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Book Review: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

trulydeviousPublisher’s Book Description:

New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson weaves a delicate tale of murder and mystery in the first book of a striking new series, perfect for fans of Agatha Christie and E. Lockhart.

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place,” he said, “where learning is a game.”

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym “Truly, Devious.” It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.

The two interwoven mysteries of this first book in the Truly Devious series dovetail brilliantly, and Stevie Bell will continue her relentless quest for the murderers in books two and three.

Karen’s Thoughts:

I’m a big fan of mysteries so I was really looking forward to this one, and it didn’t disappoint. Well, it did disappoint, only in that it’s the first book in a trilogy so the mystery wasn’t solved. I can not wait to read the next book.

Let me start by saying The Westing Game is one of my favorite childhood books. It is the only book that I have re-read multiple times. I used to re-read it once a year and am getting ready to read it out loud to Thing 2 (age 9) in hopes that it will also be one of her childhood favorites. TRULY DEVIOUS REMINDED ME A LOT OF THE WESTING GAME IN TONE, IN LANGUAGE, AND IN THE WAY IT COLLECTED SUCH AN INTERESTING MIXTURE OF INTERESTING CHARACTERS INTO ONE SPOT AND SET UP A MYSTERY THAT YOU WERE INTERESTED IN SOLVING. As I’ve mentioned, I have no idea how this particular mystery is solved, because it isn’t yet. And to be honest, this is two mysteries in one as it has a historical mystery and a contemporary mystery.

I love the MC Stevie, who struggles with anxiety in very realistic ways. She is just one of many quirky, intelligent and ambitious teens who come to the Ellington Academy to learn in a very nontraditional environment. Each character is very unique and fully fleshed out in complex ways. I can’t help but wonder who among them may be an evil doer? I liked the people, I liked the school, and I am glad that we are getting more of it, though I’m not going to lie: When the book “ended” I threw it down yelling, “what kind of ending is that?” I want more of these characters and this school, but with a new mystery. I wanted answers. I am impatient, I don’t want to wait. Alas, wait I must.

I highly recommend it. Teens looking for a fun, engaging mystery will enjoy it.

Penguin Young Readers Showcase and Giveaway

Beyond the people I work with and the people this blog has led me to get to know, by far the best aspect of blogging for TLT is the constant influx of books. All of the books I get end up going back out the door in some fashion—to teen readers I know, to classroom libraries of friends, to the elementary library I work in, to my son’s middle school, or in giveaways. I can’t read/review every book I get, but it’s fun to be able to sift through boxes and see what grabs my attention, and to see what books will find loving new homes with the right reader.


Today I’m sharing with you titles from Penguin Young Readers. All annotations are from the publisher. I’m also doing a giveaway for three of these ARCs. Enter via the Rafflecopter between January 16 and January 19. US only. One winner will win all three books.



foldedFolded Notes from High School by Matthew Boren (ISBN-13: 9780451478207 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 04/03/2018)

The folded notes collected for this book represent correspondence surrounding one Tara Maureen Murphy, senior at South High c. 1991-1992.

It’s 1991, and Tara Maureen Murphy is finally on top. A frightening cross between Regina George and Tracy Flick, Tara Maureen Murphy is any high school’s worst nightmare, bringing single-minded ambition, narcissism, manipulation, and jealousy to new extremes in this outrageous, satirical twist on the coming-of-age novel. She’s got a hot jock boyfriend in Christopher Patrick Caparelli, her best friend Stef Campbell by her side, and she’s a SENIOR, poised to star as Sandy in South High’s production of Grease. Clinching the role is just one teensy step in Tara’s plot to get out of her hometown and become the Broadway starlet she was born to be. She’s grasping distance from the finish line–graduation and college are right around the corner–but she has to remain vigilant.

This dumb town, as we know, can be a very tricky place.” –Tara Maureen Murphy

It gets trickier with the arrival of freshman Matthew Bloom, whose dazzling audition for the role of Danny Zuko turns Tara’s world upside down. Freshmen belong in the chorus, not the spotlight! But Tara’s outrage is tinged with an unfamiliar emotion, at least to her: adoration. And what starts as a conniving ploy to “mentor” young Matt quickly turns into a romantic obsession that threatens to topple Tara’s hard-won status at South High….



givenGiven To The Earth by Mindy McGinnis (ISBN-13: 9780399544644 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 04/10/2018 Series: Given Duet Series #2)

Duty, fate, desire, and destiny collide in this intricately wrought tale, perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas.

Although she was born to save the kingdom by sacrificing herself to the rising sea, Khosa’s marriage to King Vincent has redeemed her. As the Queen of Stille, she’s untouchable. But being Queen hasn’t stopped her heart from longing for the King’s stepbrother, Donil. And it hasn’t stopped her body from longing for the sea itself, which still calls for her.

While Khosa is made to choose between loyalty and love, Dara is on a mission for vengeance. Years ago, the Pietra slaughtered the entire Indiri race, leaving only Dara and her twin, Donil, alive. Now, spurned by King Vincent, Dara has embarked on a mission to spill the blood of Pietra’s leader, Witt, and will stop at nothing to show his people the wrath of the last Indiri.

As the waves crash ever closer to Stille, secrets are revealed, hearts are won and lost, and allegiances change like the shifting sand.



lost kidsThe Lost Kids by Sara Saedi (ISBN-13: 9780451475770 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 04/10/2018 Series: Never Ever Series #2)

This stormy sequel to Never Ever is packed with more of everything you loved in Book 1: twists, action, revenge, and romance!

Just a few weeks ago, Wylie Dalton was living on magical Minor Island where nobody ages past seventeen, and in love with Phinn, the island’s leader. Now, her home is a creaky old boat where she’s joined a ragtag group of cast-offs from the island, all dead-set on getting revenge on Phinn for betraying them. But when the Lost Kids invade their former paradise, they’re stunned to find that their once-secret island is no longer so secret, and that a much bigger enemy is gunning for Phinn . . . and all the Minor Island kids. Told from both Wylie’s and Phinn’s perspectives, this dramatic sequel reveals that when you Never Ever grow up, the past has a way of catching up to you.



bootsBoots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam by Elizabeth Partridge (ISBN-13: 9780670785063 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 04/10/2018)

In over a decade of bitter fighting, it claimed the lives of more than 58,000 American soldiers and beleaguered four US presidents. More than forty years after America left Vietnam in defeat in 1975, the war remains controversial and divisive both in the United States and abroad.

The history of this era is complex; the cultural impact extraordinary. But it’s the personal stories of eight people—six American soldiers, one American military nurse, and one Vietnamese refugee—that create the heartbeat of Boots on the Ground. From dense jungles and terrifying firefights to chaotic helicopter rescues and harrowing escapes, each individual experience reveals a different facet of the war and moves us forward in time. Alternating with these chapters are profiles of key American leaders and events, reminding us of all that was happening at home during the war, including peace protests, presidential scandals, and veterans’ struggles to acclimate to life after Vietnam.

With more than one hundred photographs, award-winning author Elizabeth Partridge’s unflinching book captures the intensity, frustration, and lasting impacts of one of the most tumultuous periods of American history.



trouble neverTrouble Never Sleeps by Stephanie Tromly (ISBN-13: 9780525428428 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 04/24/2018)

Happily Ever After gets a serious makeover in this swoony, non-stop, thrill-ride of a conclusion to the Trouble Is a Friend of Mine trilogy

Digby and Zoe have been skirting around each other for so long that you might think they’d lose their magic if they ever actually hooked up. But never fear—there’s all the acerbic wit, steamy chemistry, and sarcastic banter you could possibly hope for.

