Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Thoughts on Collection Development

Having discussions about collection development and book selection, so I tweeted out some thoughts which I am gathering here so I have them in the future. Also, often non-library people don’t know what all happens behind the scenes to get those books into the local library and they may find this interesting.

Meet Our New TEEN Contributor to TLT: Elliot

We are very excited to welcome Elliot as our first, full-time, regular TEEN contributor to Teen Librarian Toolbox. Read a bit about Elliot below and look for their posts in 2019.

Elliot

I am currently a student at [Name redacted for safety reasons] High School who wishes to pursue a career in journalism. I have been an avid writer and a human rights activist for as long as I can remember. My goal in life is to help other people and I believe that one of the best ways to help someone in a bad situation is to share their stories. Sometimes the only thing that a person needs is a voice; however, not everyone has the opportunity for their voice to be heard. I want my writing to be a voice for all of those who are kept silent and I want my writing to make a difference in our slowly declining world. Although times are tough, I believe that there is always hope: you just have to find it.

Elliot is involved in theater, works as part of the yearbook staff, plays Dungeons and Dragons and is all around amazing, intelligent, kind and cool.

Stay Tuned

Please note, last week TLT was moved to a new server, or something technical that I don’t really understand. Several posts were lost and some TLTers are having difficulty logging in to make new posts. We are working out the technical issues and hope to return to normal posting ASAP.

Thank you for your patience.

Friday Finds: December 21, 2018

tltbutton3This Week at TLT

Please note, TLT was moved to a new server this week and most of the posts from this week were lost. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Around the Web

Library community grieves tragic loss of Amber Clark of Sacramento Public Library

Disney’s Artemis Fowl reveals first look at Judi Dench as Commander Root

Instagram is helping save the indie bookstore

30 Young Adult Debut Novels From 2018 That Prove First-Time Authors Can Have A Serious Impact

Schools Respond to the Rise of Student Vaping

#ReadforChange

Please note: Last week we migrated to a new server and some of our posts were lost. This post is partially restored. We are working on trying to fully restore this post and a few others. We apologize for any inconvenience. Thank you.

ReadForChange copy

GIVEAWAY ALERT: To celebrate the end of a remarkable year reading for change, we’re doing a very special giveaway package. Not only will the lucky winner get TWO signed mystery books (chosen from this year’s featured #ReadForChange novels), you’ll also get a signed copy of The Radius of Us and some great Novelly swag. Don’t know what Novelly swag is? Read on, readers for change! Giveaway info at the bottom of this post!

Looking Back, Moving Forward 

In January of this year, I partnered with Teen Librarian Toolbox to make a commitment: every month, I would find and share the best-of-the-best YA & MG books that bring attention to important issues and causes, and I’d connect readers with the incredible people who write them. It’s been an amazing year doing just that! We’ve read such great stories as Nic Stone’s Dear Martin and Ibi Zoboi’s American Street, that take an unflinching look at race and identity in the contemporary United States.  We’ve highlighted books like Jodi Lynn Anderson’s Midnight at the Electric and Joanne O’Sullivan’s Between Two Skies, both of which offer personal and gripping accounts of the real effects of climate change. We’ve had fabulous conversations with Lilliam Rivera and Ibi Zoboi about Pride, The Evolution of Margot Sanchez, and the effects of gentrification. We’ve looked with Alan Gratz and Jennie Liu at stories like Refugee and Girls on the Line, which bring our attention to the extraordinary obstacles faced by people on the move around the globe. And, we’ve had some unflinching real talk about what it means to be a feminist with Elana K. Arnold’s Damsel, Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie, and Brendan Kieley’s Tradition. I hope you’ve all had as much fun as I have, learning from these remarkable authors about how they are working to change our world for the better. Each one of them has inspired me to take action, and for that I’m so grateful.

So, what’s next? I’m glad you asked! Yes, our year to read for change is coming to a close, but I’m absolutely thrilled to announce a new project that will keep the momentum going. Meet Anna Gabriella Casalme, the founder and executive director of Novelly. I’m honored to be a part of her group’s exciting new endeavor. Read on to learn all about it. 

“A mission to Spark the Changemaker in Every Young Person.”An Interview with Anna Gabriella Casalme 

MARIE: Tell us about Novelly! 

ANNA: Novelly is on a mission to spark the changemaker in every young person, one young adult (YA) novel at a time. With generous funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we are currently developing an interactive YA reading app that aims to critically engage teenagers in complex issues such as gender inequality.
MARIE: Can you share a bit about yourself and your background?

ANNA: I’m the founder and executive director of Novelly. I was born and raised in Los Angeles by wonderful Filipino immigrant parents. My mother was both a stay-at-home mom and businesswoman who was passionate about education. She walked us to the library almost every day after school, instilling in us a lifelong love of reading and learning. I later went to Stanford University to study Human Biology and Education. Most recently, I graduated from the University of St. Andrews, where received my MSc in Childhood Studies. I am thrilled to now be working on Novelly full-time!

