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

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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: 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

 

 

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.

Take 5: YA Lit Titles for Makers and MakerSpaces

Collection development is an active process in which I, like all librarians, actively seek to build balanced collections of all types of books. Because we have an active and popular Teen MakerSpace, one of the things I actively look for are “maker” related books. These can be books that include any type of maker related activity, including djing and music production, coding, hacking, robotics, film making and more. Here are 5 new (and newish) books that somehow relate to the concept of making.

Dotwav by Mike A. Lancaster

dotwavPublisher’s Book Description

Fifteen-year-old Ani Lee is a skilled hacker researching a strange .wav file that she’s downloaded when it behaves as no file ever should.

Joe Dyson is a seventeen-year-old American transplant recruited into secret teen division of the British intelligence service who’s looking into the disappearance of a friend caught up in an underground music scene that might be more than it appears.

When Ani and Joe’s investigations intertwine, they discover that the .wav file and the music are linked—someone’s embedding the file into tracks to create a mind-controlled teen army.

But who’s behind it? And why? And how do you stop a sound? (Sky Pony Press, September 2016)

Karen’s Thoughts

If you love books where teens act as spies or secret agents, this book is for you. It is also a fascinating look at how technology can be combined with music production to . . . what exactly? Control populations? Subvert? Like I said, fascinating. Lancaster writes interesting premises, and given the leaps and bounds being made with technology these days they terrify as well as fascinate. Also, there is a female hacker in this book (whom I adore) and this would be a good companion novel with the Find Me series by Romily Bernard, which also features a female hacker.

Titans by Victoria Scott

titansPublishers Book Description

Ever since the Titans first appeared in her Detroit neighborhood, Astrid Sullivan’s world has revolved around the mechanical horses. She and her best friend have spent countless hours watching them and their jockeys practice on the track. It’s not just the thrill of the race. It’s the engineering of the horses and the way they’re programmed to seem so lifelike. The Titans are everything that fascinates Astrid, and nothing she’ll ever touch.

She hates them a little, too. Her dad lost everything betting on the Titans. And the races are a reminder of the gap between the rich jockeys who can afford the expensive machines to ride, and the working class friends and neighbors of Astrid’s who wager on them.

But when Astrid’s offered a chance to enter an early model Titan in this year’s derby, well, she decides to risk it all. Because for a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, it’s more than a chance at fame or money. Betting on herself is the only way she can see to hang on to everyone in the world she cares about. (Scholastic, February 2016)

Karen’s Thoughts

Teenage girls that build mechanical creatures to race while smashing the patriarchy? Why yes please. I loved so much about this book from premise to characters, and it is the most classicly maker feeling book on the list. From problem solving to hands on building, this book is maker culture on full display.

Replica by Lauren Oliver

replicaPublishers Book Description

Gemma has been in and out of hospitals since she was born. ‘A sickly child’, her lonely life to date has revolved around her home, school and one best friend, Alice. But when she discovers her father’s connection to the top secret Haven research facility, currently hitting the headlines and under siege by religious fanatics, Gemma decides to leave the sanctuary she’s always known to find the institute and determine what is going on there and why her father’s name seems inextricably linked to it.

Amidst the frenzy outside the institute’s walls, Lyra – or number 24 as she is known as at Haven – and a fellow experimental subject known only as 72, manage to escape. Encountering a world they never knew existed outside the walls of their secluded upbringing , they meet Gemma and, as they try to understand Haven’s purpose together, they uncover some earth-shattering secrets that will change the lives of both girls forever… (Harper Collins, October 2016)

Karen’s Thoughts

Full disclosure, I haven’t finished reading this one to completion yet. But put this on your list of suggested reads for Strange Things fans. Also full disclosure, I’m a big Lauren Oliver fan.

Gamescape by Emma Trevayne

gamescapePublishers Book Description

The planet is dying. Centuries of abuse have damaged the earth beyond repair, and now all the authorities can do is polish the surface, make the landscape look pretty to hide the disease within. Two prominent yet mysterious businessmen couldn’t fix it, either, but they did something even better. Together, they invented Chimera, the most complex and immersive virtual reality video game the world has ever known. The Cubes in which Chimera is played quickly became a fixture of this landscape: part distraction, part hospital, and almost wholly responsible for holding up the failing world economy.

