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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 I stamped them withdrawn.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.

Five by Five: 5 Speculative Fiction and 5 Contemporary Fiction Books that Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fans Should Read

As a Buffy fan, I will often finish a book and think to myself, that would be a great book for Buffy fans. Sometimes the connections are obvious – vampires, zombies and demons, oh my! Sometimes it has more to do with the tone or the characters. The cast of Buffy had a certain snark about them that not every author can do, so when I find it done well in a book I’m always a little bit tickled. Sometimes, however, the book may not have a touch of paranormal in it at all, but it just reminds me of situations that Buffy and her friends had to deal with – like relationships or grief. So to add more great YA reads to Alexandra Duncan’s list from earlier today, I present you with Five by Five (Buffy fans will know what this means) – 5 more paranormal/speculative fiction titles and 5 contemporary titles that Buffy fans just may want to read.

5 Speculative/Paranormal YA Books for Buffy Fans

Unspoken by Sara Rees Brennan

Unspoken gets that balance of snark and pathos exactly right. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll curse Brennan for breaking your heart and then you’ll beg her for more. And then you’ll get ti because this is only the first book in a series. Kami Glass is in love with the voice in her head, and then one day he shows up. It turns out, he is real. And he is a part of the mysterious family whose secrets helped form the history of the town she lives in. When a body appears in the woods, Kami and her friends set out to discover the truth of the Lynburn Legacy. That’s the title of the series, by the way, The Lynburn Legacy.

Demon Derby by Carrie Harris

What if Buffy joined a roller derby team? That’s how this book reads. Casey joins a roller derby team for reasons, then it turns out not everyone on the team may be exactly what you might call human. Oh – and Harris does a great job creating a snarky, strong female lead that you’ll want to hang with.

Nobody by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Remember that episode of Buffy where the girl starts to literally become a ghost because she thinks nobody notices her – Out of Mind, Out of Sight? If you liked that episode, this is the book for you. Here two teens who are literally noticed by no one are on the run from people who want to use their ability and train them to be assassins. Jennifer Lynn Barnes wrote another great read-alike called Every Other Day that you’ll also want to check out. Every Other Day involves a lead character who fights demons like Buffy, but only every other day because on the other days, her powers seem to disappear.

Mortal Danger by Ann Aguirre

Technically, this is more an Angel read-alike. And when you get into the book and find out more, you’ll understand exactly why. In an effort to exact revenge against all those who almost drove her to commit suicide, Edie finds herself part of a game where she doesn’t know the players, has no idea what the rules are, and it turns out the stakes are really high.

Servants of the Storm by Delilah S. Dawson

This is hands down one of the freakiest and most atmospheric takes on demons I have ever read. A hurricane blows through town, killing Dovey’s best friend Carly. Except Dovey swears she just saw Carly. Soon Dovey is learning things about her town that she never would have imagined and trying to find a way to free her friend Carly from a life time of servitude to those who control the storms.

5 Contemporary YA Reads for Buffy Fans

Bleed Like Me by Christa Desir

Buffy may have been an awesome friend and slayer, but she had horrible luck with the men in her life. First Angel lost his soul and then, you know, stalked her and tried to kill her, but not until he tortured and killed some of her friends. And then there was Spike and their deeply disturbing sexual exploits after Buffy came back not quite right. Bleed Like Me is about an obsessive, unhealthy relationship. It also involves cutting. It’s a bold look at what happens when girls are willing to sacrifice themselves in the name of love that I think everyone should read.

Falling for You by Lisa Schroeder

This is another great read in the Buffy made the worst choices in relationships canon. Rae falls for Nathan. Nathan it turns out is very Angel without a soul/Spike like. She turns to a friend for support, Nathan is not willing to give up so easily.

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

Perhaps one of the most celebrated relationships on Buffy the Vampire Slayer was that of Willow and Tara. It took them a while to come together and their relationship was strained – as all relationships are – by a variety of life experiences. Tara had her own past that she had to wrestle with. Willow was just coming off of a broken relationship. Everything Leads to You by LaCour is a beautiful story about two people eventually coming together, even as they must try and figure out who they are on their own.

Death, Dickinson and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torress Sanchez

For me, the most profound episode of Buffy ever was The Body. Suddenly, our little gang was shattered to the very core of their being by this very tragic loss. Anya trying to make sense of this sudden change and the very Anya way in which she expresses her emotions just guts you to the core. Like our Scooby gang, Frenchie Garcia is struggling to understand a recent death. You see, a boy she has always crushed on killed himself – after spending his last night with Frenchie. With the help of a new found friend, Frenchie retraces their steps on that last night of his life to see if she can try to understand what happened, what she might have missed. Because she should have seen something, right? Some clue that this was going to happen so that maybe she could help him.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Although Buffy had a variety of ghosts, goblins and demons, at the heart of the story it was always about real life. Trying to fit in, finding yourself, working through relationships – these are all the underlying themes of Buffy. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson is a beautifully told story about grief and forgiveness, two themes that came up frequently on Buffy. A sister and a brother, twins, are left reeling after the loss of their mother. The mother’s ghost may or may not be appearing to help the sister work through that grief so that these siblings can forgive each other and find a way to move forward. This is hands down one of the most amazing books of 2014 and a meaningful exploration of grief and loss.

