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Author Heidi Daniele Guest Post: The House Children

Screen Shot 2019-03-27 at 9.16.40 AMI’d first heard about Irish Industrial Schools during a trip to Ireland. A book titled Fear of the Collar by Patrick Touher came up during a conversation at an event I was attending. The story was an account of his experience in the Artaine Industrial School, run by the Christian Brothers. I bought the book the following day and was both fascinated and appalled by what I read. As a parent of two children and a Catholic, it was difficult to believe that Irish children had been treated so badly in an institution run by the Catholic Church.

 

Shortly after I read Touher’s book, “The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse” was formed by the Irish Government to investigate abuse in childcare facilities, including industrial schools. While waiting for the findings of the Commission, I continued to search for information about industrial schools. I scoured the internet for articles, blogs and message board postings. Most of what I read was about the horrible experiences and abuse endured by many of the children.

 

Further research shed light on the Irish culture of that era. Many families were poor, unemployment was high, and an old brand of Catholicism heavily influenced government policies and the moral views of the majority of the Irish people.

 

While compiling my findings it occurred to me that others might also be intrigued with this topic, so I began to entertain the idea of writing a book.

 

My journey led me to conversations with five women who were raised in Saint Joseph’s Industrial School in Ballinasloe between 1930 and 1960. I was surprised at how different their experiences were. It was a relief to learn that in spite of their many difficulties, they also shared fond memories of friends they’d made, and even some of the nuns.

 

I began to appreciate that the industrials schools, although a terribly imperfect system, had also served their primary purpose of sheltering and feeding these children, many of whom might otherwise have endured worse fates.  

 

It became my mission to give a fair account of what happened in this particular institution. The characters in The House Children are based on these five women, and the story is based on actual events. There was one twist – the women asked to remain anonymous, so I was faced with the challenge of giving an authentic account of their experiences without revealing their identities. In some ways that limited what I could write, but it also gave me the freedom to use my creativity.

 

Originally, the story was almost double in size. I wanted to include every detail the women shared with me as a way of honoring their stories. The burden of shame they carried had kept them silent for many years. It was difficult deciding which elements of their stories would best give a fair account of life in the school.
The House Children is the end result of my mission to tell their stories honestly while also respecting their anonymity.

Screen Shot 2019-03-27 at 9.16.15 AMAbout the author:

Heidi Daniele’s passion for history and genealogy opened the door for The House Children, which is her debut novel. She has a degree in Communications and Media Arts and has worked on several short independent films. She earned the Learning in Progress Award for Excellence at a Dutchess Community College Film Festival for coproducing, writing, filming, and editing the film Final Decisions. She also volunteers at The Lisa Libraries, an organization that donates new children’s books and small libraries to organizations that work with kids in poor and underserved areas. An empty nester who lives in the Hudson Valley with her husband, Heidi enjoys gardening, photography, and exploring her family tree.

 

About the book:

During the 1930’s, Mary Margaret “Peg” Joyce was born to an unwed mother during a time in Irish history when single pregnant women were often sent to special homes to give birth and then forcibly separated from their children. At age five, she is sent to an industrial school, an institution set up to care for “neglected, orphaned and abandoned children” by giving them harsh rules to live by and teaching them a trade. The one thing getting her through her rigid routine of prayer, work and silence is the annual summer holiday she takes with a local family, the Hanleys. However, once she finds out that Norah Hanley is her birth mother, she is overcome with anger and feelings of abandonment. Meanwhile, Norah also has her own battle to face, fighting the feelings of shame and guilt that bubble up from her past.

 

For fans of The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz and Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris, this engaging YA debut The House Children is a compelling story of familial love that highlights the struggles of both mothers and their babies during this dark and difficult time in Irish history.

Friday Finds: April 5, 2019

This Week at TLT

Post-it Note Reviews of YA Books: Rappers, movie lovers, musicians, survivors, and teens who create their own universe

Digital Media: Using Photo Apps to Create a Glitch Effects

Kids Can Handle Big Decisions . . . If the Adults Get Out of the Way (But Also Don’t), a guest post by Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Book Review: Wreck by Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Audio Review: Spin by Lamar Giles

Feminist AF: Internal Revolutions: Books + Emotional Literacy a guest post by Emma Fernhout

Conversation Snapshots: Let’s Talk YA Lit Titles & YA Programming Success

Sunday Reflections: How the Language of Deconstructing One’s Faith Helped Me Understand Adolescence

Around the Web

https://www.buzzfeed.com/farrahpenn/ya-books-you-absolutely-must-read-this-spring

30 of the Best YA Books of April

Truth, Loss, and Identity in This Spring’s Upcoming Young Adult SFF

Childhood Poverty: California’s ‘Moral Outrage’

Post-it Note Reviews of YA Books: Rappers, movie lovers, musicians, survivors, and teens who create their own universe

IMG_3631I do my best to get a LOT of reading done, but can’t even begin to attempt to read all the books that show up here. Even if I quit my library job, I still couldn’t read them all.  I read just about every free second I have—sitting in the car while waiting for my kid, on my lunch breaks at work, sometimes even while I’m walking in the hall at work. A lot of that kind of reading isn’t super conducive to really deep reading or taking many notes. Or maybe I’m reading in my own house, but while covered in sleeping dachshunds, or while trying to block out the noise of kids playing. I might not get around to being able to write a full review, but I still want to share these books with you, so here are my tiny Post-it Note reviews of a few titles. I also do these posts focusing on books for younger readers. It’s a great way to display books in your library or classroom, a way to let kids recommend their favorite titles without having to get up in front of everyone and do a book talk, and an easy way to offer a more personal recommendation than just the flap copy offers.

