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Read Wild: Cli-fi, How Books Can Start Conversations and Inspire Action

According to a recent NPR/Ipsos poll, more than 80% of parents want climate change taught in schools.  And that statistic is pretty solid regardless of political affiliation, with 66% of Republicans and 90% of Democrats agreeing that climate change should be taught. Sounds great, right?  The problem is that the same poll also revealed that while teachers are very supportive of teaching climate change, more than half of those surveyed are not teaching it and almost 2/3rds said that’s because it’s outside of their subject area. 

What’s the answer to this conundrum?  Stories, of course! In 2015, Ed Maibach, director of George Mason’s Center for Climate Change Communication, said at a White House meeting on climate change that “Numbers numb, stories sell. We don’t deal well with numbers — it tends to suspend our sense of emotion — but we respond very, very well to stories.”

Cli-fi, or climate fiction, has been around for ages, though the term entered popular use in the 21st century.  It’s defined as a fictional story that includes the effects of climate change.  These stories might explore things like natural disasters, global warming, water shortages, natural resource access, fossil fuels, loss of species, or anything else related to our changing planet. Adult fiction is full of cli-fi, including The Overstory, this year’s winner of the Pulitzer Prize.  Luckily, children’s and YA literature are also confronting climate change head-on through cli-fi.  Sharing cli-fi books with teens is a great way to engage students in one of the biggest issues of their (and our) lifetime. 

I’ve been using cli-fi books in one of the literature circle units I run in my 9th grade English class and they always inspire passionate conversations.  In addition, they often inspire students to get involved by writing letters to the editor, joining our school’s Roots & Shoots club, and even in pursuing sustainability majors in college. 

Reading a cli-fi book is one of the #readwild challenges I’m asking readers to engage in this year, so I’ve rounded up a few of my recent favorites below. 

Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman: Before reading Dry you need to understand that it is absolutely terrifying. Set in a very near-future, Dry is the story of a group of teens caught in the middle when California’s drought escalates from inconvenient to life and death. Quiet suburbs are suddenly warzones, neighbors are stealing from neighbors, and families have turned against each other. Neal and Jarrod Shusterman have crafted a terrifying story that made me have to stop reading at points.  This is great to pair with news articles about Flint and the drought history in California.

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline: Dimaline’s book is set in a near future after the world has been ravaged by climate change.  Climate change has led to people losing the ability to dream, so people are descending into madness.  However, North America’s Indigenous people can still dream.  Unfortunately,  their bone marrow holds the cure for the rest of the world. With terrifying parallels to how Indigenous people were and are treated, The Marrow Thieves has been very popular with my teen readers.  It pairs well with history classes and current events.

The Beast of Cretacea by Todd Strasser: Part Moby Dick and part cli-fi, The Beast of Cretacea is the story of a group ofteens sent to other planets to harvest resources and bring them back to Earth. Earth has been completely ravaged, so Ishmael is one of the teens sent into space.  However, he isn’t just there to enjoy the clean air and cool weather; Ishmael risks his life to help his foster parents escape from the crumbling planet Earth. Pair it with Moby Dick to talk about environmental justice

These are just a few of the YA cli-fi books out there.  Check out this great list Natalie Korsavidis posted on TeenLibrarianToolbox in 2017 for even more ideas. And don’t forget to share your progress on the #readwild reading challenge on social media!

Additional Resource:

Teaching Climate Change to Adolescents: Reading, Writing, and Making a Difference (published by the National Council of Teachers of English) is a fantastic resource for those looking for more ways to talk about climate change outside of science class. 

Meet Sarah Mulhern Gross

I am a National Board Certified teacher who teaches ninth-grade and twelfth-grade English at High Technology High School in Lincroft, New Jersey. I am a contributor to the New York Times Learning Network and my writing has appeared in Scientific American, Edutopia, ASCD, and The Washington Post’s Answer Sheet.  In 2017 I completed my Master’s degree in teaching biology with Project Dragonfly at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio with a focus on defeating nature-deficit disorder in adolescents through interdisciplinary work.
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Read Wild: Nature Deficit Disorder and its implications for teens

Today is Earth Day and we’re kicking it off here at TLT by introducing you to Sarah Mulhern Gross and her new regular feature, #ReadWild. We’re going to be having an ongoing discussion about connecting teens with nature, discussing issues like climate change, and sharing titles that help you do both. In this post, we’re also introducing you to our #ReadWild Reading Challenge and giving you some background information on Nature Deficit Disorder.

