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YA A to Z: Terry Trueman

In 2001 author Terry Trueman won the Michael L. Printz Honor Award for his book Stuck in Neutral. In this work, we step inside the mind of Shawn McDaniel, a boy who has Cerebral Palsy. He is also a boy that things his father is about to kill him. You see, Shawn can’t communicate with the outside world and his father is worried that Shawn is in pain, so he wants to help him. And now Shawn is trying desperately to find a way to let his father know that he wants to live.

At the time, this was one of the first books I ever read from the point of view of a character that had a disability. And later it would come to mean something so much more to me. You see, I am the aunt to three boys on the Autism spectrum. Like Shawn, my nephews have a real inability to communicate, more so when they were younger. One of my nephews can become so frustrated with his inability to communicate his thoughts and feelings that he bites himself to the point of bleeding. Children’s services has been called many times by outside parties, though thankfully children’s services are aware that self harm, OCD, echocholia and more can be a part of Autism.

I also have several close friends who have children on the spectrum and their lives require a navigation that is quite different than others. Childcare can be a challenge, if you are able to find any at all. Trips out in public must be carefully orchestrated, in part because variations of routine and be quite stressful for those on the spectrum. But also in part because the public often does not respond well when they see kids on the spectrum. And if a meltdown should occur in public, the stares and comments you will get are horrific, withering.

Which is part of the reason why books like Stuck in Netural are so important. You see, books can create empathy, compassion. Atticus Finch once talked about walking a mile in another pair of shoes and how doing that helped us to develop a sympathetic viewpoint. That’s what Stuck in Neutral does, it allows us to see into the heart and soul of a young boy, it humanizes him in a world that would seek to make him less than human. Stuck in Neutral is not about Autism, it’s about Cerebral Palsy, but it is an important reminder for us all that those who are differently abled than us, those whose lives may seem challenging and overwhelming, are still people with thoughts and feelings and dreams and fears and love. Whatever our bodies may look like on the outside, at the core of us we’re all just people.

If Stuck in Neutral was the only book Terry Trueman ever wrote it would still be the accomplishment of a lifetime, but it isn’t. Trueman went on to write a wide variety of additional novels, including Cruise Control which tells the story of Shawn from his brother’s point of view. There are 10 books listed on Terry Trueman’s Goodreads page, including No Right Turn (2006),  7 Days in the Hot Corner (2007), and Hurricane (2008).

In 2012 Trueman released Life Happens Next, which tells us more about Shawn’s life: “How do you connect with others when you can’t talk, walk, or even wave hello? In the sequel to Stuck in Neutral, which ALA Booklist called “an intense reading experience,” Shawn McDaniel discovers a new definition of “normal” and finds that life happens next for everyone.”

Terry Trueman went to school and resides in the state of Washington. Trueman has a son, Sheehan, who himself has Cerebral Palsy. Stuck in Neutral was eventually turned into a stage play and you can read a bit about that process here.

It is not always easy for me to understand this life that the people around me live that is dictated by the spectrum. My nephews are now all teenagers and to be completely honest, this life has been a tremendous challenge for them and the people that love them. None of them will ever live on their own. One of my friends already has their son on a waiting list for a long term care facility because they know that their son will always need extensive care and because of the rapidly rising rates of Autism the waiting list is long. They worry about what will happen to their children when they are no longer able to care for them. I want the world to be more compassionate to these families, to stop sneering at them in public, to stop turning their noses in disgust. I want the world to read Stuck in Neutral and other books with differently abled characters so that they will develop a deep and abiding empathy for all human life, even those lives that look radically different than what our world has decided the norm should be.

Join the conversation!  Share a post about your favorite author OR tweet us your favorite author with the tag #YAAtoZ. While we’re sharing our favorite authors, we would love to hear about yours. We all might find some new authors we haven’t heard of before. And the more authors we share, the more comprehensive and diverse the list becomes. On Twitter, we’re @TLT16, @boothheather, @robinreads, and @citesomething.

#YAAtoZ Schedule: Week 1 4: A ; 5: B ; 6: C ; 7: D  Week 2 10: E ; 11: F ; 12: G, H, I ; 13: J, K ; 14: L  Week 3 17: M ; 18: N, O ; 19: P, Q ; 20: R, S ; 21: T  Week 4 24: U ; 25: V, W ; 26: X ; 27: Y ; 28: Z

Autism and Libraries


GETTING REAL . . . A LITTLE ANYWAY by Terry Trueman (and giveaway)