My founding team members include Claudia Pacheco and Caterina Casalme, who have been with Novelly since the beginning. Claudia is my great friend and former co-worker, who is now a Health Educator at Para Los Ninos in Los Angeles. Caterina (Catie) is my younger sister, an insanely avid reader and an English student at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

MARIE: How did you get the idea for this project?

ANNASince I graduated in 2015, I have been possessed by a simple idea: reading young adult (YA) stories can spark empathy and critical thinking among young people with regards to complex issues such as gender inequality. This, combined with open spaces for dialogue and opportunities to take action for young people, can spark social change. This idea came from my undergraduate honors thesis, which found that Wonder by RJ Palacio, a middle-grade novel, can generate thoughtful discussions on disability among middle school students. Later, this would become a side project that I started with my friends, whereby we conducted workshops using popular YA books, such as 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, to talk about gender-based sexual violence and rape culture with high school students. I noticed how young people thoughtfully responded to the experiences of relatable YA characters, giving me immense hope and leading me to launch Novelly.

Want to learn more about Novelly and get involved? Anna has some great ideas:

As we start building our Novelly app, we need all the help we can get and we’d love for the #ReadforChange community to get involved!

Here are a few ways you can stay in touch:

If you’d like to join us, we are looking for:

  • Youth designers(give feedback throughout entire app development process)
  • Youth engagement officer(manage youth designers – leadership role)
  • Curriculum advisers(help develop curriculum for YA book on the app)
  • YA booklist advisers(choose YA books for app and Instagram)
  • Social media gurus(help manage Twitter, Instagram, and blog)

If any of these opportunities speak to you or if there’s another way you’d like to support us that we haven’t come up with yet, please get in touch and feel free to email me directly and annacasalme@gmail.com. 

Win our Novelly giveaway package!

I’m so thrilled to have been invited to work with Anna and her team as Novelly gets off the ground. To celebrate, I’m giving away TWO signed books from this year’s #ReadForChange lineup (which two will be a surprise!), my novel, The Radius of Us (signed, of course) and some great Novelly swag. Here’s a link to the giveaway. We’ll be announcing the winner on Twitter @MarieFMarquardt January 1!

Meet Marie Marquardt

Women’s March, January 21, 2017

Marie Marquardt is the author of three YA novels: The Radius of UsDream Things True, and Flight Season. A Scholar-in-Residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, Marie also has published several articles and co-authored two non-fiction books about Latin American immigration to the U.S. South. She is chair of El Refugio, a non-profit that serves detained immigrants and their families. She lives with her spouse, four kids, a dog and a bearded dragon in the book-lover’s mecca of Decatur, Georgia.

Rethinking I Kissed Dating Goodbye

Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse and Violence are discussed in this post

ikisseddatinggoodbyeWhen I first began working with teens, both in the library and in the church, Josh Harris wrote a book called I Kissed Dating Goodbye. At the time, he was 21 years old and was deeply wrapped up in what is referred to as purity culture. Purity culture is a church movement that suggests that physical intimacy, when taken to the extreme even hand holding and kissing, should be avoided until marriage. It goes so far as to suggest that teens and young adults who engage in physical intimacy become soiled, used goods.

One of the more popular metaphors of this time involved young girls and chewed up gum. A virgin, you see, is like a shiny new stick of gum which you desire. But once she engages in physical intimacy, she is now a chewed up piece of gum, spit out in disgust and left on the ground. No one wants that piece of chewed up gum picked up off of the sidewalk. And yes, this metaphor was used primarily against girls. Men, as you may recall, are hardwired to desire sex and we can’t blame them or hold them accountable for their urges. I hope you read that sentence as dripping with the sarcasm in which it is intended.

Washington Post: ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye’ told me to stay pure until marriage. I still have a stain on my heart.

In the midst of the #MeToo movement, it’s worth noting that childhood sexual abuse and sexual abuse in general occurs at alarmingly high rates in the evangelical church, and many feel that purity culture are factors in this abuse. The hashtag #ChurchToo was adopted by survivors of sexual abuse in the church to discuss this specific issue. Purity culture, you see, stems in part not just from Christian views of chastity, but from complementarian views on the roles of men and women in the church. When women are viewed as less than and needing to be submissive to men, as the complementarian view holds, it’s easier to justify and look away as they are abused. Though complementarianism is certainly not the only issue involved here because people of all genders and all sexual orientations are abused at alarmingly high rates in churches all over the world. Authoritarianism, power structures and an unwillingness to talk openly and frankly about sex, sexual education and sexual violence are also contributors to this issue.