Miguel Anderson is also dying. He isn’t the only one who plays the game–everybody does–but Miguel has more reason than most: When players leave their Cubes for the day, the upgrades and enhancements they’ve earned for their virtual characters leave with them. New lungs to breathe poisoned air, skin that won’t burn under the sun are great and everything… but Miguel, born as broken as the earth, needs a new heart–and soon–if he wants any hope of surviving just a little longer.

Then the two Gamerunners announce a competition, with greater rewards and faster progression than ever before, and Miguel thinks his prayers have been answered. All he needs to do is get picked to lead a team, play the game he’s spent years getting good at, and ask for his prize when he wins. Simple, really.

At first, things seem to go according to plan. Mostly, anyway. Inside his Cube, with his new team–including his best friend–at his back, Miguel begins his quest. He plays recklessly, even dangerously, for someone whose most vital organ could give up at any moment, but his desperation makes him play better than ever. The eyes of the world are on him, watching through status updates and live feeds, betting on his chances. With greater rewards, though, come greater risks, and the Gamerunners seem to delight at surprising the competitors at every turn. As he ventures deeper into a world that blends the virtual and the real to an unsettling degree, Miguel begins to wonder just why the game was invented at all, and whether its stakes could be even higher than life and death. (Greenwillow, September 2016)

Karen’s Thoughts

I haven’t read this yet, but gaming, game design and coding are all very popular topics with teens in my Teen MakerSpace. For more video game related reads, check out this list.

Boy Robot by Simon Curtis

boyrobotPublishers Book Description

Boy Robot is the first in a planned science fiction trilogy that follows a group of synthetic cell human teens with special abilities as they fight against the government organization that created them and now wants to destroy them. (Simon Pulse, November 2016)

Karen’s Thoughts

On my TBR list

Have some other titles to add to my list? I would love for you to drop me a comment. I’m always looking for new ones.

Sumer #YALit #ARCParty

 

A look at some upcoming May, June and July ARCs of YA Lit

  1. Getting ready to start an #aRCParty with The Teen & Bestie to look at some upcoming new releases.
  2. Here’s how it works: they’ll read the back of each book out loud & share whether they think it sounds good. #arcparty
  3. Here's a look at the May 2016 #yalit titles we'll be looking at for today's #ARCParty https://t.co/W8dLF5lih5

    Here’s a look at the May 2016 #yalit titles we’ll be looking at for today’s #ARCParty pic.twitter.com/W8dLF5lih5
  4. Montana, Romance, The Bestie says YES because she is into horses & loves romance #ARCParty Present day & past https://t.co/VhO1G2tPoa

    Montana, Romance, The Bestie says YES because she is into horses & loves romance #ARCParty Present day & past pic.twitter.com/VhO1G2tPoa
  5. Selective mutism, power, identity - @VictoriaLBYR sold me hardcore on this book & its look at power #arcparty https://t.co/tULhLdv9is

    Selective mutism, power, identity – @VictoriaLBYR sold me hardcore on this book & its look at power #arcparty pic.twitter.com/tULhLdv9is
  6. Summer in Hawaii, can you escape home? Betrayal, relationships, forgiveness #ARCParty Disney Hyperion https://t.co/tX58JpCB74

    Summer in Hawaii, can you escape home? Betrayal, relationships, forgiveness #ARCParty Disney Hyperion pic.twitter.com/tX58JpCB74
  7. A new Bryan Bliss! Military families, effects of service, identity, one night adventures #ARCParty https://t.co/zQULx51iJX

    A new Bryan Bliss! Military families, effects of service, identity, one night adventures #ARCParty pic.twitter.com/zQULx51iJX
  8. THE LIE TREE: A young woman can not resist a mystery, family scandal, science, fantasy SOUNDS GOOD 
#ARCParty https://t.co/Ix0sOIakEW

    THE LIE TREE: A young woman can not resist a mystery, family scandal, science, fantasy SOUNDS GOOD
    #ARCParty pic.twitter.com/Ix0sOIakEW
  9. After her mom does, a teen girl finds a priceless piece of memorabilia; southern life #ARCParty https://t.co/VGumQD2Pci

    After her mom does, a teen girl finds a priceless piece of memorabilia; southern life #ARCParty pic.twitter.com/VGumQD2Pci
  10. A TOTALLY AWKWARD LOVE STORY : "toilet boy Cinderella", sounds funny, romantic #ARCParty https://t.co/snp0891v8Q

