Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Listen to Your Hearts

Conversation hearts: that chalky sweet reminder of Valentine’s Day that lingers (in your molars) long after the chocolate has melted away. Their phrases are by turns charming and mystifying, but we love them just the same. So much so, that it’s time we do a little Reader’s Advisory love match for these desperately seeking sweets. Here, I do my best to match the title to the treat.

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
The last night of school, Lucy is determined to meet Shadow, the graffiti artist and underground celebrity in her town who she is sure would be her soul mate. Ed, a guy with whom Lucy had a disastrous first (and last) date with knows where he is. All night they hang out, bond over art and poetry and life, looking for what is already there.
Graffiti Moon
Au Revoir Crazy European Chick / Perry’s Killer Playlist by Joe Schreiber
You know that person you just can’t give up, even though you know it’s totally not in your best interest? Yeah, Gobi is that person for Perry. You don’t need to read the first before the second, but it’ll help, it’s a page turner, and it’s a heckuvalot of fun. This pair asks the question: exactly how many times can love overcome death?
BEMYBABY Hooked by Catherine Greenman
When New York teens Thea and Will meet at their prestigious high school, settling down with a baby is the last thing on their minds. They’re so in love… but when baby makes three, things are bound to change.
pic name Belonging by Karen Ann Hopkins
In this forthcoming sequel from Harlequin Teen, Amish Noah and “English” Rose have met and fallen in love. Now Rose has decided to uproot her modern life and become Amish so she can be with Noah. Her father expects she won’t last, but Rose is determined that this will be forever. What she finds within her new community and within herself is surprising in many ways.
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pic name After Hello by Lisa Magnum
Like a scene in a movie, Sarah snaps a photo of Sam finding a book at the beginning of her one and only day in New York City, and the two strike up an adorably flirtatious friendship as Sam trades one thing for another in hopes of finding exactly what his hotheaded celebrity employer wants and Sarah discovers a world of possibilities.
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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Both Aristotle and Dante are just completely solid guys. The kind of guys you want in your life, the kind of guys you’re lucky to meet and hope to hold on to for a while. As their friendship grows and develops into something more, the two discover that they are, indeed, lucky to have one another.
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Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral
She’s a brilliant piano prodigy. He’s a troubled student with an artistic flair. She’s headed on a European tour. He’s from Argentina. She’s missing. And he is… well, I’ll let you figure that one out. This is a beautiful book, and a compelling love story told almost exclusively through photographs.
The Difference Between You and Me by Madeline George
What could be more romantic than finding love and lust in the library bathroom? Well, probably lots of things, but when Jesse and Emily sneak off together to make out each week, those kisses make it all seem just about perfect… until the girls find themselves on opposite sides of a community conflict.
Going Vintage by Lindsay Leavitt
When you find that your boyfriend is cheating on you with a cyber wife, there is only one thing you can do – swear off all technology and return to a time where life was simpler. That’s right, Mallory is Going Vintage. Back to 1962, to be exact, to complete her grandmother’s unfinished to-do list from Junior year.
The Immortal Rulesby Julie Kagawa
Oh come on, we had to have at least ONE vampire book on here, right? Well this is a good one. Allie lives on the outskirts, trying to stay hidden, in a future society ruled by much reviled vampires. But when she makes the decision to let a vampire turn her instead of dying, her secrecy takes a new direction. This first in a promising and much anticipated series has both action and romance that both build slowly, forcefully, and very darkly.

Want to make your own hearts? I used this brilliantly simple site and you can too!
Want to build on this and host a conversation heart fest? Here are Fourteen Conversation Heart Crafts, and you can always just see who can stack them the highest too.

Happy Valentine’s Day, from everyone here at the Teen Librarian Toolbox!


Some Good Advice

“Dear Abby, My parents don’t let me go out with my friends, even though I’m an A student.”

“Dear Abby, My dad is overseas in the military and my mom seems like she’s under a lot of stress and is taking it out on me.”
Dear Abby wrote a book for teens in 1960. Image via cc on Flickr.

Pauline Phillips passed away this week.  For decades she doled out advice and quips to dedicated readers everywhere in her syndicated Dear Abby column.  I was a loyal reader, especially in my teen years when everything seemed so topsy-turvy and as a shy person, I was loathe to ask advice of anyone who actually knew me.  Reading her column, I imagined myself in her readers’ shoes, wondered what the rest of their lives were like, pondered just what brought them to put pen to paper and write to a newspaper columnist – not a stranger, just a friend who hadn’t met them yet.