“I no longer agree with its central idea that dating should be avoided. I now think dating can be a healthy part of a person developing relationally and learning the qualities that matter most in a partner.” Source: https://relevantmagazine.com/god/faith/josh-harris-is-kissing-i-kissed-dating-goodbye-goodbye/

Over the years, Josh Harris has begun to rethink his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. In fact, he has recently asked his publisher to stop publishing new copies of the book and has worked with some others to produce a documentary on his book and how he came to understand that it was harmful. You can read his current statement on I Kissed Dating Goodbye here.

Josh Harris on why he renounces his book and previous dating advice

Today as I was driving into work, I listened to a story on NPR about this book. At the time of this book’s release, I was uncomfortable with the book’s message. I began working in public libraries at the age of 20 and as a survivor of sexual abuse and a recent teen myself, I found the book to be unrealistic. I began hearing people speak out in earnest against this book perhaps three or four years ago, with many of those speaking out against it talking about how the message had destroyed their self-esteem, had made them vulnerable to sexual abuse, and how it had caused them so much guilt and confusion about their own feelings at a formative time that it affected the ways they bonded and formed intimate relationships.

It’s been roughly 21 years since I Kissed Dating Goodbye was first published and we have a generation of people sharing with us now how much this book hurt them in their formative years. It’s a stark reminder of the power of books, both for good and for ill, to shape and influence our teens and young adults. The truth is, now just as we did then, if this book came out today we (YA librarians) would probably buy and add this book to our collection as long as there were not reviews stating that it was harmful or medically inaccurate. The other truth is that books about religious belief and teachings often get a pass that scientific writings do not. I say this as a Christian with a degree in youth ministry as well as a librarian, but a lot of people hide behind religion to espouse harmful beliefs and it is hard to question or challenge them because freedom of religion and that which we hold sacred and all of that. Faith and spirituality is a complicated realm and looking at the journey of the history of this book highlights the many complicated issues that we traverse as we try and provide access, respect beliefs, nurture our adolescents, and analyze quality, authority and bias in religious publications. It is not an easy issue for librarians to grapple with.

As I have followed this story over the last couple of years, I have thought often of the times a teen came in and asked for this book and I handed it to them. Was I complicit in their harm? What are the roles and limitations of librarianship as we come to learn that a book like this has been actively implicated in doing harm to the very people we are working so hard to serve? I haven’t seen a lot of discussion about this book and libraries, not a lot of reflections or reactions to this call to cease publication of it, perhaps in part because it’s old enough that most libraries no longer have it on their shelves. Though that may be the case, I think that the life cycle of I Kissed Dating Goodbye is a good case study for us to look at and consider. The journey of this book and the push back against it reminds us that putting a book in the hands of a teen can have lifelong implications, and they aren’t always positive.

Whatever we can learn from this story, please re-consider holding this book in your library collections. If the author no longer stands by this book, should we?

MakerSpace: Paintpouring, chemistry in the art room

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Welcome to one of the messiest yet coolest art processes out there: paint pouring. Paint pouring involves, well, pouring paint and just kind of allowing art to happen. It’s a cool process because you don’t have strict control over the outcome. It creates a kind of marbled looking art piece. I have done this with kids and teens and it’s pretty cool. In fact, The Teen has a canvas she has done hanging in her room and you can see her end result at the end of this post.

paintpouring6

Supplies:

  • Acrylic paints (Michael’s sells multi-color packs for $8.00)
  • Pouring medium of your choice (we used good old fashioned glue)
  • Craft sticks
  • Plastic cups (and a lot of them)
  • Hair dryer
  • Tablecloth to protect your work surface
  • Pan, box, or other container to put your canvas in (I recommend aluminum baking pans)
  • Items to hold up your canvas for the pouring process (we used some of our plastic cups)
  • Trash bags (to dispose of your waste immediately)
  • A canvas, piece of wood or some other element that you are going to paint
  • Some people wear gloves (we were reckless rebels)

Additional Paint Pouring Resources

Acrylic Pouring for Beginners

13 Paint pouring hacks

Step 1: Prepare your work area

This is a messy, messy activity so the first thing you are going to want to do is prepare your work space. I recommend tablecloths on the floor and on the table. Put them everywhere! Cover everything. I mentioned it was messy, right?

paintpouring4

Then, set out your aluminum pans which will provide an additional layer of protection. These are essential because you are going to be literally pouring paint and you need something to catch the paint that runs off the canvas. You want something with high edges that you don’t mind throwing away. You can use extra plastic cups (or blocks of wood) to hold your canvas up inside the tray because you want to be able to pour your paint all over the canvas and allow it to run off. Your initial set up will look something like the picture above.

Step 2: Prepare your paint

You are going to use multiple cups for this process. This is also where your paint pouring medium comes in and I recommend reading this good discussion about pouring mediums before proceeding.

