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#SJYALit: Because Their Stories Matter, a guest post by Danielle Ellison

 Today, author Danielle Ellison joins us as part of our Social Justice in YALit Discussion. You can find all of the #SJYALit Posts here.

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As much as I want to write this guest post, I also don’t want to. It’s a familiar feeling, for me, of why I was nervous to write my newest book and why I am terrified of my next one: I’m not representative of what I’m writing.

In a world of YA where Own Voices matter, where representation matters, where diversity is important—and as someone who stands in support of that—I didn’t want to write a book with a gay teen. I also don’t want to have a MC who is a person of color, which my next in this series. But I am anyway because their stories matter.

Their stories matter.

##

My day job is working with teenagers. I love my job and I love my teens, fiercely, even when they say or do or act in messed up teenage ways. I love being a pro-claimed library mom to them.

I don’t love the other parts.

I don’t love having to bite my tongue when I listen to my LGBTQ+ teens talk about being are too afraid to come out to their families because they know if they do, they’ll be homeless.

I don’t love watching one of my teens, who is a fantastic makeup artist and future (self-proclaimed) drag queen, wear beanies and sweats to school because he believes if he dresses as who he is, he will get beat up by rednecks. (His words.)

sweetheartsham

I feel pride when I see seventh graders speak out about their gender identity, about their pronouns, about the name they want to be called instead, and stand up to peers who ridicule. (I never knew that much about myself, or the world, in seventh grade because my peers were more invested in boy band drama.) While I embrace that pride, I don’t love hearing some of those same kids talk about how his mom tried to make him wear a dress to picture day. Or how her dad keeps introducing her as his dead name in public, even though dad doesn’t call her that at home. Or how kids at school say comments that imply being a “they” means they have two people inside their head, and in which case wouldn’t that just make them crazy?

I have listened to, cried with, been angered for, sat helplessly by and listened to LGTBQ+ teens (and adult friends) no matter what their gender, identity, race or pronoun, deal with issues of acceptance, trust. How they can’t walk down the street holding their partner’s hand just in case. How they get stares for looking “different”. How they fear every day that today may be the last day they have the rights they fought for.

I’m lucky. I don’t have those fears. I don’t have, and never have had to, face the reality that my parents, my family, my friends could turn their backs on me if they found out who I was wasn’t who they wanted me to be. That doesn’t mean I don’t care, that I won’t fight, that I won’t support, listen to, march with, fight for those who do. In fact, it means the opposite. It means I will.

As fiercely as I love my teens, writing, my job, I love people. I believe that fear shouldn’t be present in their lives, and it makes me sad—and it makes me angry—that humans in our “free” country have to experience any of that.

##

These stories matter.

It’s the aftermath of them, too, that matter. It’s the other teens, the ones who lend clothes and give rides and offer bedroom floors to their friends “just in case”. It’s the ones who listen, who care, who fight and argue and march alongside their friends. It’s the stories of those who just love other humans…not because they’re LGBTQ+ or a person of color. Not because of any social issue other than being a friend.

Those stories matter too.

And that’s why I write these stories I’m afraid of. There are more stories out there to be told, and there are some out there being shouted off rooftops. We just have to be brave enough to listen.

About The Sweetheart Sham:

In a small town like Culler, South Carolina, you guard your secrets like you guard your cobbler recipe: with your life. Georgia Ann Monroe knows a thing or two about secrets: she’s been guarding the truth that her best friend Will is gay for years now. But what happens when a little white lie to protect him gets her into a fake relationship…and then the boy of her dreams shows up?

Enter Beau Montgomery: Georgie’s first love, hotter than ever, and much too much of a southern gentleman to ever pursue someone else’s girl. There’s no way to come clean to Beau while still protecting Will. But bless their hearts, they live in Culler—where secrets always have a way of revealing themselves.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains a hilarious “fakeship,” a scorching-hot impossible relationship, and a heartwarming best-friendship that will make you want to call your best friend right here, right now.

Buylinks: https://entangledpublishing.com/the-sweetheart-sham.html

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33025418-the-sweetheart-sham

About Danielle Ellison:

danielleellison

Danielle Ellison is a nomad, always on the lookout for an adventure and the next story. In addition to writing, she’s the founder and coordinator of the NoVa TEEN Book Festival. When she’s not busy with books, she’s probably watching her favorite shows, drinking coffee, or fighting her nomadic urges. She is newly settled in Oklahoma (for now) with her cat, Simon, but you can always find her on twitter @DanielleEWrites.

Collecting Comics: December 2017 Edition, by Ally Watkins

collectingcomics

Welcome to the December 2017 edition of Collecting Comics! Here are a few suggestions of things coming out this month that your teens and tweens will enjoy!

comicsdec1

Gotham Academy, Second Semester, Volume 2: The Ballad of Olive Silverlock by Brendan Fletcher, Becky Cloonan, and Karl Kerschl, illustrated by Adam Archer (DC Comics, December 5). In this final volume of the popular Gotham Academy series, we learn the fate of Olive, who has been possessed by her ancestor, Amity Arkham, who wants nothing more than to destroy Gotham City. Will the rest of the Detective Club be able to save her? Collects issues #9-#12 and #4 of the comic book series. This one features a lot of Gotham references, so give it to your Batman fans.

I Am Groot by Chris Hastings, illustrated by Flaviano (Marvel, December 5). When the Guardians of the Galaxy get stuck in a wormhole, a small Groot finds himself on his own in an alien world where no one can understand him. He must make a journey to the center of the world if he wants to find his family again! Collects issues #1-#5 of the comic book series.

comicsdec2

Star Wars: Rogue One Graphic Novel Adaptation by Allesandro Ferrari (IDW Publishing, December 12). This graphic adaptation of the popular Rogue One film features Jyn Erso, daughter of the Death Star’s creator, who is trying to save her father from Imperial control and steal the plans for the Death Star. Leads directly into the opening scene of Episode IV. All of your young Star Wars fans will be lining up for this one.

Lumberjanes Volume 7: A Bird’s-Eye View by Shannon Waters and Kat Leyh, illustrated by Carey Pietsch, Ayme Sotuyo, and Maarta Laiho (BOOM! Box, December 12). The High Council is coming to camp for inspection and everyone is trying to make everything perfect, even though there’s a storm brewing and kittens from the boy’s camp are manifesting magic powers. The multiple Eisner-award winning series is back with a new trade volume! Collects issues #25-#28 of the comic book series. Lumberjanes is perfect for fans of summer camp adventures and friendship stories.

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Brave Chef Brianna by Sam Sykes, illustrated by Selina Espiritu (BOOM! Studios, December 12). Brianna has big cooking dreams. She wants to open her own restaurant. But the only place she can afford to do it is in Monster City…where she’s the only human. Will her restaurant succeed?? Collects the entire limited series.

Misfit City Volume 1 by Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith and Kurt Lustgarten, illustrated by Naomi Franquiz (BOOM! Box, December 19).  Nothing fun has happened in Wilder’s hometown since they filmed a cult classic movie there in the 80s. But then she and her friends happen upon a centuries-old pirate map…and they discover their town might not be so boring after all! Collects issues #1-#4 of the comic book series. Give this one to your adventure readers.

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Ms. Marvel Volume 8: Mecca by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona (Marvel, December 26). An old enemy resurfaces and begins to target those closest to intrepid teenage hero Kamala Khan. She begins to suspect that something even more sinister is at work. Collects issues #19-#24 of the comic book series. Your superhero fans will love Ms. Marvel, the Pakistani-American teen trying to balance family, friends, and superhero-ing in her hometown of Jersey City.

