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What’s New in LGBTQIA+ YA May 2017

tltbutton7It’s time for another roundup for new and forthcoming YA (and sometimes not YA) books featuring LGBTQIA+ characters.  The titles I’m including here have LGBTQIA+ main characters as well as secondary characters (in some cases parents), as well as anthologies that include LGBTQIA+ stories. Know of a title I missed in this list? Or know of a forthcoming title that should be on my radar for an upcoming list? Leave a comment or tweet me @CiteSomething. This list covers May 2017 titles. Head over to this link for the previous post (April 2017 titles) in this series. All annotations here are via the publishers/Goodreads. I also have a 2017 master list that I’m always working on. I’m happy to send you the list if you’re interested. Tweet at me or email me to request the list. I’m amanda DOT macgregor AT gmail DOT com.


May 2017


how-to-makeHow to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake (ISBN-13: 9780544815193 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 05/02/2017)

Grace, tough and wise, has nearly given up on wishes, thanks to a childhood spent with her unpredictable, larger-than-life mother. But this summer, Grace meets Eva, a girl who believes in dreams, despite her own difficult circumstances.
One fateful evening, Eva climbs through a window in Grace’s room, setting off a chain of stolen nights on the beach. When Eva tells Grace that she likes girls, Grace’s world opens up and she begins to believe in happiness again.
How to Make a Wish is an emotionally charged portrait of a mother and daughter’s relationship and a heartfelt story about two girls who find each other at the exact right time.



noteworthyNoteworthy by Riley Redgate (ISBN-13: 9781419723735 Publisher: Amulet Books Publication date: 05/02/2017)

It’s the start of Jordan Sun’s junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts. Unfortunately, she’s an Alto 2, which—in the musical theatre world—is sort of like being a vulture in the wild: She has a spot in the ecosystem, but nobody’s falling over themselves to express their appreciation. So it’s no surprise when she gets shut out of the fall musical for the third year straight. But then the school gets a mass email: A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshiped . . . revered . . . all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.



postedPosted by John David Anderson (ISBN-13: 9780062338204 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/02/2017)

From John David Anderson, author of the acclaimed Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, comes a humorous, poignant, and original contemporary story about bullying, broken friendships, and the failures of communication between kids.

In middle school, words aren’t just words. They can be weapons. They can be gifts. The right words can win you friends or make you enemies. They can come back to haunt you. Sometimes they can change things forever.

When cell phones are banned at Branton Middle School, Frost and his friends Deedee, Wolf, and Bench come up with a new way to communicate: leaving sticky notes for each other all around the school. It catches on, and soon all the kids in school are leaving notes—though for every kind and friendly one, there is a cutting and cruel one as well.

In the middle of this, a new girl named Rose arrives at school and sits at Frost’s lunch table. Rose is not like anyone else at Branton Middle School, and it’s clear that the close circle of friends Frost has made for himself won’t easily hold another. As the sticky-note war escalates, and the pressure to choose sides mounts, Frost soon realizes that after this year, nothing will ever be the same.



georgia rulesGeorgia Rules by Nanci Turner Steveson (ISBN-13: 9780062374578 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/02/2017)

Perfect for fans of One for the Murphys and The Penderwicks, this poignant and moving middle grade novel tells the story of a girl who moves to a new town and meets an unforgettable family—one that will change her and her mother’s lives forever.

Magnolia Grace never wanted to leave Georgia. She never wanted to move with her mama to the farm her daddy owned before he died. But now here she is, in a tiny Vermont town where everybody sings the praises of the father Maggie never knew.

Then Maggie meets the Parker family—two moms, six kids, plus a pony. The Parkers are loud and wild, ask lots of questions, and don’t follow any of the rules Maggie grew up with in Georgia. Suddenly Maggie has questions too—questions about her father, and why Mama kept him away for so long. In her search for answers, Maggie will learn that families are like patchwork quilts, sewn together by love, and all the more beautiful for their different colors.



seafarerThe Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember (ISBN-13: 9781945053207 Publisher: Novelstream dba Interlude Press Publication date: 05/04/2017)

Having long wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, nineteen-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the merfolk’s fortress. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: Say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.

Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from the divine Loki. But such deals are never straightforward, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies.



ramona blueRamona Blue by Julie Murphy (ISBN-13: 9780062418357 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/09/2017)

From Julie Murphy, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dumplin’ and Side Effects May Vary, comes another fearless heroine, Ramona Blue, in a gorgeously evocative novel about family, friendship, and how sometimes love can be more fluid than you first think. Perfect for fans of Rainbow Rowell and Morgan Matson.

Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.

Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.

The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.



it's not likeIt’s Not Like It’s a Secret by Misa Sugiura (ISBN-13: 9780062473417 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/09/2017)

This charming and bittersweet coming-of-age story featuring two girls of color falling in love is part To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and part Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

Sixteen-year-old Sana Kiyohara has too many secrets. Some are small, like how it bothers her when her friends don’t invite her to parties. Some are big, like the fact that her father may be having an affair. And then there’s the one that she can barely even admit to herself—the one about how she might have a crush on her best friend.

When Sana and her family move to California, she begins to wonder if it’s finally time for some honesty, especially after she meets Jamie Ramirez. Jamie is beautiful and smart and unlike anyone Sana’s ever known. There are just a few problems: Sana’s new friends don’t trust Jamie’s crowd; Jamie’s friends clearly don’t want her around anyway; and a sweet guy named Caleb seems to have more-than-friendly feelings for her. Meanwhile, her dad’s affair is becoming too obvious to ignore.

Sana always figured that the hardest thing would be to tell people that she wants to date a girl, but as she quickly learns, telling the truth is easy…what comes after it, though, is a whole lot more complicated.



birdyBirdy Flynn by Helen Donohoe (ISBN-13: 9781780749396 Publisher: Oneworld Publications Publication date: 05/09/2017)

Birdy Flynn carries secrets.
There is the secret of Birdy’s dead grandmother’s cat. How the boys tortured it and Birdy had to drown it in the river to stop it from suffer-ing. There’s the secret of Mrs. Cope, the teacher who touched Birdy. The secret of the gypsy girl at school who Birdy likes. But she can’t tell anyone about any of these secrets. Because Birdy’s other secret is that while she fights as good as the boys, she is a girl, and she doesn’t always feel like a girl is supposed to.
So Birdy holds on to her secrets and tries to become what others want, even it if means losing herself.
BIRDY FLYNN is a beautifully nuanced and deeply felt portrayal of a girl growing up amid an imperfect family, and an imperfect world, to become the person she was meant to be.



rough patchRough Patch by Nicole Markotic (ISBN-13: 9781551526812 Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press, Limited Publication date: 05/16/2017)

When fifteen-year-old Keira starts high school, she almost wishes she could write “Hi, my name is Keira, and I’m bisexual!” on her nametag. Needless to say, she’s actually terrified to announce—let alone fully explore—her sexuality. Quirky but shy, loyal yet a bit zany, Keira navigates her growing interest in kissing both girls and boys while not alienating her BFF, boy-crazy Sita. As the two acclimate to their new high school, they manage to find lunch tablemates and make lists of the school’s cutest boys. But Keira is caught “in between”—unable to fully participate, yet too scared to come clean.

She’s also feeling the pressure of family: parents who married too young and have differing parenting styles; a younger sister in a wheelchair from whom adults expect either too little or too much; and her popular older brother who takes pleasure in taunting Keira. She finds solace in preparing for the regional finals of figure skating, a hobby she knows is geeky and “het girl” yet instills her with confidence. But when she meets a girl named Jayne who seems perfect for her, she isn’t so confident she can pull off her charade any longer.

Rough Patch is an honest, heart-wrenching novel about finding your place in the world, and about how to pick yourself up after taking a spill.



my fairyMy Fairy Godmother is a Drag Queen by David Clawson (ISBN-13: 9781510714113 Publisher: Sky Pony Press Publication date: 05/16/2017)

Chris Bellows is just trying to get through high school and survive being the only stepchild in the social-climbing Fontaine family, whose recently diminished fortune hasn’t dimmed their desire to mingle with Upper East Side society. Chris sometimes feels more like a maid than part of the family. But when Chris’s stepsister Kimberly begins dating golden boy J. J. Kennerly, heir to a political dynasty, everything changes. Because Chris and J. J. fall in love . . . with each other.

With the help of a new friend, Coco Chanel Jones, Chris learns to be comfortable in his own skin, let himself fall in love and be loved, and discovers that maybe he was wrong about his step-family all along. All it takes is one fairy godmother dressed as Diana Ross to change the course of his life.

