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Let’s Talk about MOXIE by Jennifer Mathieu

moxieTrigger Warning: Sexual Violence

This past year was a rough one for The Teen. I got repeated texts from my daughter asking me to please come pick her up at school because she didn’t feel safe. She came home and talked about boys touching her and her friends in the hallways, catcalling, asking them to send naked pics and telling them to suck their d*cks. As a mother and a sexual abuse survivor, it was so hard to watch my daughter go through this year.

During the last few weeks of school 15 girls were sent home for wearing school spirit t-shirts as opposed to the uniform polo shirts. Fifteen. But during an assembly where they were being taught CPR nothing happened to the boys who yelled out to the instructor crude comments about sucking and blowing. Absolutely nothing.

I called the school. I wrote to the admin. I asked them to address their sexual abuse policy and how it was being implemented. I shared with them stories about what was happening to my daughter and her friends.

And in the midst of all of this, I read Moxie.

Moxie is the story of a high school where the girls are going exactly through what my daughter was going through. This book was personal. So I after I read the book, I ran into The Teen’s room and said, “you need to read this right now.”

In Moxie, our main character, Vivian, begins a revolution to call out and raise awareness of harassment and injustice the girls in her high school face. It begins when she finds some old zines in her mother’s closet. She posts her own zine and asks her fellow students to show up on a specified date with stars on their hands to raise awareness. And several do. Over time, the movement evolves. Others post their own zines. Many of the girls hold a bake sale to raise funds for new uniforms for a female sport that isn’t supported in the same way that the HS football team is. When the bake sale is banned on campus, they hold an event off campus. They go from supporting one female sport to all female sports. Their advocacy is a work in progress as they learn, grown, regroup and figure out what it means to be involved and an advocate. I found this process to be incredibly realistic, that is the nature of waking up to injustice and choosing to be vocal. No one is a perfect advocate, ally or activist; we are all learning as we go. So of course these teenage girls are imperfect in their attempts. In fact, I appreciated the way the girls talked and worked out the kinks as they went along in their journey. Character growth is an awesome thing.

In a recent review by Kirkus, there were some harsh criticisms leveled again Moxie and the way these girls approach speaking out about their experiences. The reviewer complained that boys weren’t given a voice and that the book didn’t really address the issue of due process vs. vigilante justice. I disagree with this review.

Kirkus Quote: Vivian’s incensed reaction when her boyfriend suggests the anonymous accuser might be lying ignores the American judicial system’s core tenet of due process.

For one, Vivian has a boyfriend with whom she has many important conversations about these issues, including that of believing the victim. In fact, they have a very good discussion when one of the football players is accused of rape regarding false accusations and the important of believing the victim. It’s also important for us to note that false accusations are incredibly rare, in large part because of the harsh realities that victims must face when they do come out and share their story. We as a culture are quick to blame victims while even convicted offenders like Brock Turner will receive very little jail time as we are more worried about what happens to men who rape as compared to what happens to the girls that they rape. Vivian’s message is believe the victim, and that’s an important message. Victims are re-harmed time and time again because no one will believe them.

Kirkus Quote: But there are troubling moments when Vivian excludes willing male participants, seemingly suggesting that achieving female empowerment requires gender separation.

First, I’m not sure I view this quote as entirely accurate. For example, towards the end of the book, I felt that the girls were in fact thankful for the guy’s who participated in their walk out. As for the criticism that this book doesn’t embrace the activism of feminist men, I reply with this thought: why can’t a book about female empowerment be a book about female empowerment? One of the things I am learning as an ally is that my voice should never rise above that of the group or persons I am trying to be an ally for. In the work of feminism, this is true of the male voice. I appreciate the allyship and support of men when it comes to fighting for equal rights and sexual safety, but the male voice should not be louder than the female voice in this discussion because then nothing about the dynamics have changed. We currently have an all male leadership working to make laws about women’s healthcare and reproductive choices and male senators keep telling female senators to be quiet and sit down – now is the time to raise and amplify the female voice in the discussion of female rights and safety. Men do not lack a platform or a voice, so just this once maybe we can agree to empower our daughters and give them a voice and let men take a back seat. Is that too much to ask? I don’t think it is. I think it is the only way that the dynamics will change. It’s time to listen to women when we talk about women’s rights and bodies and experiences. This is a book that amplifies the female voice in the discussion of female experiences of oppression and sexual violence.

Kirkus Review: Further, the novel fails to educate readers that qualified police investigators, not school officials, must be alerted in accusations of criminal behaviors.