    A TOTALLY AWKWARD LOVE STORY : “toilet boy Cinderella”, sounds funny, romantic #ARCParty pic.twitter.com/snp0891v8Q
  11. Teenage rebellion, teens falls in love w/poet, self discovery, the power of story #ARCParty https://t.co/nyTvClVHof

    Teenage rebellion, teens falls in love w/poet, self discovery, the power of story #ARCParty pic.twitter.com/nyTvClVHof
  12. Keplinger uses her own experiences growing up legally blind to inform this story; friends on the run #ARCParty https://t.co/SYMXO9dyfb

    Keplinger uses her own experiences growing up legally blind to inform this story; friends on the run #ARCParty pic.twitter.com/SYMXO9dyfb
  13. Alternate Earth; identity, sci fi, . . . "Nothing on Earth will ever be the same again" #ARCParty https://t.co/avAAqCJdYs

    Alternate Earth; identity, sci fi, . . . “Nothing on Earth will ever be the same again” #ARCParty pic.twitter.com/avAAqCJdYs
  14. What if everyone in town starts to turn into wax figures? Love this author, great concept #ARCParty https://t.co/AjysxKkUyN

    What if everyone in town starts to turn into wax figures? Love this author, great concept #ARCParty pic.twitter.com/AjysxKkUyN
  15. Teen writes an article for the Huffington Post, scores an agent; Reshma tries to be "American girl" #ARCParty https://t.co/Gyq3QHj6vS

    Teen writes an article for the Huffington Post, scores an agent; Reshma tries to be “American girl” #ARCParty pic.twitter.com/Gyq3QHj6vS
  16. "One of these truths is a lie, and not everyone will live to find out what it is" - Boom! #ARCParty https://t.co/Yy3jXZT2Id

    “One of these truths is a lie, and not everyone will live to find out what it is” – Boom! #ARCParty pic.twitter.com/Yy3jXZT2Id
  17. 7 interwoven stories about 1 fateful day that changes everything #ARCParty https://t.co/eq01yVd5Ks

    7 interwoven stories about 1 fateful day that changes everything #ARCParty pic.twitter.com/eq01yVd5Ks
  18. World War 1; Poppy volunteers as a front line nurse; romance and identity #ARCParty https://t.co/Pu2rR7yFEw

    World War 1; Poppy volunteers as a front line nurse; romance and identity #ARCParty pic.twitter.com/Pu2rR7yFEw

November #ARCParty

Here's a look at some upcoming titles and the November #ARCParty where The Teen and The Bestie shared what they think of some of the upcoming titles we've received in the mail here at TLT.

  1. The Teen and The Bestie are here. Gonna have an impromptu #arcparty


  2. A 100 year old mystery. Can she change history? November 2015. #arcparty Both say it sounds good. https://t.co/v9bY1UbPY1

    A 100 year old mystery. Can she change history? November 2015. #arcparty Both say it sounds good. pic.twitter.com/v9bY1UbPY1


  3. Dec 2015. Blind MC. Grief. - The Teen says she is stealing right now to read.#arcparty https://t.co/P0sMoaQrph

    Dec 2015. Blind MC. Grief. – The Teen says she is stealing right now to read.#arcparty pic.twitter.com/P0sMoaQrph




  4. Mental illness. Suicide. Inspired by authors own experiences. Sounds astounding. #arcparty https://t.co/hRSHE2Q09H

    Mental illness. Suicide. Inspired by authors own experiences. Sounds astounding. #arcparty pic.twitter.com/hRSHE2Q09H






  5. So this is by the author of Gorgeous which I actually liked. Subversive humor. #ARCParty https://t.co/xDiF2pNiL9

    So this is by the author of Gorgeous which I actually liked. Subversive humor. #ARCParty pic.twitter.com/xDiF2pNiL9


 

#WeNeedDiverseBooks Panel at Irving Public Library 5/13/15

Last night I attended the We Need Diverse Books panel at the Irving Public Library. It featured I. W. Gregorio, author of None of the Above, Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton, authors of Tiny Pretty Things, Marieke Nijkamp, author of This is Where it Ends, and Natalie C. Parker, author of Beware the Wild. I live tweeted the event and have Storified it here for you.

About the Books:

None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio

A groundbreaking story about a teenage girl who discovers she was born intersex… and what happens when her secret is revealed to the entire school. Incredibly compelling and sensitively told, None of the Above is a thought-provoking novel that explores what it means to be a boy, a girl, or something in between.