See you in 2018!

Amanda’s favorites of 2017

Yes, it’s list time. What follows are 17 of my favorite 2017 books that I reviewed and excerpts of my reviews. I pretty much exclusively read contemporary fiction. Even though I’m a voracious reader, I’m sure I missed a lot of great titles this year. I always enjoy reading the many lists that crop up this time of the year, but I also always want more variety and to hear from more people. So here’s my list—will you share yours with us too? Leave us a comment or hit me up on Twitter where I’m @CiteSomething. 

 

history-twoHistory is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

Both the history and the present are riveting, unexpected storylines. Griffin and Theo’s relationship is powerful and complicated, especially once they break up. I loved seeing them get together and watching their close friendship morph into intense first love. They have loving, supportive families. The third member of their squad, Wade, barely blinks when the two start dating—he just doesn’t want to feel like a third wheel with his longtime best friends. When Theo begins to date Jackson while in California, Griffin tries to keep his cool, jealous, but figuring the relationship won’t last. After Theo dies, Griffin has the love and support of his family, Theo’s, and Wade, but it’s through Jackson that Griffin tries to seek solace. Though at first not really excited to get to know Jackson at all, Griffin realizes that he’s really the only person who can understand exactly how he feels. Plus, he believes Theo is watching him, and he thinks Theo would like to see him working so hard to get along with Jackson and to understand what they had.

 

Predictably, growing closer to Jackson and learning more about his time with Theo is agonizing for Griffin. It’s all hard to hear and pretty heartbreaking. Through this entire grieving process, Griffin is growing more and more heartbroken, learning things about Theo that hurt him and avoiding pretty enormous things that need to be dealt with. One of those things is Griffin’s “quirks,” as he thinks of them—really OCD and depression and the whole thinking Theo is currently with him somehow thing. Though surrounded by love and support, Griffin is hellbent on forging his own way through the quagmire of grief.

 

This profoundly devastating, heartbreaking, and brilliantly rendered look at love and grief will captivate readers. An absolute must-read. Bump this to the top of your TBR lists and be ready to not move until you finish it. (See full review here.)

 

 

carefulThe Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu

Haydu has written a profound story examining grief, doubt, tradition, expectation, and identity. Haydu’s story brings up huge questions about sacrifice and protection, about truth and perception. We are asked to consider, right alongside Lorna and crew, if love if a decision. Lorna and her friends know grief and pain, but they are still young. They are still learning that loss and heartache are inherent in love. And they can’t protect themselves from that—not by chalking things up to a Curse, not by drinking certain teas, not by building cages around their hearts, not by anything. They don’t yet know that we are all Affected, that we are all Cursed. In their isolation, they don’t understand that everyone has lost loved ones, that everyone blames themselves. Thanks to the relentlessness of Angelika, the Devonairre Street girls feel like they are the only ones protecting themselves, denying themselves, and stumbling under the dizzying weight of grief and guilt. Lorna, Delilah, Charlotte, and Isla’s whole lives are filled with people making them feel Other because of this. They don’t yet understand these are the prices we pay for being alive, for being the survivors. Their search for this understanding, their stumbling for answers and finding new pain, is heartbreaking. This beautifully written story is not to be missed. A powerful and deeply profound exploration of love, tragedy, and life itself. (See full review here.)

 

 

american-streetAmerican Street by Ibi Zoboi

Before long, she gets to know her cousins better and learns that they are tough girls who no one wants to mess with, girls who are fiercely loyal and protect their family. Fabiola has to figure out what being in Detroit means for her. She maintains rituals and beliefs from her heritage, but also learns how to fit in in her new neighborhood—one that is full of drugs, guns, violence, and secrets. Fabiola relies on vodou and spirits (lwas) to help guide her toward understanding what she needs to do as things get more complex in Detroit. Meanwhile, she’s also started a new relationship with Kasim, the best friend of her cousin Donna’s abusive boyfriend, Dray. Also, don’t forget, she’s trying to figure out how to get her mom, who is now in a detention center in New Jersey, to Detroit. Things take a dramatic turn when Fabiola begins working with a detective who is determined to bust Dray for dealing drugs. In exchange, the detective will help Fabiola’s mother get out of the detention center and get a green card. Wherever you think that part of the story is going, you’re wrong. The many twists and turns that part of the plot takes blew my mind. By the time I got to the end, the only coherent thought I was capable of writing in my notebook was “WHOA.”

 

Zoboi’s debut is complex and gritty (I kind of hate that word, but it gets the job done), with characters that will stick in my mind a long time. Though narrated by Fabiola, we get small first-person passages from all of the other characters, allowing us to know them more deeply. These passages reveal pasts and secrets, some of which will send you reeling. This powerful and well-written story of an immigrant girl’s new life in the United States is absorbing and unpredictable. I hope this finds its way to bookshelves in all public and school libraries. (See full review here.)

 

 

we-are-okayWe Are Okay by Nina LaCour

I love Nina LaCour. When this book showed up in my mailbox, I was delighted. Because here’s the thing: I’m going to guess I haven’t been alone in having a really hard time concentrating on a book lately. I started and abandoned a whole bunch of books in January. I read this until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore. Then the next morning, I read it while waiting for my doctor. For once, I wanted her to be running behind, because I was down to about twenty pages. I finished it later that same day, sobbing over my gummy candy and desperately hoping my kid would stay playing outside for a few more minutes so I could just keep on crying. It was exactly the book I needed to read at that moment in time. It’s a relatively quick read, and since it’s Nina LaCour, you know it’s going to be a deep and beautifully-written story. This is one of those books where I just don’t even want to say much of anything beyond OH MY GOD, GO READ THIS, IT’S STUNNING. I want the story to unfold for you like it did for me. I hadn’t so much as read the flap copy. I didn’t need to. It takes a while to figure out where the story might be going, and even once the pieces start to fall into place, it never feels predictable. This is, hands down, one of saddest books I have read in a very long time. But here’s how I mean that: you won’t cry all the way through. It’s not all doom and gloom. There is a lot of love and friendship to be found here. But Marin’s grief and loneliness will just destroy you. (See full review here.)

 

 

hate-uThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This book is so important. It’s also so good, but it’s SO IMPORTANT. And I’d say it’s timely, but violence against black people—specifically police violence against black people—is not a new thing. So the story feels very “ripped from the headlines,” but the damn headlines never change. The names of black people murdered by police officers pile up and you know that list is only going to get longer. So yeah, this book feels very of right now—but “right now” is actually a pretty long period of time. It’s things like the mentions of Twitter, of increased media attention on protests and victims’ stories, Tumblr, and other very contemporary things that make it feel like it’s happening RIGHT NOW, right this very second. Again, chalk that up to the fact that the date might change, but the story never does. Plenty of 90s references (thanks to Chris and Starr’s love of Fresh Prince and her parents’ interests and influence) help add to the feel of being timely and timeless all at once. This book will age well, and I write that while heaving a big sigh, because, again, in real life, the damn story never changes.

 

 

There’s so much more I could tell you about–Starr’s wonderful and supportive family, the complex interactions between gang members (and ex-gang members), the way you will be cheering out loud when Starr finally finds her voice and begins to speak out about what happened–but the bottom line of all of it is this: This book is profound. It is important. It manages to be funny and devastating at the same time. This intense look at systemic racism, police violence/accountability, and the lives of people affected by both needs to be read by everyone. EVERYONE. It’s only February, but I’d go so far as to say that this is probably the most important book of 2017. (See full review here.)

