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Book Review: Dig by A. S. King, an important reflection on white privilege in YA literature

digPublisher’s Book Description:

Acclaimed master of the YA novel A. S. King’s eleventh book is a surreal and searing dive into the tangled secrets of an upper-middle-class white family in suburban Pennsylvania and the terrible cost the family’s children pay to maintain the family name.

The Shoveler, the Freak, CanIHelpYou?, Loretta the Flea-Circus Ring Mistress, and First-Class Malcolm. These are the five teenagers lost in the Hemmings family’s maze of tangled secrets. Only a generation removed from being simple Pennsylvania potato farmers, Gottfried and Marla Hemmings managed to trade digging spuds for developing subdivisions and now sit atop a seven-figure bank account, wealth they’ve declined to pass on to their adult children or their teenage grand children. “Because we want them to thrive,” Marla always says. What does thriving look like? Like carrying a snow shovel everywhere. Like selling pot at the Arby’s drive-thru window. Like a first class ticket to Jamiaca between cancer treatments. Like a flea-circus in a doublewide. Like the GPS coordinates to a mound of dirt in a New Jersey forest. As the rot just beneath the surface of the Hemmings precious white suburban respectability begins to spread, the far flung grand children gradually find their ways back to each other, just in time to uncover the terrible cost of maintaining the family name.

With her inimitable surrealism and insight into teenage experience, A.S. King explores how a corrosive culture of polite, affluent white supremacy tears a family apart and how one determined generation can save themselves.

This book will be released in March 2019. I read an ARC that I received via the publisher. ISBN: 9781101994917

Karen’s Thoughts:

I just finished reading an ARC of DIG by A. S. King and my mind is blown, as it always is. And I mean I just literally finished reading it. I closed the pages and had to sit down at my computer and talk about this book. It’s a little early to be talking about this book, but talk about it I must. No spoilers.

A. S. King is one of those authors that adults always say teens aren’t reading, in part because they’re always underestimating teens. They say this at the same time that they assign things in class like Kafka’s Metamorphosis or Shakespeare or Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. There is some real disconnect in the way that adults talk about teens. They often under-estimate them and have zero to little faith in them. Teens know this; they know that many of the adults who claim to love them or value them or be in the process of educating them are doing very few of those things because they don’t actually respect teens. They know this and they resent it. Yes, not all adults and yes not all teens, but on the whole, that’s been the history of adolescence. Adults complain about teens even though they did the same things as teens and we underestimate them even though we resented the ways adults underestimated us as teens and we keep repeating this vicious cycle.

Make no mistake, A. S. King writes seriously weird and trippy books. I mentioned Metamorphosis above for a reason, King does not write straightforward literature. She takes a trippy, winding path with allusions and metaphors and surrealism that takes a while to get to the point but when you get there, your mind is both blown and sure that you missed a lot of stuff along the way. You could read an A. S. King book over and over again and find something new and different every time. And you will probably walk away sure that you didn’t fully get it every time. It’s that type of literature. It’s bold and confusing and maddening and dark yet inspiring and profound and moving.

If I’m being honest, I will tell you that although I name A. S. King as one of my favorite authors, and this is a true fact, I find her books difficult to begin. It takes a while to get into the rhythm of each book, to find out what’s knitting this particular book together, to suss out what’s real and what’s not. This is true for Dig as well, it takes a while to figure out who is who and what is going on. This is part of the reason, I think, that adults think that King doesn’t write YA. And yet King really gets into the heart of what it means to be a teenager in current times. She writes teens more authentically then some of the bestselling YA authors. She isn’t an adult writing YA for the adults that buy YA, she is an adult writing YA for the teens that read YA because she cares about teenagers and the teenage experience. Teen readers feel this in the pages and relate, even when adult readers find the books unrelatable or unapproachable. When I read the thoughts and conversations that the teens have in this book, they correlate to what I am hearing my own teens talk about and in the ways that they talk about them. It’s an authentic voice captured in radically unique ways.

Now I’m writing this and worried A. S. King will stumble across this post and wonder why I keep saying that adults think that teens don’t like her work but the truth is, many YA librarians have said this to me. Every time I post about A. S. King I get emails and replies, “yes but, teens don’t really like her work” or “it’s too intellectual for teens”. I find that to be a worrisome thing for YA librarians to say, because it means from the get go we are underestimating the very people we serve.

Dig is a multi-generational novel that brings together a host of characters and talks about things like racism, abuse, family dysfunction and mental health. It introduces a bunch of incredibly weird characters who seemingly have nothing to do with a cohesive story and then it just blows your mind in the way all the pieces are woven together. Once that final piece of the puzzle is put into place, you see the complete picture and you are stunned. In some ways, this is one of her most accessible books because the topics these teens are facing are so relevant to current events and discussions. Also, some of the more surreal elements are rooted in reality in ways that ultimately make sense to the story. The part of the story that made the least amount of sense to me, that was the most confusing, became an important element of the story that really works. That’s some good storytelling.

