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Friday Finds: July 20, 2018

tltbutton3This Week at TLT

#ReadForChange: Reading into Hurricane Season with Joanne O’Sullivan’s Between Two Skies

Summer Reading Programs: The importance of staff training and the summer reading pep rally

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Showcase and Giveaway

Book Review: The Pride Guide: A Guide to Sexual and Social Health for LGBTQ Youth by Jo Langford

Sunday Reflections: Can Public Libraries Be Open to Hate and Be a Welcoming Place? A look at the recent pronouncement from the Office of Intellectual Freedom

Around the Web

Shrinking public schools reflects the state’s neglect

Cleaning Toilets, Following Rules: A Migrant Child’s Days in Detention

DC’s Young Readers Imprints Add New Titles, New Creators

Alone in the Dark Why we need more children’s books about suicide and severe depression.

 

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Showcase and Giveaway

IMG_3542Beyond the people I work with and the people this blog has led me to get to know, by far the best aspect of blogging for TLT is the constant influx of books. All of the books I get end up going back out the door in some fashion—to teen readers I know, to classroom libraries of friends, to my own school, my kid’s school, or in giveaways. I can’t read/review every book I get, but it’s fun to be able to sift through boxes and see what grabs my attention, and to see what books will find loving new homes with the right reader.

Today I’m sharing with you titles from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All annotations are from the publisher.

 

I’m also doing a giveaway for some of these. Enter via the Rafflecopter between June 17th and July 20th. One winner will get two books. U.S. only!

 

 

 

 

not even bonesNot Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer (ISBN-13: 9781328863546 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 09/04/2018)

Dexter  meets This Savage Song in this dark fantasy about a girl who sells magical body parts on the black market — until she’s betrayed.

Nita doesn’t murder supernatural beings and sell their body parts on the internet—her mother does that. Nita just dissects the bodies after they’ve been “acquired.” Until her mom brings home a live specimen and Nita decides she wants out; dissecting a scared teenage boy is a step too far. But when she decides to save her mother’s victim, she ends up sold in his place—because Nita herself isn’t exactly “human.” She has the ability to alter her biology, a talent that is priceless on the black market. Now on the other side of the bars, if she wants to escape, Nita must ask herself if she’s willing to become the worst kind of monster.

 

 

the unwantedThe Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown (ISBN-13: 9781328810151 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 09/18/2018)

In the tradition of Don Brown’s critically acclaimed, full-color nonfiction graphic novels The Great American Dust Bowl and Sibert Honor winning Drowned CityThe Unwanted is an important, timely, and eye-opening exploration of the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, exposing the harsh realities of living in, and trying to escape, a war zone.

Starting in 2011, refugees flood out of war-torn Syria in Exodus-like proportions. The surprising flood of victims overwhelms neighboring countries, and chaos follows. Resentment in host nations heightens as disruption and the cost of aid grows. By 2017, many want to turn their backs on the victims. The refugees are the unwanted.
Don Brown depicts moments of both heartbreaking horror and hope in the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis. Shining a light on the stories of the survivors, The Unwanted is a testament to the courage and resilience of the refugees and a call to action for all those who read.

 

 

vanderbeekersThe Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden by Karina Yan Glaser (ISBN-13: 9781328770028 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 09/25/2018)

Return to Harlem’s “wildly entertaining” family in this funny, heartwarming sequel. When catastrophe strikes their beloved upstairs neighbors, the Vanderbeeker children set out to build the best, most magical healing garden in Harlem—in spite of a locked fence, thistles and trash, and the conflicting plans of a wealthy real estate developer.

While Isa is off at sleepaway orchestra camp, Jessie, Oliver, Hyacinth, and Laney are stuck at home in the brownstone with nothing to do but get on one another’s nerves. But when catastrophe strikes their beloved upstairs neighbor, their sleepy summer transforms in an instant as the Vanderbeeker children band together to do what they do best: make a plan. They will create the most magical healing garden in all of Harlem.

In this companion to The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, experience the warmth of a family and their community as they work together to bring a little more beauty and kindness to the world, one thwarted plan at a time.

 

 

empressEmpress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean (ISBN-13: 9780544530942 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 11/06/2018)

In a palace of illusions, nothing is what it seems.

Each generation, a competition is held to find the next empress of Honoku. The rules are simple. Survive the palace’s enchanted seasonal rooms. Conquer Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Marry the prince. All are eligible to compete—all except yōkai, supernatural monsters and spirits whom the human emperor is determined to enslave and destroy. Mari has spent a lifetime training to become empress. Winning should be easy. And it would be, if she weren’t hiding a dangerous secret. Mari is a yōkai with the ability to transform into a terrifying monster. If discovered, her life will be forfeit.  As she struggles to keep her true identity hidden, Mari’s fate collides with that of Taro, the prince who has no desire to inherit the imperial throne, and Akira, a half-human, half-yōkai outcast. Torn between duty and love, loyalty and betrayal, vengeance and forgiveness, the choices of Mari, Taro, and Akira will decide the fate of Honoku in this beautifully written, edge-of-your-seat YA fantasy.

 

 

once a kingOnce a King by Erin Summerill (ISBN-13: 9781328949974 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 12/04/2018)

A young king searches for a way to save his kingdom in this romantic fantasy from Erin Summerill, who was called “absolutely marvelous” by New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas.

Aodren: A lonely, young king, searching for a way to dismantle his father’s dark legacy.
Lirra: A girl with the power to control the wind, torn between duty and following her dreams

For twenty years, Channelers—women with a magical ability—have been persecuted in Malam by those without magic. Now King Aodren wants to end the bloody divide and unite his kingdom. But decades of hatred can’t be overcome by issuing decrees, and rumors of a deadly Channeler-made substance are only fueling people’s fears. Lirra has every reason to distrust Aodren. Yet when he asks for help to discover the truth behind the rumors, she can’t say no. With Lirra by his side, Aodren sees a way forward for his people. But can he rewrite the mistakes of the past before his enemies destroy the world he’s working so hard to rebuild? Erin Summerill returns with a high-stakes fantasy full of romance, magic, and revenge perfect for fans of Susan Dennard and C. J. Redwine.

 

 

the me i meant to beThe Me I Meant to Be by Sophie Jordan (ISBN-13: 9781328977069 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 01/01/2019)

Girl  Code: Never date a friend’s ex.