“Dear Abby, I think I’m in love… but he’s much older than me…”

“Dear Abby, I had a miscarriage.  I can’t tell anyone.  I’m fifteen.”

I branched out.  I read Ann Landers (Abby’s twin sister), Dear Boy (in Sassy), and the random advice columns in everything from my grandma’s Parade to my friend’s Seventeen to my mom’s Redbook.  I pretended to dislike listening to Car Talk when driving cross country with the family, but really, their advice was nurturing just like the others.  Later I discovered Dan Savage, Ask Alice, and Amy Dickinson who confronted issues I’d never imagined but couldn’t get enough of, as well as answering questions that I could’ve written myself.  If I’m stuck in a waiting room, I’ve been known to read “Ask a Pilot” in AOPA Pilot,  or anything else I can get my hands on, whether the advice is on cooking utensils, diaper creams, dovetail joints, or tax preparation.  I’m an advice junkie.
It Gets Better, Edited by Dan Savage and Terry Miller
Sprung from advice columnist Savage’s often repeated counsel to young people struggling with coming out to just hang on, that it gets better and life is worth living, It Gets Better began with a few videos on YouTube and soon grew by amazing proportions, garnering videos from celebrities, world leaders, and regular people.  This book collects a number of essays.
“Dear Abby, I’m thirteen but I’ve already ruined my life.”
“Dear Abby, I was sexually abused.”

“Dear Abby, I can’t stop blushing.”

Dear Abby answered letters from teens with as much respect, understanding, and wit as those from adult writers, and in doing so, showed not just her teen letter writers, but all of her readers, regardless of age, that teens were worthy of a kind ear.  Dear Abby valued the experience of the teens.  She showed her readers that their stories are important, that it is possible to take yourself too seriously, that everyone deserves to be heard.  The example she set is one teen librarians can learn much from in our approach to our patrons:  

Listen first, treat every request with as much respect as any other, and keep a sense of humor.  

Advice columns and teens go together like peanut butter and jelly.  In honor of the life of Pauline Phillips, the legacy of her daughter Jeanne Phillips who writes Dear Abby now, and all of the other advice columnists who have made a difference in our lives and in the lives of our teens, here are some novels featuring advice givers.
Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe by Shelley Coriell
Chloe doesn’t want to be an intern at the student radio station, but she makes the most of the experience when she puts her warm personality to use and begins a call-in advice show.
How To Be Popular by Meg Cabot
After years as a social outcast, Steph finds an advice guide and follows the instructions in the book to the letter.  The advice is good… but will it last?
Tell It To Naiomi by Daniel Ehrenhaft
Sensitive Dave takes over the school advice column under the guise of his older sister, and the column becomes an unexpected hit.
The Making of Dr. Truelove by Derrick Barnes
A cyber twist on Cyrano, Diego starts an online sex and relationship column in hopes of expressing his feelings for Roxy, but things go awry when his buddy J decides to embody “Dr. Truelove.”

Gimme a Call by Sarah Mylnowski
Dropping her phone in a fountain doesn’t totally fry it, but it’s not quite the same as it was.  The only person Devi can call now is herself… three years ago.  But will Freshman Devi listen to the advice of her older self?

Swoon At Your Own Risk by Sydney Salter
Polly’s summer is sinking fast.  Can she save it by following the advice of love columnist Miss Swoon, aka Polly’s grandma?
A Field Guide to High School by Marissa Walsh
When she leaves for Yale, Claire gives her freshman sister Naomi a priceless gift: a compendium of everything she learned in high school.
A note: the questions quoted above are all pulled from actual questions answered in the Dear Abby column over the years.

5 GNs for Halloween Scares by Karen D

5 Great Graphic Novels for Halloween Scares

Ghost Hunt
by Shiho Inada


decrepit building was condemned long ago, but every time the owners try
to tear it down, “accidents” start to happen–people get hurt, sometimes
even killed. Mai Taniyama and her classmates have heard the rumors that
the creepy old high school is haunted–possibly by ghosts from the
Second World War. So one rainy day they gather at the told school to
tell ghost stories, hoping to attract one of the suspected spirits.