All summaries are from the publishers. Transcription of Post-it note review under the summary. 

 

 

 

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On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

 

This is the highly anticipated second novel by Angie Thomas, the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling, award-winning The Hate U Give.

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least win her first battle. As the daughter of an underground hip hop legend who died right before he hit big, Bri’s got massive shoes to fill.

But it’s hard to get your come up when you’re labeled a hoodlum at school, and your fridge at home is empty after your mom loses her job. So Bri pours her anger and frustration into her first song, which goes viral…for all the wrong reasons.

Bri soon finds herself at the center of a controversy, portrayed by the media as more menace than MC. But with an eviction notice staring her family down, Bri doesn’t just want to make it—she has to. Even if it means becoming the very thing the public has made her out to be.

Insightful, unflinching, and full of heart, On the Come Up is an ode to hip hop from one of the most influential literary voices of a generation. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; and about how, especially for young black people, freedom of speech isn’t always free.

(POST-IT SAYS: Like you need me to tell you this is a great read! Outspoken rapper Bri is complex and talented. A sharp look at stereotypes, activism, racism, and labels. A fresh, engrossing read.)

 

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This Book Is Not Yet Rated by Peter Bognanni

(Releases April 9, 2019)

In this enormously funny, smart, and moving contemporary YA novel, fighting for the thing you love doesn’t always turn out like in the movies.

Movies have always helped Ethan Ashby make sense of the world. So when developers swoop in and say the classic Green Street Cinema is going to be destroyed to make room for luxury condos, Ethan is ready for battle. And so a motley crew of cinema employees comes together to save the place they love:

There’s Sweet Lou, the elderly organist with a penchant for not-so-sweet language; Anjo, the too-cool projectionist; Griffin and Lucas who work concessions, if they work at all; and Ethan, their manager (who can barely manage his own life). Still, it’s going to take a movie miracle for the Green Street to have a happy ending. And when Raina Allen, Ethan’s oldest friend (and possible soul mate?), comes back to town after working in Hollywood—cue lights and music—it seems that miracle may have been delivered. But life and love aren’t always like in the movies.

This Book is Not Yet Rated is about growing up, letting go, and realizing love hides in plain view—in the places that shape us, the people who raise us, the first loves who leave us, and the lives that fade in and fade out all around us.

(POST-IT SAYS: Love, loss, growth, and grief are explored against the backdrop of saving a beloved institution. For 90s fans, think Empire Records. Full of quirky misfits, humor, heart, and movie references galore.) 

 

 

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You’d Be Mine: A Novel by Erin Hahn

 

Annie Mathers is America’s sweetheart and heir to a country music legacy full of all the things her Gran warned her about. Superstar Clay Coolidge is most definitely going to end up one of those things.

But unfortunately for Clay, if he can’t convince Annie to join his summer tour, his music label is going to drop him. That’s what happens when your bad boy image turns into bad boy reality. Annie has been avoiding the spotlight after her parents’ tragic death, except on her skyrocketing YouTube channel. Clay’s label wants to land Annie, and Clay has to make it happen.

Swayed by Clay’s undeniable charm and good looks, Annie and her band agree to join the tour. From the start fans want them to be more than just tour mates, and Annie and Clay can’t help but wonder if the fans are right. But if there’s one part of fame Annie wants nothing to do with, it’s a high-profile relationship. She had a front row seat to her parents’ volatile marriage and isn’t interested in repeating history. If only she could convince her heart that Clay, with his painful past and head over heels inducing tenor, isn’t worth the risk.

Erin Hahn’s thrilling debut, You’d Be Mine, asks: can the right song and the perfect summer on the road make two broken hearts whole?

(POST-IT SAYS: Fans of sweet, swoony romances will love this music-centered story full of chemistry, easy to like characters, emotional depth, and just enough drama. Follows a predictable but enjoyable path.) 

 

 

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Every Moment After by Joseph Moldover

(Releases April 9, 2019)

Best friends Matt and Cole grapple with their changing relationships during the summer after high school in this impactful, evocative story about growing up and moving on from a traumatic past. 

Surviving was just the beginning. 

Eleven years after a shooting rocked the small town of East Ridge, New Jersey and left eighteen first graders in their classroom dead, survivors and recent high school graduates Matt Simpson and Cole Hewitt are still navigating their guilt and trying to move beyond the shadow of their town’s grief. Will Cole and Matt ever be able to truly leave the ghosts of East Ridge behind? Do they even want to?

As they grapple with changing relationships, falling in love, and growing apart, these two friends must face the question of how to move on—and truly begin living.

(POST-IT SAYS: This look at what life’s like years after a school shooting is unique and as much about friendship as it is about trauma. FYI, the shooting isn’t detailed on the page. An unfortunately always timely topic.)

