Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Book Review: Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America edited by Ibi Zoboi

Publisher’s description

black enoughEdited by National Book Award finalist Ibi Zoboi, and featuring some of the most acclaimed bestselling Black authors writing for teens today—Black Enough is an essential collection of captivating stories about what it’s like to be young and Black in America.

Black is…sisters navigating their relationship at summer camp in Portland, Oregon, as written by Renée Watson.

Black is…three friends walking back from the community pool talking about nothing and everything, in a story by Jason Reynolds.

Black is…Nic Stone’s high-class beauty dating a boy her momma would never approve of.

Black is…two girls kissing in Justina Ireland’s story set in Maryland.

Black is urban and rural, wealthy and poor, mixed race, immigrants, and more—because there are countless ways to be Black enough.

Contributors:
Justina Ireland
Varian Johnson
Rita Williams-Garcia
Dhonielle Clayton
Kekla Magoon
Leah Henderson
Tochi Onyebuchi
Jason Reynolds
Nic Stone
Liara Tamani
Renée Watson
Tracey Baptiste
Coe Booth
Brandy Colbert
Jay Coles
Ibi Zoboi
Lamar Giles

 

Amanda’s thoughts

This is a truly excellent collection of contemporary short stories. There wasn’t a dud in this anthology, which is pretty impressive, because I usually feel like collections  are often so uneven, that they have a few strong stories and just as many forgettable, undeveloped stories. These stories all focus on being young and black in America. They look at identity, tradition, ideas of blackness, relationships, and experiences in various urban and rural areas across the country.

 

In Renée Watson’s piece, 17-year-old Raven, a counselor at a camp for young girls from the Portland, Oregon area, is surprised to find one of her campers is her father’s daughter from the family he had after he left when Raven was seven. Varian Johnson’s story is set in South Carolina and follows Cam, who is visiting his grandma, as he deals with code switching, being called an Oreo, and thinking he’s not black enough for the girl he likes. Leah Henderson sets her story at a prep school where art, futures, and authentic selves are all in question. Lamar Giles’s “Black. Nerd. Problems” entertainingly focuses on a group of mall employees at an after-hours mall party.

 

Kekela Magoon’s main character mourns the loss of a school friend who was maybe the only person to see her real self. Jason Reynolds shows us a group of boys walking home from the pool through Bed-Stuy dreaming of the perfect sandwich. Brandy Colbert’s “Oreo” deals with a potentially Spelman-bound senior, her parents’ complicated feelings about HBCUs, and how her cousin from Missouri thinks she “acts white.” Tochi Onyebuchi shows readers a Nigerian American debate superstar who unexpectedly finds a passion for metal music. Liara Tamani’s story is set at a church camp where there’s pressure to send naked selfies. Jay Coles brings readers to the tiny town of North Salem where two boys from feuding families reveal their feelings toward each other while getting ready to compete in the big horse race.

 

Rita Williams-Garcia’s story is the only one to veer into fantasy, with a gay male model encountering an 1840s slave (either in a wash basin or in a dream) who can’t understand his modern life and freedoms. Tracey Baptiste’s “Gravity” takes place in a brief time span on a dance floor when a Trinidadian girl is sexually assaulted by her dance partner. A real standout story is Dhonielle Clayton’s “The Trouble with Drowning,” in which twin sisters from a wealthy area of Washington, DC experience a growing distance and a family unwilling to address mental health issues.

 

Justina Ireland’s main character, Devon, is in “the backwoods of Maryland” for the summer while her mother gets help for her depression and begins dating a local girl, trying to learn to live in the moment even though their relationship seems sure to end when they both leave for college. Coe Booth’s is set at college, where computer science student Garry hopes to be reunited with Inaaya, a girl he knew (and fell for) from past summer hackathons. Nic Stone’s main characters come from very different upbringings, but learn to see each other beyond their stereotypes and bond over their love of Percy Jackson books. And finally, Ibi Zoboi looks at the one night of freedom of Nigeria (Geri), the daughter of black nationalist revolutionary freedom fighter caught for tax evasion who can’t wait to be eighteen and leave the confines of the movement.

 

The stories, settings, and writing styles are varied. While readers will never know what to expect when they flip to the next story, they will not be disappointed. Each story is thoughtful and engaging, with tones varying from serious to more lighthearted. One of the best things about anthologies is the potential to introduce readers to writers they are unfamiliar with. This collection features so many wonderful authors and I hope that, if readers don’t already know their work, these stories will encourage them to seek out their books. Teachers and librarians, put this book up on a display featuring books by the authors included here. A great exploration of identity and cultures—a necessary addition to all collections. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780062698728
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/08/2019

Book Review: Life Inside My Mind: 31 Authors Share Their Personal Struggles edited by Jessica Burkhart

Publisher’s description

life insideYour favorite YA authors including Ellen Hopkins, Maureen Johnson, and more recount their own experiences with mental illness in this raw, real, and powerful collection of essays that explores everything from ADD to PTSD.

Have you ever felt like you just couldn’t get out of bed? Not the occasional morning, but every day? Do you find yourself listening to a voice in your head that says “you’re not good enough,” “not good looking enough,” “not thin enough,” or “not smart enough”? Have you ever found yourself unable to do homework or pay attention in class unless everything is “just so” on your desk? Everyone has had days like that, but what if you have them every day?

You’re not alone. Millions of people are going through similar things. However issues around mental health still tend to be treated as something shrouded in shame or discussed in whispers. It’s easier to have a broken bone—something tangible that can be “fixed”—than to have a mental illness, and easier to have a discussion about sex than it is to have one about mental health.

Life Inside My Head is an anthology of true-life events from writers of this generation, for this generation. These essays tackle everything from neurodiversity to addiction to OCD to PTSD and much more. The goals of this book range from providing home to those who are feeling alone, awareness to those who are witnessing a friend or family member struggle, and to open the floodgates to conversation.

Participating writers include E.K. Anderson, J.L. Armentrout, Cyn Balog, Amber Benson, Francesca Lia Block, Jessica Burkhart, Crissa Chappell, Sarah Fine, Kelly Fiore, Candace Ganger, Meghan Kelley Hall, Cynthia Hand, Ellen Hopkins, Maureen Johnson, Tara Kelly, Karen Mahoney, Melissa Marr, Kim McCreight, Hannah Moskowitz, Scott Neumyer, Lauren Oliver, Aprilynne Pike, Tom Pollack, Amy Reed, Cindy Rodriquez, Francisco Stork, Wendy Tolliver, Rob Wells, Dan Wells, Rachel Wilson, and Sara Zarr.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

Frequent readers of this blog will know just how important the topic of mental health is to those of us at TLT. In fact, we focused a whole year on examining Mental Health in YA Literature. The fact that not only are there now so many books that deal with mental health in good, accurate, supportive ways, but anthologies like this, that share authors’ real stories, is wonderful. I think it’s invaluable to see these real stories—to have so many prominent voices lending themselves to helping remove shame and stigma, to showing teen readers that they are not alone—they are, in fact, in pretty great company.

 

The authors included here write about a wide swath of mental health-related topics. In these 31 essays, they share about: anxiety, panic attacks, dermatillomania, OCD, depression, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, addiction, PTSD, self-harm, ADHD, Alzheimer’s, bipolar disorder, postpartum depression, social anxiety, trichotillomania, nervous breakdowns, anorexia, and more. Generally writing in a very conversational tone, they talk about their symptoms, their medications, their treatments, their fears, their hope, and their survival. They talk about family histories of mental illness, shame, avoidance, recovery, and the sometimes long, hard road to getting help. The authors discuss things that have helped them, like medication, therapy, yoga, service animals, rehab, hospitalization, meditation, mindfulness, exercise, sleep, diet, and so much more.

 

Many of the authors note how hard writing this essay was, how even after (in most cases) years and years of treatment and acceptance, it is still extremely difficult to share these very personal stories. It’s so important that teens can see these stories, not just fictionalized in literature, but in nonfiction collections like this. While no one person experiences their mental illness exactly like any other, all of the authors in this anthology show that the most important common thread of their journeys is one of help and hope. An important addition to all collections. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9781481494649
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication date: 04/10/2018

A Recap of the HOPE NATION Launch Event at Irving Public Library – and a GIVEAWAY

 Hope is a decision, but it is a hard one to recognize in the face of oppression, belittlement, alienation, and defeat. To help embolden hope, here is a powerhouse collection of essays and letters that speak directly to teens and all YA readers. Featuring Marie Lu, James Dashner, Gayle Forman, David Levithan, Julie Murphy, Jeff Zentner, Renee Ahdieh, and many more!

“Hope is a decision, but it is a hard one to recognize in the face of oppression, belittlement, alienation, and defeat. To help embolden hope, here is a powerhouse collection of essays and letters that speak directly to teens and all YA readers. Featuring Marie Lu, James Dashner, Gayle Forman, David Levithan, Julie Murphy, Jeff Zentner, Renee Ahdieh, and many more!”

Yesterday The Teen and I attended the HOPE NATION launch party at Irving Public Library. One of her best friends, a big reader and also the daughter of a YA librarian, was there with us as well. We were excited to learn more about this anthology, get copies signed, and to hear the authors share their stories. Here is a recap of that event with some of the Tweets I sent out as I live Tweeted.

Read TLTer Amanda MacGregory’s Review Here:

Book Review: Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration

And yes, The Teen did wear her favorite fuzzy pink slippers to the event to meet some of her favorite authors. We kid her about them, but I also love that she is who she is, likes what she likes, and just goes with it. I think they also make a fun juxtaposition to her frequent all black wardrobe.

The panel consisted of authors Ally Carter, Julie Murphy and Angie Thomas! These are three of the contributors to the HOPE NATION anthology. And the first question was editor Rose Brock asking why they agreed to be a part of this anthology.

Texas woman taps popular young adult authors in new book for teens

As a librarian who works at a small town library with a high rate of teen poverty, I am always glad to see stories set in rural areas that reflect rural and small town poverty.

The panelists were then asked what their stories are about. Ally Carter talked about wanting to be a famous writer and getting out of her small town. Julie Murphy talked about how they lost their home her senior year of high school and the concept of having a home and having the concept of home in your heart. Angie Thomas talked about wanting to give hope back to all of the readers who had given her hope and helped to make her dreams come true.

 

When it was opened up to audience questions, an audience member asked Angie Thomas how she should respond to parents who objected to The Hate U Give being offered in schools.

A second audience question and the audience member asked how we could get guys to read these books when there are girls on the covers. The audience member also suggested that these books needed different covers without girls on the covers to appeal to male readers.

All of the panelists did a great job of discussing how we needed adult males to help break down the barriers and stereotypes about reading “girl books”. Ally Carter shared a story about a male librarian who had booktalked The Gallagher Girl series to his school and he had emailed her to say it was the most popular book series at his all guy school. This was an example of men doing the work and challenging cultural norms and stereotypes.

At the end of the event the authors did a signing and The Teen got copies of several books signed for herself and we got a copy of the first Gallagher Girls book signed for Thing 2 (she’s almost old enough now for this series!). And, guess what? I got all the panelists to sign a copy of HOPE NATION to give away here to you all. So just do the Rafflecopter thing by Friday, March 2nd at Midnight to be entered to win a copy of HOPE NATION signed by Rose Brock, Ally Carter, Julie Murphy and Angie Thomas. Open to U.S. residents only please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Review: Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration edited by Rose Brock

Publisher’s description

hope nationHope is a decision, but it is a hard one to recognize in the face of oppression, belittlement, alienation, and defeat. To help embolden hope, here is a powerhouse collection of essays and personal stories that speak directly to teens and all YA readers. Featuring Angie Thomas, Marie Lu, James Dashner, Nicola Yoon, David Levithan, Libba Bray, Jason Reynolds, Renée Ahdieh, and many more!

“The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.”—Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We all experience moments when we struggle to understand the state of the world, when we feel powerless and—in some cases—even hopeless. The teens of today are the caretakers of tomorrow, and yet it’s difficult for many to find joy or comfort in such a turbulent society. But in trying times, words are power.

Some of today’s most influential young adult authors come together in this highly personal collection of essays and original stories that offer moments of light in the darkness, and show that hope is a decision we all can make.

Like a modern day Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul or Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for TeensHope Nation acknowledges the pain and offers words of encouragement.

Authors include: Atia Abawi, Renee Ahdieh, Libba Bray, Howard Bryant, Ally Carter, Ally Condie, James Dashner, Christina Diaz Gonzales, Gayle Forman, Romina Garber, I. W. Gregario, Kate Hart, Bendan Kiely, David Levithan, Alex London, Marie Lu, Julie Murphy, Jason Reynolds, Aisha Saeed, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Jenny Torres Sanchez, Jeff Zentner, and Nicola Yoon.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

Let me first just say that I really wish the summary for this book didn’t compare this to inspirational books like Chicken Soup or Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. For one, I’m not sure how relevant those comps are for actual modern teens, and for another thing, I see those things and immediately think, GACK, no thank you. While this is a book focused on hope and encouragement, it, to me, is nothing like those titles. It is far better. Thank goodness.

 

With the exception of Levithan’s fictional piece based on being at the Women’s March in Atlanta, the rest of this collection is essays from a wide variety of authors. Libba Bray writes about the car accident that changed her life and the hope she finds, loses, and learns will come around again. Angie Thomas discusses the current political climate, the publication of her book The Hate U Give, and three particular encounters after its publication. Ally Condie talks about, among other things, depression and the things and people that help with hope. Marie Lu writes about moving from China to America and survival and adaptation. Jeff Zentner talks about the hope that lies in young Book People and the power of stories. Nicola Yoon recounts the challenges of being an interracial couple. Kate Hart explores her combative relationship with hope. Gayle Forman takes on the topics of travel, hope, and life after 9/11. Christina Diaz Gonzalez talks about baseball, being the only Hispanic girl in her small North Florida town, and her Cuban grandmother. Atia Abawi writes about her dream of being a journalist, persistence, roadblocks, and believing in yourself. Alex London talks about the 90s, prom, drag, and the gender binary. Howard Bryant writes about his newspaper internship in a small Pennsylvania farm town and the lessons he learned there. Ally Carter reveals how long she kept her desire to be a writer a secret. Romina Garber recalls her move from Argentina to the US as a child and what it meant to be an immigrant. Renee Ahdieh  talks identity and how it shaped her. Aisha Saeed writes about apologies and being an American Muslim. Jenny Torres Sanchez discusses growing up afraid of her father and the abuse that he suffered as a child. Nic Stone talks about being African American in this post-2016 election era. Julie Murphy finds home and hope in unexpected places. I.W. Gregorio shares how a repressed teen grew up to become a urologist, and discusses breaking taboos and getting rid of awkwardness. Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely have a conversation about their tour for All American Boys and the conversations and kids who have stuck with them.

 

My favorite thing about anthologies has always been finding new authors to explore, and this collection, that offers so many personal stories and chances for readers to connect on a variety of shared experiences and interests, will surely point young readers toward new names. I am automatically repelled from anything billed as “inspirational” (it’s just how I’m built), but this look at hope and connection will show readers that they are not alone in their experiences, feelings, or concerns. Definitely worth picking up, even if just read to the pieces by your favorites. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781524741679
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 02/27/2018

Book Review: Meet Cute by various authors

Publisher’s description

meet cute

Stories by: Jennifer L. Armentrout, Dhonielle Clayton, Katie Cotugno, Jocelyn Davies, Nina LaCour, Huntley Fitzpatrick, Emery Lord, Katharine McGee, Kass Morgan, Julie Murphy, Meredith Russo, Sara Shepard, Nicola Yoon, Ibi Zoboi

Whether or not you believe in fate, or luck, or love at first sight, every romance has to start somewhere. MEET CUTE is an anthology of original short stories featuring tales of “how they first met” from some of today’s most popular YA authors.

Readers will experience Nina LaCour’s beautifully written piece about two Bay Area girls meeting via a cranky customer service Tweet, Sara Shepard’s glossy tale about a magazine intern and a young rock star, Nicola Yoon’s imaginative take on break-ups and make-ups, Katie Cotugno’s story of two teens hiding out from the police at a house party, and Huntley Fitzpatrick’s charming love story that begins over iced teas at a diner. There’s futuristic flirting from Kass Morgan and Katharine McGee, a riveting transgender heroine from Meredith Russo, a subway missed connection moment from Jocelyn Davies, and a girl determined to get out of her small town from Ibi Zoboi. Jennifer Armentrout writes a sweet story about finding love from a missing library book, Emery Lord has a heartwarming and funny tale of two girls stuck in an airport, Dhonielle Clayton takes a thoughtful, speculate approach to pre-destined love, and Julie Murphy dreams up a fun twist on reality dating show contestants.

This incredibly talented group of authors brings us a collection of stories that are at turns romantic and witty, epic and everyday, heartbreaking and real.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

I so love a good collection of short stories. And this one of the many cute, funny, and unexpected ways romances can start is diverse, sweet, and has something for nearly everyone. 

In Katie Cotugno’s piece, an unlikely couple shares a moment and possibly nothing more while hiding out at a party. In Nina LaCour’s story, two girls meet over Twitter during a customer service crisis. Ibi Zoboi’s contribution is about Cherish, a 6’5″ black girl desperate to get out of her super white town but wait listed at all of the HBUCs she applied to. Just when she sees a way out, she meets the one interesting boy in town. Katherine McGee’s science fiction story finds Alexa, a computer programmer working on a revolutionary virtual reality program, going on a date with a boy a computer algorithm says should be a perfect match… only he’s not who she thinks he is. Sara Shepard’s story involves a musician and a record label intern. Meredith Russo writes about Nina, a trans student who’s embroiled in a bathroom battle at school where her classmate Lexie is among the most unspoken of her opponents. Dhonielle Clayton’s piece revolves around a love blueprint—coiled tattoos on hands—that eventually fade to match your love’s. When her main character holds hands with a boy she meets (something that is forbidden), she sees many futures for herself. Emery Lord’s tale about two girls meeting in a security line at the airport proves that sometimes you just totally get someone right away. Jennifer Armentrout’s piece reveals a connection made via an overdue library book. Jocelyn Davies’ main characters, Dev and Samara, find out the statistical odds of falling in love at first with someone on the subway. Kass Morgan’s story looks at two candidates for a one-way mission to Mars and the reasons they have for leaving. Julie Murphy’s story has two girls competing on a reality show for a date with a musician, but discover they’re both interested in someone else. Huntley Fitzpatrick’s story is about a waitress and a customer, a boy, with an, unbeknownst to her, complicated relationship. Nicola Yoon’s piece about the Department of Dead Love, which performs relationship autopsies, finishes off the collection.

This is a super fun and cute collection. The stories are all very different, featuring a variety of characters, identities, and settings. This will be an easy recommendation for many readers. Plus, the cover is so dang cute, it will sell itself. Me + this book = true love. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781328759870
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 01/02/2018

 

Book Review: Welcome Home edited by Eric Smith

Publisher’s description

Welcome Home collects a number of adoption-themed fictional short stories, and brings them together in one anthology from a diverse range of celebrated Young Adult authors. The all-star roster includes Edgar-award winner Mindy McGinnis, New York Times best-selling authors C.J. Redwine (The Shadow Queen) and William Ritter (Jackaby), and acclaimed YA authors across all genres. The full list of contributors includes: Adi Alsaid, Karen Akins, Erica M. Chapman, Caela Carter, Libby Cudmore, Dave Connis, Julie Eshbaugh, Helene Dunbar, Lauren Gibaldi, Shannon Gibney, Jenny Kaczorowski, Julie Leung, Sangu Mandanna, Matthew Quinn Martin, Mindy McGinnis, Lauren Morrill, Tameka Mullins, Sammy Nickalls, Shannon Parker, C.J. Redwine, Randy Ribay, William Ritter, Stephanie Scott, Natasha Sinel, Eric Smith, Courtney C. Stevens, Nic Stone, Kate Watson, and Tristina Wright.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

welcome homeI generally read and review books in order of publication date and rarely go back to fit in anything I had missed previously. I just get too many books to consider to not just keep plowing forward. Unless someone finally figures out how to have reading all night make me feel as rested as actually sleeping does, that’s just the way it will stay—I try to read as much as humanly possible, but miss an awful lot. That said, I wanted to sneak in WELCOME HOME before the year ends because it’s such a unique and important collection.

As with any anthology, the stories are somewhat uneven, with many stories standing out better than others. Also, stories of just a handful of pages are not always really given enough time to actually develop in a satisfying way. BUT, I happen to love a good anthology. You can pick and choose, go back later, skim things, discover new writers (to me, that’s always the most exciting part of an anthology), and get what feel like extra bonus stories you wouldn’t otherwise get from old favorites. I’m glad to see anthologies making a comeback these days. They really appeal to a certain kind of reader, so I hope this book, and others like it, land in all libraries and get talked up and promoted.

There’s a lot to like about this book. Multiple genres are featured and though all of the pieces revolve around adoption, foster care, family, and love, there is a lot of variety in tone and content, which keeps the collection from feeling repetitive. Plots include an adopted superhero, a nearly too late reunion, a mother in prison, the death of an adoptive parent, a mute child in an orphanage, transracial adoption, a child taken back by a birth parent, a pregnant teen trying to decide what choice to make, a genealogy assignment, and more. Themes of love, support, friendship, family, and belonging permeate all of the stories. This diverse collection of short pieces is a welcome addition to YA, where we don’t necessarily see a lot about adoption. Get this on display in your libraries to help it get into the hands of kids who will recognize their own stories in this collection. A great look at the many ways families are made up and come together. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781635830040
Publisher: North Star Editions
Publication date: 09/05/2017

Book Review: Project Semicolon: Your Story Isn’t Over by Amy Bleuel

Publisher’s description

ra6For fans of PostSecret, Humans of New York, and If You Feel Too Much, this collection from suicide-awareness organization Project Semicolon features stories and photos from those struggling with mental illness.

Project Semicolon began in 2013 to spread a message of hope: No one struggling with a mental illness is alone; you, too, can survive and live a life filled with joy and love. In support of the project and its message, thousands of people all over the world have gotten semicolon tattoos and shared photos of them, often alongside stories of hardship, growth, and rebirth.

Project Semicolon: Your Story Isn’t Over reveals dozens of new portraits and stories from people of all ages talking about what they have endured and what they want for their futures. This represents a new step in the movement and a new awareness around those who struggle with mental illness and those who support them. At once heartfelt, unflinchingly honest, and eternally hopeful, this collection tells a story of choice: every day you choose to live and let your story continue on.

Learn more about the project at www.projectsemicolon.com.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

projectThis anthology shares so many powerful stories of suffering, resiliency, treatment, and hope. The book starts with the story of the project’s founder, Amy Bleuel. She talks about her own history with mental illness and about creating the hashtag in 2013 with the idea of people drawing semicolons on their wrists if they have struggled with mental illness or love someone who does. What follows are many short pieces (some just a paragraph) and photographs of tattoos. The pieces address struggles, histories, diagnoses, suicidal ideology and attempts, histories, causes, reactions, and treatments. Collectively, the stories shared here are about fear, hurt, hope, fights, help, advocacy, understanding, suffering, medication, therapy, inpatient and outpatient treatment, love, and support. The stories are a mix of being from those with mental illness and from those who have loved and lost people due to mental illness. The stories are about abuse, rape, addiction, eating disorders, PTSD, OCD, bipolar, depression, anxiety, panic disorders, borderline personality disorder, chronic pain, postpartum depression, self-harm, schizophrenia, dissociative disorders, social anxiety, and more. While no one’s story is the same, they all contain the same message: there is help and there is hope. The anthology helps remove the isolation, shame, and stigma so often felt with mental illness. Resources at the end include helplines, counseling and treatment information, and support groups. This is an important addition to all library collections. 

For more information on mental health issues, check out Teen Librarian Toolbox’s Mental Health in Young Adult Literature project, which has over 100 posts from authors, bloggers, librarians, and other teen advocates. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9780062466525

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 09/05/2017

Book Review: Feral Youth edited by Shaun David Hutchinson

Publisher’s description

ra6Ten teens are left alone in the wilderness during a three-day survival test in this multi-authored novel edited by award-winning author Shaun David Hutchinson.

At Zeppelin Bend, an outdoor-education program designed to teach troubled youth the value of hard work, cooperation, and compassion, ten teens are left alone in the wild. The teens are a diverse group who come all walks of life, and were all sent to Zeppelin Bend as a last chance to get them to turn their lives around. They’ve just spent nearly two weeks hiking, working, learning to survive in the wilderness, and now their instructors have dropped them off eighteen miles from camp with no food, no water, and only their packs, and they’ll have to struggle to overcome their vast differences if they hope to survive.

Inspired by The Canterbury Tales, the characters in Feral Youth, each complex and damaged in their own ways, are enticed to tell a story (or two) with the promise of a cash prize. The stories range from noir-inspired revenge tales to mythological stories of fierce heroines and angry gods. And while few of the stories are claimed to be based in truth, they ultimately reveal more about the teller than the truth ever could.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

feralFirst things first: the stories in this book are written by Shaun David Hutchinson, Suzanne Young, Marieke Nijkamp, Robin Talley, Stephanie Kuehn, E. C. Myers, Tim Floreen, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Justina Ireland, Brandy Colbert.

 

Great lineup, right?

 

Zeppelin Bend camp, in Wyoming, is the last chance these characters have to turn their lives around. They’re all there for the trouble they landed themselves in. But as they each reveal their story (or parts of their stories, or dance around their stories), readers come to understand that the characters are (of course) more than just their alleged crimes and that they made the choices they did for very complicated reasons. The stories cover a lot of ground: arson, rape, bullying, revenge, theft, drugs, dress codes, runaways, fairy tales, mythology, other worlds, paranormal activity, ghosts, horror, and more. Some of the stories come in bits and pieces. It’s hard to tell what’s the whole story, if the narrators can be trusted, and who might by lying. But the one thing all these stories do is show the characters to be multifaceted people. At one point, Lucinda notes, “Our parents see us as these problems to solve, delinquents to deal with. But we’re more than that.” But, as another character points out, none of that really matters is if all people can see is what they’ve done. And, is what they’ve done really who they are? Does it define them, shape them, change them? And, even if they’re together at camp, and now together for three days as they wander the woods and share their stories, do they still really know each other? Or can you never really know someone? If nothing else, telling their stories gives them some sense of controlling the narrative about them, of being seen and heard, if only for a little bit by a few people.

 

I really enjoy this multi-author format (like Hutchinson did with VIOLENT ENDS, too). It’s such a smart way to tell a story with a wide cast of characters, one that really benefits from the variety of voices, writing styles, and diversity of identities that the authors bring. This is an easy recommendation, especially for reluctant readers, who may be drawn to the attention-grabbing format and that fast narrative pace. A great choice, too, for those who enjoy unreliable narrators. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9781481491112

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication date: 09/05/2017

Book Review: Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World edited by Kelly Jensen

Publisher’s description

here-we-areLet’s get the feminist party started!

Here We Are is a scrapbook-style teen guide to understanding what it means to be a twenty-first-century feminist. It’s packed with contributions from a diverse range of voices, including TV, film, and pop-culture celebrities and public figures such as ballet dancer Michaela DePrince and her sister Mia and politician Wendy Davis, as well as popular authors like Nova Ren Suma, Malinda Lo, Brandy Colbert, Courtney Summers, and many more. All together, the book features more than forty-four pieces and illustrations.

Here We Are is a response to lively discussions about the true meaning of feminism on social media and across popular culture and is an invitation to one of the most important, life-changing, and exciting parties around.

 

 

Amanda’s thoughts

Just go ahead and buy like twenty of these, okay? Give them out for birthdays, for holidays, for graduation gifts. This book is for everyone and makes it clear that feminism is, too.

 

Set up scrapbook-style, like Rookie, this book packs in a bunch of pieces in a bunch of formats. I read the whole book in one sitting. There are personal essays, poems, song lyrics, comics, letters, lists, illustrations, and more. Readers are given a brief history of feminism and information on its various waves. Chapters are divided up by themes like Body and Mind, Relationships, Culture and Pop Culture, etc. The contributions range from less than a page long to much longer. Some pieces are original and some were previously published elsewhere. A sampling of some of my favorites: Kody Keplinger’s “Feminist Songs To Sing Along To” playlist; Malinda Lo’s essay on her paternal grandmother who introduced her to feminist heroes in literature and created young Malinda’s ideal of a feminist; Anne Theriault’s “The Monster Book of Questions,” which examines feminism and mental health; Angie Manfredi’s piece about the word “fat” and how feminism helped her take the word back and embrace it; the always brilliant Liz Prince’s comic “I Guess This Is Growing Up,” about moving from misogyny to feminism; Mikki Kendall’s essay on inclusive feminism, the many ways to be a feminist and approaches to feminism, and how feminism doesn’t mean you’re still not biased, harmful, ignorant, and exclusive; Ashley Hope Perez’s piece on being a nice girl feminist (and the nice girl commandments we all have to learn to break); and Kaye Mirza’s essay on being a feminist and a Muslim. FAQs are interspersed, asking things like, “What does intersectional feminism mean?” and “Is there a difference between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’?” Fun lists include women scientists, black girl friendships, and great girl friendships in fiction.

This diverse, inclusive, intersectional, and immensely readable anthology needs to be in every school, public, and personal library. A fantastic read.

 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781616205867

Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

Publication date: 01/24/2017