ghosts materialize, but Mai and her friends do meet Kazuya Shibuya, the
handsome young owner of Shibuya Psychic Research, who’s been hired to
investigate paranormal activity at the school. Also at the scene are an
exorcist, a Buddhist monk, a woman who can speak with the dead, and an
outspoken Shinto priestess. Surely one of them will have the talents to
solve this mystery. . .  (goodreads)


Pet Shop of Horrors 

by Matsuri Akino

A smoke-filled alley in
Chinatown harbors Count D’s Pet Shop. The pets sold here aren’t your
everyday variety and the Count prides himself on selling Love and Dreams
in the form of magical creatures that come with an exclusive contract.
But buyers beware. If the contract is broken the Count cannot be held
accountable for whatever may happen. A fascinating and macabre look into
the very soul of human nature. (goodreads)


Hopless, Maine: Personal Demons
by Tom and Nimue Brown  

Trapped on an island
off the coast of Maine, the people of Hopeless find life a little darker
and more dangerous with every day that passes. The number of orphans
rises continually, but who can say what happens to their parents? Plenty
of the bodies are never found. This is not the stuff of happy, careless
childhoods, it is instead fertile ground for personal demons. In
Hopeless, the demons are not always abstract concepts. Some of them have
very real teeth, and very real horns. The island has been isolated for a
very long time. Partly because of being small and forgotten, partly
because the rocks and currents do not encourage visitors, Hopeless is
surrounded by fog and overrun with nightmarish creatures, from small
things with tentacles to demons and vampires. It’s a peculiar place.
Here, almost anything can happen, from the weird and unsettling to the
darkly funny. With a cast of freaks, nutters and the odd power crazed
psychopath, life in Hopeless is seldom dull. Hopeless is also about who
you choose to be. The tale is a protest against apathy, and against the
small evils that everyone takes for granted. The worst monsters
frequently aren’t the ones with the obvious teeth – who are merely
dangerous by nature – but the apparently ordinary people who choose to
do hideous things. (goodreads)


by Naoki Urasawa

An ice-cold killer is on
the loose, and brilliant Dr. Kenzo Tenma is the only one who can stop
him! Conspiracies, serial murders, and a scathing indictment of hospital
politics are all masterfully woven together in this compelling manga
thriller. Tenma risks his promising medical career to save the life of a
critically wounded young boy. Unbeknownst to him, this child is
destined for a terrible fate. Who could have known that Tenma would
create a monster!


Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things
by Ted Naifeh 

Courtney’s parents have
dragged her out to a high-to-do suburb to live with her creepy Great
Uncle Aloysius in his spooky old house. She’s not only the new kid in
school, but she also discovers strange things lurking under her bed.

Someone just walked across my grave: YA lit with creepy graveyard scenes

You can’t talk about the scary and the macabre without mentioning books that have an edge of your seat scare you silly graveyard scene.  And this is definitely the month for talking graveyards.  So take a walk with me through the graveyard, if you dare . . .
It was the greatest night of my life.
Although I still had not found a wife
I had my friends
Right there beside me.
We were close together.
We tripped the wall and we scaled the graveyard
Ancient shapes were all around us.
(The Graveyard Poem by The Doors)

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I feel like I shouldn’t even have to say something about this book, but I will.  Nobody Owens would probably be a normal little boy, if he wasn’t being raised in a graveyard by ghosts.  Magical and at times terrifying, this is the ultimate graveyard book.  They call Gaiman a master storyteller for a reason and this is one of reasons why.  You’ll be afraid to turn the lights out.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.” When Blue sees Gansey in the graveyard on St. Mark’s Eve she’s not sure which one he is, but part of the gloriousness that is The Raven Boys is trying to figure it out.  This is one of my favorite books of the year.  Read it. Read my review here.

Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter

Alice should have listened when her father told her not to go out at night.  Now Alice has fallen down the zombie hole and there is no turning back.  An interesting twist on zombie novels with hints of Alice in Wonderland, check this one out. A blink, a breath, a second; everything changes in the graveyard. Read my review here.

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

“These are the secrets I have kept. This is the trust I never betrayed. But he is dead now and has been for nearly ninety years, the one who gave me his trust, the one for whom I kept these secrets. The one who saved me . . . and the one who cursed me.” Here we read the journal of Will Henry, an orphan who is an apprentice to a monster hunter (or is he simply just a monster?)  This has some wicked graveyard scenes and is generally just a great horror story for this time of the year.

