Subscribe to SLJ
Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Book Review: The Infographic Guide to College

infographic1Publisher’s Book Description:

For fans of the popular Show Me How series, this illustrated guide to college life has everything a student needs to excel in their first year, from tips on getting involved around campus to advice about applying for loans and studying for exams.

College survival just got graphic!

Get a head start at school with this infographic guide to college life, with colorful descriptions of all the skills you need to survive and thrive in college, and advice about how to:

-Avoid the Freshman 15
-Declare a major
-Get around town
-Apply for a loan
-Ace your exams
-Master study habits
-Stay healthy
-And so much more!

With over fifty colorful, easy-to-read infographics, you’ll know how to make the most of your time in college and be fully prepared for the next step in your education. (Adams Media, 2017)

Karen’s Thoughts:

infographic2

Helping my teens plan for and get ready for college is an important part of my job, so I’m always looking for new and engaging resources to add to my collection. And as my daughter just began her high school career, this task takes on personal meaning as well. So I was excited when I learned about this book. For the most part, The Infographic Guide to College is a pretty straightforward and accessible look at college. It includes things like financial aid, selecting a major and even things like how to do laundry. Because it is presented in infographic format it is a quick and easy to read book, colorful, engaging and in many ways very helpful. I almost handed it to my daughter and her friends who just entered high school and was all set to purchase it for my library, but I had some concerns with a couple of issues that stopped me.

Having Said All That, This is Why I’m Not Buying This Book:

In the midst of all this useful information, there is a stunning lack of information regarding sex and sexual violence on campus. I think these are huge oversights for this publication. The subject of sex isn’t listed in the table of contents or in the index. There is no discussion of consent, sexual violence, sexual safety. Nothing.

There are also two pages about drinking. However, there are no mention in these two sections about the law regarding legal drinking ages. The section on Drinking Games 101 begins like this:

“Parties give you a chance to escape the rigors of classes and meet new people. You’ll also get the opportunity to showcase your drinking skills with popular games like beer pong and flip cup. Here’s the lowdown on the top drinking games played on college campuses.”

Beer Pong, Flip Cup, Quarters and King’s Cup are then explained.

Two pages later there is then a spread on Downing a Drink: What You Need to Know. Some basic safety is included here, like never drink on an empty stomach. But again, there is no mention of legal drinking ages, college rules regarding drinking, concerns about binge drinking and consent, or any type of real acknowledgement of the risks involved with drinking. If you Google “college drinking infographics”, you get a much different view of college drinking. You can see examples of them here, here and here. I think some infographics like this would have presented balance to the information presented.

A Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA) of 21 saves lives and protects health

Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA) laws specify the legal age when an individual can purchase or publicly consume alcoholic beverages. The MLDA in the United States is 21 years.  However, prior to the enactment of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, the legal age when alcohol could be purchased varied from state to state.1 (Source: CDC)

Keep in mind that the average age of a high school student going directly into college is 18 years old, 3 years below the legal drinking age. Yes, there are older and legal aged college students, but a majority of incoming Freshman are around 18 years-old. Without these discussions, I feel this book is almost advocating illegal behavior that puts a teens college career in jeopardy. This coupled with the omission of the sexual violence epidemic on our college campuses just makes this a no go for me. It seems in some ways irresponsible and negligent; it is not a comprehensive look at college life and those omissions seem like real safety issues.

RAINN: Campus Sexual Violence Statistics

If the author or publisher had included a brief caveat about the laws regarding these issues, I would feel differently about this book. Although it’s hard to overlook any book about college not having a genuine discussion about the fact that one in four college students reports being sexually harassed or assaulted on campus. I have often heard it said that you should review a book for what it is, not what you wish it to be, and for the most part I agree with that. However, this is a work of nonfiction and I think the parts that it leaves out are important and meaningful and, perhaps, dangerous.

Book Review: We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

Publisher’s description

we-are-okayYou go through life thinking there’s so much you need. . . . Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother.

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

An intimate whisper that packs an indelible punch, We Are Okay is Nina LaCour at her finest. This gorgeously crafted and achingly honest portrayal of grief will leave you urgent to reach across any distance to reconnect with the people you love.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

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.

 

And really, that’s all I’m telling you. The small summary up there of the plot gives you just enough of an outline to rope you in, but doesn’t reveal any of the really significant parts of the story. All you need to know is that this book will break your heart. But it won’t do it in a way that will leave you hopeless—I promise. A beautiful story of love, grief, and learning to heal. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780525425892

Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group

Publication date: 02/14/2017

Book Review: Gap Life by John Coy

Publisher’s description

gap lifeCray got into the same college his father attended and is expected to go. And to go pre-med. And to get started right away. His parents are paying the tuition. It should be an easy decision.

But it’s not.

All Cray knows is that what’s expected of him doesn’t feel right. The pressure to make a decision—from his family, his friends—is huge. Until he meets Rayne, a girl who is taking a gap year, and who helps him find his first real job, at a home of four adults with developmental disabilities. What he learns about himself and others will turn out to be more than any university could teach him—and twice as difficult.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

Here’s a thing I liked about this book right off the bat: the premise. That’s specific, right? What I mean is, I liked the idea of  a story about a teen who is pretty sure that heading right to college isn’t the right track for him. We don’t see a whole lot of this in YA and I certainly know plenty of teenagers who took a gap year, or a few gap years, or have decided that maybe college isn’t for them at this point in their lives. It’s nice to see this feeling in YA. I hesitate to say something like “it’s nice to see this uncertainty” because Cray, the main character, isn’t necessarily uncertain. He certainly knows he doesn’t want to be forced to attend the college both his dad and grandpa did and become a doctor just like they did—just like nearly everyone in his family does. And really, if there’s a time to feel really uncertain, and to reclaim that word as, if not positive, then at least okay, it’s when high school is ending. Everything you’ve ever known is changing, it’s likely you’re about to be on your own (to varying degrees) for the first time ever, and, no pressure, you’re also supposed to be figuring out exactly what it is you want to do with the rest of your entire life. It’s okay to feel like maybe you need to step back and figure out what it is that you want, which is exactly what Cray does.

 

The plot is pretty well summed up in the publisher’s description above, so I’m just going to talk some more about other specifics that I liked. It takes a lot of guts for Cray to walk away from what his parents have planned for him–a fully paid for education and other benefits, like a new car. He’s led a very privileged life, and to be able to walk away from these things is also coming from a place of privilege, but he’s determined to make his own way. His controlling father demands Cray get a job and pay rent, which Cray promptly does. Cray’s choice to overrule his parents’ plans for his future leaves them feeling mad, disappointed, betrayed, and humiliated. Cray’s work at the group home turns out to be harder but more interesting than he originally thought (his initial summation of working overnights at this job as being “paid to sleep” turns out to not exactly be accurate). The members of the house he works at are great, well-developed secondary characters. The guiding principle of their house is helping people live as independently as possible, which of course also becomes the ideal that Cray begins to work toward in his own life. Part of me couldn’t quite buy that Cray, who’s inexperienced, would land a job like this, but then I started to think of all the young adults I know around Cray’s age who’ve held these exact jobs. I also really appreciated seeing so many teenagers in this book with jobs of all kinds.

 

We only really get to see Cray’s life for a short chunk of weeks, just over the summer. Because this is a short, fast read, some details are dealt with on a pretty surface level. A longer book would’ve allowed more exploration of his relationship (or potential relationship) with free-spirit Rayne, who’s also taking a gap year, or his falling out with a close friend (and more about why Jett and Nora dislike Rayne so much). That said, the quick pace works for this story, because it keeps the focus tightly on Cray and his struggle over what to do with the next year. During the summer, Cray makes some serious missteps, whether it’s being unprofessional at his new job or misjudging things with Rayne, all of which further reinforce how young Cray is and how little he really knows yet about anything.

 

Teen readers will find plenty to discuss and relate to in Gap Life as Cray tries to figure out the future and worries that maybe his gap year will become a gap life. An honest and unique look at forging your own way and embracing uncertainty. 

 

 

Full disclosure: John and I share an agent, the fantastic Andrea Cascardi at Transatlantic Literary Agency. 

Review copy courtesy of the author and the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781250088956

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Publication date: 11/22/2016