium app called “Miitomo”.  It was marketed as a new “social media” platform from Nintendo, free to download on smart devices.  You can either create a new username or link your Nintendo ID to the app assuming you are a My Nintendo user.  As of April 12th, Miitomo supposedly has gained over 4 million users, but I’m not sure how long they will stick around.


Creating a Character: Nintendo is recycling their “Mii” characters, which have been around since the first Wii came out back in 2006. This is probably Nintendo’s way of streamlining their platform but it is quite annoying because it isn’t new and exciting. The only new feature they added is giving Mii’s a weird robotic voice.  Even then, the robotic voice feature was originally used in Tomodachi Life which came out in 2013!   Here’s an example of what my character looks like:

Miitomo 1

Adding Friends: Adding your friends is a huge pain. You cannot add friends by typing in their username, probably because you are encouraged to name your Mii with your first name.  Instead, you can add friends face to face, a QR code, or linking to your social media accounts.  The more friends you add, the more coins and game tickets you get (I’ll explain what coins are in a minute). The crux of doing anything in Miitomo is having friends, and the game is incredibly boring without them!

The “social part”: Every day you are asked a question, and can respond with up to 190 characters.  Some people use all 190 characters, or you have people like me that answer with a few words.  You can get a certain amount of coins per day for answering questions.

Miitomo 2

Once you add friends, you can see their answers to random questions.  You can “visit” friends in their house to listen to their answers, but it’s not live (meaning both players do not have to be logged in at the same time).  These questions are smalltalk-esque like “What is your favorite food?” or “What is a good movie you have seen recently?”.  You can like, comment, and choose to answer the same question.  If you want to view more of your friends’ answers, you can choose to give them candy.

Miifoto: In my opinion, Miifoto is really annoying.  Every time you log in, change your outfit, or do practically anything, Miitomo will take what is called a Miifoto.  Basically, it’s your Mii having a crazy expression with different backgrounds.  You can create a Miifoto with your friends in it, and post it for your friends to like and comment.

Miitomo 3

Miitomo Shop: Nintendo has to monetize Miitomo somehow, and the answer is the Miitomo Shop.  In the shop, you can use coins that you have accumulated from answering questions to get new outfits.  You can buy shirts, pants, shoes, and accessories.  Of course, if you see an item that is limited edition or one that you want right now, you can opt to use real money to purchase coins.

Miitomo 4

Miitomo Drop: This is a different way to get new limited edition clothing.  Miitomo Drop is a minigame that is pretty self explanatory. You take a Mii, and you try to drop it on the item you want. It’s kind of like Plinko meets pinball.  You can use game tickets or coins per drop.  There isn’t really any strategy to Miitomo Drop other than pure hope that you get that kitten sweater.

Miitomo 5

Connection to My Nintendo: I believe the biggest appeal to Miitomo is if you do things like change your outfit every day, answer questions, etc. you get My Nintendo rewards points. This is a separate reward system where players can redeem points for coupons, free Nintendo games downloads, etc.  The catch is there are different tiers for points, so the points you accumulate on Miitomo will not get you a brand new game for free.  Still, it’s something right?

Miitomo 6

Will it stay popular? I’m not sure.  On one hand, this is Nintendo’s breakthrough app on the mobile market, so that within itself is revolutionary.  On the other hand, Miitomo isn’t really that engaging either as a mobile game or a social media platform.  Sure, your friends can give hilarious answers to questions, but it gets really repetitive.  I classify Miitomo has a “bathroom game”, meaning it’s an app you can quickly use to entertain yourself while you’re on the toilet.  I think Miitomo will have to quickly add new mini games or new elements in order for users to keep coming back or stay longer than 2 minutes.

I also asked my teens if any of them were on Miitomo, and none of them were. They told me it looked pointless, and many of them have never heard of it. I’m not surprised, because the people who will use Miitomo to get My Nintendo points are the kinds of people who are buying their own video games (aka grownups).  I can see Miitomo being really fun for younger kids, but Miitomo has an age limit of 13+.  Besides, teens are already on countless social media platforms that are less niche, so Miitomo is really going to have to step up the game in order to get teens on board.

Questions? Comments? Tweet them at me!