American students are stressed. Since 2013, teens have reported feeling more stress than adults, according to the American Psychological Association. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 3.1 million American teenagers (between 12 -17) had at least one major depressive episode in the last year. Constant access to technology, with its notifications and messages, often brings more stress.  A 2013 study conducted by Karla Klein Murdock of Washington and Lee University found that text messages and social media messaging left college students vulnerable to interpersonal stress, leading to sleep problems and lower levels of emotional well-being.  Yet our schools have added computers in every class, adopted “bring your own device” policies, and cut gym classes and recess in favor of trying to raise test scores. Most of my high school students tell me they spend little to no time outside on a daily basis.

Nature-deficit disorder is a term used to describe the loss that children and teens experience when they are not given opportunities to have direct contact with nature.  Journalist and author Richard Louv coined the term when researchers began to realize the impact that nature had on children’s health and ability to learn.  Students who do not spend time outdoors engaging in exploration and play often feel disconnected from nature and environmental issues as adults. Without that connection to nature there may be no conservationists in the future.

Being outside has important benefits for kids and teens.  According to the Children & Nature Network, increased time outside has public health benefits.  Time outside has been found to improve children’s sleep, boost performance in school and enhance creativity, and increase focus and engagement.   And the effects of nature are long-term: childhood nature exposure can help predict adult mental well-being.  When my own students spend time outside during field studies or on nature walks they report feeling less stressed.  Florence Williams’ book The Nature Fix highlights the fact that as few as 15 minutes in the woods has been shown to reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. When nature exposure is increased to 45 minutes there is an increase in cognitive ability.

Research shows that formative experiences in nature during childhood and adolescence are the most important source of environmental appreciation later in life; adults who are active in conservation often cite childhood experiences with the natural world as one of their most critical inspirations. Yet our schools are designed in a manner that denies students the opportunity to observe the world around them. In a time when the environment is under attack from our own government officials, we need to make sure the next generation will value the world around them. 

How can we help kids and teens connect more with nature?  Through books, of course!

Over the course of the next year, I will be sharing books that can inspire readers to get outdoors.  In order to help you get more out of your reading experience (personally and professionally!), I’ve designed the #readwild reading challenge. I challenge you to build a wider repertoire of nature books and get outside more, too!  Beginning this week, I’ll share books and activities that you can do with the teens in your life.  Happy Earth Day and Happy Reading!

Share your favorite nature reads with us on social media using the hashtag #readwild!

Meet Sarah Mulhern Gross

I am a National Board Certified teacher who team-teaches an integrated humanities, science, and technology program to ninth grade students at High Technology High School in Lincroft, New Jersey. I am a regular contributor to the New York Times Learning Network and my writing has appeared in Scientific American, Edutopia, ASCD, and The Washington Post’s Answer Sheet. I also help teach a middle school science enrichment program through the STARS Challenge program at Monmouth University and I serve as a board member for the curiousYoungwriters blog, which provides a platform for publishing student writing that describes a nontraditional animal model in biomed research.

TheReadingZone Blog

wilddelight blog– Focused on integrating science and English class

#ReadForChange: Reading into Hurricane Season with Joanne O’Sullivan’s Between Two Skies

ReadForChange copyTeen Librarian Toolbox is excited to be partnering with Marie Marquardt for her #ReadForChange project. Hop on over to this post to learn more about the initiative. Today, she and Joanne O’Sullivan join us for a conversation about Hurricane Katrina, climate change, taking action, and O’Sullivan’s 2017 book  Between Two Skies

 

 

Before Hurricane Katrina, I always felt like I could come back home. And home was a real place, and also it had this mythical weight for me. Because of the way that Hurricane Katrina ripped everything away, it cast that idea in doubt.

