Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Killing Your Darlings (A reflection on weeding)

Weeding. Sometimes, it seems such a violent act. Sometimes we have to kill our darlings. And for me, that time came in 2011. And it involved my beloved Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

You see, as a Buffy fan I had been on standing order for the book series since forever. But time marches on, shows get cancelled, and new fandoms emerge.

I had read every single one of the Buffy and Angel books on my teen shelves. And together, the series took over a shelf and a half of precious space.

The problem wasn’t even that the books weren’t being read. Angel really wasn’t, but the Buffy books still flew off the shelves. Well, flew off the shelves may be a bit of hyperbole, but they definitely earned their keep.

No, the problem was an entirely different problem that comes with age and use: they were – quite literally – beginning to fall apart. Sometimes it seemed as if when you took the book off the shelf it might just disintegrate into dust like you had staked a vampire right there in the teen area. All that would remain was a pile of dust that used to be the stories on the page.

So one final, fateful, mournful day, I did the unthinkable. I killed my darlings. I took every single last Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel book off of the shelves. I swiped them with the magic wand that would remove them from the collection. I crossed out their barcodes. I stamped them withdrawn. And I shoved them all in a box.

I think that box stayed under my desk for about a month. Maybe I would change my mind. Maybe a patron would ask for them. Maybe I would just take them home.

None of those things happened. They were in such bad shape that the Friends didn’t even want them in their annual book sale, so they were recycled. It seemed such an inglorious end to this thing that I loved so dearly.

By the time I had finally gotten up the courage to this evil seeming deed, the series has stopped publication for a few years. There were no new titles coming in. The show was off TV. This new crop of teens were asking for different vampire books and television series. But it hurt, this thing I had to do. It hurt more than any other weeding moment in my life.

The other day, we hired a new circulation clerk. She came up to me and whispered the name of a book that she thought we should never, ever, ever, weed from our library. “Be sure you check it out,” I told her. She was perplexed. “If you want a book to stay in the library and you are worried it won’t, check it out.” But the truth is, sometimes just circulating isn’t enough.

Sometimes books die horrible deaths. They fall apart. They reach a point where they can’t be glued, taped or mended any more. They go out of print and can’t be re-ordered. They simply die. Even well loved ones.

Even Buffy.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: My First Fandom (a guest post by Cindy) (The Sunnydale Project Year 3)

Photo used with permission by Sarah Stumpf

One true thing is that you will never forget your first big fandom. Growing up as the weird kid in my school, I loved Beauty and the Beast and I adored L.J. Smith whose books started me on my love affair with reading. Nothing could and will never compare to my love of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I was obsessed to put it mildly. I had watched it off and on during the first season, but it was the second season that hooked me.

‘Becoming’ Part One and Part Two changed everything for me.

It was hard loving something so much, because I knew people who liked the show, but I knew no one who I could really talk to about it. I would have friends who would listen, but I knew no one really understood it. I had trouble finding my tribe. The internet was blooming and I would go on the Bronze, which was a popular message board for the show on the WB website.I was too young to really post and was scared of interacting. I would read as much fan fiction as I could find, which was a lot, but I will always remember feeling like I was annoying everyone around me about Buffy, but honestly I did not care. Buffy made me happy. I was going to talk about it no matter what.

That is what fandom is too me– strongly loving something so much that you just don’t care about what other people think about the object of your fandom or you. This is one reason why we have so many fandom related activities at my library. It gives the teens a place to express their love of something whether it is Hunger Games, Black Butler, or Dr.Who. I want teens to feel like they have found their place and their tribe. Buffy was and is my home.

About Our Guest Blogger:

Cindy Shutts is a Teen Services Librarian at White Oak Library District. She has guest blogged with us before sharing her Divergent library program and a display she put together for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. You can follow her on Twitter @cindysku

More About Fandoms:

Check out the Fanlore Wiki to learn more about Fandom

Huffington Post: A Complete Guide to the Tangled Web of Teen Fandom

Mtv: Decoding Millennials and Fandom

Style Caster: Teenage Fandom in the Age of Twitter (this takes a specific look at online bullying in the world of fandom)

Robin Brenner presents on Fandom and the Teen World (with resource links provided)

Great YA Reads for Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fans, a guest post by author Alexandra Duncan (The Sunnydale Project Year 3)

I started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer during my sophomore year of college, a year or so before the show went off the air. The war in Iraq had just started, my family was in the throes of pre-divorce drama, and my long-term boyfriend – now my husband – was living in another city half a state away. It felt like the whole world was falling apart and there was nothing I could do about it.

Then along came Buffy. Buffy wasn’t perfect. She cracked jokes when she was supposed to be training to hunt vampires, and sometimes her secret identity got her into trouble with her parents and teachers, not to mention cultists and bloodsucking immortal demons. But Buffy had a purpose. She fought pointy-toothed evil and won, though sometimes at a cost. She had an amazing group of friends, and they fought evil, too, even though most of them didn’t have superpowers. The show could turn on a dime between genuinely creepy (the Gentlemen), hilarious (kitten Poker), and tragic (Buffy’s mom’s death). Sometimes it was all of those things at once. Yet my belief in the universe Joss Whedon created never wavered. Real life is like that too, sometimes. It’s a drama and a comedy tumbled together. 

So, if you’re like me, you’re always on the prowl for something that reminds you of Buffyin some way. Maybe it’s the whip-smart dialogue, the bone-deep shudders, the doomed romance, the heartening sight of friends banding together to fight evil, or the sorrow that comes with death and regret. Maybe – if you’re lucky- it’s all of those things. 

Today, you’re in luck. I present to you 13 titles that capture some part of the Buffyspirit. The show might be over, but we will read on. 