 

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Starworld by Audrey Coulthurst, Paula Garner

 

(Releases April 16, 2019)

 

In a novel in two voices, a popular teen and an artistic loner forge an unlikely bond — and create an entire universe — via texts. But how long before the real world invades Starworld?Sam Jones and Zoe Miller have one thing in common: they both want an escape from reality. Loner Sam flies under the radar at school and walks on eggshells at home to manage her mom’s obsessive-compulsive disorder, wondering how she can ever leave to pursue her dream of studying aerospace engineering. Popular, people-pleasing Zoe puts up walls so no one can see her true self: the girl who was abandoned as an infant, whose adoptive mother has cancer, and whose disabled brother is being sent away to live in a facility. When an unexpected encounter results in the girls’ exchanging phone numbers, they forge a connection through text messages that expands into a private universe they call Starworld. In Starworld, they find hilarious adventures, kindness and understanding, and the magic of being seen for who they really are. But when Sam’s feelings for Zoe turn into something more, will the universe they’ve built survive the inevitable explosion?

 

(POST-IT SAYS: Strong characters carry this moving look at the complex lives of teens. Great dual POV in this story about risk, connection, friendship, and identity. A warm, funny, and heartfelt escape from reality.) 

Digital Media: Using Photo Apps to Create a Glitch Effects

It’s been a while since I talked about photo apps. In fact, it’s been so long you probably thought I had lost my love for digital media and photo apps. You would be wrong. I simply hadn’t found anything new that I really loved and thought did something different. However, if you follow teen TLTer Elliot on Twitter, then you would know that they take a lot of cool photos and lately, a lot of their photos have this cool rainbow tilt effect. So I asked Elliot how they did that effect. If you ever want to know how to do something cool with tech, ask a teen.

The effect I am seeking to create is this rainbow effect that you see in the picture below. It is called a glitch effect. You know how in the movie Wreck It Ralph Vanellope keeps glitching in and out? That’s the effect I’m trying to create on my photos.

Elliot shared with me several apps that they use to create this effect and then I found a few additional ones. I should point out that all of these apps are initially free, but they require in app purchases to unlock additional features. I went with just the free versions because they allowed me to create the effect that I wanted. The two apps I liked best were Instabit and Glitch Studio. Elliot’s apps of choice are Vaporcam, Glitch Effect and Rad VHS.

Using the Glitch Studio app, I created this Old TV effect pic. You can’t see it in the picture, but it also produces a wavy gif effect like a TV screen going in and out of reception if you want to use the image as a gif.

I used the Instabit app to create the next two pictures.

As you can see from the screenshots, there are a lot of features that are locked because I didn’t choose to pay to unlock them. In fact, the Instabit app has a cool VHS style camera feature you can use to shoot old school looking video which I did not try out because at this time I’m simply looking at creating cool photos.

As someone who creates a lot of publicity for teen oriented events who also understands copyright and enjoys digital media, I like creating my own pictures and uploading them to feature in promotional flyers and on social media. I also use pictures in a lot of crafts and programs, because digital media is about the extent of my artistic capabilities. These are a couple of cool tools that I am adding to my extensive collection of photo apps for the specific and very cool effects that they create.

Although I barely touched the surface of what you can do with these apps because I was seeking to create a very specific effect, I recommend them. To create the effects that I wanted there was no cost and they were both incredibly easy to use.

Want to know about more of my favorite photo apps and the effects that I use them for? Check out this post or click on the apps tag below.

Kids Can Handle Big Decisions . . . If the Adults Get Out of the Way (But Also Don’t), a guest post by Kirstin Cronn-Mills

(CW: Assisted suicide.)

First, a million thanks to Teen Librarian Toolbox for hosting me. I appreciate your work so much!

(Important note: this blog post can’t tackle the social and legal issues around assisted suicide. Too much complexity for 900 words. We’re just gonna go with it.)

Lake Superior, Duluth, MN, where WRECK takes place. Photo credit: Kelly Tekler

Lake Superior, Duluth, MN, where WRECK takes place. Photo credit: Kelly Tekler

In Wreck, Tobin has a lot of choices to make—ones most high school juniors don’t generally make, thank goodness. She’s choosing what to do with her future, which is typical, but she also has to choose how to interact with her dad, Steve. Thanks to his ALS, which is complicated by frontotemporal dementia, he’s unpredictable on his best days and impossible on his worst. Is she going to be a crabby teenager, or will she show him compassion (or will she do both, which seems pretty traditional for a teenager, as well as what most humans would do)?

Eventually she also has to choose what to do (and how to feel) when Steve makes decisions about his own death. Steve’s choice is an awful thing for her to face—it’s an awful thing for a grown-up to face—but she legally becomes a criminal when she helps him carry out his wish to be free. That’s a heavy and unnecessary burden for a seventeen-year-old.

I can hear the outraged voices now: she’s too young for such a difficult choice! She can’t make such an adult decision! She has no idea what she’s doing!

Um. No, she’s not. Yes, she can. Yes, she does.

Yes, Tobin is young. No, human brains don’t mature until they’re in their mid-twenties. But Tobin understands a lot about two fundamental parts of being human: she knows about love, and she knows about loss.

