Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

TPIB: Photo Word Bookmarks (Or Instagram Photo Booth Strip Looking Bookmarks)

tb3Sometimes I learn about stuff at the library and go home and do it with my kids, but sometimes I do something at home and it turns out to be a great library/Teen MakerSpace activity. The Teen recently turned 14 and she wanted to have a taco birthday. It was very important to me that we have a taco themed birthday without having a Mexican Fiesta type birthday because this is not our culture and I didn’t want to appropriate it or do something that appeared to be mocking it. But The Teen, she does love tacos, so we had a taco themed birthday.

We ended up having a taco taste test where we drove around to various taco places and ranked their tacos. At the same time, our guests were invited to take pictures to spell out the word “taco” using architecture and every day objects which we would then turn into bookmarks.

The rules were this:

You had to appear in one and only one of the pictures.

You couldn’t use an actual letter, like from a sign.

Have fun, be creative.

If you are doing this in a library, you will want to set some additional parameters and perhaps a time limit.

Materials Needed

  • A photo device of some sort, like a smart phone or tablet
  • Printer
  • Clear contact paper
  • Scissors
  • Craft floss to make a tassel
  • PhotoShake app

This is a fun, quick and easy project to do. After you take the photos, it takes about 15 minutes to complete.

Making the Bookmarks

Participants then texted their pictures to me and I made them into bookmarks using the PhotoShake app. Since I have a bank of iPads in my Teen MakerSpace that each have this app downloaded, it’s easy for us to have the teens email their pics to a generic email to download and make into bookmarks. After receiving the pictures and downloading them, I delete the emails immediately. You could also just use a hashtag and then download the pictures that way if you are worried about email.

Using the PhotoShake App to Make Your Word Photo


After opening your app, choose the Wide Photo option to make your bookmark.


At the next screen, you will choose the Horizontal option.


Select your photos under the Shake option. Then choose Edit. It will ask you if you want to Edit your photos manually, say yes. You can then put your photos into the correct order to spell your word. If you’re not familiar with this app, you’ll want to spend some time getting to know the various things you can do with it. For example, you can erase the borders if you wish. In addition, you can add filters, crop and more.

You will then save your photo, which is found under the Share option. You can then print your and cut your photo to size using your regular print options. Ours looked like this:


To make the bookmark more durable, we covered both sides in clear contact paper. We then punched a hole in it and added a tassel. Instructions on how to make a bookmark tassel can be found here.


In addition to spelling fun words like taco, we have also done names and nicknames.

Taking the pictures and seeing how everyone made the letters for their words was the funnest part of all.

As an alternative, you can use this same process to make Photo Booth Strip Bookmarks if you have a green screen or a photo booth in your library. Even if you don’t, it’s a fun and easy way to combine Instagram photos into a Photo Booth Strip Bookmark. You would simply choose the vertical option instead of the horizontal option for your layout.


Video Games Weekly: Ori and the Blind Forest

Ori and the Blind Forest is not necessarily a new game, but the Xbox One Definitive Edition of the game was just released this past June.  The game has won multiple awards since its initial release in 2014, and is such a good game that you can buy special editions of Xbox consoles with a bonus copy of this game.

YouTube Trailer:

Platform:  PC, Xbox One, and Xbox 360

Rated:  E

Single or Multiplayer: Single

Background:  Ori and the Blind Forest was created by Moon Studios, an indie game developer.  If you haven’t noticed a theme with Video Games Weekly, I tend to write about well done indie games that are available on mainstream consoles, because sometimes they can get overlooked.

Ori and the Blind Forest is marketed as a “Metroidvania” in an atmospheric world.  “Metroidvania” is a subgenre in the gaming community which refers back to the old Metroid and Castlevania video games. These games take place in a large universe that has a series of sections or portals that can be unlocked later in the game.  I don’t think the subgenre is limited to platform jumpers per se, but they are usually 2D scrolling games.

Storyline: HAVE TISSUES ON STANDBY WHEN YOU START THE GAME. The beginning to Ori and the Blind Forest is just like the Pixar movie Up where the storyline rips your heart out and crushes it to pieces in the opening montage of the game.  You have been warned.