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish MacBride

Eighteen year-old Sam is working at a fast-food restaurant in Seattle when he discovers his long-hidden true identity – he is a necromancer. Not only that, he and his new friends might be the only people who can stop an evil necromancer on the loose in the city, a necromancer who wants to recruit Sam and use him for his own nefarious ends. With plenty of paranormal activity, Whedon-esque dialogue, and a reluctant hero leading a ragtag group of friends in the fight against evil, this novel is a perfect match for Buffyfans.
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
From the moment readers meet pink-loving Evie, you know she and Buffy would get on like a house on fire, whether they were naming their favorite weapons, trying on dresses, or kicking evil’s butt. Evie works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, and she is not impressed by vampire posturing. She does, however, long for a normal life and maybe even a nice guy to go with her to prom. Too bad her destiny always gets in the way. Rejoice, readers: this is also the first book in a series.
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
After an unfortunate incident at prom reveals Sophie’s identity as a witch to the non-magical world, her single mother has no choice but to pack her off to Hex Hall, a reform school for troubled witches, wizards, and other creatures. There, Sophie makes enemies (a trio of Mean Girls worthy of Cordelia) friends (vampire roommate and fellow outcast Jenna), and tries to stop a series of attacks on her fellow students. But could Jenna be the attacker, or is something more sinister going on? Why are Sophie’s powers so different from her classmates’? And why do the hottest warlocks always have to be jerks? Sophie’s snarky voice is the perfect counterpoint to the creepy goings-on, and fans will be glad to know this book is the first in a series.
White Cat by Holly Black
Rather than alcohol being banned during Prohibition, in Black’s world, it’s magic that’s against the law. Skip forward to the present day. Cassel is the only non-magical member of his family of curse-working con artists and underworld henchmen. He also might be a murderer. At least, he remembers killing his best friend Lila all those years ago.  But when he starts sleepwalking and dreaming about a white cat – a cat that somehow reminds him of Lila – he starts to wonder if things are really what they seem. This first entry in the Curseworkersseries shares its tone with some of the more serious Buffy episodes, though there are plenty of creepy-funny moments sprinkled in. Lovers of Buffy’s darker shades and Anya fans will fly through this series.
Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce
Sisters Scarlet and Rosie March are werewolf hunters. But these are no Zen Oz-werewolves; these are bloodthirsty monsters that stalk young women throughout the city of Atlanta. The sisters struggle with guilt, obligation, their own dark pasts, and, of course, axes as the werewolves run rampant. The final fiery showdown is worthy of one of Buffy’s fights with the Big Bad, and so is the combination of sibling rivalry and affection.
Devilish by Maureen Johnson
Buffy aficionados know better than anyone that demons can bring some high comedy. That is definitely the case in the story of outsider Jane and her best friend Allison, who attend a Catholic girls’ school. When Allison suddenly becomes popular overnight and starts ignoring Jane in favor of the (definitely demonic) Lanalee, Jane knows that she has to save her friend and her friend’s soul. What she doesn’t yet know is how high the stakes are and what the deadly Poodle Prom has in store. Devilish has Maureen Johnson’s characteristic quirk and wit, this time with supernatural elements. Those who enjoy it should look into her new Shades of London series, as well.
Rampant by Diana Peterfreund
Buffy always turned our assumptions about good and evil on their heads, and Peterfreund does the same here with unicorns. There is some truth to the old legends – only virgins can capture the creatures – but these unicorns are no harbingers of sweetness and innocence. They are venomous beasts who have no problem chowing down on humans with their razor-sharp teeth. When one of them attacks Astrid’s boyfriend, she finds herself shipped off to Italy to become part of a secret society that trains girls to become unicorn hunters. Is this sounding awesome yet? What are you waiting for? Go find a copy. Run like killer unicorns are chasing you!
House of Ivy & Sorrow by Natalie Whipple
This one’s for the Scoobies. For young witch Josephine Hemlock, magic is about family and sacrifice. Haunted by a curse that killed her mother, Jo struggles to keep both her friends and family safe from the evil that has descended on her quaint, sleepy town. But can she protect everyone and stay alive? Can she afford to accept her friends’ help, even if it puts them in danger? If you enjoy this stand-alone, you’ll want to check out Whipple’s other fun, well-crafted novels.
Vampire Knight by Matsuri Hino
Novels aren’t the only medium carrying on the Buffyspirit. This manga series follows Yuki Cross, adopted daughter of the headmaster at Cross Academy, where she also works as a guardian. Why does her boarding school need pistol-toting guardians? Because it is populated by both a “Day Class” of humans and a “Night Class” of vampires. Yuki was almost killed by a vampire when she was a child, so she knows better than anyone that when the two classes cross paths, there’s bound to be trouble. The only question is, can she and the other school guardians stop it?
Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink
This first book in a series by the same name takes sibling rivalry to the next level with the tale of twins Lia and Alice, one good and one completely, irrevocably evil. After the death of their father, the girls discover their part in a prophecy that could bring about the end of the world. One sister has the power to unleash evil upon the world, and another has the power to seal the entrance to the underworld for good – but who is who?

The Archived by Victoria Schwab

In Schwab’s world, the dead and their memories become Histories, stored in the Archive and watched over by Keepers and Librarians. Mackenzie Bishop has always wanted to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps and become a Keeper, guiding confused and violent Histories back to their resting place. Since the death of her younger brother, though, things have become more complicated, especially when Mac discovers someone has been erasing the memories from Histories and her new home might be the sight of a long-ago murder. The gorgeous prose and singularly unsettling setting should please lovers of all things creepy.
Chime by Franny Billingsley

Briony is haunted by secrets and guilt. She’s a witch, and, after all, witches deserve death in her turn-of-the-century English town of Swampsea. But with the help of Elderic, one of the few locals who doesn’t shun the swamp, and the love her sister Rose, Briony begins to unravel the mystery of her family’s past and her stepmother’s death, something she has always thought was her fault. Rich, quirky writing and a beautifully dark atmosphere set this stand-alone novel apart.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

If you were a fan of the way Buffy explored the sometime-blurry line between good and evil, you’ll love this first book in Laini Taylor’s dark fantasy trilogy. Karou has grown up in Prague, spending her days as an art student, but going home to an avuncular, tooth-collecting Chimera named Brimstone each evening. Karou doesn’t know why Brimstone needs human teeth or how she ended up with hamsas tattooed on her palms, but when she starts finding handprints seared into doors all over the city and is nearly killed by a beautiful, deadly angel named Akiva, the mysteries of her everyday life begin to connect with her long-forgotten past. 