Fundamentally, Tobin makes her decision to help her dad out of love, because they have loved each other fiercely for all of Tobin’s life, and she wants him to be out of both physical and mental pain. Her knowledge of loss is more of a mystery to the reader (and to her, really): she doesn’t acknowledge the large loss she’s already suffered, nor that it’s affected her in more ways than she’ll cop to. However, when it comes down to her decision to help Steve, she knows more than most of us because she’s lived with loss for much of her life. She knows she can cope.

Action figures are a part of WRECK, too!

Action figures are a part of WRECK, too!

What carries Tobin through all of her grief—including her decision—is the love of people older than her who help her make these big decisions. She has her great-uncle Paul, who clearly values her (and also understands loss), and she has Ike, a family friend who becomes a brother. Especially with Ike, Tobin can sort things out, feel her feelings, and figure out what’s next.

Tobin is also allowed to make decisions—which isn’t something all teens get to do. She isn’t forced into anything (with the exception of who will be her guardian, once Steve isn’t), and she isn’t sheltered from her dad’s choice. She has the knowledge she needs about the situation, and she responds to Steve out of love and understanding, rather than duty or a forced adherence to convention.

This is one of the ways kids become caring adults—first, they’re influenced by people who model both caring behavior and critical thinking, and second, they’re surrounded by safety. Tobin is safe to explore her thoughts and feelings with Steve, Paul, and Ike, and that safety allows her to come to her empathetic decision.

When I started writing for teens, I committed to giving my protagonists an older person they could rely on, because I had a couple in my high school years—a person who’s not a parent, usually. In Sky, Morgan has her grandma. In Beautiful Music, Gabe has his neighbor John. In Original Fake, Frankie has his boss and idol, Uncle Epic. Tobin has the same thing in Ike and Paul. Teenagers need to see evidence that not all grown-ups are assholes (if they are inclined to think they are), and that there are people interested in what they have to say. Some adults actually do recognize that yeah, teens are learning, but they’re pretty smart to start with.

If Tobin was a real person, she wouldn’t be able to recognize all the implications of her choice right away. A grown-up might not even be able to do that. But I don’t think she’d regret her choice, because she was helping someone she loves be free of pain. Hopefully Real Tobin would also have the support of those who love her, and they’d affirm her decision, even as they were sad about it. I know lots of teens and young adults who’ve been in really tough situations. Those who’ve come through it have been the ones with a circle of caring folks around them. Book Tobin does what she does, even though it will devastate her, because it’s the right thing to do, and because she’s got support.

There’s all the difference in the world between being forced into the fight and walking in with your head held high. Steve chooses. Tobin chooses. We all deserve that right.

Meet Kirstin Cronn-Mills

kirstinKirstin Cronn-Mills writes young adult novels and nonfiction for high school libraries. Her books have received both state and national recognition. She lives in southern Minnesota with her family, where she teaches and wishes she lived closer to Lake Superior.
Find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

About WRECK

wreckSometimes loss has its own timetable.

Set on the shores of Lake Superior, Wreck follows high school junior Tobin Oliver as she navigates her father’s diagnosis of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

Steve’s life as a paramedic and a runner comes to an abrupt halt just as Tobin is preparing her application for a scholarship to art school. With the help of Steve’s personal care assistant (and family friend) Ike, Tobin attends to both her photography and to Steve as his brain unexpectedly fails right along with his body.

Tobin struggles to find a “normal” life, especially as Steve makes choices about how his own will end, and though she fights hard, Tobin comes to realize that respecting her father’s decision is the ultimate act of love.

Wreck wrecked me. Kirstin Cronn-Mills has a singular way of getting inside characters heads and making their stories come to life. This book will make you cry.” —Bill Konigsberg, award-winning author of The Music of What Happens?

“A provocative, unflinching, and emotionally-complex deep dive into mortality and loss while Tobin and her father grapple with almost unfathomable decisions. A wrenching and empathetic look at the tumultuous waters and seemingly bottomless grief that can interrupt an otherwise placid life.” —Amanda MacGregor, Teen Librarian Toolbox

“This book has heart and empathy as vast and deep as the Great Lake on which it’s set.” —Geoff Herbach, award-winning author of Stupid Fast and Hooper

“Every so often a book comes along that is so sharp, so moving, so real, and so good, you want to press it into everyone’s hands and say, Read this! READ THIS!” —Courtney Summers, author of Cracked Up to Be, on Beautiful Music for Ugly Children

“A kind and satisfyingly executed portrait.” —Kirkus Reviews

ISBN-13: 9781510739031
Publisher: Sky Pony
Publication date: 04/16/2019

See Amanda’s review here

Book Review: Wreck by Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Publisher’s description

wreckSometimes loss has its own timetable.

Set on the shores of Lake Superior, Wreck follows high school junior Tobin Oliver as she navigates her father’s diagnosis of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

Steve’s life as a paramedic and a runner comes to an abrupt halt just as Tobin is preparing her application for a scholarship to art school. With the help of Steve’s personal care assistant (and family friend) Ike, Tobin attends to both her photography and to Steve as his brain unexpectedly fails right along with his body.