 

 

what-girls-are-madeWhat Girls Are Made Of by Elana Arnold

There are people who are going to read this book and judge Nina harshly. Here is who I suspect those people will be: people who are not teenage girls; people who have never been teenage girls; people who completely forgot what it’s like to be a teenage girl; people who literally cannot imagine being a teenage girl; and people who don’t understand the realities of teenage girls. Reading this book requires being aware of the fact that being a teenage girl means processing, internalizing, and subverting a lifetime of your gender being socially constructed. It means bending and breaking under the weight of expectation. It means digging deep to find your worth when you’re surrounded by an entire world that tries to define it for you. It means being fed conflicting and dangerous messages, then being left to untangle them, alone, and find out the truth for yourself. Being a teenage girl is not easy; Elana Arnold shows us exactly why in this stunning and thoughtful book.

 

This meditation on the idea of unconditional love—whether it is, indeed, unconditional, whether this idea is dangerous or appealing (or both), and determining who sets conditions and why—is devastating, smart, complex, and utterly real. Nina is aching, learning, screwing up, holding on too long, letting go, bending, breaking, and recreating. Arnold shows us that none of that is simple. It’s not easy, in any way, but she is doing it all, largely alone. She is hurting and growing and being. She is becoming. Her story is so painfully familiar and common and will surely resonate with readers. A powerful and unforgettable look at the things that define teenage girls. (See full review here.)

 

 

pointe-clawPointe, Claw by Amber J. Keyser

This is absolutely 100% a book about what it means to inhabit a girl’s body. It’s a book about growing up, changing, seeing ourselves, and being seen. It’s about expectations, anger, jealousy, relationships, shame, love, friendship, and support. There is a constant conversation about women and women’s bodies–Jessie, her fellow dancers, Dawn, Dawn’s makeup-selling mother, the girls at the strip club, the men who observe all of them… there is SO MUCH to unpack and think about. Much like Vadim’s dance (which, by the way, I was left sobbing after the description of their performance), this book is experimental and risky. And, like his dance, it is successful and surprising. The metamorphosis each girl undergoes is powerful; Dawn’s is downright shocking. I can’t say enough good things about this strange, disturbing, and extremely compelling look at girlhood, bodies, and identities. Raw, weird, and wonderful.  (See full review here.)

 

 

upsideThe Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Growing up can mean growing apart, which is a hard revelation for twins Cassie and Molly Peskin-Suso. When Cassie, who is a lesbian, begins dating Mina, a pansexual Korean American, Molly feels a little cast aside. Molly, who has an anxiety disorder, has silently nursed 26 crushes and is working on finally risking the rejection she fears and starting to date. Cassie wants Molly to hook up with Mina’s best friend, Will, but Molly might be more interested in sweet and endearingly geeky Reid. While the girls are navigating these new worlds of romance, things don’t slow down in other parts of their lives. Cassie and Molly’s moms are finally getting married, so there’s a wedding to plan, much to the delight of Pinterest-savvy Molly; plus there are jobs, friends, and a busy baby brother. Molly, Cassie, and all of the secondary characters are well-developed and distinctive. The outspoken girls have honest, humorous, and sometimes awkward conversations with each other, their friends, and their supportive and loving moms about relationships and growing up. Albertalli’s keen ear for authentic teen voices will instantly make readers feel that they are a part of Cassie and Molly’s world, filled with rich diversity (Cassie and Molly’s family is Jewish and interracial), love, support, and a little heartache. In the satisfying conclusion, Molly and Cassie learn that letting new people into their lives does not have to mean shutting out others. (See full review here.)

 

 

how-to-makeHow to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake

I read this book in one sitting. I used to do that a lot—read books in one chunk of time—but don’t so much anymore. While I do typically read a book in one to two days, the time is broken up—I need to write something, I need to run errands, I need to parent, I need to do whatever. My busy brain isn’t the biggest fan of letting me settle into any one thing for too long. But with this book, I was hooked from page one and had no interest in moving until I was done reading. I am not a person who says “all the feels.” I do not tend to feel “swoony” over books. As a fairly cynical, scowly person, those kinds of expressions are just not me. BUT. I kept thinking of both expressions as I read. And when I was done, I shut the book and just held onto it, thinking, well, that was a completely satisfying read. And, really, how often do we read books that just feel completely, absolutely, perfectly satisfying?

 

Blake’s characters are vibrant and multifaceted. Though so much of this book is about pain, loss, and grief, there is also just so much love in this story. Compassion comes from the places we would expect (Emmy, Luca) and from surprising places, too (Jay, Pete). Both Grace and Eva are fragile but resilient. They both find family in new ways—ways neither would have chosen (a dead mom, an irresponsible and alcoholic mom)—and find support and care and love there. And their relationship, though not always easy, is meaningful and achingly lovely. I do not generally want characters who date in YA books to stay together forever (see my earlier remark about being cynical and scowly). But I love Grace and Eva together. This is an easy recommendation for fans of contemporary stories. Again, it’s rare that I find something just completely satisfying, and this book felt perfect in every way. Go read it! (See full review here.)

 

 

tash heartsTash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee

Seventeen-year-old Kentucky filmmaker and Tolstoy superfan Tash Zelenka’s summer takes an unexpected turn when her web series, Unhappy Families (a modern adaptation of Anna Karenina) goes viral. The newfound fame causes tension between Tash and her best friend Jack, who also works on the series. Tash is easily caught up in the increased social media attention, her fans’ expectations, and the criticisms. She is also grappling with her complicated relationship with her sister, Klaudie, who drops out of acting in the series to more fully enjoy her last summer before college. Plus, Tash must deal with her flirtation with vlogger Thom, her confusing feelings for Paul (Jack’s brother and Tash’s other best friend), and her worries about the end of the series and her impending college applications. Tash is also beginning to come out to people as romantic asexual and needs to figure out how to share her identity with Thom, whom she will be meeting soon at the Golden Tuba independent web awards. Tash and her group of artsy theater friends are vibrant, creative, and thoughtful. They may not always totally understand one another, but their admirable and complicated friendships have so much heart. The much-needed asexual representation plays a significant role in the story, with readers privy to Tash’s thoughts on identity and conversations with friends about what the term means. (See full review here.)

 

 

Ali - Saints and MisfitsSaints and Misfits by S. K. Ali

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

 

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

 

 

gentlemansThe Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

A trio of high-born, determined, and wildly charismatic teenagers get more than they bargained for in this rollicking 18th-century Grand Tour of the Continent gone awry. Endearing rake Lord Henry Montague (or Monty) and his biracial best friend (and unrequited love), the infinitely patient Percy, leave England to drop Monty’s fiercely intelligent sister Felicity off at finishing school. The friends then spend a year traveling. After the Grand Tour, Monty will return home to help his demanding father run their estate and Percy will go to Holland to law school. If Monty’s dad catches wind of him still “mucking around with boys,” Monty will be cut off from the family. The trip is intended to be a cultural experience. However, no one could have predicted that one seemingly petty theft would set off an adventure involving highwaymen, stowaways, pirates, a sinking island, an alchemical heart, tomb-raiding, and a secret illness. From the start, readers will be drawn in by Monty’s charm, and Felicity and Percy come alive as the narrative unfolds. The fast-paced plot is complicated, but Lee’s masterly writing makes it all seem effortless. The journey forces Monty and friends to confront issues of racism, gender expectations, sexuality, disability, family, and independence, with Monty in particular learning to examine his many privileges. Their exploits bring to light the secret doubts, pains, and ambitions all three are hiding. This is a witty, romantic, and exceedingly smart look at discovering one’s place in the world. (See full review here.)

