Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Take 5: My Favorite Friendships

I’m often struck by how beautifully written friendships are in YA. In fact, they are often much more important and detailed than any other personal relationships – dating or family. I suppose it makes sense, since the teen years are a time when we practice separating from our family and are only just learning how to date, that our friendships wold take on primary importance.

Far and away my favorite YA friendship is the one between (capital letters) Will Grayson and Tiny Cooper in John Green and David Levithan’s co-authored Will Grayson, Will Grayson. It is beautiful and sincere and touching as well as hilarious and full of mischief. Will and Tiny are in high school but have been best friends since elementary. It’s hard to explain what is so magical about this relationship. I can only sum it up by saying “Everyone should have a friend like Tiny Cooper.” It’s funny to me that this relationship is almost exclusively portrayed in the John Green written parts of the novel, since I think of David Levithan as being the master of the teenage friendship. Not that John Green is a slacker. Anyway, read it, will you please? Then come back and tell me your favorite part.


Speaking of David Levithan, I can’t leave out his amazing Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares. Dash, while described by everyone in the book who meets him as being ‘snarly,’ has a good number of close friends whose fondness for him bely his outward appearance. My favorite of his friendships is with his long-term friend Boomer. Yes, that’s a nickname, but it’s also a description of his personality. Boomer is described as being like a somewhat exciteable retriever. Always bouncing all over the place, and not quite the sharpest knife in the drawer. I love how, even though their paths have diverged widely since they became friends (to call Dash an intellectual would be putting it mildly) Dash regards his friend with the utmost warmth and respect. And you can tell that Boomer feels this deeply, though he only plays a minor role in the novel.

Hidden within the comedic genius of Sarah Rees Brennan’s trope-twisting gothic mystery, Unspoken, is one of the most beautiful, loving girl friendships I’ve ever read. Kami and Angela are almost polar opposites, drawn together by their outsider status, but kept together by their solid love and affection (and their willingness to not just put up with, but embrace, each others idiosyncrasies.) Even though it’s Jared with whom Kami has had a psychic bond since infancy, it’s Angela I can’t imagine her without. I’d expect nothing less from Brennan, however, who is a world-class champion of girl friendships.

Someone Like You may very well have been the first YA novel I read after my move from the elementary library to middle school. I know it was definitely one of the first, and it is the only one I remember from my first whirlwind year learning to cope with the broad span of readers in middle school. My students were somewhat more life savvy than I had been at that age, and were very ready for books involving teenage pregnancy. This is one of the best out there, even after all this time I look to it to appeal to some of my most dedicated non-readers, looking for a story that seems real to them. My favorite thing about it is that it is told through the lens of the friendship between pregnant Scarlett and her BFF Haley, who stands by her side throughout the most difficult experience of either of their young lives.

I hesitate a little to claim that the relationship between narrator Austin Szerba and his best friend Robby Brees is a simple friendship. If you’ve read the book, in Austin’s own words, “You know what I mean.” But, fundamentally, beneath everything else, there is the solid love and affection of friendship that Austin and Robby have for each other. Whether they are suffering the abuse of the brainless jocks who beat them up in the alley they refer to as Grasshopper Jungle, sharing smokes while they contemplate the disastrous lives of the adults they know, or defending the world from an invasion of six foot tall praying mantises, Robby and Austin depend on one another in a beautiful and compelling way.

I highly recommend each of these books for their individual merit, although I think probably only Dash & Lily is what I would refer to as an ‘almost everybody’ book. Each, however, is a beautiful example of the strong emphasis YA places on friendship.

Take 5: What’s On the Menu Today? Dessert! Check out these sweet reads

Since earlier today we mentioned Lisa Schroeder’s Cupcake Series, I suddenly have a craving for all things sweet.  Here is a look at what is on today’s menu, book covers with cakes and cupcakes.  Nom nom nom.  Oh, and one slice of pie.  Know any sweet reads?  Share with us in the comments. 

The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski
This is the story of Sheridan, the daughter of a master chef and a cake decorator who has some amazing talent of her own.  In fact, she is known around her small town as Cake Girl.  Unfortunately for her, her fabulous cake decorating mom took off quite a while ago and hasn’t really done a great job of keeping in touch.  When her father makes the announcement that he finally got his own TV show, Sheridan is terrified of making any changes and moving to New York City where her mom is sure to never find her.  As the countdown is on to film the pilot for her dad’s cooking show, things are really unraveling for Sheridan.