This quote is of particular interest to me because this what not actually the experience of some of the girls and their parents at our school this year. In fact, when a teen girl was held down in class as a boy tried to touch her and another boy tried to video tape it, her mother called the police to report the incident. She was told it was a school and not a police matter. Schools are required by Title IX to protect all students, including to protect them in instances of sexual violence. Unfortunately, schools are failing our students in this regard every single day. 1 in 4 of our daughters will be the victim of some type of sexual violence before they graduate high school. Much of this will take place in our schools. In fact, the police, schools and the judicial system keep failing them.  There are far more guilty Brock Turners who will serve zero to little time after being found guilty.

As the mother of a teenage daughter who went through the exact experiences shown is this book, I feel Moxie is a powerful and important and relevant and inspiring story of how girls can join together to fight for their rights and safety. It’s a novel, not a hand book, but it’s definitely an inspiring starting point that says to girls, you can change the dynamics. What a powerful message that is to receive when you live in a world where you don’t feel safe at your school.

There are other powerful messages and discussions in this book. The characters change their minds about a lot of things as they learn and grow. They come to regard each other differently as they see each other as complex and dynamic people. There is, in fact, a powerful story about a cheerleader and how their stereotypical views of this person change when they receive new information.

I loved this book. It is the book that my teenage daughter and I needed in the midst of this school year. And I know, because I have worked with teens for 23+ years, that her experience was not unique. The first time a boy ever reached out and grabbed my breast was when I was walking through the hallways of my middle school. It was not the only time. Go ask any woman and they will probably be able to share similar stories as the stories that you read about in Moxie. And that’s why this book matters.

I highly recommend it. I’m buying it for every teenager I know.

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.


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!

This book comes out in September 2017

#SJYALit Booklist: Environmental Dystopia, aka Cli-Fi

Cli-Fi is fiction that deals with the topic of climate change. Climate change is an important political and social justice issue as it affects everything from health to food and water resources See, for example, this discussion: The Next Frontier of Climate Change: Climate & Social Justice. Natalie Korsavidis joins us today to share this book list of environmental dystopians as part of the #SJYALit Discussion. You can find out more about the #SJYALIt Discussion here.


Augarde, Steve. X Isle. David Fickling, 2010.

Baz and Ray, survivors of an apocalyptic flood, win places on X-Isle, an island where life is rumored to be better than on the devastated mainland, but they find the island to be a violent place ruled by religious fanatic Preacher John, and they decide they must come up with a weapon to protect themselves from impending danger.

Bacigalupi, Paolo. Ship Breaker. Little, Brown, 2010.

In a futuristic world, teenaged Nailer scavenges copper wiring from grounded oil tankers for a living, but when he finds a beached clipper ship with a girl in the wreckage, he has to decide if he should strip the ship for its wealth or rescue the girl.

Bell, Hilari. Trickster’s Girl. Houghton Mifflin, 2011.

In the year 2098, America isn’t so different from the USA of today. The night Kelsa buries her father, a boy appears. He claims magic is responsible for the health of Earth, but human damage disrupts its flow. The planet is dying. Kelsa has the power to reverse the damage, but first she must accept that magic exists and see beyond her own pain in order to heal the planet.

Bertagna, Julie. Exodus. Macmillan, 2008.

In the year 2100, as the island of Wing is about to be covered by water, fifteen-year-old Mara discovers the existence of New World sky cities that are safe from the storms and rising waters, and convinces her people to travel to one of these cities in order to save themselves.

Crossan, Sarah. Breathe. Greenwillow Books, 2012.

In a barren land, a shimmering glass dome houses the survivors of the Switch, the period when oxygen levels plunged and the green world withered. A state lottery meant a lucky few won safety, while the rest suffocated in the thin air. And now Alina, Quinn, and Bea–an unlikely trio, each with their own agendas, their own longings and fears–walk straight into the heart of danger. With two days’ worth of oxygen in their tanks, they leave the dome. What will happen on the third day?

De la Cruz, Melissa. Frozen*. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2013.

More than a century after a catastrophic disaster wiped out most of humanity and covered much of the earth with ice, fifteen-year-old Cass yields to the voice in her head urging her to embark on a dangerous journey across a poisoned sea to the mythical land, Blue.

Emerson, Kevin. The Lost Code*. Katherine Tegen Books, 2012.

In a world ravaged by global warming, teenage Owen Parker discovers that he may be the descendant of a highly advanced, ancient race, with whose knowledge he may be able to save the earth from self-destruction.

Falkner, Brian. The Tomorrow Code. Random House, 2008.