Meet Our Guest Blogger:
Alexandra Duncan is a writer and librarian. Her first novel, Salvage, was published by Greenwillow Books in April 2014. Her short fiction has appeared in several Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy anthologies and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. She loves anything that gets her hands dirty – pie-baking, leatherworking, gardening, drawing, and rolling sushi. She lives with her husband and two monstrous, furry cats in the mountains of Western North Carolina. You can find her online on her web site, Twitter, and Facebook.
About Salvage:
Salvage is a thrilling, surprising, and thought-provoking debut novel that will appeal to fans of Across the Universe, by Beth Revis, and The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood. This is literary science fiction with a feminist twist, and it explores themes of choice, agency, rebellion, and family.

Ava, a teenage girl living aboard the male-dominated, conservative deep space merchant ship Parastrata, faces betrayal, banishment, and death. Taking her fate into her own hands, she flees to the Gyre, a floating continent of garbage and scrap in the Pacific Ocean.

This is a sweeping and harrowing novel about a girl who can’t read or write or even withstand the forces of gravity. What choices will she make? How will she build a future on an earth ravaged by climate change?

Named by the American Booksellers Association as a Spring 2014 Indies Introduce Pick. (Publisher’s Description)

Karen’s Thoughts: Both Robin and I have read this book and it is fantastic feminist Sci Fi with a female character and an intriguing storyline. It gets bonus points for the epic  adventure through space that our main character takes. Salvage would actually make another great read for Buffy fans looking for a strong female lead!

Starting a Vampire Book Club, a guest post by Carrie (The Sunnydale Project Year 3)

Back when Edward Cullen was at his very sparkliest, I was teaching English at an all-girls high school. I have never seen anything like it. Spontaneous character debates broke out in class and my pro-Jacob leanings earned me some enemies (I make no apologies. He was WARM and could FIX THINGS). Whispers of “Team Edward” followed me down the hallways. Backpacks were heavy with books and my heart was light: kids were READING. 
 I do not want to bag on Twilight. It got kids to read, and that is an amazing and admirable thing. We should never shame anybody for reading whatever they damn well please, and the reason I wanted my students to go beyond Bella wasn’t that I thought Twilightwas a “bad book,” it was because I wanted them to realize that it wasn’t the ONLY book, that they could keep having that incredible experience of being immersed in another world, over and over again, for the rest of their lives.
I also wanted to give them more characters who could help them navigate their lives with confidence and courage. When I looked at the students in my class I saw smart, strong, funny, kick-ass young women who could change the world. I also saw vulnerable kids fending off endless online approaches by strange men and whose boyfriends demanded they get Brazilians before the big dance. (And that’s just the stuff I knew about.) They needed somebody fierce to help guide them.
So I gave them Buffy.
First, I started a vampire book club. It would be totes legit, I assured my skeptical colleagues: We would investigate vampire myths! We would explore the genre! We would move on to classic literature and soon the girls would be gushing about gothic novels instead of Edward’s abs…
Yeah, none of that really happened. 
Image from Muppet Wikia

They did read some new books, and a few even tackled Dracula. We discussed how vampire myths are tied to the Count on Sesame Street and we had a good time, but it never felt like enough. I was entertaining them, sure, but I wasn’t giving them any characters or ideas they could take away and hold close to bring out when they felt scared or unsure. I wondered about this in my three minutes of free time a week (#teacherlife) and decided I was being unrealistic. Maybe what I wanted to give them didn’t really exist – or maybe it wasn’t even mine to give.

We met during lunchtimes and after a few months the girls decided that watching some vampire videos would really “help with their understanding,” and, coincidentally, they just happened to have The Vampire Diariesright here.  
“No!” I said, desperately fighting to maintain control of my creation. “Come back tomorrow and we will watch the best show about vampires that ever has been, is, or will be.”
And that’s how my book club turned into a Buffy club.
None of the students had seen it before, and after a few “look at baby Booth” giggles they settled in. In fact, they were hooked. Once a week wasn’t enough for them anymore: soon they were knocking everyday on the staffroom door, eyes shining and hands outstretched, pleading for the next episode.
They cheered when Buffy told Angel that being stalked “isn’t exactly a big turn on for girls” and they cried when he lost his soul and Buffy realized when she would have to do to stop him. A lot of the references flew past them (New Zealand teenagers have never seen the softer side of Sears) but it didn’t matter: the characters and the themes were relatable and timeless. They got it. Buffy was in their heads and she’d be there, making bad puns and refusing to back down, whenever they needed a boost of confidence.
I left the classroom but stayed in town and I still run into the Buffy girls every now and again. One of them served me a coffee a year later and told me she and a few friends had pooled their money to buy all five seasons of Angel. At the New Zealand film festival screening of Much Ado About Nothing I waved across the room to a group of them, giddy with excitement and dressed to the nines in honor of Joss Whedon’s latest production.
Buffy is not a perfect character. She is not the “anti-Bella” or the answer to every teenage girl’s problems. Nothing is that simple. But showing teenagers a brave, flawed, kind, strong, ass-kicking female character canmake a difference. Those students probably don’t remember all the stuff I spouted in class about visual and verbal language features (even I have blocked most of those memories) – but they do remember Buffy.
My vampire book club (like so many things in life and teaching) didn’t quite turn out the way I thought it would. We didn’t read as many books as I’d hoped, and I certainly can’t prove I upped any test scores. But it is one of my absolute favorite teaching memories, and I will always be grateful that Buffy was there when my students and I really needed her. 