Rotters by Daniel Kraus

It’s a book about grave robbers, there are graveyards.  Again, terrifying and disturbing and a great read for this time of year.  I believe I have mentioned it before.  Sorry, but it is a GREAT read for this time of year – I would hate for you or your teens to miss out.

Creepers by Joanne Dahme

Moving to a new town is hard enough, but what happens when your bedroom window overlooks the cemetery?  When the body of her ancestor goes missing from underneath her tombstone, 13-year-old Courtney finds herself trying to solve a very creepy mystery.

Going Underground by Vaught

Working a less than typical after school job as a grave digger, Del meets Livia.  Will may choose to reveal the secrets of his past, but that may just be digging himself into even a bigger hole.

Poltergeeks by Sean Cummings

I have not actually read this book, but somebody recommended it to me on Twitter and it sounds like fun.  You can read about it at Goodreads.

Know any more good graveyard books? Please leave us a comment and add to our list. Thank you.

TRW: It Came From Outer Space

Ever wonder where all the aliens are?  Back in the 1940’s and 50’s, during the Golden Age of science fiction, aliens were everywhere.  There were spaceman suits, and alien bazaars, and television shows.  People where rushing to see when we would meet our neighbors, and whether they would be peaceful or not.  Everyone was claiming to see UFOs or be abducted by them.  And that frenzy was reflected in our literature:  HG Wells and the War of the Worlds, Robert A. Heinlein’s pulp fiction classics, Arthur C. Clark, and Isaac Asimov.  They were told by their publisher at Astounding Science Fiction to “write me a creature that thinks as well as a man, or better than a man, but not like a man.”  

Now, in 2012, our space program is the victim of the economy, and young adult fiction is flooded with vampires and dystopias- another reflection of the culture around us.  Yet, if you look hard enough, there are aliens among us for those wanting to explore the darkness of space.  I’ve put together a list of what’s popular with my teens, including movie based books and book based movies, as well as some classics and a couple you may not have heard before.

What are your favorite alien books?  Share in the comments below!

Across the Universe by Beth Revis.  Amy was supposed to spend the next 300 years asleep; instead, she’s awakened 50 years too early and must race to find the cause of the plague, and figure out the mystery before it’s too late.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy (in 5 books, or is it 6?) by Douglas Adams.  Earth is being (or will be) destroyed to make way for a super-space highway- do you know where your towel is?  And if you want to see the movie, catch Alan Rickman (Professor Snape, the Sheriff of Nottingham) as the voice of Marvin in the 2005 release.



Star Trek.  First on TV, then on the silver screen, then five spin-offs, then a SPIN OFF got it’s own movie or three…  Graphic novels and science fiction books abound and continue to be written.  Including cross overs with current series like Doctor Who.  And with the reboot of the franchise, and Star Trek:  Into Darkness slated for May 2013 release, the number of books will only grow.


The Tower and the Hive series by Anne McCaffrey.  The Rowan was found buried in a mudslide, projecting a distress call heard planets away.  And so we start a series of books in which we go through her life and the life of her children, all of which have extraordinary abilities as telepaths and telekinetics  vital to the survival of not only the human race, but others as well.  If really interested in the beginnings, check out The Talent series by McCaffrey, which details the beginnings of space travel and telekinetic abilities in the human race.
Men In Black.  Yes we all wish that the second movie didn’t exist, but did you know that all of the movies are based off the graphic novels?  And they are quirky and fun and as irreverent as the first movie?

Human.4 by Mike A. Lancaster
Human.4 is an eerie look at a small town that slowly, chillingly reveals secrets about the human race with some Matrix-like twists.  This is a fantastic book that reminded me of some of the best episodes of The Twilight Zone.  Safe for all ages and highly recommended.  The sequel, The Future We Left Behind, comes out in November.

Star Wars.  From science fiction to juvenile books of Han and Leia’s children, to beginning readers and non-fiction about the ships and costuming, there is no shortage of books in the Star Wars legacy.

Shade’s Children by Garth Nix.  Running to escape their chilling future of certain destruction, four teens willingly join the Shade in his plans to dethrone the Overlords.  But when one of them is captured, they begin to realize that Shade isn’t the hero they think he is.