Willa Evans has no intention of breaking the code. So what if she’s always secretly loved her next-door neighbor Zach? As her best friend’s boyfriend, he was always off-limits and it needs to stay that way, even though they just broke up. Even though every time she turns around he’s there, tempting her…

No keeping secrets from your bestie .

Flor Hidalgo has a lot on her plate: her breakup with Zach, her dad’s new dating life, and her struggling grades. So why can’t she stop thinking about her hot, know-it-all tutor? At least she’s got Willa, her constant in the chaos.

Breaking the code breaks friendships .

Two friends find themselves tempted by love that defies the rules in this steamy romance perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Simone Elkeles.

 

 

juniorJunior Ninja Champion: The Fastest Finish by Catherine Hapka (ISBN-13: 978-1328859013 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 01/15/2019)

The second book in this action-packed adventure series follows a team of young ninjas to the final round of the first-ever Junior Ninja competition—perfect for young ninjas and ninja fans everywhere!?

When tweens Izzy, Ty, Kevin, JJ, and Mackenzie heard there was going to be a kids’ version of the reality-TV obstacle competition National Ninja Champion, they all found themselves drawn to Fit Kidz Gym. They quickly formed a team—training together and helping one another overcome all kinds of obstacles as they tried out for a spot on Junior Ninja Champion. It’s surreal but exciting to watch themselves on TV . . . and the show is a huge hit! Now Izzy and JJ are headed to the finals in Hollywood, and the rest of the team is coming along to cheer them on. Ty is an alternate, hoping for his shot at glory. But when the show throws them a curve ball and announces a wildcard episode, it brings a new competitor to the Fit Kidz team and takes the competition up a notch. Who will lose their grip on victory, and who will climb their way to the top on the first season of Junior Ninja Champion?

 

 

big ideaThe Worst Mascot Ever (The Big Idea Gang) by James Preller (ISBN-13: 978-1328915115 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 01/29/2019)

Four friends put their heads together to convince their school to get a new mascot in The Big Idea Gang—an exciting new chapter book series on how to make your claim and back it up, by the author of Jigsaw Jones!

It’s armadillos vs. dragons!

Quick-thinking third-graders Lizzy, her twin, Connor, and their friends Kym and Deon have a big idea: their school desperately needs a new mascot, and they’ve got the perfect one in mind.Now have to figure out a way to convince their principal and rally the rest of the school behind them. Luckily, their teacher, Miss Zips (short for Zipsokowski—but who can say that?) is skilled in the art of persuasion. Armed with Miss Zips’s persuasive tips, the gang of four set out to make their claim, build a case for a new mascot, and convince Clay Elementary that Arnold the Armadillo has had his day.

 

 

buddyEverybody Needs a Buddy (The Big Idea Gang) by James Preller (ISBN-13: 978-1328973405 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 01/29/2019)

The Big Idea Gang is back at it in this exciting new chapter book series on how to make a claim and back it up, by the author of Jigsaw Jones!

It’s pirate ship vs. buddy bench!

When third-graders Deon, Kym, Lizzy, and Connor formed the Big Idea Gang, their mission was simply to oust the old mascot in favor of something cooler. But sales from the new mascot paraphernalia have led to extra cash for the PTA, and you can bet this gang has big ideas about how to spend it. A playground pirate ship! An author visit! New basketball hoops! Luckily, their teacher, Miss Zips, is skilled in the art of persuasion. Armed with Miss Zips’s persuasive tips, the Big Idea Gang sets out to build a case for a new-and-improved Clay Elementary, and convince the rest of the school that their idea is the best.

 

 

from an ideaFrom an Idea to Disney: How Imagination Built a World of Magic by Lowey Bundy Sichol (ISBN-13: 978-1328453617 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 02/12/2019)

From an Idea to Disney is a behind-the-movie-screen look into the history, business, and brand of the world’s largest entertainment empire. With humorous black & white illustrations throughout, learn about the company behind the world’s favorite mouse, Mickey!

“I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing—that it was all started by a mouse.” —Walt Disney

Today, the Walt Disney Company is the biggest entertainment company in the world with theme parks, TV shows, movie studios, merchandise, the most recognizable cartoon character in the world, Mickey Mouse. But a long time ago, brothers Walt and Roy Disney started out with just an idea. Find out more about Disney’s history, the business, and the brand in this illustrated nonfiction book!

  • Find out what Walt first intended to name his famous mouse. (Hint: It wasn’t Mickey!)
  • Discover behind-the-scenes magic of how Walt Disney World is run.
  • Explore the ways the Disney expanded its brand from a little mouse into media, merchandise, and more!

 

 

nikeFrom an Idea to Nike: How Marketing Made Nike a Global Success by Lowey Bundy Sichol (ISBN-13: 978-1328453631 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 02/12/2019)

From an Idea to Nike is a fully-illustrated look into how Nike stepped up its sneaker game to become the most popular athletic brand in the world. Humorous black & white illustrations throughout.

Ever wonder how Nike became the athletics empire it is today? From an Idea to Nike digs into the marketing campaigns and strategy that turned this running-shoe company into the outfitter for many athletes as well as the iconic American brand. With infographics and engaging visuals throughout, this behind-the-scenes look into the historical and business side of Nike will be an invaluable resource for kids interested in what makes this business run.

  • Find out where the name Nike came from and how the famous swoosh became the signature logo.
  • Learn about the company’s first marketing campaign with a star athlete. (Hint: It wasn’t Michael Jordan!)
  • Explore the ways Nike expanded marketing from running to basketball, soccer, golf, and beyond!

Friday Finds: July 13, 2018

tltbutton3This Week at TLT

For your summer 2018 TBR: Backlist YA you don’t want to miss

Things I Never Learned in Library School: Waiting for Reimbursement, aka Libraries Must Fund Their Programming

Collecting Comics: July 2018 edition by Ally Watkins

Book Review: The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell and friends

YA A to Z: O is for Outsider, a guest post by author Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Sunday Reflections: There is no one right way to be an American

Around the Web

Who’s ready for I read YA week?!

Some teachers have declared their right to resist NC legislators. How far will they go?

Here’s What’s Going On With Affirmative Action And School Admissions

YAs That Get it Right: Depression Edition

Policy allowing hate groups to meet at libraries comes under fire

 

For your summer 2018 TBR: Backlist YA you don’t want to miss

The amount of books that appear here cause me a fair amount of anxiety. And that’s not me whining about getting so many great books sent to me to consider reviewing for TLT; that’s me saying that my anxiety disorder can turn anything into something to worry about, even something seemingly good like towering stacks of books. I am constantly updating lists—what books came in, what I for sure will review, what I need to skim to see if I want to review it, etc. Plus I keep putting books on hold at the library, like I have time for them. Then I go to Edelweiss to request more. Then I decide to fall down a research hole as I write. I know I’m speaking to my people when I say that there are just SO MANY books and why can’t I read them all? WHY?

 

One of the lists I keep is recent books I’ve missed but for sure want to make time to read this summer. I tend to read in order of publication date and review about 6 weeks into the future, so if a book appears here after it’s been published, I might not get around to reading it. Sad but true. So, as I started to make a list of books, I began to think of what books I’d want to tell people they should go back and seek out if they somehow missed them when they first came out. I went back just to 2017 to make this list to keep it from growing totally out of control. I’m including a teeny excerpt from my review of the book and you can click on the title and author to go to the full review, should you want to learn more. You can also check out the installment of this list that I did in May 2017. If you’re looking to build your list, or make a display of great recentish books (from the past year or two) that definitely deserve to be discovered this summer, here is a good place to start. Have some favorites from the past few years that people should pick up this summer? Let us know! Leave a comment or tweet me @CiteSomething

 

carefulThe Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu

Haydu has written a profound story examining grief, doubt, tradition, expectation, and identity. Haydu’s story brings up huge questions about sacrifice and protection, about truth and perception. We are asked to consider, right alongside Lorna and crew, if love if a decision. Lorna and her friends know grief and pain, but they are still young. They are still learning that loss and heartache are inherent in love. And they can’t protect themselves from that—not by chalking things up to a Curse, not by drinking certain teas, not by building cages around their hearts, not by anything. They don’t yet know that we are all Affected, that we are all Cursed. In their isolation, they don’t understand that everyone has lost loved ones, that everyone blames themselves. Thanks to the relentlessness of Angelika, the Devonairre Street girls feel like they are the only ones protecting themselves, denying themselves, and stumbling under the dizzying weight of grief and guilt. Lorna, Delilah, Charlotte, and Isla’s whole lives are filled with people making them feel Other because of this. They don’t yet understand these are the prices we pay for being alive, for being the survivors. Their search for this understanding, their stumbling for answers and finding new pain, is heartbreaking. This beautifully written story is not to be missed. A powerful and deeply profound exploration of love, tragedy, and life itself.

 

 

alfonsoI Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina, Stacey Robinson, and John Jennings

Alfonso is feeling pretty good about life. He loves playing his trumpet, acting, attending his arts high school, being a bike messenger, and flirting with Danetta. The best thing in his life, though, is that his father, who has been incarcerated Alfonso’s entire life, is being released, finally exonerated of a crime he did not commit. But while out shopping for a suit to wear to meet his father, Alfonso is shot and killed by a white off-duty cop. Once dead, Alfonso joins a group of ghosts on a train. These ghosts are the ancestors who are seeking justice and rest. Alfonso learns about their lives and the ways they were killed by police while also going to see scenes from his past as well as what he’s missing in the present. Alfonso is able to see how his parents are coping, to follow the white police officer who killed him, and to see how his name lives on in the media, the justice system, and the many large protests that spring up after his death. An Ancestors Wall at the end lists the names of victims of police violence. This look at the prison industrial complex, the Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality, and the various systems of violence and oppression that have always existed in this country is devastating and important. 

 

 

closest ive comeThe Closest I’ve Come by Fred Aceves

Marcos is so achingly honest and vulnerable. He longs for connections—real, meaningful connections, where he can truly talk about his life. His loneliness is palpable. He makes mistakes but owns up to them and learns from them. Despite having every reason in the world not to, he allows himself to be real and open, tentatively at first, seeking so hard to find understanding and compassion, and to offer it to others. He’s loyal, smart, and brave enough to move beyond the expectations for him. It takes guts to make new friends, to be authentic (all while still trying to figure out just who you are), to try new things. It takes guts to go home day after day only to be greeted by abuse and neglect and indifference. It takes guts to tell your friend he’s making the wrong choice, to tell a girl you might be in love with her, to tell the police what’s been happening at home. Though the story is filled with violence and sadness, it is ultimately a hopeful story. Aceves shows how terribly painful life can be, but also how beautiful it can become through friendships, support, growth, and hope. A powerful look into the life of one kid trying to answer the question of “who am I?” in the midst of both bleak circumstances and increasingly deep friendships. 

 

 

calling my nameCalling My Name by Liara Tamani

This quiet book is beautifully written and features a very introspective main character who interrogates her thoughts on sex, faith, dating, her future, and more. When we first meet Taja she’s 11 (I think–often her age is not specified). We follow her through her senior year of high school. Spanning such a large number of years is a risky move in a YA book and initially readers may wonder why she is so young and when the story will jump to her older teen years. Though she may be on the younger side at the beginning of the story, she grapples with the same questions throughout her tween and teen years. Raised in a religious household in Houston, Taja understands that her parents decide what’s best for her and wonders when she will get to choose for herself. She thinks a lot about church, God, religion, expectations, double standards, guilt, commitments, and what it means to truly feel alive. Her feelings change and grow as she gets older and really works to figure out what it is she believes and wants from life. An overachiever with big dreams, Taja eventually has to decide if the future her boyfriend sees for them is one she can live with.

 

 

 

sparrowSparrow by Sarah Moon

14-year-old Brooklyn 8th grader Sparrow has debilitating social anxiety. She has always dealt with her fear and shyness by flying away—not literally, of course, but pretty close. She pictures herself off with the birds, away from everything on land that makes her uncomfortable. When she’s found on the school roof during one of her flying episodes, everyone assumes it’s a suicide attempt and won’t hear otherwise. Sparrow begins therapy with Dr. Katz. At first, she’s reluctant to open up, worried Dr. Katz will think she’s crazy. It doesn’t help that her mother isn’t thrilled that she’s in therapy and thinks of it as White Girl Stuff (Sparrow and her mother are black). But slowly, Sparrow begins to talk to Dr. Katz, admitting to herself and her mother how much good the therapy is doing. School is still hard for her, especially because her beloved favorite teacher, Mrs. Wexler, the librarian, died earlier in the year. Sparrow had spent every lunch since 5th grade in the library, finding solace in both the library and Mrs. Wexler. Everything since her death has been harder. But therapy is helping, as is her new (and intense) interest in music. Dr. Katz introduces her to older punk and indie music (think Pixies, Sonic Youth, Patti Smith), and Sparrow revels in the connective and redemptive power of music. Dr. Katz pushes Sparrow to learn how to deal with all of the things that make her want to fly away, but it’s really through a month-long girls’ rock music camp that Sparrow begins to find her voice and overcome her fears.

 

 

neighborhood girlsNeighborhood Girls by Jessie Ann Foley

This book is not an easy or uplifting read in any way. The bad things just keep on coming. Wendy is in a bad situation with her friends and makes a lot of bad choices while with them (or, maybe more accurately, makes no choices, just standing by, which is just as bad). The story is given great depth thanks to how fleshed out Wendy is and how much readers get to know her and see her internal struggle. Neighborhood Girls is a moving and at times frustrating look at faith, love, and forgiveness. Wendy spends a lot of time thinking about uncertain futures, painful pasts, and the terrible and sometimes wonderful present. A good choice for readers who like introspective main characters who spend too long making bad choices even when they know better. 

 

 

you don't knowYou Don’t Know Me but I Know You by Rebecca Barrow

While Audrey’s pregnancy and choice of what to do are at the heart of the story, this is also about families, more generally, and friendship, especially the ways little rifts can sneak in and suddenly turn into far larger distances than you thought you’d ever have with a friend. Rose, who is bisexual, has recently started dating Olivia, the new girl at school, but Audrey really knows nothing about what’s going on with them, thanks to the fact that she and Rose are barely speaking. Audrey ultimately makes the choice that feels right to her (in a situation where no choice feels “right”) surrounded by love, support, and options. A well-written, necessary, and honest, heartfelt look at making what feels like an impossible choice. 

 

 

 

star crossedStar-Crossed by Barbara Dee

All of that would be plenty, but the 8th graders are also putting on a class play—and Gemma is Juliet to Mattie’s Romeo. Much of the action of the book takes place at play practices, where a nervous Mattie has to figure out how to interact with Gemma. She eventually takes some advice for the play and turns to her own Benvolio and Mercutio—her best friends Lucy and Tessa. While she knows she likes Gemma, she’s still not sure what it actually means for her (or if Gemma feels the same way), but surrounded by caring friends, family, and peers, she’s on her way to figuring it out in this much needed look at a middle schooler questioning her sexuality. The positive, accepting, supportive tone of the story makes this book a must-have for every middle school library. 

 

 

 

dreamlandDreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

Narrative duties are split between contemporary teenager Rowan, a biracial girl (her dad is white, her mom is black) in Tulsa and William, a 17-year-old in Tulsa in 1921. William is also biracial–his dad his white and his mother is Osage Indian. The bulk of the story is really William’s, though Rowan and her friend James (who is also biracial–black and Native American–and asexual) do the investigating that starting putting pieces of the mystery together. Rowan has her own story line, too—it’s just not as big as William’s. James calls Rowan out for living in a bubble. James is into social justice and immigration reform and doesn’t let Rowan get away with statements like “things are better now.” He schools her about racism, power, and privilege, leading her to taking a summer job at a clinic in an impoverished area (that’s less dangerous than just forgotten, she notes) when her other internship falls through. Here, she befriends people she otherwise wouldn’t have known. And though they are set nearly 100 years apart, it’s no surprise that the racism that drives William’s story is also a strong force in Rowan’s story. An unexpected incident propels Rowan to action—and, surprisingly, begins to weave her story more tightly with William’s.

 

truthThe Truth of Right Now by Kara Lee Corthron

This intense story does not shy away from looking hard at racism, mental illness, the thing from Lily’s past that I’m not spoiling, and people making really horrible choices.Alternating viewpoints give the reader more of a peek into Dari and Lily’s minds and help keep the emotional tension high. This was one of those books where I read it as a nearly 40-year-old adult and just keep thinking about how *young* these characters are. They go through so much–things no one should have to go through at any age.  I have already flipped back a couple of times to read the very end, where Corthron gives the reader one last harsh truth. This isn’t always an easy read, but it’s absolutely an important one. Read this one and be ready to talk about racism, violence, sexual choices, and the many ways adults in this story screw up and damage the children in this book. 

Sunday Reflections: There is no one right way to be an American

tltbutton5

I am what they used to call a military brat (do they still call it that?). I’ve moved around. A lot.

I’ve lived on the West Coast, about 45 minutes away from Los Angeles. I lived in the South. I lived in the Midwest. I’ve visited the East Coast and Chicago and Florida. I have been very blessed to see a large part of the United States and to meet a wide variety of people who call themselves American.

No two of them are the same.

For 20 years I have lived in the state of Ohio. The town I got married in is a rural, Midwestern town surrounded by farm land. It’s population is 97% white, it consistently votes conservative, and you will be greeted by someone who knows you every day. But even this town is not any one thing. There are, for example, two colleges in this town: one the very conservative Christian college that I attended and the other a very liberal arts college that proudly boasts of its diverse population.

In this small, conservative, rural town, a small cohort of teens visit our public library almost daily. Every single one of them somehow identifies as being on the GLBTQ spectrum. They recently used the resources in our Teen MakerSpace to help them celebrate Pride. None of them had a way to get to an actual Pride event, so they sat in the space making Pride flags and buttons and bracelets as they talked about having their own mini-Pride parade throughout our town. The one catch: they openly wondered if they did have their own little Pride event in town if they would get shot. It was a legit fear that I heard the talk about for days and the thing is, I couldn’t even tell them that they were being ridiculous because they were right to be afraid of this possibly happening.

If you drive one hour from this town, you will find yourself in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus is a diverse city with an arts district, public transportation, and a variety of interesting people doing interesting things. The people in Columbus live very different lives from the people who live just 45 minutes away from them. Each of those lives, though different, is valid. Not a single one is more important than the other.

If you drive another hour from Columbus, but in a slightly different direction, you will stumble into another city (town?) that I lived and worked in for about 10 years. This town once housed the KKK headquarters, you can read all about it in the public library’s local history room. At one point and time it had a growing Spanish speaking population and we created a Spanish language collection. In 3 years we totally dismantled that collection because the racism in town was so strong that the growing Spanish speaking population moved on quickly and the items never circulated. This town, like many of them in Ohio, is facing the daily realities of economic despair and the growing opioid epidemic.

In Texas I worked at a library system that had 3 libraries, each one of them completely different. The branch that I worked was in the suburbs and had a large middle class patronage that included a lot of Middle Eastern patrons. I remember one of my teens growing increasingly sad as she approached the day when she would have to wear a hijab in much the same way I see my Amish teens in Ohio lamenting the religious apparel that they must wear or even the teens I talk to daily who are upset because their parents wont let them wear a shirt that shows their belly. Literally across the tracks was another branch that had a lower class population with a large population of third and fourth generation kids from Mexico. They hated when people assumed they only spoke Spanish and many of them had never even learned Spanish because their parents had chosen not to teach it to them in an effort to avoid being stereotyped. The main branch was like many city main branches and served a very diverse population from a wide variety of backgrounds and wrestled with things like serving the homeless and the mentally ill. You could drive just 15 minutes between any of these branches and yet find yourself in yet an entirely different little microcosm.

The public library I visited during my childhood in Southern California is actually a rather small library for a growing city which also has a diverse population. I am, of course, nostalgic for it because it is my childhood library. But the town is growing and changing and like all towns, it constantly has to re-evaluate, re-identify and adapt. A library, a town, a country is a living organism continually growing and change is an inevitable response to that growth.

Since the election and as discord has grown across the United States, many news publications have been insistent on publishing pieces on the rural Midwest in particular insisting that these are true Americans, real ones. And to be fair, they are. The problem is, the rural Midwest is not the only part of America that matters, nor is it the only correct way to be an American. There is no one correct way to be a “real American.”

There are 50 states in the United States of America, from the Pacific Northwest to the Midwest to the South to the North to the West Coast and to the East Coast. Puerto Rico is also part of the United States (a part that we continue to fail horrifically in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria).

In 2017, there were 325.7 million people living in the United States.

More than half of these people live in just 9 states: California, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Georgia and Florida. Los Angeles and New York City have the highest population of any cities.

Only 65.8% of the population is white.

Slightly less than 50% of the population identifies as being Protestant. Slightly less than 20% identify as having no religion at all.

Almost 12,000 new people are born in the United States daily.

However much you may love America, many other nations actually have a better quality of life and if you are a woman or newborn infant, you actually have a higher chance of dying here than you do in other countries. The United States was recently ranked as the 10th most dangerous country for women.

My point is this: the United States of America is a diverse nation that spreads over 3.797 square miles (land stolen by immigrants and colonizers I might add) and houses over 325 million people. Despite what you read or may even want to believe, it is not primarily made up of middle-class straight white Christians living in the rural Midwest who just want to love God, family, guns and barbecues. And this idea that it is or that it should be is one of the things that is hurting us the most right now. The myth of the “real American” is dangerous, disingenuous, and devaluing.

I am somehow who has spent the majority of my adult life living in the rural Midwest. I am, in fact, a middle-class, straight, white Christian who loves God, family and barbecues (I am personally pretty anti-gun). But even here, in the so called “heart” of America (and I feel that this term is dangerous), I work daily with teens who don’t fit any of these labels and I am here to tell you, we are killing them, both figuratively and literally. I have heard their fears and listened to their stories. I have seen their souls wither and die. I have seen them literally starve for basics like food, education, acceptance and hope while the adults in their communities pass laws that harm them, speak rhetoric that vilifies them, and act like what we do today won’t affect them now and in the future.

And whatever we do to the least of these, to the most vulnerable among us – our children – we do also unto each other. We are planting seeds and the crops we reap will be poison. What’s happening to us now terrifies me, but what terrifies me even more is the future we are creating with the seeds we are planting today.

There is no one right way to be an American and the sooner we learn that, the better off we will be.

Books we reread, a crowdsourced post

I am a big fan of rereading things, which seems sort of odd, because I’m also a big fan of complaining that I will never have enough time to read all the books I want to read. But rereading books is like comfort food to me. I’ve read the entire Betsy-Tacy series so many times (Fifteen? More?). Adrian Mole, Harriet the Spy, and Weetzie Bat are all good friends who make frequent appearances in my life. I wrote a little more about books I love to reread on my personal blogyou can find that post here. I asked on Twitter what you all like to reread. Here are some of the responses. Tell us your picks for rereads either in the comments here or over on Twitter, where you can find me at @CiteSomething.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s New in LGBTQIA+ YA July 2018

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

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

 

July 2018

 

pride guideThe Pride Guide: A Guide to Sexual and Social Health for LGBTQ Youth by Jo Langford (ISBN-13: 9781538110768 Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. Publication date: 07/08/2018)

Sex education materials meant to explain important basics to kids are too-often not written with an empathic understanding of what those basics are. This is particularly obvious regarding books that include LGBTQ identities. Even when they do hit the mark, many have a limited scope and don’t take into account the practical realities of developing sexuality.

The Pride Guide is written explicitly for the almost ten percent of teenagers who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, or any of the unique identities that are not heterosexual/ cisgendered. It explores sex, dating, relationships, puberty, and both physical and online safety in one resource.

The issue, today, is not whether or not queer youth will get sex education. The issue is how and where they will gather information and whether or not the information they gather with be applicable, unreliable, or exploitative. Equipping teens and their families with knowledge and self-confidence, this work provides the best protection against the unfortunate consequences that sometimes accompany growing up with an alternative gender or identity.
With real-world information presented in a factual and humorous way, responsible adults can teach queer youth to (and how to) protect themselves, to find resources, to explore who they are, and to interact with the world around them while being true to themselves and respectful of others.

Written with these issues in mind, The Pride Guide covers universal topics that apply to everyone, such as values clarification, digital citizenship, responsibility, information regarding abstinence as well as indulgence, and an understanding of the consequences and results of both action and inaction. For LGBTQ youth, this is a resource containing information on the unique issues queer youth face regarding what puberty looks like (particularly for trans youth), dating skills and violence, activism, personal safety, and above all, pride.

Parents and other supportive adults who are motivated to educate themselves and who are interested in gaining some tools and skills around making these necessary conversations less uncomfortable and more effective will benefit from this book. The go-to resource for making informed decisions, The Pride Guide is indispensable for teens, parents, educators, and others hoping to support the safe journey of LGBTQ teens on their journey of discovery.

 

jesseJesse 2.0 by Annabelle Jay (ISBN-13: 9781640801967 Publisher: Dreamspinner Press Publication date: 07/10/2018)

What if you aren’t the only you?

Shy and studious Maddy Stone faces just that question. Months ago he lost his boyfriend, Jesse, to suicide, and now he’s volunteering at a psychiatric hospital. When he intervenes to save a man there, he’s shocked to find a face he recognizes. It’s Jesse, who explains that he’s been cloned… by Maddy’s father. And when the reproduction technology duplicated him, he was ordered to avoid Maddy at all costs. Breaking that rule puts them both in danger.

Maddy, his girlfriend, Georgia, and Jesse—who Maddy calls Jesse 2.0—are on the run. But as the secrets continue to come to light, Maddy is faced with a decision—continue with his life or be the Maddy he was before technology intervened.

 

 

brightBright We Burn by Kiersten White (ISBN-13: 9780553522396 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 07/10/2018)

The tumultuous, edge-of-your-seat conclusion to the New York Times bestselling AND I DARKEN series–the epic saga that reads like HBO’s Game of Thrones . . . if it were set in the Ottoman Empire. Who will live? Who will die? And who will rule triumphant?

Haunted by the sacrifices he made in Constantinople, Radu is called back to the new capital. Mehmed is building an empire, becoming the sultan his people need. But Mehmed has a secret: as emperor, he is more powerful than ever . . . and desperately lonely. Does this mean Radu can finally have more with Mehmed . . . and would he even want it?

Lada’s rule of absolute justice has created a Wallachia free of crime. But Lada won’t rest until everyone knows that her country’s borders are inviolable. Determined to send a message of defiance, she has the bodies of Mehmed’s peace envoy delivered to him, leaving Radu and Mehmed with no choice. If Lada is allowed to continue, only death will prosper. They must go to war against the girl prince.

But Mehmed knows that he loves her. He understands her. She must lose to him so he can keep her safe. Radu alone fears that they are underestimating his sister’s indomitable will. Only by destroying everything that came before–including her relationships–can Lada truly build the country she wants.

Claim the throne. Demand the crown. Rule the world.

 

 

the letting goThe Letting Go by Deborah Markus (ISBN-13: 9781510734050 Publisher: Sky Pony Press Publication date: 07/17/2018)

Everyone Emily has ever loved has been brutally murdered. The killer has never been caught, but Emily knows who’s responsible.

She is.

It’s the only possible explanation. Emily is the one thing all the victims have in common, which can only mean that someone—or something—is killing them to make her suffer.

Determined never to subject another person to the same horrible fate as her parents, friends, and pets, Emily sequesters herself at a private boarding school, keeping her classmates at a distance with well-timed insults and an unapproachable air. Day after day, she loses herself in the writing of Emily Dickinson—the poet makes a perfect friend, since she’s already dead.

Emily’s life is lonely, but it’s finally peaceful. That is, until two things happen. A corpse appears on the steps of the school. And a new girl insists on getting close to Emily—unknowingly setting herself up to become the killer’s next victim.

 

 

hullHullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie (ISBN-13: 9781524770198 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 07/17/2018)

Fans of Pierce Brown and the Illuminae series will love this epic space adventure that New York Times bestselling author Beth Revis says “you will devour in one sitting.”

Aisha Un-Haad would do anything for her family. When her brother contracts a plague, she knows her janitor’s salary isn’t enough to fund his treatment. So she volunteers to become a Scela, a mechanically enhanced soldier sworn to protect and serve the governing body of the Fleet, the collective of starships they call home. If Aisha can survive the harrowing modifications and earn an elite place in the Scela ranks, she may be able to save her brother.

Key Tanaka awakens in a Scela body with only hazy memories of her life before. She knows she’s from the privileged end of the Fleet, but she has no recollection of why she chose to give up a life of luxury to become a hulking cyborg soldier. If she can make it through the training, she might have a shot at recovering her missing past.

In a unit of new recruits vying for top placement, Aisha’s and Key’s paths collide, and the two must learn to work together–a tall order for girls from opposite ends of the Fleet. But a rebellion is stirring, pitting those who yearn for independence from the Fleet against a government struggling to maintian unity.

With violence brewing and dark secrets surfacing, Aisha and Key find themselves questioning their loyalties. They will have to put aside their differences, though, if they want to keep humanity from tearing itself apart.

 

 

denisDenis Ever After by Tony Abbott (SBN-13: 9780062491220 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 07/24/2018)

Written by award-winning author Tony Abbott and perfect for fans of The Ethan I Was Before and The Thing About Jellyfishthis bittersweet middle grade novel follows the ghost of Denis Egan as he teams up with his living twin brother to solve the mystery of his death.

Denis Egan is dead.

He’s okay with that. It’s been five years since he died, and the place where souls go is actually pretty nice. Sure, there are some things about his life and how it ended he can’t quite recall, but that’s how it’s supposed to be. Remembering could prevent Denis from moving on to whatever’s next.

However, something is standing in his way. His twin brother Matt can’t let go of him, and as long as the living are holding on to his memory, Denis can’t rest in peace.

To uncover the truth about what happened that day five years before, Denis returns to his hometown and teams up with Matt. But visiting for too long has painful consequences for Denis, and Matt’s renewed interest in his brother’s passing is driving a wedge between his still-grieving parents.

Can the two boys solve the mystery of Denis’s death without breaking apart the family he’s left behind?

 

 

three timesThree Times the Charm by A.M. Burns, Caitlin Ricci, and Kimberly Cooper Griffin (ISBN-13: 978-1-64080-434-0 Publisher: Harmony Ink Press Publication date: 07/24/2018)

Senior year is full of trials, but for one group of friends, it might mean facing life and death.

Raine and Amelia have always been close friends, but it isn’t until Mel, a flirtatious out-and-proud lesbian, moves to their school that they recognize their feelings might be something more.

But the three girls have little time to enjoy their budding romance before a crisis strikes. The eating disorder that Amelia’s been hiding for years is ravaging her health, even if she cannot admit the problem to herself. The trio must rally and stand together, because in a fight for Amelia’s life, they can’t afford to lose.

 

To MLS or Not to MLS

tltheaderI’ve been working in public libraries for two years now, and I’ve noticed this discussion arise with great regularity both online and IRL. When I worked in school libraries, it was never a discussion. In the state where I worked an MLS was a requirement to be hired as a school library media specialist. We all had the degree, most of us from the same three (then 4) schools that were available in the state. And I will (braggingly) say that we all had fairly positive experiences with our degrees, as far as I know. I never heard anyone say that they felt their degree program was a waste of time, or that they could be doing their job without it. Maybe it was just a perception on my part, or maybe it was just peer pressure? Or maybe it’s the fact that there’s no one there to train you – you have to hit the ground running.

And just to reveal my prejudice in the debate even more, I didn’t work in libraries before I got my degree. When I went to library school, I wasn’t entirely sure what type of library I wanted to work in – all possibilities were open to me. What I learned in library school has served me really well over the years, and I sincerely enjoyed the experience. In fact, library school was the first time in my academic career where I felt what I was learning was a perfect marriage of theory and practice that prepared me well for the profession.

Since I’ve been in the public library arena, however, I’ve heard a number of people disparage the degree as unnecessary. And perhaps it is for them? Maybe their library system did such an amazing job of training them that it completely obviated the need for a masters degree? Or maybe that, combined with say 10 years of on the job experience? I just don’t know.

And I wonder if this is a common discussion in other professions where you might need a specific degree to ‘get ahead.’ Does the business community, for instance, have similar discussions surrounding the value of the MBA degree?

Well, dear readers, what do you think? Did you get good value from your MLS, or was it a waste of time? Or do you have mixed feelings? Let me know in the comments.

 

Post-It Note Reviews of Recent Releases

IMG_3631Ah, summer. Three months off of work is great. It’s so nice to have all this extra time to write, read, blog, clean, run errands, parent, sometimes socialize, pet my dogs, and so on. I’m getting a lot of reading done, but not all of my reading spots/times are conducive to really thoughtful analysis or even casual note-taking. Maybe I’m at the waterpark, reading in the shade, but half keeping an eye on my kid (he’s 12—I can get away with only half keeping one eye on him most days), being interrupted a ton. Or maybe I’m reading in my own house, but while covered in sleeping dachshunds, or while trying to block out the noise of kids playing. I still want to share these books with you, so here are my tiny Post-it Note reviews of a few titles. I do these posts monthly during the school year, focusing on books for younger readers. It’s a great way to display books in your library or classroom, a way to let kids recommend their favorite titles without having to get up in front of everyone and do a book talk, and an easy way to offer a more personal recommendation than just the flap copy offers.

All summaries are from the publishers.

 

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The Opposite of Here by Tara Altebrando (ISBN-13: 9781681197067 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 06/05/2018)

There’s no hiding on a cruise ship-not even from yourself.

Natalie’s parents are taking her and her three best friends on a cruise for her seventeenth birthday. A sail-a-bration, they call it. But it’s only been a few short months since Natalie’s boyfriend died in a tragic accident, and she wants to be anywhere but here.

Then she meets a guy on the first night and sparks fly. After a moonlit conversation on a secluded deck of the ship, Natalie pops down to her cabin to get her swimsuit so they can go for a dip. But when she returns, he’s gone. Something he said makes her think he might have . . . jumped? No, he couldn’t have.

But why do her friends think she’s crazy for wanting to make sure he’s okay? Also, why do they seem to be hiding something from her? And how can she find him when she doesn’t even know his name? Most importantly, why is the captain on the intercom announcing the urgent need for a headcount?

With her signature thrilling storytelling, the author of The Leaving and The Possible explores our vulnerability to the power of suggestion-and the lies we tell others and ourselves-in a twisting, Hitchcock-inspired mystery with high stakes and dark secrets.

 

 

 

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Give Me Some Truth by Eric Gansworth (ISBN-13: 9781338143546 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 05/29/2018)Carson Mastick is entering his senior year of high school and desperate to make his mark, on the reservation and off. A rock band — and winning Battle of the Bands — is his best shot. But things keep getting in the way. Small matters like the lack of an actual band, or his brother getting shot by the racist owner of a local restaurant.Maggi Bokoni has just moved back to the reservation with her family. She’s dying to stop making the same traditional artwork her family sells to tourists (conceptual stuff is cooler), stop feeling out of place in her new (old) home, and stop being treated like a child. She might like to fall in love for the first time too.Carson and Maggi — along with their friend Lewis — will navigate loud protests, even louder music, and first love in this stirring novel about coming together in a world defined by difference.

 

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Sometime After Midnight by L. Philips (ISBN-13: 9780425291634 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 06/12/2018)Late one night in a dingy Los Angeles club, Nate and Cameron meet and discover they have much more in common than their love of an obscure indie band. But when Nate learns that Cameron is the heir to a soul-sucking record label—the very one that destroyed his father’s life—he runs away as fast as he can. The only evidence of their brief but intense connection is the blurry photo Cameron snaps of Nate’s Sharpied Chuck Taylors.When Cameron’s sister Tess—a famous model and socialite—posts the photo on Instagram for her legions of fans, the internet just about breaks with the news of this modern fairy tale. “Anyone know the owner of these shoes?” she writes. “My Prince Charming brother is looking for his Cinderfella!” But while the viral sensation begins to bring the pair back together, their own demons and pasts might get in the way of any happily ever afters . . .

 

 

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My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma

The romance of Stephanie Perkins meets the quirk of Maureen Johnson, then gets a Bollywood twist in this fate-filled debut that takes the future into its own hands.

Winnie Mehta was never really convinced that Raj was her soul mate, but their love was written in the stars. Literally, a pandit predicted Winnie would find the love of her life before her eighteenth birthday, and Raj meets all the qualifications. Which is why Winnie is shocked when she returns from her summer at film camp to find her boyfriend of three years hooking up with Jenny Dickens. As a self-proclaimed Bollywood expert, Winnie knows this is not how her perfect ending is scripted.

Then there’s Dev, a fellow film geek and one of the few people Winnie can count on. Dev is smart and charming, and he challenges Winnie to look beyond her horoscope and find someone she’d pick for herself. But does falling for Dev mean giving up on her prophecy and her chance to live happily ever after? To find her perfect ending, Winnie will need a little bit of help from fate, family, and of course, a Bollywood movie star.

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The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

From the author of I Believe in a Thing Called Love, a laugh-out-loud story of love, new friendships, and one unique food truck.

Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind? With Maurene Goo’s signature warmth and humor, The Way You Make Me Feel is a relatable story of falling in love and finding yourself in the places you’d never thought to look.

 

 

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Social Intercourse by Greg Howard

Beckett Gaines, a gay teen living in South Carolina, has his world turned upside-down by a jock in this laugh-out-loud novel that’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda meets The Parent Trap.

Beck:
The Golden Girls-loving, out-and-proud choir nerd growing up in the “ass-crack of the Bible belt.”

Jax:
The Golden Boy, star quarterback with a slick veneer facing uncomfortable truths about himself and his past.

When Beck’s emotionally fragile dad starts dating the recently single (and supposedly lesbian) mom of former bully, Jaxon Parker, Beck is not having it. Jax isn’t happy about the situation either, holding out hope that his moms will reunite and restore the only stable home he’s ever known. Putting aside past differences, the boys plot to derail the budding romance between their parents at their conservative hometown’s first-ever Rainbow Prom. Hearts will be broken, new romance will bloom, but nothing will go down the way Beck and Jax have planned.

In his hilarious and provocative debut, Greg Howard examines the challenges of growing up different in a small southern town through the lens of colorful and unforgettable characters who stay with you long after the last drop of sweet tea.

 

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From Twinkle, with Love by Sandhya MenonThree starred reviews for this charming romantic comedy about an aspiring teen filmmaker who finds her voice and falls in love, from the New York Times bestselling author of When Dimple Met Rishi.Aspiring filmmaker and wallflower Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell and universes she wants to explore, if only the world would listen. So when fellow film geek Sahil Roy approaches her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, Twinkle is all over it. The chance to publicly showcase her voice as a director? Dream come true. The fact that it gets her closer to her longtime crush, Neil Roy—a.k.a. Sahil’s twin brother? Dream come true x 2.When mystery man “N” begins emailing her, Twinkle is sure it’s Neil, finally ready to begin their happily-ever-after. The only slightly inconvenient problem is that, in the course of movie-making, she’s fallen madly in love with the irresistibly adorkable Sahil.

Twinkle soon realizes that resistance is futile: The romance she’s got is not the one she’s scripted. But will it be enough?

Told through the letters Twinkle writes to her favorite female filmmakers, From Twinkle, with Love navigates big truths about friendship, family, and the unexpected places love can find you.

 

What To Say About Sarah J. Maas’s Books (A-Z Project: M) by Kelsey Socha

 

tltheaderThe thing about writing a post about Sarah J. Maas is that it feels redundant. Everyone’s heard of Throne of Glass or A Court of Thorns and Roses, right? Both of these series are New York Times bestsellers that are constantly checked out of my library. Probably you own them in your library. If you own them, maybe you’ve been turned off by the covers for Throne of Glass which admittedly feel a bit dated, or you figured that the Court of Thorns and Roses series was just another Beauty and the Beast retelling. Neither of these criticisms are wrong, exactly, but let’s take a slightly closer look at both of the series.

Throne of Glass is a seven book series (with the last book coming out in Fall 2018!), with some additional prequel novellas. It starts out as the story of Celaena Sardothien, an 18-year-old assassin who accepts the king’s son’s offer to compete with other assassins and mercenaries for the chance to be the king’s champion. What seems initially like a straightforward fantasy competition (in line with The Selection or The Hunger Games) becomes a fight against dark and sinister magics at war in the castle. What starts as a very contained and familiar plot ultimately turns into a multi-continent fight between the forces of good and evil with Celaena at the very center. While Celaena is nearly always the primary focus of the series, they are told in third-person narrative with several perspectives–much like A Game of Thrones. Each book opens up the world more and in more surprising ways–the ending of each book feels like having survived a very intense and exciting roller coaster.

A Court of Thorns and Roses is totally different! For most of the 3.5 book series (with more books potentially coming out in the future), there is one first-person perspective: Feyre, a human girl who lives in a small town on the border between the human realm and the land of the Fae. One day, while hunting for food for her impoverished family, she kills a wolf that was actually a shapeshifting Fae; the wolf’s friend Tamlin, the Lord of Spring, comes to collect Feyre as a debt for his friend’s murder. While she initially hates everything about the Fae and the Spring Lands, she and Tamlin eventually fall in love, and she sacrifices everything to save him and rescue him from a terrible evil that’s spreading across the land. From there, the world expands into a larger and more complex battle to save not only the Fae but the whole world. The underlying threat of war is constant, but the most vital part of the series is the relationships Feyre builds with her friends and loved ones. The vast majority of the characters are vastly likeable, and you really want to see their relationships grow and change. 

Why You Should Read Them: High fantasy for teens done well is SO hard to find, particularly ones that balance extremely structured plots and rules with engaging characters and dialogue! Feyre and Celaena are delightful and deeply flawed protagonists, and Maas truly allows for them to embrace their contradictions. Romances are believable and swoon-worthy if a bit overwritten. Any examination of conflict in either series really examines the costs of war on civilians. There are a lot of very handsome elves. 

Reasons You Might Not Want To Read Them: They are definitely not Clean Reads! There is a fair amount of thoroughly-described sex in both series (particularly A Court of Thorns and Roses) and characters often curse, so readers looking for something squeaky clean will not find it here (conversely, maybe this is EXACTLY what some of your library’s readers are looking for!). There are not many LGBT+ characters in either series, and the ones that are there are exceedingly minor roles or not fully fleshed out. There are more characters of color than many other fantasy series, but white is nearly always the default, particularly with the principle characters. There are graphically described scenes of injuries from battles and physical abuse that are at times painful to read. 

Verdict: While they definitely are not for everyone, they are really popular with good reason! I’m not generally a fan of high fantasy, but I’ve had a blast reading these and so have a lot of the teens I’ve worked with! There are plenty of moments in which you have to suspend your disbelief, but it never really feels like a burden to do so. 
Looking for more Sarah J. Maas? She’s coming out with a book in August through the DC Icons series–Catwoman: Soulstealer. 

BIO: Kelsey Socha is a youth services librarian on the South Shore of Massachusetts. She is already to discuss books and programming for children and teens. In her spare time, she enjoys watching television with her cat and learning to play roller derby. You can find her at @kelseysocha on Twitter.