A. S. King is also one of the growing number of authors who seek to include frank discussions about sex, sexuality and sexual abuse in their novels because they recognize that this is a very real part of the teenage years. Teens think about sex. They’re trying to figure it out. A lot of them are doing it. This is one of the few YA novels that talks frankly not only about masturbation, but about female masturbation. King’s honesty resonates with teen readers because they feel heard, valued, respected and understood. King acknowledges the truth of adolescence, which makes her books that much more authentic to teens as readers.

I also like that in Dig King shares a lot about the adults in these teens’ lives. They are real, raw, human and flawed, but they are there and an important part of the story. This is, ultimately, a story about family and dysfunction and secrets and finding your own way – of digging yourself out of your genes and your family history – and it is profound. That’s what all teenagers are trying to do, right? Trying to find their own place in this world, to find their own voice, to set their own path, to break free of outside expectations and desires to truly find a sense of self and future. That’s what these teens are doing, and that’s why teen readers will relate.

Some of the topics in this story that are touched on include: racism, poverty, domestic violence, death and grief, secrets, the long lasting effects of trauma, teenage pregnancy, family dynamics and dysfunction, and depression and anxiety. Just to name a few. King really asks the readers to consider things like privilege, especially economic and white privilege. Characters often talk about race and bias and privilege and I think it is valuable and needed, but also handled well in the context of this novel. Even some of the characters who may consider themselves “woke” have personal revelations that indicate that they may not be as “woke” as they seem. I hate to keep using the word profound, but I found it it to be truly profound. As someone who is also wrestling with white privilege and what it means to live in our world in 2018 and how to be a good ally, it is nice to read a book that asks me to think about these issues in real and honest ways.

I keep a journal where I write down a lot of my favorite quotes from books and I marked a ton of quotes that I will be adding to that journal. Dig doesn’t come out until March of 2019 so it’s far too early to share them with you, but I wish that I could. There are some very moving reflections on the nature of self and family that I will be reflecting on for a very long time. The Teen is currently reading this book and I’ll let you know what she thinks once she finishes.

At the end of the day, this is a book I hope that everyone will read as it genuinely asks the reader to reflect on the concept of white privilege and it does not shy away from that discussion. What other books on this topic would you recommend?

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

YA A to Z: All You Need are Dragons, a guest post by Cindy Shutts

Today for YA A to Z, guest poster Cindy Shutts is talking dragons!

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Dragons are beasts that have lived in the imagination of people all over the world and bring an element of mythology and world building to the canon of Young Adult Fiction.

dragons

Patricia Wrede changed the role of dragons in Young Adult Fiction with her Enchanted Forest Chronicles starting with Dealing with Dragons. She wrote about Princess Cimorene who became friends with Kazul, a dragon whom she ran away with and was employed by. Wrede was tired of traditional princess roles and wanted adventure for her characters. The Princess became the hero of the series and was able to fight back. This series is great for both Young Adult and Middle Grade readers. Cimorene and Kazul turned the princess-dragon dynamic around; their friendship was wonderful to read about because it broke away from the classic fantasy tropes. The dragon is not the villain and the princess is not helpless. This was one of the first books marketed as Teen Read. By today’s publishing standards, it would be labeled as Middle Grade.

If you loved The Enchanted Dragon Chronicle, definitely check out the Dragon Slipper series by Jessica Day George. Creel’s aunt wants to sacrifice her to a local group of dragons in the hope that a knight will come to rescue Creel and marry her; so that her aunt will no longer have to support her. When she meets the Dragons, she develops a warm and rich friendship with many of them.  It explains the political structure of the dragons.  The dragons have their own complex rules of government and who are in charge.

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For an awesome Science Fiction dragon story, check out Scorched by Mari Mancusi. Trinity is forced into a world of Dragon’s, when her grandfather purchases the last dragon egg. She meets two twins from the future who are on different sides of the dragon war. One saying the egg must be destroyed and one saying it must be protected at all costs.

Goodreads List of YA Dragon Books

17 YA Books With Dragons – Epic Reads

The Best Dragon Books for Teens – The YA Shelf

Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina won the Morris award in 2013. This is one of the most beautifully written dragon books for teens. Seraphina has joined the court as a musician, but she is hiding a secret that could cost her life. Dragons and Human hate each in Seraphina’s world.  This book brings a love of music to the world of dragons and explores the dark secrets of dragons. Hartman has a new book coming out this month, Tess of the Road, another dragon fantasy that is surely to be as captivating as Seraphina.

