Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

What Do Teens Mean When They Talk About an Aesthetic

The Teen wants you to know that she is not into Cottagecore, but she did take this recent senior photo and I needed a photo for this post and she said it “kinda works”

Like many people, I spent a great portion of the mid-pandemic listening to the new Taylor Swift album, Folklore, on repeat. It was haunting and melancholy and fit my mood. Last week I saw a post about how the album was “Cottagecore” and about the “Cottagecore Aesthetic” and I fell down a rabbit hole trying to figure out what that meant. I have always believed in trying to understand that current things my tweens and teens are talking about.

Don’t get me wrong, I was vaguely aware of the idea of a social media aesthetic for a long time, I just hadn’t given it a lot of thought. And when I looked at Cottagecore I figured it was mostly an adult thing, turns out I am wrong. It is not the first time I have been wrong, and it won’t be the last.

Having been married to an art major for some 25 years now, I am familiar with the term aesthetic. But I wanted to know more about what it means to teens specifically and to social media. Here’s what I’ve learned.

In the most basic definition, aesthetic means: concerned with beauty or the appreciation of beauty (that’s the dictionary definition). When applied to teens and social media, it means:

Image result for social media aesthetic definition

“In reference to social media, the term “aesthetic” is usually used to refer to the overall visual theme and mood of an account. Most often associated with Instagram.” (source: https://stayhipp.com/glossary/social-media-aesthetic/) This definition mentions Instagram, but it also applies to Tik Tok, Snapchat, etc.

As I mentioned above, Cottagecore is one of the currently popular aesthetics which is highlighted by the newest Taylor Swift album. Cottagecore is an aesthetic that is pastoral leaning. You’ll see lots of pictures of nature and picnic baskets and girls in long, flowing prairie dresses. Cottagecore is vintage and antiques in outdoor spaces with pastel flowers and sheets hanging on outdoors drying lines. The Teen says it’s has bright, soft lighting. You can find out more about Cottagecore here: https://foryouaesthetics.com/blogs/news/cottagecore-aesthetic. I also want to make sure we really look at and examine the various aesthetics and stumbled across this article about Cottagecore and the Far Right: https://honisoit.com/2020/09/cottagecore-colonialism-and-the-far-right/.

Corragecore is not, however, the only popular aesthetic. Last year I was asked to buy Thing 2 hair scrunchies and Hydroflask water bottles because of the VSCO aesthetic. You can even find articles and ideas about VSCO girl starter packs on popular teen sites like Teen Vogue: https://www.teenvogue.com/story/vsco-girl-starter-pack. (I bought her scrunchies but made her save up her own money for the Hydroflask because those are super expensive.)

There are other aesthetics popular with teens: soft girls and dark academia and afrofuturism. The list over at aesthetics.fandom.com of aesthetic types is actually quite long: https://aesthetics.fandom.com/wiki/List_of_Aesthetics. And YPulse has a really good look at the influence of, well, social media influencers and aesthetics here: https://www.ypulse.com/article/2019/07/31/e-girls-instagram-baddies-and-vsco-girls-the-social-media-styles-influencing-gen-z/. Buro247 has a list of popular 2020 aesthetics here: https://www.buro247.my/culture/buro-loves/from-vsco-girl-to-e-boy-these-are-the-aesthetics-o.html.

Aesthetics is about branding. Branding oneself. But also, brands have latched onto the idea of aesthetics to market to Gen Z as well. I even used this concept recently, without really knowing I was doing so, when I created an RA list of readalikes for Billie Eilish fans and one for Taylor Swift fans. I was applying the concept of the aesthetic with book recommendations.

When reading about aesthetics you will quickly find that a lot of the aesthetics being talked about in the media are very white centered, as unfortunately a lot of the media always has. As teen librarians, a field dominated by white women, we need to be really careful when reading about and thinking about using the idea of aesthetics as promotional tools not to become too white focused and exclusionary. So engage in research and promotion with intention and an eye to inclusion, as you should all things.