Earlier this month, I wrote about Terry Trueman’s Printz Honor Award winning title, Stuck in Neutral.  Tomorrow, Trueman releases a sequel entitled Life Happens Next.  Today, he writes about his sequel and is offering YOU a chance to win a signed copy.  We are giving away 5 signed copies, find out how to enter at the end of this guest post.
It’s especially nice to be a guest blogger for Teen Librarian’s Tool Box. I’d like the thank Karen and the other librarians for giving me this chance to reach out to Teen and Youth services librarians. My subject for this blog is ‘back to reality’. And by this I mean that as an author of what is usually termed ‘realistic’ fiction or, more disparagingly, ‘problem novels’ I’ve been more than a little surprised by the depth and breadth of movement away from realistic fiction towards dystopian, fantasy, vampire/virgin/wizard/werewolf etc books and series that have taken over the world of works being marketed for teens and young adults. I know that this is not a complete takeover and that realistic fiction still holds some part of the publishing world but I have to admit that the conversations I’ve seen on the YALSA book discussion site, which I rejoined recently after several years’ absence, seem overwhelmingly geared away from the kind of books I write.
Life Happens Next by Terry Trueman
Releases August 21st from HarperTeen

There could be a bit of sour grapes in this observation of course. When my first novel STUCK IN NEUTRAL was published in June of 2000, I believe either the second or third Harry Potter, THE GOBLET OF FIRE was also published that year. I’m not sure that J.K. Rowling would have been willing to trade her royalty check for my Printz Honor Award, I’m not sure I’d have been willing to make that trade back then either. Over the dozen years since then, however, I believe that J.K. did reasonably well, helped by her great talent as a writer and by her stories about a boy living under the stairs in the real world. After Rowling came the vampire stuff, TWILIGHT etc. my understanding is that these stories, at least at the start were about virginal teenage love where everything was sexual except sex itself. And next came HUNGER GAMES. Somewhere along the way, stories about teens living in the real world, today, striving to deal with issues of identity, meaning, and their realistic world of problems and issues got nudged (or sometimes slammed) onto the back burner of the stove in the basement (good one huh?).
There is nothing wrong with fantasy, nothing wrong with adventure, nothing wrong with any character driven story told with the ringing sounds of compassion and emotional truth and maybe even a bit of thematic significance towards helping people think about their own lives, values and dreams.

I mention this topic simply because tomorrow, August 21, 2012 my first novel in over four years will be released nationwide in hardbound. LIFE HAPPENS NEXT is a sequel to STUCK IN NEUTRAL. The story, as the title suggests, tells about what happens next in the life of Shawn McDaniel the protagonist in both books. At the end of STUCK IN NEUTRAL the reader has no idea whether Shawn will survive the next five minutes, much less long enough see his 15th birthday . . well, he does both. LIFE HAPPENS NEXT is realistic fiction. It’s a problem novel. It has no vampires, wizards, werewolves, teenaged girls running around in a really horrible future having arrows shot at them—it just tells the story of a kid who everyone thinks is a vegetable but who in fact is a bright, great spirit who loves and longs to be loved in return. I so hope you enjoy it and feel that it merits hand-selling to your teen readers. On behalf of all my author friends who write stories set in what can be considered ‘reality’ thanks.

Please visit www.terrytrueman.com any time to find out where I am, and what I’m doing. You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and Linked-in.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Power of Reading: Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman

Sometimes life has a moment of kismet.  Just yesterday one of those moments happened.  As I sat at the Reference Desk a mom walked up and asked me where “the classics” were.  She wanted her child, a daughter, to only read the classics so that she would increase her vocabulary.  So we talked.

I told this mom that there was value in all reading.  Reading, you see, helps the reader develop their world view, it helps them learn problem solving and interpersonal relationship skills, and it helps them develop empathy.  In fact, that is one of my favorite parts of reading: sometimes, you take a walk in someone else’s shoes and you understand things you never would have before.  Which brings me to the book Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman.

I was a younger teen librarian when Stuck in Neutral came out, a college student myself.  I didn’t have a lot of worldly experience.  I didn’t know a lot of people who weren’t exactly like me.  I didn’t know anyone like Shawn McDaniel.  And I didn’t know that I needed to think about what it meant to be someone like Shawn.

Today, my world is very different.  I am older, a mother, and an aunt.  If you read here, you know that I have 3 nephews who fall on the Autism spectrum.  They are high on the spectrum and have low to no communication skills, especially if you are someone who doesn’t spend a lot of time with them and come to understand who they are and what they are trying to say.  They, like Shawn, can’t tell you what they think and feel.  They are prone to meltdowns, born out of frustration because they want so desperately for you to understand.  And there are people who look at people like my nephews and shake their head in disgust, wondering why they “get away” with the behavior they see.  They don’t understand that there is more going on in this situation than just a misbehaving kid.  They don’t know what it is like to be a prisoner in your home, afraid of the meltdown, celebrating the smallest little victories, learning how to read the signs.

It was reading Stuck in Neutral that first made me begin to realize that there were people living lives that I couldn’t even begin to understand.  You see, by all accounts, Shawn McDaniel appears to be a vegetable.  He can’t move, he can’t talk, and know one knows what – if anything – is going on inside of him.  And without this knowledge, Shawn’s father thinks he is going to do him a favor and end his life.  Shawn McDaniel has Cerebral Palsy.