Other great dragon Young Adult titles include: The Prophecy Series by Ellen Oh, Dragon’s Keep by Janet Lee Carey, and Firelight by Sophie Jordan. Also if you like Dragon-like creatures check out Serpentine by Cindy Pon, who is amazing!

cindydragonCindy Shutts is the Teen Services Librarian at the White Oak Library District in IL. You can follow her on Twitter at .

The Quest for Good YA Publishing Statistics

Searching for Good YA Publishing Statistics//

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So I am currently working on doing some hardcore YA collection data analysis for my library. In addition to looking at what we have and how much it circulates, I was curious to know how much YA is published yearly to get a better idea of our YA collection size relative to what is available for purchase. And then, out of curiosity, I was curious to know what percentage of books published each year fall into the YA category. To be honest, this data has been much harder to find then I anticipated. Below I have collected some resources that I have found and tweeted about. If you have some good resources or data, I would love for you to share in the comments.

My questions are:

How many YA titles were published in 2017?

What percentage of titles published in 2017 were YA?

Is the number of YA titles being published growing, shrinking, or staying the same?

Thank you,

Karen


Searching for Good YA Publishing Statistics



  1. Does anyone have good numbers or a good source on how many YA titles were published in 2017 & what percentage of published titles were YA?


  2. So I am putting together some intense YA collection analysis. I have a ton of in house stats, but I really need a general idea of how many YA titles are pubbed yearly and what % of overall publishing is YA. My goal is to help determine how much $ & floor space for YA. Anyone????


  3. Goodreads lists approximately 1200 for 2017

    I found an article that talked about growth in the YA market, but it was from 2012.






  4. This says 30,000 (and has some other interesting info graphics) pic.twitter.com/el2jM6Fvch




  5. Everything You Wanted to Know about Book Sales (But Were Afraid to Ask) - this article is interesting info, but doesn't answer my question  https://www.google.com/amp/s/electricliterature.com/amp/p/1fe6bc00aa2d 



  6. One of the things that makes trying to find this data difficult is that in reports YA can still be thrown in with Children's


  7. @TLT16 I wrote a bit about the project I tried to do here:  http://www.youthservicescorner.com/2015/ya-literature-data-project/ . I think because it's industry data, a lot of the numbers are a bit secretive?



 

Asian American Voices in Young Adult Literature, a #YAAtoZ guest post by Kristyn Dorfman

Today for YA A to Z we are delighted to present with you a discussion of Asian American Voices in YA Literature by library Kristyn Dorfman.

yaatoz

The need for diverse narratives has always been important but that has not always been apparent in the books we see published. Now, finally, diverse stories have been gaining more traction, though ever so slowly. Growing up, I often found it difficult to find books about people that looked like me or whose lives felt similar to my own. I have always been an avid reader and though this did not deter my voraciousness, I am sure there are many that are clamoring for stories about their own experiences and feel like reading is not for them because they cannot find themselves. It is also a disservice to others to not allow them the opportunity to see and experience lives different than their own. I believe that understanding another’s viewpoints, experiences, and perspectives allows us to be more empathetic individuals.

To that end, I am very excited to share a variety of new(ish) and exciting books with Asian American Protagonists (mostly) written by Asian Americans. This list includes a wide variety of Asian experiences and if there are any titles I have missed, especially those with male protagonists, that you feel should definitely be included, please feel free to comment below!  Enjoy!

(Reviews from Follett or Publisher via Titlewave.com)

Ahmadi, Arvin. Down and Across. Viking Books for Young Readers, 2018.

Scott Ferdowsi has a track record of quitting. Writing the Great American Novel? Three chapters. His summer internship? One week. His best friends know exactly what they want to do with the rest of their lives, but Scott can hardly commit to a breakfast cereal, let alone a passion.

With college applications looming, Scott’s parents pressure him to get serious and settle on a career path like engineering or medicine. Desperate for help, he sneaks off to Washington, DC, to seek guidance from a famous professor who specializes in grit, the psychology of success.

He never expects an adventure to unfold out of what was supposed to be a one-day visit. But that’s what Scott gets when he meets Fiora Buchanan, a ballsy college student whose life ambition is to write crossword puzzles. When the bicycle she lends him gets Scott into a high-speed chase, he knows he’s in for the ride of his life. Soon, Scott finds himself sneaking into bars, attempting to pick up girls at the National Zoo, and even giving the crossword thing a try-all while opening his eyes to fundamental truths about who he is and who he wants to be.

love hate

Ahmed, Samira. Love, Hate and Other Filters. Soho Teen, 2018.