First, you will pour a single paint into a single cup and add a bit of your paint pouring medium (formula below). In this case we are using old fashioned liquid white glue to make this activity more cost effective because I’m working on a library budget. You can also buy something that is actually called a “pouring medium” at most craft stores. In these cups, you want to use a craft stick and mix your paint and pouring medium together really well.

Formula: You want a glue to paint ratio of about 50-50. So fill the cup 1/3 full with paint, 1/3 full with glue, and leave yourself 1/3 of the cup empty to have room to mix.

You don’t have to add any water, but you can add a few drops of water to help your mixture flow better if you would like. But very few drops. Spoiler alert: this is chemistry in action!

paintpouring2

After you have mixed your initial single paints, you will pour them all into one cup. This is called a “dirty pour” mixture. You can drag a craft stick through it, but don’t blend them together. This is just to get the paints to mingle a bit inside the cup.

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Step 3: Pouring your paint

Right after creating your dirty pour, flip your cup over onto the canvas. You can literally set the cup upside down on the canvas. When you remove the cup, the paint will then begin pouring down your canvas. You can gently kind of lift corners of the canvas to help direct the paint flow if you would like, but the idea is to let gravity do its thing and see what happens.

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Step 4: Releasing air bubbles

It is possible that you will have air bubbles, which is where the hair dryer comes in. A gently applied heat from a distance will help release those air bubbles. If you do so gently, you can also use the hair dryer to help get the paint flowing in certain directions as well.

This is what The Teen’s final canvas looked like:

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Step 5: Stand back, let it dry, and clean up your mess

This is a fun art project, but it’s messy and takes a while to dry. If you have the space to set canvases aside so that they can dry over night, then I definitely recommend this activity. No one is taking their project home on the day of this event if you do this in a library or makerspace.

When we were done I just threw everything into the trash, so this craft is by no means environmentally friendly. The one exception is that I did save the aluminum pans to be reused.

Taking your canvas to the next level

After you canvas has dried, and I would give it some solid days of dry time, you can do things like add letters cut with a vinyl cutter to put quotes to kind of embellish your canvas. This step is not necessary, however, because the final project is beautiful on its own.

We also used this process to decorate ornaments, so you are definitely not limited to using a canvas (which can be kind of expensive if you have to buy a lot of them).

paintpouring6 paintpouring1

303 Best Acrylic Pouring Inspiration images in 2018

 

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Instagram Challenge

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse introduces Miles Morales, a half African-American/half Puerto Rican teen from Brooklyn, and the limitless possibilities of the Spider-Verse, where more than one can wear the mask.  Spider-Verse celebrates diversity and individuality, providing an opportunity for teens to imagine they or someone they admire is a Spider-Hero.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Instagram Challenge — “What Makes You Different Is What Makes You Spider-Man.”

Sony Pictures challenges teens to create and document their very own Spider-Hero from their own universe/neighborhood in celebration of the upcoming release of Spider-Man™: Into the Spider-Verse on December 14. Teens can make an image or video, up to 30 seconds long, of what their Spider-Hero would look or sound like and post it on Instagram with the following hashtags #SpiderVerse and #everydayspiderhero.

Additionally, any teen librarian who would like to promote the Challenge can contact Rachel Breinin at rgbreinin@gmail.com, who can send them free bookmarks and great raffle prizes including Spider-Verse headphones, beanies and backpacks!

 

On PAPER GIRL and Anxiety: a guest post by author Cindy R. Wilson

41KnHEWIJoL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I have to be honest. I didn’t expect Paper Girl to be my first published novel. In fact, I wasn’t even trying to query it or find an editor to publish it. I wanted to write big, explosive stories with strong heroes and heroines who were nothing like me. Those kinds of stories you get excited to see on the big screen when they become movies. I guess that’s mostly because my own life was kind of boring in comparison—after all, living with constant anxiety makes living in the real world with real people doing real things terrifying.

Which was partly why I wrote Paper Girl. I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and PTSD when I was in my 20s. I’d been anxious before that, but this brought it to a whole new level. A kind of I-don’t-want-to-leave-my-house level, sort of like the heroine in Paper Girl. Zoe hasn’t left her house in over a year because of her anxiety, and I could relate to that entirely. I spent a lot of years being afraid to go places, meet new people, and push myself outside of my comfort zone because it was just too scary. But I didn’t want that for my life. As a way of working through my own anxiety, I wrote Paper Girl. For once, I wanted to write a heroine like me, socially awkward, shy, maybe even a little dorky. I wanted to see a girl like that become the hero of her own story. So I made it happen.

Zoe has to work every single day to recover from anxiety and it was wonderful for me to write a character that many of us can relate to. We all have our own struggles and hardships on big and small scales, but it’s great to see victories in tiny steps and paths we all have to take in various ways. I feel as though the characters of Paper Girl are some of my most relatable because we can all understand being afraid of something but wanting so badly to be on the other end of it and living our lives.