“My life is like one of those “good news-bad news” jokes. Like, “I’ve got some good news and some bad news—which do you want first?” I could go on about my good news for hours, but you probably want to hear the punch line, my bad news, right? Well, there isn’t that much, really, but what’s here is pretty wild. First off, my parents got divorced ten years ago because of me. My being born changed everything for all of us, in every way. My dad didn’t divorce my mom, or my sister, Cindy, or my brother, Paul—. He divorced me. He couldn’t handle my condition, so he had to leave. My condition? Well, that brings us to the guts of my bad news.” – Terry Trueman, Stuck in Neutral
Stuck in Neutral is told from Shawn’s point of view as he tries to find a way, any way, to let his father know that he is in there and that he does not want to die.  And readers turn page after page while wondering what the outcome will be:  Will Shawn survive?
Stuck in Neutral is an example of quality story telling that does the one thing that we need stories to do: it helps us take a walk in someone else’s shoes and expand our worldview.  For these pages, we come to understand more of what it would be like to live in a world where we can’t control our bodies, where we can’t communicate, and where people think that maybe we don’t have the same value that they do.
For years, I booktalked in the local schools and this was one of my go to booktalks.  Teens ate it up because they could – for just that one minute booktalk – wonder what it would be like to know that your parent thought your life wasn’t worth living.  This is one of those classics that we need to keep re-introducing to teens because it excels not only at storytelling, but because it lets us have that brief moment to walk in someone else’s shoes, a pair of shoes so completely different than our own.  And with current statistics indicating that today 1 out of 5 children have some type of health or behavioral issue, these type of stories are more important than ever.  Our teens are living in worlds much more complex than the ones we grew up with.  They are going to school with students that have Autism, ADHD, OCD, Depression and more (sadly, so much more).  Books like Stuck in Neutral help them to unzip their skin and begin to look at the people around them who may be different as still being human and having worth.  And that is the power of reading.  And that mom, she was glad she had a moment to talk with me and let her daughter pick out whatever she wanted to read.
From now until August 21st, you can read Stuck in Neutral for FREE.  That’s right – FREE.  Author Terry Trueman is coming out with a sequel, Life Happens Next, on August 21st.  Be sure to check back here on August 20th for a guest post from author Terry Trueman and a chance to win 1 of 5 signed copies of Life Happens Next.  To read Stuck in Neutral for free, please visit Epic Reads at http://www.epicreads.com/blog/read-stuck-in-neutral-for-free/
Stuck in Neutral has won the following awards and honors: Books for the Teen Age 2001 (NYPL), Books for Youth Editor’s Choice 2000 (Booklist), Top 10 Youth First Novels 2000(Booklist), 2001 Best Books for Young Adults (ALA), 2001 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers (ALA), and 2001 Michael L. Printz Honor Book
Please visit our Autism & Libraries section to learn more about children and teens on the spectrum, literature and the ways that libraries can better bring the two together.

The #YAAtoZ Index: The 2018 Project at Teen Librarian Toolbox


There are 52 weeks in a year, that means every 2 weeks we will cover a new letter. For example, the first 2 weeks of January we will cover the letter A. The next 2 weeks we will cover the letter B. What will that look like? It can look however we want it to look. Let’s take the letter B for example. There’s author Sarah Rees Brennan, the book Bone Gap, or topics like bisexuality, book boyfriends, best friends (or best anything really), bugs (either literal bugs or the things that bug you about YA), etc. If it starts somehow in someway with the letter B, you can write about it.

  • January – Letters A & B
  • February – Letters C & D
  • March – Letters E & F
  • April – Letters G, H & I
  • May – Letters J & K
  • June – Letters L & M
  • July – Letters N & O
  • August – Letters P & Q
  • September – Letters R & S
  • October – Letters T & U
  • November – Letters V & W
  • December – Letters X, Y & Z

So we’re talking book titles, book authors and book topics. You can make a book list or you can have an in depth discussion. You can be funny or you can be serious. You can be creative. In fact, if you have ever thought I have always wanted to talk about x, y or z but couldn’t figure out a forum for that, THIS is your forum for that.

I think I have successfully created a Google Form that you can fill out to let us know what you would like to talk about here. You can fill it out at any time starting now and throughout all of 2018.

Look for new posts throughout the year!