By: Alanna Graves
Twitter: @LannaLibrarian

Book Review: Original Fake by Kirstin Cronn-Mills with art by E. Eero Johnson

Thanks to Penguin generously donating some ARCs for Kirstin’s recent visit to my library, I have two extra to raffle off. You can enter via the Rafflecopter, by (re)tweeting this review, or by following me on Twitter (@CiteSomething). Contest runs 4/19 to 4/21. US entries only, please. 

Publisher’s description

original fakeIn this Banksy-inspired illustrated novel, an escalating sibling rivalry train wrecks and vengeance is a street-art act of war.

Introvert Frankie Neumann hates his life, and understandably so. He’s got a weird, tutu-wearing sister, Lou, and even weirder parents, Bridget and Brett—Frank Sinatra and Dr. Frank-N-Furter impersonators, respectively. And, he’s just the guy who makes pizza at Pizza Vendetta. Though he has secret artistic aspirations of his own, his over-the-top family makes him want to stay in the background. But Frankie’s life is about to change—becoming way more interesting, even a little dangerous, but definitely cool.

After his shift at the pizzeria one night, Frankie meets David and Rory, cousins and errand runners for the mysterious Uncle Epic, a legendary anonymous street artist and Frankie’s absolute idol. Little could Frankie dream that his new adventures with Uncle Epic would lead to the perfect opportunity to strike back at his insufferable sister for a lifetime of torture. But things go haywire quicker than you can say “street art kicks righteous ass,” and the lines are suddenly blurred between art and Frankie’s real life.


Amanda’s thoughts

In summer 2014, Kirstin came to my library to do an author talk. She mentioned that she was working on this book and I was instantly intrigued. Then, in summer 2015, we did a cover reveal for this book right here at TLT. Getting a peek at the art made me even more intrigued. I always like everything Kirstin does and this book was no exception. ORIGINAL FAKE is smart, weird, funny, and, well, original.


Introvert Frankie feels like he doesn’t fit in with his family. His mother is a Frank Sinatra impersonator and his father is a fill-in Frank-N-Furter at Rocky Horror shows. Their singing-dancing-acting genes got passed along to Frankie’s younger sister, Lou, who hangs with the drama kids and appears to be everything their parents could have ever wanted. In fact, when she was a baby, Frankie overheard his parents saying that the constellation of freckles in the shape of an F mean Lou’s the real deal—they should’ve saved the name Frankie for her. Frankie’s resentment of Lou’s status as favorite child has been brewing for years. In fact, he’d like to “push her off a cliff into the ocean.” Because of her, he hasn’t shown anyone his own art for a long time. Frankie, who sees himself as just average, works on his art in secret in a mostly forgotten room of their large house.


Frankie’s hero is Uncle Epic, a street artist from the Minneapolis area. He can’t believe the wild twists and turns his life takes on when he’s swept up in Uncle Epic’s world when he’s befriended by cousins Rory and David, whose actual uncle is Uncle Epic. “Cool stuff never happens to me,” Frankie thinks. Before long he’s part of Epic’s street team, helping prepare and install art pieces all around the city. That’s pretty cool, and just as cool is the fact that Frankie finally feels like he has friends. Rory is the prettiest girl in Frankie’s grade, with a reputation for using boys then breaking their hearts—naturally he has a crush on her. David is a skirt-wearing gay kid with a quick sense of humor and a creative streak a mile wide. Frankie’s experience with Epic’s art projects combine with his resentment of Lou to fuel his own public art projects—ones whose purpose is both humor and revenge—which end up giving him more attention than he could have expected. Suddenly, Frankie’s helping Rory yarn bomb, helping Epic with his art, drawing attention (under a pseudonym) for his own weird public art, and trying to stay off the police’s radar. Though he keeps landing in hot water with his parents, as he sneaks out night after night, it’s all worth it to Frankie, who finally feels like he has something that’s his.


I absolutely adored this book. As a character-driven reader, I was delighted by how fantastic and unique Frankie, David, Lou, their parents, and really everyone was. There is a lot to talk about here about art, gender, and families. And let’s talk about the illustrations for a minute. If you check out the cover reveal post we did, you can peek at more of the art than just what you see on the cover. Using oranges, black, and white, Johnson’s illustrations greatly add to the story and at times take over the telling of the story. It would have been a shame to have this brilliant book all about art not have illustrations showing us that art. Frankie, Lou, and David’s adventures really come to life thanks to the combined skills of the writer and the illustrator. ORIGINAL FAKE stands out in every way—great characters, great writing, great art. Give this to art-loving, oddball, slightly subversive readers who appreciate a good caper. 


Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780399173264

Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group

Publication date: 04/19/2016

#MHYALit: Shattered Illusions: Growing up with a Bipolar Father, a guest post by Kim Baccellia

MHYALitlogoofficfial“What’s wrong with Dad?”

No one spoke out loud about my father’s strange behavior, but I knew something wasn’t quite right with him.  My question would be answered with either silence or in a lowered voice, “We don’t discuss that.”


There were days he’d be like a helium balloon, filled with so much air and energy that I swear he’d be floating.  When Dad drank?  He was that funny drunk.  He’d tell these hilarious stories that would have me and my sisters laughing.  Dad could be very charming.  He was very impulsive. He loved animals and Grandma Baccellia once shared how he brought home an injured bird, asking her to help it.


Then there was the other side.  The nights he’d scream for the demons to leave him alone while he’d slam his fist into the drywall.  Our walls resembled Swiss cheese.  He’d stay in his darkened room for days.  My older half-sister told me that she remembered him taking his rifle and shooting out the windows of their house.  Police were called but nothing much came out of it.  When he was down?  He’d put his .57 Magnum to his head and threatened to kill himself.  Even now I can hear that click of his gun.


Other times he’d sleep forever.  There were more than a few times, he wouldn’t pick Mom and us up at the supermarket.  We’d walk home with the grocery cart loaded with groceries.  When we got home?  Dad would be asleep on the couch.


I was embarrassed and didn’t invite anyone over to visit.  You never knew when he’d go off on someone.  Even going to church came with conditions.  Dad didn’t like us going to the local Mormon church. Since Mom refused to drive, we walked everywhere and that included to church.  I still remember him following us in his truck, threatening to shoot and kill the bishop if we continued to the church.  Mom rounded us up and we went back home.


Fear ruled our lives.  It became a way of life and became my master.  I was on hyper alert 24/7 as I never knew what would set Dad off on one of those moods.  It was best to stay out of his way.


I also remember how isolated I felt.  Who could I talk to about what was going on in our home?  I was told that if we said anything?  Social services would come and take us away.  Or we’d end up on the street.  To this day homelessness is still my biggest fear.


What makes this all so tragic is Dad refused help.  I remember him saying, “I’m not crazy.”  The times that he did self-medicate with alcohol did help but even that was frowned on.  Yes, as a teen I purchased his favorite Yukon Jack whiskey.  That was until a bishop told me, “Good Mormon girls don’t buy alcohol.”


When I confided in a close friend?  The next day at the middle school I attended, she informed me that her father said, “No good Mormon girl said such terrible things about her own father.”  She wasn’t to hang with me anymore.  To make matters worse?  She introduced me to her new best friend. Yes, I was that girl who ate in the bathroom stall.


Once again I was the ‘bad’ one for trying to help make an unbearable situation lighter.


After Dad’s death, I asked my mother if he was bipolar.  I took an abnormal psychology class in college that nailed what I’d witnessed in my father’s behavior growing up.  She told me that yes, he was.  With that information, I went to my doctor and read up on this mental illness.  Knowledge is power.  I even attended a mental illness symposium that was held during BYU’s Education Week.  They ended up having to turn people away. Listening to the speaker, I was propelled to share my own story.  Afterwards, more than a few people came up to me and said, “I was your father.  That was me.”


Now I believe it’s important to speak out and not to be afraid.  That’s the only way the stigma against mental illness will lessen.  It’ll also help others to go get help and not end up like my father.


I need to make a disclaimer that not all of those who have bipolar disorder have similar situations.  Each experience is different.  One thing I do want to stress is that bipolar people aren’t all violent.  In my family case though, Dad experienced violence growing up.  Uncle Bud, who also was bipolar, was very violent.  One family member shared that my uncle would throw hammers whenever he was angry. So chances are good that others who witnessed similar violence in their lives might also respond the same way.  An example is my older half-brother who shot out the windows of his mother’s house which was very similar to what Dad did.


I wished that Dad had gotten help or that someone had stepped up and admitted him to the hospital. At that time though, the prevalent thinking was it was best to stay out of other’s lives as that was their ‘business.’ We did try to get him help but I learned that you can’t help someone unless they admit they need that help.