Tobin struggles to find a “normal” life, especially as Steve makes choices about how his own will end, and though she fights hard, Tobin comes to realize that respecting her father’s decision is the ultimate act of love.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

Full disclosure: Kirstin is my friend and I blurbed this book. For the tl;dr version of this review, here’s my blurb:

 

Kirstin Cronn-Mills takes readers on a provocative, unflinching, and emotionally-complex deep dive into mortality and loss while Tobin and her father grapple with almost unfathomable decisions. A wrenching and empathetic look at the tumultuous waters and seemingly bottomless grief that can interrupt an otherwise placid life.

 

When Tobin’s father, Steve, is diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), everything changes. ALS is a progressive, degenerative disease. While some things may slow the progression of the disease, there is no cure. ALS involves paralysis, eventually affecting breathing and swallowing. It’s junior year and Tobin should be hanging out with her few friends, preparing her photography portfolio for scholarships for art school, working at her aunt’s thrift shop down in Canal Park in Duluth, and just going about life as she has come to know it. But the diagnosis throws everything into disarray. Steve’s disease is rapidly changing his body and his brain. Ike, a family friend and former Army medic, moves in to be Steve’s personal care assistant. Tobin’s mom took off years ago, so it’s really always just been Tobin and her dad. They know that before long, Steve will die, leaving Tobin in the care of her aunt until she’s no longer a minor, then on her own.

 

The question becomes what do you do in the time between getting a devastating and terminal diagnosis and actually dying? For Steve, he continues to socialize, help work on the marathon committee, and writes a book of advice to leave behind for Tobin. For Tobin, she tries to bury her heart deep in Lake Superior, which feels like the only way she can keep going and cope with this horrible situation. To complicate matters further, there’s a box in their house that’s haunting her. Inside that innocuous-looking box is pentobarbital, a barbiturate that Steve intends to take a high dose of to end his life, on his terms, when the time is right. And if he’s physically unable to do so on his own, he’s asked Tobin to be the one to administer the medicine.

 

Yep. Oof.

 

For both Tobin and her father, their lives are nothing like what they had imagined them to be like. The grief that comes with accepting this diagnosis and Steve’s eventual death is heart-wrenching. Having lost my own father very suddenly in a car accident, I don’t know if there is a “good” way to have a parent die—unexpectedly, where you have no time to prepare, or slowly, where you have lots of time to anticipate and watch someone ail. I think it’s terrible no matter what the circumstance. For Steve, his personality changes are ROUGH. He vacillates between loving and his usual self to angry, mean, hateful, and uncontrolled. It goes with the territory with ALS, but that doesn’t make it easy for Tobin to experience or easy to read. No matter how hard Tobin tries to protect her heart, she can’t. The grief, the waiting, the unpredictability, the potential to have to help her father die—it’s all too much. Trying to have no feelings about something that causes BIG feelings is impossible. We know where this story is going and how it will end. It is an unrelentingly sad plot, punctuated by brief moments of joy, whimsy, and always by plenty of love. 

 

Undoubtedly, the narrative of death with dignity–that is, the right for terminally ill people to die on their own terms—will create passionate feelings about this book and possibly some controversy. That said, the plot makes it clear why this can be a compassionate act, why someone would choose this option. Steve and Tobin’s story is filled with lots of nuance, empathy, support, and love. This is a moving exploration of mortality, family, and impossibly difficult decisions.

 

Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781510739031
Publisher: Sky Pony
Publication date: 04/16/2019

Audio Review: Spin by Lamar Giles

Now that I have a super long commute, I listen to a lot of audio books. I recently listened to Spin by Lamar Giles, which The Teen is currently reading. Here’s what I thought.

spinPublisher’s Book Description

Sixteen-year-old Paris Secord’s (aka DJ ParSec) career–and life–has come to an untimely end, and the local music scene is reeling. No one is feeling the pain more than her shunned pre-fame best friend, Kya, and Paris’s chief groupie, Fuse. But suspicion trumps grief, and since each suspects the other of Paris’s murder, they’re locked in a high-stakes game of public accusations and sabotage.

Everyone in the ParSec Nation (DJ ParSec’s local media base)–including the killer–is content to watch it play out, until Kya and Fuse discover a secret: Paris was on the verge of major deal that would’ve catapulted her to superstar status on a national level, leaving her old life (and old friends) behind. With the new info comes new motives. New suspects. And a fandom that shows its deadly side. As Kya and Fuse come closer to the twisted truth, the killer’s no longer amused. But murdering Paris was simple enough, so getting rid of her nobody-friends shouldn’t be an issue…

Karen’s Thoughts

This was a really intriguing mystery with a great example of female friendship. The opening grabs your immediate attention and it just keeps you hooked page after page. I loved how the formal rivals for ParSec’s affection became friends as they worked together to clear their name. There’s also a lot of fascinating discussion about music, family, school, identity and the power of social media. So many rich details in between the mystery to reflect on.

Also, bonus points, there is a strong female character engaged in STEM which is essential to the story and there are several strong yet vulnerable and self-aware female characters from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds that just add some additional layers to this story. It’s a mystery, but the character development is on point.

The audio was engaging and well narrated. I was invested and wanted to know who did what, but I enjoyed spending time with the characters along the way.

Highly recommended.