What if everything you knew about yourself changed in an instant?

When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She’s a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she’s madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she’s decided that she’s ready to take things to the next level with him.

But Kristin’s first time isn’t the perfect moment she’s planned—something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy “parts.”

Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin’s entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?

Karen’s Note: In her earlier review Amanda MacGregor said, “This is an essential purchase for all libraries. Gregorio’s book is a very welcome addition to the small field of books depicting intersex teens.”

Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

Black Swan meets Pretty Little Liars in this soapy, drama-packed novel featuring diverse characters who will do anything to be the prima at their elite ballet school.

Gigi, Bette, and June, three top students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet school, have seen their fair share of drama. Free-spirited new girl Gigi just wants to dance—but the very act might kill her. Privileged New Yorker Bette’s desire to escape the shadow of her ballet star sister brings out a dangerous edge in her. And perfectionist June needs to land a lead role this year or her controlling mother will put an end to her dancing dreams forever. When every dancer is both friend and foe, the girls will sacrifice, manipulate, and backstab to be the best of the best.

Karen’s Note: Coming May 26th from HarperTeen. I read an EArc on Edelweiss and I really liked this book. In addition to the diversity, it includes a number of important elements that you see in the dance world including eating disorders, drug use, intense rivalries, romance, and more. I thought it was an authentic portrait of the world of competitive anything, even though its focus is dance anyone involved in a competitive activity will be able to identify. Plus it captures those moments of who am I, parental relationships and pressure to succeed, friendships, and more. It has a lot of appeal factors and should be popular with teen readers.

This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

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

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

10:03
The auditorium doors won’t open.

10:05
Someone starts shooting.

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

Karen’s Note: This book will be released in January 2016 from Sourcebooks Fire and I wants it bad.

Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker

It’s an oppressively hot and sticky morning in June when Sterling and her brother, Phin, have an argument that compels him to run into the town swamp—the one that strikes fear in all the residents of Sticks, Louisiana. Phin doesn’t return. Instead, a girl named Lenora May climbs out, and now Sterling is the only person in Sticks who remembers her brother ever existed.

Sterling needs to figure out what the swamp’s done with her beloved brother and how Lenora May is connected to his disappearance—and loner boy Heath Durham might be the only one who can help her.

This debut novel is full of atmosphere, twists and turns, and a swoon-worthy romance.

Karen’s Note: I read half of this last night and it was fantastically creepy. Ally Watkins says, “Beware the Wild is more unsettling than scary, in that it plays with the rules and fears that you’ve carried with you since childhood. What if things you knew to be true suddenly weren’t?”

All book descriptions are the publisher’s descriptions.

 

Priorities, or An Embarrassment of Riches

So sorry I was incapacitated on Monday and didn’t get to post my usual Middle Grade Monday! I hope you can forgive me.

I’ve recently come to the realization that, although my Mother generously gave me a bookcase last year, I still have stacks of books around my house. They’re decorative! But, seriously, I’ve had a rather large number of titles pop up in my mailbox (both physical and electronic) lately. As well, we’ve gotten some new books at the library that I have started reading – you know, to get an idea of how to book talk them…and haven’t been able to put them down. It’s nothing like Karen’s collection, but to me it’s overwhelming.

That’s where you come in, dearest reader.

I still need to finish Kekla Magoon’s Camo Girl, Jennifer Nielsen’s Mark of the Thief, and Elana K. Arnold’s Infandous – all of which I am in the midst of reading. And after that my next title to review is Sarah Dessen’s Saint Anything (stay tuned for a giveaway!) But, after that, I need to decide between the following books. First, we have the physical ARCs and copies that have found their way onto my stacks:

 But next, we have all of the eARCs for which I’ve been approved lately, including these:

So, dear reader, which would you choose?

#tearyya: the books that made us cry (and a sneak peek at VIOLENT ENDS)

Yesterday I read an ARC of VIOLENT ENDS, and it made me cry. In a couple of places actually. That doesn’t happen as often as you would think it would. So that got me thinking, what books have made you actually cry? Several people shared their Teary YA Reads on Twitter with the hashtag #tearyya and I compiled them all here. You can add yours if you don’t see it listed in the comments.

About Violent Ends:

A novel with 17 authors, edited by Shaun David Hutchinson. The story centers on a 16-year-old school shooter, with each chapter set at a time around the shooting and told by characters who knew him, trying to answer one question: Why?

Coming in September from Simon Pulse. Definitely put this on your TBR list and add it to your library collections.

Some other books that deal with the topic of school shootings:

Hate List by Jennifer Brown

19 Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Give a Boy a Gun by Todd Strasser

Shooter by Walter Dean Myers

A Goodreads List

A Response: The Case for Good Taste in Children’s Literature

The Background
Here’s a secret: Christie, Heather, Robin and I have become really good friends as we have traveled this co-blogging journey together.  We often email each other throughout the day, bouncing ideas off of each other, talking about books, complaining about patrons (and sometimes our children).  So yesterday Christie sent me a link to an article that got us all talking.  Rather than writing out a response to it, we thought we would just share our behind the scenes conversation.

Here a link to the original article: The Case for Good Taste in Children’s Books

Heather’s Take
 
Just like in every other aspect of life and culture, there are options that are roundly understood to be exceptional, classic works, shining examples of virtue and grace, and options that serve other purposes.  They’re easy to access.  They’re entertaining.  They reflect contemporary situations.  They are escapist, providing contrasts to everyday life.  Books, even books for young people, are no different.  As a parent, I’m urged to make all of the “right” choices for my children all of the time, and berated by certain factions when I don’t.   (For these folks, there is only ever one right option.) From food to bedtimes to medical care to educational opportunities, someone always knows better, and parents never win.  I’ll take this article with the same grain of salt I use for others in a similar vein.  

I stand by my longstanding assertion that teens read for escape, connection, and information. Sometimes what they get from reading those “horrible” books with bad things is an appreciation for what they DO have. Sometimes they get the reassurance that they are not alone in their nightmares.  Sometimes they are gaining an understanding, in a fictional context, of the horrors that surround them daily in the news. 

She asserts that parents should steer their children toward more edifying work.  Fine.  Parents are welcome to do that.  But what’s even more powerful, potentially life changing, and affirming than reading that virtuous book is deliberately choosing to do so.
Robin’s Take
 
Exactly. My Mom chose to shelter us from violence, but not from sexual content. That definitely shaped who I am, and that was her prerogative. She didn’t see any need to restrict what other people’s children were exposed to. It’s quite interesting living in the heart of the Bible belt, where most of my friends were sheltered from sexual content but not from violence. 
This is the part of the article that disturbs me the most:
Young Adult book author Sherman Alexie wrote a rebuttal to my article entitled, “Why the Best Kids Books are Written in Blood.” In it, he asks how I could honestly believe that a sexually explicit Young Adult novel might traumatize a teenaged mother. “Does she believe that a YA novel about murder and rape will somehow shock a teenager whose life has been damaged by murder and rape? Does she believe a dystopian novel will frighten a kid who already lives in hell?”
Well of course I don’t. But I also don’t believe that the vast majority of 12-to-18-year-olds are living in hell. And as for those who are, does it really serve them to give them more torment and sulphur in the stories they read?”

I don’t think she’s in touch with the average teenager today. She sounds like she’s cut off from the realities of daily existence for so much of our population. I understand how that can happen, but perhaps that makes a case for those of us who are ‘in the trenches’ to be better judges of what is appropriate in Young Adult literature. It is often this same mentality that causes people to believe that those who aren’t making it financially are ‘just lazy.’ And that it will ruin our economy for everyone to have access to adequate healthcare and nutrition.
Does it serve children living in devastating circumstances to offer them stories of people in hard situations that they can relate to and maybe learn coping skills, or see hope that they can survive their current difficulties? I think so. Does it serve them to offer them stories so engaging that they can momentarily escape from their current troubles? Yes, we all need that. Does it serve them to only offer them stories of realities that are so unlike their own that they can’t even begin to relate to the characters? No. We need to meet the readers where they are. We need to feed their diverse interests. We need to empower them to tell their own stories. Limiting their exposure to only things that a part of society finds beautiful and ‘redemptive’ will silence these voices. It is another way of telling them that their experiences don’t matter. That they don’t count. That they are worthless.
 