Devilish by Maureen Johnson
The only thing that makes St. Teresa’s Preparatory School for Girls bearable for Jane is her best friend Ally. But when Ally changes into a whole different person literally overnight the fall of their senior year, Jane’s suddenly alone—and very confused. Turns out, Ally has sold her soul in exchange for popularity—to a devil masquerading as a sophomore at St. Teresa’s! (Goodreads)

Close to Famous by Joan Bauer
Foster McFee dreams of having her own cooking show like her idol, celebrity chef Sonny Kroll. Macon Dillard’s goal is to be a documentary filmmaker. Foster’s mother Rayka longs to be a headliner instead of a back-up singer. And Miss Charleena plans a triumphant return to Hollywood. Everyone has a dream, but nobody is even close to famous in the little town of Culpepper. Until some unexpected events shake the town and its inhabitants-and put their big ambitions to the test. Full of humor, unforgettable characters, surprises, and lots and lots of heart, this is Joan Bauer at her most engaging. (Goodreads)

Cupcake by Rachel Cohn (Cyd Charisse #3)
Gingerbread (Cyd Charisse #1) and Shrimp (Cyd Charrisse #2)
Follow the adventures of the rebellious spirit Cyd Chariss as she gets kicked out of boarding school, falls in love, and tries to make it on her own in New York City.

You Wish by Mandy Hubbard
Kayla McHenry’s sweet sixteen sucks! Her dad left, her grades dropped, and her BFF is dating the boy Kayla’s secretly loved for years. Blowing out her candles, Kayla thinks: I wish my birthday wishes actually came true. Because they never freakin’ do.  And then, one by one, her old birthday wishes do come true.  Be careful what you wish for.

And 1 for Middle Grade Readers:

Pie by Sarah Weeks
When Alice’s Aunt Polly, the Pie Queen of Ipswitch, passes away, she takes with her the secret to her world-famous pie-crust recipe. Or does she? In her will, Polly leaves the recipe to her extraordinarily fat, remarkably disagreeable cat, Lardo . . . and then leaves Lardo in the care of Alice.

The tween and I just finished listening to this on audio and it was really very good.

Top 10: Books for the Geek in Us All

The second week in March is reserved for Teen Tech Week in teen services everywhere.  Sponsored by YALSA we take the whole week to celebrate the formats of tech in the library- databases and online help, text reference, ebooks, movies and much more!  Yet, there is no reason why we can’t celebrate Teen Tech Week with some sensational hard copies, either!  Below, find 10 (in one base, not binary) books that celebrate this year’s theme while enticing teen readers….


15 short stories from some of the most amazing and geeky authors today
4th in the Uglies series, Extras debates the questions about what happens when you’re too popular….    Optioned by Fox.

When their AOL in the 80’s shows them their Facebook future, can they change it? Or do they want to? Optioned for the big screen by Warner Brothers

Sequel to Little Brother, Marcus is back, and having to chose between  his dream job and continuing the rebellion he started.

True story of Kevin Mitnick, hacking his way through companies and keeping one step ahead of the authorities.  


Sent by his parents to summer camp in order to ‘normalize’ him from his  RPG world, Perry instead finds the creators of his game, and will need all his skills (both gaming and social) in order to save the princess in this game.

Very (Veronica) is addicted to tech- can’t live without her iPod, IM, texts, comp time….  But when she’s forced to go to tech rehab, can she figure out her life before it’s too late?

Always trusting Society to control everything, Cassia is perfectly content with her match- until a second face appears for a brief second.  Can she regain her trust with Society, or will she forge a new and dangerous path?  Trilogy optioned by Disney.

Drawing upon actual interviews with the hackers of Anonymous and LulzSec, this tells the tales of the most  organized and secretive hacker group so far. 

In 2044, Wade escapes reality by burying himself in videogames, and trying to discover the Ticket that will give one person unlimited money and power- if you can unlock the puzzle.  Optioned for the big screen by Warner Brothers.

My Emotional Soundtrack: What Keeps Me Sane

So the other day I talked about things that I just couldn’t go back to, even if I wanted to (if you missed it, go here).  Today, I thought that I’d share things that give me comfort.  It’s a rocky place out there, and while I consider myself a stable person, there are things that can rock you to your core- things that happen with your teens/tween, within your professional life, within your personal life, or within the world in general.  We, as teen advocates, should be embodying and modeling ways that are at least generally healthy ways to cope with whatever life throws at us, because you never know who’s watching.  We can (and do) break down in private, but we can’t exactly go screaming through the stacks to let off steam, as much as we would like to.  Someone, unfortunately, is bound to notice, whether it’s our teens, our patrons, or our boss.

So, I thought I’d share what keeps me as sane as I can be [which I’ve been told is up for doubt some days :) ], and please share yours in the comments below.  I think we’d all like to learn different ways to keep on keepin’ on.


Family and friends.  Even if they are over half a world away, and we only connect via social media, text or email, I can send out something and get something back within seconds to minutes.  I have a very expanded definition of family, very different than what most people (and probably those in my “family” would consider) but these are the people that if something happened, I know that they’d drop everything to get to me- and I would drop everything to get to them.  I can contact them with anything and no matter how trivial, or how silly, we can laugh or cry or share and it’ll be OK.  And I have been extremely blessed in that I have found people where ever I have landed throughout my life and have been able to keep adding to my family.

Music.  I really cannot live without music, and I am as bad as my tweens and teens with it- needs to be on constantly.  I listen to just about anything (save for most rap- that’s a whole different discussion), and you can rarely find me without my player.  I name them.  The current one is named Lilith after the Lilith Fair concert series, an ipod Touch, and has a speaker set in my office and has a port in my car.  Plato is quoted as saying, “Music is a moral law.  It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”  I prefer Aldous Huxley, “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”  


Tea.  I’m not sure how I grew up with sweet tea in the middle of Illinois, but we always had sweet tea in the house.  I got out of the habit in college, but after I married That Guy, I got back into iced sweet tea, although the sugar got replaced with substitutes.  Now, I’ve gotten into hot teas at work and at bedtime, and oh, man, it is a comfort.  I haven’t gotten the hang of the spiced teas or fruit teas yet (always willing to try) and haven’t been brave enough to try a chai (they seem so expensive), but I’m addicted to black teas that have vanilla caramel or a good English Breakfast tea.  I even got a special cup from my last Disney trip that has Alice and the Mad Hatter having a tea party that I can microwave that has a sippy lid, instead of having to balance an open cup around my crazy kids.  Ah, simple joys.


Fluffy things.  I’ve always been lucky in my library career in that I’ve always had someplace with storage that was mine and mine alone, and I know enough about library worlds to know that my situation isn’t always the norm.  I’ve always been able to have something fluffy to take out to play with the kids, whether it’s a bear or a bunny dressed in different outfits (did you know that those Build-a-Bear animals fit in about size 3-6 month baby clothes?).  And as my space has expanded, so too has my collection of things, as you can see above.  I’ve gone from one teddy bear that was for baby story times to a bear and a bunny (who have been renamed for co-workers by the kids), a chef, two sock monkeys (a pirate and a ninja), a frog, a Dalek, and a Beaker, and there are a basket of Beanie Babies in the closet waiting for the appropriate time.  However, the toys aren’t just for the kids- they’re for me too.  They all mean something, and at times, I need the hugs that they’ve stored up from the kids who have dressed them and babysat them.

Books.  Always, constant, faithful companions are books.  My house is full of them, my work is full of them, and my life is full of them   If they weren’t, I am definitely in the wrong job. When I want comfort, I want the familiar, and I want familiar authors- ones that I know I like and will transport me away for a while.  I don’t want to take a chance on a book and be disappointed.  I take off the librarian and blogger hat, and I put on the consumer/patron hat, and read what makes me feel safe.  And yes, I know there are bloggers and librarians alike out there probably pulling hair out at the thought of using reading as an escape, but sometimes, for me, it is.  

My favorite YA and Adult authors are ones that I know will deliver me to other places and settings, give me a good story, and not jar me with inconsistencies.  I turn to the techno worlds of Cory Doctorow, to the realities Judy Blume (heaven help me if Summer Sisters or Superfudge goes out of print).  I go to the worlds of Anita Blake and Merry Gentry by Laurel K. Hamilton, and Rachel Morgan and Madison Avery from Kim Harrison.  I look for Maureen Johnson, David Levithan, John Green, Rachel Cohn, Jillian Larkin’s Flapper series and Anne Godberson’s Luxe series (all considered teen/young adult materials).  I look for Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series, or Patricia Brigg and Tanya Huff, or Eric Jerome Dickey (all considered adult materials).  I look for Mercedes Lackey (an author that can fall either teen or adult, depending on the reader).

So, those are my comforts.  What are your comfort reads, your comfort things?  Share in the comments below.