Feminist AF: Internal Revolutions: Books + Emotional Literacy a guest post by Emma Fernhout

feministMarch for Our Lives.  Youth Climate Strike. The Women’s March. The last several years have shown us that teenagers can, and will, lead or participate in resistance. They will study, discuss, and stand up, sometimes when adults hesitate. Should this surprise us? Teenagers and young adults lead revolutions as our books, written by adults who believe in them, have taught them to.

Sometimes this revolution is internal. This may be especially true when examining YA books’ impact covering current events. For example, in the age of University required consent classes, YA books covering movements such as #MeToo have power to equip readers for real life. I believe we are remembering books’ emotional political power, as we begin to discuss more openly the damage our society imparts.

Of course, I read and hear many critiques about over-emotional political rhetoric, but I’d like to note that this critique is often given to women, from the voice of men. Two articles to consult on this topic include Political Revisioning: How Men Police Women’s Anger in Writing Workshops and The History of Female Anger. Perhaps the truth is that we lack emotional literacy, tending to graze the surface of our feelings with less regard for the layers of emotions simmering beneath. Psychologist Hilary Jacobs Hendel calls this the “Change Triangle,” mapping the depth of our feelings. Without this self-awareness, we might misguidedly pin-point fears and thus act in ways that do little to resolve the root of the tension.

People experience the world through the lens of feeling, or lack thereof. This is especially true in the context of sexual assault. Mental health matters.

Yet when we open a book, we also are opened, within a safe environment of expression and experience. Books allow us to make sense of the world, and ourselves, whether by second hand experience or prompted thought and assessment.

Books as Vessels for Empathy

Books may open a cavity within readers for empathy, allowing readers to enter into a situation which they have recently heard much about, often via third party sources such as news outlets and social media. Books are a valuable and comparable method of immersion: Reading offers a safe venue in which to experience a reality, another world other people are forced to live within, complete with thoughts and sight. It allows a reader to steep within another’s mind, perspective, and world, while still offering the control to the reader: one may pause, put the book down, and return to their own reality if they so need.

But if we hear about sexual assault so often, why would we need books to help educate ourselves? Isn’t the knowledge assault exists enough? Perhaps, but we read to gain perspective. How many different points of view are offered, to best reflect our diverse world and complex situations (eg, perspectives such as survivor, bystander, and friends, not to mention within different cultural contexts?) The goal is not just to know an issue is occurring, but to truly hear and glimpse the emotional reality and gravity of these stories. What does the occurrence of an event actually mean to those it touches? We can hear the data all day, but the stories producing the data are just as important as the statistics. People- lives– are simply numbers. This fact needs to weigh on authors, reminding them of their responsibility to be careful, authentic, and vulnerable through their work.

Empathy Leads to Educated Guesses and Questions

Only after we are more knowledgeable may we be equipped to ask educated questions of authority, peers, and ourselves. Only then may we intelligently exponentially evolve in better directions. This requires bravery and discomfort, which is, again, why the safe venue of a book is so helpful. Fiction allows the reader to be present for a glimpse into the stories that are blasted across our screens.

Our emotional literacy is improved as we continually learn to understand- or simply respect- the emotional and situational complexity of situations that are so rarely very black and white as they seem.

For example, as we peek into the minds of sexual assault survivors, we may be less likely to ask, “Why didn’t she report the sexual assault sooner?” Books offer a window into messy situations, revealing consequences and complications. We see how multiple characters and situations affect a person. This may hopefully alleviate victim blaming, especially for situations that may occur within bubbles, such as sexual assault in the bubble of a high school, stranding individuals within its confines.

With increased understanding of the complex situations surrounding us, we are equipped to make better decisions, our respectful empathy increased. We may more easily pause and consider of ourselves, peers and authorities, “What energy am I bringing into this space? How might I be touching others, and what options are available to me?”

Question everything, always, gently employing rhetoric and emotional literacy.

Books as Methods for Both Validation and Catharsis

Last April, I listened to Lynda Barry tell a room full of teenagers and adults that catharsis is a biological state of reflection, intertwined with imagery:

I believe that the arts are like an external immune system. I believe that they have a biological function.

The fastest way I can explain it is that there is this brilliant neuroscientist named V. S. Ramachandran, who wrote a book called Phantoms in the Brain. He was very interested in people with phantom-limb pain, and he had one patient who had lost his hand from the wrist down, but the guy’s sensation was not only that the hand was still there, but that it was in a painful fist that kept clenching. Ramachandran built a box, with a mirror and two holes in one side. When the guy put his arms in, he saw the one hand reflected [as if he could see both of his hands]. When he opened the hand, he saw it open and it was like the missing hand was unclenching. It fixed his phantom-limb sensation. That’s what I think images do; that’s what the arts do. In the course of human life we have a million phantom-limb pains—losing a parent when you’re little, being in a war, even something as dumb as having a mean teacher—and seeing it somehow reflected, whether it’s in our own work or listening to a song, is a way to deal with it.

The Greeks knew about it. They called it catharsis, right? And without it we’re fucked. I think this is the thing that keeps our mental health or emotional health in balance, and we’re born with an impulse toward it.