17-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: a good school, an arranged marriage. And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school, living in New York City, pursuing the boy she’s liked for ages. But unbeknownst to Maya, there is a danger looming beyond her control. When a terrorist attack occurs in another Midwestern city, the prime suspect happens to share her last name. In an instant, Maya’s community, consumed by fear and hatred, becomes unrecognizable, and her life changes forever.

Ali - Saints and Misfits

Ali, S.K. Saints & Misfits. Salaam Reads, 2017.

Fifteen-year-old Janna Yusuf, a Flannery O’Connor-obsessed book nerd and the daughter of the only divorced mother at their mosque, tries to make sense of the events that follow when her best friend’s cousin–a holy star in the Muslim community–attempts to assault her at the end of sophomore year.

Ali also has an article in the December 2017 issue of VOYA entitled, “Muslim Representation: The Case for Expecting Diversity within Diversity.

starfish

Bowman, Akemi Dawn. Starfish. Simon Pulse, 2017.

Kiko Himura yearns to escape the toxic relationship with her mother by getting into her dream art school, but when things do not work out as she hoped Kiko jumps at the opportunity to tour art schools with her childhood friend, learning life-changing truths about herself and her past along the way.

american panda

Chao, Gloria. American Panda. Simon Pulse, 2018.

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

Chee, Traci. The Reader. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2016.

(Sequel: The Speaker, 2017)

Set in a world where reading is unheard-of, Sefia makes use of a mysterious object to track down who kidnapped her aunt Nin and what really happened the night her father was murdered.

Chen, Justina. Lovely, Dark, and Deep. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2018.

When Viola Li returns from a trip, she develops a sudden and extreme case of photosensitivity — an inexplicable allergy to sunlight. Thanks to her crisis-manager parents, she doesn’t just have to wear layers of clothes and spaceship-sized hat. She has to avoid all hint of light. Say goodbye to windows and running outdoors. Even her phone becomes a threat.

Viola is determined to maintain a normal life, particularly after she meets Josh. He’s a funny, talented Thor look-alike with his own mysterious grief. But their romance makes her take more risks, and when a rebellion against her parents backfires dangerously, she must find her way to a life — and love — as deep and lovely as her dreams.

Dao, Julie C. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. Philomel Books, 2017.

Beautiful eighteen-year-old Xifeng, raised by a cruel aunt who says the stars destine her to be Empress of Feng Lu, chooses to spurn the man who loves her and exploit the dark magic that can make her dream real.

De La Cruz, Melissa. Something in Between. Harlequin Teen, 2016.

After learning of her family’s illegal immigrant status, Jasmine realizes that college may be impossible and that deportation is a real threat, uncertainties she endures as she falls for the son of a congressman who opposes an immigration reform bill.

Gilbert, Kelly Loy. Picture Us in the Light. Disney-Hyperion, 2018.

Danny Cheng has always known his parents have secrets. But when he discovers a taped-up box in his father’s closet filled with old letters and a file on a powerful Silicon Valley family, he realises there’s much more to his family’s past than he ever imagined. As Danny digs deeper, he uncovers a secret that disturbs the foundations of his family history and the carefully constructed facade his parents have maintained begins to crumble. With everything he loves in danger of being stripped away, Danny must face the ghosts of the past in order to build a future that belongs to him.

Goo, Maurene. I Believe in a Thing Called Love. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2017.

A disaster in romance, high school senior Desi Lee decides to tackle her flirting failures by watching Korean television dramas, where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten.

Goo, Maurene. The Way You Make Me Feel. Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2018.

Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind?

Heilig, Heidi. The Girl from Everywhere. Greenwillow Books, 2016.

(Sequel: The Ship Beyond Time, 2017)

Sixteen-year-old Nix has sailed across the globe and through centuries aboard her time-traveling father’s ship. But when he gambles with her very existence, it all may come to an end.

Liu, Liana. Shadow Girl. HarperTeen, 2017.

A young girl, hoping to escape her family drama, begins tutoring a rich man’s daughter, but when she develops feelings for herstudent’s brother, along with strange noises in the house, she can’t shake the fear that there is danger lurking amidst this beautiful mansion.

line in the

Lo, Malinda. A Line in the Dark. Dutton Books, 2017

When Chinese American teenager Jess Wong’s best friend Angie falls in love with a girl from the nearby boarding school, Jess expects heartbreak. But when everybody’s secrets start to be revealed, the stakes quickly elevate from love or loneliness to life or death.

whendimplemetrishi

Menon, Sandhya. When Dimple Met Rishi. Simon Pulse, 2017.

When Dimple Shah and Rishi Patel meet at a Stanford University summer program, Dimple is avoiding her parents’ obsession with “marriage prospects” but Rishi hopes to woo her into accepting arranged marriage with him.

Oh, Axie. Rebel Seoul. Tu Books, 2017.