YA A to Z: Laurie Halse Anderson

YA A to Z: Libba Bray

YA A to Z: Kristin Cashore

YA A to Z: Sarah Dessen

YA A to Z: E. Lockhart

YA A to Z: Sharon Flake

YA A to Z: Lamar Giles

YA A to Z: Rachel Hawkins

YA A to Z: Justina Ireland

YA A to Z: Maureen Johnson

YA A to Z: David Levithan

YA A to Z: Julie Kagawa

YA A to Z: Tahereh Mafi

YA A to Z: Patrick Ness

YA A to Z: Lauren Oliver

YA A to Z: Stephanie Perkins

YA A to Z: Matthew Quick

YA A to Z: Sarah Rees Brennan

YA A to Z: Jenny Torres Sanchez

YA A to Z: Terry Trueman

YA A to Z: Siobhan Vivian

YA A to Z – Jacqueline Woodson

YA A to Z: Francisco X. Stork (a guest post by Linda Jerome)

YA A to Z: Gene Luen Yang

YA A to Z: Sara Zarr

#YAAtoZ: More letter D author recommendations from Twitter


#YAAtoZ: More Letter C Author Love from Twitter

#YAAtoZ: More Letter B Authors from Twitter

#YAAtoZ: More letter A recommendations from Twitter

YA A to Z: An Alphabet Soup of Awesome YA Authors


A #YAAtoZ of Reader’s Advisory Booklists

Adoption Books – Being Discussed, Being Seen, a guest post by Eric Smith

Alcoholism, In Real Life and in Real Fiction, by by L.B. Schulman

Alice in Wonderland retellings

Aliens: They’re Here: Science Fiction with actual aliens

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

Telling a Different Amputee Story, a guest post by Mindy Rhiger

Apocalypse Survival Tips from YA Lit

Let’s Talk About . . . Aromantic and Asexual, a guest post by Bridgette Johnson

Art: Portrait of an Artist, YA characters and art

Take 5: YA Lit on Asexuality Resources

Asian American Voices in Young Adult Literature, a #YAAtoZ guest post by Kristyn Dorfman

Assassins: Teenage Assassins in YA Lit

Best Frenemies to Lovers in YA, a guest post by author Molly E. Lee

Beyond the Grave: dead narrators

Bio engineering (Frankenstein 2012: YA lit with bio engineering)

Boarding Schools, a guest post by Tawny Stokes

Body Image

B is for Brothers *and* Sisters; a Take 5 List

If You Like Buffy then try these list 1 and list 2



Top 10 CHARMING Characters in YA, a guest post by author Amber Hart

Classic Hollywood in YA Literature, a guest post by Lisa Clark

Comics: Non comic books about comic book culture ; Comics 101 with Ally Watkins

Consent in YA, a guest post by author Sara Baysinger

Contemporary with Edge (If you like Winger by Andrew Smith)

Dads: #bestYAdad: The best dads in YA lit


Death and Dying: Sometimes it is among the dying that we remember to truly live 

Designer Drugs, a guest post by author Anna Hecker

Diversity: Middle Grade reads new in 2014 ; Graphic Novels 2015

If You Like Doctor Who then try these and these


Dragons Part 2: All You Need are Dragons, a guest post by Cindy Shutts

Drugs: Guilt, Shame and Blame – Heroin Overdose Deaths in Teen Fiction, a guest post by Kerry Sutherland


Eating Disorders

Egypt: Read About Your “Mummy” (and Egypt)

Epidemics list 1 and list 2

Environment: Earth Day Dystopias

“Fake News” and Disinformation, a guest post by Diana Rodriguez Wallach

Fairy Tales (twisted, of course) and Cinderella Retellings

Faith and Spirituality: Top 10 and Mysteries with a Message

Feminist Books  ; “Nevertheless, She Persisted” A Take 5 List, plus 1


Food: Sweet Reads and Mouth Watering Reads

Freshmen 5: Great reads for HS Freshmen

Friendships, some of the best in YA Lit

GLBTQ: For Annie and Liza and Take 5: Top NEW GLBTQ Titles

Government: Fight the (Abuse of) Power – government in YA lit

Graphic Novels with Diversity

Graveyards: Someone Just Walked Over My Grave: YA lit with graveyards

Haunted Tales

Hearts: Listen to these candy hearts 

High School Survival Pack: Nonfiction to help teens through high school

Historical Fiction: The 80s as Historical Fiction; Going Back in Time Middle School Style and Historical Fiction for Dystopian Fans

Horror: The Stories that Haunt our Childhood: Local legends and superstitions in YA lit, Horrifying Reads for October (recommended by teens)

Israeli Female Soldiers: World War Z and Israeli Females in Teen Reads

M is for Manga

M is for Memoirs

Memorial Day Reads: Honoring those that serve in YA lit

Mental Illness


Mysteries: MG Lit for Sherlock Fans

Myths and Mythology

Nonfiction: Zest Books

Paranormal Romance

Poe, inspired by

Politics: A look at the (abuse of) government in YA fiction

Poverty: Rich Teen, Poor Teen: Depictions of youth living in poverty in YA Lit

Prom Books

Reapers (and Necromancers) in YA Lit

Reproductive Rights in YA Lit

Science: STEM Girls, books with female main characters rocking science and math

Science Fiction (see also Weird Science below)

Seniors: Out with the Old – Great reads for HS Seniors

Serial Killers: I Eat Cereal, but I am NOT a Serial Killer – serial killers in YA lit

Sexual Violence: Because No ALWAYS Means No: YA titles dealing with issues of consent and sexual violence.  See also, this list of titles dealing with sexual violence.