 

dress-codesDress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens

There is SO MUCH to love about this novel. It’s a profoundly loving look at friendship, the kind of friendship where friends truly support each other and give each other room to grow, change, and figure life out. It’s also a really complex look at expectations, perceptions, identity, and fluidity. It’s also an incredibly necessary and supportive look at teenagers experimenting with who they are and finding so much love and support in even the most unlikely of places. Like Billie says at one point, “Feeling don’t sort like laundry.” Nor should we want them to. So much of the joy comes from sifting through everything, discovering who you are, in the process of finding yourself. Billie and her friends are unfinished and imperfect, but they’re grateful for what they have and willing to do the hard work of figuring out who they are. This thoughtful look at love, friendship, identity, sexuality, and fluidity is not to be missed. Brilliant. (See full review here.)

 

 

they bothThey Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

Puerto Rican Mateo and Cuban-American Rufus meet through the Last Friend app, an app designed to help you meet up with someone to spend your last day with. Their connection is immediate, intense, and one that deserves far longer to play out than the time allotted to them. Rufus, a bisexual foster kid, has really only had fellow foster kids Aimee, Malcolm, and Tagoe to turn to since his parents and sister died not long ago. And he can’t spend his last day with them for complicated reasons involving the police and a nameless gang. Mateo has really only ever had his dad, who is in a coma (his mother died in childbirth), and his best friend Lidia, who he doesn’t want to die in front of. Neither Mateo nor Rufus could have possibly expected to find such a powerful match on their End Day. Together, they struggle with the guilt and pain of both living and dying all while falling in love at the absolute worst time. On their End Day, they laugh, dance, sing, “skydive,” share their stories, say goodbyes, witness others’ End Days, cry, hurt, heal, and live.

 

The chapters alternate between Mateo and Rufus, with many brief chapters about the lives of those that surround them—their friends, people at the Death-Cast call center, the nameless gang, and others—showing how Rufus and Mateo’s lives were linked with their own. Every chapter is bursting with life and plans and regrets, and every chapter brings us one step closer to that inevitable ending. Told with warmth and humor and so much love, Silvera creates a stunningly powerful examination of what it means to really live your life. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Mateo and Rufus, but isn’t that how life always works?

(See full review here.)

 

 

releaseRelease by Patrick Ness

In my notes for this book, I noted a lot of passages and just wrote “YES!” or “I’m cheering!” or “OMG, I love Adam.” He is loved and supported (by his friends). He is vulnerable and feels undeserving of love. He is hurting but working through it. He is scared and confrontational. He contains multitudes. His relationship with Linus, sweet, patient, lovely Linus, is a thing of beauty. There is a lot of on the page sex and intimacy, which especially goes to prove the real difference between Linus and Enzo. There are wonderfully frank discussions of sex and sexuality between Adam and Angela, including a fantastic exchange about labels, fluidity, and the liberation that the right label can bring.

I read this book in one sitting. I didn’t want it to be over. It’s heartbreaking, beautiful, funny, odd, smart, and just truly stunning. This is easily one of my favorite reads so far in 2017. 

(See full review here.)

alfonsoI Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina, Stacey Robinson, and John Jennings

Alfonso is feeling pretty good about life. He loves playing his trumpet, acting, attending his arts high school, being a bike messenger, and flirting with Danetta. The best thing in his life, though, is that his father, who has been incarcerated Alfonso’s entire life, is being released, finally exonerated of a crime he did not commit. But while out shopping for a suit to wear to meet his father, Alfonso is shot and killed by a white off-duty cop. Once dead, Alfonso joins a group of ghosts on a train. These ghosts are the ancestors who are seeking justice and rest. Alfonso learns about their lives and the ways they were killed by police while also going to see scenes from his past as well as what he’s missing in the present. Alfonso is able to see how his parents are coping, to follow the white police officer who killed him, and to see how his name lives on in the media, the justice system, and the many large protests that spring up after his death. An Ancestors Wall at the end lists the names of victims of police violence. This look at the prison industrial complex, the Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality, and the various systems of violence and oppression that have always existed in this country is devastating and important. 

(See full review here.)

closest ive comeThe Closest I’ve Come by Fred Aceves

Marcos is so achingly honest and vulnerable. He longs for connections—real, meaningful connections, where he can truly talk about his life. His loneliness is palpable. He makes mistakes but owns up to them and learns from them. Despite having every reason in the world not to, he allows himself to be real and open, tentatively at first, seeking so hard to find understanding and compassion, and to offer it to others. He’s loyal, smart, and brave enough to move beyond the expectations for him. It takes guts to make new friends, to be authentic (all while still trying to figure out just who you are), to try new things. It takes guts to go home day after day only to be greeted by abuse and neglect and indifference. It takes guts to tell your friend he’s making the wrong choice, to tell a girl you might be in love with her, to tell the police what’s been happening at home. Though the story is filled with violence and sadness, it is ultimately a hopeful story. Aceves shows how terribly painful life can be, but also how beautiful it can become through friendships, support, growth, and hope. A powerful look into the life of one kid trying to answer the question of “who am I?” in the midst of both bleak circumstances and increasingly deep friendships. 

(See full review here.)

 

Take 5: Five Things I’ve Made with My Silhouette Cameo and Why I Recommend it for a MakerSpace

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I’ve had my personal Silhouette Cameo for about a month now and last week, we ordered one for The Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County. I’ve only tapped the surface of what I can do with the machine and it has a lot of uses. For example, it can take the place of an Ellison Die Cut machine and the need to store multiple dies for doing displays and name tags.

To give you an idea of why I recommend it, let me share with you five projects I’ve done with my Silhouette Cameo.

1. T-Shirts

When you think of craft vinyl cutters, you are probably thinking t-shirts. This is what they are used most for and I’m not going to lie, I love this! I have made a ton of t-shirts. Each time I make a shirt, I learn more about how to use my machine. I’ve made my kids spirit shirts for school, holiday shirts, and just some shirts that feature their favorite characters or saying.

silhouetteproject10 silhouetteproject6

I even made TLT t-shirts for all the TLTers.

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2. Tote Bags

It also transfers really well onto tote bags.

silhouetteproject2 silhouetteproject12

3. Screen Printing

You can do a reverse weed on your cut and make a screen for screenprinting. I am using this process to make screens for a TMS stencil and a Libraries Rock stencil for the 2018 Teen Summer Reading Challenge.

silhouetteproject11 silhouetteproject15

4. Vinyl Window Clings

You can buy special vinyl cling material to make vinyl window clings. I used this to make gear shaped clings for our Teen MakerSpace windows.

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5. Computer Bling

You can also design and make your own computer bling. Here’s a cut out I designed using a heartbeat font and the shapes feature to celebrate my love of a certain time traveling time lord. Since taking this picture I have also added a Teen MakerSpace cut out.

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As I mentioned above, I am just now learning of the various ways I can use my Silhouette Cameo. You can also cut paper, which is great for doing in library displays. In the Teen Makerspace we will be mainly focusing on paper crafts as well due to the cost of the vinyl versus paper. Though we will also use our Silhouette Cameo for special programs like our annual Summer of T-Shirts events.