How about you – what’s on your list of YA lit that Buffy fans might want to read? Please share in the comments.

Take 5: Karen’s TBR Pile (I’ll Show You Mine if You’ll Show Me Yours)

We have come to the point in my year when I have fallen behind in reading the books in my TBR pile. This seems to be a yearly event, maybe I should celebrate with balloons and cake. Please tell me I’m not the only one behind on my reading . . . Anyhow, I thought I would share with you 5 of the titles that I’m reading now or very, very soon. I’ll show you my TBR pile if you’ll show me yours. Ready? Go.

Who R U Really? by Margo Kelly

Publisher’s Description:

Thea’s overprotective parents are driving her insane. They invade her privacy, ask too many questions, and restrict her online time so severely that Thea feels she has no life at all. When she discovers a new role-playing game online, Thea breaks the rules by staying up late to play. She’s living a double life: on one hand, the obedient daughter; on the other, a girl slipping deeper into darkness. In the world of the game, Thea falls under the spell of Kit, an older boy whose smarts and savvy can’t defeat his loneliness and near-suicidal despair. As Kit draws soft-hearted Thea into his drama, she creates a full plate of cover stories for her parents and then even her friends.

Soon, Thea is all alone in the dark world with Kit, who worries her more and more, but also seems to be the only person who really “gets” her. Is he frightening, the way he seems sometimes, or only terribly sad? Should Thea fear Kit, or pity him? And now, Kit wants to come out of the screen and bring Thea into his real-life world. As much as she suspects that this is wrong, Thea is powerless to resist Kit’s allure, and hurtles toward the same dark fate her parents feared most. Ripped from a true-life story of Internet stalking, Who R U Really? will excite you and scare you, as Thea’s life spins out of control.

Karen’s Thoughts: The idea of online safety and Internet stalking is certainly a timely issue. Stalking as a whole seems to be having a moment of cultural relevance, whether it be the new TV show Stalker or Shia LaBeouf’s recent admission that he engaged in some “light stalking” of Alec Baldwin. Maroon 5 was recently called out by RAINN for its video of the new single Animal, which RAINN suggests romanticizes stalking. And of course this week the news of Kathleen Hale’s admission she stalked a reviewer that she had some online interactions with has been all over the place. At the same time, there is no escaping the news of GamerGate and the incredible ramifications it has for the online community. So it seems Who R U Really? is a very timely read. For the record, stalking is always wrong and Internet safety is an important issue we need to keep engaging our teens in conversation about.

Made for You by Melissa Marr

Publisher’s Description:

Bestselling author of the Wicked Lovely books Melissa Marr’s first contemporary YA novel is a twisted southern gothic tale of obsession, romance, and murder. A killer is obsessed with Eva Tilling. Can she stop him, or will he claim her?

When Eva Tilling wakes up in the hospital, she’s confused—who in her sleepy little North Carolina town could have hit her with their car? And why? But before she can consider the question, she finds that she’s awoken with a strange new skill: the ability to foresee people’s deaths when they touch her. While she is recovering from the hit-and-run, Nate, an old flame, reappears, and the two must traverse their rocky past as they figure out how to use Eva’s power to keep her friends—and themselves—alive. But while Eva and Nate grow closer, the killer grows increasingly frantic in his attempt to get to Eva.

For the first time, New York Times bestselling author Melissa Marr has applied her extraordinary talent to contemporary realism. Chilling twists, unrequited obsession, and high-stakes romance drive this Gothic, racy thriller—a story of small-town oppression and salvation. Melissa’s fans, and every YA reader, will find its wild ride enthralling.

Karen’s Thoughts: I read Wicked Lovely years ago and thought it was a really intriguing concept. I am a sucker for stories where people have some type of unique power, all the better if it’s a new power they have to try and figure out, and Marr has proven herself a good author.

Taken by David Massey

Publisher’s Description:

A young crew of five are toughing it out together, sailing around the world on a gruelling charity challenge. They are used to being pushed to the limit, but nothing could have prepared them for being kidnapped.

When they are taken hostage by a notorious warlord and his band of child soldiers, the trip of a lifetime turns into a one-way journey into the heart of the African jungle.

When hope is all you have, survival is all you can fight for.

Karen’s Thoughts: Maybe I should make a Take 5 list of island survival stories! It could include NIL by Lynne Matson, the Phantom Island series by Krissi Dallas, Lost Girls by Ann Kelley, and of course Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. There is also a boat crash and island in The Living by Matt de la Pena. As a longtime fan of The Lord of the Flies, I am always game for a survival story of any type. And child soldiers are a concept that breaks my heart. And the African jungle is always such an intriguing setting. So as you can see, there are a lot of appeal factors here for me.

The Fire Artist by Daisy Whitney

Publisher’s Description:

A forbidden romance literally heats up in this new fantasy from acclaimed author Daisy Whitney.