Sexual Violence in the Life of Boys

Take 5: Sharks!

Sherlock: It’s Elementary

Short Stories

Space, the final frontier (Science fiction that actually takes place in space)

Spies Like Us


Supernatural and Psychological Creepers

Tech:  Teen Tech Week: More than just a game and More Teen Tech Week

Teen Pregnancy

Time Travel 

Unconventional Stories:  Books told in nontraditional formats

Under the Sea: Mermaids

V is for Villains


Weird Science 


Witness Protection: What’s My Name Again? Stories about teens in the witness protection program

Writing: Lists, Letters and More, YA with characters who write

If you like the X-Men then try these: You Could Have Been an X-Men


Book Discussion: Autism in AFTERWARD by Jennifer Mathieu

afterwardWhen I initially began reading AFTERWARD by Jennifer Mathieu, I was certain I would be coming to you today to discuss this title as part of the Sexual Violence in YA Literature Project (The #SVYALit Project). However, as I got further and further into the book, this book became an important read – to me personally and I think to the larger topic of disability representation in YA lit – for its look at the way a young man’s struggle with Autism, and in particular being on the Autism Spectrum and suffering from a severely traumatic event, impacts him and his family. This book moved me in ways I could never have imagined.

You see, I am the aunt of three nephews who are on the Autism Spectrum. They are on the higher end of the spectrum, which means that there is little to no verbal communication, stimming, self harm, sleep disruption, the need for strict routines and predictability, etc. This is not an end of the spectrum that is represented very often in the mainstream media. While there has been some progress with the representation of ASD characters in the media, it has been my experience that they tend to be characters on the lower end of the spectrum. This means they often can communicate verbally and are portrayed as being charmingly “quirky”. Although it is obvious that these characters are not what would be considered neurotypical, it does not represent the lives of many families who are living with the daily reality of more severe Autism. When I read or watch these stories, I do not see my nephews and the struggles of their family. When discussing the topic of Autism, I often think to myself, we need to have more diversity in Autism representation.

Afterward is the story of two boys who are drawn together through a horrific event. Caroline’s brother Dylan is kidnapped by a man and is missing for a period of 4 or 5 days. He is found in the apartment of this man and in the presence of Ethan, another boy who was kidnapped and has been missing for about 4 years. Dylan is Autistic and although he does engage in some verbal communication, he is not able to tell his family what happened to him. It is clear, however, that he has been very traumatized by the events and his sister Caroline wants to know what happened to him so she can try and help him. This causes her to seek out and start up a friendship with Ethan. The book is then told from the dual POV of Caroline and Ethan.

There is a lot happening here in Afterward. This is a book about struggling with trauma and sexual violence; it is a book about emotional and mental health; it is a book about PTSD; it is a book about surviving. But it is also a book about Autism. And more importantly, it may be the only book that asks us to consider the impact of trauma not just on a family, but on a family that was already struggling to raise a young man on the spectrum.

And it asks us to consider what it is like for a teenager to not only love a brother who is on the spectrum, but to want to help this brother that she loves without being able to ask him what happened to him. And it was this part of the story that resonated with me the most. There are scenes where Caroline tries to calm down her brother using her toolbelt of techniques that her family has developed over the years. There are recorded episodes of Jeopardy watched over and over and over again, Caroline knowing every question and answer before they come because she has seen them so many times. For one of my nephews, it was Veggietales. And like Dylan, another one of my nephews repeatedly stacks blocks as a source of comfort. It sometimes felt like Mathieu had stared right through the windows at our family home to write this story.

And like many families, there is guilt and blame and anger and sorrow and grief. Dylan’s family was already dealing with all of these things, but now they are amplified by this traumatic event. Caroline in particular struggles with guilt because she was supposed to be watching Dylan in that moment that he left the house, as many on the spectrum do, and was wandering alone when kidnapped. In fact, wandering is one of the greatest safety concerns for individuals on the higher end of the spectrum and many families install locks, alarms and take other measures to help ensure the safety of their loved ones. But those steps take money, and money is something Caroline’s family doesn’t have a lot of.

Socioeconomic diversity is also something that is addressed in Afterward. Dylan’s family doesn’t have the money they need to get Dylan many of the Autism therapies that would benefit him, and they definitely don’t have the money to get him the counseling he needs after his kidnapping. It’s something that Caroline reflects on a lot, especially as she talks to Ethan, whose family does have money and is working hard to get him the therapy he needs.