Teaching the teens to use a vinyl cutter will help them learn things like layout and design, math (yes, there is math involved in making sure your design will fit onto a t-shirt), and basic technology skills.

The initial investment is quite high. A Silhouette Cameo bundle pack, and you’ll want a bundle so you get the additional tools that you need, is $269.00. And there is an ongoing cost in that you need materials to cut with your machine.

Even if you decide not to let the public have access to a vinyl cutter, I do recommend it for library use. It has a much broader range than cutting tools libraries have used in the past like an Ellison or Accucut and takes up a lot less space.

Here’s a look at some of the guides and reviews I shared early on while learning how to use my Silhouette Cameo. I will say the Silhouette Cameo is not intuitive at first and it doesn’t come with a manual, so you’ll definitely want to start with the Silhouette Cameo 101 post.

Silhouette Cameo 101: The Manual It Doesn’t Come With, But Should

MakerSpace Mondays: The Silhouette Cameo – Vinyl 101

MakerSpace: Using a Silhouette Cameo to Do Screenprinting

MakerSpace Mondays: The Silhouette Cameo – a review

 

A List of New YA Book Release Links for 2018

tltbutton7December is here, which means it’s time to start thinking about 2018 YA Lit releases. I’ve already submitted my first book order for January 2018 titles. Here for your convenience (and really, for mine) is a list of links to booklists put together online so far for 2018. In the coming weeks we’ll be sharing some of our best of 2017 and must haves for 2018.

18 YA Novels That Are Currently Being Developed For TV And The Big Screen

YA Releases of January, 2018 (42 books) – Goodreads

A note about Goodreads lists: as these are less professionally curated, I use them for informational purposes only, making sure to do further research on unknown titles or authors. These lists are not recommendations.

Friday Finds: December 1, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: The TLT Gift Giving Guide

The Importance of School Visits, by Kate-Lynn Brown

#ARCParty: A Look at Some January 2018 #YALit Titles

What’s New in LGBTQIA+ YA November and December 2017

Teen Politic: The True Politics of Being a Teen Services Librarian in Our Public Libraries

Call for submissions: YA A to Z project

Around the Web

This is what students think about ‘fake news’ and the media

Book Vending Machine Helping Young Victims Of Hurricane Harvey

‘The Kiss Quotient’ Is A Refreshing Own Voices Romance With A Heroine On The Autism Spectrum

7 Socially Conscious Books to Read After The Hate U Give

The State of the YA Novel: 2017

#RoyalEngagement reading list: Here’s what to check out for you prince & princess fix

 

Call for submissions: YA A to Z project

yaatozEvery year, TLT picks a project to work on in addition to our usual book reviews, professional discussions and makerspace and program recaps. Once we decide on our project, we ask you, are brilliant Teen Librarian Toolbox readers, to help us out. These projects began in 2014 with the Sexual Violence in Young Adult Literature Project. We have since then covered faith and spirituality, mental health, poverty, and social justice. You can find all the previous projects here at our projects index.

 

For 2018, we want to create an index of YA literature! YA A to Z will begin in January, which is coming up REALLY QUICKLY, so we need to get cracking on getting some guest posts lined up. 

 

There are 52 weeks in a year, that means every 2 weeks we will cover a new letter. For example, the first 2 weeks of January we will cover the letter A. The next 2 weeks we will cover the letter B. What will that look like? It can look however you want it to look.

 

You can guest post for us about book titles, authors and topics. You can make a book list or you can have an in depth discussion. You can talk programming. You can do an interview. You can be funny or you can be serious. You can be creative. In fact, if you have ever thought I have always wanted to talk about x, y or z but couldn’t figure out a forum for that, THIS is your forum for that.

 

Here is a Google Form that you can fill out to let us know what you would like to talk about here. We try to make guest posting as simple as possible here at TLT, but here is a simple guide if you have any questions.

At the end of 2018, we will have an A to Z guide of YA lit and it will be awesome! Please keep in mind that all previous projects will continue so if you want to write about sexual violence, faith and spirituality, mental health, social justice or poverty, those projects are ongoing.

Schedule: 

  • January – Letters A & B
  • February – Letters C & D
  • March – Letters E & F
  • April – Letters G, H & I
  • May – Letters J & K
  • June – Letters L & M
  • July – Letters N & O
  • August – Letters P & Q
  • September – Letters R & S
  • October – Letters T & U
  • November – Letters V & W
  • December – Letters X, Y & Z

 

Possible post ideas to jump-start your thoughts: 

A: Asexuality, abortion, abuse, anxiety

B: Barriers, bands, book clubs, biographies

C: Cover art, consent, class, courage

D: Disability, diversity, discovery, dance, displays, demisexuals

E: Erasure, exceptions, empowerment

F: Formats, favorites, fat, faith, families

G: Gender, grief, genderqueer, graphic novels

H: Hair, historical fiction, hate, horror

I: Identities, immigration, international YA, inclusion

J: Jobs, justice, jail, jealousy

K: Kindness, kissing books

L: LGBTQIA+, lesbians, lessons, labels

M: Mental health, music, Muslims, movies

N: New books, narration, neutral, normal, nonfiction, nonbinary

O: Orphans, optimism, opinion, organize, out

P: Programs, politics, parents, passages, pet peeves, periods, patriarchy

Q: Queer, questions, qualifications, quiet, quotes

R: Racism, rape, relationships

S: Sex, sexuality, social justice, suicide

T: Technology, teen issues, therapy, transgender, top ten lists

U: Unity, underground, unlikable characters

V: Value, victims, violence

W: Websites, weight, writing, writers

X: Xenophobia

Y: YA wishlist, YA of yore, You need to know about _____

Z: Zombies

Teen Politic: The True Politics of Being a Teen Services Librarian in Our Public Libraries

thingsineverlearnedinlibraryschoolTeens, as a culture, are pretty maligned and misunderstood. They’re loud, they’re lazy, they’re disrespectful, they’re dangerous – pick your stereotype. They like to travel in rabid packs, that’s my favorite. I believe lots of adults sit around and visualize teens as actual packs of wolves in their minds.

Teens get a bad rap. In the media, in community planning, and yes – in our libraries. I am a teen services librarian. I have been for 24 years. And I love public libraries, hands down. But I’m not going to lie, there is a lot of politics in being a teen services librarian in part because we are always fighting against stereotypes and a general dislike of teenagers. Yes, even in our libraries.

A group of teens can come in after school talking, and it feeds into the rabid pack of roving disrespectful teens mythos. They can be standing right next to a group of mothers with loud toddlers who have just run into each other at the same entrance, one is leaving just as the other is walking out and they then proceed to have a loud “oh hey how are you” reunion right there in the doorway. But only one of them will be called out for it, because the actions are only reinforcing one type of stereotype. That’s part of the politics we have to deal with and navigate.

Kids throw themselves on the ground and have tantrums, adults fume and threaten and yell at the circulation desk over ten cent fines, but one rude teenager continues to reinforce the firmly held belief that all teenagers are rude. It’s that one rude teenager that staff will often fume about behind closed doors (and it must be behind closed doors, never in a public space). That’s part of the politics we have to deal with and navigate.

Being a teen services librarian is a constant struggle against harmful stereotypes, the personal prejudices of your coworkers, and a fight to get support and funding when, if we’re being honest, a lot of coworkers want you to fail because they don’t like having teenagers in the library. It breaks my heart, but it’s true. That’s part of the politics we have to deal with and navigate.