// via The Paris Review

Stories of trauma, whether sexual assault, absent parents, disabilities, or subtle injuries, are important to make available. Suddenly, a reader is not alone within their possibly isolated world. Personal stories are physically validated, through a bundle of paper that one can hold in their hands, knowing that someone else thought through the complexity and thought it important enough to commit it to paper. They are believed in.

Books as Vehicles for Questioning Multiple Points of View

Complex subjects are infinitely more complex than we realize. A sexual assault narrative may have varying facets depending on characters and forms, such as realism, essay, poetry, history, comics, characters of color, lgbtq+ characters, and more. In addition, due to complex subject matters, books should also include a range of point of view, from, in the case of #MeToo, survivor, bystanders, and friends. Complex subjects cannot, and should not, be dumbed down to one point of view impacted.

It is also important to allow some attention for authors. Whose perspective are we investing in? For example, reading diverse characters primarily written by white, straight, cis, fully abled characters is not reading diversely. Read from the voices you seek to see. Their voices are authentic, and there is little risk of token inclusion for the sake of diversity trends.

Yes, this is slightly overwhelming, but perhaps it is the small work we need to embrace as we select our literature, especially if one is in the position to recommend work to others. I am afraid to become someone who wears the title of an open-hearted librarian, opening the doors for anyone who needs information, without doing the work of careful listening. I refuse to glean most of my ideals and ideas about other identities from voices that sound exactly like mine. This includes tough subjects such as sexual assault. If I’m going to read about this experience, to open myself up, hopefully I will not primarily hear my point of view, as culture does not treat everyone identically. Similarly, I need more queer writers. Disabled writers. Asian authors. Native writers. Who are the voices I have neglected to find, and when I do read them, who recommended them? Who is the expert for accuracy?

I want to be a better listener, and thus expand my capacity for empathy and educated opinions.
I want to continue to find myself reflected in works of all kinds and voices.
I too have stayed up late reading, crying into a book, and rushed to tell the author how they told my own story. I understand that sense of release, and it is priceless, and all people deserve this feeling.

My hope is that publishers value this feeling over marketability, especially if we consume these works. For example, whitewashing is an issue for all authors, whether white or AOC’s.
There is much to be said on the topic of diversity, and better voices to speak it. If you’re interested, I encourage you to continue research, perhaps beginning with these resources: We Need Diverse Books and OwnVoices: Why We Need Diverse Authors in Children’s Literature.

Feelings and Experience Matter, and I Hope We May Embrace Ourselves and Others.

I understand; Emotions are not necessarily measurable or standard. What hurts one person might not hurt everyone, but what does this say about our views of other people’s worth? How do we decide who matters? What is this measuring stick, and would any of us measure up on every measuring stick?

I don’t believe so.

We all have to exist inside ourselves, and feel.

Feelings are scary, but they matter. They are a lens on experience.

People matter. You matter. Others matter too.

Books help us remember. Keep reading.

 

 

unnamedEmma Fernhout is a youth librarian, poet, and MLIS student, armed with a yoga mat, and a BA in Creative Writing Poetry from UMKC.
Emma can be found on instagram at @hereistheend and sproutclubjournal.com

 

Conversation Snapshots: Let’s Talk YA Lit Titles & YA Programming Success

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YA Lit Suggestions

Although I do a lot of blogging here, sometimes good conversations happen on Twitter. Last Sunday, I wrote a post about updating YA titles that are discussed in media discussions and then I asked people on Twitter to recommend books for those updated discussions. Follow the tweet and you will see some of the recommended titles.

There were several recommendations for Scythe by Neal Shusterman, One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus and They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera. All great recommendations.

I keep thinking about how odd it is in retrospect that all these articles that talk about older YA don’t mention two of the first really popular – like word of mouth and all the teens come in asking for them popular titles: Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. What titles – old or new – do you think need to be included in the conversation? Please let us know in the comments.

Teen Programming Success!

The second question I asked this past week was about popular YA/Teen programming. What, I asked, is the most popular program you have ever hosted past or present? You’ll get lots of great programming ideas by reading through this thread. Many have them have been and continue to be popular for me and some of them are completely new ideas that I am looking forward to trying out.

Have some other teen programming success stories that you would like to share? Drop us a comment.

Sunday Reflections: How the Language of Deconstructing One’s Faith Helped Me Understand Adolescence

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In the award-winning novel Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, the main character, Xiomara Batista, spends a lot of time questioning and challenging the very deep Catholic faith that she was raised in. She’s trying to figure out who she is and what she believes; she’s trying to make sense of her parent’s faith and find a faith that she can believe in for herself. She is deconstructing her faith.

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To be clear, this is a pretty normal part of adolescence. In fact, it is one of the primary tasks, to move into a more independent sense of self and figure out who you are, who you want to be, what you believe, and how you will move through this world. One of the most fundamental tasks of adolescence is to figure out a self-identity. And often, this involves the deconstruction of faith.

Deconstruction is quite literally a critical analysis. Metaphorically, it takes the pieces of something apart and takes the time to evaluate them each individually and then figure out how they fit together, or don’t, in the scope of one’s own life and belief system. And to parents, it can be terrifying in no small part because religion, matters of faith and devotion, are so incredibly personal and fraught. In the end, when you start talking about matters of belief, you are often talking about literal matters of life and death, and what happens to one’s mortal soul after death. It’s not an easy topic by any means.