The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells.  Yes, THE war of the worlds.  The book that, when read over the radio to the audience caused massive panic that there was an alien invasion, the book that was the basis of the 1953 classic, and the not so memorable 2005 remake with Tom Cruise.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer.  See More Here

Alien.  In space, no one can hear you scream.  With four movies and a prequel (although they don’t call Prometheus a prequel, even though it is) the Alien franchise embraces what really creeps everyone out about aliens.  That they will crawl inside and eat us whole.  And graphic novels and books abound, along with cross overs in books and movies.  And rumors of an Alien reboot are circulating….
It’s been years since anyone has set foot on the moon, and there are good reasons for that.  When several teens are chosen as the winners of a contest and get to spend 172 hours on the moon, they will be lucky if they make it back alive.  There is some good old fashioned Science Fiction in this sci fi book, with a twist of Japanese horror movie (think The Ring or The Grudge).  This is a great read for this time of the year.
If you knew the aliens were coming, what would you do?  Ender Wiggin has been sent to a special school where they are training to fight “The Buggers”.  This is a classic and always popular title.  Make a note, it is currently being filmed and is slated for release sometime next year.
I am actually surprised that we haven’t seen a bigger influx of aliens – a bigger alien invasion if you will – given the popularity of this series.  My teens come in asking for it ALL. THE. TIME. And they rave about it. And the movie wasn’t horrible either.

TRW: Frankenstein in 2012: Bio-Engineering

So, if Mary Shelly were writing Frankenstein today, what path would she wander down?  I think that, instead of zombies or vampires, she’s wander down the road of BIOENGINEERING.  According to the history, Mary Shelly was having a storytelling contest with her future husband Percy, Lord Byron of She Walks in Beauty fame, and John William Polidori, who wrote one of the first vampire stories in English. She evidently won, because she came up with a mad scientist who scavenged body parts and created a monster from death, then became horrified at what he had created.

In today’s horror realm, zombies and vampires are creatures of the undead, and would well fit within the realm of Shelly’s Frankenstein, but Shelly was a pioneer- during her time, everyone was afraid of the new science of embalming the dead, and she played on those fears in her story, and the fear of the unknown and the possibilities of science.  This is why I think that bio-engineering would be more Mary Shelly’s thing if she were alive today.  Manipulating the essence of DNA and genes, creating new and different beings and life where there were none, discovering new abilities and their horrendous possibilities…  Definitely a 2012 version of Frankenstein…

So what bio-engineering YA books would be in your top ten list?  Here are my favorites in random order; share yours in the comments below…

Double Helix by Nancy Werlin.  When Eli is offered a job as a lab assistant at Wyatt Transgenics, it sounds too good to be true.  But as he gets deeper into the lab, he learns things that puts not only his life, but the secrets of his family and others, into danger.

The Uglies Series by Scott Westerfeld.  On their 16th birthday, teens get surgery to become pretty…  but do you want to be pretty and fogged forever?  And what will become of friendships?

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer.  Matteo wasn’t born, he was harvested, a clone for a patron who wants to use him for spare parts when needed.  When he decides to take his future into his own hands, will it be more than he bargained for?

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson.  Jenna wakes from a year long coma, only to not remember the life before the accident.  But will trying to remember answer her questions or create new issues?

Feed by M.T. Anderson.  Enter a world where everything is dominated by the Feed- directly implanted into your mind so that everything is accessible in an instant.  When an attack in a club goes wrong, what happens when the Feed goes bad?

The Skinned Trilogy/ The Cold Awakening Trilogy by Robing Wasserman.  (Why they changed the names and covers I don’t know, but if you’re looking for these in the bookstores try the first titles and images; if you’re looking for them at the library, try the second set of images first).  Downloading was supposed to change the world, but when Lia’s goes wrong, she must do everything in her power to save what, and who, she can.

TRW: Romancing the Paranormal

As a teen librarian who knows their trends, you know that books like Twilight and The House of Night series are as popular with teens as chocolate and pizza.  What you may not realize is that they have a long and distinguished history within literature dating back to 1764.  Paranormal romance, a subset of romance that has beings of the supernatural (ghosts, demons, angels, werebeings, vampires, etc.) falling in love/lust with us mere humans, actually comes from Gothic fiction.  The first Gothic stories were written by Horace Walpole, Ann Radcliffe, and Clara Barton.  The Romantics took over, with Lord Byron giving us the archtype of the hero in our current paranormal romances:  a man of loneliness and mystery, a villain that detests himself for what he is, yet seems unable to change until the heroine makes her appearance.
The Victorians added their twist on it, with The Penny Dreadful serial fictions leading the way.  Enter then Edgar Allan Poe, who brought back more of the macabre, madness, and mystery into the mix.  The Bronte sisters as well can fall into paranormal ancestors, with ghosts in various stories as well as The Madwoman in the Attic.  Most current teen paranormal fiction falls into the genre of urban fantasy, where things blend the magical and mysterious in with the supernatural.  And when you think about it, most superhero comics and graphic novels, all time travel books, and those featuring psychic abilities would also fit in paranormal romances- not just things that go bump in the night or howl at the moon.  I’ve listed below some of my favorite books and series; share yours in the comments!