This is a screenshot of a recent RA tool I made to discuss the various genres and subgenres with my coworkers as we walk through learning about YA lit

I wanted to check and see if this idea of an aesthetic was just something adults were putting on to teens or if it was a thing teens talked about, so I went and consulted with my sources. They immediately began to talk to me about various aesthetics and seemed pretty interested in the concept. Sometimes the media talks about teens in ways that don’t resonate with teens, but the teens I talked to were very much aware of the concept of aesthetics on social media.

For iPhone users, the newest update even allows them to personalize their homescreen to fit their personal aesthetic: https://www.cnet.com/news/from-tumblr-to-ios-14-how-aesthetic-home-screens-became-a-trend/. This is something that apparently Android users have been able to do for a while.

Here are some more articles on the topic of aesthetics for you, should you too want to jump down this rabbit hole.

Vox: Cottagecore and Dark Academia on Tik Tok

Girls Life: Popular Tik Tok Aesthetics explained. Which one is you?

What I’ve learned is that aesthetic is about branding, in some ways, but it’s about identity. And teens have always been about identity and wearing your heart on your sleeve to make your identity known. From punk kids to emo kids to jocks . . . teens have always had an aesthetic. Well, most teens do. It’s just now they have taken those identities and that aesthetic online and onto social media. So in many ways it’s the same thing as always, just expressed differently for a new generation. Which doesn’t mean it lacks value, because it does. Who you are and how you choose to share that with the world is and always will be very important to teens. It’s exciting to see the ways that teens are using new tools to express themselves.

I asked The Teen if Book Nerd or Doctor Who fan could be my aesthetic and she said, not really but sure.

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. 

Sunday Reflections: Time to Not Be Nice

I really like Amy Poehler. I like the things that she stands for, and I adore Smart Girls at the Party so much that I’ve used it in programming and recommended it to teachers, parents, and teens. They have DIY projects and action campaigns, they highlight women in fields like science and computers, they have blogs and shows and youtube channels, and other resources for youth (including a boys’ minute)- which is wonderful. According to their site:

Smart Girls at the Party is a rapidly expanding online network and community movement. Our aim is to help young women and the young at heart with the process of cultivating their authentic selves.
We change the world by being ourselves, and being ourselves is a life long quest. Smart Girls hopes to provide some fun reference materials along the way.

 Empower girls! Show them they can be artists, scientists, astronauts, be educated and be liked ….
Which is why when this popped up onto my tumblr, my heart fell to my feet:

The internet doesn’t have to be full of mean comments. Use this badge to let others know you’re part of the goodness!

Just no.

According to webster, friendly also means:

affable, agreeable, approachable, good-natured, good-tempered, gracious, nice, sweet; clubby, convivial, folksy, gregarious, hospitable, sociable, social; jolly, jovial, merry; extroverted (also extraverted), outgoing; brotherly, fraternal, sisterly; close, familiar, intimate; adoring, affectionate, devoted, fond, lovesome, loving, tender, tenderhearted

I completely agree with the factual part. And to an extent I can get behind the intent of the friendly. Don’t lie, don’t spread rumors, don’t slut-shame, don’t verbally or emotionally harass anyone, and don’t bully anyone. There have been too many deaths over online harassment- and I mean actual online harassment, not what some will claim as harassment to get attention.


No. NO.

Girls (and women) do not need to be ‘friendly’ on the internet. We need to be intelligent, coherent, sound, passionate, and LOUD in our voices, our passions, and for our beliefs and for our rights. We need to stand up for the right to control our bodies, no matter whether it is to have children or not, no matter whether it is to have sex or not, and to have the right to choose WHEN and WHERE that encounter is. We need to be able to have the voice to say NO when we don’t want something, no matter if it’s a hug, a glance, someone calling us honey or sweetheart, or even a slice of cheese on a hamburger.

The internet gives people an arena in which to unleash themselves, and also the chance to be the most evil they can possibly be with the slimmest chance they will get caught. It’s all about anonymity, and sometimes the nastier people can be, the better the audience likes it and the more hits things will get. To me, it can be similar to the Roman Gladiator fights- people hiding behind stage names, fighting tooth and nail, but with words that can hurt more than physical blows.

We as a culture need to stand up to internet bullying, and not be “friendly” when people attack.  Google about the death threats that have happened against women on Twitter, slut-shaming, and Facebook attacks that have led to suicide, if you want further evidence. 

“Friendly” has passive connotations, and puts the onus on the me (as a member of the group of girls, in this case) to be the one backing down and taking things without standing up for myself- thereby losing my voice and my options.

No. NO.

There is a time and a place for nice. Someone calling names for the emotional response is one. Someone being an idiot is another. Like Patrick Swayze says in Road House (warning, not work appropriate language ahead):

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTh5JzRziHE?rel=0]

However, there is a time to not be nice. When things cross the line include:

I was the “nice and friendly” girl growing up. I was shy, and part of it was the way I was raised. Even though I couldn’t stand mustard, and onions made me sick, if we went through McDonald’s we got the hamburgers as-made, and I had to try to pick off the onions and grimace and bear the mustard/ketchup goop. We didn’t have much, and what we got had to last and be enjoyed- if you didn’t like it or complained, you didn’t get it, and it was remembered that you didn’t like it, and held against you.  Being “nice and friendly” was essentially a defense against punishment.

Through college I was the “nice and friendly” girl, one of the few in my undergrad class for aeronautical engineering. And I was bullied and harassed, by peers for being overweight, by teachers who said women weren’t needed as astronautical engineers because we didn’t have the smarts, by teaching assistants and professors who wouldn’t help during office hours because I was just going to be married and popping out kids before the ink was dry on my degree. I didn’t speak up, because that wasn’t what “nice and friendly” did- that was what aggressive did. (On the bright side, I ended up in the field I was meant for, but I still have issues dating back to those days).

People’s response when I tell them some of my college stories

I was the “nice and friendly” one in my first few jobs, and was given a lower starting pay than guys who had less experience but were put in the same position I was in, because they spoke up and were aggressive about negotiations. I have been passed over for raises and increases in pay because I was “nice” and didn’t question authority, and when I did, I did it in “friendly” and “polite” ways.

I have been verbally harassed at professional conferences because I was “friendly” and “polite” and “nice.” When I reported it, I was told that since I was “friendly” and didn’t “assert myself but removed myself from the area after a brief time” that the harasser couldn’t understand that their actions were wrong. Somehow, by being “nice” I was in the wrong by not educating my harassers.

I get where Smart Girls is going, but I think they’re going about it the wrong way. We need to stand up to the bullies, not be the friendly ones. We need to be scrappy, and aggressive, feisty, and spunky, and take over THOSE connotations and make THEM the positives that we want to see.

Because friendly isn’t getting us anywhere.

– Christie

See also: It’s time to stop telling girls to be nice 
Should we stop telling girls to be nice?

Mr. Internet: Teens on the Spectrum and Online, a guest post by Lyn Miller-Lachmann

My novel Rogueportrays a young teenager on the autism spectrum who has come to rely almost exclusively on “Mr. Internet” to learn about the world, especially after she gets suspended from school for attacking a bully. Through Mr. Internet, Kiara has diagnosed herself with Asperger’s syndrome, learned how to fix her brother’s bicycle, and found out that the neighbor boy who she thought was her friend may only be using her for his parents’ drug operation. In her online searches, she has discovered some useful information, some information that may or may not be true, and some information that she’s ill equipped to handle.
Like much of Rogue, Kiara’s online activities are drawn from my own experience as someone diagnosed with Asperger’s. Children (and adults) on the autism spectrum are often drawn to the computer and to seeking information online. I know this process firsthand, because even though I have a Masters in Library Science, I would prefer to stay in my own home, where I feel comfortable, rather than go to the library and try to explain my information needs to a stranger. At the same time, I enjoy looking up information for others and will persist in finding answers with reliable sources to back them up long after most people would have quit or settled for half an answer.

This past June at the ALA conference in Chicago I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Lesley Farmer, the foremost authority on Internet citizenship for young people on the autism spectrum. She had a table at the Diversity Fair, and we talked about the promise and the perils of the Internet for tweens and teens with autism. While we spoke about the dangers, specifically of young people being taken advantage of by scammers and predators, she also emphasized the Internet as a place where those young people can gain self-confidence as well as knowledge and become leaders among their peers.
Leaders? Maybe she was going a little too far with her optimism.
While I know that information-seeking online offers comfort and solitude, I expressed my concern that we can become too comfortable—thus further isolating ourselves. My nephew, who has also been diagnosed with Asperger’s, spends entire days alone in front of the computer, keeping up with relatives and fellow hobbyists through email and Facebook. I know I would do the same thing, if I didn’t have other responsibilities. Time spent in front of the computer is time away from other people, and no matter how much one reads advice online (as Kiara says, “when I go upstairs to ask [Mr. Internet] how kids with Asperger’s syndrome can find friends, he has 255,000 answers for me”), hard-won social skills wither in isolation.
Aware of these concerns, Farmer advises librarians and others who work with young people on the spectrum not only to teach them the principles of “digital citizenship” but to prepare them to teach others. She argues that young people with autism spectrum disorders can become model digital citizens because of their comfort with machines and technology, their attention to detail and rules, and their sense of what’s fair. Once children and teens with autism have a clear understanding of rules, safe practices, and the need to examine information critically, they can teach others those same rules, practices, and processes of critical thinking. In teaching, knowledge is reinforced as social skills develop. 
Farmer suggests using simulations and role playing to teach digital citizenship and to rehearse ways the young person can in turn teach peers. Some of this is already being done with great success. For instance, young writers on the autism spectrum have found an outlet in the online site Figment not only for their stories but also for using their technology skills to help others. Around the time I met Lesley Farmer, I also received this inspiring email from Figment co-founder Nicole Valentine, describing the day the staff invited the site’s most active users to a workshop in New York City:
Well, one mom kept sneaking over to the door to spy on her teenage daughter. I thought it was a classic case of helicopter parenting, but then I noticed how emotional the mom was getting. I asked her if everything was okay. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said her daughter had Aspergers and she had never seen her hold court like this before. I peeked in with her and indeed, her daughter was THE mayor of Figment. I said, “you know, she’s our most popular user. She has hundreds of followers and is really active on our message board.”
She told me she had never seen her daughter say more than three words to anyone in a group situation. We both stood there for a moment watching this girl lead a discussion about how to improve the site. I stood there and I cried along with her mom. It was my single best day on the job. We won an LATimes Book Award and I got to go to that ceremony and accept the award, even that didn’t beat that day. It was the day I knew my work was changing kids lives.
If you would like to help young people on the autism spectrum use the Internet more effectively, become good digital citizens, and become leaders among their peers, here are some resources:
Lesley Farmer has a wiki resource on Digital Citizenship at: http://k12digitalcitizenship.wikispaces.com/. Her book, Library Services for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders, will be published by ALA editions this fall.
For more information about the teen book discussion and writing site Figment, visit www.figment.com.
Lyn Miller-Lachmann is the former editor-in-chief of MultiCultural Review and the author of resources for educators and fiction for teens. Her young adult novel Gringolandia (Curbstone Press/Northwestern University Press, 2009), about a teenage refugee from Chile coming to terms with his father’s imprisonment and torture under the Pinochet dictatorship, was a 2010 ALA Best Book for Young Adults and received an Américas Award Honorable Mention from the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs. Her most recent novel is Rogue (Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Books, 2013), a Junior Library Guild selection. When she isn’t writing fiction, Lyn is the co-host of a bilingual program of Latin American and Spanish music, poetry, and history on WRPI-FM, a blogger, and a Lego builder. She reviews children’s and young adult books on social justice themes for The Pirate Tree (www.thepiratetree.com). For more information and cool Lego pictures, visit Lyn’s website, www.lynmillerlachmann.com.

Breaking Down the Walls: Getting the Reader (Completely) Involved (a guest post by author Kimberly Pauley)

I have decided to do something crazy and it’s all because of the dedicated fans who have emailed and facebooked and twittered at me for the last two years asking when the next Sucks to Be Me book will be available (some on a weekly basis!).  I’m finally continuing the award-winning series with the direct help of my readers. You could call it “crowd sourced Choose Your Own Adventure.”
Mini Paris inspired TPiB: So I am currently raising a Paris obsessed Tween and here are 10 fun Paris inspired craft ideas.  You can also download the FilterMania 2 app onto your iPhone and create a beautiful Eiffel Tower framed picture.

Titled (also with the help of fan comments solicited on my website) Still Sucks to Be Me…Even in Paris, the book is being released every two weeks (on a Friday) one or two chapters at a time via my newsletter. At the end of every “edition” I include three or four possible different directions the story could go in. Readers then have until the next Tuesday to respond with their vote. After all the votes are in, I spend the next week and a half writing up the chapter(s).

 I’m also sharing little extras from the writing process that people would normally never get to see like photos I’ve taken of locations or people. There’s even a pretty good chance that frequent voters will have their names featured in the book. I’ve already had people email with specific ideas beyond the standard questions that I ask them too so who knows what ideas might wind up in the book!

People who join up late (and I do hope people will continue to jump on the bandwagon) can simply ask to receive all the chapters available to date by emailing me. I’d really love to see 1,000 readers signed up in the next few months. You could be one of them! Just sign up at http://www.kimberlypauley.com/newsletter

It’s a crazy way to write a book but so far it’s been lots of fun. It’s actually rather freeing (though also terrifying) to not have an editor or a copy editor looking over my shoulder. It’s especially frightening (for me) to know that I can’t go through a normal revision process and make any major changes to scenes or reshuffle the order of things. I usually write a first draft and then go through numerous iterations before anyone else ever sees the book. I’m sure that I’ll be pulling my hair out later on as more twists and turns are built into the story but I’ve given myself permission to just let go and have fun with this. After all, it’s for the readers.

Some people have asked me “Why now?” and there are a few reasons. I finished writing the book I was working on last year and am about to go into editorial revisions on it. You’re actually the first to officially hear this as it hasn’t even been announced in Publisher’s Weekly yet, but my next book, (tentatively titled) Ask Me, is being published by the lovely folks at Soho Teen. But, it won’t be out until Spring 2014. I do have some other manuscripts-in-progress but right now is the most free time I will have for a while. And the fans…I mentioned them, didn’t I? This is for them. And also to relieve me of the author guilt of not finishing Mina’s story! I’ve wanted to finish it since the original publisher closed the imprint it had been published under.

Once the book is completed, I plan on releasing it as an Ebook and potentially also as a physical book. But no matter what, it’s going to be a fun ride!

Kimberly Pauley

Kimberly Pauley is the author of the award-winning Sucks to Be Me series (YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers and VOYA Best Sci-Fi Fantasy) and the multicultural fantasy Cat Girl’s Day Off. You can find out more about her and her books at www.kimberlypauley.com 

Follow the white rabbit:

On my latest: Cat Girl’s Day Off
“Populated with wonderfully eccentric and endearing characters, this lighthearted comedy will be an instant hit…” — School Library Journal

Book Review: Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow

I’d thought he was angry, and he was, a bit, but when I looked into those eyes, I saw that what I had mistaken for anger was really terror.  He was even more scared that I was.  Scared that without the net, his job was gone.  Scared that without the net, Mum couldn’t sign on every week and get her benefits.  Without the net, my sister Cora wouldn’t be able to do her schoolwork.

“Trent,” he said, his chest heaving.  “Trent, what have you done?”  There were tears in his eyes.
I tried to find the words.  We all do it, I wanted to say.  You do it, I wanted to say.  I had to do it, I wanted to say.  But what came out, when I opened my mouth, was nothing.  Dad’s hands tightened on my arms and for a moment, I was sure he was going to beat the hell out of me, really beat me, like you saw some of the other dads do on the estate.  But then he let go of me and turned round and stormed out of the flat.  Mum stood in the door to my room, sagging hard against the door frame, eyes rimmed with red, mouth pulled down in sorrow and pain.  I opened my mouth again, but again, no words came out.
I was sixteen.  I didn’t have the words to explain why I’d downloaded and kept downloading.  Why making the film that was in my head was such an all-consuming obsession.  I’d read stories of the great directors — Hitchcock, Lucas, Smith — and how they worked their arses off, ruined their health, ruined their family lives, just to get that film out of their head and onto the screen.  In my mind, I was one of them, someone who had to get this bloody film out of my skull, like, I was filled with holy fire and would burn me up if I didn’t send it somewhere.
That had all seemed proper noble and exciting and heroic right up to the point that the fake copper turned up at the flat and took away my family’s Internet and ruined our lives.  After that, it seemed like a stupid, childish, selfish whim.  

Pirate Cinema is set in a futuristic science fiction dystopia that’s coming closer and closer to reality with each passing day, where pirating content off the Internet can get you in serious trouble.  The government is controlled by the large media corporations who keep pushing for tighter and tighter control of their “content” at the expense of creativity, art, and freedom.  Trent, a sixteen year old who HAS to get the movies out of his head, splices together pieces of films of his favorite actor to make mash-ups, and after two warnings gets his family’s Internet cut off for a year.  His dad loses his job, his mother with MS is in danger of losing her medications and benefits, and his brilliant sister will flunk school, because of him. Wracked with guilt, Trent takes off for London, and falls in with a band of his own kind:  artists and techno geeks who are determined to free the Internet for everyone’s use.

The language of the book can definitely take some readers a bit to get used to as it has English slang, but there is more than a passing nod to Oliver Twist in the characters Trent runs into during his first days in London, which is a blast.  There are a lot of current issues and discussion topics to be taken away from the book that would make it ideal for classroom and book club discussions.  I would definitely recommend it for higher level YA readers- I know that some teens would have problems with the language and technical aspects, while others would fall right in and be absorbed immediately.

SPOILERS BE HERE!  You have been warned 🙂

I really loved this book, and got into it completely.  It’s definitely a science fiction dystopia (heavy on the science, not the fantasy) but one that scarily you can see we’re on the road to; that is a hallmark of Doctorow’s books.  If you don’t believe me, check out Makers- 3D printers, anyone?  With the restrictions on library Internet filters, CIPA, the fallout from Napster, the current debates about whether you own ebooks you purchase, and other legislation that is constantly going through revisions and resurrections, I can certainly see a future like the one described in Pirate Cinema.  

Trent and his gang are gripping and realistic, fleshed out with quirks and personalities of their own that I personally want to know more about, and I love the throwbacks to Oliver Twist that are present.  There are twists and highs and lows with Jem and Aziz and the others that pull you from Trent’s story into theirs, but they complement and fill out Trent’s world so that you get a complete picture of what’s going on.  There’s a GLBT relationship (and talks about the abuse that happened to one of the lovers beforehand), the teens end up in jail at one point, and they are squatting and breaking rules and avoiding the law all over the place.

One thing that is of definite interest is that Trent is a little aimless until 26 comes along.  He’s content to float, and try and make more of his movies, but it’s not until 26 that he moves into the political arena.  The love interest between Trent and 26 (yes, her adopted name is 26) pulls Trent into politics and into a way to change things around, and the ending is realistic enough that you know that it’s not all peaches and roses. 
I can only hope that there is actually another book after Pirate Cinema, continuing Trent’s story, that the 1 on the spine is a hint of things to come.  Maybe this is wishful thinking on my part…or maybe not.

The Final Word:

Definitely good for your techie teens, and your higher reader teens- I have teens that I think would love it being that they are into the entire mash-up tech movement, but I don’t know that they would be able to read it for the level of language in it.  It’s definitely a higher Lexile level than some teens might be ready for, which is something to consider when recommending it, even if their interests run parallel with the book.

Karen’s Note: Pirate Cinema is nominated for a 2012 Cybils Award in the Teen Science Fiction/Fantasy category.  I read it this weekend and agree with Christie, it is a good book.  It feels so current day and relevant.  Recommended. 4 out of 5 stars.

Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow, published by Tor Teen.  ISBN: 978-0-7653-2908-0

Creating a great Teen website: an example and some tips

If you are a school or public library, you can’t ignore the fact that teens are online. A lot.  And honestly, you need to create a situation for yourself where you have a dynamic and continually updated web presence committed to teens.  Fear not, I found a really great example at Girls in the Stacks.

I recommend opening a second tab and toggling back and forth as we discuss what is great about Girls in the Stacks.  Go ahead, I’ll wait . . .

Notice their tagline: Review. Discuss. Laugh. With us.

Here, they invite viewers to become participants in the process.  They use action verbs, and highlight that it is going to be fun.  They are extending a personal invitation and it makes it clear that this is a fun, special place that you don’t want to miss out on.

Variety of Formats

As you scan through the posts you find written posts, podcasts and video casts.  A lot of them are fun and silly.  By using a variety of formats, they appeal to a variety of types of people.  This is also a great way to get your teens involved; you can have them create and star in your content.  They can provide written book reviews, make book trailers and video casts, or even their own podcasts.  And as you know, when you involve teens in the process you create buy in and move them from thinking of “the library” to thinking of “my library”.  Your teens will always be your best promotional tool.

Distinct, Recurring Features

Part of what makes a website work is having distinct features with predictable labels.  Here you see the Girls have “currently reading”, “In the SPOTLIGHT”, “from the STACKS” and “Book Buzz”.  As these features build a reputation your teens will know to anticipate and look for them.  That is part of the reason why here at TLT we have “Quotable RA”, “Book Reviews” and “TPIB”.  As you build these distinct, recurring features they become destinations for your teens.

Other things to note:

They have a nice clean 2 column lay out that is visual and appealing, but also has enough white space to allow your eyes to rest.

They are relational in their presentation; they reveal themselves and allow you to become a part of their lives.  They have pictures and bios and boldly invite you to meet them.  By building that relationship they build followers.

They have a consistent design, color scheme, and lay out.  I can not stress enough the importance of consistency.

They make it easy to navigate.  We like a table of contents in books, and it is nice to see them online.  The only thing I would recommend is the addition of a tag cloud which works as a sort of index, but they do have tags on each post to help increase navigation so that’s a bonus.

They make it easy for visitors to share by providing lots of buttons.  Buttons everywhere: follow them on Twitter or Facebook. Share individual posts. Share, share, share. Lots of buttons, lots of sharing = increased reach.

I met Stacy the other evening (did you hear, I went and saw Lauren Oliver!) and she is passionate about books.  We talked a little bit and she shared how time consuming it is to run and maintain this site.  They now have a team of 5 people.  But . . . this would be a great way to get your TAG involved, or students if you are a school librarian.

At the very least, you need to have some sort of web presence. And as much as you can with your staff time, skills and equipment you should make sure it is visually appealing, consistent and updated frequently.  Without a doubt you want to add book reviews and covers.  And of course, make sure it easy for your teens (and you) to share via multiple platforms.  Don’t just have a web page, share and promote it by sharing links via your various social media sites.  And yes, you should have a YA Facebook and Twitter page as well.  And now, Pinterest.  View my previous article on Pinterest for ways in which you can use it to promote your library.

And yes, I know we don’t have some of those cool things that I just said you should have at TLT but -hello – party of 1.  But keep tuned in, you never know what we are going to do around here!

Have other good examples of teen pages to share? Please provide a link in the comments.  I am always looking for things to steal. Um, I mean, borrow – cause I’m a librarian and we borrow.