Two New Zealand teenagers receive a desperate SOS from their future selves and set out on a quest to stop an impending ecological disaster that could mean the end of humanity.


Friesen, Jonathan. Aquifer. Blink, 2013.

In 2250, water is scarce and controlled by tyrants, but when sixteen-year-old Luca descends to the domain of the Water Rats, he meets one who captures his heart and leads him to secrets about a vast conspiracy, and about himself.

Grant, Sara. Dark Parties. Little, Brown, 2011.

Sixteen-year-old Neva, born and raised under the electrified Protectosphere that was built when civilization collapsed in violent warfare, puts her friends, family, and life at risk when she tries to find out if their world is built on a complex series of lies and deceptions.

Helvig, Kristi. Burn Out. EgmonstUSA, 2014.

In the future, when the Earth is no longer easily habitable, seventeen-year-old Tora Reynolds, a girl in hiding, struggles to protect weapons developed by her father that could lead to disaster should they fall into the wrong hands.

Howard, Chris. Rootless. Scholastic, 2012.

Seventeen-year-old Banyan is a tree builder. Using scrap metal and salvaged junk, he creates forests for rich patrons who seek a reprieve from the desolate landscape. Although Banyan’s never seen a real tree, his father used to tell him stories about the Old World. But that was before his father was taken. Everything changes when Banyan meets a woman with a strange tattoo; a clue to the whereabouts of the last living trees on earth, and he sets off across a wasteland from which few return.

Lloyd. Saci. The Carbon Diaries 2015*. Holiday House, 2009.

In 2015, when England becomes the first nation to introduce carbon dioxide rationing in a drastic bid to combat climate change, sixteen-year-old Laura documents the first year of rationing as her family spirals out of control.

Lyga, Barry. After the Red Rain. Little, Brown, 2015.

In the far-off future, humankind has so ravaged the planet that plants and other life forms are nearly extinct. While a corrupt government exercises control over its remaining citizens, a strange boy named Rose turns up in 16-year-old Deedra’s home territory and inspires a quiet uprising that has her questioning everything, from the machines she builds at her factory job to the news provided via “wikinet” feed.

McGann, Oisin. Daylight Runner. Eos, 2008.

Outside the huge domed city, an Ice Age has transformed Earth into an Arctic desert. But inside, the Machine, protected by the Clockworkers—a fearsome police organization—has become the source of the city’s energy and a way for industrial leaders to wield enormous power. When a rogue organization begins posting messages warning of the Machine’s impending failure, civil unrest grows.

McGinnes, Mindy. Not a Drop to Drink. Katherine Tegen Books, 2013.

In the not-too-distant future, water has become scarce. Lynn and her mother are good shots, picking off stray travelers who are tempted by their pond. After her mother is killed by coyotes, Lynn tries to be self-reliant, but she knows that in time the men from a nearby settlement will attempt to seize her land. When her taciturn neighbor Stebbs offers help, she slowly opens herself to his friendship, and her lifelong solitude is further fractured when she meets a family that is trying to survive on the banks of a nearby stream.

McNaughton, Janet. The Secret Under My Skin. Eos, 2005.

In the year 2368, humans exist under dire environmental conditions and one young woman, rescued from a workcamp and chosen for a special duty, uses her love of learning to discover the truth about the planet’s future and her own dark past.

Moyer, Jenny. Flashfall. Henry Holt and Company, 2016.

In a world shattered by radiation fallout, teenaged Orion and her climbing partner Dram, in exchange for freedom, mine terrifying tunnels for a precious element that keeps humans safe from radiation poisoning, but disturbing revelations force Orion to question everything she knows.

Mullin, Mike. Ashfall. Tanglewood, 2011.

After the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano destroys his city and its surroundings, fifteen-year-old Alex must journey from Cedar Falls, Iowa, to Illinois to find his parents and sister, trying to survive in a transformed landscape and a new society in which all the old rules of living have vanished.

Pfeffer, Susan Beth. Life as We Knew It*. Harcourt, 2006.

Through journal entries sixteen-year-old Miranda describes her family’s struggle to survive after a meteor hits the moon, causing worldwide tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions.

Weyn, Suzanne. Empty. Scholastic Press, 2010.

When, just ten years in the future, oil supplies run out and global warming leads to devastating storms, senior high school classmates Tom, Niki, Gwen, Hector, and Brock realize that the world as they know it is ending and lead the way to a more environmentally-friendly society.

If you have titles you would like to add to our list, please add them in the comments.

Additional Information:

Christie Gibrich previously put together THIS list of climate change dystopias.