Jesmyn Ward, author

 

Leaving Home, Leaving the Lost Bayou

joanne-osullivan-Between-Two-SkiesAs we near the one-year anniversary of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, we still occasionally see news headlines about the slow pace of recovery, particularly in Puerto Rico. We are reminded that many communities still need our support, and many of us heed the call by donating to great programs like the Hispanic Federation’s UNIDOS or traveling to support recovering communities.

 

But, unless we are among those directly affected, we have a hard time grasping the profound upheaval that hurricanes cause in the lives of so many. We don’t think much about the slow process of building new lives, new communities – especially for those who no longer have a place to call home.  I adore Joanne O’Sullivan’s 2017 historical YA novel, Between Two Skies, because it brings us intimately into the story of one family that lost everything it knew as home, and then struggled to build a new life together.

 

As Hurricane Katrina’s waters rose to cover her family’s coastal Louisiana fishing village, Evangeline (a “white, mostly” girl, with deep roots in the Bayou) watched from a south-Georgia hotel room, where she expected to wait for a few days, until the storm passed. Needless to say, the storm did pass, but the waters didn’t recede. With her town of Bayou Perdu submerged underwater, Evangeline and her family soon found themselves living as “hurricane refugees” in landlocked Atlanta, trying to adjust to a new school and new home, where the calls of birds on the Bayou have been replaced with the whoosh of cars on the interstate.

 

Evangeline is a wonderful protagonist. She is impossible not to love from the first moment we meet her, days before Katrina hits. Evangeline is “about to make history” for wearing jeans, white rubber boots, and not “an ounce of hairspray or a drop of makeup” as she prepares to be crowned Bayou Perdu’s 2005 Shrimp Queen.

 

hurricane-katrina-ir-clouds-from-goes-on-29-aug-2005-869While developing a beautiful sense of place and a wonderful, memorable cast of characters, Between Two Skies also dives deep into the disorientation of exile. Through Evangeline, readers experience the anxiety of separation, the loss of close friendships, and the profound longing for those smells, tastes, rhythms and sounds of home. The story also explores so many subtle new things that come in the wake of loss: a new gender dynamic in the family, as her mother sets off to office work while her dad struggles to find meaningful employment; a new awareness of social class, as her older sister, a prom-queen-bound cheerleader in Bayou Perdu, comes to terms with her much lower status in their wealthy suburban Atlanta school; and, for Evangeline, a beautiful aching new love. She finds this love with Tru, A Vietnamese-American boy who also spends time in Atlanta as an exile from the storm.

 

For fans of poetry, there’s an added bonus: the story in some ways parallels that of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem entitled Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie. Evangeline’s story in Between Two Skies echoes the heartache, searching, and exile of the poem, while also building a gentle, often innocent, and ultimately hopeful story.

 

“I wrote Between Two Skies to bear witness”: A Conversation with Joanne O’Sullivan

joanne-osullivan-largeMARIE: Tell us about the moment when you knew that this story had to be written, and that you needed to be the one to write it.

 

JOANNE: I spent a lot of time after Hurricane Katrina reading narratives from people both in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast and their stories resonated deeply with me in part because of my own experiences in that part of the world. Although Hurricane Katrina took place in 2005, it was in 2010 after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill off the coast of Louisiana that made me turn my attention to the long-term impacts of both climate change and environmental justice in natural and man-made disasters.

 

The same people who had been displaced and lost their livelihoods during Katrina were once again hit with a devastating blow. A way of life based on deep reverence for nature and community is coming to an end and in a way, I wrote BETWEEN TWO SKIES to bear witness to it.

 

Coastal communities are the canary in the coalmine for the effects of climate change and rising sea level. People who already live on the margins are often pushed into poverty as a result of natural disasters. While recovering from the many losses that can come with a natural disaster is difficult for everyone, it’s much more difficult for those who don’t have the resources to bounce back.

 

In the days and weeks following a disaster, there’s a lot of attention. But it quickly fades. My story looks at what happens next. Sadly, there are a lot of parallels between what happened after Katrina and what’s currently happening in Puerto Rico and coastal Texas after last fall’s disasters.

 

MARIE: What are some of the things you’re doing to create the world that you want future generations to live in?