The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare.  Werebeings, demons, vampires, and Shadowhunters descended from angels, plus secret siblings, crossed lovers, and secret crushes, including an all ages GLBT romance.  Oh, yes!

Caster Chronicles series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.  When Ethan starts waking up from dreams that connect him to the new girl Lena, things start to take a turn, but are they for better or for worse?

The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa.  In the first part, Meagan is half faery, half human, and needs to claim her magical bloodright.  In the second, we follow Ethan, her brother, who must battle the vengeful Forgotten.

The Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr.  Aislynn, who is mortal,  has always seen the fairies, even when she wasn’t supposed to.  Her gift leads her on more and more adventures through the different courts as the series grows.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.  Karou has a chance encounter with the angel Akiva, and her world starts unraveling around her- black handprints on portals, and memories coming back to life.  Will it be for good or for bad?

Tithe series by Holly Black.  16 year old Kaye learns her lineage- she’s a changeling pixie- and a move to New Jersey brings her into a plot to free her people but puts her life on the line.

Fallen series by Lauren Kate.  Luce, sent to boarding school, finds that Sword and Cross holds more for her than schooling; rather, fallen angels and her long lost love.

The Immortals series by Alyson Noel.  Ever and Damen, separated through different lifetimes, struggle to be together as they are intended.  

Madison Avery series by Kim Harrison.  Meet Madison, dead from a car accident after going to her prom. Oh, and she’s also a reaper.  Makes things a bit complicated to explain to her dad, especially with a light reaper, a dark reaper, and a guardian angel following her every move.  Oh, and school.

Prom Nights from Hell.  Think your prom was bad?  Try these stories on for size- but be warned, it’s not always a happy ending.

Top 10: For Annie and Liza

I love Annie on My Mind.  I personally think it should be a book choice for those in schools, not a forced book, but a reading choice for those reading classes where you have to choose one of five books on relationships and write about themes, and what did you learn from these books.  Yes, there would be some that would be all upset because it is a GLBTQ book, but there would be others (and I bet many others) that would cheer for it’s inclusion.

I wrote in my earlier post about how it was hard for me to find books like Annie when I went looking.  For the record, I’m not GLBT or Q; for personal reasons in my life I am an *extremely* vocal straight ally.  For those who liked Annie on My Mind, here are my personal Top 10 books that would go on a booklist with Annie and Liza, in no particular order.

Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters.  Cece and Holland have to hide their growing relationship just as Annie and Liza did, and when their relationship is found out, it has serious repercussions.

Kissing Kate by Lauren Myracle.  When a friendship is blown apart by a kiss, Lissa must learn who she is and start accepting who she is.

The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson.  It’s always been Nina, Avery and Mel, BFFs…  until one summer when it starts to be Avery and Mel, together.

Empress of the World by Sara Ryan.  When Nic falls in love with Battle, she must struggle to figure out if she’s bisexual, lesbian, or if she really needs any label at all…

The House You Pass on the Way by Jacqueline Woodson.  Not as obvious as some of the others, but Staggerlee definitely fits into this list.

Very LeFreak by Rachel Cohn.  When Very gets sent to “unplug” during her electronic addition rehab, she learns that her love has been right in front of her all along.

Sister Mischief by Laura Goode.  After Esme confirms that she is definitely “a homo.  Like, Same-Sex City, Esme”, her feelings for another band member may become too much to handle.

Perfect by Ellen Hopkins.  When Cara, ever so perfect Cara, decides that she needs to come out about her preferences to everyone, what will she have to give up?

Pink by Lili Wilkinson.   Trying to be “normal” for once by transferring to a new school, Ava hides her relationship with Chloe while trying to figure out just who she wants to be.

A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner.  After Julia dies, Cass is left questioning her own identity, including her sexuality- can she find herself and learn to live without Julia?

Top 10s: Books I would have like to have seen on the NPR list

Yesterday we talked about the 100 Best Young Adult Books list put together by NPR.  Today, I am going to share with you 10 books that I would have liked to have seen on the list and why.