I still write big, explosive stories, but somehow (through a twist of events, which is a whole other story), Paper Girl is my debut YA. And once I adjusted to that fact, it actually made me really happy. This story is real and raw, and it’s something people can relate to. I get a chance to reach readers I might never have reached by simply sharing my story. So now, even though I love those big explosive stories and even write them here and there, I can’t say how much I believe in writers sharing their real struggles. There are so many readers out there who share the same issues and challenges and it’s nice to know we’re not alone. It’s also nice to know that even with those socially awkward, dorky traits, we can still be the hero of our own story, and I think that’s exactly what Paper Girl shows.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Cindy R. WiCindy R. Wilsonlson is a YA speculative and contemporary author whose own struggles with anxiety disorder inspired her to write a story with a real-life topic readers can relate to. She lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and loves using Colorado towns and cities as settings for her stories. She’s the mother of three girls who provide plenty of fodder for her YA novels.

When she’s not writing, you can find her hiking some of Colorado’s tallest peaks, reading, or listening to playlists she’s created for her next story idea.

website: www.cindyrwilson.com

twitter: @CindyRWilson

facebook: @AuthorCindyRWilson

Instagram: @CindyRWilson

 

Amanda’s favorites of 2018

Yes, it’s list time. What follows are my favorite 2018 books that I reviewed and excerpts of my reviews. I pretty much exclusively read contemporary fiction, which my list reflects. These are the YA books that most stuck with me this year.  Even though I’m a voracious reader, I’m sure I missed a lot of great titles this year. I always enjoy reading the many lists that crop up this time of the year, but I also always want more variety and to hear from more people. So here’s my list—will you share yours with us too? Leave us a comment or hit me up on Twitter where I’m @CiteSomething. 

 

 

you'll miss meYou’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon (ISBN-13: 9781481497732 Publisher: Simon Pulse Publication date: 01/02/2018)

I burned through this book, riveted by the girls’ relationship, which is constantly in flux. The alternate narration really lets us get in the heads of both girls and see them both really struggle with all the new things that they are dealing with. Let’s not forget that in the middle of all this there is their mother, whose symptoms are getting rapidly worse. They have to witness her decline, worry about what her future holds, and that’s a constant very real reminder for everyone of what will be ahead of Adina at some point.

I loved the large role religion plays in this family’s life. They are Jewish and often speak Hebrew. Their mother grew up in Tel Aviv and their father is American. Tovah is quite religious and Adina is not. Both speak and think about their religion and culture a lot—whether that’s because they are embracing it or rebelling against it.

This book is heartbreaking in all the best ways. The girls are not always likable (and we all know I hate that word as a judgment, right? That it’s OKAY to be unlikable, because being humans and containing multitudes means we’re not always the best version of ourselves?), they make hurtful choices, they keep things to themselves when what they really need is to lean on each other. This is a complex look at identity, futures, faith, family, and what it means to truly live your life. A brilliant and provocative debut. I look forward to more from Solomon. (Full review here.)

 

 

is this guyIs This Guy For Real?: The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman by Box Brown (ISBN-13: 9781626723160 Publisher: First Second Publication date: 02/06/2018)

Brown takes us back to Kaufman’s youth, showing his interest in Mighty Mouse, Elvis, and wrestling. Kaufman loved to imitate his heroes and always rooted for the bad guy. We see how he became a party entertainer at a young age, his interest in drumming, and his growing interest in subverting expectations and screwing with reality. Kaufman believed in being in character offstage as well, a move that helped him confuse the heck out of people who eventually could never tell if he was putting on an act or being serious. Much of the story is focused on Kaufman’s wrestling career, with Brown taking us through Kaufman arch-nemesis Jerry Lawler’s backstory, too. Throughout it all, we see Kaufman as not just a larger-than-life character who wrestled women and befuddled viewers, but as a sensitive guy into yoga and transcendental meditation. Kaufman, who blurred reality and enjoyed blowing people’s minds, loved playing the negative, hated characters. It was just more interesting to him.

Fans of the absurd will enjoy this book, whether they’ve heard of Kaufman or not. For an older audience, for anyone who looks at this and can immediately picture Kaufman lip-syncing to the Mighty Mouse theme, or Tony Clifton, or Latka Gravis, this look at Kaufman will be a real treat. (Full review here.)

 

 

elenaThe Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson (ISBN-13: 9781481498548 Publisher: Simon Pulse Publication date: 02/06/2018)

After Elena confirms she really can heal people (unsurprisingly, it’s a little hard for her to just accept what happened), things grow far more complicated than she could have anticipated. The voices (coming from such places as a girl on a tampon box, a My Little Pony, a skeleton, and more) tell her she needs to heal as many people as possible. And on the surface, that seems like a good idea. But for every healing she does, people are raptured—and not just in some 1:1 ration; literally hundreds of people could go missing for each healing. Suddenly, Elena has BIG questions to grapple with. Can she help someone right in front of her knowing others will disappear to an unknown place? Is she being used? Do things happen for a reason or do they just happen? Does nothing matter? Does anything matter? Does EVERYTHING matter? How are things connected? Are people even worth saving (that question will sound familiar to fans of Hutchinson)? Does healing people fundamentally change them? Why should you decide who or what matters? It’s heavy philosophical stuff, which readers of Hutchinson will have come to expect.

As always, Hutchinson populates his story with a diverse group of characters. Elena is Cuban American and bisexual. Her best friend, Fadil, is Mulim and possibly aromatic and/or asexual (he’s still figuring it out). The big picture themes include mental health/suicidal ideation (and actual suicide), bullying, identity, supportive relationships, and how your choices change you and the world around you. Hutchinson superfans will be thrilled to see cameos of characters from his previous books. This look at making impossible choices and handling moral conflict is already one of my favorites for 2018 (and, as of writing this, I’m still back here in 2017). Riveting, thoughtful, weird, brilliant, provocative, and heavy—just what I have come to expect from Hutchinson. (Full review here.)

 

 

poet XThe Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (ISBN-13: 9780062662804 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 03/06/2018)

15-year-old Dominican American Xiomara is used to being judged, harassed, and viewed only as a body with curves, not just from the male gaze, but even from her own mother.She’s close to exactly two people in life, her twin brother, whom she lovingly just calls Twin, and their best friend, Caridad. They are the only ones who really know anything about her, and even they don’t get to know it all. Xiomara’s mother goes to Mass daily and is extremely disappointed in Xiomara’s disinterest in church, confirmation classes, and religion. She’s very strict,but Xiomara has found ways around her rules to try to live the life she wants. She joins a poetry club at school while pretending to be at confirmation classes. She also begins seeing Trinidadian Aman, a kind, compassionate, music-loving classmate who is always ready to hear one of her poems. Her mother makes it clear that her sexuality is something to be repressed, to be ashamed of, to be denied, but Xiomara is having all of these first feelings for Aman, and not even the scolding voice of her mother in her head can override her beginning to make her own decisions and define her body and her sexuality on her own terms. But she has to keep all of this secret from her mother—just like Twin has to keep his relationship with a boy a secret. Everything begins to unravel when Xiomara’s mother sees her kissing Aman, and then further escalates when she finds Xiomara’s poetry notebook. Learning how to trust and how listen to her own voice—to find power not just in words but in the power of her words—is a rough road for Xiomara, but it’s also one filled with wonder, joy, and revelations.Powered by Xiomara’s strong but vulnerable voice, this intense, poignant, and extraordinary novel is a must for all collections. (Full review here.)

 

 

blood water paintBlood Water Paint by Joy McCullough (ISBN-13: 9780735232112 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 03/06/2018)

17-year-old Artemisia understands the way the world works: women are a beauty for consumption by men. There are many expectations for women and few freedoms. She understands that girls are prey, that they are seen as things and possessions. Artemisia, ostensibly an apprentice to her painter father, though clearly far more skilled than he, begins to paint biblical women she knows intimately from her mother’s stories, knowing a man could never capture the truth of the story the way a woman could. Her mother’s stories made clear the heavy burden of the inescapable male gaze, but they also made clear Artemisia’s (and all women’s) right to be outraged, to act, to push back, to speak up. These woman from her mother’s stories, Judith and Susanna, come to be her strength and solace when Artemisia is raped by Agostina Tassi, her painting tutor. Artemisia tells her father of the rape and they take Tino to trial. But, of course, it is not Tino on trial, but Artemisia’s virtue. 

Both the stories from Artemisia’s mother and Artemisia’s own story ask the readers to bear witness, to see the truth, to hear the voices, to understand the strength in the stories. The stories are the weapons, the armor, the refuge, and the map. This intensely passionate and powerful exploration of women’s lives, stories, truths, and power is a masterpiece. (Full review here.)

 

 

after the shotAfter the Shot Drops by Randy Ribay (ISBN-13: 9781328702272 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 03/06/2018)

Bunny and Nasir repeatedly approach each other to try to mend their friendship, but each time, Nasir feels like he’s betraying Wallace, that Bunny has plenty of people in his corner, and plenty of resources and opportunities, but Wallace has nothing and no one. Wallace eventually puts Nasir—and Bunny—in an impossible situation, one that will test everyone’s loyalty, and the already high stakes of this story really ramp up. Readers will race through the final chaptersWe’ll Fly Away by Bryan Bliss to see what happens to all three of these complicated and conflicted characters.

 

Told through an incredibly effective alternation narration, readers get to see deep inside the minds of both Bunny and Nasir. who show that the situation is much more complicated than just being about two best friends driven apart by Bunny’s choice to change schools. Gripping, suspenseful, and complex, this story of basketball, friendship, courage, desperation, and choices will appeal to a wide audience. A must-have for all collections.  (Full review here.)