Players control Ori, a glowing spirit entity who is the “light and eyes” of the Forest’s Spirit Tree.  Ori was lost to the Forest Spirit Tree when he fell during a storm, and he was adopted by a creature named Naru.  The world, however, turns to chaos and death when the Forest Spirit Tree is attacked.  It is now Ori’s quest to restore the light back to the Forest Spirit Tree.  Ori has to venture to three different areas of the forest: Waters, Wind, and Warmth, which can be unlocked at different stages in the game.  I know it doesn’t sound like the game is very large since you only have to unlock three areas, but each area is huge!  To get a sense as to how large the game is, here’s a sample map:

Controls:  I played Ori and the Blind Forest on Xbox One. The controls are standard for a platform jumper.  Ori can climb walls, jump, attack, etc. The more enemies you kill, the more abilities you can unlock to do even cooler moves like propel yourself into the air using fireballs.

Gameplay:  Ori is given a set number of specialized moves and “soul links”, and one of those special moves is saving the game.  This is complicated because players are always struggling to make a decision between: “Should I save my soul links up so I can beat future enemies?” or “Should I save the game now but have even less special moves?”.  There have been many times where I wanted to cry because I progressed relatively far into the game without saving, tragically perished, then had to do it all over again.

Image: http://static1.gamespot.com/uploads/original/416/4161502/2826046-2015030815050316.jpg

I also want to point out that the game’s art design is astonishingly gorgeous.  According to Moon Studios’ website, the creators wanted every frame to look like a painting even though it is a 2D game.  It’s hard to convey just how beautiful the art design is when looking at static pictures online, because the art pops out even more when you are moving Ori around on the platform. Also, the “Wind” area of the game is a nod to Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.

Image: http://www.develop-online.net/cimages/d18e4c80e58db75b9d193714798692b3.jpg

Finally, what I love about Ori and the Blind Forest is how it is one of the few platform jumpers that gives characters depth.  Think about it, do we know anything about Super Mario other than he has to save Princess Peach?  In comparison, Ori and the Blind Forest is a coming-of-age-story where Ori has to figure out his role in the universe and how to save Naru.

Image: http://3images.cgames.de/images/idgwpgsgp/bdb/2619780/617x.jpg

Audience: Anyone can enjoy Ori and the Blind Forest. It’s a difficult, fun platform jumper with a heavy and peaceful tone.  The only sad part is the game is created by Microsoft, so those who own a PS4 or Wii system will have to either play it on the computer or buy an Xbox.

Verdict: Highly recommend this purchase for library circulation collections.

Questions? Comments? Tweet them at me!

By: Alanna Graves
Twitter: @LannaLibrarian


Pricing $20  on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Ori-Blind-Forest-Definitive-Xbox-One/dp/B01EJNUMQ0/ref=sr_1_1?s=videogames&ie=UTF8&qid=1472326506&sr=1-1&keywords=ori+and+the+blind+forest

Book Review: Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown

Publisher’s description

georgiaJoanna meets the perfect girl for her and must decide whether to break a promise that could change everything for her and her family or lose out on love in this charming young adult romance that’s perfect for fans of Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’ and Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

Joanna Gordon has been out and proud for years, but when her popular radio evangelist father remarries and decides to move all three of them from Atlanta to the more conservative Rome, Georgia, he asks Jo to do the impossible: to lie low for the rest of her senior year. And Jo reluctantly agrees.

Although it is (mostly) much easier for Jo to fit in as a straight girl, things get complicated when she meets Mary Carlson, the oh-so-tempting sister of her new friend at school. But Jo couldn’t possibly think of breaking her promise to her dad. Even if she’s starting to fall for the girl. Even if there’s a chance Mary Carlson might be interested in her, too. Right?


Amanda’s thoughts

I enjoyed the heck out of this book. It’s not perfect—sometimes the plot felt convoluted, sometimes characters acted in ways that felt inconsistent—but this is a great story that feels really fresh and, super bonus, is a f/f romance with a happy ending. I find it easy to forgive minor flaws when the other many positives far outweigh things I found lacking.


The plot is pretty well summarized in that description up there, but it’s all of the nuance that makes it worth reading. The fact that the story is so much about faith and identity was really interesting and, again, feels like something we don’t see a whole lot of. Joanna moves to small Rome, Georgia for her senior year. She thinks of it as “where queer girls go to die.” For a lot of reasons (none of them particularly great), her reverend dad would like Joanna to go back in the closet, or “lie low” as he calls it. Tied to this is the fact that Joanna intends to start her own radio ministry, like her dad, to help support kids like her—gay kids of faith and teens in general. If Joanna “lies low” for the year, she can eventually share her true self again with people and come out on her radio show.