Click here to see the Top 100 Young Adult Books on the NPR list
Monster by Walter Dean Myers
I mentioned it in my post yesterday, but I think this title should have been on the list.  First, it was a Printz Award winning book (2000).  Second, it helped usher in the trend that introduces teens to alternate style formats.  In this case, Monster is written as a movie manuscript.  Then, of course, you have the fact that this is an important multicultural title by a major, long standing, award winning author.  So major that Walter Dean Myers is this year’s National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.
Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher
For me, it is hard to imagine any best of YA list without the presence of Chris Crutcher.  He writes authentic teen fiction.  The problem is, which title to choose?  For me it is a toss up between Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes and Whale Talk.  At the end of the day, I guess I am going to choose Whale Talk because it talks about major themes, such as bullying and prejudice, and does it with a touch of humor.
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Ender’s Game has been a hands down teen favorite in the science fiction genre for years.  Teens still come in and ask for it by name.  Fantasy is definitely over represented in the list, so let’s give Science Fiction its due.  Plus, it is supposedly coming to a movie theater near you next year and it should rejuvenate some interest in this title.
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
I could also live with Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly.  Either way, there needs to be a few more historical fiction titles and A Northern Light is a Printz Honor Book (2004).
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S. King
Honestly, I really just want to see A. S. King on the list.  I could live with Please Ignore Vera Dietz or Everybody Sees the Ants.  But in truth, I see Ask the Passengers as being on a future list.  Just pick an A. S. King title and go with it.
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
Boy Meets Boy was being bold and courageous and speaking out about the life of GLBT teens before most authors were.  It opened the door for so many to share their stories.  It has touched lives and changed minds.
The First Part Last by Angela Johnson
This title is covering so much that is missing on the list: It is a great multicultural title, it is a problem novel, it discusses the topic of teen parenting, and it is the 2004 Printz Award Winner.
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
Here we see the popular graphic novel format represented.  In addition, this 2007 Printz Award Winner helps bring more cultural diversity to the list, which is greatly needed.  Other GNs that could certainly find themselves on the list include Maus, Bone and Blankets.
The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klaus
Before vampires sparkled or went to the academy, they haunted a young girl named Zoe whose mother was dying of cancer.  This is an award winning vampire novel that encompasses everything that is wonderful about ya lit and still connects with readers today.
Holes by Lois Sachar
Okay, one could argue that this novel is really more of a MG novel.  But it is brilliant and funny, and funny is definitely a category that is under-represented on the list. 
I’m going to cheat here and add an #11 and #12
Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
Why am I willing to cheat for this series?  1) One can not deny the popularity of zombies, and dystopian fiction, these last few years in teen fiction. 2) This is a really well written addition to the genre. And 3) It gives us another multicultural title – the main characters are Japanese – to add to our list.

BZRK by Michael Grant
Why this title?  Like Walter Dean Myers ushering in the alternate writing style with Monster, Michael Grant introduces readers to another new reading trend with transmedia.  With BZRK, Grant combines traditional books with teens interest in the online world.  Plus, it’s another great science fiction title that taps into current trends and themes.  And you can’t deny Grant’s long standing contribution to MG and YA literature.  If I was going to add one more Science Fiction title to the list, I would probably add the Hourglass series by Myra McEntire – but I should probably stop cheating now.

So, what titles do you want to add to the list?  What do you think of my additions?

Best or Favorite? A look at the NPR “Best” Young Adult Novels list

I watch So You Think You Can Dance every week without fail.  Here is a show where you can call in and vote for your “favorite” dancer.  This favorite part is important, every year they make a point of making this distinction: it is not the best dancer, but your favorite.  Because that’s how voting works usually, it’s subjective.

Best implies perhaps the highest quality while favorite implies the most popular.  And, truthfully, if you are asking the people to vote you are going to end up with the most popular.  So when NPR puts out it’s list of the Best 100 Young Adult Novels that have been voted on by the public, what you are really getting is some combination of both the best and everyone’s favorites.

NPRs Best Young Adult Novels
Did your favorites make the list?

One look at the list and you see the truth of this statement.  The Twilight series by Stephanie Meyers appears at number 27.  Had the vote been taken just a few years earlier, before it became fashionable to hate Twilight, I am sure it would have appeared in the top 10.  But still, in terms of quality of writing and storytelling, even 27 seems incredibly high when you compare it to some of the other books that made the list farther down – and some of those that didn’t make the list at all.  My favorite comment on Reddit: “List totally invalidated by the presence of Twilight.”