 

JOANNE: I volunteer for educational, environmental and other causes in my community. I support the work of organizations that are doing good work by helping them raise awareness and giving my time and money. I write and call my elected officials at all levels to urge them to put people before politics. And I vote, every time.

 

Our family is focused on lowering our consumption, not just of energy, but also of consumer goods. It may sound basic, but we don’t eat meat at home. The amount of energy that goes into producing meat (and the waste produced from it) is really staggering. If everyone cut back just a little, the impact on the environment would be significant.

 

MARIE: What’s your message for readers wanting to take action on climate change?

 

JOANNE: If you feel passionately about an issue, engage with it in real life, not just online: you’ll meet other people who are doing important work and you’ll demonstrate your commitment. It may sound simple, but showing up is one of the most valuable things you can do. It’s easier than ever to find opportunities to volunteer: places like Idealist and Meetup.com post notices of volunteer opportunities.

 

Take your showing up to the next level: protest, demonstrate, and go to your local city council meetings or state legislature. Organize at your own school. Don’t wait for leadership to present itself: take the lead yourself.

 

Ready to Learn More? Read On!

In our interview, Joann told me about Terrestrial, a great podcast for “staying informed on environmental issues.”  She also recommended two podcasts that we featured in our April issue, when we interviewed Jodi Lynn Anderson (I’ve already listened to a few episodes of these, and I’ll tell you they keep coming up for a reason! They’re that good.):

 

No Place Like HomeThis is a great, conversational podcast covering different angles of climate change and culture, and offering examples of people taking positive, achievable steps to create a better future.

download (2)

Warm RegardsThis one has some fascinating stuff untangling how climate change has become so political.

download-1 (1)

 

And here’s one more excellent recommendation from Joanne: “The Vanishing Island, a short (9 minute) documentary by Emmanuel Vaughn-Lee is a really powerful look at how climate change threatens vulnerable communities. I would encourage anyone with an interest in climate change to watch it to understand the real on-the-ground affects being felt in Southern Louisiana.”

 

 

Ready to take action? “Take your showing up to the next level!”

Here are a few of Joanne’s recommendations for action:

Earth Guardians is a great organization for young people who want to engage on environmental issues and climate change. There are Earth Guardian ‘crews’ all over the US and the world (or you can start one in your area).

earthguardians

350.org is a global group working on climate justice. You can check the website for a group near you and also start your own group. 350 holds frequent ‘actions’ on climate issues

 

Youth Build gives low-income young people construction skills and involves them in building affordable housing and other community assets, such as community centers and schools.

yb_blue

I encourage young people in the US to consider joining Americorps or Americorps VISTA for a year of service. There are so many projects available and it’s a great way to really have an impact in a community.

 

“Don’t Wait… Take the Lead Yourself.”

I’m especially grateful to Joanne for reminding me, in our interview, of the importance of engaging in real life. There is much great awareness-building happening in online communities, but getting on the ground and being face-to-face with the issues and those who are affected by them still remains, in my opinion, the best way to build strong and vibrant communities, and to make lasting and significant change in the world.

 

Thank you, Joanne, for this reminder!

 

IMG_5256This Hurricane Season, #ReadForChange with Between Two Skies!

Can’t wait to get your hands on BETWEEN TWO SKIES? It just might be your lucky day!  Here’s a link to the giveaway. We’ll be announcing the winner on Twitter @MarieFMarquardt and Instagram marie_marquardt August 1!

 

 

 

 

Meet Marie Marquardt

Women’s March, January 21, 2017

Women’s March, January 21, 2017

Marie Marquardt is the author of three YA novels: The Radius of UsDream Things True, and Flight Season. A Scholar-in-Residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, Marie also has published several articles and co-authored two non-fiction books about Latin American immigration to the U.S. South. She is chair of El Refugio, a non-profit that serves detained immigrants and their families. She lives with her spouse, four kids, a dog and a bearded dragon in the book-lover’s mecca of Decatur, Georgia.

 

#ReadForChange: Jodi Lynn Anderson’s Midnight at the Electric and climate change, a guest post by Marie Marquardt

ReadForChange copyTeen Librarian Toolbox is excited to be partnering with Marie Marquardt for her #ReadForChange project. Hop on over to this post to learn more about the initiative. Today, she and Jodi Lynn Anderson join us for a conversation about climate change and Anderson’s new novel, Midnight at the Electric. 

 

 

We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road – the one less traveled by – offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.

Rachael Carson, Silent Spring, 1962

 

A Smooth Superhighway that Ends in Disaster?

midnightJodi Lynn Anderson’s Midnight at the Electric begins with Adri, one of the story’s three teenage protagonists, climbing into her self-driving car and speeding north on a superhighway away, from Miami and toward Kansas. The year is 2065 and Miami has been submerged in seawater. Leaving her devastated city behind, Adri sets out for a brief stint in Kansas, where she will train to be a “colonist” before heading off to Mars.

In the hands of a less innovative author, this might be the setup for a futuristic science fiction novel that takes the reader to an imagined place far away from this planet. In the hands of Jodi Lynn Anderson, Adri’s escape from Miami sets up something entirely different. We might call it a love story to the planet earth, and to the relationships that we build on its particular landscapes.

 

Adri arrives in Kansas to live with a distant relative, the fabulous, flaky 107-year-old Lily, and Lily’s ancient Galapagos tortoise. When Adri sanctimoniously announces that Galapagos tortoises are endangered, and thus it’s illegal to have them as pets, Lily replies with her mischievous humor, “We should have her arrested.” Lily inherited the tortoise – she came along with the property. As Adri learns more about the history of this ancient creature, she begins to uncover the two stories that weave together with Adri’s to form Midnight at the Electric.

 

The first story is Catherine’s. Her diary entries bring readers into the devastation of living in Oklahoma’s dust bowl in the mid 1930s. Catherine’s sister is being slowly suffocated by dust in her lungs, and the farm they live on can no longer sustain the family. When a traveling show called the Electric comes through Catherine’s town, she’s lured into the promises made by its creator: “It is a time of upheaval and uncertainty. The world is changing beneath our feet. Death is around every corner. Fear and despair lurk in every house…. But it is possible to outrun it, to outstrip it, to outsmart it.”

 

Like Catherine, the story’s third protagonist, Lenore, lives in a world transfixed by the power of human technologies. Lenore, a young woman living in England at the end of World War I, grieves the death of her brother, a fallen British soldier, as everyone around her seems bent on hailing technologies of war and “progress” and celebrating the bravery of the dead and wounded men. In her wonderfully irreverent tone, Lenore writes to her friend Beth of her village: “If you toss a pebble in Forest Row, you’re going to hit a one-armed boy.” Through her letters to Beth, Lenore tells a beautiful and morally complicated story of her friendship with James, a man whose face is so disfigured that most instinctively turn away.

 

This week, I heard a disturbing report about mounting evidence that the U.S. federal government is systematically removing, in scientific studies, any reference to human causes of climate change (you can listen here).  This, of course, followed weeks of reporting about Facebook, and the unintended (I hope!) consequences that this technology has had on our political systems and our networks of relationship. I think our natural instinct, when faced with these stories, is either denial or guilt. Both are counterproductive and crippling. Midnight at the Electric, by framing these issues both in real history and in imagined future, offers us a way to enter more productively into discussion of humans’ influence on climate change, and of how technology inevitably changes the ways we relate to each other.

 

Lenore and Catherine give readers a chance to live in times that, like ours, were so enamored with technologies of “progress” that it was almost impossible to imagine the negative effects they would have on our planet and on our relationships (until it was too late).  Adri discovers, through the course of this story, that she doesn’t want to leave the earth and the loving relationship she has formed on it. But will she have to?

 

I guess that depends on us.

 

“Leveraging what you’re good at and what you love to do”: A Conversation with Jodi Lynn Anderson

 

jodiMARIE: Tell us about the moment when you knew that this story had to be written, and that you needed to be the one to write it.

 

JODI: My son had recently been born and I was feeling a bit delirious and dreamy. I wanted to write about climate change but what was really digging into my imagination was the Dust Bowl. I kept picturing this girl standing in a decimated yard in Kansas, but I didn’t know what to say about her, and it was only when I started to nestle the two ideas together that the book flamed to life in this magical way. The more I wrote, the more I recognized the parallels between the Dust Bowl and our current climate crisis– the same upheaval, the same denial and anger, the same fear. And I saw these women navigating it — I just fell in love with writing that story.

 

MARIE: What are some of the things you’re doing to create the world that you want future generations to live in?

 

JODI: I try to write about our capacity for doing harm without meaning to, that’s a big thing for me as a writer. I try to be a good listener and to call myself out and put my ego aside as much as I can —  I feel like  defensiveness and not wanting to admit what we’re doing wrong is at the root of so much terrible stuff. I try to trust that just because I don’t see an obvious result, it doesn’t mean my efforts – volunteering or donating or marching or calling whatever — aren’t feeding a current that points the right way.

 

MARIE: What’s your message for readers wanting to take action on climate change?

 

JODI: I think focusing locally can be rewarding in that often you get to see results. Local groups need so many divergent things that I think you can offer the best of who you already are. So maybe that means you pick a few things that are draining, like phone calls or whatever, but you find a group where you can spend the rest of your energy leveraging what you’re good at and what you love to do. I guess I’d say also, the big thing I always struggle with is not to turn away because what you’re doing feels so tiny. I think we can’t lose faith because what we do doesn’t make some obvious splash.

 

“Feeding a current that points in the right way”

 

Ready to learn more? Jodi recommends that a great starting place is Grist a nonprofit environmental news outlet with this fabulous tagline: “A planet that doesn’t burn, a future that doesn’t suck.”

 

Here’s a link to two podcasts that Jodi loves:

no placeNo Place Like Home: This is a great, conversational podcast covering different angles of climate change and culture, and offering examples of people taking positive, achievable steps to create a better future.

 

 

 

 

warm regardsWarm Regards: This one has some fascinating stuff untangling how climate change has become so political.

 

 

 

 

Jody also recommends From the Ashes, a documentary about the coal industry that she describes as “beautifully empathetic and smart.”

 

 “We can’t lose faith because what we do doesn’t make some obvious splash”

 

Ready to take action? Here’s Jodi’s description of a few movements and organizations that really excite her:

 

350.org uses all sorts tools and pressure points to shift our fossil fuel economy to renewable energy.”

 

earthjusticeEarthjustice focuses on our legal rights to sensible legislation on climate, working legal channels to combat political inaction.”

 

 

 

The Poor People’s Campaign is something intriguing and inspiring I learned about a few months ago – it addresses the intersection of poverty, racism, and environmental devastation through the idea of a moral movement.”

 

“I get excited to hear about faith-based climate action groups. Young Evangelicals for Climate ActionNC Interfaith Power & Light, and Wisconsin Green Muslims are a few examples. Also, state action initiatives seem really powerful to me. In North Carolina we have NC Warn, among others.”

 

“The book flamed to life in this magical way”

I’m so grateful to Jodi for writing this beautiful and stirring story. Reading it also felt magical, and it sparked my memories, emotions, and passions for change in ways I hadn’t expected.

In our interview, Jodi also brought up the importance of working for change by using our own gifts and doing the things that we love.  Other authors I’ve interviewed for the feature have talked about this too. I think it’s so important to celebrate that working for change doesn’t mean doing something grueling or miserable – it means embracing our gifts and finding ways to do the things we love as a way to become change agents. This takes creativity and vision, and that’s all a part of the fun.

Thank you, Jodi, for this reminder!

 

Midnight at the Electric is sure to ignite your passion to #ReadForChange!

Can’t wait to get your hands on MIDNIGHT AT THE ELECTRIC? It just might be your lucky day!  Here’s a link to the giveaway.  U.S. only! We’ll be announcing the winner on Twitter @MarieFMarquardt and Instagram marie_marquardt May 1!

 

Meet Marie Marquardt

Women’s March, January 21, 2017

Women’s March, January 21, 2017

Marie Marquardt is the author of three YA novels: The Radius of UsDream Things True, and Flight Season (available 2/20/18). A Scholar-in-Residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, Marie also has published several articles and co-authored two non-fiction books about Latin American immigration to the U.S. South. She is chair of El Refugio, a non-profit that serves detained immigrants and their families. She lives with her spouse, four kids, a dog and a bearded dragon in the book-lover’s mecca of Decatur, Georgia.

Book Review: The Final Six by Alexandra Monir

thefinalsixPublisher’s Book Description:

When Leo, an Italian championship swimmer, and Naomi, a science genius from California, are two of the twenty-four teens drafted into the International Space Training Camp, their lives are forever altered. After erratic climate change has made Earth a dangerous place to live, the fate of the population rests on the shoulders of the final six who will be scouting a new planet. Intense training, global scrutiny, and cutthroat opponents are only a few of the hurdles the contestants must endure in this competition.

For Leo, the prospect of traveling to Europa—Jupiter’s moon—to help resettle humankind is just the sense of purpose he’s been yearning for since losing his entire family in the flooding of Rome. Naomi, after learning of a similar space mission that mysteriously failed, suspects the ISTC isn’t being up front with them about what’s at risk.

As the race to the final six advances, the tests get more challenging—even deadly. With pressure mounting, Naomi finds an unexpected friend in Leo, and the two grow closer with each mind-boggling experience they encounter. But it’s only when the finalists become fewer and their destinies grow nearer that the two can fathom the full weight of everything at stake: the world, the stars, and their lives.

Karen’s Thoughts:

I have a tendency to be drawn to big issue books that make a powerful statement. My reviews often contain the words powerful, necessary, impactful, etc. But the truth is, I DO like to read fun books just for the fun of it. And some of my favorite ones involve outer space or the prospect of outer space.

The Final Six is a mixture of Space Camp + Climate Change + Political Thriller. This is a pretty thrilling combination if you ask me.

It begins by establishing that the world is on the brink of imminent destruction from climate change. The crisis feels real and far too close to home. So a group of teens are selected to compete in a training and they will be whittled down to “the final six”, the six teens that will be sent with some A.I. technology into space to help terraform and colonize a planet to save the human race. So there’s a little bit of reality show competition thrown in here as well.

While in training, Naomi first sets out to jeopardize the mission because she does not want to leave her brother. But she soon begins to suspect that they are not being told the truth about the mission, their future, and a past failed mission. So Naomi, a wicked smart scientist and excellent hacker, begins to investigate, with the help of Leo, who very much wants this mission to take place because he feels he has nothing else to live for. I very much loved reading about this strong, confident and remarkably intelligent young woman and her relationship with both her family and the developing relationship with Leo.

There is intrigue and backstabbing and romance, everything you want in a good book. I found it very enjoyable and didn’t want to put it down.

I will say, the only unbelievable part to me is that in the back of my head I kept thinking: there is no way that any adults would be willing to send teenagers alone on a space mission to do this and there is no way they could realistically train in such a short amount of time, but I also kept being willing and able to suspend that disbelief because I was enjoying the read. At the end of the book some of the teens, and I’m not going to spoil which ones, take off for space and I am looking forward to the next installment to find out what happens.

I highly recommend this book.

For more Climate Change Fiction (Cli-Fi), check out:

What is CliFi? An Earth Day Primer

YA/Teen | Eco-Fiction

For More Books that involve space travel, and I’m excited to see this theme re-surging in YA this year, check these titles out:

We Love These 6 YA Books Set in Outer Space

Our Most Anticipated Science Fiction Novels of 2018

#SJYALit Booklist: Environmental Dystopia, aka Cli-Fi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bertagna, Julie. Exodus. Macmillan, 2008.

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

Crossan, Sarah. Breathe. Greenwillow Books, 2012.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friesen, Jonathan. Aquifer. Blink, 2013.

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

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

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

Helvig, Kristi. Burn Out. EgmonstUSA, 2014.

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

Howard, Chris. Rootless. Scholastic, 2012.

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

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

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

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

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

McGann, Oisin. Daylight Runner. Eos, 2008.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mullin, Mike. Ashfall. Tanglewood, 2011.

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

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

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

Weyn, Suzanne. Empty. Scholastic Press, 2010.

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

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

Additional Information:

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

What is CliFi? An Earth Day Primer

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

Social Justice and Climate Change

Meet Natalie Korsavidis

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