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Have Some 2021 Books, by Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

We are nearing the end of 2020, thank goodness. As we approach the end of this eventful year, I think we should look at what’s to come. So, obviously, this means we should look at books!

Love is a Revolution by Renee Watson

When Nala Robertson reluctantly agrees to attend an open mic night for her cousin-sister-friend Imani’s birthday, she finds herself falling in instant love with Tye Brown, the MC. He’s perfect, except . . . Tye is an activist and is spending the summer putting on events for the community when Nala would rather watch movies and try out the new seasonal flavors at the local creamery. In order to impress Tye, Nala tells a few tiny lies to have enough in common with him. As they spend more time together, sharing more of themselves, some of those lies get harder to keep up. As Nala falls deeper into keeping up her lies and into love, she’ll learn all the ways love is hard, and how self-love is revolutionary.

Coming February 2, 2021 from Bloomsbury

Every Single Lie by Rachel Vincent

Nobody in Beckett’s life seems to be telling the whole story. Her boyfriend Jake keeps hiding texts and might be cheating on her. Her father lied about losing his job before his shocking death. And everyone in school seems to be whispering about her and her family behind her back.

But none of that compares to the day Beckett finds the body of a newborn baby in a gym bag-Jake’s gym bag -on the floor of her high school locker room. As word leaks out, rumors that Beckett’s the mother take off like wildfire in a town all too ready to believe the worst of her. And as the police investigation unfolds, she discovers that everyone has a secret to hide and the truth could alter everything she thought she knew.

Coming January 12, 2021 from Bloomsbury

Game Changer by Neal Shusterman

All it takes is one hit on the football field, and suddenly Ash’s life doesn’t look quite the way he remembers it.

Impossible though it seems, he’s been hit into another dimension—and keeps on falling into universes that are almost-but-not-really his own, each one stranger than the last.

And if he isn’t careful, the world he’s learning to see more clearly could blink out of existence…

Coming February 2021 from Quill Tree Books

As Far as You’ll Take Me by Phil Stamper

Marty arrives in London with nothing but his oboe and some savings from his summer job, but he’s excited to start his new life–where he’s no longer the closeted, shy kid who slips under the radar and is free to explore his sexuality without his parents’ disapproval.

From the outside, Marty’s life looks like a perfect fantasy: in the span of a few weeks, he’s made new friends, he’s getting closer with his first ever boyfriend, and he’s even traveling around Europe. But Marty knows he can’t keep up the facade. He hasn’t spoken to his parents since he arrived, he’s tearing through his meager savings, his homesickness and anxiety are getting worse and worse, and he hasn’t even come close to landing the job of his dreams. Will Marty be able to find a place that feels like home?

Coming February 9, 2021 from Bloomsbury

Amelia Unabridged by Ashley Schumacher

Eighteen-year-old Amelia Griffin is obsessed with the famous Orman Chronicles, written by the young and reclusive prodigy N. E. Endsley. They’re the books that brought her and her best friend Jenna together after Amelia’s father left and her family imploded. So when Amelia and Jenna get the opportunity to attend a book festival with Endsley in attendance, Amelia is ecstatic. It’s the perfect way to start off their last summer before college.

In a heartbeat, everything goes horribly wrong. When Jenna gets a chance to meet the author and Amelia doesn’t, the two have a blowout fight like they’ve never experienced. And before Amelia has a chance to mend things, Jenna is killed in a freak car accident. Grief-stricken, and without her best friend to guide her, Amelia questions everything she had planned for the future.

When a mysterious, rare edition of the Orman Chronicles arrives, Amelia is convinced that it somehow came from Jenna. Tracking the book to an obscure but enchanting bookstore in Michigan, Amelia is shocked to find herself face-to-face with the enigmatic and handsome N. E. Endsley himself, the reason for Amelia’s and Jenna’s fight and perhaps the clue to what Jenna wanted to tell her all along.

Coming February 2021 from Wednesday Books

Riley, Teen Reviewer

I am a senior in high school and an avid reader. I have been reviewing books on this blog since 2012. I love musical theatre and listen to show tunes a lot. I also love murder books (both fiction and nonfiction), and want to go to college to be a forensic scientist after high school. Reading is one of my favorite things to do, so I just put that hobby to good use for my mom.

More Books To Come, By Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

The Castle School (For Troubled Girls) by Alyssa Sheinmel

When Moira Dreyfuss’s parents announce that they’re sending her to boarding school, Moira isn’t fooled. She knows her parents are punishing her; she’s been too much trouble since her best friend Nathan died―and for a while before that. At the Castle School, isolated from the rest of the world, Moira will be expected to pour her heart out to the strange headmaster, Dr. Prince. But she isn’t interested in getting over Nathan’s death, or befriending her fellow students.