The whole deal seems kind of bonkers, but she goes along with it. She gets a makeover to appear more “normal,” in a kind of “why not go for broke?” move. Joanna starts attending the youth group at her new stepmother’s church, quickly becomes friends with a close-knit group of girls, and suddenly is doing things like going to football games, parties, and sleepovers. The story could stop there—could just be about a girl who was out but now isn’t, and how faith ties in with all of it—but it takes the much more interesting step of having Joanna fall for Mary Carlson, a seemingly straight girl and the sister of Joanna’s one other real friend, B.T.B. She keeps getting signals that maybe Mary Carlson could be into her—something she finds almost impossible to believe but readers sure won’t—and before long finds herself in a super weird position: dating a girl who wants to come out, but pretending her (Joanna’s) attraction to girls is also a new revelation, and really needing to not be out herself, to keep up her part of her agreement with her dad.


For the most part, the story follows a predictable path, but it’s completely fun, cute, and satisfying the whole way through. Despite Joanna’s dad’s desire for her to hide her sexuality for a while, he is supportive and loving (which is part of what makes his request seem so weird and inconsistent with who he actually is), as is her stepmother, other family members, and nearly all of her friends old and new. Me telling you the girls get their happily ever after isn’t meant to spoil anything, but is meant to reinforce how important this book, and the girls’ relationship, is. Funny, thoughtful, sweet, and complicated, this book is a necessary addition to all YA collections. 


Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9780062270986

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 08/30/2016

Middle School Monday: Full of Beans by Jennifer Holm (plus bonus interview!)

9780553510362Jennifer L. Holm has written a superb follow up to the Newbery Honor winning Turtle in Paradise. While the earlier novel focuses on Turtle as she travels to Key West to live with her cousins in 1935, this novel focuses on the daily life and adventures of her cousin Beans in 1934. Beans is a scamp with a heart of gold. Times are hard in Key West (it’s the Depression, after all) but Beans is always up for a plan to make some money or win some marbles. He even gets involved in some shadier activities that provide him with a significant amount of money – which he then spends on his long-suffering mother.

I really enjoyed Beans’ story. The writing is so vivid I felt as if I were there, dusty feet running through the streets of Key West, going on adventures with Beans, his brother Kermit, and their crew of rapscallions. Told in a series of episodes from Beans’ adventures, the novel gives a complete picture of life in Key West during the Depression. There are a myriad of details seamlessly woven into the story. My favorites are the fact that those serving jail time were let out every evening to go home for dinner, and the frequent references to Key West’s ‘resident writer.’

Here is what the publisher has to say:

Grown-ups lie. That’s one truth Beans knows for sure. He and his gang know how to spot a whopper a mile away, because they are the savviest bunch of barefoot conchs (that means “locals”) in all of Key West. Not that Beans really minds; it’s 1934, the middle of the Great Depression. With no jobs on the island, and no money anywhere, who can really blame the grown-ups for telling a few tales? Besides, Beans isn’t anyone’s fool. In fact, he has plans. Big plans. And the consequences might surprise even Beans himself.

And now for some questions for the author:

What made you decide to venture back into 1930’s Key West to tell Beans’ story?

I blame my son, Will. After Will read Turtle in Paradise (for a book report no less) he wanted me to write a book from the point-of-view of Turtle’s ornery cousin, Beans.

Beans is a Curry, which is a part of your family’s history, yes? Is Beans based on any particular person?

Beans isn’t based on any person per se, but I always heard his voice very clearly in my head. He may have a bit of Will’s snark (but don’t tell him I said that.) We are related to the Curry family in Key West and I still have family that live there.

I love the nicknames (especially Bring Back My Hammer.) Can you tell us a little bit more about this tradition?

Nicknaming was a huge tradition in Key West. A lot of the nicknames were pretty salty.

The detail in the story is so vivid, I feel like I am running around barefoot with Beans. What parts of the story required new research to flesh out? (I’m assuming everyone knows about Turtle in Paradise.)

I had to dive deep into the FERA/Julius Stone thread. The story of Key West being reinvented as a tourist destination felt like a Hollywood movie to me. Also, the leprosy angle which plays a small part was a fun rabbit hole to go down research-wise.

Beans is convinced that all adults are liars – can you expand any on this theme from the novel?

Adults tell white lies to kids all the time. (“Eat your Brussel sprouts! They taste better than candy!”) I guess I’ve become more aware of this as I’ve become a parent myself.

What is up next for you? Do you have any projects you can tell us about?

My brother, Matt Holm, and I are excited to be introducing “Little Babymouse” to younger readers this fall in a picture book – Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes!