At the end of his life, Dad probably suffered another psychotic break.  He refused to bathe as he felt the government poisoned the water.  Mom told me he said that he was so angry at everything.  They found him dead in front of a restaurant in his Blazer truck with his Boxer dog.


How I wished that there had books for teens that addressed this mental issue.  Maybe then I wouldn’t have felt so alone and to blame.


I’ve been researching more on bipolar disorder and looking for YA books that handle this subject.  Here’s a list of ten books that I felt were authentic and resonated with me.


When we collidedWhen We Collided by Emory Lord

I could totally relate with the descriptions of Vivi’s mania as my older half-brother Ricky used similar descriptions. Lord nails the ups and downs of manic depression.



crazyCrazy by Amy Reed

A very realistic portrayal of a teen with bipolar disorder and a relationship that is at times loving and destructive.



impulseImpulse by Ellen Hopkins

Ellen Hopkins isn’t afraid to tackle sensitive subjects.  One reason why I love her writing so much.  In Impulse, readers visit a psych ward where one of the teens battles her bipolar disorder.



This is howThis is How I Find Her by Sara Polsky

What I love about this novel is how Polsky nails the emotional struggles of a teen with her bipolar mother.  A lot of these emotions I could totally relate with.



Mind gamesMind Race by Patrick E. Jamieson

This is more of a memoir of a teen’s experience dealing with bipolar disorder.  A must read for those who want to educate themselves on this mental issue.



The UnquietThe Unquiet by Jeannie Garsee

A must read for paranormal fans that shows bipolar disorder in a realistic light.



PerksThe Perks of being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Loved this coming of age story where bipolar disorder isn’t shown in the usual stereotypical matter.



bleeding violetBleeding Violet by Dia Reeves

Love how Reeves shows a strong bipolar protagonist in this paranormal thriller.



The rules of survivalThe Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin

This one really stuck a nerve as my father was also that violent, abusive bipolar. You never knew what to expect in our house. But once again, I have to stress that my experience might not be someone else’s.



the impossible knifeThe Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

This book isn’t about bipolar disorder but shows a very realistic view of a teen that struggles with her father that suffers from PTSD.  Many times I wondered if Dad also had this going on too especially after I found he’d been abused as a child. Haunting and powerful, it resonated with me.



Meet Kim Baccellia

KIMI’m a YA author, Staff reviewer for YA Books Central, and a homeschooling mom.  I’ve been a part of the Cybils-Children’s and Young Adult Blogger’s Literary Awards and I’m very passionate about diversity in YA/children literature.  I graduated from BYU with a degree in elementary education and also attended CSU Fullerton grad program in bilingual/bicultural education.  I love parrots, yoga, poetry, Jaime from the Outlander series, and anything Parisian.  I’m a total bookaholic. A good place to find me is either at the local Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf with a nommy iced tea latte or a Barnes & Noble where I’ll be perusing the YA section.

Book Review: The Awakening of Sunshine Girl by Paige McKenzie, reviewed by teen reviewer Lexi

awakeningofsunshubegurkPublisher’s Book Description

Having passed her test in Book One, Sunshine’s Luiseach powers are now fully awakened: for months now, Sunshine has felt spirits everywhere: heard voices, felt emotions – intense and sometimes overwhelming. She tries to ignore them, but it is impossible. Hoping to get her powers under control – and hoping for answers to her never-ending questions – she agrees to undergo training with her Luiseach mentor, even though she still hopes to give up her powers someday.

She and her mentor clash left and right; he doesn’t understand or approve of her attachment to the humans in her life; and she can’t understand how he could give her up so many years ago, only to endanger her mother’s life as part of a test.

Sunshine’s training is every bit as terrifying and creepy as her test was, and along the way she meets and befriends another young Luiseach, forcing her to confront her feelings for Nolan. Though her mentor is reluctant to answer her many questions, she finally learns more about her lineage, as well as the rift that threatens the future of Luiseach and the human race… and the crucial part she has to play in repairing it. (Published March 1, 2016)

Lexi’s Thoughts

Saving the world is the greater good. Maybe it’s the greatest good there is.”

Sunshine has found her destiny. A destiny that separates her from everyone else, making her unique and different. A destiny that could lead her to a sacrifice of everyone she loves.But it is her decision on if sacrificing herself is for ‘the greatest good there is’.

