Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Stuck inside the library? 5 Tips for doing a successful outreach event

If your library is like most libraries, then you probably do a really great job of doing internal marketing but are less successful at external marketing. Your stuck inside the library and need to find a way to take your message out into the community. This has been one of the greatest challenges for most libraries I know, except for the big ones that have dedicated staff and budgets. Getting outside of the library and raising your public profile can really help your local community get to know and understand what the library is and the value it adds to your local community. So let’s do outreach!

Summer is an intense time of outreach for me as the town I work in hosts a monthly event called First Fridays. The First Friday of every month from May through October, I take my set up and go downtown and help promote the library. Over the years, I have perfected the set up and want to share some tips with you. This has been a very successful source of marketing for our library, though it hasn’t always been without a few bumps in the road.


Size Really Does Matter

Whatever type of outreach you’ll do, you will need to take stuff with you. What you take and how you take it matters. Wheels, for example, are your friend. Size is also an important consideration. You’re going to have to take everything you need and load and unload it a couple of times. Don’t bite off more than you can chew because size really does matter.

You want to put together for yourself as compact a set up as possible because you are going to have to load in and loud out. Ideally you’ll want a table, a chair for each staff member, and signage. We’ll talk signage more in a moment. You want the things you take and have to set up to be light, easy to carry, quick to fold up, etc. Some people have things like tents with their library logo on them, great for hot days and in case of rain, but not fun to carry in and out and set up.


You’ll always want to pay attention to any requirements that the outreach event itself sends you. Some of them have very specific things they want you to do or bring. When you sign up for an outreach event, they should send you information about what they provide and what they expect you to bring and do. For example, they may give you very specific table sizes. Pay attention to and honor that information.

At a minimum you will want: a small, folding table; folding chairs for each staff member; signage; something to hand out. People at outreach events like to walk away with something in their hand or to have done something fun.

For the chairs, I recommend those collapsible chairs with a bag and a handle that you see people take to sporting events and parades. They are usually light and the bags with straps make them easy to carry. You see in the picture above that we originally took folding chairs – don’t do this. These are cumbersome to carry. Learn from my mistakes, which is actually one of the tips below.


At the end of the day, it will be on the shoulders of staff to do outreach events. So keep that in mind when you are thinking about what you are going to do, what tools you are going to use, and how many staff you are going to send. Plan accordingly.

Bigger is Not Always Better: Your Goal is Effective Marketing, Not Necessarily Big

Over the years we have really paid attention to what other organizations at the event are doing and we have seen a variety of carts, wagons, etc. to help get items into and out of the event. We tried using library carts, because we had them on hand. This was no ideal and I don’t recommend it. We ended up buying a collapsible wagon that we can use to load our items into the event. The more events you do, the better you will find out what works for you and you will refine your tools.


My co-worker is really good at paying attention to what other people are doing and is always asking me to look at this or consider that. We used to try to do and take more, but things like heavy winds or intense heat really helped us refine what it is we were willing and able to do. We started out with the grandest of plans and we have whittled it down to reasonable expectations. We live in a world with the mantra that says bigger is better, but this mantra forgets to tell you that sometimes an outreach event is late on a Friday night after a long days work in the month of July in the midst of record heatwaves. Meet your goals, promote your library, and take care of yourself and your staff. Bigger is not always better, your goal is effective, not big.

But I’m not just talking about physical size when I say bigger doesn’t always have to be better. I’m talking about the scope of your event as well. You don’t need to hand out 300 flyers promoting every single program or take a million items to hand out. Remember, you have to get everything into your event. For example, this year for our summer reading promotion would put very basic information onto one postcard for all 3 of our age group programs and handed out one postcard with a website where they could find additional information instead of handing out 3 different flyers for 3 different programs. A lot of people will be handing out paper and a lot of it will end up in the trash – or, unfortunately, blowing around the event itself as people litter – so consider how you hand out information, what will make an impact, and what will actually get used as opposed to discarded. Pens, bags, cups with logos, for example, make a better impact than a piece of paper with information. That paper is going to end up in the trash.

Who Are You? Signage is Your Friend

You’re there to get noticed and promote the library, so you’ll want to make sure you have good signage. In this one instance, bigger is in fact better. I know, I just contradicted myself. However, some people will not walk up to your table and you still want them to know you were there. Try to put your library’s name out there in as many ways as possible and make sure people can see it from a distance.


In the past we have used table covers, which I have liked a lot. This year we added a pop-up banner which is my new favorite thing. I designed ours which we purchased online from Totally Promotional for only about $130 and it really increases our visibility. I will say that the only drawback is that this is an outside event and we have had a couple of windy days which caused our signage to bend and twist in the wind. We now have cables and we can firmly attach our signage to a nearby post. It’s easily collapsible, folds up into a portable size and came with its own carrying case. A lot of people have walked up to us simply to look at the sign and then a conversation begins. I adore our sign.

All By Myself: Staffing is Important

I typically do an event with the help of one co-worker and we have it down to a science. I have also had teen volunteers help out, which brought us up to four people. Yes, sometimes my family members come and “volunteer” to help out. It’s nice to have enthusiastic people who are willing and able to interact with the people who stop by your table and booth and answer any questions. That’s why you’re there, to get the word out.


I once had the extreme misfortune of having to do an event by myself and it was a miserable experience and I do not recommend this at all. Two is doable, three or four is ideal. In the future if I am the only one available to do an event, it will be a hard pass for me. Setting up by myself was hard, wanting to use the restroom and having no one to break you was harder, and it felt like it was more frustrating for the people stopping by the booth. The last thing we want is to go to an event to promote the library and then have potential patrons walk away frustrated because they had to wait too long or didn’t get their questions answered.

I once worked at a library system where every staff member had to sign up to do 2 outside outreach events in a calendar year and it was a part of their yearly performance evaluations. When an event came up the coordinator would send out and email asking for x number of volunteers. At the end of the year you wanted to make sure that you had done 2 or else you would be dinged on your evaluation. There are pros and cons to this model. For example, you sometimes get staff being forced to do outreach events which does not play to their strengths. The positives, however, are that you aren’t always asking the same people to do work outside of normal library hours, in sometimes hot conditions, and without a lot of good staff support. I like the idea of having a bigger pool of staff to help out, I do not like the idea of having disgruntled staff who don’t want to be there begrudgingly helping out.