Sunday Reflections: Wrestling with Nate Parker and the Narrative of Forgiveness

sundayreflections1When I started high school, I completely had to cut myself off from a part of my family in order to protect myself from the man who had spent the previous year molesting me. I was not universally supported in this decision. Many people considered it an inconvenience to the family. Many others remarked that I was hurting this person. Very few people were concerned about my safety or well being, which is often the case with sexual violence.

We live in a world where we still care more about the ramifications of sexual violence charges on the perpetrator then on the results of sexual violence on the victim. Judges, for example, give lenient or almost non-existent sentences because they are worried about how it will impact these lives of these young men. Brock Turner will serve little to no time. And he is but just one example.

I have thought about this a lot this week as I have wrestled with the news of Nate Parker and reading IRREVERSIBLE by Chris Lynch.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me say this: the man who abused me when I was in the 8th grade is now a part of my life. He went to therapy. I went to therapy. I have chosen to forgive him and have a relationship with him. But it was my choice. And it is not always an easy relationship. It’s been 30 years, but I still wrestle with many of the effects of being sexually abused. And there are both spoken and unspoken rules to our relationship. He doesn’t get to pretend that my childhood was okay, because it wasn’t. He doesn’t get to act like nothing happened because it did. He knows that I talk openly about being a victim of sexual violence and he doesn’t get to complain about that because this is the truth of my life.

So if I have forgiven and chosen to have a relationship with my abuser, why am I so hesitant to easily forgive public figures for their crimes of sexual violence? The answer is because of this: in the public discourse, we still focus to much on dismissing and coddling the perpetrators of sexual violence and this is a huge problem for victims everywhere. Our focus on perpetrators as opposed to victims continues to support rape culture and victim blaming, making it harder for victims to come forward and get the legal and emotional help that they need to survive.

Also, I think that we need evidence that perpetrators have done the work necessary to understand their crimes and seek true forgiveness. It’s one thing to say your sorry because you got caught and need to save public face, it’s quite another to understand that you have truly harmed your fellow human beings and contributed to a culture that makes it harder for victims of sexual violence to get justice and support. I’m sorry I got caught is not the same thing as I did an evil thing.

How we discuss and handle sexual violence publicly is incredibly important. It defines our culture. It can make it easier or harder for victims. Traditionally, our culture has made it incredibly hard for victims. And even though there is more discussion about sexual violence, we are still wrestling with victim blame and perpetrator supporting. How we talk about these issues in the media sends both explicit and implicit messages to everyone about how we should respond to accusations and victims of sexual violence, and right now we are still not doing a very good job with this.

Nate Parker’s charges of sexual violence occurred in 1999. Do they matter today? We don’t get to decide that. Unfortunately, the only person who does get to decide that took her own life because of the many ways she suffered as a victim of sexual violence. But now that this information is public, we very much have a responsibility to all past and future victims to discuss the ways in which we publicly wrestle with sexual violence. How we talk about what happened then now matters because it can either reinforce or dismantle rape culture.

When we talk about Woody Allen, Nate Parker, Bill Cosby and more, we’re not just talking about individual cases. We’re talking about about sexual violence as a whole and how we can change our culture so that victims can get the justice and the support that they need. Because Nate Parker’s case has become public it is no longer a private matter, but it’s a part of a larger discussion that helps us define as a culture how we are going to respond to sexual violence. It sets the tone for the next victim who comes forward seeking justice and support. We have failed victim after victim after victim. It’s time that we change the conversation and start supporting them, which is why I can’t separate the art from the artist. It’s not just about the art, it’s about our culture.

Friday Finds: August 26, 2016

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: Five Words We Should All Stop Using

Middle School Monday: Reading in Class. Minus the Worksheet or Report. Just, you know, READING. By Julie Stivers

#MHYALit: Who Cares for the Caregivers?

#MHYALit Book Review: Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

#MHYALit: Seven Myths About Mental Illness, a guest post by author Paula Stokes

Book Review: GEMINA, the sequel to ILLUMINAE, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, reviewed by teen reviewer Lexi

What I Learned About “Representation Matters” While Reading BENEATH WANDERING STARS by Ashlee Cowles

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What I Learned About “Representation Matters” While Reading BENEATH WANDERING STARS by Ashlee Cowles

beneath wandering starsBy the time I graduated high school, I had attended 9 separate schools in three different states. Every time I would start a new school the first question everyone asks, after what’s your name, is “where are you from?” I have no good answer to this question. I am from nowhere and everywhere.