My Fairy Godmother is a Drag Queen is a Cinderella retelling for the modern reader. The novel expertly balances issues like sexuality, family and financial troubles, and self-discovery with more lighthearted moments like how one rogue shoe can launch a secret, whirlwind romance and a chance meeting with a drag queen can spark magic and light in a once dark reality.



this would makeThis Would Make a Good Story Someday by Dana Alison Levy (ISBN-13: 9781101938188 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 05/16/2017)

From the author of The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher comes an epic cross-country train trip for fans of Dan Santat’s Are We There Yet? and Geoff Rodkey’s The Tapper Twins. Pack your suitcase and climb on board with the Johnston-Fischer family.  

Sara Johnston-Fischer loves her family, of course. But that doesn’t mean she’s thrilled when her summer plans are upended for a surprise cross-country train trip with her two moms, Mimi and Carol; her younger sister, Ladybug; her older sister, Laurel; and Laurel’s poncho-wearing activist boyfriend, Root. And to make matters worse, one of her moms is writing a tell-all book about the trip . . . and that means allllll, every ridiculous and embarrassing moment of Sara’s life.

Sara finds herself crisscrossing the country with a gaggle of wild Texans. As they travel from New Orleans to Chicago to the Grand Canyon and beyond, Sara finds herself changing along with the landscape outside the train windows. And she realizes that she just might go home reinvented.



riptideRiptide Summer by Lisa Freeman (ISBN-13: 9781510711679 Publisher: Sky Pony Press Publication date: 05/16/2017)

The year is 1973, and Nani is firmly established as one of the top girls in the State Beach lineup. She’s looking forward to a long, relaxing summer of days spent in the sun with her surfer boyfriend, and to secret nights with Rox, the lineup’s queen supreme.

But when surf god Nigel breaks her heart, and Rox reveals a secret that tears their friendship—and the lineup—apart, Nani is left to pick up the pieces. If she can’t recruit new Honey Girls to the lineup, the friends will lose their reputation as the beach’s top babes.

With the summer spiraling out of control, Nani starts to question everything she’s always believed about how to rule the beach. Maybe it’s time to leave the rules behind, starting with the most important one:

Girls don’t surf.



the love interestThe Love Interest by Cale Dietrich (ISBN-13: 9781250107138 Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Publication date: 05/16/2017)

There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be – whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.



queer thereQueer, There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World by Sarah Prager, Zoe More O’Ferrall (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780062474315 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/23/2017)

This first-ever LGBTQ history book of its kind for young adults will appeal to fans of fun, empowering pop-culture books like Rad American Women A-Z and Notorious RBG.

World history has been made by countless lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals—and you’ve never heard of many of them. Queer author and activist Sarah Prager delves deep into the lives of 23 people who fought, created, and loved on their own terms. From high-profile figures like Abraham Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt to the trailblazing gender-ambiguous Queen of Sweden and a bisexual blues singer who didn’t make it into your history books, these astonishing true stories uncover a rich queer heritage that encompasses every culture, in every era.

By turns hilarious and inspiring, the beautifully illustrated Queer, There, and Everywhere is for anyone who wants the real story of the queer rights movement.



one of usOne of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus (ISBN-13: 9781524714697 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 05/30/2017)

The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars, One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.


(Not so) Middle School Monday: In Which I Attend a State Library Conference

MSM1Dearest Readers,

In case you missed it, almost a year ago I moved from the School Library Media Specialist arena to that of Public Library Children’s Services. (I also moved two states up the east coast.) And I can honestly say I have never felt so valued in my professional life.

Several months ago I received an email congratulating me on being chosen to attend this year’s state library conference; I thought this was a little odd since I had not applied to attend, but I was assured that it was normal, and that the library system tries to send its new people. Cool, cool. Someone was going to pay for me to attend a library conference. After I picked myself up off the floor, I started to look through the schedule of events. Man, they had some neat preconferences – wish I could go to those! It turned out that I could. For the whole day, if I chose to. You can see where this is going, right? The library system paid for my registration for the conference and the preconferences, paid for my hotel room, organized carpools (I didn’t even have to drive), paid for my meals, and paid me for the time I was at the conference – including my travel time.

I know some of you are thinking, “this is not exactly groundbreaking.” Let me back up and explain the world in which I spent the previous 21 years of my professional librarian career. If I wanted to attend a library conference, I either had to present a session (to have my registration covered) or find a grant or pay for it myself. Ditto for the travel and hotel room (without the present a session option.) I did get a grant once to attend ALA which paid for my travel and food…but they chose me because I didn’t need housing. Unless the conference fell during a school break I often had to take some kind of leave to attend (the legality of this still eludes me.) If I didn’t take leave, the library would be closed for the days I was gone, because the school certainly wasn’t going to pay a substitute on its own dime.

So this was different. Really different.

Anyhow – on to the conference highlights!

If you ever have a chance to hear author Jason Reynolds speak in person, run, DO NOT WALK, to the event. He was lyrically eloquent and a truly beautiful human being. He spoke of his childhood and youth, and made me cry. He spoke of the chip on his shoulder that didn’t allow him to believe the people who said he couldn’t write (thank goodness.) He spoke of all of the other authors and publishing professionals who have mentored and guided him along the way, and made me cry again. It was stunning. And then I went to a smaller venue and heard him talk again, where he gave us highlights of his upcoming works – be excited, be very excited.

I attended two preconferences. One, Sensory Storytime and Beyond, provided a wealth of resources and ideas for serving your patron population who are on the spectrum. My favorite ideas had to do with holding a Teen Sensory Hangout. They set it up in centers where the teens can choose to interact or not with their peers. One of the centers is Wii gaming, but with the sound turned down low. Basicall everything was set up in such a way as to not be too stimulating, but to encourage the teens to make friends.

The second preconference I attended was Ukuleles in Storytime. The presenter was super engaging and funny. She said it should only take a month for me to build up calluses so I can actually play during storytime – we’ll see. Luckily, one of the handouts was a songbook with the chords for most of the common storytime songs.

I attended a variety of sessions, including my first Guerrilla Storytime, one on starting a robotics club, and one on starting a homework help center. Overall, it was the best conference experience I’ve ever had – including ALA. Have you had a similar conference experience? Hit me up in the comments.


WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI and Sex Positive YA, a guest post by author Sandhya Menon and a GIVEAWAY

Today we are honored to host author Sandhya Menon as she discusses writing a sex positive YA story. We’re also giving away a hardback copy of this upcoming YA title, one of the most anticipated YA releases of 2017.


Growing up, my parents and I never discussed sex. It wasn’t even something that they considered discussing with me, I’m sure. In general South Asian parents don’t ever, ever talk about sex with their children. It was weird, in the South Asian community, if your parents were open about that kind of thing, and they were usually judged pretty harshly by the other parents; being that open was viewed as putting your kids on the path to promiscuity. I didn’t really figure out all of the ins and outs of sex—so to speak—until I was well into high school, and only then thanks to other overzealous, (non-South Asian, naturally) high school students who couldn’t wait to share their exploits.

So you can believe me when I say that putting in a sex scene into my debut YA, When Dimple Met Rishi, was something I agonized over. I knew South Asian people (and others who don’t typically discuss sex with their teenage children) would be reading this—strangers, acquaintances, friends, those in my family, etc. What would they think? Would they feel that the book would corrupt the youth of today? Would they glare at me for breaking the unspoken rule—no South Asian adult shall educate unmarried South Asian youth about sex until the night before their wedding, and only then in the vaguest terms? I spent many a sweaty day fretting.

In the end, with my editor’s blessing (she’s Cambodian American, and shared my concerns), I decided to put it in there. It’s not on the page, per se…I fade out once things get going. But I do also very plainly state what’s going to happen. Dimple and Rishi have a very frank and open conversation about sex and what it means to them, and even talk about using a condom to be safe. In some ways, I still can’t believe my family members in India might read this one day soon. (And that I’m not immediately begging Simon & Schuster to stop the presses.)

Why, then, given my anxieties about it, did I put the scene in and leave it there? Honestly, I feel like it’s time for adults in the South Asian community to begin having those conversations with our sons and daughters (especially our daughters, who’ve traditionally been kept in the dark the longest). Not talking about sex doesn’t prevent sexual activity. If anything, it only makes sex something carried out in shameful secret—which means more venereal diseases and unwanted pregnancies, more unneeded psychological pain and damage.

I certainly don’t think all teenagers need to have sex. Sex depends on the individual, and readiness will vary with emotional and physical maturity, among other factors. But I do think that talking about healthy sexual practices like consent, birth control, and readiness (and for South Asian teens, that may well mean considering their parents’ stance on premarital sex) should become more of a practice in our homes.

Most importantly, by writing the sex scene in When Dimple Met Rishi, I wanted to show that sex can be safe and positive, something that, when undertaken with care, is a normal part of a consensual, adult relationship even when the individuals in question aren’t married. I hope it opens the door for teens in households where sex isn’t a part of the conversation to approach it in a non-threatening, healthy manner.


A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways. (Simon Pulse, May 30th)

Meet Author Sandhya Menon

Sandhya Menon author photo, credit Timothy Falls

Sandhya Menon is the author of WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI (Simon Pulse/May 30, 2017) and a second YA contemporary coming in the summer of 2018. She was born and raised in India on a steady diet of Bollywood movies and street food, and pretty much blames this upbringing for her obsession with happily-ever-afters, bad dance moves, and pani puri.

Sandhya currently lives in Colorado, where she’s on a mission to (gently) coerce her family to watch all 3,221 Bollywood movies she claims as her favorite.

Visit her on the web at

Social media:




U.S. residents can enter by Saturday, May 20th to win a hardback copy of this swoon worthy book. Do the Rafflecopter thing below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday Reflections: It’s Hard to Get Out of a Town Like This

tltbutton5On the wall sits a small collection of test prep books. The ACT. The SAT. Nursing exams. Teaching exams. It occurred to me the other day that we should also pull out the financial aid and how to write your college application essay books and just call the section College Prep.

This shelf of books sit across from the Teen MakerSpace. So I turn my head and look through the window and today there is a group of teens working on whatever it is they are working on and I realize how many of my teens aren’t even thinking about college. College is not in the cards for them. So I look at my Assistant Director and I say to her, “it’s hard to get out of a town like this.”

And it is.


My senior year of high school I did not fill out one single college application. Not one. Because I knew that college wasn’t really in the cards for me. Nobody talked to me about college. We didn’t really have the money for it, though we were by no means poor. It’s just that college was truly expensive and unobtainable. I took the ACT once on a day in which I woke up with a fever and none of it mattered anyway because I wasn’t going to college, so I did what I could and turned it in and walked away and never looked back.

I was by not, however, a bad student. In fact, I ended up graduating in the top 10 percent of my class and got a free two years at the local community college. That is the only reason I ever started college. I then moved, moved again to attend college, started working at the local library to help pay for college, and then went to graduate school to be a YA librarian. I will finish paying off my college loans the year that The Teen high school herself. There were a lot of lean years in between a lot of that, and some good friends who helped me out, and a metric ton of college loans.

But even though college seemed out of reach for me, it seems even more so for many of the teens that I serve. There’s a huge difference between my life as a teenager and many of the teens that I currently serve, and those difference make all of the difference in the world.

I wasn’t hungry.

I wasn’t worried about whether or not a parent was going to go back to jail or start using again.

I lived in a big town with plenty of jobs and I worked.

We could afford to buy me a crappy car that I could drive the 20 minutes out of town each day to attend a class at a community college.

We could buy the text books I needed to take the class.

Even though my parents didn’t really talk to me about college, they asked me about my grades and demanded that I do well.

I could go to the doctor or a dentist when I got sick and didn’t have to suffer with a throbbing, rotting tooth or a long term low grade fever that should probably get checked out.

I had a lot of things in my favor that these teens don’t have. They can’t even imagine having.


The irony is that the town in which I work is the home to two private colleges. One of them is, in fact, the undergraduate school that I attended. But their tuition is astronomical and out of reach for most of my teens and most of the members of our community. And transportation is still an issue. And their families are still unstable. And climbing your way out of poverty is near impossible because you need money to do it. There are reasons we talk about the cycles of poverty.

And it’s not just college. It’s hard to move to a new town where jobs are if you don’t have transportation or the money for an apartment or a car to get you out of town. We’re a small, rural town and the closest cities with jobs are 45 minutes in any direction. All it takes is one breakdown in the middle of winter on a country highway to make you lose your job, if you’re lucky enough to get one. It takes money to make money.

Small rural towns aren’t bad, they have a lot of charm. There’s something to be said about running into your favorite aunt in the public library and having known your neighbors for generations. But small dying rural towns have a layer of dust and despair that covers those charms. The paint on the houses is peeling and the porches are crumbling to the ground, but no one can afford to fix that because they can barely afford food. Food insecurity is rampant in towns like mine.

Yesterday I read that the Minnesota house passed a bill that would lower the minimum wage, and I have heard a lot of talk about other places wanting to do the same. But in a town with nothing but medical or service industry jobs – think Walmart and Dollar General – minimum wage is the only thing that is keeping most of these families just barely surviving. We say that you need a college education to get a “good job” and don’t recognize the many barriers there are, really, to attending college. Even in a town with two of them. A minimum wage job won’t help you pay for college, especially if they lower the minimum wage.

So I walk back down to my Teen MakerSpace and talk to my kids. We talk about tv shows and popular culture. We talk about making. We talk about being moved to a different foster home or whether or not they are going to leave tonight to go to the local community dinner. We talk about their families and what it’s like to be poor. But we don’t talk about growing up and moving out of town. It’s hard to get out of a town like this.

Friday Finds: May 12, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: Thinking About Mental Health, a #MHYALit Post by Ally Watkins

In Our Mailbox: More Thoughts on 13 Reason Why, Teens and Libraries

Middle School Monday: Teens, Body Image and Wonder Woman

Book Review: City of Angels by Kristi Belcamino

#MHYALit at Teen Lit Con

Video Games Weekly: Overcooked – One of the Best Teen Game Night Games You’ve Never Heard Of

Book Review: That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim

Resources: #SVYALit and #MHYALit – Teens and Suicide, Teens and Sexual Violence Brochures

Around the Web

America’s Cult of Ignorance

A Huge Sports Sex Abuse Scandal Is Unfolding, And You Probably Haven’t Heard About It

Record-Setting Senate Support Needed to Save Federal Library Funding

Book Deals: Week of May 8, 2017

Sorry, everyone, I’ve been at a conference all week. More links next week!



Resources: #SVYALit and #MHYALit – Teens and Suicide, Teens and Sexual Violence Brochures

Due in part to the discussions I have been having surrounding the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why, I made an informational brochure on the topics of suicide and sexual violence for the teens at my library. I am posting them here for you and you can use them if you would like. A few notes though.

One, these contain titles that I currently have in my library on the subjects. I have been working on my next book order and I am working to make sure to include highly recommended titles and titles that feature diverse MC or are Own Voices on these subjects in my next book order.

Two, I think you can easily make corrections or additions by downloading book covers you have in your collection and overlaying them in a graphics program if you wish.

Three, we checked multiple times because I’m me for typos, so I hope there aren’t any.

I am also working on one to address the current drug/opioid crisis that we are witnessing nationwide and in the county that I serve, but that one is taking a little more time. I could quickly pull information off of TLT to make these two given some of our past projects, but I am just mow starting to really dive into the facts and figures of the opioid crisis.


real talk sexual violence brochure page 2

real talk sucide brochure page 1

real talk suicide brochure page 2


Book Review: That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim

Publisher’s description

that-funny-thingThis young adult novel by Sheba Karim, author of Skunk Girl, is a funny and affecting coming-of-age story for fans of Jenny Han, Megan McCafferty, and Sara Farizan.

Shabnam Qureshi is facing a summer of loneliness and boredom until she meets Jamie, who scores her a job at his aunt’s pie shack. Shabnam quickly finds herself in love, while her former best friend, Farah, who Shabnam has begun to reconnect with, finds Jamie worrying.

In her quest to figure out who she really is and what she really wants, Shabnam looks for help in an unexpected place—her family, and her father’s beloved Urdu poetry.

That Thing We Call a Heart is a funny and fresh story about the importance of love—in all its forms.


Amanda’s thoughts

I really liked 2/3 of this book. The first 1/3 was rough for me. It’s slow to really get to the heart of the story, the love interest is (at first) insufferably perfect and manic pixie dream boyish, there were completely unnecessary scenes (the party at the start), and Shabnam, the main character, kept referring to Farah and their falling out but didn’t delve into it more for a long time. BUT. But. Once Jamie (the love interest) gained some nuance, and Farah appeared, and Shabnam started to think harder about her relationships, I was in.


Shabnam, whose family is Pakistani-American, just wants to get through the summer and get to U Penn, where she can reinvent herself. At first, we don’t know much about her. We know she’s had a falling out with Farah, whoever that is. She makes out with Ryan, the “hottest boy in school,” who is a total tool and says super cool things like, “What are you?” to Shabnam. We know she is capable of spinning up a really elaborate and horrible lie about her family’s history with Partition. We also know she has complicated feelings about her own background. Her mother is Muslim, her dad is… well, he’s an extremely practical mathematician who believes in numbers and Urdu poetry and maybe not much else. And Shabnam? She says she’s “nothing.” She’s embarrassed by her great-uncle, who’s visiting from Pakistan. She makes several remarks, about him and about Islam/Muslims that are surprising (things like that her uncle looked almost like a member of the Taliban). She meets Jamie, a cute boy whose aunt runs a pie shop, and falls hard for him. Jamie gets Shabnam a job at the pie shop for the month it’s open. They’re in New Jersey and he goes to school in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s only there for the month, but in that time, Shabnam falls in love with him (even though there are plenty of things about him that are really, really annoying and off-putting. But we’ve all been there, right? You like someone so much that you can’t see their flaws… or really understand how one-sided that like may be).


For me, the story became much more interesting when Shabnam reconnected with Farah, who was her best friend until Farah decided she wanted to wear a hijab. That drove a wedge between them. Farah is awesome. She’s an outspoken feminist punk girl who sees herself as a “Muslim misfit.” She goes back to hanging out with Shabnam even though Shabnam was and is a pretty crappy friend. She’s dubious about the whole Jamie thing, but Shabnam isn’t going to hear any of that. During the latter part of this story, Shabnam thinks harder about her other relationships, particularly with her parents, and her feelings about what went on with Farah and their drifting apart. She begins to think more about family, history, poetry, and religion. She finally begins to see beyond herself and starts having more open discussions about everything. 


My advice: if you feel, like I did, that this book is slow to really take off, stick with it. It’s a good look at the complexity of friendships, love, and family and shows that Muslims and Pakistani-American girls are (of course) not a monolith. Now I’d like a whole book just about Farah, please. 


Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9780062445704

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 05/09/2017

Video Games Weekly: Overcooked – One of the Best Teen Game Night Games You’ve Never Heard Of


It took me a whole month to finally beat Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and I’m happy to say it’s by far one of the best games of 2017.  Now that I’m done playing that game forever, I am moving on to more casual games.  This week, I have discovered probably one of the best games (that isn’t Super Smash Bros) for Teen Game Night that you may have never heard of.

YouTube Trailer:

Platform: PC, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch

Rated: E

Single or Multiplayer: Multiplayer, up to 8 players for maximum chaos

Storyline: In the beginning of the game, there is a Spaghetti Monster Apocalypse where chefs have to feed its ginormous appetite in order to save the world.  It’s impossible to do, so the chefs go back in time to train for preparing a variety of meals.  Sounds ridiculous? It is.

For those of you who are Game of Thrones fans, the main menu music is strikingly similar to Light of the Seven.  You can’t unhear it!

Gameplay: Players are given the task of completing food orders in a restaurant.  Each level has complicated obstacles which pushes players to work together in order to complete orders.  When I say “work together” I don’t mean calmly explaining your strategy, I mean yelling at the other players, so be sure your program space is separate from reading areas in your library.  At the end of each level, the team’s score earns them 1-3 stars, which can be redeemed to unlock more levels.

Overcooked has two functions that make this game perfect for Teen Game Night programs. First, the game emphasizes teamwork, which is something that I prefer to have in my Game Nights over competitive games like Super Smash Bros.  My teens who don’t have a lot of experience playing video games are often intimidated by other teens who will clearly beat them, so I try to make my program more inclusive by providing co-op games.

Controls: The second reason why Overcooked is perfect for Teen Game Night programs is the controls.  This game can accommodate up to 8 players by using only 4 controllers.  How?  You have two players share one controller.  Here’s an example from Overcook’s Twitter:


If you can imagine how difficult this game is when using one controller per person, imagine how hard it is when you only have HALF on a controller!  It is chaotic, there is a ton of yelling at each other, and it is incredibly fun.  This game gives you the perfect opportunity to match up your gamer and non-gamer teens while guaranteeing both parties will have fun.  If you want to see an example of the chaos, I recommend checking out this Let’s Play video.

Audience: Families, teens, or any group of people who want an massively fun local co-op game.

Verdict: A must-have for Teen Game Nights.

Pricing: Ranges from $20-$40 depending on the platform. Check Amazon or your console’s online store for prices.

Questions? Comments? Tweet them at me!

By: Alanna Graves
Twitter: @LannaLibrarian

#MHYALit at Teen Lit Con


This past weekend TLTer Amanda MacGregor presented a session at Teen Lit Con on Mental Health in YA Lit. She references and draws on the work that we have done here for the past year and a half discussing mental health in YA lit as part of the #MHYALit Project. You can read a recap of her presentation here at the link below. It contains slide recaps and a list of recommended books.

Twin Cities Teen Lit Con 2017: Mental Health in YA Literature Presentation

Book Review: City of Angels by Kristi Belcamino

Publisher’s description

city of angelsNikki Black has been self-imposed lone wolf since her mother died, fleeing suburban Chicago to escape her painful past. But when her so-called boyfriend reveals why he really lured her to Southern California, she ends up on the streets of Los Angeles with only the clothes on her back and a destitute twelve-year-old named Rain following in her shadows. The girls seek refuge at a residential hotel above a punk rock bar in downtown L.A. a few months before the city erupts into chaos during the 1992 riots that nearly razed the city of angels to the ground.

At The American Hotel, Nikki makes friends and, for the first time in years, feels as if she has a real family again. But everything changes when Rain disappears. Everyone believes Rain succumbed to the seductive allure of addiction and life on the streets, another life lost that seemingly nobody will miss—except for Nikki. Determined to find Rain, Nikki burrows deeper into the underbelly of a city that hides darkness beneath the glamour. And when she unveils a sinister cover-up by a powerful group that secretly controls the city of angels, she could lose everything, including her life.

City of Angels is an edgy, gritty, and riveting Young Adult mystery about a young woman’s struggle to not only belong ― but survive.


Amanda’s thoughts

Nikki thought escaping to L.A. with Chad, a decade-older guy she barely knew, would get her away from all of her problems. Unsurprisingly, it just lands her in a whole new set of problems.


Nikki’s family has fallen apart–her addict mother is dead and her father, unable to cope, blames Nikki and cuts all ties with her. Once in L.A., she meets Chad’s director friend, the one who will (of course) make her a star–except that’s not true at all. The sketchy (but powerful) director and Chad would like to put her in some films, yes, but they’re child porn flicks. She manages to get out of the director’s house with Rain, a 12-year-old she meets there, in tow. Now not only is she homeless in L.A., where she knows no one, but she’s got this young girl with her. Nikki finds a cheap room in the American Hotel, above a punk rock bar, where she hopes Rain will stay, too. But Rain’s hooked on heroin and Nikki, not only scarred by her mom’s drug use and death but totally out of her element here, has to help her detox. It’s just another thing that Nikki unexpectedly finds herself dealing with. Thankfully, the other residents of the hotel are friendly and help her with Rain. But when Rain takes off–and appears to be kidnapped–things become really interesting.


In addition to waitressing and trying to survive on her own in L.A., Nikki now is wrapped up in figuring out who took Rain and still worrying about being found by Chad and the director she escaped from. Before long, people she interacted with are ending up dead. Nikki and her hotelmates work to put all the pieces of this mystery together, finally focusing their investigation on people associated with The Church of the Evermore Enlightened and the Star Center, a Scientology-like group full of celebrities and secrets. They begin to amass evidence that points to who took Rain, but have learned that the LAPD has many members in cahoots with the Star Center people, so they’re unsure what to do with their information when it seems like they can’t trust anyone. Things come to a head as the city explodes in the aftermath of the verdict in the Rodney King case. Nikki and friends make their way through the more-dangerous-than-usual city in hopes of saving Rain, but learn that nothing is as it has seemed.


Belcamino usually writes for adults, and her foray here into YA is good for older readers looking for a little more edge and slightly older characters in their YA books (Rain–who is absent most of the book– and Nikki are younger than the rest of the residents of the hotel). Though at times the plot requires a suspension of disbelief, and Nikki makes some choices that will leave readers shaking their heads, this is a well-paced story full of plenty of action and distinct, diverse characters. Nikki is tough, resourceful, determined, and just the right amounts of naive, sheltered, and foolish. This gritty look at the life of a runaway girl trying to keep off the streets in early 90s L.A. will easily appeal to fans of mysteries and thrillers. 


Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781943818433

Publisher: Polis Books

Publication date: 05/09/2017