Remember: People Like Free Stuff so You’ll Want to Have Something to Do or Handout

Because we are there specifically promoting our Teen MakerSpace, we often try to have a hands on activity. Making buttons, for example, is fast, easy, and fun. Plus, the teens walk away with something tangible. I have found that one of the quickest ways to do this is to have a bunch of pre-cut circules and stickers that the teens can use to make their buttons. There are, however, some drawbacks to having a hands on activity. For one, it seems like everyone comes at once and you can get some long lines built up. Also, if you are at an outside event, strong winds can become an issue.


Stickers work well if you want to make quick buttons

I recently joined a button making community and a lot of its members make buttons to sell and they often discuss packaging. It is in this community that I got the idea to take pre-made buttons that are attached to a postcard made out of card stock to hand out. There were many benefits to this model, which I really found to be quite successful. One, I had a variety of designs so it allowed teens to pick out their favorites. Two, I made sure each button was book or reading related to promote the idea of reading and in hopes that when teens saw the buttons, they would think of the library. Three, on our postcard I made sure and highlight the library itself so even if I didn’t get to talk to a teen as they picked out a button, they still had some basic information.


Taking the pre-made buttons required a lot of additional prep work, as I had to design the postcards and several staff members helped me make the buttons, print the postcards and attach the buttons to the postcard. But I really liked the visual and the information the teens walked away with.


We also have drawstring backpacks with our Teen MakerSpace logo and library name on them that we hand out. We pre-stuff the backpacks with any flyers for upcoming events and a brochure about the Teen MakerSpace itself. I love seeing the teens walking around wearing their backpacks and the additional promotion we get from the visual. Not all of my coworkers, however, like it because we don’t order a large number so we try to hand them out only to the teens and even though we have signage which clearly says the backpacks are for teens, it can be hard telling young children or adults that no, we’re sorry, the backpacks are for teens but here, have a button!


Bonus Tip: Have a Planning Checklist


Over time, we have perfected our basic outreach scenario and we have put together a planning checklist to help us make sure that we have all of our items packed up and ready to go before we head out the door. A majority of the items I actually keep packaged together in my office, like our table coverings and signage. But I’ll have to go to another part of the library to get our tables and chairs because they aren’t stored in my office. My checklist includes a listing of the concrete items we’ll need, including a reminder to take water for staff. Staying hydrated is important. It also includes space for us to write in items we may need based on what activity we are doing. Looking at the planning checklist a couple of days before the event helps me make sure that I have every thing I need the day off and eliminates some of the stress and worry that can come with an outreach event.

I do have to say that recently I saw several libraries had done storytimes at local Pride events and I loved this idea. I don’t do a lot of storytimes because my target audience is teens, but I think it would be cool to have storytimes at outreach events. Because First Fridays is a music and arts festival there is always a band playing music, so storytimes may not be right for this event, but I think libraries should definitely consider adding them to outreach events if they work for the event.

Each time we do an outreach event, we have new people come into the Teen MakerSpace. If you aren’t already doing outreach events, I highly suggest that you consider it because it is a powerful marketing tool.

More Outreach Posts on TLT

MakerSpace: Outreach Activity – Book Face

Teen Coloring Postcards: Outreach

Building Our Portable Photo Booth – Outreach

Take 5: A YA Puerto Rico Booklist and the #PubforPR Auction

As they often do, the KidLit and Publishing community has come together to help the people in Puerto Rico after being hit by a devastating hurricane. You can visit the #PubforPR auction here to bid on a variety of amazing packages and help them raise money for the recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. Please visit and bid today to help them in their efforts.


Also, here are a list of authors and YA titles that hail from and uplift Puerto Rican voices that you may want to check out and add to your collections if you don’t already have them.

Adam Silvera

they both

Adam Silvera is an amazing author who writes compelling YA including More Happy Than Not, History is All You’ve Left Me and They Both Die at the End.

Publisher’s Book Description:

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure and to live a lifetime in a single day.

Kiera Cass


Kiera Cass is the author of the wildly popular The Selection series.

Publisher’s Book Description:

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself—and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

Miles Morales: Spider-man by Jason Reynolds


In this version of Spider-man, the boy who can sling webs is played by a teen of Puerto Rican descent. And you can never go wrong with a Jason Reynolds title, or superheroes.

Publisher’s Book Description:

“Everyone gets mad at hustlers, especially if you’re on the victim side of the hustle. And Miles knew hustling was in his veins.”

Miles Morales is just your average teenager. Dinner every Sunday with his parents, chilling out playing old-school video games with his best friend, Ganke, crushing on brainy, beautiful poet Alicia. He’s even got a scholarship spot at the prestigious Brooklyn Visions Academy. Oh yeah, and he’s Spider Man.

But lately, Miles’s spidey-sense has been on the fritz. When a misunderstanding leads to his suspension from school, Miles begins to question his abilities. After all, his dad and uncle were Brooklyn jack-boys with criminal records. Maybe kids like Miles aren’t meant to be superheroes. Maybe Miles should take his dad’s advice and focus on saving himself.

As Miles tries to get his school life back on track, he can’t shake the vivid nightmares that continue to haunt him. Nor can he avoid the relentless buzz of his spidey-sense every day in history class, amidst his teacher’s lectures on the historical “benefits” of slavery and the importance of the modern-day prison system. But after his scholarship is threatened, Miles uncovers a chilling plot, one that puts his friends, his neighborhood, and himself at risk.

It’s time for Miles to suit up.

I am J by Chris Beam


Chris Beam writes about the experiences of a Puerto Rican teen who is also transgender.

Publisher’s Book Description:

An inspiring story of self-discovery, of choosing to stand up for yourself, and of finding your own path – readers will recognize a part of themselves in J’s struggle to love his true self.

“Hola, Jeni.”

J spun. His stomach clenched hard, as though he’d been hit. It was just the neighbor lady, Mercedes. J couldn’t muster a hello back, not now; he didn’t care that she’d tell his mom he’d been rude. She should know better. Nobody calls me Jeni anymore.

J always felt different. He was certain that eventually everyone would understand who he really was: a boy mistakenly born as a girl. Yet as he grew up, his body began to betray him; eventually J stopped praying to wake up a “real boy” and started covering up his body, keeping himself invisible – from his family, from his friends…from the world. But after being deserted by the best friend he thought would always be by his side, J decides that he’s done hiding – it’s time to be who he really is. And this time he is determined not to give up, no matter the cost.

An inspiring story of self-discovery, of choosing to stand up for yourself, and of finding your own path – readers will recognize a part of themselves in J’s struggle to love his true self.

The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano


The beloved Maria from Sesame Street writes about the experiences of a teen with Puerto Rican heritage.

Publisher’s Book Description:

One of America’s most influential Hispanics — ‘Maria’ on Sesame Street — presents a powerful novel set in New York’s El Barrio in 1969

There are two secrets Evelyn Serrano is keeping from her Mami and Papo? her true feelings about growing up in her Spanish Harlem neighborhood, and her attitude about Abuela, her sassy grandmother who’s come from Puerto Rico to live with them. Then, like an urgent ticking clock, events erupt that change everything. The Young Lords, a Puerto Rican activist group, dump garbage in the street and set it on fire, igniting a powerful protest. When Abuela steps in to take charge, Evelyn is thrust into the action. Tempers flare, loyalties are tested. Through it all, Evelyn learns important truths about her Latino heritage and the history makers who shaped a nation. Infused with actual news accounts from the time period, Sonia Manzano has crafted a gripping work of fiction based on her own life growing up during a fiery, unforgettable time in America, when young Latinos took control of their destinies.

Plus a Bonus 2017 Debut Author

The Evolution of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera


Publisher’s Book Description:

Pretty in Pink comes to the South Bronx in this bold and romantic coming-of-age novel about dysfunctional families, good and bad choices, and finding the courage to question everything you ever thought you wanted—from debut author Lilliam Rivera.


Mami, for destroying my social life
Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal
Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal
This supermarket
Everyone else

After “borrowing” her father’s credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot
Sánchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts.

With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…

Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moisés—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.

As always, if you have authors or titles to add, please share with us in the comments.

Take 5: YA Lit on Asexuality Resources


Earlier today guest poster Laura Perenic shared with us an introduction to asexuality (Introducing Asexuality, a guest post by Laura Perenic). This really resonated with me because of a recent interaction I had with one of my regular teen patrons. I was sitting in the Teen MakerSpace working on some collection development. Specifically, I had a list of Asexual (or Ace) YA Lit titles that I was checking the catalog to see if we owned a decent number of titles on the topic for our teens. As I sat there, this teen came up to me and saw the word asexuality on my computer screen. “What are you doing?,” she asked. So I told her I was checking to make sure we had some YA fiction titles on asexuality in our teen fiction collection. She then pointed to the word asexual on my computer screen, “That’s me,” she said. She then went on to tell me that she had no idea that there were teen fiction books that featured asexual characters, she said it in a way that clearly communicated that this moment was important to her. For the first time, she knew that there were teens like her in our teen fiction collection. Thankfully, I was able to get a couple of titles in her hand in that moment, which is why it is important that we do our due diligence in collection development and can meet the needs of any teen we encounter in our libraries. Here are a few resources for you to check your collections to make sure you have some asexual representation in your YA collection. I particularly recommend the Gay YA as it is curated by members of the GLBTQIA+ community and they really discuss representation and quality. When evaluating the quality of books featuring asexual teens it’s important to listen to members of the asexual community to make sure that the representation is not harmful and does not perpetuate stereotypes.

Masterlist: Asexual – Gay YA

Booklist: Asexuality in Young Adult Fiction – The Hub

Books with Asexual Main Characters – Quiet YA Reads

Not Broken: Julie Daly talks asexual representation in YA

Also, check out this multi-part discussion:

Reading While Asexual: Representation in Ace YA – Gay YA

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

IMG_4145Last night, Senator Elizabeth Warren was warned, then given an explanation, but neverthelessshe persisted in reading the words of another woman who was warned, given an explanation, and persisted: Coretta Scott King. In honor and in recognition of these and other women who, despite warning and explanation, persist in their efforts, we offer you this list of persistent young women.




Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

Book cover: against the backdrop of a cloudy sky with planes overhead, a young woman in pilot garb faces forward with her eyes looking skyward

Ida Mae Jones dreams of flight. Her daddy was a pilot and being black didn’t stop him from fulfilling his dreams. But her daddy’s gone now, and being a woman, and being black, are two strikes against her.

When America enters the war with Germany and Japan, the Army creates the WASP, the Women Airforce Service Pilots – and Ida suddenly sees a way to fly as well as do something significant to help her brother stationed in the Pacific. But even the WASP won’t accept her as a black woman, forcing Ida Mae to make a difficult choice of “passing,” of pretending to be white to be accepted into the program. Hiding one’s racial heritage, denying one’s family, denying one’s self is a heavy burden. And while Ida Mae chases her dream, she must also decide who it is she really wants to be. (Publisher description)

Dime by E.R. Frank

Book cover: black bricks in the shape of a D over a red background reveal the profile of a young girl looking resolutely aheadLost in Newark, New Jersey’s foster care system, Dime is persuaded into sexual slavery by a sweet talking older man. The family-like dynamic of their home is appealing for a time, and the services she is forced to perform seem the understandable price to pay for such safety and security. But her eyes are opened to the grave reality of her situation when Lollipop, a new, younger girl is brought in and the incomprehensibly awful truth of her situation is revealed. Dime takes solace and strength in the written word and stops at nothing to seek safety and justice for Lollipop, even as she understands that there might not be a way out for herself.



Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande

Book cover: spiral bound notebook paper shows the book title in loopy scriptSpeaking up is hard. It’s even harder when speaking up for what you know is right loses you friends, family, and your church. Mena starts school as a pariah after standing up to the minister of her church in defense of a gay peer. She knows she did the right thing, but everyone around her is telling her it’s wrong.

Ten Days a Madwoman by Deborah Noyes

Book cover: a photograph of Nellie Bly wearing a high necked lace collar and looking forward, stylized in a deep teal

Young Nellie Bly had ambitious goals, especially for a woman at the end of the nineteenth century, when the few female journalists were relegated to writing columns about cleaning or fashion. But fresh off a train from Pittsburgh, Nellie knew she was destined for more and pulled a major journalistic stunt that skyrocketed her to fame: feigning insanity, being committed to the notorious asylum on Blackwell’s Island, and writing a shocking exposé of the clinic’s horrific treatment of its patients.

Nellie Bly became a household name as the world followed her enthralling career in “stunt” journalism that raised awareness of political corruption, poverty, and abuses of human rights. (Publisher’s description)

I Am Malala
Book cover: Malala Yousafzai wears a magenta hijab and looks at the camera with an expression that is peaceful and resolute

Do we even need to explain this one?


And because we just can’t get enough women who persist…

Rad Women Worldwide

Book cover: Black and white illustrations in front of bold swaths of red, teal, and orange, depict a soccer player with a ponytail, Malala Yousafzai, and Frida Kahlo

From the authors of the New York Times bestselling book Rad American Women A-Z, comes a bold new collection of 40 biographical profiles, each accompanied by a striking illustrated portrait, showcasing extraordinary women from around the world.

In Rad Women Worldwide, writer Kate Schatz and artist Miriam Klein Stahl tell fresh, engaging, and inspiring tales of perseverance and radical success by pairing well researched and riveting biographies with powerful and expressive cut-paper portraits. Featuring an array of diverse figures from Hatshepsut (the great female king who ruled Egypt peacefully for two decades) and Malala Yousafzi (the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize) to Poly Styrene (legendary teenage punk and lead singer of X-Ray Spex) and Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft (polar explorers and the first women to cross Antarctica), this progressive and visually arresting book is a compelling addition to women’s history.

Take 5: Quirky Towns in YA Lit

twilightzoneFrom a very young age, I was obsessed with The Twilight Zone. My very favorite episode is the episode Time Enough At Last where the banker survives the end of the world and finally has time to read all the books he wants and then he breaks his glasses and there is no one left to fix them for him. Noooo!! This dream come true episode becomes my worst nightmare.

My other favorites include those episodes where something seems just a little bit off about a town or a society. Like when we find out that the girl who just wants to be beautiful and fit in is an outcast does in fact meet conventional beauty standards, it’s just that the world around her is so very different. Or we find out that a town is really inhabited by aliens.

Which brings me to today’s book lists. You see, I like quirky towns. Not just Stars Hollow quirky, but town with mysteries or secrets. Think Twin Peaks or Wayward Pines. It’s one of the reasons why I love A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd, about a town that once had magic but seems to have lost it (great book, please read it). So today’s list is all about town that have quirky characteristics, dark secrets, or some other thing that makes it not quite like a regular town.

Wax by Gina Damico

quirky2Publisher’s Book Description: Paraffin, Vermont, is known the world over as home to the Grosholtz Candle Factory. But behind the sunny retail space bursting with overwhelming scents and homemade fudge, seventeen-year-old Poppy Palladino discovers something dark and unsettling: a back room filled with dozens of startlingly life-like wax sculptures, crafted by one very strange old lady. Poppy hightails it home, only to be shocked when one of the figures—a teenage boy who doesn’t seem to know what he is—jumps naked and screaming out of the trunk of her car. She tries to return him to the candle factory, but before she can, a fire destroys the mysterious workshop—and the old woman is nowhere to be seen.

With the help of the wax boy, who answers to the name Dud, Poppy resolves to find out who was behind the fire. But in the course of her investigation, she discovers that things in Paraffin aren’t always as they seem, that the Grosholtz Candle Factory isn’t as pure as its reputation—and that some of the townspeople she’s known her entire life may not be as human as they once were. In fact, they’re starting to look a little . . . waxy. Can Poppy and Dud extinguish the evil that’s taking hold of their town before it’s too late? (Coming August 2nd, 2016 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Karen’s Thoughts: This was a very fun read that I thought would make a classic TZ episode. And like Human.4 below, it works really well for all ages, including younger middle school students.

Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar

quirky5Publisher Book Description: Twin Peaks meets Stars Hollow in this paranormal suspense novel about a boy who can reach inside people and steal their innermost things—fears, memories, scars, even love—and his family’s secret ritual that for centuries has kept the cliff above their small town from collapsing.

Aspen Quick has never really worried about how he’s affecting people when he steals from them. But this summer he’ll discover just how strong the Quick family magic is—and how far they’ll go to keep their secrets safe.

With a smart, arrogant protagonist, a sinister family tradition, and an ending you won’t see coming, this is a fast-paced, twisty story about power, addiction, and deciding what kind of person you want to be, in a family that has the ability to control everything you are. (Kathy Dawson Books June 2016)

Karen’s Thoughts: This is an utterly fascinating book about privilege, consent, power and morality. The basic premise – that people can steal a part of your mind and control you – is creepy as all get out, but it makes a good foundation from some serious reflection and discussion.

(Don’t You) Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn

quirky1Publisher’s Book Description: A place where no one gets sick. And no one ever dies.


There’s a price to pay for paradise. Every fourth year, the strange power that fuels the town exacts its payment by infecting teens with deadly urges. In a normal year in Gardnerville, teens might stop talking to their best friends. In a fourth year, they’d kill them.

Four years ago, Skylar’s sister, Piper, was locked away after leading sixteen of her classmates to a watery grave. Since then, Skylar has lived in a numb haze, struggling to forget her past and dull the pain of losing her sister. But the secrets and memories Piper left behind keep taunting Skylar—whispering that the only way to get her sister back is to stop Gardnerville’s murderous cycle once and for all. (Harper Teen 2014)

Karen’s Thoughts: I don’t remember a lot of the specifics of this book, but it’s been 2 years since I have read it and it still often comes to mind. It is truly eerie and haunting.

Human.4 by Mike Lancaster

quirky3Publisher’s Book Description: Kyle Straker volunteered to be hypnotized at the annual community talent show, expecting the same old lame amateur acts. But when he wakes up, his world will never be the same. Televisions and computers no longer work, but a strange language streams across their screens. Everyone’s behaving oddly. It’s as if Kyle doesn’t exit.

Is this nightmare a result of the hypnosis? Will Kyle wake up with a snap of fingers to roars of laughter? Or is this something much more sinister?

Narrated on a set of found cassette tapes at an unspecified point in the future, Human.4 is an absolutely chilling look at technology gone too far. (Egmont 2011)

Karen’s Thoughts: I read this book years ago. I bought this book. It’s very entertaining and interesting. And yes, it was the first book that made me go: this would make a great Twilight Zone episode!

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

quirky4Publisher’s Book Description: Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?

Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.

As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap—their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures—acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are. (Balzer & Bray 2015)

Karen’s Thoughts: Naming this list quirky towns basically defies the exquisiteness of this title. This isn’t so much a “quirky” town as it is a haunting town that will stick to your bones. It’s now a Printz Award Winner, in part because of it’s haunting brilliance and storytelling. It most reminds me in style and tone of Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, which in my book is the highest compliment I can give it. But it is also truly unique, compelling and memorable. Also, it drops some important feminist truth bombs. I got a signed copy for The Teen at ALA because I hope this will be a book that she will read again and again and cherish forever.

What are your favorite books that take place in a quirky town? Please add to this list by sharing your recommendations in the comments.

Take 5: Memoirs on writing to hand to aspiring teen authors

“How do you become an author?” We’ve heard teens ask that question every time they meet an author – published, famous, or neither. And we’ve all heard the answer too: read. Read everything. Read more. No, even more than that.

Reading is essential. But more than novels, teens who are firmly dedicated to the writing life will benefit from reading some writing on the craft. Here are five books to hand to teens for inspiration and instruction.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird by Anne LamottLamott’s brief classic on writing (and life) is a must-read for teens seeking with a desire to live a life full of creativity. Her approach is gentle and frank, and full of examples and ideas that will spark action.

Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos

Hole in my life by Jack GantosHow much do you want to be a writer? Why? It took a series of crappy decisions resulting in incarceration on a drug offense for children’s author Gantos to really answer those questions. Hand this Printz Honor book to teens who don’t see a path from their current life to the writer’s life.

A Sense of Wonder: On Reading and Writing Books for Children by Katherine Paterson

A Sense of Wonder by Katherine PatersonAnother path to writing for youth by  Newberry Medal and National Book Award winner Katherine Paterson. This essay collection is culled from her many years of work. It gives insight into the books she has written, why she wrote them, and offers comfort and copious inspiration to those who aspire to write for youth.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

On Writing by Stephen King

Teens with aspirations of publishing would be well served to learn from one of the biggest publishing successes of our time. King begins his memoir with his path to authorship through poverty and addiction, and into his craft. The second half of the book offers specific instructions and examples of the rules King lives and writes by. Essential reading.

Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose

Reading Like a WriterReading for the pure joy of reading transports us to different places and times. It helps us connect with each other and with ourselves. What teens will learn over time is that reading for the pleasure of reading is only one way to do it. When I started selecting books for the library, I looked at them differently, just like when I started reviewing books. When I began editing books, yet another way of reading emerged. Here, Prose walks readers through the experience of reading as a writer, looking at successful writers and sussing out what it is about their work that allows for us to connect with it as readers.

Take 5: Ways to combat summer fatigue

My summer newsletter items are due in a matter of days, and I’m already exhausted. Anyone else?

This year should be easier for me.

  • We finally have a part time position tasked with serving tweens, so the pressure to plan for grades 5-12 all together has been lifted and I can just focus on teenaged teens… who have drastically different wants and needs.
  • I’m restructuring my SRP to encourage interactivity… but that means I’m letting go of the online forms that I’d finally gotten teens accustomed to using and am mired in InDesign.
  • I have an active Teen Board full of great people who are eager to volunteer… and suggest their own programs that I need to take the time to support.
  • I’m planning fewer small programs… because we’re adding some big programs.


I stare at the calendar, then at the unfinished SRP flyers, then at those unanswered emails, and then I refill my coffee cup and hope someone interrupts me so I can focus on a task that I can actually accomplish.

It seems dire, and I sound super whiny, but! But! I have some solutions. Here are my strategies I’m using to anticipate summer fatigue so I can combat it before it hits.

1. Forget about “should” if it doesn’t work.

“I should do more contests.”
“I should decorate more.”
“I should look into that free lunch program.”
“I should offer more mid-day programs in the summer.”
“I should do an anime club.”

Should I? Really? Every community is different. Though there are lots of commonalities between us, one thing I know for sure is that part of the beauty of library service is that we get to tailor our program to the needs of the people around us. Let go of the parts of summer that you do because you should and focus on the parts that are used. This doesn’t mean never try new things. Try new things! But give up the old things that don’t work, and give a pass to the new things that aren’t good fits for your community.

2. Front load

You think you’re the only one who’s tired of summer by the time mid-July rolls around? Teens get summer fatigue too. What works at my library is front-loading the summer with lots of events to build excitement and engagement, then tapering off toward August, when most of the town takes a vacation. My June schedule currently brings me to tears, but I think I’ll be able to breathe in July, and I’m reminding myself that August will be quiet enough for me to weed. Caveat: Rule 1.

3. Stock your survival bunker

Cans of soup, protein bars, coffee card, good chocolate… You know you’re going to be too busy to take your full break now and then. You know packing your lunch is going to fall by the wayside at some point. If you get as hangry as I do, you owe it to yourself (and your coworkers) to stash a few pick-me-up items in your desk drawer that you can grab when the going gets crazy.

4. Ask for help; Offer help

Even if you’re the only teen librarian in your library, Summer Reading is a library-wide event. Turn to your library colleagues, coworkers, volunteers, and even members when you need a hand with something. Likewise, if you see someone who needs a hand and one of yours is free, lend it. Teamwork! Cooperation! Other good words! SRP is kind of like pulling an all-nighter in college. In hindsight, it totally messed up your schedule and was maybe not the most effective way to achieve your goals, but you remember it fondly because your roommates all did it with you.

5. Appreciate the fun, don’t put up with nonsense

Take a deep breath and get out in the sunshine. Life loosens up a bit in the summer, and we can too. Find ways to make exceptions to the rules that make you feel good and keep patron service at the forefront. Can you let those kids who were just riding their bikes around the neighborhood and then decided that they had to stop at the library check things out even if they don’t have their cards? Feel like loosening up the age requirement so someone can bring their out of town cousin to see how great their library is? Want to toss another raffle entry at that kid who tackled Chaucer for fun? Do it.

But the nonsense? No.

giphy (2)No, the eight-year-old can not participate in the Teen SRP just because she reads mostly YA. No, you will not send prizes to the person in California who keeps emailing librarians! No, you can not wear a bathing suit, bare feet, and a towel at today’s program. You can say no. You can do it. I’ve said no in all three of the above situations… multiple times. Saying no in a bad situation is saying yes to your core mission & beliefs. It holds the space you need to have held for teens, it preserves standards that keep everyone safe, and it reminds people (including yourself) that you have logic and reason for implementing programs the way you do.

So — go forth and SRP y’all! Before you know it, summer will be but a fading warm glow and we’ll be on to back-to-school shopping. Good luck!

Take 5: School Violence

Did you know that under the Teen Issues link up there on the menu bar, you can find lots of great posts and book lists organized by issue? Everything from addiction to violence is covered. If you don’t see a topic covered that you think is of interest, please leave a comment, tweet us (Amanda MacGregor @CiteSomething or Karen Jensen @TLT16), or email us at the addresses provided on the About TLT page.


Take 5: School Violence

It would appear that writing about school violence will always be a timely topic. Here are four recent or forthcoming titles and one classic. I reviewed I Crawl Through It by A.S. King for the August 2015 issue of VOYA. Karen wrote about it here for TLT.  I also reviewed Violent Ends for TLT, and will be participating in a pre-publication event with my YA book club for This Is Where It Ends in December. All summaries here via the publishers.


this is whereThis Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp 

ISBN 13: 9781492622468

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Publication date: 1/05/2016


10:00 a.m.
The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m.
The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

The auditorium doors won’t open.

Someone starts shooting.

Told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.



i crawlI Crawl Through It by A.S. King

ISBN-13: 9780316334099

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication date: 09/22/2015


Four teenagers are on the verge of exploding. The anxieties they face at every turn have nearly pushed them to the point of surrender: senseless high-stakes testing, the lingering damage of past trauma, the buried grief and guilt of tragic loss. They are desperate to cope, but no one is listening.

So they will lie. They will split in two. They will turn inside out. They will even build an invisible helicopter to fly themselves far away…but nothing releases the pressure. Because, as they discover, the only way to truly escape their world is to fly right into it.

The genius of acclaimed author A.S. King reaches new heights in this groundbreaking work of surrealist fiction; it will mesmerize readers with its deeply affecting exploration of how we crawl through traumatic experience-and find the way out.



violent endsViolent Ends by Steve Brezenoff, Beth Revis, Tom Leveen, Delilah S. Dawson, Margie Gelbwasser, Shaun David Hutchinson, Trish Doller, Christine Johnson, Neal and Brendan Shusterman, Blythe Woolston, E.M. Kokie, Elisa Nader, Mindi Scott, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Kendare Blake, Hannah Moskowitz, and Courtney Summers

ISBN-13: 9781481437455

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication date: 09/01/2015


In a one-of-a-kind collaboration, seventeen of the most recognizable YA writers—including Shaun David Hutchinson, Neal and Brendan Shusterman, and Beth Revis—come together to share the viewpoints of a group of students affected by a school shooting.

It took only twenty-two minutes for Kirby Matheson to exit his car, march onto the school grounds, enter the gymnasium, and open fire, killing six and injuring five others.

But this isn’t a story about the shooting itself. This isn’t about recounting that one unforgettable day.

This is about Kirby and how one boy—who had friends, enjoyed reading, playing saxophone in the band, and had never been in trouble before—became a monster capable of entering his school with a loaded gun and firing on his classmates.

Each chapter is told from a different victim’s viewpoint, giving insight into who Kirby was and who he’d become. Some are sweet, some are dark; some are seemingly unrelated, about fights or first kisses or late-night parties. This is a book of perspectives—with one character and one event drawing them all together—from the minds of some of YA’s most recognizable names.


are you stillAre You Still There? by Sarah Lynn Scheerger

ISBN-13: 9780807545577

Publisher: Whitman, Albert & Company

Publication date: 09/01/2015


Gabriella Mallory, AP student and perfect-daughter-in-training, stands barefoot on a public toilet for three hours while her school is on lockdown. Someone has planted a bomb and she is hiding. The bomb is defused but the would-be-bomber is still at large. And everyone at Central High School is a suspect. The school starts a top-secret crisis help line and Gabi is invited to join. When she does, she is drawn into a suspenseful game of cat and mouse with the bomber, who has unfinished business. He leaves threatening notes on campus. He makes threatening calls to the help line. And then he begins targeting Gabi directly. Is it because her father is the lead police detective on the case? Is the bomber one of her new friends. Could it be her new boyfriend with his complicated past? As the story unfolds, Gabi knows she is somehow connected to the bomber. Even worse she is part of his plan. Can Gabi reach out and stop him? Or will she be too late?


give a boyGive a Boy a Gun by Todd Strasser

ISBN-13: 9780689848933

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication date: 04/28/2002


For as long as they can remember, Brendan and Gary have been mercilessly teased and harassed by the jocks who rule Middletown High. But not anymore. Stealing a small arsenal of guns from a neighbor, they take their classmates hostage at a school dance. In the panic of this desperate situation, it soon becomes clear that only one thing matters to Brendan and Gary: revenge.

Take 5: YA Lit with Food Allergies

Earlier today I talked a little bit about food allergies and shared some ever evolving thoughts I had about food in teen programming. Now I want to share 5 MG and YA lit titles that have characters that deal with food allergies. I have only read 2 of the following 5 titles, but the rest are now sitting on my TBR title after doing a little bit of research and finding them.

DELICATE MONSTERS by Stephanie Khuen

Publisher’s Book Description: From the Morris-Award winning author of Charm & Strange, comes a twisted and haunting tale about three teens uncovering dark secrets and even darker truths about themselves.

When nearly killing a classmate gets seventeen-year-old Sadie Su kicked out of her third boarding school in four years, she returns to her family’s California vineyard estate. Here, she’s meant to stay out of trouble. Here, she’s meant to do a lot of things. But it’s hard. She’s bored. And when Sadie’s bored, the only thing she likes is trouble.

Emerson Tate’s a poor boy living in a rich town, with his widowed mother and strange, haunted little brother. All he wants his senior year is to play basketball and make something happen with the girl of his dreams. That’s why Emerson’s not happy Sadie’s back. An old childhood friend, she knows his worst secrets. The things he longs to forget. The things she won’t ever let him.

Haunted is a good word for fifteen-year-old Miles Tate. Miles can see the future, after all. And he knows his vision of tragic violence at his school will come true, because his visions always do. That’s what he tells the new girl in town. The one who listens to him. The one who recognizes the darkness in his past.

But can Miles stop the violence? Or has the future already been written? Maybe tragedy is his destiny. Maybe it’s all of theirs.

Karen’s Thoughts: I have read part of an advanced copy of DELICATE MONSTERS and I was immediately drawn to how it discussed food allergy issues. It also mentions abdominal migraines, which is an ailment a teen girl I love suffers from that I had never heard of before meeting her. In addition to handling food allergy issues and the emotions surrounding them well, Khuen also just writes really fantastic thrillers and this is no exception. This book will be published in June by St. Martin’s Press.

MY YEAR OF EPIC ROCK by Andrea Pyros

Publisher’s Book Description: If Life Was Like a Song

Nina Simmons’ song would be “You Can’t Always Eat What You Want.” (Peanut allergies, ugh). But that’s okay, because as her best friend Brianna always said, “We’re All in This Together.”

Until the first day of the seventh grade, when Brianna dumps her to be BFFs with the popular new girl. Left all alone, Nina is forced to socialize with “her own kind”–banished to the peanut-free table with the other allergy outcasts. As a joke, she tells her new pals they should form a rock band called EpiPens. (Get it?) Apparently, allergy sufferers don’t understand sarcasm, because the next thing Nina knows she’s the lead drummer.

Now Nina has to decide: adopt a picture-perfect pop personality to fit in with Bri and her new BFF or embrace her inner rocker and the spotlight. Well..

Call Me a Rock Star, Maybe

Karen’s Thoughts: I actually came across this title when the author Tweeted about it earlier this week for #FoodAllergyAwarenessWeek. It will be published in September from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, it’s Middle Grade.

PEANUT by Ayun Halliday

Publisher’s Book Description: “A smart, affecting graphic young adult novel,” declares the New York Times.

Before you write me off as a delusional psycho, think about what it’s like to be thrown into a situation where everyone knows everyone… and no one knows you. Sadie has the perfect plan to snag some friends when she transfers to Plainfield High—pretend to have a peanut allergy. But what happens when you have to hand in that student health form your unsuspecting mom was supposed to fill out? And what if your new friends want to come over and your mom serves them snacks? (Peanut butter sandwich, anyone?) And then there’s the bake sale, when your teacher thinks you ate a brownie with peanuts. Graphic coming-of-age novels have huge cross-over potential, and Peanut is sure to appeal to adults and teens alike. (2012)

Karen’s Thoughts: This title is not about a person with a food allergy, but about a teen who fakes having a food allergy. And it’s a graphic novel. The New York Times said, “Sadie’s allergy may be fake, but the sentiments in “Peanut” are not, and that’s what matters.” You can read the entire review here.

BREAK by Hanna Moskowitz

Publisher’s Book Description:

Jonah is on a mission to break every bone in his body. Everyone knows that broken bones grow back stronger than they were before. And Jonah wants to be stronger—needs to be stronger—because everything around him is falling apart. Breaking, and then healing, is Jonah’s only way to cope with the stresses of home, girls, and the world on his shoulders.

When Jonah’s self-destructive spiral accelerates and he hits rock bottom, will he find true strength or surrender to his breaking point?

Karen’s Thoughts: This is a book I have not read, though Moskowitz is the author of the incredibly fascinating TEETH and NOT OTHERWISE SPECIFIED, which Amanda reviewed earlier. It doesn’t say this in the publisher’s book description, but apparently Jonah’s self destructive spiral is sparked in part by the pressures of dealing with his brother Jessie’s life-threatening food allergies.

FREE TO FALL by Lauren Miller

Publisher’s Book Description: What if there was an app that told you what song to listen to, what coffee to order, who to date, even what to do with your life—an app that could ensure your complete and utter happiness?

What if you never had to fail or make a wrong choice?

What if you never had to fall?

Fast-forward to a time when Apple and Google have been replaced by Gnosis, a monolith corporation that has developed the most life-changing technology to ever hit the market: Lux, an app that flawlessly optimizes decision making for the best personal results.

Just like everyone else, sixteen-year-old Rory Vaughn knows the key to a happy, healthy life is following what Lux recommends. When she’s accepted to the elite boarding school Theden Academy, her future happiness seems all the more assured. But once on campus, something feels wrong beneath the polished surface of her prestigious dream school.

Then she meets North, a handsome townie who doesn’t use Lux, and begins to fall for him and his outsider way of life. Soon, Rory is going against Lux’s recommendations, listening instead to the inner voice that everyone has been taught to ignore — a choice that leads her to uncover a truth neither she nor the world ever saw coming.

Karen’s Thoughts: FREE TO FALL is not a book about food allergies. In fact, it never mentions food allergies at all. There is, however, a scene where a teen boy working as a coffee shop barrister gives coffee to a teen girl and instead of giving her what she orders, he gives her a coffee he thinks she would like. What this means is that he deceives this teenage girl about what she is putting into her body not knowing if she has any dietary restrictions, thus violating her and putting her in potential harm’s way. The book itself is quite good and fascinating, very discussable, and I think this scene can lead us to talk about food safety issues in ways that perhaps the author didn’t originally intend. In my post earlier today I shared with you the story of Kaye M., a young Muslim woman with religious food restrictions and how food prep people had purposely tried to get her friends and family members to violate those personal restrictions through deception. And when I originally reviewed FREE TO FALL I shared my personal concerns about the safety issues surrounding this scene regarding food allergy issues. This scene, completely unrelated to food issues and stuck in the middle of a thriller, is a poignant reminder that sometimes we can have meaningful discussions about important issues that the author never intended. It’s a good book and the scene is a good discussion prompt.

Edited 5/15/15 to Add::

Who I Kissed by Janet Gurtler

Janet Gurtler’s latest contemporary YA novel is by turns gripping, heart-wrenching, and joyous as one teen girl has to find the courage to carry on after a devastating tragedy.

She never thought a kiss could kill…

As the new girl in town, Samantha just wants to fit in. Being invited to a party by her fellow swim team members is her big chance…especially since Zee will be there. He hasn’t made a secret of checking her out at the pool. Sam didn’t figure on Alex being there too. She barely even knows him. And she certainly didn’t plan to kiss him. It just kind of happened.

And then Alex dies—right in her arms…

Consumed by guilt and grief, Sam has no idea what to do or where to turn when everyone at school blames her. What follows is Sam’s honest, raw, and unforgettable journey to forgive herself and find balance—maybe even love—in a life that suddenly seems to be spinning out of control.

In addition, there is a self-published book called SUNDIAL by M. I. Pearsall that exists and there are discussion questions available. I don’t normally read and review self-published titles because I have never worked in a library that purchased them for their collections, which I think will someday change, but I wanted to let you know it was out there because of the discussion questions that were available.

Take 5: Australian YA

It’s no secret that Australian YA tends to be amazing. For me, it all started in 2001/2002 with two books: Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty and Sleeping Dogs by Sonya Hartnett. I read the Moriarty book while working at The Children’s Book Shop in Brookline, Massachusetts (aka my favorite job ever) and was blown away. I read the Hartnett title around the same time for a course in graduate school at Simmons College and found it astoundingly brilliant. Together with my group of Simmons friends, we read and shared more and more Australian titles (at one point trying to put together a group independent study course of Aussie YA). Since then, I’ve continued to be a voracious reader of any Australian YA I can get my hands on. With very rare exception, I am never let down. New to reading Australian YA? Here are 5 of my favorite titles  to get you started (summaries from the publishers). See the end of the post for links to more posts talking about Aussie YA. 


Take 5: Australian YA


Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty

ISBN-13: 9780312287368

Publisher: St Martin’s Press

Publication date: 1/10/2002


Life is pretty complicated for Elizabeth Clarry. Her best friend Celia keeps disappearing, her absent father suddenly reappears, and her communication with her mother consists entirely of wacky notes left on the fridge. On top of everything else, because her English teacher wants to rekindle the “Joy of the Envelope,” a Complete and Utter Stranger knows more about Elizabeth than anyone else.

But Elizabeth is on the verge of some major changes. She may lose her best friend, find a wonderful new friend, kiss the sexiest guy alive, and run in a marathon.
So much can happen in the time it takes to write a letter…

A #1 bestseller in Australia, this fabulous debut is a funny, touching, revealing story written entirely in the form of letters, messages, postcards–and bizarre missives from imaginary organizations like The Cold Hard Truth Association.

Feeling Sorry for Celia captures, with rare acuity, female friendship and the bonding and parting that occurs as we grow. Jaclyn Moriarty’s hilariously candid novel shows that the roller coaster ride of being a teenager is every bit as fun as we remember–and every bit as harrowing.


Sleeping Dogs by Sonya Hartnett 

ISBN-13: 9780670865031

Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated

Publication date: 8/12/1995


When a stranger enters a family’s midst and insists on discovering all of their darkest secrets, the family begins a slow and painful descent into decay and madness.



Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

ISBN-13: 9780375869532

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books

Publication date: 2/14/2012


Senior year is over, and Lucy has the perfect way to celebrate: tonight, she’s going to find Shadow, the mysterious graffiti artist whose work appears all over the city. He’s out there somewhere—spraying color, spraying birds and blue sky on the night—and Lucy knows a guy who paints like Shadow is someone she could fall for. Really fall for. Instead, Lucy’s stuck at a party with Ed, the guy she’s managed to avoid since the most awkward date of her life. But when Ed tells her he knows where to find Shadow, they’re suddenly on an all-night search around the city. And what Lucy can’t see is the one thing that’s right before her eyes.


Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta 

ISBN-13: 9780375829826

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books

Publication date: 9/28/2004


Francesca is stuck at St. Sebastian’s, a boys’ school that pretends it’s coed by giving the girls their own bathroom.  Her only female companions are an ultra-feminist, a rumored slut, and an impossibly dorky accordion player.  The boys are no better, from Thomas, who specializes in musical burping, to Will, the perpetually frowning, smug moron that Francesca can’t seem to stop thinking about.

Then there’s Francesca’s mother, who always thinks she knows what’s best for Francesca—until she is suddenly stricken with acute depression, leaving Francesca lost, alone, and without an inkling of who she really is.  Simultaneously humorous, poignant, and impossible to put down, this is the story of a girl who must summon the strength to save her family, her social life, and—hardest of all—herself.


Pink by Lili Wilkinson

ISBN-13: 9780061926532

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 2/8/2011


Ava is tired of her ultracool attitude, ultraradical politics, and ultrablack clothing. She’s ready to try something new—she’s even ready to be someone new. Someone who fits in, someone with a gorgeous boyfriend, someone who wears pink.

But Ava soon finds that changing herself is more complicated than changing her wardrobe. Even getting involved in the school musical raises issues she never imagined. As she faces surprising choices and unforeseen consequences, Ava wonders if she will ever figure out who she really wants to be.

Pink received an American Library Association Stonewall Award Honor for exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender experience.


If you would like to recommend additional titles on this topic, please leave us a comment. We always look forward to hearing what books others value and recommend.


For more suggestions of Australian YA titles, check out:

Epic Reads, “17 Australian YA Authors You Need to Read.” 

Inkcrush, “Aussie YA.”

Buzzfeed, “27 Awesome Australian Books Every YA Fan Should Read.”