 

 

 

fly awayWe’ll Fly Away by Bryan Bliss (ISBN-13: 9780062494276 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/08/2018)

As I read, as I watched events unfold, I kept thinking, “NO, NO, NO, NO,” even though I knew something terrible had to happen to get Luke on death row. It all feels so hopeless.

 

In Luke’s letters from death row, we see weird glimpses of hope that we could never see in the main narrative. I say “weird” because the kid is on death row. His letters are full of pain and anger, but also resiliency, and he works through so much in his letters to Toby.His letters give us a real insight into his mind during this time. It is, I would guess, virtually impossible for almost all of us to really imagine what it would be like to be on death row. To be waiting. To watch people you have come to know put to death. I think it can be easy for people to look at people in prison, on death row, and forget their humanity. It can be easy to write people off, to expect a punishment, to not see them as humans, to not understand what led them there, to not think about redemption or the worth of a life or what the death penalty really means. Bliss makes you think about all those things. He makes the reader understand that people are not just defined by one thing, but have entire lives and stories that led them to the act or acts that landed them in prison. He asks readers to see their complex lives and care about them. The standout characters, including the nun who routinely visits Luke in prison, are deeply affecting and beg readers to really pay attention to their lives and their choices. Though devastatingly sad, this is also a beautiful look at friendship between two boys—something we don’t always see much of in YA. This emotional, powerful, and unflinching look at friendship, loyalty, and the justice system is an absolute must for all collections. Not an easy read, but an important one. (Full review here.)

 

 

girl made ofGirl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake (ISBN-13: 9781328778239 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 05/15/2018)

 

When Hannah says that Owen raped her at a party they all were at, Mara is devastated. She knows her brother would never do that. But she also knows Hannah would never lie about that. She turns to their small group of friends, including both Hannah and Owen, as she tries to process what happened. Mara has her own reasons for fiercely thinking that “believe girls and women” is a good policy (beyond it just being a good policy). She’s held on to a secret for years, a secret that ruined her relationship with Charlie. Mara and Owen’s parents believe Owen when he says he didn’t rape Hannah. They urge Mara to understand the need to be united on this, to not talk to anyone about it, to make sure they all have the story straight. But Mara is sick of not talking about things. She stands by Hannah, especially when Hannah comes back to school and is repeatedly greeted with, “Hey, slut, welcome back.” Mara, Charlie, and Hannah all have truths to tell. They rely on each other, and the support of girls (particularly in their feminist group at school, Empower) to find the strength to not be silenced. 

 

This masterpiece is gutting. It’s not just the characters, the dialogue, and the writing are all wonderful—they are—but that the story is so real. So true. So common. Maybe not the specifics, but the general story. This is in incredibly important read about the aftermath of a sexual assault, about consent, rape culture, family, friendship, and feminism. A powerful, heartbreaking, but ultimately uplifting read. (Full review here.)

 

 

 

deadendiaDeadEndia: The Watcher’s Test by Hamish Steele (ISBN-13: 9781910620472 Publisher: Nobrow Ltd. Publication date: 08/07/2018)

 

Really, this book had me at trans protagonist, graphic novel, talking dog, girl with anxiety disorder, and hell portal. It’s like all my favorite things together in one place. If only they had also obsessively eaten donuts and the dog was a dachshund and not a pug! Barney, who is trans, has recently left home, after it was made clear that he wasn’t welcome there. His friend Norma Khan hooks him up with a job as a janitor at the Pollywood amusement park where she works as a guide at a haunted house (a job she likes because there is a script). It’s the least popular attraction there, in the area referred to as Scare Square. Barney figures it will be a good place to stay while he’s homeless, and it maybe would have been, if it hadn’t turned out that the haunted house was also a portal to a bunch of demons. Before long, Barney, Norma, and Barney’s dog, Pugsley, are constantly battling demons through shifting timelines and dimensions. The planes are described as a “big, interdimensional, supernatural cake,” and it’s hard to know who is mostly harmless, who may be helpful, and who eventually becomes bad in a another timeline. When a demon possesses Pugsley early on, he retains the ability to speak, even after they manage to exorcise the demon. Norma has known about the demons for ages, but for Barney, this is all so new and odd at an especially new and odd time in his life.

 

Complicated emotions, strong friendship, demons, and plenty of LGBTQIA+ representation. All that and bright, bold illustrations AND great writing? Total win. Sweet, funny, and enjoyably, delightfully weird. (Full review here.)

 

 

dariusDarius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram (ISBN-13: 9780525552963 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 08/28/2018)

Though Darius is often awkward and monosyllabic, we get to know him much better when he is in Iran. Darius gets to know himself much better during this time. He becomes friends with Sohrab, a charismatic neighbor boy who draws Darius out of his shell, inviting him to play soccer and helping guide him through life in Yazd. Fairly quickly, Darius feels such closeness with Sohrab, feeling like they really understand each other. Sohrab is easy and comfortable with Darius, so open and affectionate. Though it is never discussed, it is easy to read their relationship as something more than friends, or something that could potentially be more than friends. Though their time together is short, Sohrab and his friendship appear to be life changing for Darius, showing him that he can connect with other people and that there is more to him than just a bullied kid who is always the object of jokes and cruelty.

 

The book has a lot of other things going for it. Darius’s depression is handled well. It’s noted over and over that he has been encouraged to not feel embarrassed or ashamed for having depression, that it’s just the way his brain chemicals work. He talks about being medicated for years, about having tried various medications, about side effects, like weight gain, and we routinely see him take his medication. His mother talks to him about the fact that her parents will have a different, less understanding attitude toward depression, which does come up once they are in Iran. It is refreshing to see mental illness depicted in such a matter of fact manner—it’s just one part of Darius. Darius also helps guide readers through Persian culture by explaining cultural ideas, tradition, and Farsi words as the story unfolds. Khorram manages to make this feel like part of the natural flow of the narrative. This quiet story will resonate with readers who feel they don’t fit in, for whatever reason, and can appreciate the profoundness of finally feeling like you can connect with someone. A heartfelt, complicated, and thoughtful look at identity, family, and unexpected connections set in a place, and within a culture, we rarely see in YA. A great addition for all collections. (Full review here.)

 

 

dream countryDream Country by Shannon Gibney (ISBN-13: 9780735231672 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 09/11/2018)

The stories are loosely tied together (in the sense that we’re following the line of one family and returning to the same place over and over), but read like short stories, complete on their own. It feels especially profound, then, when we reach Angel’s portion of the narrative and understand that it is she who has been telling all of these stories as a way to help make sense of her lineage, history, and ancestors. Through her revelations about her writing, readers see the choices she made in telling these stories, her search for explaining people and their actions, her desire for wholeness, for neat intertwining, for being able to know what these experiences were like. The title, Dream Country, takes on new significance through Angel’s eyes, and with Angel’s own story. This powerful and well-written story examines deep human emotions, the desire and fight for freedom, power, and immigrant experiences. Perhaps shamefully, I managed to make it to 40 without knowing much of anything at all about Liberia, but this book has changed that. Gibney’s complex look at one family, told through a wide scope, is moving and unlike anything I have ever read before in YA. This is one of the best books I’ve read this year. Don’t miss it. (Full review here.)

 

 

 

 

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

Brown provides a very brief overview of the Arab Spring, starting this story with teenage boys writing graffiti (“Down with the regime”) on a wall in Dara’a, in southern Syria, then the arrest and torture of those boys, which sparks a protest for their freedom. Of course, this is just one of many inciting incidents, as the anger is far deeper and more widespread, with Syrians unhappy with Assad’s rule and the corrupt government. The government retaliates against the protesters, with the growth of the protest and violence leading to civil war. Syrians flee to Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, living in tent cities, with friends and family, or in communities in the hills. Violence intensifies when jihadists, including ISIS, join the fight. Brown followers various refugees’ journeys as they escape any way they can. We see people fleeing on foot, on boats, with smugglers, some of them successfully escaping, but many thousands and thousands dying in the process.

 

It was no surprise to me that Brown so adeptly captures the emotions and weight of this experience. Though, as noted, this book is slight, it is a thorough and affecting look at the Syrian refugee crisis, particularly for younger readers who may just be looking for a quick and basic understanding of what has been going on. The full-color illustrations are dynamic and powerful, whether showing crowded boats, near-empty deserts, or the anguish on the refugees’ faces. This somber, poignant, and deeply sympathetic look at Syrian refugees is as moving as it is informative. A solid addition for all collections. (Full review here.)

 

 

hearts unHearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith (ISBN-13: 9780763681142 Publisher: Candlewick Press Publication date: 10/09/2018)

While Louise never wavers in her quest to educate others, she has a lot of room to grow as a friend. Her alleged best friend, Shelby, is largely absent in the book, usually busy working and not really understood well by Louise, who has trouble seeing beyond herself sometimes. She has a lot to learn about friendships, dating, and understanding others. But these flaws make her real, and interesting. Readers see her grow and change as she makes more connections with people in her new town and stands up for what she believes in and what she knows is right. Mvskoke words are sprinkled throughout the next, with a glossary appended as well as an important author’s note. This book also accomplished the near-impossible: it made me miss high school for two seconds, reminding me of my love for writing for the school newspaper and the frustrations and community that can come with that. This is a nice mix of romance, routine high school drama, and more serious topics like racism, bullying, and becoming more socially aware. Sure to inspire interesting classroom discussions, this is a must-have for all collections.  (Full review here.)