Aria is an elemental artist—she creates fire from her hands. But her power is not natural. She steals it from lightning. It’s dangerous and illegal in her world. When she’s recruited to perform, she seizes the chance to get away from her family. But her power is fading too fast to keep stealing from the sky. She has no choice but to turn to a Granter—a modern day genie. She gets one wish at an extremely high price. Aria’s willing to take a chance, but then she falls in love with the Granter . . . and he wants his freedom. Aria must decide what she’s willing to bargain and how much her own heart, body, and soul are worth.

In a world where the sport of elemental powers is the most popular form of entertainment, readers will be swept away by a romance with stakes higher than life and death.

Karen’s Thoughts:  Daisy Whitney makes it on to my TBR list because she wrote the very important The Mockingbirds and the very emotionally well done When You Were Here, both of which I recommend. I haven’t read any of her fantasy before, but I’m a huge fan of fantasy so I’m looking forward to this.

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Publisher’s Description:

Life. Death. And…Love?

Emma would give anything to talk to her mother one last time. Tell her about her slipping grades, her anger with her stepfather, and the boy with the bad reputation who might be the only one Emma can be herself with.

But Emma can’t tell her mother anything. Because her mother is brain-dead and being kept alive by machines for the baby growing inside her.

Meeting bad-boy Caleb Harrison wouldn’t have interested Old Emma. But New Emma-the one who exists in a fog of grief, who no longer cares about school, whose only social outlet is her best friend Olivia-New Emma is startled by the connection she and Caleb forge.

Feeling her own heart beat again wakes Emma from the grief that has grayed her existence. Is there hope for life after death-and maybe, for love?

Karen’s Thoughts: In February of this year, this story became real life right here in Texas. Women’s issues like access to birth control, access to abortion, and even things like whether or not we can (or should) charge a pregnant woman for using drugs (which may one day become eating the wrong foods or exercising too much) during their pregnancy are very much in the public conversation at the moment – and they are very controversial, hot button issues steeped in things like people’s personal religious beliefs and personal life experience. Scott is bold to take on such a controversial issue and I look forward to reading this and seeing how she handles it.

These books are all actually in the wild as we speak. This post doesn’t even cover the ARCs on my TBR pile. So I guess I better go get reading. What’s on your TBR pile? Old or new please share in the comments. 

Take 5: Hazing

Earlier this month it was revealed that the football program at Sayreville in New Jersey was suspended due to allegations that the team was engaging in horrific acts of hazing that included sexually abusing their team mates. Hazing asks – forces, requires – people to do embarrassing or dangerous acts in order for them to be accepted into a group. It says you can be one of us if you are willing to do this thing, and that thing often ranges from embarrassing to illegal, violent and sometimes deadly. To date, 7 teens have been charged for their participation in the Sayreville hazing acts, with more possible charges to come. It is a stark reminder that hazing is a real and current issue, not just in our colleges but in our middle and high schools as well.

Here today are five YA lit titles that deal with hazing.

Press Play by Eric Devine

Coming out later this month, Eric has already told us a little bit about Press Play. You can read that here and check out his Initiation Secrets Tumblr in support of the book and in an effort to raise awareness of hazing.

“Greg Dunsmore, a.k.a. Dun the Ton, is focused on one thing: making a documentary that will guarantee his admission into the film school of his choice. Every day, Greg films his intense weight-loss focused workouts as well as the nonstop bullying that comes from his classmates. But when he captures footage of violent, extreme hazing by his high school’s championship-winning lacrosse team in the presence of his principal, Greg’s field of view is in for a readjustment.

Greg knows there is a story to be told, but it is not clear exactly what. And his attempts to find out the truth only create more obstacles, not to mention physical harm upon himself. Yet if Greg wants to make his exposé his ticket out of town rather than a veritable death sentence, he will have to learn to play the game and find a team to help him.


Combine the underbelly of Friday Night Lights with the unflinching honesty of Walter Dean Myers, and you will find yourself with Eric Devine’s novel of debatable truths, consequences, and realities.” (Publisher’s Description)


Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican


Three freshmen must join forces to survive at a troubled, working-class Catholic high school with a student body full of bullies and zealots, and a faculty that’s even worse in Anthony Breznican’s Brutal YouthWith a plunging reputation and enrollment rate, Saint Michael’s has become a crumbling dumping ground for expelled delinquents and a haven for the stridently religious when incoming freshman Peter Davidek signs up. On his first day, tensions are clearly on the rise as a picked-upon upperclassmen finally snaps, unleashing a violent attack on both the students who tormented him for so long, and the corrupt, petty faculty that let it happen. But within this desperate place, Peter befriends fellow freshmen Noah Stein, a volatile classmate whose face bears the scars of a hard-fighting past, and the beautiful but lonely Lorelei Paskal —so eager to become popular, she makes only enemies.

To even stand a chance at surviving their freshmen year, the trio must join forces as they navigate a bullying culture dominated by administrators like the once popular Ms. Bromine, their embittered guidance counselor, and Father Mercedes, the parish priest who plans to scapegoat the students as he makes off with church finances. A coming-of-age tale reversed, Brutal Youth follows these students as they discover that instead of growing older and wiser, going bad may be the only way to survive. (Publisher’s Description)

Library Journal gave Brutal Youth a starred review in June of 2014 stating, “Breznican captures a perfect balance of horror, heartbreak, and resilience and takes the high school novel into deeper places.” And you can read his interview with School Library Journal here.

Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen

“The football field is a battlefield

There’s an extraordinary price for victory at Oregrove High. It is paid on – and off – the football field. And it claims its victims without mercy – including the most innocent bystanders.

When a violent, steroid-infused, ever-escalating prank war has devastating consequences, an unlikely friendship between a talented but emotionally damaged fullback and a promising gymnast might hold the key to a school’s salvation.

Told in alternating voices and with unapologetic truth, Leverage illuminates the fierce loyalty, flawed justice, and hard-won optimism of two young athletes.” (Publisher’s Description)

In December 2010, Booklist gave Leverage a starred review.

The Battle of Jericho by Sharon M. Draper

“WARRIORS ROCK!
 
Sixteen-year-old Jericho is psyched when he and his cousin and best friend, Josh, are invited to pledge for the Warriors of Distinction, the oldest and most exclusive club in school. Just being a pledge wins him the attention of Arielle, one of the hottest girls in his class, whom he’s been too shy even to talk to before now. 


But as the secret initiation rites grow increasingly humiliating and force Jericho to make painful choices, he starts to question whether membership in the Warriors of Distinction is worth it. How far will he have to go to wear the cool black silk Warriors jacket? How high a price will he have to pay to belong? The answers are devastating beyond Jericho’s imagination.” (Publisher’s Description)

In 2003, VOYA gave The Battle of Jericho a 4Q, 4P rating stating that it is a reminder to adults that if youth are asked to choose between fitting in and putting themselves in danger, they will in fact choose the danger. The truth is, everyone is just looking for a place to belong and we will sometimes go through incredible trials to be accepted.
 
Divergent by Veronica Roth

It was interesting when doing research on Hazing (for an upcoming #SVYALit Project discussion, more on that in a minute) that many people discussed Divergent as a title that belonged on this list. I hadn’t really thought of it in that way, but of course there are many trials or tests that Tris must go through even to get inside the Dauntless faction dorms that could be considered a type of hazing, from jumping off the moving train to jumping off the building. I’m putting it on this list because I think it makes for some interesting discussion about what hazing is and how normalized it may appear.

More:
Books Tagged “Hazing” in Library Thing
Daniel Kraus list of Hazing titles in Booklist

Additional Resources:
NPR: History of Hazing
Pinterest board: Hazing Prevention Week 
Hazing Prevention.Org 
For more on hazing visit StopHazing.Org.

In January, as part of the #SVYALit Project, we will be talking more about the topic of hazing. Not all hazing involves sexual violence, but hazing CAN involve sexual violence and we’re going to talk about that. Authors Eric Devine, Anthony Breznican and Joshua C. Cohen will be joining us and we’ll be reading PRESS PLAY, BRUTAL YOUTH and LEVERAGE. Look for more information in December when the 2015 #SVYALit Project schedule is announced. And please be sure to read the books and join us for this important and sadly timely discussion.

Take 5: YA Horror 2014

It’s October, which means everything is pumpkin flavored or scented and you can’t change the channel without running across a horror movie. While I’m not big on horror movies – I haven’t been able to watch them ever since I saw The Ring because if the scary isn’t going to stay inside the TV box then what is going to keep you safe? – but I still like to read it.

Last night’s #YALove conversation was all about horror (you can find a recap here). Naomi Bates asked what everyone read as a teen for horror and my go to authors were Stephen King, Dean Koontz and John Saul. While I still read King and Koontz, it has been a while since I read some John Saul. Last year we shared a collection of Haunted Readings, all our best October ready booklists for you in one place. There are a few new titles for 2014 I want to make sure you all have seen.

Amity by Micol Ostow

Amity is a twisted look at an already twisted story: The Amityville Horror Story. In this version, two separate teens move into the Amity house ten years apart and the haunted happenings bring them together in really disturbing ways. Blood drips, the house seems to stare, and everyone who enters seems to change – and not in good ways at all. Don’t read it alone in the dark.

Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday

True fact: My favorite short story writer is Edgar Allan Poe and I desperately wanted to name either one of my girls Annabel Lee, but The Mr. was not sold on naming our daughter after a dead girl in a poem. When Annabel Lee’s mother dies, she ends up living with her father, whose experiments have always troubled her. In this new home she meets his young assistant, Edgar Allan Poe.  As a series of murders begin to plague the town, it is up to Annabel Lee to figure out what is happening and who might be involved. Check here for more Poe inspired YA lit. Pair this with The Madman’s Daughter or The Monstrumologist.

The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

If The Ring taught us anything, it’s that we should never trust a girl from a well. This dead girl from the well roams the streets hunting murderers. A strange boy with even stranger tattoos finds himself drawn to this spirit and soon the two of them are fighting creepy evil – their are dolls involved, it turns out dolls can be incredibly creepy (I’m looking at you Doll Bones by Holly Black). The Girl from the Well takes you from the American suburbs to Japan and keeps you on the edge of your seat while doing it.

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

This may seem like a strange book to put on this list, but I think it’s a fitting choice. Afterworlds is two books in one. In the real world, Darcy Patel moves to New York to write her debut YA novel. And the debut YA novel, well that is a haunting read. In the novel Darcy is writing, Lizzie has just survived a massive terrorist attack at the airport and finds that she can now step into the Afterworld, a place between life and death where a madman is hunting her because he wants her power.

Sanctum (Asylum #2) by Madeleine Roux

Dan, Abby and Jordan barely survived their summer at a school set in an asylum, but now they are receiving disturbing pictures of an old time carnival. The three return to Brookline in an attempt to discover what it all can mean when they find themselves once again sucked into a tale of terror. Definitely put this in the hands of American Horror Story fans.

And if you are a horror movie fan, be sure to follow Daniel Kraus (who writes most excellent YA horror) on Twitter for the #31HorrorFilms31Days discussion. He’s sharing his favorite horror films, which you don’t want to miss.

Now it’s your turn: What new YA horror titles are you reading this month? What are some of your favorites, new or old? Tell us in the comments.

Take 5: October New Releases

October is a HUGE month for new YA! There are lots of great reads coming your way. Today I’m sharing with you 5 that are on my TBR list. As a bonus, I’m adding a September release that I just started reading. I got a little bit behind. 

Survival Colony 9 by Joshua David Bellin

Publisher’s Description:

In a future world of dust and ruin, fourteen-year-old Querry Genn struggles to recover the lost memory that might save the human race.

Querry is a member of Survival Colony Nine, one of the small, roving groups of people who outlived the wars and environmental catastrophes that destroyed the old world. The commander of Survival Colony Nine is his father, Laman Genn, who runs the camp with an iron will. He has to–because heat, dust, and starvation aren’t the only threats in this ruined world.

There are also the Skaldi.

Monsters with the ability to infect and mimic human hosts, the Skaldi appeared on the planet shortly after the wars of destruction. No one knows where they came from or what they are. But if they’re not stopped, it might mean the end of humanity.

Six months ago, Querry had an encounter with the Skaldi–and now he can’t remember anything that happened before then. If he can recall his past, he might be able to find the key to defeat the Skaldi.

If he can’t, he’s their next victim.

Karen’s Thoughts: I just started reading this, in large part because Jonathan Maberry told me to. It’s right there on the cover, Jonathan Maberry calls this “A terrific novel!” And as a huge fan of Maberry’s, that was enough to sell me. You should know this is technically already out.

Sublime by Christina Lauren

Publisher’s Description:

True love may mean certain death in a ghostly affair of risk and passion from New York Times bestselling duo Christina Lauren, authors of Beautiful Bastard. Tahereh Mafi, New York Times bestselling author of Shatter Me calls Sublime “a beautiful, haunting read”.

When Lucy walks out of a frozen forest, wearing only a silk dress and sandals, she isn’t sure how she got there. But when she sees Colin, she knows for sure that she’s here for him.

Colin has never been captivated by a girl the way he is by Lucy. With each passing day their lives intertwine, and even as Lucy begins to remember more of her life—and her death—neither of them is willing to give up what they have, no matter how impossible it is. And when Colin finds a way to physically be with Lucy, taking himself to the brink of death where his reality and Lucy’s overlap, the joy of being together for those brief stolen moments drowns out everything in the outside world. But some lines weren’t meant to be crossed…

Karen’s Thoughts:  Sometimes, you just want a haunting read and I can name tons of my teen readers who will eat this up. This sounds like a great read for October!

Damsel Distressed by Kelsey Macke


Publisher’s Description:

Hot girls get the fairy tales. No one cares about the stepsisters’ story. Those girls don’t get a sweet little ending; they get a lifetime of longing

Imogen Keegen has never had a happily ever after–in fact, she doesn’t think they are possible. Ever since her mother’s death seven years ago, Imogen has pulled herself in and out of therapy, struggled with an “emotionally disturbed” special ed. label, and loathed her perma-plus-sized status.

When Imogen’s new stepsister, the evil and gorgeous Ella Cinder, moves in down the hall, Imogen begins losing grip on the pieces she’s been trying to hold together. The only things that gave her solace–the theatre, cheese fries, and her best friend, Grant–aren’t enough to save her from her pain this time.

While Imogen is enjoying her moment in the spotlight after the high school musical, the journal pages containing her darkest thoughts get put on display. Now, Imogen must resign herself to be crushed under the ever-increasing weight of her pain, or finally accept the starring role in her own life story.

And maybe even find herself a happily ever after.

Enhance the experience with the companion soundtrack, Imogen Unlocked, by the author’s band, Wedding Day Rain.

Karen’s Thoughts: MTV called Damsel in Distress a must-read, and it’s pretty cool to have a channel popular with teens endorsing reading. There is a band, a real life band, by Kelsey Macke and crew called Imogen Unlocked that ties-in to the book, which is also very cool. 

Press Play by Eric Devine

Publisher’s Description:

Greg Dunsmore, a.k.a. Dun the Ton, is focused on one thing: making a documentary that will guarantee his admission into the film school of his choice. Every day, Greg films his intense weight-loss focused workouts as well as the nonstop bullying that comes from his classmates. But when he captures footage of violent, extreme hazing by his high school’s championship-winning lacrosse team in the presence of his principal, Greg’s field of view is in for a readjustment.

Greg knows there is a story to be told, but it is not clear exactly what. And his attempts to find out the truth only create more obstacles, not to mention physical harm upon himself. Yet if Greg wants to make his exposé his ticket out of town rather than a veritable death sentence, he will have to learn to play the game and find a team to help him.


Combine the underbelly of Friday Night Lights with the unflinching honesty of Walter Dean Myers, and you will find yourself with Eric Devine’s novel of debatable truths, consequences, and realities.
 


Karen’s Thoughts: I am a HUGE fan of Eric Devine as a person and as a writer. By day he teaches high school English so he really has a grasp on what teens are like, which comes across in his writing. This book would be a great tie-in with books like Me, Earl and The Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. You can also pair it with the biography of Andrew Jenks and host a real life teen film festival, which I have conveniently discussed for you here.

Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis by Alexis Coe

Publisher’s Description:

In 1892, America was obsessed with a teenage murderess, but it wasn’t her crime that shocked the nation—it was her motivation. Nineteen-year-old Alice Mitchell had planned to pass as a man in order to marry her seventeen-year-old fiancée Freda Ward, but when their love letters were discovered, they were forbidden from ever speaking again.

Freda adjusted to this fate with an ease that stunned a heartbroken Alice. Her desperation grew with each unanswered letter—and her father’s razor soon went missing. On January 25, Alice publicly slashed her ex-fiancée’s throat. Her same-sex love was deemed insane by her father that very night, and medical experts agreed: This was a dangerous and incurable perversion. As the courtroom was expanded to accommodate national interest, Alice spent months in jail—including the night that three of her fellow prisoners were lynched (an event which captured the attention of journalist and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells). After a jury of “the finest men in Memphis” declared Alice insane, she was remanded to an asylum, where she died under mysterious circumstances just a few years later.

Alice + Freda Forever recounts this tragic, real-life love story with over 100 illustrated love letters, maps, artifacts, historical documents, newspaper articles, courtroom proceedings, and intimate, domestic scenes—painting a vivid picture of a sadly familiar world.

Karen’s Thoughts: Alice + Freda is published by Zest Books (you guys know I am a fan!). It’s based on real life events and includes letters, which is a great way to discuss primary and secondary resources with teens (yes, I truly am a geek). 

Chasing Power by Sarah Beth Durst

Publisher’s Description:

Lies, secrets, and magic — three things that define Kayla’s life.

Sixteen-year-old Kayla plans to spend her summer hanging out on the beach in Santa Barbara and stealing whatever she wants, whenever she wants it. Born with the ability to move things with her mind — things like credit cards, diamond rings, and buttons on cash registers — she has become a master shoplifter. She steals to build up a safety net, enough money for her and her mom to be able to flee if her dad finds them again. Well, that, and the thrill of using her secret talents.

But her summer plans change when she’s caught stealing by a boy named Daniel — a boy who needs her help and is willing to blackmail her to get it. Daniel has a talent of his own. He can teleport, appearing anywhere in the world in an instant, but he lies as easily as he travels. Together, they embark on a quest to find and steal an ancient incantation, written on three indestructible stones and hidden millennia ago, all to rescue Daniel’s kidnapped mother. But Kayla has no idea that this rescue mission will lead back to her own family — and to betrayals that she may not be able to forgive… or survive.

Karen’s Thoughts: Durst is the author of Conjured, which is a truly stunning book. Based on the quality of that work alone, this goes to the top of my TBR pile. Plus, secret powers!

October is actually a big month for YA releases, so tell me – what’s on your TBR pile? 

Something Old, Something New: Loosely Connected Short Story Collections

Short story collections, I have always found, are a hard sell. Unless your name is Stephen King, those seem to circulate well. In theory, it seems like short stories are a good idea of reluctant readers, and a great way to try and find a new author. But nope, a hard sell.

But occasionally, there are books that aren’t true short stories, but a collection of short stories that are connected in some way, usually by a reoccurring device or character. For today’s Something Old, Something New feature, I have a couple of those for you.

Something Old: Whirligig by Paul Fleischman

Brent Bishop is a 17-year-old boy who has just been involved in a terrible accident which results in the death of a girl named Lea. The truth is, he was trying to kill himself, but instead Lea is dead. Lea’s mother asks Brent to drive to four different locations and place a whirligig there in Lea’s honor. What comes next is 4 short stories about the various characters who find the whirligigs:

  • Weeksboro: Two 13-year old girls named Steph and Alexandra.
  • Bellevue: A 10-year old Korean-American boy named Tony.
  • Miami: A Puerto Rican man called Flaco.
  • San Diego: A 16-year old girl named Jenny. (from Wikipedia)

Whirligig was released in 1998, making it 16 years old now. At the time that this came out, I had been a YA librarian roughly 5 years. It was a fairly interesting story, though definitely not a big shelf mover. Fleischman is a classic YA author and new YA readers may want to check out some of his earlier works.

Something New: Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid
[Read more…]

Take 5: Teens as Sci Fi Soldiers(ish) – When YA Lit meets The Bourne Identity or Red Dawn (or even 12 Monkeys)

When we read The Hunger Games, we like to think to ourselves that we know that would never happen – who sends kids out to kill? But the truth is, there are countries all over the world where children are in fact forced to become soldiers and fight for causes they know little about and are forced to serve at the whims of adults. But it can’t happen HERE we say – but what if it could? What if it did? Here’s a look at some cool science fiction stories where teens are manipulated by adults to become soldiers or mercenaries of some kind. They’re pretty cool books to read, but they also make us a little bit uncomfortable because we would like to think there is no possible way it could happen . . . but the truth is sometimes people in power will go to great lengths to keep that power. Like all good science fiction, these titles create absurd sounding scenarios to make us think about real world truths. And these titles ask us to think about things like free will and determination, nature vs. nurture, the role of government in our lives, and what lengths we are (and should be) willing to go to in order to keep ourselves – our country – safe.

I Become Shadow by Joe Shine
“Ren Sharpe was abducted at fourteen and chosen by the mysterious F.A.T.E. Center to become a Shadow: the fearless and unstoppable guardian of a future leader. Everything she held dear—her family, her home, her former life—is gone forever.” (Publisher’s description)

As an action/thriller, this is a fun story. There is a lot of interesting subtext about free will. I was surprised by some of the decisions characters made at the end, which would make for some great discussions. There is also some very interesting subtext about addiction that could make for great discussion. And of course it asks the age old question: what lengths should we go to in order to protect our future. This is an interesting read.

 

Uninvited by Sophie Jordan
When Davy Hamilton’s tests come back positive for Homicidal Tendency Syndrome (HTS)-aka the kill gene-she loses everything. Her boyfriend ditches her, her parents are scared of her, and she can forget about her bright future at Julliard. Davy doesn’t feel any different, but genes don’t lie. One day she will kill someone.”

I really like this book a lot. Because they fear she MIGHT in the future become violent, Davy is removed from her normal life and put in a situation with people who are in fact very violent. This is a look at the age old nature vs. nurture argument. It is also an interesting discussion about the prison system as every day we see minor offenders placed into jail who then become more violent offenders because they are forced to try and survive in the prison environment. And then there are some twists that make this book fit the list but I’m not going to elaborate. Just take my advice and read this book, it’s really good. The next book, Unleashed, comes out in February 2015 from Harper Teen. 

Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin
“Sixteen-year-old Sarah has a rare chance at a new life. Or so the doctors tell her. She’s been undergoing a cutting-edge procedure that will render her a tabula rasa—a blank slate. Memory by memory her troubled past is being taken away.” (Publisher’s description)

In my review earlier this month I note that there are a couple of flaws with this book, but in terms of readability it is a lot of fun. The tagline itself describes Tabula Rasa as The Bourne Identity meets Divergent. There are, once again, lots of interesting discussions to be had about science ethics, free will and autonomy, and the role that adults can play in the lives of teens. High on readability and survival, it’s a good read.

Blackout by Robison Wells
“Laura and Alec are trained terrorists.
Jack and Aubrey are high school students.
There was no reason for them to ever meet.

(Publisher’s description)

This is one of those books I really would have liked to have seen get more love; it is really under-rated. It’s got your post-apocalyptic virus plague scenario, a dystopian government, some X-men like superpowers, teens conscripted into government service, and a dash of terrorism mixed in to make it an almost perfect reflection of modern fears. In my earlier review I said, “Blackout definitely excels as a thriller.  I highly recommend this book.” So let’s give this book the love it deserves.

Reboot by Amy Tintera
“Five years ago, Wren Connolly was shot three times in the chest. After 178 minutes she came back as a Reboot: stronger, faster, able to heal, and less emotional. The longer Reboots are dead, the less human they are when they return. Wren 178 is the deadliest Reboot in the Republic of Texas. Now seventeen years old, she serves as a soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation).” (Publisher’s description)

Teens who are essentially “zombies” – though definitely not traditional zombies – are stripped of their rights and forced to serve as a government clean up crew to help protect the remaining humans from those that reboot. This is another one of those titles that I want to see get more love because it is such an interesting twist on zombies and is a compelling metaphor for discrimination, something we’re talking a lot about these days. What makes us human and does one group of people’s rights trump those of another? Like all good sci fi, this can be read on multiple levels and can lead to some interesting discussions. Read my earlier review here. The sequel Rebel is out now for your reading pleasure.

This is what happened when I asked Twitter to recommend MG & YA lit titles for those asking about Ferguson

Inspired in part by Robin’s post yesterday on talking with her middle grade students about Ferguson and the book Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth, I wondered what kind of list we could put together quickly to recommend to students who were wondering about the events happening in Ferguson. So I went to Twitter and asked for everyone’s suggestions. Here’s what they recommended:

If you have titles to recommend and add to this list, please share in the comments. We believe that literature can help us understand current events and sharing these titles can help our communities process events happening at Ferguson.

Take 5: MG Lit Titles from Scholastic Reviewed by My Tween

The other day I got a box of books in the mail from Scholastic (Thanks Scholastic!) and I had set them on the table which has become my office. Later that evening, I heard a shriek of delight from the Tween: “You didn’t tell me you got the new Jedi Academy” she screamed with joy. It turns out, there were a lot of books in that box she coveted. So she spent her first few free days of summer reading. This is not surprising, because this is how she spends a lot of her free time. In fact, we’re getting ready to drive to Las Vegas at the end of the month for ALA Annual and she talked me into buying her an Exhibit Hall pass so she could go in one day with me and see what it was like. I think she is hoping she’ll get to meet a few of her favorite authors and I know she is hoping to just touch tons of books. So since she spent the weekend reading, I thought I would have her share her thoughts with you. I added my thoughts as a note underneath hers.

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

A Snicker of Magic is a book about this little girl who collects words and moves to a little town called Midnight Gulch. But Midnight Gulch was no ordinary town you see there used to be magic in this town. But it was lost when the brothers Stone and Berry duel for love; the magic is lost so Felicity must use her power to help her mom stay in Midnight Gulch and help the town regain the magic. So to figure out the end of the story read my favorite book A Snicker of Magic. I totally loved this book; it was awesome in every way. The characters were funny and kind. It had a lot of details. I really hope one day I can try some blackberry sunrise ice cream.

Karen’s Thoughts: I have heard her talk about this book for a while now. She has had friends come over and she tells them to read it. And I have had several people her age in my library and when they ask me about book recommendations I say, “my daughter who is your age loves this book and thinks everyone should read it.” Every time they have read the book description and walked out with the book. (ISBN: 9780545552707)


Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
This new book is about two sisters who go on a road trip to visit their cousins. Along the way they go through ups and downs so they have to help each other and figure out ways to get along. But when their car breaks down they have to stay behind in a car with a snake in it. On the way home they figure out the meaning of sisterhood. Read this amazing book, it was very funny and I like that the author was putting parts of her own childhood into it. I am a big fan of Smile and this did not disappoint.

Karen’s Thoughts: Smile by Telgemeier is one of the most re-read books in our house. The Tween has read it numerous times. She recently had a friend spend the night who quickly borrowed it. It is also very popular in my library. Interestingly enough, the Tween was recently sitting on the couch, looking up information on her phone and writing it down on a piece of paper. She soon read to me a report she had written on Telgemeier. She didn’t have an assignment, she just wanted to learn more about the author. I have been very impressed with how much Telgemeier has inspired in my daughter. (Publishes in August)

Captain Underpants and the Tyrannical Retaliation of the Turbo Toilet 2000 by Dave Pilkey


This funny book is about two boys George and Harold who make their principal think he’s a superhero. But when the turbo toilet 2000 comes back and there is a duplicate George and Harold the boys must help Captain Underpants battle the turbo toilet 2000. I definitely recommend this funny book.

Karen’s Thoughts: This series is still very popular with Middle Grade readers and all my copies are always checked out. (Publishes in August)


Jedi Academy Return of the Padawan (Star Wars Jedi Academy book 2) by Jeffrey Brown


It’s a new year for Roan at the Jedi Academy and it’s going to be even harder than last year. When Roan loses his friends and goes to the dark side he must figure out what to do with himself. Find out what side he ends up on in the end. I like this series because it is funny and makes me think about life.

Karen’s Thoughts: I had immediately given the Tween Sisters because I knew how much she loved that author. As I mentioned above, I was surprised, however, when she later when through the titles herself and said very excitedly, “You didn’t tell me you got the new Star Wars Jedi Academy book.” So this is obviously another series that she highly recommends. (July 2014. ISBN: 978-0545621250)

Cleopatra in Space by Mike Maihack


As a young girl Cleopatra does not like work so when she has a chance to go to space and fight battles she isn’t going to pass down the offer. With help from friends she becomes a great fighter. Find out what happens. This book was very funny and I really liked the talking cats.

Karen’s Thoughts: Graphic novels are very popular right now with my Tweens at my library. Our copy that I ordered for the library came in last week and it is a lot of fun. (April, ISBN: 9780545528436)


Bad Hair Day (Whatever After #5) by Sarah Mlynowski)


Another day in a fairytale but this time in Rapunzel . But when Jonah ruins Rapunzel’s  hair and Abby cuts all of it off the kids have to find out how to get Rapunzel her  happily ever after and defeat Frau Gothel . How will Abby and Jonah get out of this mess? This is book 5 and I have read the other four. I like this series because the brother and sister try to make life happier for other people.

Karen’s Thoughts: With the popularity of Frozen and other twisted Fairy Tales that feature female empowerment, I highly recommend this series. I read the first couple of titles and really enjoyed them. I particularly like the brother/sister relationship, the positive spin, and the humor. It’s really interesting because the Tween is inching closer to teendom and so now she is straddling the MG and YA lit categories. She has read (and likes) Divergent and she recently read The Fault in Our Stars (which she did not love and did not cry), but she still likes some of these younger titles. (April, ISBN: 9780545627283)