When we talk about advocating for teens, what we often mean is that we have to advocate for teens inside the very public institutions which are supposed to serve them. We have to continue to put teen behavior in perspective, to highlight the positive, to cheerlead, to pep talk, and to re-form those damaging stereotypes. That’s part of the politics we have to deal with and navigate.

It often feels like our successes have to be bigger, our numbers have to be higher, and our teens have to be angels in order to justify the existence of teen services. Teens and teen services often seems like it is viewed through some type of skewed lens, in part because I believe that it is. 24 years, 4 library systems and 2 states have taught me that the hurdles are higher, the support is harder to gain and retain, and often our biggest enemies are not politicians or parents, but our very own co-workers.

So, what do we do? As we do in all jobs, we play politics. But what, exactly, does that mean in the library world? We have to be advocates, not just for public libraries, but for teens and teen services within our public libraries. And here are some of my tips for doing that.

1. Keep good facts and figures. At all times.

Be prepared to answer questions at the drop of a hat. I like to do a yearly infographic to help create a visual of what we did the previous year in youth services. Even if no one asks you for this, do it anyway so you have the information and can make it appear when someone questions teen services or when asking for increased funding. I kept separate YA circulation statistics for years in one position even though the library system I worked for didn’t. This information really helped when we got a new library director who was not very teen services oriented and helped me to get the support I needed from a director who was not predisposed to giving that support.

I even like to do a TLT Infographic to help us know how we're doing

I even like to do a TLT Infographic to help us know how we’re doing

Some of the statistics I recommend are: YA book circulation figures, YA program attendance, YA visits (if you have a way to measure this, we measure teen visits to our Teen MakerSpace), total spent on YA services, money spent on YA services broken down by category, money spent on YA services averaged to a per capita amount (so even if it’s a high total number, saying you spent $1.22 per teen visit helps it seem less daunting), and percentages of overall totals (What percentage of overall circ is YA circulation? What percentage of the overall budget is spent on YA services?).

If you can, find comparable numbers of other departments and other libraries. Numbers in themselves can be easily judged, but comparing them to other departments or libraries can help put them in perspective. Network with other area teen services librarians and share data to help tell your story and put it into perspective.

2. Share success stories

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And here I’m not talking about those facts and figures, but the personal stories we all have in our pockets about that one teen who said we made a difference, the one teen who we helped raise, the one parent who came in and told us what a difference the library made in the lives of their teenager. Everyone loves a good success story, and we’re full of them. If you don’t have success stories to share, then you are doing something wrong and should re-evaluate the what, why and how of what you’re doing.

3. Know key facts about adolescent development

Serving Teens in Libraries Infographic

When a staff member claims about behavior, help them put it in perspective. The teen brain is literally different then an adult brain, know how and why and be able to talk about it. We can talk about toddlers throwing temper tantrums because they lack freedom and choice over their lives and the communication skills to express themselves fully, and we should be able to do the same for teens. Understanding the why of teen behavior can often help us accept and deal with it.

4. Speaking of perspective, help staff maintain a positive one

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If I have 24 teens that come into my Teen Makerspace on a Monday and 1 teen gives staff attitude, I remind them that 23 teens did not. It is human nature to hold on to and emphasize the negative, but we can help remold the way we view our patron experiences, even the teen ones. Be their cheerleader. If you can’t be their cheerleader, you’re in the wrong job.

5. Share what other libraries are doing

Again, this is about perspective. The truth is, people compare libraries and library services in the same way that we talk about Target vs. Wal-Mart or Amazon vs. Barnes and Noble. Help put your teen services in perspective for co-workers and admin by talking about surrounding and comparable libraries, the reactions to those services, and the positive impact on local communities. This is where networking and being up to date is really important. Don’t work in isolation, spend part of your time each week reading about other libraries. It will inspire you, and it will also help you help your admin and co-workers keep what you’re doing in perspective.

6. Be intentional in what you do as a teen services librarian and be able and willing to talk about it in professional terms

Tada: The Stupendously Amazing TEEN MAKERSPACE MANUAL

Tada: The Stupendously Amazing TEEN MAKERSPACE MANUAL

Have measurable goals and talk about the impact of your services and programs on teens, on the library, and on the local community. Don’t do a program just to do a program and check it off of your to do list, do a specific program and be able to talk about why you did THAT program. Be able to answer the questions why? how? how much? and what did you accomplish? Talk about impact.

7. Have a strategic plan and a budget

Again, this goes back to intentionality, but having a plan and being able to talk about your plan is vitally important. Be able to talk about what you’ve done, what you are doing, and what you are looking to do in the future. How, what, why, when and how much are great questions to keep in mind and be able to answer. If your admin don’t ask, tell them occasionally any way.

8. Be a team player, but thoughtfully

At the end of the day, we all work for the library and are working towards a lot of the same goals, so being a team player is important. Support your colleagues as you ask them to support you. However, I have been in situations where I kept getting pulled into other departments, in part because the work of teen services isn’t seen as valuable, and it can be hard to know when to draw the line. But sometimes you have to remind admin that if you keep getting pulled into other departments and projects, then knowing is doing the important work of teen services. Finding balance is hard, but stand up for your teens by insisting that they deserve qualified, dedicated services.

9. Don’t donate your time or money

I know this seems weird to say as someone who is saying we must advocate for teens, but donating your own time or money is harmful in the long term. Remember up above where we talked about having good facts and figures? Donating our time or money skews those facts and figures and harms teen services in the long run. Administrators making budgets and determining staffing levels need to know how much teen services actually requires to be successful, so don’t skew those numbers by donating your time or money. If you leave and a new person is hired, you are setting them up for failure because they will be expected to do the same with what you had not realizing that a lot of it came out of your own pocket and on your own time. Just don’t do it, be the opposite of Nike in this one instance.

10. Take pictures

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People respond to visual images, so make sure you have images to share. Do an annual report and include positive pictures of teens using the library, attending programs, making art and more. Do a highlights reel, share memos after big programs or dramatic changes, and yes, even take pictures of teens just reading that graphic novel quietly over in the corner. A picture really is worth a 1,000 words. The pictures don’t even have to be public or have names attached to them, sometimes you just need a visual to share with admin or the library board. Be sure to follow whatever your library’s policies are regarding pictures, but take and use them to help tell your story.

In truth, you’re not just doing this for your admin and you’re coworkers, you’re doing it for you. Sometimes the politics of being a teen librarian can be overwhelming and discouraging, so use this information to not just advocate but to motivate. Keep yourself fueled for the fight. You’re doing great, keep going.

What other tips do you have? Please share them with me in the comments. And keep advocating.

What’s New in LGBTQIA+ YA November and December 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 November and December 2017 titles. Head over to this link for the previous post (October 2017 titles) in this series. All annotations here are via the publishers/Goodreads. I also have a 2017 master list and am working on one for 2018. 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.

Looking for more information on LGBTQIA+ books or issues? Check out the hashtag here on TLT and go visit YA Pride and LGBTQ Reads, two phenomenal resources. 

 

November 2017

chainbreakerChainbreaker by Tara Sim (ISBN-13: 9781510706194 Publisher: Sky Pony Press Publication date: 11/07/2017)

Clock mechanic Danny Hart knows he’s being watched. But by whom, or what, remains a mystery. To make matters worse, clock towers have begun falling in India, though time hasn’t Stopped yet. He’d hoped after reuniting with his father and exploring his relationship with Colton, he’d have some time to settle into his new life. Instead, he’s asked to investigate the attacks.

After inspecting some of the fallen Indian towers, he realizes the British occupation may be sparking more than just attacks. And as Danny and Colton unravel more secrets about their past, they find themselves on a dark and dangerous path—one from which they may never return.

 

 

runebinderRunebinder by Alex R. Kahler (ISBN-13: 9780373212637 Publisher: Harlequin Publication date: 11/14/2017)

Magic is risen.

Three years have passed since magic destroyed the world.

Those who remain struggle to survive the humanoid monsters called Howls roaming the streets. The Hunters fight back with steel and magic, doing their best to protect what remains of humanity. They have used their elemental magic to keep the Howls at bay, but it’s never been enough to truly win the war. Humans are losing.

Tenn is one such Hunter, fighting for everything he once had, and for everything that could still be. With other Hunters, including his longtime crush, Jarrett, he struggles to find balance in a world of chaos.

But when Tenn falls prey to Tomás, one of the six original and strongest Howls in existence, he realizes that there’s more to fight for than survival. He’s become the pawn in a bigger game—one with potentially devastating consequences. And if he doesn’t play his part, and discover the root of his power, it could mean the end of humanity.

 

being fishkillBeing Fishkill by Ruth Lehrer (ISBN-13: 9780763684426 Publisher: Candlewick Press Publication date: 11/14/2017)

Fishkill Carmel fends for herself, with her fists if need be — until a thwarted lunch theft introduces her to strange, sunny Duck-Duck and a chance for a new start.

Born in the backseat of a moving car, Carmel Fishkill was unceremoniously pushed into a world that refuses to offer her security, stability, love. At age thirteen, she begins to fight back. Carmel Fishkill becomes Fishkill Carmel, who deflects her tormenters with a strong left hook and conceals her secrets from teachers and social workers. But Fishkill’s fierce defenses falter when she meets eccentric optimist Duck-Duck Farina, and soon they, along with Duck-Duck’s mother, Molly, form a tentative family, even as Fishkill struggles to understand her place in it. This fragile new beginning is threatened by the reappearance of Fishkill’s unstable mother — and by unfathomable tragedy. Poet Ruth Lehrer’s young adult debut is a stunning, revelatory look at what defines and sustains “family.” And, just as it does for Fishkill, meeting Duck-Duck Farina and her mother will leave readers forever changed.

 

doorway godThe Doorway God by Tom Early (ISBN-13: 978-1-63533-777-8 Publisher: Harmony Ink Publication date: 11/14/2017, Season Rising Book Two)

The Seasons are coming to Janus University, and Fay’s and Sam’s lives will never be the same.

Through last year’s deadly Trials, Fay and Sam gained admittance to the magical university, and the coming of autumn signals the start of the school year. But both of them have goals beyond their studies. For Fay, it’s finding a way to contain the ancient and evil spirit of Winter, which has no regard for human life. Fay has vowed to never let Winter kill again—but working with the school’s headmaster, Didas, is a risk. Didas cannot see past the potential power he can draw from Fay, and since Fay’s boyfriend and familiar, Tyler, is away at Tufts University, Fay might have to face his possession—and his dreams of four mysterious figures—on his own terms.

While trying to help Fay, Sam seeks information about her mother’s past in the magical world of Gaia, but will she like what she uncovers? To survive, Fay and Sam must make alliances, but it’s harder than ever to tell friend from enemy.

 

beulahBeulah Land by Nancy Stewart (ISBN-13: 9781945053450 Publisher: Duet Books Publication date: 11/169/2017)

Seventeen-year-old Vi Sinclair’s roots run deep in the Missouri Ozarks, where, in some areas, it can still be plenty dangerous to be a girl who likes girls. Her greatest wish is to become a veterinarian like her boss, Claire Campbell. Fitting in at school wouldn’t be so bad, either. Only one obstacle stands in the way: She may not live long enough to see her wishes fulfilled.

With help from her only friend, Junior, Vi unravels a mystery that puts her in conflict with a vicious tormentor, a dog fight syndicate, and her own mother. Vi’s experience galvanizes her strength and veracity as she overcomes the paradox of mountain life, in which, even today, customs and mores seem timeless, and where a person can wake up dead simply because of being who she is.

 

 

swimmingSwimming to Freedom by Robbie Michaels (ISBN-13: 978-1-63533-779-2 Publisher: Harmony Ink Publication date: 11/28/2017)

Once, swimming was a labor of love for Brandon. Now it’s just a labor.

When Brandon’s competitive, domineering father decided to cash in on his son’s hobby, he sucked all the joy out of the sport for his son. Now Brandon’s father spends every ounce of his energy training Brandon for one purpose: Olympic gold and with it the chance to experience success vicariously through Brandon.

Brandon falling in love with Tyler, another swimmer, was not part of his father’s plan. Luckily the two young men have Joel in their corner, a straight ally who helps them find time alone. When Brandon’s father finds out about the relationship, his reaction is sadly predictable, and soon, Brandon’s new home is beneath a bridge. He finds peace swimming in the river, but feels fear as wild animals pass by his shelter during the night.

But once again, his happiness cannot last. Torrential storms are threatening to wash away his future—maybe for good this time.

 

December 2017

sea ofSea of Strangers (Ryogan Chronicles Series #2) by Erica Cameron (ISBN-13: 9781633758285 Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC Publication date: 12/05/2017)

The only way for Khya to get her brother back alive is to kill Varan—the immortal ruler who can’t be killed. But not even Varan knew what he was doing when he perverted magic and humanity to become immortal.

Khya’s leading her group of friends and rebels into the mountains that hold Varan’s secrets, but if risking all their lives is going to be worth it, she has to give up everything else—breaking the spell that holds her brother captive and jeopardizing her deepening relationship with Tessen, the boy who has been by turns her rival and refuge since her brother disappeared. Immortality itself might be her only answer, but if that’s where Khya has to go, she can’t ask Tessen or her friends to follow.

 

freedFreed by Flame and Storm by Becky Allen (ISBN-13: 9781101932193 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 12/12/2017)

For fans of Tamora Pierce and Kristin Cashore comes the exciting and thoughtful social-justice fantasy sequel to Bound by Blood and Sand.

Revolution is nigh, and one seventeen-year-old girl stands at the head of it all.

Jae used to be a slave, laboring with the rest of her people under a curse that forced her to obey any order she was given. At seventeen, she found the source of her people’s lost magic and became the only person to break free—ever. Now she wants to use her power to free the rest of her people, but the ruling class will do anything to stop her.

Jae knows that breaking the curse on her people would cause widespread chaos, even unimaginable violence between the castes, and her caste would likely see the worst of it. Many would die. But to let them remain shackled is to doom them to continue living without free will.

How is one girl, raised a slave and never taught to wield power, supposed to decide the fate of a nation?

 

 

wounded heartThe Wounded Heart: The Grim Life Book Two by K. D. Worth (ISBN-13: 978-1-63533-781-5 Publisher: Harmony Ink Publication date: 12/12/2017)

Dating is tough… especially when you’re dead.

Teenage reapers Max and Kody thought they were settling into their afterlife, delivering souls to God in heaven—until their boss, the mysterious Slade, tells them that spirits stuck in limbo have taken an interest in Kody.

And the spirits’ evil counterparts—the wraiths—aren’t far behind.

Max would be livid if he found out Kody was still checking up on his family, but Kody’s sister Britany is struggling, her heart broken. She blames their mother, religion, and God for her brother’s death. Though it breaks all the reaper rules and may put him in danger, Kody wants to help heal her spirit before she’s lost forever. Unfortunately, the wraiths have found a doorway to the land of the living, bringing death and destruction with them. Max and Kody hope to stop them before anyone gets hurt, but they may not be strong enough.

Through devastating losses, an ominous prophecy, and a heavenly destiny revealed, Max and Kody must find a way to trust and accept each other if they want to heal the wounds of their past. Their enemies are powerful, but there’s a single force they cannot stand against—love.

 

 

three sidesThree Sides of a Heart: Stories About Love Triangles by Natalie C. Parker (ISBN-13: 9780062424471 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 12/19/2017)

You may think you know the love triangle, but you’ve never seen love triangles like these.

These top YA authors tackle the much-debated trope of the love triangle, and the result is sixteen fresh, diverse, and romantic stories you don’t want to miss.

This collection, edited by Natalie C. Parker, contains stories written by Renee Ahdieh, Rae Carson, Brandy Colbert, Katie Cotugno, Lamar Giles, Tessa Gratton, Bethany Hagan, Justina Ireland, Alaya Dawn Johnson, EK Johnston, Julie Murphy, Garth Nix, Natalie C. Parker, Veronica Roth, Sabaa Tahir, and Brenna Yovanoff.

A teen girl who offers kissing lessons. Zombies in the Civil War South. The girl next door, the boy who loves her, and the girl who loves them both. Vampires at a boarding school. Three teens fighting monsters in an abandoned video rental store. Literally the last three people on the planet.

What do all these stories have in common?

The love triangle.
tangle of​​A Tangle of Secrets by R. G. Thomas (ISBN-13:978-1-64080-043-4  Publisher: Harmony Ink Publication date: 12/26/2017)

Sequel to The Battle of Iron Gulch
The Town of Superstition: Book Four

Thaddeus and his family and friends have returned from Iron Gulch and Thaddeus’s summer of magical awakening to a very different life. For one, he has both his parents for the first time, though his mother is still haunted by terrors and powers she can’t yet control. Teofil, Thaddeus’s gnome boyfriend, is consumed with finding Thaddeus’s evil uncle Lucian and answers about what happened to his brother, and he spends his days sequestered in Leopold’s library, pouring over the old wizard’s journals. When Thaddeus starts school and makes friends Teofil doesn’t like, there’s tension between them for the first time ever.

Thaddeus’s problems don’t end there. It’s harder and harder for him to conceal his magic, especially when facing the school bully. He’s lost, confused, and lashing out, and for once, he finds no solace in those closest to him. His enemies are hiding in plain sight, biding their time, until the Bearagon reappears and instigates a fight not everyone will walk away from.

 

#ARCParty: A Look at Some January 2018 #YALit Titles

#ARCParty: A Look at Some January 2018 #YALit Titles// tltbutton7 The Teen, The Bestie and I met recently to take a look at some upcoming YA Lit releases. This time we looked specifically at January 2018 releases (yes, it's time to look at 2018 titles already, I know! Where did the year go.) For new readers, here's how this works: The teens take turn reading the cover copy out loud and then they decide which ones they are going to read and review and which ones they pass on. They were both particularly interested in As You Wish, The Hazel Wood and Truly Devious this round.

 

#ARCParty: A Look at Some January 2018 #YALit Titles



  1. Now talking (and tweeting) January 2018 new #YALit releases with The Teen and The Bestie #ARCParty

    Now talking (and tweeting) January 2018 new #YALit releases with The Teen and The Bestie #ARCParty


  2. New paranormal from Holly Black. Featuring the fae and civil war and, well, cruel princes #YALit #ARCParty

    New paranormal from Holly Black. Featuring the fae and civil war and, well, cruel princes #YALit #ARCParty


  3. Spencer and Hope have SOMeTHING at first sight. Tourette's Syndrome. Science. Spencer tries to map their relationship using science. Told in various forms, including texts and chat. #ARCParty

    Spencer and Hope have SOMeTHING at first sight. Tourette’s Syndrome. Science. Spencer tries to map their relationship using science. Told in various forms, including texts and chat. #ARCParty


  4. FTR: they love this cover Fairy tales come to life. Stay away from The Hazel Wood! Alice must venture into the Hazel Wood and the world of fandom to find her mother. #ARCParty

    FTR: they love this cover

    Fairy tales come to life. Stay away from The Hazel Wood! Alice must venture into the Hazel Wood and the world of fandom to find her mother. #ARCParty



  5. Shalia is a daughter of the desert, desperate for the end of violence. In a land where magic is outlawed, Shalia learns that she is a Elemente. Save your family, save the Elemente or save yourself? #ARCParty

    Shalia is a daughter of the desert, desperate for the end of violence. In a land where magic is outlawed, Shalia learns that she is a Elemente. Save your family, save the Elemente or save yourself? #ARCParty


  6. Everyone gets one wish on their 18th birthday and it always comes true. What is happiness? Eldon has 25 days to figure it out, and the rest of his life to live with the consequences. #ARCParty

    Everyone gets one wish on their 18th birthday and it always comes true. What is happiness? Eldon has 25 days to figure it out, and the rest of his life to live with the consequences. #ARCParty


  7. Just in time for the movie! The Black Panther is sent to school in America. Takes place in Middle School. A fellow classmate is rumored to be involved in dark magic and T'Challa must stop an ancient evil. #ARCParty

    Just in time for the movie! The Black Panther is sent to school in America. Takes place in Middle School. A fellow classmate is rumored to be involved in dark magic and T’Challa must stop an ancient evil. #ARCParty


  8. "When Earth intercepts an alien message" The Teen: I can tell I want to read this from the first sentence. Rival scavenger gangs trying to decode ancient messages among dying temples. #ARCParty

    “When Earth intercepts an alien message”
    The Teen: I can tell I want to read this from the first sentence.
    Rival scavenger gangs trying to decode ancient messages among dying temples. #ARCParty


  9. Love this cover! Two teens take a one week break and Chris vanishes. The police thinks he has run away, but Jessie doesn't believe it. Chris is a black kid who has been harassed and bullied, and Jessie starts to tell his story. This is a story about racism in an industrial small town. Sounds heartbreaking. #ARCParty

    Love this cover!
    Two teens take a one week break and Chris vanishes. The police thinks he has run away, but Jessie doesn’t believe it. Chris is a black kid who has been harassed and bullied, and Jessie starts to tell his story. This is a story about racism in an industrial small town. Sounds heartbreaking. #ARCParty


  10. New Maureen Johnson! Set in a private academy for gifted students. Stevie begins her first year at the academy and wants to solve the 81 year old mystery that has haunted the academy. But a new murder occurs and Truly Devious is rumored to return! #ARCParty

    New Maureen Johnson!
    Set in a private academy for gifted students. Stevie begins her first year at the academy and wants to solve the 81 year old mystery that has haunted the academy. But a new murder occurs and Truly Devious is rumored to return! #ARCParty


  11. Brooke is going to spend more time with her stepsister, who has Asperger's. This sibling story is set in the theater world over the course of a summer. #ARCParty

    Brooke is going to spend more time with her stepsister, who has Asperger’s. This sibling story is set in the theater world over the course of a summer. #ARCParty