On her first night there, Moira hears distant music. On her second, she discovers the lock on her window is broken. On her third, she and her roommate venture outside…and learn that they’re not so isolated after all. There’s another, very different, Castle School nearby―this one filled with boys whose parents sent them away, too.

Moira knows something isn’t right about the Castle School―about either of them. But uncovering the truth behind the schools’ secrets may force Moira to confront why she was sent away in the first place.

Watch Over Me by Nina Lacour

Mila is used to being alone. Maybe that’s why she said yes to the opportunity: living in this remote place, among the flowers and the fog and the crash of waves far below.

But she hadn’t known about the ghosts.

Newly graduated from high school, Mila has aged out of the foster care system. So when she’s offered a job and a place to stay at a farm on an isolated part of the Northern California Coast, she immediately accepts. Maybe she will finally find a new home, a real home. The farm is a refuge, but also haunted by the past traumas its young residents have come to escape. And Mila’s own terrible memories are starting to rise to the surface.

In the Study With the Wrench by Diana Peterfreund

In the aftermath of Headmaster Boddy’s murder, Blackbrook Academy has been thrown into complete disarray. Half the student body hasn’t bothered to return to campus—but those who have include Orchid, Vaughn, Scarlett, Peacock, Plum, and Mustard, now warily referred to by the other students as the Murder Crew. When another staff member is found dead and an anonymous threat begins to target the group, each of the teens’ opportunistic reasons for sticking around come to light. Orchid’s identity comes under question while Vaughn’s family life takes a turn; Finn and Mustard grow closer; and Scarlett and Beth struggle to turn over new leaves. All of this comes to a dramatic head at Tudor House with a cliff-hanger.

Winter White and Wicked by Shannon Dittemore

Twice-orphaned Sylvi has chipped out a niche for herself on Layce, an island cursed by eternal winter. Alone in her truck, she takes comfort in two things: the solitude of the roads and the favor of Winter, an icy spirit who has protected her since she was a child.
            Sylvi likes the road, where no one asks who her parents were or what she thinks of the rebels in the north. But when her best friend, Lenore, runs off with the rebels, Sylvi must make a haul too late in the season for a smuggler she wouldn’t normally work with, the infamous Mars Dresden. Alongside his team—Hyla, a giant warrior woman and Kyn, a boy with skin like stone—Sylvi will do whatever it takes to save her friend.
            But when the time comes, she’ll have to choose: safety, anonymity, and the favor of Winter—or the future of the island that she calls home.

Pretty Funny For a Girl by Rebecca Elliott

Haylah Swinton is an ace best friend, a loving daughter, and an incredibly patient sister to a four-year-old nutcase of a brother. Best of all, she’s pretty confident she’s mastered making light of every situation–from her mom’s new boyfriend to unsolicited remarks on her plus-sized figure. Haylah’s learning to embrace all of her curvy parts and, besides, she has a secret: one day, she’ll be a stand-up comedian star.

So when impossibly cool and thirstalicious Leo reveals he’s also into comedy, Haylah jumps at the chance to ghost-write his sets. But is Leo as interested in returning the favor? Even though her friends warn her of Leo’s intentions, Haylah’s not ready to listen–and she might just be digging herself deeper toward heartbreak. If Haylah’s ever going to step into the spotlight, first she’ll need to find the confidence to put herself out there and strut like the boss she really is.

Riley, Teen Reviewer

I am a senior in high school and an avid reader. I have been reviewing books on this blog since 2012. I love musical theatre and listen to show tunes a lot. I also love murder books (both fiction and nonfiction), and want to go to college to be a forensic scientist after high school. Reading is one of my favorite things to do, so I just put that hobby to good use for my mom.

Voting and Elections in YA Lit

Here’s a brief collection of YA fiction and nonfiction titles that deal with the topic of elections and voting.

It’s not enough to tell teens to register to vote, you have to help them with next steps. Teach them how to research the candidates and issues. Talk to them about what happens at the voting booth & how to fill out & submit a ballot. Help them be informed, confident voters. Being an engaged citizen is about more then just registering to vote, so let’s help teens follow the process, not just begin it.

Resources

https://www.usa.gov/voter-registration-age-requirements

Rock the Vote

Pew Political Party Quiz

How to Register to Vote

Some Books Coming Soon for Your TBR List, By Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

Here’s a look at some YA releases coming your way. One later this year and four early 2021. All book descriptions are provided by the publisher.

This is Not the Jess Show by Anna Carey

Like many teens, sometimes it feels as though everything in Jess Flynn’s life has been engineered for maximum drama–from her performance at the school talent show, to the reappearance of her childhood best friend and perennial crush Jeremy, to her friends trying to set her up with one of the hottest guys in school. It’s almost as if everything might finally be going her way…until one day a tiny black phone with an apple logo on its screen falls out of her best friend’s backpack and lands at Jess’s feet.

The problem is, it’s 1998, and the first iPhone isn’t due out for another nine years.

Jess’s friends refuse to acknowledge the strange device. Her sister Sara, on hospice care with a terminal blood disease, for once can’t tell Jess what she should do. It’s almost as if everyone is hiding something from her. Even her beloved dog Fuller seems different…like, literally different, because he definitely didn’t have that same pattern of spots on his stomach last week…

Nothing in Jess Flynn’s world is as it seems, and as the cracks begin to show, Jess will discover her entire life is nothing more than someone else’s entertainment. Except in this reality, the outside world is no place anyone would want to escape to. (November 2020, Quirk Books)

Sing Me Forgotten by Jessica S. Olson

Isda does not exist. At least not beyond the opulent walls of the opera house.

Cast into a well at birth for being one of the magical few who can manipulate memories when people sing, she was saved by Cyril, the opera house’s owner. Since that day, he has given her sanctuary from the murderous world outside. All he asks in return is that she use her power to keep ticket sales high—and that she stay out of sight. For if anyone discovers she survived, Isda and Cyril would pay with their lives.

But Isda breaks Cyril’s cardinal rule when she meets Emeric Rodin, a charming boy who throws her quiet, solitary life out of balance. His voice is unlike any she’s ever heard, but the real shock comes when she finds in his memories hints of a way to finally break free of her gilded prison.

Haunted by this possibility, Isda spends more and more time with Emeric, searching for answers in his music and his past. But the price of freedom is steeper than Isda could ever know. For even as she struggles with her growing feelings for Emeric, she learns that in order to take charge of her own destiny, she must become the monster the world tried to drown in the first place. (March 2021, Inkyard Press)

Riley’s Thoughts: A gender bent Phantom of the Opera? Yes!

Five Ways to Fall Out of Love by Emily Martin

Aubrey Cash learned the hard way not to rely on love. After all, Webster Casey, the new boy next door she’d been falling for all summer, stood her up at homecoming in front of everyone with no explanation. Proving her theory that love never lasts seems easy when she’s faced with parents whose marriage is falling apart and a best friend who thinks every boy she dates is “the one.” But when sparks fly with a boy who turns out to be Webster’s cousin, and then Webster himself becomes her lab partner for the rest of senior year, Aubrey finds her theory—and her commitment to stay single—put to the test.

As she navigates the breakdown of her family, the consequences her cynicism has on her relationship with her best friend, and her own confusing but undeniable feelings for Webster, Aubrey has to ask herself: What really happened the night Webster stood her up? And if there are five ways to fall out of love…could there perhaps be even more ways to fall back in? (March 2021, Inkyard Press)

The Flipside of Perfect by Liz Reinhardt

AJ is a buttoned-up, responsible student attending a high-achieving high school in Michigan. She lives with her mother, stepfather and two younger half sisters.

Della spends every summer with her father in Florida. A free-spirited wild child, she spends as much time as possible on the beach with her friends and older siblings.

But there’s a catch: AJ and Della are the same person. Adelaide Beloise Jepsen to be exact, and she does everything she can to keep her school and summer lives separate.

When her middle sister crashes her carefree summer getaway, Adelaide’s plans fall apart. In order to help her sister, save her unexpected friendship with a guy who might just be perfect for her, and discover the truth about her own past, Adelaide will have to reconcile the two sides of herself and face the fact that it’s perfectly okay not to be perfect all the time. (April 2021, Inkyard Press)

These Feathered Flames by Alexandra Overy

When twin heirs are born in Tourin, their fates are decided at a young age. While Izaveta remained at court to learn the skills she’d need as the future queen, Asya was taken away to train with her aunt, the mysterious Firebird, who ensured magic remained balanced in the realm.

But before Asya’s training is completed, the ancient power blooms inside her, which can mean only one thing: the queen is dead, and a new ruler must be crowned.

As the princesses come to understand everything their roles entail, they’ll discover who they can trust, who they can love—and who killed their mother. (April 2021, Inkyard Press)

A Brief History of YA Literature, an Infographic

Several months ago someone on Twitter asked a question about YA literature and I went looking for an answer. That sent me down a rabbit hole in which I started reading a bunch of research and articles about YA lit. It was a fascinating journey through space and time, and my life as an adult. I started working as a YA paraprofessional in public libraries in 1993 at the age of 20, right around the time libraries really started committing sincere time and energy to serving teens. I became a degreed librarian in 2002, just a few months after The Teen, a prolific YA reader herself, was born. So this research was both professional and personal. In many ways, the timeline you see below is a timeline of my career working with teens and reading the books that I was sharing with them. My life as a reader and my career as a YA librarian is woven into the fabric of this infographic you see below.

To make the following infographic, I took a deep dive into the history of YA literature, reading a lot of research online and in professional journals. I also sought out the help of my fellow TLTers who checked and then double checked my work. We checked initial book publication dates. We swapped out lesser known titles for more well known titles that represented that era best. We looked to make sure we were as inclusive and diverse as we could be, understanding that early eras of YA literature were sadly definitely not focused on representation. Then we combed through this searching for typos (I sincerely hope you don’t find any!). My friend and YA librarian extraordinaire Heather Booth was a particular help to me on this and I thank her. The infographic itself was made using Canva.

Today I present to you a brief history of YA literature, an infographic

Please note, because this is an infographic, it is by no means comprehensive. There are lots of great YA titles and authors that I would have liked to included here. For example, Sarah Dessen’s first book, That Summer, was published in 1996, just a few years after I started working with teens in libraries, and she has always been there with me working with teens in libraries. It also seems weird not to have John Green on this infographic given the influence he had on YA readers in the earlier 2000s. It seems especially weird not to have one of The Teen and I’s favorite authors, A. S. King, on this infographic. There are way more amazing books and authors that everyone should know about, hands down, but this infographic is a place to start.

Also, a brief note about Monster by Walter Dean Myers. It was originally published in 1999, but it won the first ever Michael L. Printz Award for Young Adult literature in 2000 so I put it on the 2000s.

It’s also interesting to note that although YA literature originally was defined as being a book written for someone aged 12 to 18, today most YA literature is suggested as being for readers ages 14 and up and more often than not contains a protagonist who is 16 and up. More and more, it’s is Middle Grade fiction, defined as being for readers ages 8 to 12, that the youngest teen readers turn to. Younger teens, those ages 13, 14 or 15, are often left out of the literature all together these days. Andrea Sower did some anecdotal data collecting about this which she shared on Twitter.

Whether you are an experienced YA librarian or someone who is just diving into the world of YA lit professionally or personally, I hope you will take a few moments to journey into the history of YA lit and learn a bit more about it. Understanding the history of YA lit helps us understand a bit more of what makes YA lit, well, YA lit and why that matters.

When you think about YA literature, what are some of the authors and titles that you think of as being representative of that time in YA history? Talk with us in the comments about the history of YA literature and what it means to you.

Resources and Some Further Reading:

Be sure to go down the rabbit hole yourself and follow the links on each article to even more reading about the history of YA.

https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-10522-8_2

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/how-young-adult-fiction-blossomed-with-teenage-culture-in-america-180968967/

https://historycooperative.org/fantasy-to-reality-the-history-of-young-adult-literature/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_adult_fiction

https://www.pearsonhighered.com/assets/samplechapter/0/1/3/3/0133066797.pdfh

https://blog.bookstellyouwhy.com/what-exactly-is-young-adult-literature-a-brief-history

https://medium.com/the-establishment/the-critical-evolution-of-lgbtq-young-adult-literature-ce40cd4905c6

https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/rise-young-adult-books-lgbtq-characters-what-s-next-n981176

http://theconversation.com/telling-the-real-story-diversity-in-young-adult-literature-46268

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diversity_in_young_adult_fiction

https://www.timetoast.com/timelines/history-of-ya-literature

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/08/how-young-adult-fiction-came-of-age/242671/

https://my.visme.co/projects/w4ynw9mo-timeline-of-young-adult-literature

A Brief History of YA Literature

A Recap of the HOPE NATION Launch Event at Irving Public Library – and a GIVEAWAY

 Hope is a decision, but it is a hard one to recognize in the face of oppression, belittlement, alienation, and defeat. To help embolden hope, here is a powerhouse collection of essays and letters that speak directly to teens and all YA readers. Featuring Marie Lu, James Dashner, Gayle Forman, David Levithan, Julie Murphy, Jeff Zentner, Renee Ahdieh, and many more!

“Hope is a decision, but it is a hard one to recognize in the face of oppression, belittlement, alienation, and defeat. To help embolden hope, here is a powerhouse collection of essays and letters that speak directly to teens and all YA readers. Featuring Marie Lu, James Dashner, Gayle Forman, David Levithan, Julie Murphy, Jeff Zentner, Renee Ahdieh, and many more!”

Yesterday The Teen and I attended the HOPE NATION launch party at Irving Public Library. One of her best friends, a big reader and also the daughter of a YA librarian, was there with us as well. We were excited to learn more about this anthology, get copies signed, and to hear the authors share their stories. Here is a recap of that event with some of the Tweets I sent out as I live Tweeted.

Read TLTer Amanda MacGregory’s Review Here:

Book Review: Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration

And yes, The Teen did wear her favorite fuzzy pink slippers to the event to meet some of her favorite authors. We kid her about them, but I also love that she is who she is, likes what she likes, and just goes with it. I think they also make a fun juxtaposition to her frequent all black wardrobe.

The panel consisted of authors Ally Carter, Julie Murphy and Angie Thomas! These are three of the contributors to the HOPE NATION anthology. And the first question was editor Rose Brock asking why they agreed to be a part of this anthology.

Texas woman taps popular young adult authors in new book for teens

As a librarian who works at a small town library with a high rate of teen poverty, I am always glad to see stories set in rural areas that reflect rural and small town poverty.

The panelists were then asked what their stories are about. Ally Carter talked about wanting to be a famous writer and getting out of her small town. Julie Murphy talked about how they lost their home her senior year of high school and the concept of having a home and having the concept of home in your heart. Angie Thomas talked about wanting to give hope back to all of the readers who had given her hope and helped to make her dreams come true.

 

When it was opened up to audience questions, an audience member asked Angie Thomas how she should respond to parents who objected to The Hate U Give being offered in schools.

A second audience question and the audience member asked how we could get guys to read these books when there are girls on the covers. The audience member also suggested that these books needed different covers without girls on the covers to appeal to male readers.

All of the panelists did a great job of discussing how we needed adult males to help break down the barriers and stereotypes about reading “girl books”. Ally Carter shared a story about a male librarian who had booktalked The Gallagher Girl series to his school and he had emailed her to say it was the most popular book series at his all guy school. This was an example of men doing the work and challenging cultural norms and stereotypes.

At the end of the event the authors did a signing and The Teen got copies of several books signed for herself and we got a copy of the first Gallagher Girls book signed for Thing 2 (she’s almost old enough now for this series!). And, guess what? I got all the panelists to sign a copy of HOPE NATION to give away here to you all. So just do the Rafflecopter thing by Friday, March 2nd at Midnight to be entered to win a copy of HOPE NATION signed by Rose Brock, Ally Carter, Julie Murphy and Angie Thomas. Open to U.S. residents only please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Take 5: Five Reasons You Should Read THE 57 BUS by Dashka Slater, seriously right now

I don’t typically read a lot of nonfiction, but I was blown away by The 57 Bus, which I stumbled onto by accident. I’m part of a book club and this Christmas, we played some book exchange game where everyone brought a book and we traded and what not. The 57 Bus was hands down the book that everyone was fighting over, the premise is that compelling. I didn’t go home with the book that night, by the way. It was stolen right out of my hands. But they let me borrow it and I read it and wow! I have thought about, talked about, and recommended this book a lot since reading it.

57bus2

The 57 Bus is narrative nonfiction that tells the true story of an agender teen, Sasha, who rode the 57 bus home every day. One day, on that bus, three teen boys are being obnoxious jerks and Richard takes a lighter to Sasha’s skirts and seems surprised when it goes up in flames. The remainder of the story discusses Sasha’s recovery and the court case surrounding Richard. It’s a remarkable story about identity, choices, consequences and, in the end, forgiveness.

In the midst, there are a lot of informational tidbits thrown in that I think everyone who values, raises, or works with teens should read.

1. Gender and Sexual Identity

Sasha does not identify as male or female and considers themselves to be agender. Sasha’s preferred pronouns are they/them. I am not going to lie, I what my friend calls “an old” AND I come from a conservative Christian background, so trying to think differently about the gender binary is challenging. And although I have teens and adult friends that identify as asexual or aromantic, I continue to grapple with what these terms mean and put them into context into what I thought I knew about the world and the people who populate it. The 57 Bus has one of the best, most straightforward discussions about what various terms on the GLBTQ spectrum mean. In addition, seeing how Sasha’s parents and the community respond to Sasha is a very educational experience. In my library, we have a lot of teens who identify as being on the GLBTQAI+ spectrum and this discussion is helpful in understanding what those various labels mean.

2. The Teenage Brain

57bus

Part of my job is knowing and understanding adolescent development. One thing we know is that the teen brain is very different from the adult brain. Teens don’t make the same decisions that adults would make because their brains are literally wired different. The 57 Bus has one of the best discussions of those differences and what that means that I have ever read. If you work with teens, you need to read this chapter alone just to help get a deeper understanding of why teens think and act differently, and why they make decisions that make absolutely no sense to adults. Teens are not mini-adults, and understanding the teenage brain is imperative in being able to serve them.

3. Adolescent Justice

It is no secret that the United States has one of the highest rates of incarceration in the world. At a previous library I worked there was a local juvenile detention center and I worked with that detention center in various ways to provide services and materials to those teens. The 57 Bus really challenges the idea of trying teens as adults given what we know about the adolescent brain. It posits the question: given what we know about the development of the teenage brain, can we justify trying teenagers for their crimes as adults?

4. Forgiveness

Throughout the story of The 57 Bus is a discussion about forgiveness and reconciliation. Sasha’s family is approached by a group that wants to lead them through the reconciliation process with Richard. Richard himself writes several letters to Sasha asking for forgiveness. In the end, Sasha’s family chooses to speak on Richard’s behalf, despite the overwhelming pain and suffering that Sasha has undergone. Even if you don’t agree with the ideas presented, it’s an interesting point of view to sit with.

5. Awards

The 57 Bus is now an award-winning book, having won a Stonewall Book Award at the 2018 Youth Media Awards recently announced. It was also honored with a YALSA AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN NONFICTION FOR YOUNG ADULTS. It deserves these awards, it’s that good.

The 57 Bus also features teachers being awesome, a look at complex family dynamics, friendship and more. The teens in this story also create their own game which is one of my favorite things ever. I just highly recommend this book.

YALLFEST Recap by Michelle Biwer

I had the pleasure of attending YALLFest a few weeks ago in Charleston, South Carolina. YALLFest is the largest Young Adult literature festival in the US, featuring over 70 Young Adult authors and numerous publishers.

sign

I had a blast at this conference for a few reasons:

  1. ALL YALLFest events are out in the city of Charleston, not cooped up in a convention center.
  2. YALLFest is open to the public, so in addition to networking with teen librarians I met a lot of teens and their parents and talked to them about their favorite authors. Even though I’m a teen librarian, I don’t usually get to spend much time just chatting to teens from all over different parts of the country about books so that was a valuable perk!
  3. YALLFest is mostly free! There were a couple keynote events that required a small fee but other than that, really truly free! This definitely added to the fun and diversity of the event-a bunch of folks just stumbled across author signings and talks with their kids while walking downtown and just joined in the action.

On Day 1 I attended “YALLCrawl,” a Friday afternoon book signing extravaganza as well as a special event featuring Marissa Meyer and other authors hosted by the “Fierce Reads” imprint.

line

Day 2 was jam packed with educational panels and author meetups. First thing in the morning I waited in line to meet Maggie Stiefvater, and during an author breakfast event was given a chocolate doughnut by none other than fabulous YA author and editor David Levithan. I attended a variety of panels throughout the day–some focused on genre literature, how to love/criticize problematic work, and creating worlds. What I valued most about the conference lineup was that there were a lot of diverse authors invited, and they weren’t pigeonholed into a “diversity panel.” Instead, every panel lineup I saw was diverse and thoughtful about the importance of representation in YA literature. And of course because YALLFest is truly great and speaks to my soul, the day ended with the only YA author rock band in the world performing a Hamilton cover.

panel

Panelists: Veronica Roth, Leigh Bardugo, Sabaa Tahir, Renée Ahdieh, Stephanie Garber, and Victoria Aveyard

tiger

YALLFest really was a great conference but like any large event there were a few issues that affected my experience. Some miscommunications about events were kindly resolved by staff. I just hope it gets expanded from 1 ½ to 2 full days! There was so much to see and very long lines not just for author signings, but even just to get to an ARC at a publisher’s booth. This was compounded by the vast and somewhat ingenious number of teens with parents sitting in lines for them so they could attend other things.

I very much hope to attend again in the future-and if you aren’t on the east coast check out YALLFest’s sister festival, YALLWest.

New Releases and Mini Reviews: Little & Lion, The Bakersville Dozen, and The Epic Crush of Genie Lo

tltbutton6

Today is a good day for book releases, as apparently all the recent books I have chosen to read release today. Is it fate? Destiny? Hard to say. Let’s dive right in, shall we.

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

august83Two step-siblings who were closer than close are reunited after one, Little (the female) spends a year in boarding school so that her step sibling, Lion (the male), can figure out how to deal with his bipolar disorder. At first the two of them deal with tension as they try to navigate who they are now after a year apart and the secrets they are both keeping, but as everything starts to unravel they have to learn to face their various truths.

There’s a bit of every aspect of teen life in this one: friendship, family, siblings, identity (both racial/ethnic and sexuality including frank discussions of bi and pansexuality), mental health, sex, teen, pregnancy, abortion, feminism, drinking and drug use, consent and more. It is in many ways the most authentically fleshed out and inclusive YA book I have ever read. There are a few brief moments where the character’s get a little didactic in how they talk about these various subjects, but it almost has to in order to make sure that the reader fully understands the topic at hand. For example, many readers may be unaware of the difference between bi and pansexuality and the discussion helps flesh out the concepts for the reader. There are moments in this book where teens clearly make bad decisions, sometimes even acknowledging that they are making bad decisions and then going on to make them anyway, and we see the ultimate results of those decisions. It’s a thoughtful look at the very real complexity of teen life with a respectful tone and engaging story. Brandy Colbert is a fantastic author and really does a good job of telling this story and diving into these issues.

The Bakersville Dozen by Kristina McBride

bakersvilledozenWhen compromising videos of several – a dozen to be exact – students go viral, life is not the same for the students in this Ohio high school. Then one of the Bakersville Dozen goes missing. Soon, a note is found with a challenge: find five trophies, follow the rules or everyone dies. It’s a macabre scavenger hunt full of twists and turns that you won’t see coming. Kristina McBride is a good author who deals with issues like online bullying, friendship, rivalries, broken relationships and more in the pages of this mystery thriller. Every step of the way you’re shouting to the teens, no don’t go into the basement and please call the police – which of course they can’t do or else we don’t have a story. And what a story it is.

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Lee

august81Genie thought she was just a regular girl trying to get into a good college, until the Monkey King shows up and she discovers that she is a celestial being with a destiny to fight demons. Things get complicated – and snarky. For those of us old enough to know what this means, it definitely has a Buffy the Vampire Slayer feel to it in both storytelling and vibe, but has some unique twists in that it is steeped in Chinese culture and folklore. For the younger crowd, think Shadowhunters with a Chinese folklore infusion. I was not familiar with the legend of the Monkey King and found this story to be both entertaining and enlightening. It’s a fun read and that is high praise indeed. We need more flat out fun reads and this fits the bill.

About the Books

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

A stunning novel on love, loss, identity, and redemption, from Publishers Weekly Flying Start author Brandy Colbert

When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn’t sure if she’ll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new…the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel’s disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself–or worse.

The Bakersville Dozen by Kristina McBride

You have four days to locate five treasured trophies. Break the rules and you all die. Happy hunting!

Back in September, the town of Bakersville, Ohio made national news when a video went viral featuring thirteen of the high school’s elite in compromising positions. Now it’s May, and every month since the “Bakersville Dozen” made their infamous appearance on the national stage, one girl has gone missing. Officials are no closer to identifying the criminal.

Bailey “Like a Virgin” Holzman is getting really fed up with the scrutiny. She just wants to enjoy the rest of her senior year and have an epic summer before heading off to college. So when she discovers a note in her locker on the last day of school inviting her on a scavenger hunt, she thinks it’s just a sweet surprise from her boyfriend trying to cheer her up.

But following the clue leads her, instead, to the first official casualty. And another sinister envelope. The killer is close, and it could be anyone. Even the people Bailey’s always trusted most—her best friend, her perfect boyfriend, or the boy-next-door she’s always pined for.

With the clock ticking, she faces a terrifying choice: play the game by the killer’s rules—follow the clues, tell no one, and no cops—for a chance to save the rest of the missing girls, or risk becoming the next grisly victim.

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Lee

The struggle to get into a top-tier college consumes sixteen-year-old Genie Lo’s every waking thought. But when her sleepy Bay Area town comes under siege from hell-spawn straight out of Chinese folklore, her priorities are suddenly and forcefully rearranged.

Her only guide to the demonic chaos breaking out around her is Quentin Sun, a beguiling, maddening new transfer student from overseas. Quentin assures Genie she is strong enough to fight these monsters, for she unknowingly harbors an inner power that can level the very gates of Heaven.

Genie will have to dig deep within herself to summon the otherworldly strength that Quentin keeps talking about. But as she does, she finds the secret of her true nature is entwined with his, in a way she could never have imagined… (Amulet Books, 9781419725487)

Take 5: Using YA Lit to Talk Government, Power, Politics, Corruption and More (An #SJYALit Book List)

A few years ago, I believe it was Cory Doctorow who Tweeted that no one discusses politics in literature anymore. Which struck me, at the time, as an odd statement because it was the height of YA Dystopian, which arguably is all about power and politics. It could also have been someone other then Cory Doctorow, for the record, I’ve just always remembered the tweet as being from him, and we all know that memory is a trickster god.

But since then, I have often read books with that tweet in the background of my mind, unconsciously noting books that I thought fit the bill. And now, more then ever, it seems particularly important that books talk about politics. I’m not just talking about the 2016 election, I’m talking about the way the North Carolina GOP just in effect executed a coup by stripping the incoming Democratic governor of any real power. Of the way our elected representatives remain silent about the fact that 17 intelligence agencies have stated that Russia has had undo influence on our recent government and election. Of the way that legislators just quietly made the investigation into Flint go away or the way that Governor Kasich of Ohio just signed a bill making it illegal for local governments to raise the minimum wage. I’m talking about the fact that we go into the next administration with effectively no checks and balances because for the first time in years all three arms of our federal government are now in the control of only one political party, thanks in no small part to things like gerrymandering and the repeal of voter rights acts.

Now more then ever – although we can argue that it is in fact too late – we need to be talking about politics and democracy and government with our teens. In fact, in the next presidential election, my teen will be able to vote. So we talk about it.  We read about it. And here are 5 books and series that I recommend to get teens reading and thinking about power, politics, government, corruption and more.

This is Our Story by Ashley Elston

In a small town, a group of privileged, elite teen boys goes hunting. One of them does not come back. Because of power and influence, the case of the River Point Five is given to a district attorney with the expectation that he will lose. But Kate Marino is an intern that works for him and she challenges him to pursue justice and the truth, so he does. This is a compelling read that shows you how guilty people go free and the innocent can go to jail for crimes they didn’t commit. Overall, it’s a good read. My only quibble with the book is that this intelligent and driven teenage girl compromises things because she “falls in love” with one of the suspects, which is annoying, but it’s still a powerful look at the themes being discussed. The Teen also read this book because she said, I really want to read a mystery and so I handed her this book, here’s what she thought:

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The Fixer series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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Tess Kendrick finds out that her sister is not who she seems to be, in a lot of ways. Her sister is, in fact, a fixer. This means that she covers up the dirt in Washington. Scandals disappear, murders look like suicides, and more as we get an inside look at how people in power scheme, make power plays, and manipulate what the public sees and thinks about people and politics. I’ve read books 1 and 2 in this series and they are so good. Also, book 2 gives you a real sucker punch to the gut. Because this is Jennifer Lynn Barnes these are fun and engaging reads, but there are also strong female leads, meaningful conversations about important topics, and a lot of good quips. It’s interesting to note that some people in politics are called “King Makers” because it is said that they have the power to make and break kings. You’ll definitely want to check this series out. The Teen read and loves this book as well.

Publisher’s Book description:

This thriller YA is Scandal meets Veronica Mars.

Sixteen-year-old Tess Kendrick has spent her entire life on her grandfather’s ranch. But when her estranged sister Ivy uproots her to D.C., Tess is thrown into a world that revolves around politics and power. She also starts at Hardwicke Academy, the D.C. school for the children of the rich and powerful, where she unwittingly becomes a fixer for the high school set, fixing teens’ problems the way her sister fixes their parents’ problems.

And when a conspiracy surfaces that involves the family member of one of Tess’s classmates, love triangles and unbelievable family secrets come to light and life gets even more interesting—and complicated—for Tess.

Perfect for fans of Pretty Little Liars and Heist Society, readers will be clamoring for this compelling teen drama with a political twist.

Embassy Row series by Ally Carter

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Grace Blakely goes to live on Embassy Row with her grandfather, a place where politics is everything. Here, families from countries all over live in close proximity to one another and how you act, where you go, and what you say matters – the slightest misstep could start a new war. It is here that Grace begins to learn more about her mother’s murder. It is also here that Grace begins to learn more about politics, power and corruption. On the one level, these are just teens who want to do the things that teenagers do, but they can’t just be teens because their actions have never had so much consequence. I love both The Heist Society and the Gallagher Girls series, and this one does not disappoint.

Publisher’s Book Description

A new series of global proportions — from master of intrigue, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Ally Carter.

Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:

1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.

As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her — so there’s no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door, who is keeping his eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands.

Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can’t control Grace — no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn’t stop it, Grace isn’t the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

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Monsters are real. In fact, monsters are born out of our violence. Two opposing cities sit near each other, in the midst of a delicate truce. But there are unseen things in place that are working to upset that delicate truce. There are factions that seek to force the other party to break the truce so that a war can be declared and the monsters can reign supreme. I love this book. I love how it takes the mythology of monsters and makes it something new, I love how it puts our humanity next to the monsters and asks us to question which one is truly evil, and I love the way it takes this really creative premise and uses it to examine power and corruption in politics.

Publisher’s Book Description

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan

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A luxury yacht is gone, and there are very few survivors. Some people want to hide the truth of what happened – and why. Frances Mace knows the truth, and there are some people who will go to any length to keep her silent. I picked up this book because I am a fan of Ryan’s zombie series, and I was surprised by this book; It was the first book I read on this list and it made me go hmmm, that’s a really interesting look at the world of political influence for teens. So I end this list by the first book that got me compiling this list in my head. I know there are others, so what titles do you recommend? Please add yours in the comments. I think it’s really important that we get teens reading books like these and thinking about what’s happening behind the scenes in their local, state and federal government.

Publisher’s Book Description

I’m the daughter of murdered parents.
I’m the friend of a dead girl.
I’m the lover of my enemy.
And I will have my revenge.

In the wake of the devastating destruction of the luxury yacht Persephone, just three souls remain to tell its story—and two of them are lying. Only Frances Mace knows the terrifying truth, and she’ll stop at nothing to avenge the murders of everyone she held dear. Even if it means taking down the boy she loves and possibly losing herself in the process.

Sharp and incisive, Daughter of Deep Silence by bestselling author Carrie Ryan is a deliciously smart revenge thriller that examines perceptions of identity, love, and the lengths to which one girl is willing to go when she thinks she has nothing to lose.

P.S., Cory Doctorow is, of course, a great author that you should be reading on this topic as well.