In the book Heretic’s Anonymous by Katie Henry, we meet a group of teens from a variety of faiths who are at different stages of belief. Some are devout, some are questioning, some are atheist, and some are deconstructing. It’s not so much that they don’t believe, it’s that they don’t believe in it all the way the adults in their lives want them to believe so they engage in critical analysis to determine what it is the do believe and how they can incorporate that into their life. One of the main characters, perhaps my favorite, is a teen girl who very much loves her Catholic faith but is also a feminist. There’s a lot of tension in many faiths when it comes to embracing and upholding feminist ideals.

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Although I have been aware for a while that millennial and teens – and today’s teens ARE NOT millennials – have been leaving the church, I have only recently become aware of the concept of and language of deconstructing one’s faith. There are discussions online using hasthags like #exvangelical (which is about moving away from fundamentalist Christianity, with some choosing atheism and others just choosing a more progressive faith), #emptythepews (which specifically calls for an exodus out of the church), and a variety of other discussions about what it means to deconstruct one’s faith. I read and follow these discussions for a variety of reasons, both professional and personal.

Many teens (and millennials) are leaving the church because they do not find that the church practices what it preaches. They will argue that the church preaches that God loves all but then actively preach hatred towards the LGBTQ+ community. The teens that I have talked to see an underlying greed and corruption in the church, and they are angry at the way that the church has turned their back on both the Earth and their future by engaging in climate change denial. And as news breaks out that more and more denominations have spent decades covering up childhood abuse to protect their name and the adults around them at the expense of children, they are finding it harder and harder to feel that church cares about them at all.

In the book The Distance Between Lost and Found by Kathryn Holmes, the main character is wrestling with her continued participation in a youth group when the very teen who has sexually assaulted her continues to be embraced and lauded by her friends and family. She feels lost, lonely, rejected, terrified and unsupported. She finds herself in the wilderness metaphorically and quite literally as she wrestles with her truth at church camp. She is a proxy for every child, teen or adult harmed by the church who is trying to figure out where they still fit in at a church that wants to deny the truth of what has happened to them, leaving them vulnerable and alone. She is deconstructing her faith.

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As the mother of a teenage daughter, I have the opportunity to have a lot of hard and important conversations with my teen. And because we are a family that goes to a Christian church together, a lot of these conversations revolve around the Bible, the church and lately, a lot about LGBTQ+ issues. I have found that this generation of teens is the most accepting and open about their and other people’s sexual and gender identities and the topic is very important to them. We also happen to be United Methodist and our denomination recently voted to uphold traditional views of gender and sexuality and to prohibit same sex couples from marrying or being ordained. This is a topic that my teen was very aware of and chose to follow on her own. And she came to me heartbroken when the church voted to hold people she loves outside of the full fellowship of the church. If given a choice, I’m sure that she would not currently choose to keep attending church.

She also has spent time with me in my work with teens in various spaces. She has seen me love, embrace and support transgender teens, gay teens, queer teens, questioning teens . . . And she always seems surprised when I talk about how sometimes it is still hard for me to totally shake off what I have been taught for literal years by the church regarding LGBTQ+ issues. You see, deconstructing your faith isn’t easy and it isn’t a one time process. I feel like I’m always challenging, learning, and growing. But when we talk about it I tell her that I have one huge thing that I am always trying to keep in mind: I never want to harm a fellow human being. Which is not the same thing as saying that I never do, because I have, I do and I will continue to do so because that’s part of being human. I have chosen to be honest, vulnerable and open in my parenting in part because I want her to know that she doesn’t have to have all the answers right now. I know that I certainly don’t, and I’m 46.

It’s important to note that deconstructing faith doesn’t have to mean walking away from it entirely. It’s just a process of questioning and challenging what you are taught. If done correctly, it usually involves asking for spiritual guidance to help with things like discernment and guidance. It often involve letting one’s faith evolve and represent the more complex thinking that we develop in adolescence. It’s moving from black and white thinking to recognizes the various shades of grey that inhabit the reality of the world we live in. It’s taking the pieces apart, but putting them back together again in ways that make sense and affirm both the foundations of your belief system and full dignity and rights of your fellow humans.

To be honest, I think much of adolescence can be understood in the context of deconstructing. Teens are constantly in the process of deconstructing and then reconstructing who they are, what they think and feel, what they believe, and how they want to live in the world. Although it’s easy to look at a word like deconstructing and have negative thoughts, I think it really embodies many of the processes of adolescence. And remember, deconstructing almost always results in reconstructing, whether that be of faith or self. Deconstructing isn’t something we should fear, because in the end, it almost always results in a more honest, thoughtful, and healthy reconstruction of self.

Part of what I do as a librarian who serves teen is to provide them access to the tools and resources that can help them in this process. I believe in the power of story and words to help us explore the world around us and the world inside of us so that we can deconstruct and then reconstruct our understanding. The power of story helps build compassion. Words enlighten, motivate, encourage, challenge, affirm and more. There are teens that I have had the opportunity to sit and talk with, teens I have watched grow from year to year, but there are also teens who have walked into my library that I have never seen and the simple act of providing the book that they needed when they needed it has helped them become the person they are today. It’s a responsibility I do not take lightly.