The book starts off with yet another ominous third party person whose identity is obscured from the reader, but whose ideas are very clear.

“Sixteen years to plan it.

Sixteen years to envision it.

Sixteen years to steel myself for the task that’s fallen at my feet.

I’m ready to eliminate her. I just have to find her first.”

Much like the first book, this sequel captures the reader with not only the point of view of young, quirky Sunshine Griffith but with also the mysterious man who watches her. However, unlike the first book this mysterious man isn’t as friendly as the man in the first one.

Between becoming a trained Luiseach, an ancient race who protect humans from the demons who set out to harm them, and juggling the truth of who she is and where she comes from, Sunshine finds herself in the middle of Mexico isolated from her family. Aidan, her biological father, teaches her everything she needs to know about fighting demons and helping ghosts. For Sunshine her life has taken a turn from the ordinary Texas girl who shops at vintage stores and who over uses the word ‘creepy’. She is now taking a journey to becoming a full fledged fighter of all things that go bump in the night. Alongside her love interest and protector, Nolan, her biological father, and a fellow Luiseach, Lucio, Sunshine will go through trials and obstacles in order to save the world.

The Awakening of Sunshine Girl is a very decent sequel to The Haunting of Sunshine Girl. Aside from the constant need for the main character to emphasize how different she is and from the monotonous voice of the writing. The book seems better than the first.

The writing is still a little mediocre compared to the usual taste of books i read but it doesn’t take away fully from the plot of the story. While reading these book i had an overwhelming urge to read R.L. Stines books because of how spooky this book is. I recommend it for anyone who likes quirky ghost stories that will leave you with a cliffhanger almost every time.

Middle School Monday: Django Wexler guest post





Today, author Django Wexler joins us to talk about some of his middle school experiences and how he would handle the challenges his main character faces:

From the point of view of my later life, two important things happened in middle school. The first was that I started playing D&D with a friend of mine. We played it in a very primitive way, by my current standards — we didn’t have “plot” or “adventures”, we just took turns picking monsters out of the Monster Manual and fighting them, and then gleefully rolling up treasure hordes to add to our characters. But it was the beginning of a hobby that led in more or less a straight line to the writing I do now. I started reading Dungeon magazine, which had pre-written modules with actual stories, and it wasn’t long before I was putting together my own stuff. Long before I ever thought about writing fiction, I was filling notebooks with maps, scenarios, monster statistics, and all the rest.

The second thing was that I got my first job, working at our local library. The actual work was pretty straightforward — although to this day I can alphabetize faster than most people! — but the important thing was that it got me to spend a lot more time in the library. I had always been a reader, but a very eclectic one, and often focusing on non-fiction. But I liked science fiction and fantasy, and our library had a pretty good collection. Working there gave me freedom to choose anything I wanted, without oversight or approval (since I could check things out myself!) and the result was that I tore into the adult SFF section and read essentially the whole thing. This was the beginning of my love of fiction in general and the SFF genre in particular, and I’ve never looked back.

As to tackling the challenges that Alice faces, that’s a tough one! I definitely put her through some hard times. I like to think I’d do all right — a lot of what she does is use logic and reason to figure out a way through her problem, which is a skill I’ve always valued. I think Alice is a lot tougher than I am, though. I’d have a hard time mustering the courage to keep going in the face of everything she’s up against!

I would, however, very much like a talking cat.

The Palace of Glass (the 3rd book in Django’s The Forbidden Library series) is available now. Here is a summary from the publisher:

For Alice, an apprentice Reader, able to read herself into books, danger threatens from inside the library as well as out. Having figured out the role her master and uncle, Geryon, played in her father’s disappearance, Alice turns to Ending—the mysterious, magical giant feline and guardian of Geryon’s library—for a spell to incapacitate Geryon. But, like all cats, Ending is adept at keeping secrets and Alice doesn’t know the whole story. Once she traps Geryon with Ending’s spell, there’s no one to stop the other Readers from sending their apprentices to pillage Geryon’s library. As Alice prepares to face an impending attack from the combined might of the Readers, she gathers what forces she can—the apprentices she once thought might be her friends, the magical creatures imprisoned in Geryon’s library—not knowing who, if anyone, she can trust.

Want to win the first 3 books in the series? Enter our Rafflecopter giveaway.