There is great beauty in the midst of every tragedy. Friends sacrifice for those they love. Societies come together to protect the weak and disadvantaged. Can you really understand the enormity of what Denmark did for its Jewish citizens in smuggling them to Sweden without first comprehending the horror of the Nazi regime? Can you understand the importance of the idea that you are not defined by the evil that others enact upon you and your body without discussing those evils and the havoc they wreak in lives on a daily basis?
Karen’s Take
I guess it depends on where you live as to whether or not you believe a vast majority of teens are living in hell.  I have spent way too much time with far too many teens that were starving, both for food and love.  Statistics indicate that 1 out of 3 girls will be the victim of some type of sexual violence by the time they reach age 18.  For boys it is 1 out of 5.  I’ve watched grandparents raise teenagers as parents were off somewhere dying in gutters from drug abuse or in jail.  I just feel like there is a segment of the population that is happy and living gleefully sheltered lives and they don’t understand that not all lives are like theirs.  But when we write books that open doors onto these different lives, when we recognize that they exist – only then can we begin to acknowledge them and work to make the world a different place.  It’s easy to put blinders on and believe that teens aren’t living in poverty, because once you recognize that poverty exists and what it is like I think the moral response is to work to change that.  And teens that are living these lives, sometimes of course they want escapist books – don’t we all? – but they also want authentic books, books that don’t talk down to them or sugarcoat things.  The greatest turn off for teens when they open a book is to feel that they are being intellectually demeaned; you must speak truth to teens and be authentic.

But honestly, I don’t think it is fair for someone to say look how bad teen literature is and give only 3 examples.  I can turn right around and give her 3 positive examples of YA lit: Guitar Lessons by Mary Amato is a beautiful story of friendship and being true to yourself, The Raven Cycle by Maggie Steifvater is a beautiful fantasy series that has that literary feel to it she discusses, and Going Vintage by Lindsay Leavitt is a fun, flirty book with positive family and multigenerational interactions.  The thing is, 3 books proves nothing.  It isn’t a representative sampling. There are hundreds of YA books published every year, and they cover such a vast array of lives.  I think YA lit has its shortcomings, we definitely need more diversity for example, but I think it is so rich and bountiful and flourishing.


Further, she uses Scars by Cheryl Rainfield as an example, which really negates her point I think:

“This is why I am skeptical of the social utility of so-called “problem novels”—books that have a troubled main character, such as a girl with a father who started raping her when she was a toddler and anonymously provides her with knives when she is a teenager hoping that she will cut herself to death. (This scenario is from Cheryl Rainfield’s 2010 Young Adult novel, Scars, which School Library Journal hailed as “one heck of a good book.”) The argument in favor of such books is that they validate the real and terrible experiences of teenagers who have been abused, addicted, or raped—among other things. The problem is that the very act of detailing these pathologies, not just in one book but in many, normalizes them. And teenagers are all about identifying norms and adhering to them.”

Here’s the problem with using this example to make her argument: This is Cheryl’s life.  She was suicidal, she was a cutter, she was raped.  She is very open about it.  She writes about it to validate the experiences of those who have – who ARE – living lives exactly like this.  It’s not about framing or building a culture, it is about reflecting the very real lives of teenagers.  Not all teenagers, but some of them.  Yes, their stories make us uncomfortable – they should make us uncomfortable – but we don’t get to say you don’t get to tell your story because it makes me uncomfortable.  And I don’t think these stories normalize them at all, but by exposing them, by drawing back the curtain, we help teens that need it give voice to what is happening, to seek help, to find hope, to stop the crimes that are being committed against them in the dark by bringing them to light. 


But let’s go back all the way to the title of the article: The Case for Good Taste in Children’s Books.  Once again, the title gets to the heart of what the problem is.  What, exactly, is good taste?  Who gets to define that?  It’s interesting to note that in her closing argument she quotes the Bible: Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things (Phil 4:8).  The Bible happens to be one of the MOST CHALLENGED books of all time, in part because it is in fact very violent and sometimes sexual.  But also, the very books she is decrying do in fact reflect a light on truth; there are parts of our world that are in truth very ugly.  And just as Jesus spent his time with tax collectors, Pharisees, adulterers, thieves and murderers so he could save them, I believe He calls us to expose the truth in our world so that we, too, can work to change it.  I often find the characters in YA lit to be very inspiring because they are, in fact, surviving the life situations that they are living.  I feel that the “edgy” YA books that I am reading are thoughtful, reflective, uncomfortable, challenging, inspiring,
I think the answer is that there needs to be balance, a balance that I argue does in fact exist in YA literature.  But then again, I find To Kill a Mockingbird, a book that talks about rape and racism, to be one of the most inspiring books ever written. So what do I know?