Meet our guest blogger, Carrie Boufard
Bio: I’m a Vermonter in New Zealand who spends my days working with teachers and librarians to build strong reading cultures in schools and get students excited about books. I spend my nights writing middle grade stories and drinking lots of coffee. I’m repped by Carrie Howland, which makes me a very lucky writer indeed. I’m jumping back into social media after a break (there was a whole baby/sleep deprivation thing) and I would love to connect with you on my blog, Twitter, or Goodreads.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Validating Teens, a guest post by author Annie Cardi (The Sunnydale Project Year 3)

When I talk about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I talk about it as more than a show. I talk about it as a cultural and emotional touchstone in my life. I talk about it as the show that made me realize that growing up was going to be okay.
My middle school experience started with me spending a lot of time crying in the library, wearing formless JCPenney khakis, and feeling like I was the only one who was having a hard time with this whole ‘being a teenager’ thing while everyone else already had it mastered. Why were some friends suddenly popular? What exactly did boys and girls talk about when they were on the phone together? (“Homework?” I asked my mom.) How did everyone seem to have a chic new wardrobe? Did I forget to pick up my ‘How to Be a Successful Teenager’ manual at middle school orientation? Ideally it would be a manual based on Clueless or Beverly Hills 90210, both featuring popular teens with effortlessly cool wardrobes and good hair and hot boys fawning over them. That’s what I was supposed to have now that I was a teenager, right? So why did it seem so impossible?
Image from giphy.com
Then Buffy premiered. I remembered seeing commercials for the movie, but didn’t know much about it other than the girl-fights-vampires premise. They were making a TV show from that failed, silly movie? I turned on the premiere, pretending I just stumbled across it and told myself I’d change the channel in case my brother walked in the room and decided to make fun of me for checking it out.
But it wasn’t silly—it and witty and creepy and exciting, and it was so refreshing to see a teen girl literally save the world. Beyond that, it was a show about how a) high school is hell, and b) it’s okay to be an outsider.

Every week, Buffy and the Scoobies battled monsters and demons who reflected the awkwardness and pain of the teen experience. Parents can be domineering and abusive (“Witch”); your boyfriend could be sweet one day and a total dick the next (“Innocence”); kids get kicked out of their houses (“Becoming – Part 2”). Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the first show I’d seen that admitted that the teen years could, as Buffy herself would say “on occasion, suck beyond the telling of it.” Adults are quick to say that, “It’s not the end of the world, get over it,” but those are empty words when you’re dealing with soul-sucking pain. For Buffy and her friends, every week felt like the end of the world because it was. Even if I wasn’t dealing with a literal hellmouth opening up beneath me, it was validating to see a show that acknowledged that feeling.
And unlike my other middle school favorite, Clueless, Buffy isn’t about a perfect, popular girl’s struggles. Buffy is classically pretty and formerly popular, but where she really finds her place is among the weirdos. Even better, Buffy the Vampire Slayer never looked down on the kids who didn’t fit in. (Saved by the Bell, I love you, but you were seriously obnoxious when it came to depicting nerds.) The show fully recognized that being a nerd is powerful—Buffy could never save the world from apocalypse without the major research skills of Giles and magical/science abilities of Willow behind her. And friendships aren’t based on who has a chic wardrobe or a hot boyfriend—they’re formed by people who will stand by you, even at the end of the world. (Xander Harris and his broken crayon speech in “Grave” kills me.) The popular kids may win Prom King or Queen, but the weirdo hero wins Class Protector. Buffy showed me that it’s okay if you don’t fit in with the popular kids; your friends are the ones who will hang out with you at the library, cheer for your Snoopy dance and help you study for the hell of standardized tests.
Image from Giphy.com
 13-year-old me embraced this weird little show on the WB and all it showed me about the teen experience. And soon I found other people who loved the show and who occasionally felt like high school was hell. As Buffy went to prom, went to college, went to the afterlife and back, and ultimately found a place for herself, we were there with her. We stood at the edge of Sunnydale and looked back and smiled, and knew that we were stronger for having been a small part of this show.
In every generation, there are teens who need something that’s theirs. That reminds them that being a teen is painful and joyful and confusing and awesome and hellish. For some, it’s a YA novel like Twilight or The Hunger Gamesor Harry Potter or The Fault in Our Stars. For me, it was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As a YA writer, I just want to pay this validation forward.
Bio: Annie Cardi holds an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College and a BA from the University of Virginia. Her short stories have appeared in the Georgetown ReviewVestal ReviewJuked, and other publications. In 2011, PEN New England selected her as a winner of the Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award for the manuscript that would become her debut young adult novel, The Chance You Won’t Return. Annie lives near Boston with her husband and a portrait of a sea captain. You can find her sharing funny gifs and pictures of corgis at:  Blog Facebook Twitter Tumblr.
About The Chance You Won’t Return:
When your mom thinks she’s Amelia Earhart, navigating high school, first love, and family secrets is like flying solo without a map.

Driver’s ed and a first crush should be what Alex Winchester is stressed out about in high school – and she is. But what’s really on her mind is her mother. Why is she dressing in Dad’s baggy khaki pants with a silk scarf around her neck? What is she planning when she pores over maps in the middle of the night? When did she stop being Mom and start being Amelia Earhart? Alex tries to keep her budding love life apart from the growing disaster at home as her mother sinks further into her delusions. But there are those nights, when everyone else is asleep, when it’s easier to confide in Amelia than it ever was to Mom. Now, as Amelia’s flight plans become more intense, Alex is increasingly worried that Amelia is planning her final flight – the flight from which she never returns. What could possibly be driving Mom’s delusions, and how far will they take her? (Publisher’s Description)

The Sunnydale Project: Celebrating Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Years 1 and 2 at TLT
Embrace the Slayer: Embrace (Jessica Shirvington) will make Buffy fans happy with Karen J
Who watches the Watchers? A guest post about librarians by Ilsa J. Bick and why Ashes is a great read for Buffy fans
Being the “Slayer” Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes with Karen J  
Buffy and the Reversal of Halloween, a guest post by Nancy Holder

Years 1 and 2 at Bookish Comforts
Slayer Saturday: Halloween Party, Buffy Style
Buffy the Vampire Slayer 10+ Years Later: The Joss Factor
Season 4 Episode “Hush” Picture Review
Watching Buffy as an Adult… and Loving It!
Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Feminism: An Analysis & Discussion, Part 2
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Feminism, Gender & Sexuality: An Analysis & Discussion, Part 1
Buffyisms: Season 3
My Favourite Buffy Episode: Smashed (6×09)
Trivia Tuesday: BtVS Season 2
“Everyone Forgets, Willow, Knowledge is the Ultimate Weapon”: Buffy & Academia
Buffyisms: Season 2
Trivia Tuesday: BtVS Season 1
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Companions: A Buying Guide
Slayer Saturday: Season 1
Fangirl Friday: Art
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Books & Covers
Buffyisms: Season 1
Trivia Tuesday: General Buffy the Vampire Slayer Facts
Review: Blood and Fog (BTVS, Season 6) by Nancy Holder
“Love Makes You Do the Wacky”: How Buffy Slayed My Heart
Welcome to the Hellmouth: The Sunnydale Project Schedule

The Buffy the Vampire Slayer Project Pinterest Board

Year 3 at Bookish Comforts
Monday – Welcome, Girls’ Stories: Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s World of Women (Sarah)
Tuesday –  Mixed Feelings on Spike’s Character (Bridgette)
Thursday- Teen Girls, Fandoms & Buffy (author Annie Cardi)
Friday – Are You Ready to Be Strong? Buffy & Strength (Justine)

Year 3 at TLT
Monday – Take 5: Why I Love Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Karen)
Tuesday – Buffy: Validating Teens (author Annie Cardi)
Wednesday – Starting a Vampire Book Club (Carrie)
Thursday – BtVS Read-a-Likes (author Alexandra Duncan) and more read-a-likes (Karen)

Friday – Buffy: My First Big Fandom (Cindy)

Take 5: Why I Love Buffy the Vampire Slayer (The Sunnydale Project Year 3)

Today we kick off the 3rd year of The Sunnydale Project with Rachelia at Bookish Comforts, where we celebrate all things Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Today I thought I would start by telling you why I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It goes beyond the quips and snark, which are in fact truly excellent.

Buffy: A New Kind of Hero

As someone who reads on the Internet a lot, one of the complaints you’ll read over and over again is the lack of female superheroes. Where IS the Black Widow movie, people ask? Why can’t they get a Superwoman reboot off the ground? Buffy, I would argue, is in fact a superhero. She has special powers. She fights evil. She has to make incredible sacrifices to do it. She tries to keep her identity as the Slayer secret. Etc.

Buffy is also a complex hero. She makes sacrifices, but not always gracefully and sometimes not without complaining about it. She is allow by the writers to mourn the sacrifices – the moments and relationships – that she has to sacrifice in order to keep the world safe.

And the best part is, she gets to do all this with a sense of style. She is strong, she is fierce, but she also likes to go shopping for a great pair of shoes. In order to make her appear as a strong female, the writers don’t force her to give up some of the more simple pleasures of life. Sure you could argue that it’s stereotypical to have a female character who likes clothes and shoes, but the truth is that a lot of women do in fact like to go shopping, they like to wear nice clothes and shoes, they like to accessorize. And a lot of men do as well. I love that the writers were able to present us with a hero that had a fierce edge who wasn’t totally asked to sacrifice the idea of femininity. Buffy is both strong and feminine, whereas a lot of female characters who are written as strong tend to come across as being more what we consider traditionally masculine.

Giles speaking to Angel about Buffy: I’m glad that you’re watching out for her, but I feel I should remind you that she’s not helpless and it’s not your job to keep her safe.

The other great thing about Buffy is that she was also very much a teenager. She whined. She pouted. She was full of angst. She worried about things like dating and prom. Thus much like Harry in the Harry Potter books, she is a hero that is also more developmentally accurate. Even though she wasn’t played by a teen, Buffy the character was very much a developing teen and seeing her balance those struggles against the life of a hero made for some interesting storytelling.

Giles: A New Kind of Librarian

Willow: “Once again I’m banished to the demon section of the card catalog.”

Find out more about the school library at Buffy Wikia (image from Buffy Wikia)

I don’t know how you can watch Buffy and not fall in love with Giles. Sure, Giles had a locked cage with prohibited access to a large number of books, which I am fundamentally opposed to as a librarian. Plus, sometimes students got locked into this cage. Sure, they were deadly and dangerous, sometimes even werewolves, but it seems like a bit much for a library. And the ways in which he taught the Scooby gang their basic research skills is kind of questionable. But he grew a lot as a character over the years. He came to love Buffy and her friends. He began to stand up to the council and the authority and the tradition that they used to try and manipulate the slayer. Giles is by no means an example of a good librarian – were there ever any students besides the Scooby gang even in his library? – but he was a great example of a caring adult and mentor. And he got some truly great lines.

Cordelia: Perhaps the Best Character Arc of All

When we first met Cordelia she was a stereotypically shallow, vapid and quintessential mean girl. A cheerleader even, just to drive the stereotype home. But man that girl had some tremendous character growth over the years on both Buffy and Angel. I can count the number of female characters that have exhibited such tremendous growth on a TV series on one hand sometimes it seems. Certainly Carol from The Walking Dead is another example. But Cordelia went from worrying about her reputation to developing true compassion for others and the state of the world. Sometimes she would still hide it behind the veneer of her clothing, but she still kept showing up at the library to be a part of the fight. I loved Cordelia’s story perhaps more than any other characters. The writers managed to do something remarkable, take this girl that we all loathed and detested and turn her into her own type of hero. Also, check out these fun Cordelia Chase quotes as motivational posters at Buzzfeed.

The Idea of Sacrifice: “She Saved the World. A lot.”

We live in a world that can trap you under its dangerous and false mottos: Look out for number one. You Only Live Once. Live for the Moment.

One of the major themes of Buffy, I would argue, is the value of sacrifice. Every single character is forced to make sacrifices of some kind in order to keep the world safe. Sometimes those sacrifices may seem small, a first date. At other times they are the most costly sacrifices of all: Having, for example, to kill the man you love in order to literally save the entire world. Buffy isn’t just kicking vampire ass and taking names, she is reminding us all that success involves training and practice and commitment, and sometimes sacrifice. Sometimes we are forced to make difficult decisions and the right way is often not the easiest way. Sometimes doing the right thing means having to sacrifice your time, your talents, your comfort. I think the world would be a better place if we were all willing to sacrifice a little more every day to make it so.

Family is More than Blood

One of the running themes through the Joss Whedonverse is the idea that family isn’t just the people you share blood with. Willow, Xander, Cordelia, Oz, Anya, Tara – they all became family to one another. They all failed each other miserably at one point or another, then they chose to forgive and keep being family. As a kid, my parents divorced and we moved around a lot. By the time I graduated high school I had attended 9 different schools. The fact that Buffy could transfer to a new high school and build these friendships for herself was the most life affirming message someone like me could ever hope to see on my television screen.

This past summer, I rewatched all of Buffy with my girls. Well, to be honest, I did skip an episode here and there in the last couple of seasons. I know that there are people who would find this thought appalling. I was once told by one of my Sunday school teen’s parents that I was a bad spiritual leader because I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Some people may look at it and see a show with violence and demons, but I look at it and see an empowering show that features a strong, sympathetic female lead who is able to build for herself in love and commitment a strong family that practices the art of forgiveness and sacrifice. Like all of us, they are imperfect humans trying to figure out how to live this thing we call life, but they offer themselves and others grace time and time again. They are, in fact, really great and realistic examples of what being a good person is all about. And they do it all with some of the best quips imaginable.

Now it’s your turn, are you a Buffy fan? Tell us your reasons in the comments. Also, please feel free to share your favorite characters, moments and more.

There will be new posts everyday here at TLT and at Bookish Comforts as part of The Sunnydale Project. I’ll link to all of the posts to make sure you don’t miss them. Guest bloggers include authors Alexandra Duncan and Annie Cardi, as well as some of my favorite author librarians, readers and Buffy fans. You can join in on the conversation by using the hashtag #SunnydaleProject.

Buffy Guest Posts this week at Bookish Comforts
Monday – Welcome,  Girls’ Stories: Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s World of Women (Sarah)
Tuesday –  Mixed Feelings on Spike’s Character (Bridgette)
Wednesday – “It’s not noise! It’s music!” Music & BtVS (Rachelia)
Thursday- Teen Girls, Fandoms & Buffy (author Annie Cardi)
Friday – Are You Ready to Be Strong? Buffy & Strength (Justine)

Buffy Guest Posts this week at TLT
Tuesday – Buffy: Validating Teens (author Annie Cardi)
Wednesday – Starting a Vampire Book Club (Carrie)
Thursday – BtVS Read-a-Likes (author Alexandra Duncan)
Friday – Buffy: My First Big Fandom (Cindy)

Coming Soon: The Third Sunndaydale Project, celebrating all things Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and you can join!)

We’re doing it again! Going to Sunnydale, that is, and celebrating all things Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And if you like Buffy, you can join us. During the week of October 27th through the 31st, we’re hosting our third Sunnydale Project. Who is we? Rachelia at Bookish Comforts and Teen Librarian Toolbox. 

Do you want to write a post and pontificate on all things Buffy and Joss Whedon related? This is your chance. Let us know by the end of September by leaving a comment below with contact information or emailing me directly at kjensenmls at yahoo dot com. You can talk about the show, the characters, the writing, or more. Share great programming and craft related ideas. Or create a list of YA lit titles that you think Buffy fans might want to read. You can post on your blog and we’ll cross post some of them here at TLT and some of them at Bookish Comforts, linking back to your blog as well, of course. If you don’t have a blog don’t worry, you can still participate – we’d be glad to share your post and give you a chance to share your Buffy thoughts.

Oh and look, if you sign up feel free to grab a button. We have buttons!

Here’s a look at some of the previous year’s events and posts from TLT:

10 Things I Learned from Buffy with Christie G X Marks the Spot: Family in the Buffyverse with Karen J Necromancing the Slayer: Hold Me Closer Necromancer (Lish McBride) will make Buffy fans happy with Karen J (Saturday Scavenger Hunt) Embrace the Slayer: Embrace (Jessica Shirvington) will make Buffy fans happy with Karen J (Saturday Scavenger Hunt) Who watches the Watchers? A guest post about librarians by Ilsa J. Bick and why Ashes is a great read for Buffy fans (Saturday Scavenger Hunt) Being the “Slayer” Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes with Karen J Down the Zombie Hole: Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter
Sometimes the girl gets to be the hero, Buffy as a feminist hero by Molly Wetta
10 YA Books that Buffy Fans will want to Read Buffy on the page and on the screen, seasons 8 and 9 by Maria Selke Buffy and the Reversal of Halloween, a guest post by Nancy Holder