Now that Digby’s back in town he’s plunged Zoe (and their Scooby Gang of wealthy frenemy Sloane, nerd-tastic genius Felix, and aw-shucks-handsome Henry) back into the deep end on the hunt for his kidnapped sister. He’s got a lead, but it involves breaking into a secret government research facility, paying a drug dealer off with a Bentley, and possibly committing treason. The schemes might be over-the-top but this Breakfast Club cast is irresistibly real as they cope with regular high school stuff from social media shaming to dating your best friend, all with a twist no one will see coming.


lengthThe Length of a String by Elissa Brent Weissman (ISBN-13: 9780735229471 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 05/01/2018)
Imani is adopted, and she’s ready to search for her birth parents. But when she discovers the diary her Jewish great-grandmother wrote chronicling her escape from Holocaust-era Europe, Imani begins to see family in a new way.

Imani knows exactly what she wants as her big bat mitzvah gift: to find her birth parents. She loves her family and her Jewish community in Baltimore, but she has always wondered where she came from, especially since she’s black and almost everyone she knows is white. Then her mom’s grandmother—Imani’s great-grandma Anna—passes away, and Imani discovers an old journal among her books. It’s Anna’s diary from 1941, the year she was twelve and fled Nazi-occupied Luxembourg alone, sent by her parents to seek refuge in Brooklyn, New York. Anna’s diary records her journey to America and her new life with an adoptive family of her own. And as Imani reads the diary, she begins to see her family, and her place in it, in a whole new way.



royalsRoyals by Rachel Hawkins (ISBN-13: 9781524738235 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 05/01/2018)

New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins serves up a deliciously royal romance, perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Huntley Fitzpatrick.

Meet Daisy Winters. She’s an offbeat sixteen-year-old Floridian with mermaid-red hair; a part time job at a bootleg Walmart, and a perfect older sister who’s nearly engaged to the Crown Prince of Scotland. Daisy has no desire to live in the spotlight, but relentless tabloid attention forces her join Ellie at the relative seclusion of the castle across the pond.

While the dashing young Miles has been appointed to teach Daisy the ropes of being regal, the prince’s roguish younger brother kicks up scandal wherever he goes, and tries his best to take Daisy along for the ride. The crown–and the intriguing Miles–might be trying to make Daisy into a lady . . . but Daisy may just rewrite the royal rulebook to suit herself.

New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins brings her signature humor, love of Americana, and flair for romance to this page-turning Princess Diaries turned-upside-down story.


foreseeableThe Foreseeable Future by Emily Adrian (ISBN-13: 9780399538995 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 05/08/2018)

Audrey Nelson is planning for her future after graduation, but she has no idea her future contains a swoony summer romance, Internet fame, or a nursing home.

Audrey’s life has been planned out for her since she was born, and now she’s supposed to attend Whedon College in the fall, where both of her parents work. But Audrey has a different plan in mind: She’s not going to attend college at all. She’s going to earn some money and move to Seattle, the city she’s loved since she was a child. And the best way to earn that money is by working the night shift at the local nursing home.

Seth O’Malley works there, too, and a romance quickly blossoms between them. But things get complicated when Audrey saves the life of Cameron Suzuki, Seth’s ex. A video of her performing CPR at the beach goes viral, and suddenly, Audrey’s wanted for TV interviews and newspaper articles. And just when Audrey starts to love life at the nursing home–and life with Seth–Seattle comes knocking. Does she follow the path she set out for herself, even when it means leaving behind Seth and the cast of quirky patients she’s come to care for? Or does she embrace a future with Seth–at least for the foreseeable future–at the cost of abandoning her dreams?



undeadUndead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson (ISBN-13: 9780451478238 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 05/08/2018)

Veronica Mars meets The Craft when a teen girl investigates the suspicious deaths of three classmates and accidentally ends up bringing them back to life to form a hilariously unlikely–and unwilling–vigilante girl gang.

Meet teenage Wiccan Mila Flores, who truly could not care less what you think about her Doc Martens, her attitude, or her weight because she knows that, no matter what, her BFF Riley is right by her side.

So when Riley and Fairmont Academy mean girls June Phelan-Park and Dayton Nesseth die under suspicious circumstances, Mila refuses to believe everyone’s explanation that her BFF was involved in a suicide pact. Instead, armed with a tube of lip gloss and an ancient grimoire, Mila does the unthinkable to uncover the truth: she brings the girls back to life.

Unfortunately, Riley, June, and Dayton have no recollection of their murders. But they do have unfinished business to attend to. Now, with only seven days until the spell wears off and the girls return to their graves, Mila must wrangle the distracted group of undead teens and work fast to discover their murderer…before the killer strikes again.


we are allWe Are All That’s Left by Carrie Arcos (ISBN-13: 9780399175541 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 05/15/2018)

Two lives. Two worlds apart. One deeply compelling story set in both Bosnia and the United States, spanning decades and generations, about the brutality of war and the trauma of everyday life after war, about hope and the ties that bind us together.

Zara and her mother, Nadja, have a strained relationship. Nadja just doesn’t understand Zara’s creative passion for, and self-expression through, photography. And Zara doesn’t know how to reach beyond their differences and connect to a closed-off mother who refuses to speak about her past in Bosnia. But when a bomb explodes as they’re shopping in their local farmers’ market in Rhode Island, Zara is left with PTSD—and her mother is left in a coma. Without the opportunity to get to know her mother, Zara is left with questions—not just about her mother, but about faith, religion, history, and her own path forward.

As Zara tries to sort through her confusion, she meets Joseph, whose grandmother is also in the hospital, and whose exploration of religion and philosophy offer comfort and insight into Zara’s own line of thinking.

Told in chapters that alternate between Zara’s present-day Providence, RI, and Nadja’s own childhood in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Bosnian War of the 1990s, We Are All That’s Left shows the ways in which, no matter the time and place, struggle and tragedy can give way to connection, healing and love.


strangeThe Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik by David Arnold (ISBN-13: 9780425288863 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 05/22/2018)
This is Noah Oakman → sixteen, Bowie believer, concise historian, disillusioned swimmer, son, brother, friend.Then Noah → gets hypnotized.Now Noah → sees changes: his mother has a scar on her face that wasn’t there before; his old dog, who once walked with a limp, is suddenly lithe; his best friend, a lifelong DC Comics disciple, now rotates in the Marvel universe. Subtle behaviors, bits of history, plans for the future—everything in Noah’s world has been rewritten. Everything except his Strange Fascinations . . .

A stunning surrealist portrait, The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik is a story about all the ways we hurt our friends without knowing it, and all the ways they stick around to save us.



lies you never toldLies You Never Told Me by Jennifer Donaldson (ISBN-13: 9781595148520 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 05/29/2018)

Gabe and Elyse have never met. But they both have something to hide.

Quiet, shy Elyse can’t believe it when she’s cast as the lead in her Portland high school’s production of Romeo and Juliet. Her best friend, Brynn, is usually the star, and Elyse isn’t sure she’s up to the task. But when someone at rehearsals starts to catch her eye—someone she knows she absolutely shouldn’t be with—she can’t help but be pulled into the spotlight.