I am what they call a “military brat”.

My father was in the Air Force and long after they divorced and he retired, my mom continued to work for AAFES. I understand if you don’t know what that means. While other kids bought their school supplies at KMart or wherever, I bought mine at the BX (base exchange). And we bought our groceries at the commissary. Although I only ever briefly lived on a base, usually for transitional housing, my life was often radically different then the kids I went to school with. We spoke in my house in terms and abbreviations that my friends never fully understood.

And you always entered into each new school year with the realization that you were a stranger in a land full of people who had spent their lives building bonds that you could never hope to have. When I graduated high school I had only been at that school for 2 years. For the few brief years of my Freshman and Sophmore year I had a glimpse into the epic lifestyle known as best friends. But one of my trio died in a car crash our junior year, shortly after I moved again, and the second part of that trio died on January 1st of this year. That was the closest I ever came to traditions and rituals and stories to share about high school besties because there was always another move.

Which brings me to Beneath Wandering Stars by Ashlee Cowles.

Gabriela Santiago is a military brat/kid. When we first meet her, she is stationed with her family on a base in Germany (my parents were stationed in Germany as well). Her brother has recently enlisted and is now serving in Afghanistan. They soon learn that Lucas has been seriously injured and he has requested that she and her father go on a hiking journey in his honor and conquer the Camino de Santiago. What follows is a moving tale of self discovery and forgiveness and relationship in the great tradition of quest novels. This book would actually be a great companion piece with The Way Back from Broken by Amber Keyser in the way that it combines rugged outdoor activity and peril with healing journeys. I recommend both.

When I began reading this book, I was immediately struck by Gabi’s story of life in the military. It wasn’t a vague reference to military life, Gabi actually mentions going to the BX, AAFES, and more. She talks very openly about the frequent moves and the emotional impact. She talks about the expectations of military kids. And she does so in ways that were moving and felt incredibly accurate to me. This is only the second time I have really read a book that addressed the life of being a military kid in such authentic ways. The first was If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth.

Reading this book and seeing my struggles as a military kid – I can not begin to tell you how much it meant to me. I’m not going to say that I cried, but I’m not going to say that I didn’t. I have always struggled with a lot of the emotions that Gabi expresses. Today as an adult I continue to struggle with the lack of what most people call ties or a sense of home. When I go visit either of my parents, there are no rooms full of childhood memories because they are not the rooms that I slept in.

The way that I related to this book and the way that it spoke to my soul really got me thinking about representation. As a white woman, I have never really lacked to see myself in a book. I am not underrepresented in YA literature. There are 1,000s of Hermiones and Bellas and whoever else you can think of. I can pick up almost any book in my YA collection and read about girls that look like me.

But Gabi is different. She spoke to a part of me that always seemed so different and misunderstood – being a military kid. This is not surprising as the author bio states that Cowles herself was an Army “brat”. She gets it. She was able to tap into her experience in a way that speaks of authenticity to military life, which is another affirmation and helped me gain a better understanding of the importance of “own voices”. In this case were not talking about ethnicity or disability, but about unique life experiences. And trust me, military life is a unique life experience that is under represented in YA literature and media as a whole. As we talk about “supporting our troops”, we fail to fully grasp not only what we are asking our military to do, but the unique burdens that we put on their families as well.

It’s interesting to note that Gabi is not white, she is Latinx, but as a white reader I still had no problems relating to her. Her Latin culture is very important to her story and it was something that I enjoyed learning about, but her story of what it is like to be a military kid spoke the universal about military life. This book was, for me, both a mirror and a window. I can not tell you how powerful that was to me to read things about how military life haunted me in the story of Gabi, further reminding me of the importance of representation for all of our teens.

I needed this book when I was in high school and dealing with yet another two moves. I didn’t know I needed it until I read it, but what a difference this would have made for teenage Karen. I needed to hear someone else say AAFES and talk about shopping at the BX and eating at the food court with some really unique and weird food places that didn’t seem to exist off base.

And our teens . . . they need to see themselves in the books that they read. They need to have a voice. They need to know that there are people like them who experience and think about the same things that they do. This book further solidified for me a deeper understanding of the call for more diversity and inclusion in YA literature.

Representation matters.

Publisher’s Book Description

After her soldier brother is horribly wounded in Afghanistan, Gabriela must honor the vow she made: If anything ever happened to him, she would walk the Camino de Santiago through Spain, making a pilgrimage in his name. The worst part is that the promise stipulates that she must travel with her brother’s best friend–a boy she has despised all her life. Her brother is in a coma, and Gabi feels that she has no time to waste, but she is unsure. Will she hesitate too long, or risk her own happiness to keep a promise? An up-close look at the lives of the children of military families, “Beneath Wandering Stars” takes readers on a journey of love, danger, laughter, and friendship, against all odds. (August 2016 from Merit Press)

Book Giveaway

Leave a comment by Friday, September 2nd for your chance to win a hardback copy of this book. Open to US only please. Be sure and leave some type of trackback, like a Twitter handle or email, so I can get in touch with you. I’ll put the names into a hat and do a random drawing.

Book Review: GEMINA, the sequel to ILLUMINAE, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, reviewed by teen reviewer Lexi

geminaIn October, the greatly anticipated sequel to Illuminae, Gemina, will be released. Our TAB reviewer, who just left for her Freshman year of college, was very excited to get an advanced reading copy of this book to review for you today.

Publisher’s Book Description

The highly anticipated sequel to the instant New York Times bestseller that critics are calling “out-of-this-world awesome.”
Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

Once again told through a compelling dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts, and schematics, Gemina raises the stakes of the Illuminae Files, hurling readers into an enthralling new story that will leave them breathless. (October 18th 2016 by Knopf Books for Young Readers)

Lexi’s Thoughts

“When you fight a monster, be careful you don’t become the monster.”

It took me three days to process what the hell i had just read. Not only does this book have such a peculiar format but it also has such a crazy plot that the events of the book gave me whiplash.

For starters, i’m gonna touch up on some things i really loved about this book. I say somethings even though i literally loved the whole darn thing.

The strong female characters

Because not a lot of authors think they have a successful book where there are independent, kick-ass female characters that save the day.

The endless sarcasm displayed by the characters

I feel like the authors legit wrote me in this book with how much sarcasm was dripping off those pages.

Flawless character descriptions

These character descriptions of the House of Knives gang members and the descriptions of the soldiers on ship got me all hot and bothered over some fictional booty. What has this world come toooooo!!!

Finally, i must say that this book was the best emotional rollercoaster i have ever been on. When i think it goes one way the authors pop out of nowhere with a “but wait folks, there’s more!!!”

I recommend this book to everybody because this is one of the best science fiction books i have ever read and it’s even better than the first book. I have high expectations for the next book.

#MHYALit: Seven Myths About Mental Illness, a guest post by author Paula Stokes

Today as part of the #MHYALit Discussion we are honored to host author Paula Stokes who discusses some of the myths that people have about mental illness.


Why do myths and stereotypes about mental illness persist? Why do people believe things that aren’t true? As someone with an undergraduate degree in psychology and a graduate degree in nursing, I’ve thought about this issue quite a bit. Here are some possible explanations:

We formulate incorrect ideas based on limited personal experiences.

Paula Stoke's GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE came out May 2016 from HarperTeen

Paula Stoke’s GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE came out May 2016 from HarperTeen

Sometimes we’re just wrong about stuff. If my only direct knowledge of clinical depression came from observing a close friend who was diagnosed with it, and I watched that friend seem to get worse on his medicine, I might draw the conclusion that medicine isn’t helpful for depression. But there are a lot of flaws with that logic. My friend might have been incorrectly diagnosed. His physician might not have selected the medicine best suited for his particular case. He might have only tried one medication regimen before giving up. He might actually be worse off the meds, but hiding that information from me. Or maybe he really is someone who doesn’t currently need medication to manage his symptoms. But just because my friend is fine off his meds doesn’t mean other people with the same diagnosis will be too.

The media we consume exacerbates our incorrect preconceived notions.

We believe what we see—in books, in movies, in blog posts, on the news. The problem here is that all of those things are curated and manipulated to be what the creators consider “newsworthy” and/or a “good story.” That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re lying (although they could be), but it means they’re presenting skewed information instead of giving you unbiased facts. Both news and entertainment media tend to emphasize mental illness when it presents with extreme symptoms, because those are often viewed as more interesting or “clickable” stories.

We subconsciously reinforce our views with “selective perception.”

This phenomenon contributes to pervasiveness of almost all stereotypes. Once we accept something to be true, we’re more likely to hone in on evidence that backs up our beliefs, ignoring or downplaying contradictory information. Or, when evidence to the contrary is difficult to ignore, we’re more likely to justify it as being an outlier, not truly representative of reality. So if I think medicine doesn’t help depression, each time someone posts about how their meds affected them negatively, it registers in my mind, but I skip right past all the evidence of people who improved with medication.

How does all this affect the way we think about mental illness? Here are seven mental illness myths that many people believe to be true.

You can tell someone is mentally ill by looking at them.

This is just blatantly false. It might be tempting to diagnose the man sitting next to you on the train who is dressed inappropriately and talking to himself as mentally ill, but there are many organic causes for hallucinations and delirium—everything from a brain tumor to an infection to dehydration. Most mental illness does not look like Girl Interrupted or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. My main character in Girl Against the Universe has PTSD and anxiety, along with some secondary unhealthy coping behaviors, and her pathology is not readily apparent to anyone. Even her own mother doesn’t realize how much she’s struggling until she has a crisis. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates that 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 5 teens experience mental illness in any given year. Take a look around. Mentally ill people look like you and me.

Therapy is just a bunch of talking about your feelings and your childhood.

It’s true that psychoanalysis, as made famous by Sigmund Freud, involves exploring your history and childhood, and most forms of psychotherapy will involve talking about your feelings. However, that’s not all the therapy experience is. Most clinicians give their clients subjective and objective tests to help diagnose them and determine the best course of treatment. Behavioral therapists use theories of classical and operant conditioning to help clients. One example of this is systematic desensitization to help with phobias. Under the monitoring of a clinician, clients are slowly exposed to the phobic stimulus, building up the degree of exposure as they become less afraid. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is what my main character Maguire undergoes, incorporates ideas from both behavior and talk therapy. Maguire’s sessions—several of which are featured in the book—are a mix of discussing her negative thought processes and coming up with outside tasks that will help her get past her fears.

Therapy is only for the wealthy and those who can’t function.

I felt like this for a lot of years when I was younger. If you grew up in a “tough love” household, it’s possible you think that therapy is only for self-absorbed celebrities and people who are a danger to themselves or others. This just isn’t true. There are all kinds of licensed therapists who specialize in things like family therapy, career therapy, etc. Just because you’re “getting by” or “surviving” doesn’t mean you don’t need or deserve help. You only get one life. You should aim for thriving, not surviving. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with your life situation and/or your emotions, talk to your general medical doctor about getting a referral for therapy. If you don’t have an internist, talk to a counselor at school, a clergy member, or find support at NAMI.org.

Therapists want to put all of their clients on medication.

If anyone is trying to put clients on medication, it’s insurance companies. Medications are cheaper than therapy by far, and it’s true that a lot of insurance companies limit the amount of therapy sessions you can have. However, your therapist has no reason to push medication on you unless they think it will improve your symptoms. Listen to what they say and then make an informed decision. Even in a hospital setting, nurses and doctors can’t force you to take meds against your will unless they believe you’re a danger to yourself or others.

Psychotropic drugs make everyone fuzzy-headed or “a zombie.”

This is one myth I really wish that books and movies would stop perpetuating. Yes it’s true that some psych medications make people feel fuzzy-headed. So do some painkillers. So do some blood pressure meds. So do some antibiotics. It’s normal to start a medication and need your dosage adjusted due to side effects. I’ve taken antibiotics that made me lightheaded and the fix was as simple as changing the time I took the medicine from in the morning to before bed. Sometimes the fixes are a little more complicated—different or split doses, perhaps trying a different class of medication. Most side effects can be reduced or eliminated by working with your doctor and being honest about what you need. I’m not saying medication is right for everyone—just that there a lot of options. You don’t have to settle for a treatment regimen that saps your energy or clouds your inability to think clearly.

It’s impossible to live a meaningful life with mental illness.

Mental illness might make it harder—though not impossible—to pursue certain careers, especially those in the military, police force, etc., but being diagnosed doesn’t mean you can’t find happiness. People who have struggled with mental illness find romantic partners and engage in healthy relationships. They graduate from high school and college. They achieve success in a variety of careers. In the past ten years or so, some huge literary and Hollywood stars have talked candidly about dealing with mental illness—J.K. Rowling, John Green, Maureen Johnson, Kristen Bell, Demi Lovato, and Lena Dunham just to name a few. Mental illness doesn’t half to hold you back.

Mental illnesses are all incurable.

A lot of mental illnesses are incurable, at least right now, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be incurable forever. There’s a lot we don’t know about the brain, but we’re learning more every day. And just because an illness isn’t curable doesn’t mean we haven’t figured out treatment plans to manage symptoms so people can still live a normal life. And good news: longitudinal case studies have shown that it is possible to completely recover from some disorders, for example anorexia and Borderline Personality Disorder. Additionally, there are many cases where people with depression, anxiety, etc. needed medication at first but were able to reduce their dosages or quit taking it after engaging in therapy. Maybe they’re not “technically cured” but they’re happy and healthy, and that’s what really matters, right?

What other mental illness myths do you wish people would just get over?

Author bio:

Paula Stokes writes stories about flawed characters with good hearts who sometimes make bad decisions. She’s the author of several YA novels, most recently Vicarious and Girl Against the Universe. Her writing has been translated into eleven foreign languages. Paula loves kayaking, hiking, reading, and seeking out new adventures in faraway lands She also loves interacting with readers. Find her online at authorpaulastokes.com or on twitter as @pstokesbooks.


Maguire is bad luck.

No matter how many charms she buys off the internet or good luck rituals she performs each morning, horrible things happen when Maguire is around. Like that time the rollercoaster jumped off its tracks. Or the time the house next door caught on fire. Or that time her brother, father, and uncle were all killed in a car crash—and Maguire walked away with barely a scratch.

It’s safest for Maguire to hide out in her room, where she can cause less damage and avoid meeting new people who she could hurt. But then she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star. Jordy is confident, talented, and lucky, and he’s convinced he can help Maguire break her unlucky streak. Maguire knows that the best thing she can do for Jordy is to stay away. But it turns out staying away is harder than she thought.

From author Paula Stokes comes a funny and poignant novel about accepting the past, embracing the future, and learning to make your own luck.

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#MHYALit Book Review: Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

girlinpiecesPublisher’s description

Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people do in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The broken glass washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you.

Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge.
A deeply moving portrait of a girl in a world that owes her nothing, and has taken so much, and the journey she undergoes to put herself back together. Kathleen Glasgow’s debut is heartbreakingly real and unflinchingly honest. It’s a story you won’t be able to look away from.


Amanda’s thoughts

Do you like nearly unremittingly bleak stories? Then do I have a book for you! Now don’t jump ahead and assume that I mean that in any kind of damning way. I like bleak. I like real bleak. I like books where I think, good lord, more bad stuff? So keep reading, okay?


We meet Charlie as she is just getting settled in a treatment facility. She’s a cutter who has done too thorough of a job and just spent a week in the hospital. At the facility, she’s silent—selective mutism. She’s been through a lot. Prior to landing in the facility, she was homeless for nearly a year. Now in treatment, she’s getting the help she so desperately needs, grateful to be indoors, warm, and fed. But money and/or insurance doesn’t last forever, and way too soon she’s being cut loose, released to her abusive mother. Instead of going home with her mother, she’s handed some money, her birth certificate, and a bus ticket to Arizona. Great parenting. Charlie heads out there alone. Her friend Mikey is there, but Mikey’s tied to a lot of her past. He’s also not around much, so when he leaves on tour with a band, Charlie is truly alone. She gets a job washing dishes at a cafe, where she meets Riley, a sometimes charming junkie ten years her senior who quickly gets into her head, heart, and pants. Riley is horrible for Charlie. She’s trying so hard to move on from her past, but that’s not easy. Every day is a struggle for her to not cut herself. She makes a lot of crappy choices around and because of Riley. There are small good things mixed in among all this bleakness. Charlie finds solace in drawing and is going to have some of her art in a show. She’s making… I wouldn’t say “friends” at work, but she’s interacting with her coworkers and coming out of her shell a little. And when things fall apart in a pretty epic way, Charlie learns she has more support, resources, and hope than she had imagined.


Glasgow’s writing is stunning, moving from lush and poetic to choppy and spare. We’re in Charlie’s head a lot and slowly learn about her background—her father’s suicide, her best friend’s near-suicide, her abusive mother, her life on the streets. She isn’t much for talking, even with Riley, who’s far too self-absorbed to really think to ever ask her anything  about herself. Glasgow’s story is gritty and grim and at times almost too much to bear. I admit to taking lots of breaks while reading this one. People bend, break, leave, disappoint, hurt, die, suffer, and harm. In most cases, they also heal, change, recover, and hope in this astoundingly sad, astonishingly poignant debut.


For more on Girl in Pieces, see Glasgow’s previous piece for our blog, “This Book Will Save Your Life.”


Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781101934715

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books

Publication date: 08/30/2016