What is CliFi? An Earth Day Primer

And I put together THIS collection of Earth Day activities, inspired in part by 47 Things You Can Do for the Environment published by Zest Books. Earth Day is coming, a great time to introduce your patrons to CliFi.

Social Justice and Climate Change

Meet Natalie Korsavidis

natalieNatalie Korsavidis is the Head of Young Adult at the Farmingdale Public Library. She received her MLS at CW Post University. She is currently President of the Young Adult Services Division of the Nassau County Library Association. She has spoken at New York Comic Con and the Long Island Pop Culture Convention.


Mini Book Review: Roar by Cora Carmack

roarPublisher’s Book Description:

In a land ruled and shaped by violent magical storms, power lies with those who control them.

Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora’s been groomed to be the perfect queen. She’s intelligent and brave and honorable. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people.

To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks—storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters.

Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage.

She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough.

Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master.

Karen’s Thoughts:

I actually read a pre-bound copy of this book to give it an advance blurb. There was a lot I loved about this book and this was the blurb I gave it:

“Roar is a swoon worthy tale with a fierce female lead who wants to take control of her own destiny and once she does, you will cheer to hear her Roar!”
I always love a book with a strong female protagonist and Roar delivers an authentic portrait of a young woman, Aurora, slowly realizing who she is and what she can do. She is not perfect or perfectly empowered, but she does eventually develop into a more empowered young woman, which I think perfectly mirrors the challenges of growing up female. There some solid world building with a variety of interesting magical powers – I mean, who doesn’t want to control the storms?. And for those who love a little swoon with their fantasy, Roar does not disappoint.
Published by Tor Teen, June 13, 2017

Book Review: Saints and Misfits by S. K. Ali

Publisher’s description

ra6Saints and Misfits is an unforgettable debut novel that feels like a modern day My So-Called Life…starring a Muslim teen.

There are three kinds of people in my world:

1. Saints, those special people moving the world forward. Sometimes you glaze over them. Or, at least, I do. They’re in your face so much, you can’t see them, like how you can’t see your nose.

2. Misfits, people who don’t belong. Like me—the way I don’t fit into Dad’s brand-new family or in the leftover one composed of Mom and my older brother, Mama’s-Boy-Muhammad.

Also, there’s Jeremy and me. Misfits. Because although, alliteratively speaking, Janna and Jeremy sound good together, we don’t go together. Same planet, different worlds.

But sometimes worlds collide and beautiful things happen, right?

3. Monsters. Well, monsters wearing saint masks, like in Flannery O’Connor’s stories.

Like the monster at my mosque.

People think he’s holy, untouchable, but nobody has seen under the mask.

Except me.


Amanda’s thoughts

Ali - Saints and MisfitsThis excellent book manages to be both about BIG things (faith, family, sexual assault) and about very everyday things (friendship, tests at school, crushes). Ali does a great job of weaving the big and little things together as we watch sophomore Janna Yusuf learn, grow, and find her voice.


We first meet Janna, wearing a burkini, while she’s in Florida with her dad and his family. She’d rather not be hanging out with them, but after her friend’s cousin sexually assaults her at a gathering, she needs to get out of town. Farooq, who Janna mostly just refers to as “the monster,” is well-respected in their community, a sort of golden boy at their mosque, who has memorized the entire Qur’an (but doesn’t appear to actually understand any of it). Janna keeps the assault to herself for much of the story, busy navigating the many parts of her life, but the monster is always around and Janna is fearful and angry. Janna’s brother, Muhammad, has recently moved home, taking a year off from college, and is courting Sarah, a study circle leader at their mosque, who Janna feels is, annoying, “the most perfect Muslim girl.” Janna spends time with Mr. Ram, her elderly Hindu neighbor, tries to figure out what to do about her crush on white, non-Muslim Jeremy, and hangs out with friends. She takes part in an Islamic Quiz Bowl team, too, getting to know more about people like Nuah, a nice dude who is friends with the monster, and Sausun, a niqab-wearing girl who becomes a surprising ally for Janna.


As Janna finds her voice, she struggles with how to fit in (both with her Muslim friends and her non-Muslim friends, as well as within her divided family), with what is important to her, and with how to make real connections with the people in her life. This is a thoughtful and engaging look at identity and finding your footing in your own life. As with the other books from Salaam Reads, this should be in all collections. 


Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9781481499248

Publisher: Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Publication date: 06/13/2017

MakerSpace: MakeDo Cardboard Construction Kits

makedo8 I learned about MakeDo Cardboard Construction Kits while at TLA Annual earlier this year. We bought several kits for our Teen MakerSpace and a fun new station was born.

A basic kit comes with a safety saw, a whole punch, several screws, and some hinges. Everything works great except for the safety saw. The safety saw is kind of useless, so we replaced it with box cutters.

TMS Assistant Desiree was the first to use the MakeDo kit, and she made an amazing Ferris Wheel that spins. The teens enjoyed brainstorming and problems solving with her as they tried to find a way to attach various pieces and make the wheel spin smoothly. It was a moment where we saw making happen in full effect and it was glorious. The Ferris Wheel is made using MakeDo, cardboard, straws, styrofoam cups, wire and a pencil.

makedo3 makedo4

TMS Assistant Morgan made the knight helmet that you see above modeled by one of our regular teens. It is made entirely out of MakeDo pieces and cardboard boxes. The plume is the label off of a box torn off. This is a great example of what you can make using nothing but cardboard and MakeDo.

makedo7 makedo6

There is no limit to what you can do with the MakeDo kit. We are also working on adding our LittleBits to make moving pieces and our LEDs to making light up pieces. And as a library, we have no shortage of cardboard boxes that can be used for material. In fact, this is a great Earth Day/Earth friendly station.

I will say that the pieces are designed to be re-usable, so you can dismantle a project and use the screws and fasteners to make new projects. But I think we’ll have a hard time taking these two amazing projects apart to make new ones. But we will, for the teens. Eventually.

I highly recommend the MakeDo kits for your makerspace.

Sunday Reflections: Celebrating Six Years of TLT


Celebrating 6 Years of TLT!

I am a YA librarian. That is one of the core ways I define myself. I have spent 23 years working to be the best YA librarian that I can be. Yes, I have worked and love working with younger kids. Yes, I have worked and love working the Reference desk. But at my core, I am a YA librarian. If you asked me to define myself, it’s in the top five things I will say: Christian, mother, YA librarian. These are part of the things that make me me.

So in 2011, after the flood and after the job losses and after having to move, I worried about finding another YA librarian job. Full-time librarian jobs are hard to come by, YA ones even harder still. And thus Teen Librarian Toolbox was born. It was and is my attempt to be better at what I do and to stay connected to this field that I love and this important part of my identity. It has become a tool, a resource, a sounding board, and so much more.

Through TLT I have met amazing people, been challenged to expand what I think and how I serve, and developed a strong core group of fellow YA librarians/librarians who are not only professional peers, but personal friends. Heather, Amanda, Robin and Ally have helped me through deep personal times as well as having been a professional sounding board. I can not tell you the immense gift that these women are to me and my family. I value, respect and admire them, but more then that – I love them, they are my friends.


TLT is both my most meaningful professional and personal accomplishment. With your help and readership, I get to model to my daughters the joys and hard work of building something from scratch and watching it succeed. And make no mistake, they too have benefited from TLT. They have met authors, been blessed by my fellow librarians, and many of you have sent them your positive thoughts in our darkest of days.

As I reflect on this, the six year anniversary of TLT, I say thank you. Thank you for reading. Thank you for discussing. Thank you for challenging. Thank you for supporting. I am a better person, mother and YA librarian because you take this journey with me. Thank you for six amazing years. I hope you will continue to be on this journey with us in the years to come.

Heather Booth Reflects


My first post for TLT was about a live action Angry Birds program I hosted in 2012. I was reminded of this just today when a colleague replicating the event asked for some details. “I think we used beach towels to fling the balls,” I told her. “I know it’s on TLT though, just check the site, I’m pretty sure there’s a materials list.” So what does TLT mean to me? It’s a record of my work over the past several years, the other half of my brain, and a reminder of the amazing support, awareness-raising, and mutual admiration that our profession is capable of. I’m glad to have a small stake in TLT and immensely proud of the compendium of information and perspectives shared here by librarians, authors, teens, and more. The output – at least one high quality post six out of seven days a week – is astounding for an unpaid staff the size of our group, especially since that group includes a slacker poster like myself! Thank you, Karen, for creating and maintaining this space, even when it was hard.

Amanda MacGregor Reflects


Teen Librarian Toolbox has given me so much over the past three years (and the three years before that where I was a reader but not a contributor). A lot of those things are obvious. It has: given me a platform to talk about books and issues important to me; helped connect me with thousands of librarian/book/YA people on Twitter; connected me with publishers who make sure hundreds of books show up here each year for me to consider for review; and opened the door for me for other opportunities related to books and writing.

But TLT means so much more than just a place to write about YA books and advocacy for teens. I am grateful to have learned so much from being a part of TLT. Whether from my fellow TLTers, from guest posts, from the conversations surrounding books and posts, or from our various yearly projects, I have taken away new information, new ideas, and new ways of thinking about things. TLT isn’t just some blog I write for—it’s a community. The past 3 years have been filled with emails, texts, phone calls, and more with TLTers that sometimes have things to do with the blog, but most often do not. This past fall, when I met up with Heather at NerdCon, my son was flabbergasted that we’d never met in person before. When I told him I’ve actually never met anyone from TLT in person before, he was absolutely astounded. “But they’re your friends!” he said. And yes, most of our interactions are in virtual spaces, but these people are my friends. I’m not quite sure why Karen plucked me out of Twitter to ask if I was interested in joining TLT, but I’m forever happy that she did. I love TLT for the community, the learning, the support, and the many ways it challenges me to think harder and do better. Thankful for my fellow bloggers here at TLT, the legions of people who volunteer to guest post, and everyone who reads, shares, and talks with us about our posts.

Robin Willis Reflects


Being a part of Teen Librarian Toolbox has been a true blessing in my life for a number of reasons. When I started contributing, I was struggling to enjoy a job where the moments I got to be a librarian (rather than tech support) were growing fewer and fewer. TLT helped me be more reflective and change my practice to serve the students at my school with more creativity and enthusiasm. It has helped open doors for me to join in the larger YA librarianship community and given me perspective on my life and work. Even though I now mostly work with the 5 and under set at a public library (finding a full time YA position is nearly impossible) I still feel connected to my work with teens through TLT. More than all of that, though, I enjoy working with a fabulous group of librarians who are always available to support me both professionally and personally, and who feel free to call on me for the same support.


We always love hearing from you, so if you would like to tell us what you like about TLT, what you would like to see more of, etc., please leave us a comment.

Revenge of the Fifth Teen Lock-In By Michelle Biwer

I tried implementing our library’s first “Lock-In” this past fall as a way  to draw new teens to our events. The teens currently involved in my teen programs are usually high school-aged library volunteers. We hoped that Lock-Ins would serve as both fun activities for teen volunteers to plan and a new way to draw middle schoolers into the library’s teen program. We conceived of a two hour, teen-only event that would periodically take place on Friday evenings from 6-8pm, after the library has closed to the public.


A few months prior to our second Lock-In – a “Revenge of the Fifth”-themed “Star Wars” event – I had interested volunteers from my teen advisory board (TAB) make decorations, pitch station ideas, and of course make sure that we had enough fun activities for both middle and high schoolers. Thankfully, I did not have to purchase anything but food for this event, necessarily supplies came from the children’s department craft room and my brother’s extensive Star Wars memorabilia collection.

Who Is Flying This Thing?:

We had 3 librarians staff the event (one for each floor of our library) and 7 teen volunteers run the stations and sign attendees into the program. This ratio worked well: we had about 35 teens in attendance, including volunteers. The numbers were a bit lower than I’d hoped, but when AP exam season is factored in I was still pleased with the turn-out given the circumstances. We publicized the event through word of mouth at TAB and by getting it onto the morning announcements at some local schools.


The teen volunteers and I worked collaboratively to develop the following activities for the “Revenge of the Fifth” Lock-In.

  • escape room 1“Escape Tatooine!” Escape Room: This was the second time I built an escape room for a program, and it was definitely easier once I’d had some experience! It is quite the tall order to turn a library conference room into a spaceship. Thankfully, all I had to do was set a some TAB members loose with access to the children’s department craft closet for a few hours and they came up with this magnificent beast:


  • obstacle courseBB8 Obstacle Course: Our Sphero BB8 has to get past X-Wings, the Death Star, and even Darth Vader himself in order to escape! Originally, I wanted the teens to program BB8 to add some STEM into the evening, but the teen volunteer who lead the station was dead set on manually racing it, so alas. That robot, by the way, is the cutest thing in the whole world.



  • Trivia: using the wonderful phone-based Kahoot! System
  • Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Wii Game: This was honestly supposed to be one of those “we have it in case we need it stations,” but it was SUPER popular).
  • Star Wars Lightsaber Cards: A genius coworker of mine also modified the design so that we did not have to purchase the lilypad switches, making this a cheap and educational activity!
  • Perler Bead Star Wars Creations
  • Scavenger Hunt: I teamed up with our local Escape Room Surelocked In and they created a Star Wars scavenger hunt for us that teens could complete during the lock-in. This was a perfect addition because it encouraged the teens to travel around to every station and appealed to the wide range of ages present. Plus, the presenter was awesome with the teens and an eager Star Wars fan himself.
  • photoboothStar Wars Photobooth (on right)
  • Final Group Activity: I like ending these big events with a final group activity where everyone works together. I had big and elaborate plans for an impressive “Destroy the Death Star” Game…but of course the Death Star was destroyed on the first try, within 5 seconds. Our backup activity was “Han Solo Freeze Tag” with the Star Wars soundtrack blaring in the background. The teens had a blast anyway!

I think the teens and library staff loved helping with this event and we are hoping to run something similar for next year’s May the Fourth!


Introducing Michelle!

Michelle is a Teen Services Librarian and Shelving Supervisor in Maryland. She received her MLIS from the University of​ Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2016 and her BA in Sociology from the College of William and Mary. In her free time she loves attending musical theatre, listening to podcasts, and bingeing sci-fi TV shows.​


Friday Finds: June 9, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: I Did Not Succeed, but I Also Did Not Fail

TPiB: Wonder Woman Amazon Training Academy for Free Comic Book Day, a guest post by Liz Gotauco

Book Review: Internet Famous by Danika Stone

My Top Ten Internet Things (IRL), a guest post by Danika Stone

#SJYALit: Talking About the Right to Die with Dignity, a guest post by author Kelley York

Introducing Asexuality, a guest post by Laura Perenic

Take 5: YA Lit on Asexuality Resources

Around the Web

Lauren Graham Picks Up YA Novel ‘Windfall’ And Will Adapt As Feature

How Donald Trump Shifted Kids-Cancer Charity Money Into His Business

Child Care a Crucial Component to Strengthening America’s Workforce

In Texas, Abstinence-Only Programs May Contribute To Teen Pregnancies

The Problem Isn’t Food Stamps, It’s Poverty


Take 5: YA Lit on Asexuality Resources


Earlier today guest poster Laura Perenic shared with us an introduction to asexuality (Introducing Asexuality, a guest post by Laura Perenic). This really resonated with me because of a recent interaction I had with one of my regular teen patrons. I was sitting in the Teen MakerSpace working on some collection development. Specifically, I had a list of Asexual (or Ace) YA Lit titles that I was checking the catalog to see if we owned a decent number of titles on the topic for our teens. As I sat there, this teen came up to me and saw the word asexuality on my computer screen. “What are you doing?,” she asked. So I told her I was checking to make sure we had some YA fiction titles on asexuality in our teen fiction collection. She then pointed to the word asexual on my computer screen, “That’s me,” she said. She then went on to tell me that she had no idea that there were teen fiction books that featured asexual characters, she said it in a way that clearly communicated that this moment was important to her. For the first time, she knew that there were teens like her in our teen fiction collection. Thankfully, I was able to get a couple of titles in her hand in that moment, which is why it is important that we do our due diligence in collection development and can meet the needs of any teen we encounter in our libraries. Here are a few resources for you to check your collections to make sure you have some asexual representation in your YA collection. I particularly recommend the Gay YA as it is curated by members of the GLBTQIA+ community and they really discuss representation and quality. When evaluating the quality of books featuring asexual teens it’s important to listen to members of the asexual community to make sure that the representation is not harmful and does not perpetuate stereotypes.

Masterlist: Asexual – Gay YA

Booklist: Asexuality in Young Adult Fiction – The Hub

Books with Asexual Main Characters – Quiet YA Reads

Not Broken: Julie Daly talks asexual representation in YA

Also, check out this multi-part discussion:

Reading While Asexual: Representation in Ace YA – Gay YA

Introducing Asexuality, a guest post by Laura Perenic

sjyalitSometimes being Asexual feels like something I’m not instead something I am.  I am not heterosexual.  I am not homosexual.  I am not gay, lesbian, transgender, or bisexual.  I am the A at the end of LGBTQIA that many interpret to mean ally; the A for Asexual that sometimes gets left off. It is confusing and frustrating to be just 1% of the population.  I don’t know anyone beyond the internet who is Asexual. I’ve joined online groups and  read anything I can find.  Pages like AVEN – The Asexuality Visibility and Education Network gave me a lot of great information. But I still don’t feel connected to the community.  I do not speak for fellow Aces, our identifier of choice. Being Ace feels a bit anticlimactic.  I’ve never seen an Ace pride parade.  I didn’t have a big coming out.  When I reveal my status to people they tell me on some level they always knew.  If I was being so obvious it’s interesting that it took me so long to realize it for myself.

A great resource is The Asexuality Archive. They establish a definition of Asexual as “Asexuality is a sexual orientation, like heterosexuality or homosexuality, etc., but instead of being sexually attracted to men or women, asexual people are sexually attracted to no one.  This doesn’t mean we all hate sex or avoid it, it just means we don’t find people sexually attractive.”  The challenge of this definition is while encompassing the basics it still doesn’t include all the facets of being Ace.  Sexuality has a spectrum often represented with the terms in LGBTA.  Ace has its own spectrum and includes Grey-sexual and Demi-sexual.

Grey-sexual: An umbrella term for a person who falls between sexual and asexual on the spectrum. A demisexual person only rarely experiences sexual attraction or only under specific circumstances.

Demisexual: A person who only experiences sexual attraction to someone once they have formed a strong emotional bond to that person.

In school to say that I had no interest in dating would be an understatement.  Not only did I not want to date but I couldn’t understand people who did. The entire process seemed confusing and also something I wanted no part of.  Sure I dabbled, went to prom and played spin the bottle but the results were the same.  Or the lack of results. It can be difficult to click with people without sexual chemistry. Even if you don’t desire someone, you have a connection with people who date or marry because its something you yourself have done.  Unless you haven’t and things start to feel like a game where everyone else knows the rules.  Many years into being an adult I still had a lot of questions about why my interaction with people were so different.   I don’t know where I first learned the term Asexual. It felt more correct than anything I used to label myself.  When I began to reveal to people that I was Ace I was mostly happy with the response.  Many people told me that could tell that I was different but never really could explain it; choosing Ace seemed accurate to them as well.  Interestingly a lot of people still don’t know I am Ace.  This article will be a bit of an unmasking of for me. While I haven’t experienced a lot of overtly negative responses to being Ace the hardest part as with many things is just the lack of understanding.  I find that talking about it with people seems to make them profoundly uncomfortable.  They will change the conversation to nearly anything else rather than hear about my orientation.

I remember being at a Teen Think Tank training.  It’s a twice yearly conference in Ohio with lots of libraries who serve teens.  A speaker was reviewing new books to appeal to LGBTQIA teens.  When she got to A, when she actually shared books about being asexual I never felt so simultaneously visible and hidden.  I was thrilled that she found books with characters like myself. But I was still uncomfortable sharing that I was Ace.  I couldn’t bring myself to state my identity because then and now I still have this fear.  I still think of myself as what I am not.  How in this sex saturated society do I explain that I don’t want to have sex?  That I don’t feel sexually attracted to anyone regardless of gender? That I see beauty in a great variety of people.  That I don’t have a type.  I fear being called prude or frigid. I fear people trying to convert me.  I don’t always understand me but not being understood by others feels achingly daunting.

I admit when I read teen fiction I struggle to understand the motivations of the hormonally driven characters.  While teens at work are a constant source of puzzlement, the teens in books I read are even more of a conundrum.  For me books with Ace characters make such a strong impression. I recently read Haters by Jesse Andrews.  As Ash recounts that she neither likes boys or girls I really focused in on her character.  I thought to myself “yes, she is ace,” and I instantly understood her so much more.  With so few Aces to connect with in real life I am always alert for Asexual characters in Teen Fiction.  There are more options in Adult Fiction and even in film or on tv.  I was delighted to learn, as a lover of anime and manga, that many characters from Hayao Miyazaki’s films are thought to be Asexual. Most notably Nausicaä, from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind’s lead, Nausicaä. (Asexuality in Fiction). Check out the YALSA book list on Asexuality in Young Adult Fiction for more titles to explore. Another good source for general information is the Asexual Awareness Week site. 

ace flagAces identify each other with the black, white and purple Ace flag or similarly striped triangle.  The color scheme is common for clothing as well as our websites. Since asexual people prefer the term Ace you will see the use of the Ace symbol found on playing cards.  Within the Ace community we have some jewelry aspects we considering telling and some common references that help identity us within the group.  (I’m conflicted about saying more because I don’t want to out others as Ace. I think signs are for other Asexuals to find each other).

In media, social media and in my own life I would love to see more representations of the Asexual orientation.  It is far too easy to find references, comics and other content that treat my sexuality as of more a biological conundrum than a facet of humanity.  Being Asexual doesn’t make us all virgins, single or religiously pious.  I don’t want to speak for the whole Ace community.  There is a lot of variety in our 1% that includes Asexuals who do have sex, marry and have children.  I want Asexuality to be a legitimate part of the spectrum.

lauraMeet Laura Perenic

Laura Perenic lives in Ohio where she works as a youth services librarian. She enjoys spoiling her dog and getting up very early in the morning to run.