As I mentioned, for me this book was personal. I saw my neurotypical nephew struggling to take care of his three ASD brothers in the character of Caroline. I saw a family struggling to navigate daily life and stay together in the face of stress and economic hardship, like my family and friends with children on the spectrum do. But most importantly to me, I saw an acknowledgement that there are kids on the higher end of the spectrum.

I do want to take a moment to point out that there is a lot of good #SVYALit and #MHYALit discussion happening here, particularly between Ethan and his therapist. There are discussions of how Ethan’s body could have responded physically to the sexual abuse even though it was not something that he wanted, discussions about whether or not he could have escaped and why he might not have tried to, and more. And although this is a good example of a positive therapy experience, it reminds us all that therapy is not a quick and easy fix but a process. In fact, the book takes place over the course of about a year and the therapy process is not a steady march forward, but a jagged line of progress and set backs. And it’s an important reminder for all that although survivors can in fact survive, they must embrace a new you in order to do so.

I felt that Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu was a moving and powerful read on many levels, but it was this reflection of my family that stuck with me the most.

Publisher’s Book Description

When Caroline’s little brother is kidnapped, his subsequent rescue leads to the discovery of Ethan, a teenager who has been living with the kidnapper since he was a young child himself. In the aftermath, Caroline can’t help but wonder what Ethan knows about everything that happened to her brother, who is not readjusting well to life at home. And although Ethan is desperate for a friend, he can’t see Caroline without experiencing a resurgence of traumatic memories. But after the media circus surrounding the kidnappings departs from their small Texas town, both Caroline and Ethan find that they need a friend–and their best option just might be each other. (Roaring Book Press, September 20, 2016).

Autism and Libraries

Serving Teens Full T.I.L.T. : Diverse Teens, Diverse Needs (Eden Grey)

When talking about serving teens, we can’t neglect the need to talk about diversity because like all people groups, teens are a diverse population. We can talk in general terms about the development of teens, but at the end of the day each teen is a unique person shaped by a unique genetic combination and individual life narratives. There is lots of great discussion happening right now about diversity, which is a necessary and important conversation. It’s a big topic, much bigger than one blog post could cover. So for the purposes of today’s post we decided to talk specifically about the diverse needs of teens surrounding the issues of mental health and autism spectrum issues. This is by no means the full discussion that we want and need to be having regarding diversity, which is why we recommend that you follow important conversations like #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #FSYALit (which focuses on religious diversity).

Teens Dealing with Mental Health Issues

One often underrepresented aspect of diversity is mental health. Millions of American teens have a diagnosed mental health issue, and many also remain undiagnosed and suffering. The stigma of mental illness is real and affects our youth today. While a physical disability or debilitating disease can be seen on a person’s body, mental health issues are invisible. They are inside our heads, not something that people can see and understand just by looking at us. Differences in mental health represent diversity in our teens, and they have diverse service needs. Teen Librarians can help fight that stigma, and point teens in the direction of the help that they need to get diagnosed, or get treatment.

Millions of teens have diagnosed mental health issues, and remain untreated

About 20%, or 1 in 5, adolescents have a diagnosed mental health issue, while 1 in 4 adults suffer from a diagnosable mental health issue. Currently adolescents make up 14% of the U.S. population, meaning 1 in 5 of those 40 million teens has been diagnosed at some point in their life with a mental health issue. According to the CDC’s NHANE Survey, of those 8 million youth, only half have received mental health treatment within the past year. That’s 4 of the 40 million adolescents today receiving treatment for diagnosed mental health issues.

Millions of teens are at risk without mental health treatment

The risk of untreated mental health issues is serious. When issues go undiagnosed, they cannot be treated effectively, and greatly increase the risk of suicide attempts. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 24, leading to about 4600 deaths each year. However, far more youth unsuccessfully attempt suicide. According to the CDC’s Violence Prevention Initiative, about 157,000 youth every year receive emergency medical care for self-inflicted injuries.

As adults who work with youth we know that many of these issues go undiagnosed, and therefore untreated. The National Institute of Mental Health stresses that early detection of mental health issues is crucial to youth development and safety. The longer issues go undiagnosed, the more difficult they are to treat. The activities and behaviors enforced during adolescents formulate neural pathways that will stick around throughout a person’s life. Bad habits, from biting your nails to doing illegal drugs, are that much harder to stop as an adult if the habits are formed as a teen. Mental health issues are no different. While many mental health issues are treatable with a combination of medicine and therapy/counseling, the treatment is more effective and has long-lasting effects as an adolescent.

The library’s third space as a treatment center

While the library, its staff, and patrons are no replacement for prescribed treatment from a mental health professional, the safe and non-judgmental third space, social support group, and validation through bibliotherapy are important supplements to a teen’s mental health treatment.

The library is a place that teens choose to go to on their own, not somewhere they are forced to be. Attending teen programs and being involved in Teen Services is a choice that teens make. The unbiased, nonjudgmental setting of a public library is a safe haven for teens with issues. They are able to engage in social activities with their peers under the supervision of an understanding adult, the Teen Librarian. The Librarian can also form a bond with the teen, creating a connection through which to share information and resources, such as suicide hotlines, self-help books, non-fiction about mental disorders, and fiction that the teen will find therapeutic.

Getting this information from a supportive, cool adult (that’s you!) makes all the difference to a teenager who is constantly being told what to do, how to act, and who to be when they are at school and at home. Fostering acceptance of mental health treatment, counseling, and medication is also an important role for a Teen Librarian. Combating the stigma of receiving medication and treatment for mental health issues is an important step in getting more teens to seek treatment.

Many schools have free counseling programs for teens who may be unable to get help on their own, or who may not feel comfortable asking their family for assistance. If the teen feels like school counselors aren’t a viable option, use every resource possible to find a place for them to seek help. Free hotlines can make a world of difference, and many cities have free or low-cost counseling centers for at-risk teens.

Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Teens are often overlooked when libraries discuss services for youth on the spectrum. How do you program for such a small demographic of patrons? Shifting your usual programs to be targeted toward teens with ASD can be quick and easy. Offer movies with low volume and more lights, without the scent of popcorn or rowdiness of neurotypical teens. Have video game sessions just for special needs teens, with low volume, small screens, and little to no competitive play. Try out an online book club, where teens at the higher functioning end of the spectrum may feel more comfortable communicating and interacting with others.

Can you incorporate the special needs of teens with ASD into your regular programming? Definitely. Allow parents, guardians, or siblings attend programs with the teen. Find out what the teen’s special interests are and get them focused on that, instead of on the typical unstructured chaos of some teen programs. Encourage the other attendees to maintain personal boundaries, both physical and verbal, when teens on the spectrum are around.

What can you do as a library worker?

  • Accept the teens for who they are.

  • Remain nonjudgmental.

  • Actively maintain a positive attitude toward treatment.

  • Suggest books that the teens may find therapeutic, or as an escape.

  • Point teens in the direction of information they may be lacking.

  • Provide resources for local and national treatment centers.

Recommended Reading for Teens & Their Librarians


Mental Health Information for Teens by Lisa Bakewell

The Autism Playbook for Teens by Irene McHenry & Carol Moog

Teen Angst? Naaah… by Ned Vizzini


Perfect by Natasha Friend

Teeny Little Grief Machines by Linda Oatman High

Willow by Julia Hoban

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Crazy by Amy Reed

Schizo by Nick Sheff

100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith

It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

My Heart and other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

Book Lists:

Bibliotherapy for Teens: An Expanded Booklist

Mental Illness

Where to go for help:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1 (800) 273-8255


National Safe Place – Youth Runaway Safeline



Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Treatment Referral Service: 1-800-662-HELP

Online treatment locator: http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/

Mental Health.gov


Local Treatment Finder:


1. http://www.nccp.org/publications/pub_878.html

2. http://www.actforyouth.net/adolescence/demographics/#1

3. http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pub/youth_suicide.html

4. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/childmentalhealth.html

More About Autism and Teens at TLT:

More About Mental Health Issues at TLT:

Serving Full T.I.L.T. series:

January 14 By the Numbers, making the case for teen services using basic demographic information (Karen Jensen)

January 21 Sarcasm, Spice and Everything Awesome: The Developing Teen (Rebecca Denham)

January 28 Teen Brain Science 101 (Heather Booth)

February 4 Asset Building 101, How using the 40 Developmental Assets can help us plan and evaluate teen programming (Karen Jensen)

February 11 Diverse teens, diverse needs (Eden Grey)

February 18 Sharing stories, how knowing and sharing the stories of our teens can help make the case (Heather Booth)

February 25 Empathy, remembering what it means to be a teen and how it makes us better teen services librarians (Heather Booth)

March 4 A Teen Services 101 Infographic (Rebecca Denham and Karen Jensen)

March 11 Talking Up Teens: Discussing Teen Services with Library Administration (Eden Grey)

YA A to Z: An Alphabet Soup of YA Authors – the list

Sometime this summer I sent out an email to my TLTers and said, “so . . . I have this idea, what to do you think of this?” And my idea was YA A to Z. As Robin once said, “you have good ideas, you just don’t have small ideas.” And YA A to Z turned out to be a rather big idea. But we did it! During the month of November we put together an A to Z list of some of our favorite YA authors and highlighted the books that touched us as both readers and librarians. Many people shared in the fun online by sharing their favorite authors with the hashtag #YAAtoZ. It was a lot of fun, and even I found some new titles and authors I wasn’t familiar with, making my TBR list that much bigger.

Here’s our alphabet soup of YA authors

A: Laure Halse Anderson

B: Libba Bray

C: Kristin Cashore

D: Sarah Dessen

E: E. Lockhart

F: Sharon G. Flake

G: Lamar Giles

H: Rachel Hawkins

I: Justina Ireland

J: Maureen Johnson

K: Julie Kagawa

L: David Levithan

M: Tahereh Mafi

N: Patrick Ness

O: Laruen Oliver

P: Stephanie Perkins

Q: Matthew Quick

R: Sarah Rees Brennan

S: Jenny Torres Sanchez

T: Terry Trueman

U: Anne Ursu

V: Siobhan Vivian

W: Jacqueline Woodson

X: Francisco X. Stork

Y: Gene Luen Yang

Z: Sara Zarr

As you can see, we cheated on about 5 of the letters. And on some of them, we were forced to make some really hard decisions choosing between several of our favorites. When this happened, we chose to highlight authors that we had talked about less on the blog. The planning process was part of the fun – there was debating, there was bargaining, there was weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. We wanted to heed the call put forth by the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign to include diversity. We wanted to share our experiences and highlight those moments that had touched us. In short, we want to share our love of all things YA lit. And I think we accomplished what we set out to do. If we did this a year from now – and don’t panic Heather, Robin and Amanda, we probably aren’t – I am sure we would come up with a completely different list. Because trying to choose a favorite is a really hard thing to do it turns out.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of YA authors, but it was a fun exercise for us in sharing some of our favorites. Please, feel free to share your favorites with us in the comments. We love to talk about YA authors and books and we want to hear from you.

Friday Finds – November 28,2014

This Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: A Reflection on Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King (guest post by Bryson McCrone)

View from the Director’s Chair: Guest post by Lynette Pitrak

Middle Grade Monday – Anne Ursu

Amanda’s review roundup

Win a Signed Copy of ATLANTIA by Ally Condie

YA A to Z

Around the Web

Learn how to raise your own readers

Jodi Picoult has some strong words about sexism in literary criticism

Russell Brand has opinions about school libraries

The Ferguson Library may have enough extra funds for a full time children’s librarian

More about donations to the Ferguson Library.

Teen Issues

We believe that in order to be a good teen services librarian, you need to know and understand teens.  This means not only understanding the basics of adolescent development, but also knowing about the world that teens live in and the issues that affect them.  Below are some of the posts that we have done on various teen issues.  If you would like to share your experience with an issue affecting teens, please contact Karen Jensen (kjensenmls@yahoo.com) to discuss doing a guest blog post.

An A to Z guide of Teen Issues

The “Biggies”


Adolescent Development



Autism and Libraries

Body Image and Eating Disorders




(see also Sex and Sexuality below)

Developmental Assets


Faith and Spirituality


Gender Issues



Human Trafficking

Hunger and Poverty

Additional Sources:

Social Mobility:

Cycles of Poverty:

How Poverty Affects Schools:

Incarceration and Teens

Mental Health

Obesity and Body Image


Popular Culture



Reluctant Readers

Sex and Sexuality


Social Justice and Innovation


Teen Participation


TLT Projects and Discussions


The Sexual Violence in YA Project, using YA literature to discussion sexual violence in the life of teens





The Faith and Spirituality in YA Lit Discussion, using YA literature to discussion a diversity of faiths in the life of teens





The Mental Health in YA Lit Discussion, using YA literature to discuss mental health issues in the life of teens




#Poverty in YA Lit

Using YA literature to discuss poverty in our world and in the life of teens

Autism and Libraries

The most recent statistics from the CDC indicate that 1 out of 88 children are being diagnosed with Autism.  Every day we are encountering teens on the spectrum in our school and public libraries.  The question we must ask ourselves is this: What are we doing to meet their needs?

Teen Issues: Autism and Libraries
With a look at some books that have characters on the spectrum

On the Spectrum and @ Your Library (Guest post by Matthew Ross)
A library director and father of a child on the spectrum, Matt Ross shares some things libraries can do to make the library experience better for all.

Teen Issues: Teens and Autism and Future Horizons
Future Horizons is a publishing house dedicated to raising awareness and helping to meet the needs of those on the spectrum, their parents, educators and more.

Autism & Libraries: A Q&A with J. D. Kraus
Author J D Kraus shares his experiences as a teen on the spectrum and shares things libraries can do to meet the needs of those on the spectrum.

Teens and Autism: What does it mean to be “typical”?
Teen Reviewer Cuyler Creech shares his experiences as the older brother of a beloved young sibling with Down’s and on the spectrum.

Atticus Was Right: The remarkable story about a boy with autism, a bully, and a book and how books can raise awareness and help readers develop compassion (Guest post by Amianne Bailey)

Book Review: Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown (sibling with OCD)

The Power of Reading: Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman