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Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Rethinking How We Think about Cheerleaders

trampolineMy 8-year-old keeps saying she wants to be a cheerleader, something The Mr. keeps routinely saying no to. And when he says no, you can hear it –  there is an edge of disgust to his voice. The truth is, we have a lot of animosity towards cheerleaders, thanks in no small part to the ongoing media depiction of them as vapid, social climbing mean girls who just want to shake their booties in a short skirt and attract the attention of the star quarterback. And so many of us buy into it.

The Bestie is a cheerleader and I have watched her work hard to perfect her craft. She just spent months taking extra gymnastics classes to learn how to stick stunning acrobatic flips that could harm her body if she doesn’t perfect her technique. She has put in as much blood, sweat and tears as that star quarterback everyone lauds in the bleachers. And the truth is, many girls start their pursuit of cheerleading in the local gym long before their male counterparts ever think about walking onto that field. Gymnastics, dance lessons, running, stretching, conditioning – these are all a part of the behind the scenes life of a cheerleader.

This what the trampoline is used for when they're not perfecting their flips.

This what the trampoline is used for when they’re not perfecting their flips.

Are some cheerleaders vapid social climbers? Yes. And some football players are dumb jocks and some band geeks are, well, geeks. But the truth is, that like any group of people, stereotypes are harmful and counterproductive. Cheerleaders are cheerleaders, but they are also sons and daughters and friends and siblings and cousins and students and and and. . . They are multidimensional people and it’s time we stopped perpetuating harmful stereotypes. Yes, even about cheerleaders.

So here are 2 must read books that help break down those harmful stereotypes about cheerleaders, both of which I am making sure The Bestie reads because we love and support her and think she’s awesome. I’m proud every day of who she is and all that she has accomplished, both as a cheerleader and as an amazingly complex young woman. And when they 8-year-old is old enough, she’ll be reading them too as we support her pursuit of her passion. If you have more books you would like to recommend, please add them in the comments.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston

exit-pursuedThis is one of my favorite books from last year. It presents a strong female friendship and a look at how we should respond when a girl is raped (as opposed to the awful ways people often actually respond). And it happens to feature an entire group of cheerleaders as strong, hard working, multi-dimensional people. This depiction of cheerleaders is one of my favorites because it highlights the sportsmanship and teamwork that goes into this sport.

Publisher’s Book Description

Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights, this doesn’t mean what you think it means. At PHHS, the cheerleaders don’t cheer for the sports teams; they are the sports team—the pride and joy of a tiny town. The team’s summer training camp is Hermione’s last and marks the beginning of the end of…she’s not sure what. She does know this season could make her a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black.

In every class, there’s a star cheerleader and a pariah pregnant girl. They’re never supposed to be the same person. Hermione struggles to regain the control she’s always had and faces a wrenching decision about how to move on. The assault wasn’t the beginning of Hermione Winter’s story and she’s not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale.

Moxie by Jennifer Matheiu

moxieThis book doesn’t come out until September of this year, but I have already read it and it is one of the best books 0f 2017 in my opinion. Moxie highlights a social revolution at a high school as the girls (and some boys) begin to realize how much toxic power certain groups of guys have at their school. They begin to stage a revolution calling out toxic masculinity, dress codes, and sexual harassment in their hallways. One of the characters is a cheerleader who becomes an important part of the movement and is presented as a fully fleshed out, complex and interesting character. Her peers eventually realize that the stereotypes they may hold about her are just that, harmful stereotypes.

Publisher’s Book Description:

An unlikely teenager starts a feminist revolution at a small-town Texan high school in the new novel from Jennifer Matheiu, author of The Truth About Alice.

MOXIE GIRLS FIGHT BACK!

Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with a school administration at her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes, hallway harassment, and gross comments from guys during class. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv’s mom was a tough-as-nails, punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, and now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. As Viv forges friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

Moxie is a book about high school life that will make you wanna riot!

Take 5: A List of YA Lists on Refugees

readmorebooks2Instead of putting together our own list of YA titles that feature refugees here at TLT, I thought I would instead direct you to several other lists that are already out there because this is an important topic and we should all make sure we have some good titles in our collections to represent this important issue.

Nerdy Book Club List of Refugees

Stacked: YA Stories About Refugees

Stacked: 3 On a Theme: Refugees in YA Nonfiction

Scottish Book Trust: 12 Teens Books About Refugees

The Educator’s Room: 5 YA Novels to Understand Refugees

There is also a list of books tagged refugees on Goodreads, but this is a user generated list so you’ll want to investigate the titles a little more.

Goodreads List of Refugee Titles

 

 

Twin Cities Teen Lit Con

TCTLC2This past Saturday I got to spend the day hanging out at Twin Cities Teen Lit Con. I was asked to present two sessions on What to Read Next. The lineup they had was phenomenal. Check out the program, some pictures from my presentation, and some of the swag I got. My talk was about new and forthcoming YA that’s not to be missed, with an emphasis on diverse voices, LGBTQIA+ titles, and mental health issues. I had about 75ish attendees for each session. It was great to watch everyone taking notes or murmuring over summaries. All summaries on the slides are adapted from publishers’ descriptions of the titles. I had handouts with the reading list, #MHYALit handouts (with info about the project and suggested titles), and a ton of books, tshirts, bookmarks, postcards, and more generously donated by kind author friends to be used as raffle items. I went over summaries of the books and shared what I liked about a book, why it was a stand-out title, and if the author had past books that shouldn’t be missed. It was a fantastic day. Authors, you need to get in on this. And YA enthusiasts, you should attend next year. It was a blast.  A big thank you to Teen Lit Con for having me and congratulations on a successful event. For a lot more on the event, check out their Twitter @TeenLitCon and #TeenLitCon.

 

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YA for NJ is Live!

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In case you missed it, YA for NJ is a charity auction going on NOW through December 6 to benefit victims of Hurricane Sandy.  Items are being auctioned off via ebay.  There are a TON of signed books and ARCs, with at last count over 170 YA and MG authors participating.  Follow YAforNJ on Twitter or Facebook, and put in your bids!  It’s for a good cause, and they are wonderful lots!  And who wouldn’t want signed books or ARCs for presents!  Curious if your favorite YA/ MG author is participating?  Check out the list after the break!

Authors who are participating in the YA for NJ auction- Did your favorite make the list?

1. Katie Alender
2. Elise Allen
3. Tara Altebrando
4. Swati Avasthi
5. Sean Beaudoin
6. Daphne Benedis-Grab
7. Charlotte Bennardo & Natalie Zaman
8. Josh Berk
9. Holly Black
10. Coe Booth
11. Liz Braswell
12. Libba Bray
13. Kate Brian
14. Elise Broach
15. Anne Brown
16. Teri Brown
17. Alexandra Bullen
18. Jessica Burkhart
19. Niki Burnham
20. Jen Calonita
21. Anna Carey
22. Kay Cassidy
23. Cecil Castellucci
24. Jennifer Castle
25. Cherry Cheva
26. Colleen Clayton
27. Susane Colasanti
28. Zoraida Cordova
29. Eireann Corrigan
30. John Coy
31. Leah Cypess
32. Gitty Daneshvari
33. Jenny Davidson
34. Jocelyn Davies
35. Cathleen Davitt Bell
36. Timothy Decker
37. Melissa DeLaCruz
38. Matt De La Pena
39. Sarah Dessen
40. Julia DeVillers
41. Erin Downing
42. Dan Ehrenhaft
43. Simone Elkeles
44. Elizabeth Eulberg
45. Gayle Forman
46. Aimee Friedman
47. Natasha Friend
48. Margie Gelbwasser
49. Lisa Graff
50. Lisa Greenwald
51. Adele Griffin
52. Kimberly Griffiths Little
53. Alissa Grosso
54. Melissa Glenn Haber
55. Megan Kelley Hall
56. Jenny Han
57. Kim Harrington
58. Pete Hautman
59. Gwendolyn Heasley
60. Deborah Helligman
61. Leanna Renee Hieber
62. Jeff Hirsch
63. Ellen Hopkins
64. Jennifer R. Hubbard
65. Jennifer Jabaley
66. Jim Jennewein
67. Antony John
68. PG Kain
69. Melissa Kantor
70. Kristen Kemp
71. Kody Keplinger
72. A.S. King
73. Gordon Korman
74. Amy Goldman Koss
75. Bob Krech
76. Nina LaCour
77. David LaRochelle
78. Martin Leicht & Isla Neal
79. Claire Legrand
80. David Levithan
81. Sarah Darer Littman
82. E. Lockhart
83. David Lubar
84. Eric Luper
85. Carolyn Mackler
86. Mari Mancusi
87. Andy Marino
88. Wendy Mass
89. Terra Elan McAvoy
90. Megan McCafferty
91. Kelly McClymer
92. Kathy McCullough
93. Abby McDonald
94. Lauren McLaughlin
95. Lisa McMann
96. Amy McNamara
97. Brian Meehl
98. Kate Messner
99. Kate Milford
100. Barney Miller
101. Sarah Mlynowski
102. Carley Moore
103. Sally Nemeth
104. Michael Northrop
105. Sarah Ockler
106. Lauren Oliver
107. Kenneth Oppel
108. Micol Ostow
109. Iva-Marie Palmer
110. Lisa Papademetriou
111. James Patterson & Christ Tebbetts
112. Marlene Perez
113. Stephanie Perkins
114. Helen Phillips
115. Gae Polisner
116. Kim Purcell
117. Matthew Quick
118. Randi Reisfeld
119. Patrick Ryan
120. Leila Sales
121. Lisa Ann Sandell
122. Pat Schmatz
123. Karen Schreck
124. Eliot Schrefer
125. Victoria Schwab
126. Elizabeth Scott
127. Kieran Scott
128. Rebecca Serle
129. Darren Shan
130. Alyssa Sheinmel
131. Courtney Sheinmel
132. Sara Shepard
133. Abby Sher
134. Linda Joy Singleton
135. Jon Skovron
136. Alexander Gordon Smith
137. Jennifer E. Smith
138. Carol Snow
139. Sonya Sones
140. Jordan Sonnenblick
141. Jerry Spinelli
142. Caissie St.Onge
143. Ann Stampler
144. Natalie Standiford
145. Rebecca Stead
146. Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia
147. Laurie Stolarz
148. Francisco Stork
149. Stephanie Kate Strohm
150. Carol Tanzman
151. Mary G. Thompson
152. Rachel Vail
153. Alison Van Diepen
154. Siobhan Vivian
155. Ned Vizzini
156. Cecily VonZiegesar
157. Adrienne Vrettos
158. Melissa Walker
159. K.M. Walton
160. Robin Wasserman
161. Lynn Weingarten
162. Nancy Werlin
163. John Corey Whaley
164. Alecia Whitaker
165. Daisy Whitney
166. Ellen Wittlinger
167. Jake Wizner
168. Jacqueline Woodson
169. Alexa Young
170. Sara Zarr

Don’t forget to bid, and to check back to make sure you win!

Show Me How to Live: Guest blogger Eric Devine talks YA Lit with the boys in his class

Today, ya author of Tap Out and high school teacher Eric Devine presents a guest post on getting boys to read.  As you know, trying to turn teenage boys into readers can be a challenge.  So Eric sat down with the boys in his class and asked them what they wanted in the books that they read.  Here is that discussion.

Show Me How to Live

As a YA fiction writer, I write books that I hope teenage boys will read. As a high school English teacher, I try to foster readership for all my students. Based on my conversation with a mostly white, middle class group of sophomore boys, and my own inclinations as a writer and educator, I may be striving for the impossible.

The Questions

I asked my aforementioned boys the following:

1.     What do you like about Young Adult literature?

2.     What do you dislike about Young Adult literature?

3.     Do you read YA for pleasure? If so, why? If not, why?

 First off, the boys had a difficult time defining “Young Adult literature”. I narrowed the field to stories about anyone 14 to 17 years old. One of the girls said, “Like Hunger Games? Or Twilight?” I affirmed her response and that got the ball rolling. Sort of.

The Likes:

Excitement

Action

Violence

Zombies

Sci-Fi

Superheroes

Individuals with power (supernatural or otherwise)

Apocalypse

Romance (a small minority)

This makes sense to me. Boys are drawn to action and adventure, either by design or by upbringing. Even the most sensitive male teen will fall into a story that is fast-paced. I have also seen that boys like violence, especially in the form of vengeance by one of the powerful or superhero characters. This, to me, speaks of their comfort with the universal black and white, good versus evil archetype. They don’t see this violence as excessive or unnecessary. It’s part of the world when evil exists. More on this later. I can also appreciate the inclination toward the supernatural and Sci-Fi, because such genres are of “other” places, where events occur outside the realm of possibility, and are, therefore, not threatening, because they’re not about “real life”.

The Dislikes:

Events are not handled as they would be in real life

The characters act too immature

The time it takes to read

The title “Young Adult” itself

I was surprised by these answers to a degree. I’ve long seen boys choose video games over books, but the idea that conflicts and characters were not demonstrative of how life is was unnerving. And the last comment, the label, was something I had never considered. According to one boy, “Why would I want to be seen checking out a book for a young adult. I want to read adult things?”

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0gQNxQ4kjw] 

 Why/Why Not?

The time it takes

More enjoyable to watch a movie than to read a book

Simply, “I do not read.”

There was nothing shocking here. Boys will be blunt. Reading is not their thing. It’s for girls. They have better ways to spend their time.

 My Conclusions

I already knew as a teacher that I’m in a staggering uphill battle. Therefore, this conversation only confirmed that I must continue to show the merit of reading and practice what I preach. Talk books, garner interest, bring them to the library.

As a writer I cannot shy away from the reluctance. I must use it as a challenge, which I’ve already done with Tap Out. I wrote a novel that meets all of the requirements on the “like” list, while refusing to succumb to a shallow representation of the good versus evil motif. I demonstrated that life is gray, muddled, and that who is good and just isn’t always clear. There aren’t always untarnished protagonists, who in the end are victorious.

And that act and this conversation have brought me to one conclusion: Boys want to be shown how to live.

I mean this in both the literal and figurative sense. Boys will read. They will read non-fiction, especially sports and military related stories. There’s comfort there, and no stigma. Same with the superheroes and supernatural, because really, aren’t our sports stars and military heroes the template for such? Or vice versa?

Boys want manuals for life, stories about how to get from A to B, and not with the safety nets that are sometimes present in YA, because they know they will never exist for them in the real world. Boys want to walk away from a story with a lesson that is valuable for what they deem is important in life. And by the “like” list we can see that they need some guidance.

If we follow my logic, they don’t like violence inherently, they read about it to avoid the scrape, or possibly to learn how to kick ass if the time comes. That’s not an endorsement, but a reality. Boys get this. They also want to see themselves in mythical status, the superhero of their story. And why shouldn’t they? That’s how you build confidence, which so many of my boys lack, or fail to present in any way beyond cockiness. Boys also seem to understand that the villain also sees himself as the hero of his own story, and that whoever has the most power dictates which narrative unfolds. Frightening, but true in a world of social media, instant rumor mill and the pervasive bully, who now lurks in corners, hangs out in the open, and strikes from all angles.

I believe the zombies and romance elements are rooted in the same concern: love. This is a giant untouchable for boys. They don’t talk about love. They don’t talk about feelings much, period (at least in a class). Men don’t either. Not stereotypically or theoretically, but in the majority. So why should boys buck the trend? Because they’re still naive enough, still hopeful enough, and still vulnerable enough to learn.

Zombies are the manifestation of death of the human spirit. They exist, but have no emotion, just pure desire for the ultimate taboo. Romance is on the other end of the spectrum, the pining, the swooning, the tears—all of which gets made fun of during Romeo and Juliet, but in reality hits home when it’s delivered correctly in YA. Boys stumble, are inarticulate, are overwhelmed by hormones. They need a character to be there, too, but somehow still manage to go out with the girl. Not because possession of the girl is the goal, but love is. Feeling. Not being a zombie.

Teachers, find stories that address the criteria of the “like” list for your boys. Ignore the dislikes. Enough good reading and they may forget they disliked books in the first place. Read with them. Talk to them about what they’re reading. Encourage. We have enough non-readers as is, and as Twain said, “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”

Writers, be brave, and if writing for boys, just go for it. Don’t be afraid to be politically correct or feel compelled to follow some stock template for your protagonist. Believe that you are filling a fundamental need, and that is to teach our youth something vital. That’s what storytelling is all about, anyway. Your characters should be flawed and genuine, and if you care enough to bring them through conflicts that alter their perceptions, challenge their biases and beliefs, stretch their mettle beyond what they assume reasonable, guess what? You’ll have done the same for our boys. You will have shown them how to live. For that, we can all thank you.
 
 Eric Devine is a teacher and author of the new young adult novel Tap Out, published by Running Press Kids.  You can read more about it at his webpage or at Goodreads.  Tap Out is the contemporary story of 17-year-old Tony, growing up in a trailer park where a string of abusive men come in and out of his and his mother’s life.  Tony may have found a way out when he joins a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) class, but there are so many elements – including local gangs – that can be hard to escape in the neighborhood.  The Mr. read Tap Out and gave it a thumbs up.  It is gritty and raw and real, but so our the lives that some of our teens are living.  The language can be rough, but it reflects the environment that Tony is growing up in.  For some teens, they will see themselves reflected in this book.  For others, they will get a glimpse into a life that can’t imagine but is sadly all to real for some of our teenage boys.  Tap Out by Eric Devine is in stores now (ISBN 9780762445691).