In Neo Seoul in the year 2199, pilot Lee Jaewon is tasked with spying on supersoldier Tera. Lee begins to have feelings for her and finds his loyalty to the government faltering.

rani

Patel, Sonia. Rani Patel in Full Effect. Cinco Puntos Press, 2016.

Rani Patel, almost seventeen and living on remote Moloka’i island, is oppressed by the cultural norms of her Gujarati immigrant parents but when Mark, an older man, draws her into new experiences red flags abound.

want

Pon, Cindy. Want. Simon Pulse, 2017

Jason Zhou is trying to survive in Taipei, a city plagued by pollution and viruses, but when he discovers the elite are using their wealth to evade the deadly effects, he knows he must do whatever is necessary to fight the corruption and save his city.

Pung, Alice. Lucy and Linh. Alfred A. Knopf, 2016.

In Australia, Lucy tries to balance her life at home surrounded by her Chinese immigrant family, with her life at a pretentious private school.

Redgate, Riley. Noteworthy. Amulet Books, 2017.

Feeling undervalued because of musical talents that place her outside the spotlight, Jordan disguises herself as a boy to gain entry into a competitive, all-male a cappella group that is looking for a singer with her vocal range.

Sugiura, Misa. It’s Not Like It’s a Secret. HarperTeen, 2017.

Sixteen-year-old Sana has too many secrets, but when she and her family move to California, she begins to wonder if it’s time she finally be honest with her family.

Wong, Corrie. The Takedown. Freeform Books, 2017

In this near-future mystery, Kyla Cheng, the smartest, hottest, most popular student at her Brooklyn high school, gets taken down a peg by a faked sex tape that goes viral.

epic-crush-genie-lo-book

Yee, F.C. The Epic Crush of Genie Lo. Amulet Books, 2017.

The struggle to get into a top-tier college consumes sixteen-year-old Genie’s every waking thought. But when she discovers she’s a celestial spirit who’s powerful enough to bash through the gates of heaven with her fists, her perfectionist existence is shattered. Enter Quentin, a mysterious transfer student from China who becomes Genie’s self-appointed guide to battling demons. Genie has no idea that Quentin, in another reality, is Sun Wukong, the mythological Monkey King incarnate, right down to the furry tail and penchant for peaches. Suddenly, acing the SATs is the least of Genie’s worries. The fates of her friends, family, and the entire Bay Area all depend on her summoning an inner power that Quentin assures her is strong enough to level the very gates of Heaven. But every second Genie spends tapping into the secret of her true nature is a second in which the lives of her loved ones hang in the balance.

Meet Kristyn Dorfman

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Kristyn is a Middle and Upper School Librarian (grades 5-12) at Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn, NY. She also reviews for School Library Journal. Kristyn is a native Brooklynite and the mother of two amazing little people. You can often find her behind a book, behind a cup of coffee, or singing broadway musicals off key at inappropriate times.

B is for Brothers *and* Sisters; a Take 5 List

Today is the last day of January, so it’s our last day with the Letter B (though we will still post something if we get it because we like this discussion). Today TLTer Heather Booth is discussing brothers (and sisters).

yaatoz

two boys and a girl sit on stairs with a golden retreiver

The rest of the dog is there; I promise.

If you are in a mixed gender sibling group, you might have noticed the relative lack of books featuring relationships between brothers and sisters as compared with books about sisterhood or the bond between brothers. I get it. As the parent of sisters, I see how their relationship is something set apart from what my brothers and I had. But whenever I read a book about brothers and sisters in relation to one another, I’ve got to say it tugs on my heartstrings.

We didn’t have many hobbies in common. We didn’t share clothes. We didn’t weren’t generally friends with each others’ friends but one of us did date someone’s best friend.  The typical bonding that you see in books about sisters or books about brothers doesn’t tend to happen quite the same way, but it does happen.

With shoutouts to my not-so-little brothers, here are my top five books with brother/sister relationships:

 

Book cover: an illustration of a light blue sedan is viewed from overhead, headlights on, with a double yellow lane divider to its left

Good and Gone by Megan Frazer Blakemore

Good And Gone by Megan Frazer Blakemore

When Lexi Green’s older brother, Charlie, starts plotting a road trip to find Adrian Wildes, a famous musician who’s been reported missing, she’s beyond confused. Her brother hasn’t said a nice word to her or left the couch since his girlfriend dumped him months ago—but he’ll hop in a car to find some hipster? Concerned at how quickly he seems to be rebounding, Lexi decides to go along for the ride.

Besides, Lexi could use the distraction. The anger and bewilderment coursing through her after getting dumped by her pretentious boyfriend, Seth, has left her on edge. As Lexi, Charlie, and their neighbor Zack hit the road, Lexi recalls bits and pieces of her short-lived romance and sees, for the first time, what it truly was: a one-sided, coldhearted manipulation game. Not only did Seth completely isolate her, but he took something from her that she didn’t give him permission to.

The farther from home they get, the three uncover much more than empty clues about a reclusive rocker’s whereabouts. Instead, what starts off as a car ride turns into an exploration of self as each of them faces questions they have been avoiding for too long. Like the real reason Charlie has been so withdrawn lately. What Seth stole from Lexi in the pool house. And if shattered girls can ever put themselves back together. (Publisher description)

Book cover; Printz and Stonewall awards featured. The title is surrounded by a multicolored starburst pattern of lines

I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson

I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson

At first, Jude and her twin brother Noah, are inseparable. Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude wears red-red lipstick, cliff-dives, and does all the talking for both of them.

Years later, they are barely speaking. Something has happened to change the twins in different yet equally devastating ways . . . but then Jude meets an intriguing, irresistible boy and a mysterious new mentor.

The early years are Noah’s to tell; the later years are Jude’s. But they each have only half the story, and if they can only find their way back to one another, they’ll have a chance to remake their world.

This radiant, award-winning novel from the acclaimed author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once. (Publisher description)

 

 

Book cover: the title looks like the leafless branches of trees; a girl's face is seen with blue lips and eyes closed

Lindsey Lost by Suzanne Marie Phillips

Lindsey Lost by Suzanne Marie Phillips

Even though Micah’s a star pitcher, his older sister Lindsey is the real deal—a runner so good, she has a shot at the Olympics. The two of them urge each other on, and are each other’s best support. Then the unthinkable happens: Lindsey is murdered, and Micah may have been the last person to see her. But he can’t remember what happened, no matter what their parents tell him, no matter what the police say. Did he witness his sister’s murder—or commit it? Can he recall the truth before his life is sentenced to end, too? (Publisher’s description)

More than anything, I appreciated the mourning that Micah does for his sister. Their love for one another is evident in a way that is uncommon in sibling relationship books. -hb

 

 

 

 

 

Book cover: the title is scrawled in black;

Ink and Ashes by Valynne E. Maetani

Ink & Ashes by Valynne E. Maetani

Claire Takata has never known much about her father, who passed away when she was a little girl. But on the anniversary of his death, not long before her seventeenth birthday, she finds a mysterious letter from her deceased father, addressed to her stepfather. Claire never even knew that they had met.

Claire knows she should let it go, but she can’t shake the feeling that something’s been kept from her. In search of answers, Claire combs through anything that will give her information about her father . . . until she discovers he was a member of the yakuza, the Japanese mafia. The discovery opens a door that should have been left closed.

So begins the race to outrun his legacy as the secrets of her father’s past threaten Claire’s friends and family, newfound love, and ultimately her life. Ink and Ashes, winner of Tu Books’ New Visions Award, is a heart-stopping debut mystery that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the very last page. (Publisher description)

 

 

Book cover: A white background highlights the figure of a black girl with natural hair and jean shorts; her torso and the bottom of her face obscured by a protest style sign bearing the book title

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life. (Publisher description)

Among the many things I loved about this book is the way Starr and Seven have a complex relationship as similar-aged, opposite gender, half-siblings. What is never in doubt or ambiguous though is that their bond is strong and permanent. (hb)

 

Two men and a woman stand arm in arm

me & my big little brothers

#MHYALit: Small Towns and Mental Illness, a guest post by This is Not a Love Letter author Kim Purcell

Today we are honored to have a guest post by author Kim Purcell. She is discussing with us the topic of small towns and mental health. She is also generously offering to give away one copy of THIS IS NOT A LOVE LETTER, which comes out tomorrow, January 30th, from Disney Hyperion.

thisisnotaloveletter

In This Is Not a Love Letter, I wanted to talk about the issues of living with a mental illness in a small or isolated community. I grew up in an isolated, medium-sized mill town in Northern British Columbia.

Growing up, there was a stigma against seeking therapy and medicine for mental health issues. It’s gotten better now, everywhere, but small or isolated communities still have this problem.

In my research, I found that small towns statistically have more mental health issues, and these issues go untreated. Studies have shown that suburban teens also have higher rates of depression and anxiety, and rural teens commit suicide at twice the rate of their urban peers. In smaller communities, teens are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate.

Is there something about living in a small community that leads to mental health issues? Is there anything we can do?

It turns out that it’s a combination of many factors. In any smaller environment, there are fewer therapists and psychologists. People are less likely to seek help due to the lack of anonymity and the stigma. Sometimes there are long waiting lists for the one psychiatrist in the region. In rural areas, it is compounded by poverty and a lack of health insurance.

On top of all this, smaller communities are particularly difficult for anyone who steps outside of the norm, who looks or acts differently. If you can’t conform, it can be a struggle. I found it difficult to conform, to be “normal”. Also, everyone knows and judges your business, and bullies are very hard to escape.

When I started writing This Is Not a Love Letter, I was living in a small village suburb of New York City with my husband and kids. We only lived there for two years, but I was alone too much, and I started to feel depressed. On top of that, I remembered all the ways that living in an isolated environment was difficult for me growing up, and also for my friend Al, who went missing right before graduation. This story is based on that time in my life.

In some ways, writing this book there helped me dive into the growing desperation of my main character, Jessie, as she starts to fear the very worst. As I looked around, I saw other women who were depressed, but nobody was talking about it. The place lacked the joy of the city. Mothers were held up to an impossible standard and this bled down to the kids. Children with mental health issues were socially isolated, and their mothers were seen as failing. There was an incredible amount of pressure on everyone.

For example, one friend of mine was a hoarder. It was untreated and hidden for years. This inspired the hoarder environment that Jessie lives in. It was how I processed her desperate situation. Fortunately, she did drive to get help, eventually.

In this book, I wanted to take the reader into the life of a small-town person, and to reach out to people in those small towns and tell them they aren’t alone, that it’s important to seek help, even if you have to travel to get it. Also, you can move to a bigger environment, where you’ll find other people like you, and it will change your life for the better. I have lived in Vancouver, Seoul, New York City, Guadalajara and Los Angeles, and I can tell you it’s a big difference. It’s great to be accepted for exactly who you are. So, if you’re a teen, just hang on, talk to your doctor, get help, and reach out to others online.

And if things get too hard, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

About THIS IS NOT A LOVE LETTER

One week. That’s all Jessie said. A one-week break to get some perspective before graduation, before she and her boyfriend, Chris, would have to make all the big, scary decisions about their future–decisions they had been fighting about for weeks.

Then, Chris vanishes. The police think he’s run away, but Jessie doesn’t believe it. Chris is popular and good-looking, about to head off to college on a full-ride baseball scholarship. And he disappeared while going for a run along the river–the same place where some boys from the rival high school beat him up just three weeks ago. Chris is one of the only black kids in a depressed paper mill town, and Jessie is terrified of what might have happened.

As the police are spurred to reluctant action, Jessie speaks up about the harassment Chris kept quiet about and the danger he could be in. But there are people in Jessie’s town who don’t like the story she tells, who are infuriated by the idea that a boy like Chris would be a target of violence. They smear Chris’s character and Jessie begins receiving frightening threats.

Every Friday since they started dating, Chris has written Jessie a love letter. Now Jessie is writing Chris a letter of her own to tell him everything that’s happening while he’s gone. As Jessie searches for answers, she must face her fears, her guilt, and a past more complicated than she would like to admit.

Publishes January 30, 2018 from Disney Hyperion. ISBN: 9781484798348

Meet Author Kim Purcell

Kim Purcell has written two young adult books, Trafficked (Penguin) and This Is Not a Love Letter (Hyperion). She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, two kids, two dogs and three cats. She loves dancing in elevators, swimming in lakes, drinking hot tea and eating chocolate chips with almonds.

Comment below to be entered to win a copy of This is Not a Love Letter by author Kim Purcell. Please enter by February 6th. Open to U.S. residents. One randomly selected winner will receive a copy of This is Not a Love Letter. You will be contacted via email. Do the Rafflecopter thingy to enter.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

YA A to Z: Alcoholism, In Real Life and in Real Fiction, by by L.B. Schulman

It’s January, which means we’re discussing the Letter A in YA A to Z. Today we are talking about alcoholism with author L. B. Schulman. You can find out more about YA A to Z here.

yaatoz

When I was 13, my stepfather came home with a dim diagnosis from his doctor.  If he kept drinking, he would die within months. That wasn’t hard to believe, honestly. After all, my stepfather was drinking daily. He was bloated, and his face was a map of busted capillaries. When he passed out on the couch, his chest rose and fell in jerks and then went still until he gasped for air as if he’d just shot to the surface of the ocean.

The day after that diagnosis, he came home drunk. I was sure he would be dead by the next morning. Who gets told something like that and goes on to down another drink? But it turns out that this was a calculated move on my stepdad’s part. It involved buying several six packs of beer and drinking one less each day until he reached the last one. This was his final binging hurrah before he stopped cold turkey. From that day forward, he never touched another drop of alcohol.

stolen secrets

My stepfather didn’t die.  In fact, he lived another twenty years before Alzheimer’s took his life. The day after that last beer, he signed himself up for rehab. Not long after, he joined Alcoholics Anonymous and became the poster child for sobriety. After much reflection, and a systematic climb up AA’s Twelve Steps, he became a sponsor to help others who struggled with the destructive disease. For the next few years until I went to college, I remember him bringing a motley crew of “guests” home for dinner. One actually moved into our house temporarily. I remember seeing all the bottles of booze tucked in our trashcan during her stay.

Infographic: Teen Alcohol Abuse

When I created my protagonist’s mother, Gretchen, I knew that she would share this same disease. Because of the specific story I gave her, I figured she would have a harder time becoming sober. After all, her invented childhood was marred by a dysfunction of epic proportions. The only way out of the rabbit hole was to identify the true cause of her burdened childhood.

Teen Corner (Alateen) | Al-Anon Family Groups

Coping With an Alcoholic Parent – KidsHealth

In the meantime, any random stressor might cause Gretchen to drink again. I knew from firsthand experience that it would be hard for her daughter, Livvy, to trust that sobriety would last. She would always live with one eye open to the possibility that her mother might slip up.

Gretchen is an example of someone who achieves sobriety, then fails, and has the courage to try again. This is a tough addiction to beat, and not everyone is successful the first time. Livvy, like many teens dealing with this situation, grapple with an immense resentment at her own blemished childhood, as well as sympathy for her mother’s unexplained demons.

This is where my own experience stops and fiction takes over. Although alcoholism can begin for many reasons, it didn’t seem too far-fetched that it might be an aftereffect of family trauma. It was a common theme that concentration camp victims, for example, didn’t want to rehash what had happened to them, not even with family. Could repression result in dysfunction that’s handed down to subsequent generations? Seemed viable to me, and I wanted to explore it in this novel.

Learn From Their Mistakes: Drugs and Alcohol in YA Literature

After I wrote Stolen Secrets, I discovered that my instinct was spot on. According to the book, “Familial Responses to Alcohol Problem,” the rate of alcoholism in Jewish families went from very low prior to World War I to average after World War II. Something about the experience of war, whether one if fighting or suffering through it, leads to an increase in escapist activities.

Livvy, my protagonist, finds out that her grandmother has a previously unknown connection to Bergen Belsen Concentration Camp. The key to her family’s healing appears to be in the revelation of a carefully-guarded truth. (Not trying to be vague here, but no one likes spoilers, right?)

Young Adult Alcoholic – Types of Alcoholics – Alcohol Rehab

In Stolen Secrets, acknowledging the effects of trauma is the non-existent “Thirteenth Step” that Gretchen must go through in order to be healed. The discovery of what truly happened in Bergen Belsen will offer Livvy, her mother, and grandmother a release from the confines of an inauthentic life.

Living with honesty, whether that be from the understanding of why someone drinks on a simpler level to the exploration of a deeper psychological motivation, is always the most healing path. This is one of the major themes of my book, and I truly believe it.

All Alcoholism books – YA Books Central

Writing about Gretchen has helped me to acknowledge the truth of how alcoholism affected my own childhood. Teens that are going through this with a parent may well identify with the emotions I shared with Livvy, ranging from anger to resentment to understanding to, hopefully, the ability to one day forgive.

I hope that teen readers in a similar circumstance will read Stolen Secrets and realize that determination and honesty can save anyone from anything. After all, hope exists as long as a person doesn’t quash it. Alcoholism may be a lifelong disease, but it doesn’t have to be a life sentence.

Meet Author L. B. Schulman

STOLEN SECRETS is L.B. Schulman’s second young adult novel. Her debut, LEAGUE OF STRAYS, was published in 2012. She grew up in Maryland and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, two daughters, and a pair of loveable mutts. When she isn’t writing, she’s visiting genealogy sites, trying to find famous people she’s related to. You can visit her online at LBSchulman.com.

Resources: #SVYALit and #MHYALit – Teens and Suicide, Teens and Sexual Violence Brochures

Due in part to the discussions I have been having surrounding the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why, I made an informational brochure on the topics of suicide and sexual violence for the teens at my library. I am posting them here for you and you can use them if you would like. A few notes though.

One, these contain titles that I currently have in my library on the subjects. I have been working on my next book order and I am working to make sure to include highly recommended titles and titles that feature diverse MC or are Own Voices on these subjects in my next book order.

Two, I think you can easily make corrections or additions by downloading book covers you have in your collection and overlaying them in a graphics program if you wish.

Three, we checked multiple times because I’m me for typos, so I hope there aren’t any.

I am also working on one to address the current drug/opioid crisis that we are witnessing nationwide and in the county that I serve, but that one is taking a little more time. I could quickly pull information off of TLT to make these two given some of our past projects, but I am just mow starting to really dive into the facts and figures of the opioid crisis.

svyalitbrochurepage1

real talk sexual violence brochure page 2

real talk sucide brochure page 1

real talk suicide brochure page 2