Previous posts from Bookish Comforts:

Slayer Saturday: Halloween Party, Buffy Style
Buffy the Vampire Slayer 10+ Years Later: The Joss Factor
Season 4 Episode “Hush” Picture Review
Watching Buffy as an Adult… and Loving It!
Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Feminism: An Analysis & Discussion, Part 2
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Feminism, Gender & Sexuality: An Analysis & Discussion, Part 1
Buffyisms: Season 3
My Favourite Buffy Episode: Smashed (6×09)
Trivia Tuesday: BtVS Season 2
“Everyone Forgets, Willow, Knowledge is the Ultimate Weapon”: Buffy & Academia
Buffyisms: Season 2
Trivia Tuesday: BtVS Season 1
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Companions: A Buying Guide
Slayer Saturday: Season 1
Fangirl Friday: Art
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Books & Covers
Buffyisms: Season 1
Trivia Tuesday: General Buffy the Vampire Slayer Facts
Review: Blood and Fog (BTVS, Season 6) by Nancy Holder
“Love Makes You Do the Wacky”: How Buffy Slayed My Heart
Welcome to the Hellmouth: The Sunnydale Project Schedule

The Buffy the Vampire Slayer Project Pinterest Board

This might even require a Buffy re-watch. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

Sunday Reflections: I’m Holding Out for a (Female) Superhero!

The Tween read each & every comic book yesterday

Yesterday was Free Comic Book Day and I celebrated – with my Tween daughter – by handing out free comic books at my library. The night before I took her little sister to see the new Spider-Man movie. We’re pretty big superhero fans in this house. In fact, we watch The Avengers movie a couple of times a month. Which is why I can’t help but wish that someone would remember that girls can be a superhero too.

Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Superman, Spider-man . . . they all get their own superhero movies. But female superheroes, they get to be part of a team. Yes, there are female superheroes (ish) in The Avengers movie (my husband argues though that Black Widow is not an Avenger but an agent of Shield). And yes, there are superheroes in the X-men movies. But there are no female led superhero movies. Where is Wonder Woman? Well, it was previously in development but it is now dead, dead, dead and they say it is never going to happen. There is talk that there may be a Black Widow movie, but there is nothing in development right now.

For a brief moment I, the superhero fan, was excited when my friend and fellow librarian Maria Selke tweeted me a picture of an ALA reading incentive campaign with a variety of posters.  And then Robin tweeted me, “Psssst, where is Black Widow?”  Where IS Black Widow? Or any female superhero.  ALA is an organization that prides itself on diversity; it is one of the library’s fundamental rallying cries. And yet here is an entire read campaign that utilized nothing except for white men to promote reading. I mean, I guess there is diversity if you consider the fact that the Hulk does turn green and Thor is quite literally from another planet. That part was sarcasm, for the record.  But they could have included Black Widow and The Falcon. And with the new X-men movie coming out, there are a variety of women to choose from there as well.

ALA Catalog Image Tweeted by Maria Selke @mselke01

At the same time, Maria brought a Scholastic reading campaign to my attention. Yep, same problem. In fact, basically the same superheroes.

I will say in their defense that after we started Tweeting at Scholastic about our concern about this campaign, they did inform us that they were only given a select few superheroes to choose from and that they would take our concerns to the marketing team.  Imagine though what a statement it would have made when given those choices from either Marvel or Disney, who holds the copyright to the Marvel universe, if they had said I’m sorry we can’t work with you under these terms because it is direct contradiction with our core value and commitment to diversity. If more and more of us start making those kinds of statements, perhaps then we can see greater change in the ways women, people of color and other marginalized people groups are represented in the media.

And make no mistake about it, representation does matter. I watched Wonder Woman on TV as a young girl (not that young!) and it is empowering to see a female superhero. It is empowering for little girls to see themselves represented in these positive ways. And yes, I’m totally going to ignore the incredibly sexualized and impractical costume for the moment. Just as it is empowering for children of color to see Falcon in the new Captain America movie.

The 5-year-old dressed up as Spider-Man

More importantly, seeing a broader scope of people in the media encourages empathy to those that are different than us. When we continually focus on men as superheroes, white men, it communicates that all others have less worth. This becomes the standard, the ideal. Anything that doesn’t fit into this standard is seen as less than worthy. That’s the message that is communicated to our young, impressionable generation when they continually see such a strong emphasis on one type of person. Representation is one of the most significant tools we can use to help promote kindness, equality, and mutual respect.

I want in my lifetime to take my girls to see a movie that features a female superhero. I want them to walk out of that theater inspired, empowered, and hopeful. And I want fathers to take their sons to a female superhero movie so that their sons will grow up respecting and valuing woman as equal members of the human race. And I want people who are in the position to put together these reading incentive campaigns to remember ALL little kids, every single one of them, and to demand better representation.

It’s easy to look at the success of the Marvel universe and think, we need to tap into that. But true change comes when we take the harder road sometimes and demand more from those who are still failing to understand what the world we live in today looks like. If we care about our future, we need to work on the messages we are sending today. And this is why diversity matters.

The title for this post was inspired by the Bonnie Tyler song Holding Out for a Hero.

In the meantime, I guess we’ll keep watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Although I can’t help but think we’ve gone backwards since that revolutionary show reminded us all that girls could kick butt too.