Austin native Gabe is contemplating the unthinkable—breaking up with Sasha, his headstrong, popular girlfriend. She’s not going to let him slip through her fingers, though, and when rumors start to circulate around school, he knows she has the power to change his life forever.

Gabe and Elyse both make the mistake of falling for the wrong person, and falling hard. Told in parallel narratives, this twisty, shocking story shows how one bad choice can lead to a spiral of unforeseen consequences that not everyone will survive.

YA A to Z: Bullying by Michelle Biwer

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), about 20% of students ages 12-18 reported being bullied in 2015. Notably, those statistics skyrocket for LGBTQ students. In 2013, 70.8% of LGBTQ students were verbally bullied because of their sexual orientation and 54.5% were bullied due to their gender expression (National School Climate Survey, 2015). Bullying rates are also higher for black students (NCES, 2016) and students with disabilities (Rose et al., 2012). Edutopia has some great resources for how to prevent bullying as a teacher and how to get teens involved in the process.

Notably, the NCES does not currently compile data on students with disabilities and bullying, meaning the government does not have a complete picture of bullying issues. However, other organizations have collected that data and made it available for reference.

The recent YA titles below feature teens who are bullied. While bullying may be the focus of a story, it’s more often presented as one of many problems a teen protagonist has to deal with.

dear martinDear Martin by Nic Stone (Crown, 2017)

Justyce is an African-American teen who attends an elite boarding school and the rich, white kids he is surrounded by constantly harass him with racial epithets. When his friend is shot by a police officer, he sees what happens when such pervasive prejudice is ignored.

eleanor and park

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (St. Martin’s Press, 2013)

Raised in an abusive household with no money, Eleanor goes to school in ill-fitting, patched-up clothes, making her an easy target for bullies. While trying to escape the bullies at home and at school, Eleanor makes a friend in Park, who shares her love of music.

ms. marvel 7
Ms. Marvel, Volume 7: Damage Per Second by G. Willow Wilson and Takeshi Miyazawa (Marvel Comics, 2017)

In issue #16 of the Ms. Marvel comics centered around New Jersey teen Kamala Khan, Dr. X threatens to reveal Kamala’s secret superhero identity to the world via the internet.

out of my mind
Out of My Mind
by Sharon Draper (Atheneum Books, 2010)

Melody is finally able to “talk” through her new assistive device, allowing her freedom she never had before as a person with cerebral palsy. She joins the quiz bowl team but suffers harassment from other members and even sometimes her teachers.

Positive: A Memoir
by Paige Rawl and Ali Benjamin (HarperCollins, 2014)

After Paige told her best friend that she was HIV positive, she was relentlessly bullied and struggled with depression. This memoir recounts that time in her life and promotes the importance of compassion.

rhyme schemer
Rhyme Schemer
by K.A. Holt (Chronicle Books, 2014)

Kevin’s unusual bullying tactic is cutting up old library books and arranging rude poetry about other students. When everyone finds out Kevin is the culprit, the tables are turned and he becomes bullied himself.

by Sarah Ockler (Simon Pulse, 2015)

Lucy steps in as a prom date for her best friend’s boyfriend and the next day she is hacked, with compromising photos of the two splashed all over her Facebook page. She fights against slutshaming and other bullying from her peers and is determined to find out who hacked her account.

simon v
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
by Becky Albertalli (Balzer + Bray, 2015)

Simon is a closeted gay teen who is blackmailed about his sexual orientation by classmate at school. The film adaptation, titled Love, Simon, will be out later this year.

yaqui delgado
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass
by Meg Medina (Candlewick, 2013)

Piddy moves to a new school and quickly finds herself the target of Yaqui Delgado and her gang.

So, You’ve Just Tweeted That Nobody Uses Public Libraries Anymore . . .

Hi There,


So, you have just tweeted that nobody uses public libraries anymore and we don’t need to fund them, but I’m going to stop you right there.

First of all, I’m going to assume that what you really mean is that you don’t use your public library anymore so because you don’t, you assume that nobody else does. Either that, or you really look down on the type of people who do use public libraries, which is an issue in and of itself because there is not one just type of public library user. Both of us are doing a lot of assuming here, and you know what they say happens when you assume. But the facts are, people do in fact use their public libraries, so I’m not sure why you are stating it as a fact that they don’t. But because I’m a librarian and I believe in facts, not just broad generalized statements, let’s discuss this further.

To begin with, I want to acknowledge that not all public libraries are created equal and there is a chance that your local public library isn’t widely used. This could be for a lot of reasons. One, some smaller communities have underfunded, under developed and under staffed libraries. A small town rural library often doesn’t have the same type of resources as say a branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library and it does no one any favors to compare apples to oranges. So your experience with your public library is not a universal experience. No two libraries are the same and no two library users are the same.


Second, if you’re argument is no one uses public libraries anymore because of technology, you are either speaking from a place of privilege or with a gross misunderstanding of what all is available via technology. In the first instance, it is important to note that not every person has the same access to technology, and a lot of this has to do with finances. Technology and the access to it requires money, and in a country where 1 in 5 children goes to bed hungry, it is important for us to acknowledge that the digital divide (or digital gap) is very real. So no, not everyone has equal access to technology.

10 Reasons Why the Internet Is No Substitute for a Library

Digital Divide | Pew Research Center

Digital Divide: The Technology Gap between the Rich and Poor

It’s also a mistake to believe that because of the Internet all information is available at our fingertips with just the click of a button. The truth is, something is only available online if it has been uploaded and made available on line. Historical data, for example, is not as readily available as current data. Not every book, resource, etc. is available with just the click of a button. A lot of the data is only available behind a paywall, which brings us once again to finances. So while there is a lot of information available to us via technology, it is important for us to recognize that the whole of human knowledge is not readily accessible via the Internet. It is a tool, an important and a good one, but it isn’t the only one and it’s important that we keep it in perspective.

No, Not Everything is on the Internet

Why Everything Isn’t Available Online and Free – Cornell University

I’m also going to assume that your lack of support for public libraries either means that you are not a big recreational reader or that you have the means to purchase whatever book you want, whenever you want. I realize that I am again making some huge assumptions, but hear me out. It is recommended that children read around 1,000 books before the begin Kindergarten in order to have the brain development and access to vocabulary that they need. These books will usually be picture books, which cost on average let’s say $15.00 a book to make the math easy. This means a family trying to reach this goal would need to spend $15,000 on picture books before their child started Kindergarten. It also means they would have access to a book store, transportation to get to a book store or the financial means and a credit card to buy the books online. Granted, most kids are going to read some of the same books over and over again, so let’s cut that number in half; that’s still $7,500 dollars in books in the first 5 years of your child’s life. Plus there is the nonfiction they will need to do school reports, the books they’ll need throughout 12 years of primary and secondary school, and then whatever they books they may need to successfully get a college degree. And this is just for kids, it doesn’t even cover adults trying to fix their cars, trying new recipes, trying to figure out how to garden, or just plain reading for pleasure. Most people don’t have the individual financial means it would take to create a personal library that matches that of a public library.

Public Libraries Help People Save Money

How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities

How public libraries help build healthy communities

So to be clear, public libraries have great community value. They provide for the educational and recreational needs of a community. They uplift the intelligence of a community, they support democracy, and more. Plus, a good public library will provide a variety of programming that brings members of the community together in additional fun and educational ways. There are storytimes, after school programs, teen programs, music programs, lectures and more. These types of programs help keep our youth engaged and off the streets while providing adults with a chance to get together to learn from and support one another.

So public libraries have intrinsic community value, but does anyone still use their local public library? According to current research, the answer is an overwhelming yes. Most librarians could get on here and give you anecdotal data from their own libraries, including circulation statistics and yearly visitors numbers. I can tell you that just teen circulation at the library that I work in went up around 5% last year. We can give you data about how many people use our public computers, visit our storytimes, or walk into our makerspaces. For a broader picture, you can access a variety of readily available data sources:

Explore Public Libraries Survey (PLS) Data | Institute of Museum and Library Science

Public Library Use | Tools, Publications & Resources

The 2017 Public Library Data Service Report

Pew Report on Library Usage

It’s interesting to note that Millenials, accused of killing diamonds, chain restaurants, and whatever else, are actually among the highest public library users.

Public library use in U.S. highest among Millennials | Pew Research

Also, your state library will probably have state specific data available for you. For example, you can find the data for Ohio here:

Ohio Public Library Statistics – State Library of Ohio

However, even this data is suspect because if anything, public libraries tend to both under count data and use ineffective measuring tools. For example, one of our biggest means of evaluating use is through circulation statistics. This means we do an electronic count of items checked out of the library. These figures do not, however, count for all the items that people come in and look up the answer to a question in and then place back on the shelves. They don’t count the teens that come in and sit in the corner and read a pile of graphic novels and then stick them back on the shelf. They don’t count all the newspapers and magazines that get used in house. It is, as a measuring tool, a pretty fairly inaccurate one because there is a lot of material use that it doesn’t count.

We also try to count for the number of people who walk in our doors, but this number doesn’t tell us about things like, how many questions they asked, how long it took us to successfully answer those questions, and what level of service we provided for them. So again, it’s a data point but it doesn’t tell the entire story.

Many libraries will work on building more complex pictures of who is using their local public library and why, but this information is hard to collect and even harder to convey in a way that easily transmits to a society that wants quick facts and figures. It doesn’t tell you the story of the teens who come in after school and learn to use technology that they have no other way to learn about because they lack access to it. It doesn’t tell you about the woman who researched how to find out if her family survived hurricane Katrina.  It doesn’t tell you about the numerous men and women who were able to apply for and find employment when they were barely surviving and could not afford the technology to do it at home. It doesn’t tell you about the elderly couple who came to every single brown bag chat so that they could learn, grow, stay engaged and not sit at home alone. It doesn’t tell you about all those kids who were able to read 1,000 books before Kindergarten and got that head start on their education. Facts and figures don’t tell you anything about the impact that public libraries have on individuals and local communities.

You could also read the testimony of others who responded the last time someone said nobody uses libraries anymore:

People on Twitter drag reporter who claims nobody goes to libraries

Dispelling Some Myths about Public Libraries, One Tweet at a Time (TLT)

But what I highly recommend is that, before you make a universal declaration, you take some time to visit your local public library. Visit in on a variety of different days at a variety of different times. Really look around and see what all your library has to offer, how it helps the people in your community, and how they respond to it. And if you have concerns about your local public library, instead of simply declaring that no one uses libraries anymore, maybe take some time to express your concerns to the people who run your local public library. Maybe you can help them lobby for better funding, maybe you could donate your time and expertise for a program, or maybe you can help them spread the word because marketing is, in fact, a huge challenge for a lot of libraries.

Return on Investment for Public Libraries – Library Research Service

But even if you don’t use your public library because you personally don’t need to or don’t desire to, please know that many of the people in your community do and it helps make their lives and thus your community better overall, with a high return on a very small investment. Supporting public libraries is a win-win situation for everyone.

Friday Finds: January 12, 2018

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

YA A to Z: Alcoholism, In Real Life and in Real Fiction, by by L.B. Schulman

YA A to Z: Alzheimer’s As a Means to an End, a guest post by L. B. Schulman

An Open Letter to Logan Paul

Book Review: Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke

YA A to Z: Adoption Books – Being Discussed, Being Seen, a guest post by Eric Smith

What’s New in LGBTQIA+ YA January 2018

YA A to Z: Telling a Different Amputee Story, a guest post by Mindy Rhiger

Around the Web

WNDB Announces the Winners of the 2018 Walter Awards

Department Of Education Finds Texas Violated Special Education Law

The 2018 Sydney Taylor Book Award Winners

Ask a Grown Man: Jason Reynolds

How Reading Increases Your Emotional Intelligence & Brain Function: The Findings of Recent Scientific Studies

Most Anticipated Young Adult Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books of 2018

Why The Publishing Industry Needs To Be More Inclusive Of Autistic And Disabled People

YA A to Z: Let’s Talk About . . . Aromantic and Asexual, a guest post by Bridgette Johnson

It’s the second week of January, which means we’re discussing the Letter A in YA A to Z. Today we are talking about aromantic and asexual with librarian Bridgette Johnson.

You can find out more about YA A to Z here.


Before we delve too deep into our topic, let’s have some super basic broad definitions:

Asexual: a person who experiences no sexual attraction

Aromantic: a person who experiences no romantic attraction


It’s important to remember these two terms are only a starting point, an umbrella term, especially in regards to asexuality. For example, two more super basic broad definitions are:

Demisexual: a person who experience sexual attraction only after a strong, personal, emotional bond has been established

Demiromantic: a person who experiences romantic attraction only after a strong, personal, emotional bond has been established

The terms above are arguably the four most broad identities. What some people still don’t realize is that you can experience any range of romantic attraction (hetero, homo, bi, pan, etc.) and be asexual. The terms are not one or the other. They are all that feel applicable to you. You may be a romantic asexual. You can be a demihomoromantic asexual. You can be aromantic asexual (often referred to as aro-ace). These identifiers are for romantic and sexual orientation only, not gender identity, which is an entirely separate topic. For the sake of explicitness and clarity, asexuality is a sexual orientation, just as gay, lesbian, bi, and pan are. For romantic asexuals, it’s not either/or. Sometimes it’s multiple things or all of the above.

People experience varying degrees of romantic and sexual attraction. There is no one way to be and there is no right or wrong way to be. There are many, many terms for attraction and chances are there is a term for whatever way you might feel. For example, you might be lithromantic or lithsexual, which is where romantic or sexual feelings are experienced, but there is no desire to have those feeling reciprocated. It’s all a matter of finding the term that fits you, or ignoring all the terms and labels if that’s what makes you most comfortable. You’re also likely to hear/read the word ace used in regards to asexuality. For example, if someone says “I’m ace,” they mean asexual. For those people who are not asexual or aromantic, a couple of terms you’ll often see used are allosexual and alloromantic, which respectively mean someone who isn’t asexual and someone who isn’t aromantic.

You may identify as gray ace, which usually means someone who is asexual, but doesn’t mind reading/watching things about sex, many know a lot of information about sex, and may have sex in their lifetime. It’s also important to note that having sex does not negate a person’s identity as asexual. If you’re asexual, you’re asexual whether or not you have sex. On the other end of the spectrum, some ace people are sex-repulsed, meaning they want nothing to do with sex in almost any form. Everyone’s comfort level is different.

Like all romantic and sexual orientations, aromantic and asexuality are not new. People have always felt this way. We just didn’t always have the right words for it. And it’s super important to remember that romantic and asexual attraction is a spectrum, and like all communities, is not a monolith. What is true for one person may not be true for another.

All of these varied identities within one part of the LGBTQIAP+ community is one of the many reasons we need more inclusive books in YA. For some kids, reading about a character who is aromantic or asexual or aro-ace may be their first exposure, and if that reader sees themself in that character? It could be life-changing and affirming to know they are not alone in the world and their feelings. To discover there is a community for them and what they’re feeling has a name can mean more than could ever be put into words.

Now that you’ve a brief primer on some ace terms, let’s talk about one of the librarians’ favorite things: books!

The availability of aromantic and asexual characters in YA is, to put it nicely, not the best. As with pretty much every other marginalized identity we’re looking for in books, there isn’t enough asexual rep. There isn’t enough intersectionality within the rep, and there isn’t enough #ownvoies rep. But progress is being made.

lets talk about love

Claire Kann’s Let’s Talk About Love has a biromantic asexual main character, Alice, who is a WOC. The cover is wonderfully designed in the colors of the Asexual Flag. I don’t believe it is #ownvoices in regard to Alice’s sexuality, but the author is a WOC and seems to really care about getting all of her rep accurate. You can read more about her editing process and worries here.


Another book that features POC characters is the upcoming Dread Nation by Justina Ireland. Now, Dread Nation is fantastic for about 80,000 reasons, but it’s even better for one specific thing. It has a character, Katherine, who is (minor spoiler) aromantic asexual. Those words aren’t used (this an alternate history where the Civil War was interrupted by the dead rising again as zombies) and no one really referred to people as asexual then. Through a conversation with the main character, Jane, it is clear that Kate is aro-ace. This is the first time I’ve ever read a character in YA that reads as, without any doubt, aro-ace. And it’s totally fine that she is. She’s reassured by her friend that it’s fine and the girls move one to talking about more important things. It is an impeccable scene.

tash hearts

Of course, there are other YA books with characters who are somewhere on the asexual spectrum. Just from 2017 there was Kathryn Ormsbee’s #ownvoices Tash Hearts Tolstoy (MC is romantic asexual), Alice Oseman’s Radio Silence (secondary character is homoromantic demisexual), Mackenzi Lee’s A Gentleman’s Guide To Vice and Virtue (Younger sister of the MC reads as asexual, maybe aromantic, and Lee has confirmed off-page she would be somewhere on the asexual spectrum if she has access to Tumblr. Plus, she’s getting her own spin-off book!), and Julie Murphy’s Ramona Blue (a character is homoromantic demisexual).

So, progress, bit by bit, in fiction and in real life.

Again, the information here in barely the tip of the iceberg. It would next to impossible to cover aspect of asexual and aromantic in one post. Perhaps the most important thing to remember about someone who is aromantic or asexual is that they are not broken. They do not need to be fixed. They are not a late bloomer. They are not a robot or someone who can’t connect with another human being. They will not change when they meet the right person. They are not repressed. They don’t need to try “it” to know for sure. They are not celibate. They are not faking it. They are not broken. I’ll say it again for the people in the back

They are not broken.

For more information about asexuaity and aromantic, visit any of the websites below:

http://www.asexuality.org/?q=overview.html (This is part of the Asexuality Visibility Network (AVEN) and has ton of resources along with forums for those who wish to join the site)

http://www.gayya.org/masterlist-aromantic/ (A list of books with aromantic characters)

http://www.gayya.org/masterlist-asexual/ (A list of books with asexual characters)

https://medalonmymind.wordpress.com/2017/10/29/asexuality-in-ya/ (A mock Stonewall book winner blog; this post specifically is about asexuality in YA. Check out their posts for great YA books with LGBTQIAP+ rep)

http://www.asexualityarchive.com/the-asexuality-flag/ (The Asexual Flag)

http://wiki.asexuality.org/Lexicon (AVEN, mentioned above, has its own Wiki with some commonly used terms on the website and the forums)

http://www.asexualityarchive.com/ (An Introduction sections and many, many posts)

http://asexualawarenessweek.com/ (Features downloadable resources, FAQ, and will announce the 2018 dates for Asexual Awareness Week)

Meet Bridgette Johnson:

Bridgette Johnson has worked in Youth Services in public libraries for four years and bookstores for over nine. She received her MLIS from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville in 2016. She writes fantasy for kids and teens and is thrilled to be a Author Mentor Match Round Three mentee with her middle grade fantasy novel. In her spare time, she loves to travel and attend geek and comic book convention. All opinions and thoughts are her own.

YA A to Z: Telling a Different Amputee Story, a guest post by Mindy Rhiger

It’s the second week of January, which means we’re discussing the Letter A in YA A to Z. Today we are talking about amputees with the librarian and blogger Mindy Rhiger

You can find out more about YA A to Z here.


Perhaps I shouldn’t have chosen to read Phantom Limbs so quickly after reading Shark Girl. But in my defense, who expects another shark attack story?  What are the odds?

shark girl

If you’re reading fiction, the odds are pretty good that there will be a dramatic backstory for each character. That’s what we want, right? Lots of drama? That’s how we end up with so many shark attacks in fiction. When there aren’t sharks, there are tragic accidents that loom over our amputee characters’ pasts. There’s always something, and that something has probably taken away the thing our character loved the most.

I get it. This is a good story.


But, if I’m honest, I almost stopped reading Phantom Limbs when it was revealed to be a shark attack that took Dara’s arm. While it’s true that trauma is the cause of the majority of amputations (77%) and less than 10% are congenital like mine, I am tired of reading the same story over and over again. Not all amputees are survivors of trauma, and I expect that shark attacks are the cause of very few of those traumas. Perhaps less than 10%.

That is not to say that Phantom Limbs is a bad story. Nor are the many other stories published for young readers that follow the tragic accident/recovery formula. I’ve really appreciated a lot of what some of these books had to offer. The search for identity outside what people see in Shark Girl, the difference a prosthetic device can make in A Time to Dance, and the mixed feelings that come from getting attention from your physical difference in The Running Dream.

Amputee Awareness: 10 Facts You Should Know

But I admit that what I really want are stories with amputee characters that move away from the tragic accident/recovery formula. I want the few titles I do know of that do this to be more widely read.

I want these things because I get the question “How did you lose your arm?” from kids on a daily basis.

Because I recently had a child reply to my explanation of having been born without an arm with “Um, actually, I’m pretty sure you broke your arm.”

Because most adults never ask about my arm at all. They just assume that disability equals some kind of tragedy, either past (tragic accident) or present (loss of a treasured ability or talent).

Limb Loss Statistics – Amputee Coalition

People think they know my story without ever having to listen to it. Even if they don’t ask they fill in the tragedy from imaginations fueled by pop culture, including books. The truth is that my story is not tragic, and I had no recovery or adjustment period to work through, no loss to speak of. I was born with blond hair, blue eyes, five fingers, and ten toes. It’s an interesting fact about me, but that’s it. It is—has always been—my normal. I have no phantom pain, literally or metaphorically. In my experience, that’s the hardest thing for people to understand.

Disability in Kidlit

I like to think that one day I’ll write a novel for teens that captures my experience in a way that helps people understand, but until I get around to it, I’ll continue to direct readers who are open to a different kind of amputee story to these books:

For Middle Schoolers:

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling

Red Butterfly by A.L Sonnichsen,

For High Schoolers:


Dangerous by Shannon Hale

Tripping by Heather Waldorf

Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman.

Meet Mindy Rhiger

Mindy Rhiger is a librarian and a writer in Minneapolis. She likes to read books and spend time with her family. Also, she is a congenital amputee and uses a prosthetic arm in her daily life. You can read more about it on her FAQ: Fake Arm 101. Proper Noun Blog – Twitter

What’s New in LGBTQIA+ YA January 2018

tltbutton7It’s time for another roundup for new and forthcoming YA (and sometimes not YA) books featuring LGBTQIA+ characters.  The titles I’m including here have LGBTQIA+ main characters as well as secondary characters (in some cases parents), as well as anthologies that include LGBTQIA+ stories. Know of a title I missed in this list? Or know of a forthcoming title that should be on my radar for an upcoming list? Leave a comment or tweet me @CiteSomething. This list covers November and December 2017 titles. Head over to this link for the previous post (November and December 2017 titles) in this series. All annotations here are via the publishers/Goodreads. I also have a 2017 master list and am working on one for 2018. I’m happy to send you the list if you’re interested. Tweet at me or email me to request the list. I’m amanda DOT macgregor AT gmail DOT com.

Looking for more information on LGBTQIA+ books or issues? Check out the hashtag here on TLT and go visit YA Pride and LGBTQ Reads, two phenomenal resources. 


January 2018


chainbreakerChainbreaker by Tara Sim (ISBN-13: 9781510706194 Publisher: Sky Pony Press Publication date: 01/02/2018)

Clock mechanic Danny Hart knows he’s being watched. But by whom, or what, remains a mystery. To make matters worse, clock towers have begun falling in India, though time hasn’t Stopped yet. He’d hoped after reuniting with his father and exploring his relationship with Colton, he’d have some time to settle into his new life. Instead, he’s asked to investigate the attacks.

After inspecting some of the fallen Indian towers, he realizes the British occupation may be sparking more than just attacks. And as Danny and Colton unravel more secrets about their past, they find themselves on a dark and dangerous path—one from which they may never return.



true queenThe True Queen (The Impostor Queen #3) by Sarah Fine (ISBN-13: 9781481490603 Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books Publication date: 01/02/2018)

Now that Ansa knows she is the destined queen of Kupari, she is desperate to find a permanent home for her people, the Kriegere, in the Kupari lands. But as the small band of warriors crosses into the foreign territory, Ansa loses her fragile grip on her newly-acquired—and violent—fire and ice magic and puts everyone, including her love Thyra, in danger.

Inside the walls of Kupari, Elli maintains the facade that she is the magical queen, with her secret—that she has no magic at all—on the brink of exposure every day. But as she tries to prepare the citizens to protect themselves from another invasion, unrest spreads as wielders like her beloved Oskar begin to lose control of their powers.

As Kupari grows increasingly unstable, with the land literally crumbling beneath their feet, and a common enemy once again threatening everything, these two young women on a collision course with destiny must find a way to save the realm and their people from total destruction.

In this epic conclusion to the Impostor Queen series, Sarah Fine’s sweeping tale of two fierce leaders imbued with unimaginable power and called to unthinkable sacrifice finally answers the question: who has the strength to be the True Queen?


meet cuteMeet Cute stories by: Jennifer L. Armentrout, Dhonielle Clayton, Katie Cotugno, Jocelyn Davies, Nina LaCour, Huntley Fitzpatrick, Emery Lord, Katharine McGee, Kass Morgan, Julie Murphy, Meredith Russo, Sara Shepard, Nicola Yoon, Ibi Zoboi (ISBN-13: 9781328759870 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 01/02/2018)

Whether or not you believe in fate, or luck, or love at first sight, every romance has to start somewhere. MEET CUTE is an anthology of original short stories featuring tales of “how they first met” from some of today’s most popular YA authors.

Readers will experience Nina LaCour’s beautifully written piece about two Bay Area girls meeting via a cranky customer service Tweet, Sara Shepard’s glossy tale about a magazine intern and a young rock star, Nicola Yoon’s imaginative take on break-ups and make-ups, Katie Cotugno’s story of two teens hiding out from the police at a house party, and Huntley Fitzpatrick’s charming love story that begins over iced teas at a diner. There’s futuristic flirting from Kass Morgan and Katharine McGee, a riveting transgender heroine from Meredith Russo, a subway missed connection moment from Jocelyn Davies, and a girl determined to get out of her small town from Ibi Zoboi. Jennifer Armentrout writes a sweet story about finding love from a missing library book, Emery Lord has a heartwarming and funny tale of two girls stuck in an airport, Dhonielle Clayton takes a thoughtful, speculate approach to pre-destined love, and Julie Murphy dreams up a fun twist on reality dating show contestants.

This incredibly talented group of authors brings us a collection of stories that are at turns romantic and witty, epic and everyday, heartbreaking and real.


before iBefore I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp (ISBN-13: 9781492642282 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 01/02/2018)

Best friends Corey and Kyra were inseparable in their snow-covered town of Lost Creek, Alaska. When Corey moves away, she makes Kyra promise to stay strong during the long, dark winter, and wait for her return.

Just days before Corey is to return home to visit, Kyra dies. Corey is devastated—and confused. The entire Lost community speaks in hushed tones about the town’s lost daughter, saying her death was meant to be. And they push Corey away like she’s a stranger.

Corey knows something is wrong. With every hour, her suspicion grows. Lost is keeping secrets—chilling secrets. But piecing together the truth about what happened to her best friend may prove as difficult as lighting the sky in an Alaskan winter…



king geordiKing Geordi the Great by Gene Gant (ISBN-13: 9781640800922 Publisher: Dreamspinner Press Publication date: 01/09/2018)
Growing up means overcoming obstacles: facing reality even when it hurts, being brave enough to stand up for yourself, and being your own man even when going along with others’ expectations is easier.

Geordi is learning these lessons the hard way when his overbearing but well-meaning parents out him before he’s ready. It leads to a declaration of love from Geordi’s best friend Toff—a love that isn’t reciprocated. But with a neglectful father at home, Toff is already struggling, and Geordi can’t bear to break his heart, so he goes along with the romance—until things move to the next level and it’s too hard to live the lie. Geordi must take a long hard look at his life and face some truths that would be easier to avoid, because a disastrous event will mean his friends Toff and Jess need someone to lean on like never before. For Geordi to be that person, he must figure out how to be true to himself.



nice try janeNice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke (ISBN-13: 9780544867857 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 01/09/2018)
It’s Kind of a Funny Story meets Daria in the darkly hilarious tale of a teen’s attempt to remake her public image and restore inner peace through reality TV. The only thing 17-year-old Jane Sinner hates more than failure is pity. After a personal crisis and her subsequent expulsion from high school, she’s going nowhere fast. Jane’s well-meaning parents push her to attend a high school completion program at the nearby Elbow River Community College, and she agrees, on one condition: she gets to move out.

Jane tackles her housing problem by signing up for House of Orange, a student-run reality show that is basically Big Brother, but for Elbow River Students. Living away from home, the chance to win a car (used, but whatever), and a campus full of people who don’t know what she did in high school… what more could she want? Okay, maybe a family that understands why she’d rather turn to Freud than Jesus to make sense of her life, but she’ll settle for fifteen minutes in the proverbial spotlight.

As House of Orange grows from a low-budget web series to a local TV show with fans and shoddy T-shirts, Jane finally has the chance to let her cynical, competitive nature thrive. She’ll use her growing fan base, and whatever Intro to Psychology can teach her, to prove to the world—or at least viewers of substandard TV—that she has what it takes to win.


hammerHammer of the Witch by Dakota Chase (Repeating History: Book Two ISBN-13: 9781640800946 Publisher: Dreamspinner Press Publication date: 01/09/2018)

History isn’t dead when you’re living it.

Ash and Grant are about to learn why it was called the Dark Ages, when Merlin, in the guise of their teacher, once again sends them time traveling to reclaim one of the antiquities their prank destroyed: a book called the Malleus Maleficarum, or Hammer of the Witches, which was used to persecute and kill innocent people throughout medieval Europe.

They’ll need to keep their heads down and their wits about them in a Germany ruled by the iron fist of the Inquisition, where anyone who is different is dragged off to horrifying prisons, tortured to confession, and ultimately killed in the worst way imaginable. But it won’t be easy to navigate a frightening and brutal time, secure Merlin’s book, and make it home without attracting attention.


learningLearning Seventeen by Brooke Carter (ISBN-13: 9781459815537 Publisher: Orca Book Publishers Publication date: 01/16/2018)
New Hope Academy, or, as seventeen-year-old Jane Learning likes to call it, No Hope, is a Baptist reform school where Jane is currently being held captive.

Of course, smart, sarcastic Jane has no interest in reforming, failing to see any benefit to pretending to play well with others. But then Hannah shows up, a gorgeous bad girl with fiery hair and an even stormier disposition. She shows Jane how to live a full and fulfilling life even when the world tells you you’re wrong, and how to believe in a future outside the “prison” walls. Jane soon learns, though, that Hannah is quietly battling some demons of her own.



reign of theReign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh (ISBN-13: 9780448494395 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 01/23/2018)

Without the dead, she’d be no one.

Odessa is one of Karthia’s master necromancers, catering to the kingdom’s ruling Dead. Whenever a noble dies, it’s Odessa’s job to raise them by retrieving their soul from a dreamy and dangerous shadow world called the Deadlands. But there is a cost to being raised: the Dead must remain shrouded. If even a hint of flesh is exposed, a grotesque transformation begins, turning the Dead into terrifying, bloodthirsty Shades.

A dramatic uptick in Shade attacks raises suspicions and fears around the kingdom. Soon, a crushing loss of one of her closest companions leaves Odessa shattered, and reveals a disturbing conspiracy in Karthia: Someone is intentionally creating Shades by tearing shrouds from the Dead–and training them to attack. Odessa is forced to contemplate a terrifying question: What if her magic is the weapon that brings the kingdom to its knees?

Fighting alongside her fellow mages–and a powerful girl as enthralling as she is infuriating–Odessa must untangle the gruesome plot to destroy Karthia before the Shades take everything she loves.

Perfect for fans of Three Dark Crowns and Red Queen, Reign of the Fallen is a gutsy, unpredictable read with a surprising and breathtaking LGBT romance at its core.


lets talk about loveLet’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann (ISBN-13: 9781250136121 Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Publication date: 01/23/2018)
Striking a perfect balance between heartfelt emotions and spot-on humor, this debut features a pop-culture enthusiast protagonist with an unforgettable voice sure to resonate with readers.

Alice had her whole summer planned. Nonstop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting—working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating—no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.

But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).

When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library-employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.

Claire Kann’s debut novel Let’s Talk About Love, chosen by readers like you for Macmillan’s young adult imprint Swoon Reads, gracefully explores the struggle with emerging adulthood and the complicated line between friendship and what it might mean to be something more.


sound ofSound of Silence by Mia Kerick and Raine O’Tierney (ISBN-13: 9781640800960 Publisher: Dreamspinner Press Publication date: 01/23/2018)

High school senior Renzy Callen hasn’t uttered a word in years. He likes being invisible to all around him; it keeps life safe and predictable. In his attic bedroom, he experiences a world far from the drama of his family. He doodles, listens to music, and contemplates the troubled souls he observes when attending self-help meetings designed for people with problems he doesn’t have. Renzy lives his life like a spectator, always on the outside of life’s games, looking in at others.
Everything changes when Seven and Morning Moreau-Maddox relocate from their glitzy lives in Paris to boring, picturesque Redcliff Hills, Missouri. Tall, platinum blond, and as put-together as a pair of European high-fashion models, the sophisticated siblings befriend Renzy, drawing him in and then pushing him away. What starts as nothing more than a means to an end for Seven, however, quickly becomes something more. Could icy-hearted Seven be thawing for the silent, quirky charm of Renzy Callen?
Determined to find the cause of Renzy’s selective mutism, the three teens set off on a road trip, during which they discover that flawless physical facades can conceal the most scarred souls, and that sometimes silence is better than golden.


dangerous artThe Dangerous Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis (ISBN-13: 9780062659002 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 01/30/2018)

A raw, powerful, but ultimately uplifting debut novel perfect for fans of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe from debut author Angelo Surmelis.

Seventeen-year-old Evan Panos doesn’t know where he fits in. His strict immigrant Greek mother refuses to see him as anything but a disappointment. His quiet, workaholic father is a staunch believer in avoiding any kind of conflict. And his best friend, Henry, has somehow become distractingly attractive over the summer.

Tired, isolated, scared—Evan finds that his only escape is to draw in an abandoned monastery that feels as lonely as he is. And yes, he kissed one guy over the summer. But it’s Henry who’s now proving to be irresistible. Henry, who suddenly seems interested in being more than friends. And it’s Henry who makes him believe that he deserves more than his mother’s harsh words and terrifying abuse.

But as things with Henry heat up, and his mother’s abuse escalates, Evan has to decide how to find his voice in a world where he has survived so long by being silent.

This is a powerful and revelatory coming-of-age novel based on the author’s own childhood, about a boy who learns to step into his light.

YA A to Z: Adoption Books – Being Discussed, Being Seen, a guest post by Eric Smith

It’s the second week of January, which means we’re discussing the Letter A in YA A to Z. Today we are talking about adoption with the amazing literary agent and writer Eric Smith.

You can find out more about YA A to Z here.


There’s this look.

It’s hard to explain. I’ve never seen myself do it. Sometimes I feel it though. The way my brow furrows, my mouth tightens. I imagine my lips look like they are forming a straight line, like an emoji. It’ll happen, and my wife or my friends who are nearby will sharing a knowing smile.

Someone got adoption wrong again, and everyone is looking at me to see how I’ll react.

I see it all the time. Sometimes its in a book, or something on television, or in one of the many, many Lifetime movies I watch with my wife. You can tell, in that moment, when the writers have no idea what it feels like. What the real questions are. What the real struggle is.

welcome home

But there’s this other look. It’s an expression I keep inside. One that hits me and leaves me quiet and awestruck. My heart swells and I feel that warmth in my chest, as my eyes tear up.

When someone gets it so right.

When they see me.

Six Common Issues Faced by Adopted Adolescents – Adoptive Families

There’s a difference, you know. Between being used as a plot device, and having someone understand your story. Between being discussed and being seen.

Last year, for me, was a year of feeling seen.

Adoption – KidsHealth

I was lucky enough to publish Welcome Home, a Young Adult anthology full of adoption-themed stories from a wide array of contributors, with Flux. When my amazing agent was pitching the project around, a lot of the feedback we got from editors was along the lines of it being “too niche” or “a narrow hook.”

When over a hundred thousand kids are adopted each year in the United States alone, and four times that in the foster care system… that’s a pretty devastating piece of feedback to hear. Because the feedback suddenly isn’t about the book anymore. It’s about you.

You’re being discussed. You’re not being seen.

Adoption in YA Lit – The Hub – American Library Association

Every agent and editor and person in the publishing world will tell you not to take things personally like that, as a writer. It’s all subjective. This didn’t feel that way.

But, the book was picked up. And my goodness, am I endlessly thankful. Last year brought with it many of those quiet moments of awe. Of being seen. Not just because of my little book, but because of what I kept seeing in the world of books and art.

3 On A YA Theme: Adoption – Book Riot

My wife and I started watching This Is Us, a television series that prominently features a trans-racial adoptee who wrestles with his identity and his past. Someone like me. Novels like You Don’t Know Me But I Know You by Rebecca Barrow and The Leavers by Lisa Ko were published, stunning stories of adoption in the world of YA and adult literary fiction. I re-read Autofocus by Lauren Gibaldi and the powerful See No Color by Shannon Gibney.


And my goodness, Far from the Tree by Robin Benway won the National Book Award. A YA novel about adoption won the National Book Award. I felt my heart wrench in my chest when I saw the celebrations on social media for that beautiful book. A novel that made me feel seen.

A book I wish I had as a teenager growing up.

All this art, all these words and images and stories… they all came at a time when my wife and I were getting ready, as best we could, for the birth of our first child. It’s an odd thing, promoting your book about adoption, with a number of people touched by adoption, right after your first blood relative in welcomed into the world.

10 Things Adoptees Want You to Know | HuffPost

This summer, my first in-print YA novel will be out in the world. The Girl and the Grove. It’s the story of an adopted teenager who finds her biological mother in a hidden patch of woods in Philadelphia’s largest city park… only to discover she might be a magical creature of myth. It’s a story about those “what ifs” that adopted kids think about it, and hold secret in their hearts. It took years to write.

I hope it can live up to some of the great adoption stories that have been coming out, and the ones we’re going to see this year. Like Nicole Chung’s All You Can Ever Know, a memoir I am thirsting for, by one of my favorite essayists writing today.

I hope the story resonates with you, the way the short stories in Welcome Home hit me. How last year’s stories by Rebecca Darrow and Robin Benway broke my heart and gave me hope. I want those novels that came out last year, those books that won awards, to leave you feeling like a main character in your life story, and not just a device. Not a human MacGuffin meant to drive a plot.

Because you’re more than what bad stories have told you. You’re what the good stories have shown you.

That you deserve to be seen.

And I see you.

Meet Eric Smith


Bio: Eric Smith is a literary agent and Young Adult author from New Jersey. His books include the Inked series (Bloomsbury) and the forthcoming novel The Girl & The Grove (Flux). He edited the adoption-themed YA anthology Welcome Home (Flux), and can be found talking about YA on Book Riot’s HEY YA podcast with Kelly Jensen. He lives in Ann Arbor with his wife, son, and corgi.

About Welcome Home

Welcome Home collects a number of adoption-themed fictional short stories, and brings them together in one anthology from a diverse range of celebrated Young Adult authors. The all-star roster includes Edgar-award winner Mindy McGinnis, New York Times bestselling authors C.J. Redwine (The Shadow Queen) and William Ritter (Jackaby), and acclaimed YA authors across all genres, like Adi Alsaid, Lauren Gibaldi, Sangu Mandanna, Karen Akins, and many more. (Flux, 2017)

Book Review: Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke

Publisher’s description

It’s Kind of a Funny Story meets Daria in the darkly hilarious tale of a teen’s attempt to remake her public image and restore inner peace through reality TV. The only thing 17-year-old Jane Sinner hates more than failure is pity. After a personal crisis and her subsequent expulsion from high school, she’s going nowhere fast. Jane’s well-meaning parents push her to attend a high school completion program at the nearby Elbow River Community College, and she agrees, on one condition: she gets to move out.

Jane tackles her housing problem by signing up for House of Orange, a student-run reality show that is basically Big Brother, but for Elbow River Students. Living away from home, the chance to win a car (used, but whatever), and a campus full of people who don’t know what she did in high school… what more could she want? Okay, maybe a family that understands why she’d rather turn to Freud than Jesus to make sense of her life, but she’ll settle for fifteen minutes in the proverbial spotlight.

As House of Orange grows from a low-budget web series to a local TV show with fans and shoddy T-shirts, Jane finally has the chance to let her cynical, competitive nature thrive. She’ll use her growing fan base, and whatever Intro to Psychology can teach her, to prove to the world—or at least viewers of substandard TV—that she has what it takes to win.


Amanda’s thoughts

nice try jane“Sometimes I’m afraid that if I don’t feel amused, I won’t feel anything at all.”–Jane Sinner

This was completely enjoyable. It was my first read for winter break and I easily read it in one day because I couldn’t put it down. The narrative voice is EXCELLENT. As a totally character-driven reader, I was instantly hooked.

Jane, who recently attempted suicide while dealing with her depression and a loss of faith, is looking for a new start. Newly expelled from high school, she agrees to finishing up her credits at the local community college—if she can move out. She needs a break from her religious parents (who think returning to youth group and church will solve all her problems) and is hopeful that community college, where no one knows her or her past, will be different. But, it’s kind of hard to fly under the radar when you immediately begin appearing on a small-time reality show, which is exactly what Jane does with House of Orange. The student-run reality show airs on YouTube and will provide Jane with a cheap place to live. Jane, who thinks of herself as a “washed-up nihilist,” is snarky, savvy, and brimming with personality. She’s perfect for this show. She looks to establish authority early, determined to win through alliances, manipulation, surveillance, and a little psychology. She begins to grow close to Robbie Patel, her fellow contestant, hoping they can be the last two left standing, but things don’t always go as planned, especially for Jane. She came to college looking for a second chance, but can get a third? Maybe finishing high school online would’ve just been easier than all this.


In the midst of all this reality show filming and going to classes, Jane is still dealing with her mental illness. Or, really, she’s not dealing with it. She hasn’t been taking her meds and the only psychiatrist she’s been talking to is the one she invented in her head. She is sort of passionately indifferent to everything. She’s not necessarily suicidal anymore, but wouldn’t mind ceasing to exist. These thoughts—of indifference and of not minding to not exist—are so well captured throughout her story and feel SO familiar to those of us who have depression. There is a particular hypothetical exchange with her supervisor at work that was just fantastic. Jane imagines calling out not necessarily sick, but telling her supervisor she can’t come in because she can’t get out of bed, because there’s no reason to, because she can’t feel anything, because she’s dead inside, and she imagines this supervisor telling her to make a list of things she’s grateful for, drink some tea, listen to a favorite song, or look at cats on the internet—that should help her feel better. Sounds familiar, right?


This funny and smart book is not to be missed. Jane’s deadpan voice will draw readers in, and once all the reality show shenanigans start, they will be desperate to know what happens, especially once all the duplicity going on begins to be revealed. An excellent look at second (and third and fourth) chances. 


Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780544867857
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 01/09/2018