If you are on the Yalsa-bk listserv, then last week you saw a really informative post by author David Lubar.  He took a quick moment to do a Google search and found that many authors and fans actively campaigned for others to vote for their favorite books.  As someone who spends a lot of time on the Internet, this is not surprising to me at all.  But it does remind us all that the Internet voting is not a perfect mechanism for developing lists, unless of course your goal is popularity.  So perhaps if they had just changed what they called the list, not the “best” but “favorite”, it would have been an accurate statement.

I’ll be honest, I did not vote.  Not because I don’t care, I obviously care very much about teen literature, but because as soon as I realized the mechanism they were employing to create the list I realized that it would be a deeply flawed list.  Compare the idea of the NPR Best Young Adult Books list to the Teens Top 10s put together each year by Yalsa – and voted on by the public.  The Teens Top 10 list explicitly states that it is a “teens choice” list where teens nominate and then vote on their favorite books from the previous year.  You see the distinction there?  They aren’t saying they are the best, but that the teens declare these their favorites.  Semantics are important.

If you have looked at the NPR list you probably will have noticed what Debbie Reese, Laurie Halse Anderson and others have noticed: the list is incredibly white.  I mean super white.  There are only a couple of titles that have a main character that it a person of color. I won’t talk a lot about that because the previously mentioned people have covered it so well, but it is disappointing.  And not at all reflective of the literature that I see on my shelves.  Don’t get me wrong, I think there needs to be a lot more diversity on our library shelves, but this list totally neglects longstanding popular authors like Walter Dean Myers and Sharon Draper and Jacqueline Woodson.  In fact Monster by Walter Dean Myers is a groundbreaking – and award winning – book and definitely deserves to be on this list.

I haven’t seen it mentioned elsewhere, but the list also doesn’t seem to include many LGBTQ titles at all.  Where is Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan? How about Annie on My Mind?  A brief look at the list shows that it includes The Perks of Being a Wallflower (without a doubt an amazing read), Will Grayson Will Gryason and the Dangerous Angels series.  Is the lack of LGBTQ and POC titles representative of who votes, what we read, or what gets published?  Whatever the issue, it is clear that we need to work harder on reaching diversity goals.  (Side note: I actually think that the problem novel, one of the classic mainstays of young adult literature, is under represented on this list as well.  I know right now that fantasy and dystopian is super popular, but where are the problem novels?  Thankfully Speak made the list.)

My other question regarding this list would be around the voting mechanism, which I can’t actually speak about because as I mentioned, I didn’t vote.  But I would have loved for them to have kept track of the age of voters and created separate lists.  What does the list look like if only teens vote?  What does the list like if only librarians and educators vote?  What does the list look like if all adults – including educators and librarians – but no teen votes are counted?  It would be interesting to compare the various lists, and I suspect there would be some major differences.

And finally, I am interested in some of the titles that they classify as young adult.  To Kill a Mockingbird is without a doubt one of my favorite books and I would say one of the best books written, but is it young adult?  I would ask the same of The Lord of the Rings series?  Something can be popular with young adults but not be actually a young adult book.  We can all look back at what we read as a teen, and look at what our teens often read now, and recognize that a lot of teens like to read adult authors, which is cool.  Just because something is popular with young adults doesn’t mean that it is in fact a young adult novel.  Of course what, exactly, constitutes a young adult novel is probably the guts of an entirely different post and is further complicated by the introduction of the New Adult genre.

Overall, I think the list is a great starting place for new readers of young adult books to begin reading; it definitely is a good look at what is popular with my teens over the last few years.  As much as I love John Green, I would knock a couple of his books off the list – leaving The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska – and add some multicultural authors.  I was ecstatic to see the Delirium series and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children on the list.  I kind of felt that Miss Peregrine didn’t get the love that it deserved when it came out.  There is some good stuff on the list.  There is some fun stuff on the list (I LOVE the Gallagher girls series).  But is this list representative of THE BEST? I guess it depends on how we are defining the best.

So here’s my question to you: If we made the list again in 10 years, what titles from 2012 do you think will stand the test of time and make an appearance?  And what diversity titles do you think should have made the cut this year?
Also, what is the most surprising title on the list for you?  For me it is The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud.