Teen Librarian Toolbox
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The Teen Reads the Complete Works of A. S. King

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At some point last year, The Teen and I both read an Advanced Review Copy of DIG by A. S. King, an author of whom I have been a long time fan. It is, in my opinion, one of her best works. I handed the ARC to The Teen telling her, when you get to the end it will blow your mind the way all the various bits and pieces come together – and it did. She loved DIG so much that she decided she was going to read every book by A. S. King. I’m going to tell you more about DIG in an upcoming post and book review as it comes out on March 26th. But we you need to know and understand that she was so moved and blown away by DIG that it prompted her to decide on her own that she was then going to read each and every book by A. S. King and then proceeded to do so.

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The Teen says that DIG is “Simply perfect. It all comes together.”

She had already read Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, a book that she likes and recommends frequently. She has even gifted Glory O’Brien to friends for Christmas and birthdays. You can read more about Glory O’Brien here. She has also already read Ask the Passengers, a book she loves and widely recommends as well. In fact, she recently recommended Ask the Passengers and Please Ignore Vera Deitz (discussed below) to her English teacher. So over the past month or so, The Teen has been reading the entire works of A. S. King and today we are going to share that experience with you. Because she had already previously read Ask the Passengers and Glory O’Brien’s History of the World, they are unfortunately not reviewed or discussed below. Just know that she likes and recommends them both. In fact, Ask the Passengers is one of her favorite books.

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Another favorite of mine is Please Ignore Vera Dietz, so I was excited that The Teen was finally going to read this one. This is the story of a young girl, Vera Dietz, dealing with the death of her friend and crush Charlie. Here’s what she had to say about it . . .

king5“I love this book so much. Showcases grief, friendship, family betrayal and all the things that come between. Beautifully written.”

She then read I Crawl Through It. I will honestly admit that this is a book that has always seemed way over my head. I get bits and pieces of it, but it has never come together for me in the ways that King’s other books have. So when The Teen finishes reading it, I asked her to explain it to me. Her response was, “I can’t explain it to you, but it makes sense to me and I think it’s really powerful.” I Crawl Through It is about 4 teens who are traumatized by various life events, including sexual violence, school shooting drills, and over testing and their attempts to escape the high pressure life they find themselves being forced to live in. This is what The Teen had to say about it . . .

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“A great book on the issues teenagers face in school and how important it is to deal with your problems.”

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She then tackled Still Life with Tornado. This is a book in which a 16-year-old girl named Sarah finds herself talking to various other versions of herself as she works through some very real issues. The Teen had this to say about it . . .

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“Shows to many important things and touches on many common issues in society.”

The Teen also read, but did not love, Reality Boy. Reality Boy is the story of Gerald, a teenage boy who is forced to live his life on reality tv who struggles with anger issues. This is what The Teen thought about it . . .

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“I don’t like Gerald but {this book} shows how influential media and abuse are.”

The Teen then read Me and Marvin Gardens, which I was slightly surprised about because it is a middle grade book and kind of outside her reading interests, but she read and liked it. I give her credit for her commitment to the reading project. This is what she had to say about Me and Marvin Gardens . . .

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“Precious and 100% worth the read.” The Teen doesn’t really do precious, she prefers dark and murderous, but we all contain multitudes and I was glad to see this review.

Everybody Sees the Ants is another one of my favorites and I was also glad when she tackled this one. Everybody Sees the Ants is about Lucky Linderman, whose grandfather never came home from the war, whose father never got over that, whose mother pretends that nothing is wrong and who is, quite unfortunately, being bullied mercilessly by the hands of Nader McMillan. This is what the teen had to say about Everybody Sees the Ants. . .

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“An inspiring story, very uplifting.”

As an aside, I am a part of an adult book club and every time it’s my turn to pick a book, I choose a YA book. My adult book club has read this book and every adult there loved this book as well. It’s an important and moving story about overcoming, healing, and dealing with the very real trauma that life throws at you.

And finally, The Teen read The Dust of 100 Dogs. Funny story, this is the only A. S. King book I have never read but I am sure I will eventually because I now own a copy of it. The Dust of 100 Dogs is one of the few A. S. King books that doesn’t really contain her now characteristic surrealist style and The Teen found that to be a real drawback, though your mileage may vary. A late teenage female pirate is reincarnated as a modern day teenage girl trying to get to Jamaica to unearth treasure she knows is buried there. This is what The Teen has to say about it . . .

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“Not her usual surreal book, but still an interesting story.”

Let me just take a moment here to tell you that this is the book we have had the most discussion about. This book contains an interesting mother/daughter dynamic, which The Teen explained to me, and we talked a lot about it. The mother, it seems, is trying to live vicariously through her daughter so she is controlling and the relationship is unhealthy. It’s interesting to me that although she liked this book perhaps the least, it would be a tie between this one and Reality Boy I think, that it generated the most discussion.

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Her favorites, in no particular order are:

  • Dig
  • I Crawl Through It
  • Everybody Sees the Ants
  • Still Life with Tornado
  • Ask the Passengers (another previously read title that is a favorite)

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As a mom who also happens to be a YA librarian and a fan of A. S. King, it was fascinating to watch The Teen decide she wanted to do this thing and then do it. I checked out books from the library as she asked for them. I bought some of them online for her. We talked about each book as she read, some more than others. She has actually met A. S. King in the past at a teen author event, so she is not unaware of who she is. And as I have mentioned, she had previously read a couple of her books. I think that A. S. King earned a lifelong reader and fan through this process, and it all happened because one teenager read one book and decided she wanted to keep going. A. S. King’s books spoke to my daughter about the teenage experience, but they are also – as she says – smart, intelligent, complicated and twisted and demonstrate that as a writer, A. S. King respects and understands her readers. I think more than anything that what I heard my daughter saying as we talked about these books was that she felt understood, moved and valued.

Comments

  1. This is fabulous. I love seeing a teen work their way through a stack of one author’s works. Who’s next? My daughter recently took on Lois Duncan, which was such a thrill to watch because there’s so much nostalgia in it. You’re BOTH doing such a great job.
    – Jason Henderson
    Author, Young Captain Nemo
    https://www.amazon.com/dp/1250173221?tag=macmillan-20

  2. Mariśca M says:

    It is so cool! While I am not specifically a Teen Librarian anymore, (although I order for high school ages) I am really excited to see a teen read through and critique so many novels by the same author! It looks like she has a healthy desire to read and follow up on that, and excellent critical thinking skills that will help her out for the rest of her life.

    Tell her congrats from me. I’m impressed.

  3. I love this! Karen, I wish I could come over and talk to your daughter about some of these titles. My first A.S. King book was Ask the Passengers and I really liked the smooth way she wrote about a true variety of teens. King adds magic with those tiny surreal touches that completely fit the book and the lives of the characters. I think Glory O’Brien is my favorite so far – what an amazing person Glory is and awe doesn’t begin to describe how well that story is told. Oh wow, it’s like Glory’s future is as the leader our world needs so many more of. But Vera Dietz is AMAZING! I never re-read books, but I’m ready to read it again. It works on so many levels. And it’s an easy book that is simultaneously profound. I had to peer at the sticky note your daughter put on Vera to read it, but I agree so much. And yes, it is beautifully written.
    Thank you so much for sharing this!

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