For more on these topics, see these posts:
“If she can’t see it, she can’t be it”
Beth Revis: I See You, Representation Matters (great post, read it)
Ramp Your Voice: Why Representation Matters in Children’s Books and Media
Actually, just Google “representation matters” for lots of great posts

More Diversity at TLT:
Racial Stereotyping in YA Literature
Race Reflections, Take II
Building Bridges to Literacy for African American Male Youth Summit recap, part 1
Friday Reflections: Talking with Hispanic/Latino Teens about YA Lit
See also the Diversity in YA Tumblr by Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo

More on Gender and Sexuality at TLT:
I’m Just a Girl? Gender issues in YA Lit
Girls Against Girls
Teach Me How to Live: talking with guys about ya lit with Eric Devine
Let’s Hear It for the Boys: Boys and body image
Who Will Save You? Boundaries, Rescue and the Role of Adults in the Lives of Teens
The Curious Case of the Gender Based Assignment 

You want to put WHAT in my YA?
Taking a Stand for What You Believe In
Annie on My Mind and Banned Books Week on My Calendar
Queer (a book review)
Top 10: For Annie and Liza (Annie on My Mind)

Sunday Reflections: Watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer with Fresh Eyes

I am a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan. So huge that we have had entire time periods here dedicated to it. So I was very excited when the Tween asked a couple of weeks ago if she could watch Buffy and I decided that yes, she was probably old enough for the first couple of seasons.

It has been interesting to watch it again for the first time through fresh eyes. When Buffy first came on I was in college. my high school days long past. But the Tween is just on the verge of teenagerdom, the high school years yet to come. Sometimes it has been awkward (“Mom, why are they always kissing?”, “Wait, did they just have sex?”), sometimes it has been funny, (“I like Xander, he says funny stuff.”) and sometimes it has led to some great and important dialogue – mainly about standing up for yourself, empowering messages that we don’t give to girls often enough I believe. Girls so often are taught to be demure, to shrink, to smile, to be nice, to be ladylike – with ladylike implying easy to get along with. But there are so many moments in life where standing up for yourself – and what is right – is so important. And I feel that Buffy is helping me show my daughter that she can be strong, powerful, confident, and believe in herself.

GIF Source Page Here

Yesterday we came to the end of season two and the beginning of season three. If you don’t know and don’t want to be spoiled, then stop reading because HERE BE SPOILERS aplenty.

For those of you who have seen the show or don’t mind being spoiled, here’s a recap: Angel is now Angelus and he is opening the gates of hell, the only way to stop it once it begins to open is by killing Angel. That’s how season 2 ends, with Buffy being forced to kill the man she loves in order to stop the destruction of the entire world. When we meet her again in season 3, it is in an episode called Anne where Buffy is trying to deal with emotional aftermath of what has happened; she has run away and is living on her own. As a side note, this theme is mirrored in ways in the Doctor Who episode The Snowmen when after suffering great emotional loss, the Doctor runs away, denies who he is, and must be reminded before he again decides to return to helping others.

But back to Buffy . . .

At the end of season 2, in Becoming, Part 2, Angel and Buffy are fighting. Buffy appears in every way to be losing this fight. Then Angel comes at her with a sword and taunts, “No weapons, no friends, no hope. Take that all away and what’s left?” he asks. And she looks him right in the eye and says, “Me.” That’s it, one single word. But such a powerful message. Take everything else away, she has herself.

And when we meet her again in Anne, she seems to have forgotten this message. She is lost, using her middle name, denying her destiny, trying to handle life alone. She runs into a girl she knows from before who is now going by the name Lily. Lily is a lost girl who takes on the identity those around her wish her to take. She has no strong sense of self and, just wanting to find someone to love her and a place to belong, she is willing to become whatever she thinks she needs to become to fill that emptiness in her.

She is soon recruited into what seems at first a religious, self-help themed cult but because this is Buffy they are of course demons. But like cults and other groups of this sort, they gain their power by purposefully preying on the weak and the lost and here we find an amazing example of not only empowerment, but a stark reminder that people in power like to disenfranchise the “other” and strip them of their identity and hope to make them easier to control. These kids are lined up in sack cloth like garments and a demon comes to each one of them and asks, “Who are you?”  And each one in turn replies, “No one.” They give this answer in part out of fear, because they know it is the right answer to give to keep themselves alive. But they also give this answer because they have come through the courses of their life to believe it to be true.

But then the demon comes to Buffy/Anne and asks, “Who are you?” And she confidently and defiantly raises her head and says, “I’m Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Then she proceeds to kick some ass because that is what vampire slayers do.

GIF Source Page Here

And then, the head demon guy grabs Lilly and threatens to kill her – to kill them all – if they continue to fight back. There is a pause while everyone is forced to consider, what are we willing to sacrifice for true freedom? But then Lilly answers for herself by pushing the demon and signalling that the revolution must continue. She takes a stand in that moment for herself. She chooses to be brave. She chooses action over inaction, knowing that the costs could be high.

As I watched this with my daughter, I was glad that we got to see this moment of empowerment. And it clearly demonstrates that life – knowing yourself, standing up for yourself – isn’t always easy. Buffy gets lost several times along the way throughout the course of the show. She makes some bad decisions. The people in her life that love her often make bad decisions. But they keep regrouping, both personally and as a family unit. That too is an important message, forgiveness, both of self and others. You don’t have to stay stuck in a moment, you can choose to move forward.

Buffy is not a perfect show, and no show is. For example, Buffy is punished in the worst ways imaginable for deciding to be a sexual creature. And I would argue that in that moment the shows creators also make the mistake of conflating sex with love/happiness. And later in the series Xander is raped by Faith who is inhabiting Buffy’s body and if I am remembering correctly they never call it rape. And I have a really hard time watching episodes after the attempted rape by Spike.

But for its sometimes faults, it is so powerful to have this show which focuses on the life of a female superhero (and yes, she is a superhero) in such realistic and empowering ways. I love those moments on the show when she looked and basically said, no matter what I always have me.  And then the next episode came around and reinforced that message. I want my daughter – all daughters really – to know that no matter what, they always have themselves and that is worth everything. I want my daughter to be like Buffy, because when we fail our daughter’s we risk them becoming like the Lilly’s of the world and that puts them in great personal danger. Plus, when we teach our daughters to be Buffy, we might just help be saving the world. A lot.