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Take 5: YA Lit with Food Allergies

Earlier today I talked a little bit about food allergies and shared some ever evolving thoughts I had about food in teen programming. Now I want to share 5 MG and YA lit titles that have characters that deal with food allergies. I have only read 2 of the following 5 titles, but the rest are now sitting on my TBR title after doing a little bit of research and finding them.

DELICATE MONSTERS by Stephanie Khuen

Publisher’s Book Description: From the Morris-Award winning author of Charm & Strange, comes a twisted and haunting tale about three teens uncovering dark secrets and even darker truths about themselves.

When nearly killing a classmate gets seventeen-year-old Sadie Su kicked out of her third boarding school in four years, she returns to her family’s California vineyard estate. Here, she’s meant to stay out of trouble. Here, she’s meant to do a lot of things. But it’s hard. She’s bored. And when Sadie’s bored, the only thing she likes is trouble.

Emerson Tate’s a poor boy living in a rich town, with his widowed mother and strange, haunted little brother. All he wants his senior year is to play basketball and make something happen with the girl of his dreams. That’s why Emerson’s not happy Sadie’s back. An old childhood friend, she knows his worst secrets. The things he longs to forget. The things she won’t ever let him.

Haunted is a good word for fifteen-year-old Miles Tate. Miles can see the future, after all. And he knows his vision of tragic violence at his school will come true, because his visions always do. That’s what he tells the new girl in town. The one who listens to him. The one who recognizes the darkness in his past.

But can Miles stop the violence? Or has the future already been written? Maybe tragedy is his destiny. Maybe it’s all of theirs.

Karen’s Thoughts: I have read part of an advanced copy of DELICATE MONSTERS and I was immediately drawn to how it discussed food allergy issues. It also mentions abdominal migraines, which is an ailment a teen girl I love suffers from that I had never heard of before meeting her. In addition to handling food allergy issues and the emotions surrounding them well, Khuen also just writes really fantastic thrillers and this is no exception. This book will be published in June by St. Martin’s Press.

MY YEAR OF EPIC ROCK by Andrea Pyros

Publisher’s Book Description: If Life Was Like a Song

Nina Simmons’ song would be “You Can’t Always Eat What You Want.” (Peanut allergies, ugh). But that’s okay, because as her best friend Brianna always said, “We’re All in This Together.”

Until the first day of the seventh grade, when Brianna dumps her to be BFFs with the popular new girl. Left all alone, Nina is forced to socialize with “her own kind”–banished to the peanut-free table with the other allergy outcasts. As a joke, she tells her new pals they should form a rock band called EpiPens. (Get it?) Apparently, allergy sufferers don’t understand sarcasm, because the next thing Nina knows she’s the lead drummer.

Now Nina has to decide: adopt a picture-perfect pop personality to fit in with Bri and her new BFF or embrace her inner rocker and the spotlight. Well..

Call Me a Rock Star, Maybe

Karen’s Thoughts: I actually came across this title when the author Tweeted about it earlier this week for #FoodAllergyAwarenessWeek. It will be published in September from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, it’s Middle Grade.

PEANUT by Ayun Halliday

Publisher’s Book Description: “A smart, affecting graphic young adult novel,” declares the New York Times.

Before you write me off as a delusional psycho, think about what it’s like to be thrown into a situation where everyone knows everyone… and no one knows you. Sadie has the perfect plan to snag some friends when she transfers to Plainfield High—pretend to have a peanut allergy. But what happens when you have to hand in that student health form your unsuspecting mom was supposed to fill out? And what if your new friends want to come over and your mom serves them snacks? (Peanut butter sandwich, anyone?) And then there’s the bake sale, when your teacher thinks you ate a brownie with peanuts. Graphic coming-of-age novels have huge cross-over potential, and Peanut is sure to appeal to adults and teens alike. (2012)

Karen’s Thoughts: This title is not about a person with a food allergy, but about a teen who fakes having a food allergy. And it’s a graphic novel. The New York Times said, “Sadie’s allergy may be fake, but the sentiments in “Peanut” are not, and that’s what matters.” You can read the entire review here.

BREAK by Hanna Moskowitz

Publisher’s Book Description:

Jonah is on a mission to break every bone in his body. Everyone knows that broken bones grow back stronger than they were before. And Jonah wants to be stronger—needs to be stronger—because everything around him is falling apart. Breaking, and then healing, is Jonah’s only way to cope with the stresses of home, girls, and the world on his shoulders.

When Jonah’s self-destructive spiral accelerates and he hits rock bottom, will he find true strength or surrender to his breaking point?

Karen’s Thoughts: This is a book I have not read, though Moskowitz is the author of the incredibly fascinating TEETH and NOT OTHERWISE SPECIFIED, which Amanda reviewed earlier. It doesn’t say this in the publisher’s book description, but apparently Jonah’s self destructive spiral is sparked in part by the pressures of dealing with his brother Jessie’s life-threatening food allergies.

FREE TO FALL by Lauren Miller

Publisher’s Book Description: What if there was an app that told you what song to listen to, what coffee to order, who to date, even what to do with your life—an app that could ensure your complete and utter happiness?

What if you never had to fail or make a wrong choice?

What if you never had to fall?

Fast-forward to a time when Apple and Google have been replaced by Gnosis, a monolith corporation that has developed the most life-changing technology to ever hit the market: Lux, an app that flawlessly optimizes decision making for the best personal results.

Just like everyone else, sixteen-year-old Rory Vaughn knows the key to a happy, healthy life is following what Lux recommends. When she’s accepted to the elite boarding school Theden Academy, her future happiness seems all the more assured. But once on campus, something feels wrong beneath the polished surface of her prestigious dream school.

Then she meets North, a handsome townie who doesn’t use Lux, and begins to fall for him and his outsider way of life. Soon, Rory is going against Lux’s recommendations, listening instead to the inner voice that everyone has been taught to ignore — a choice that leads her to uncover a truth neither she nor the world ever saw coming.

Karen’s Thoughts: FREE TO FALL is not a book about food allergies. In fact, it never mentions food allergies at all. There is, however, a scene where a teen boy working as a coffee shop barrister gives coffee to a teen girl and instead of giving her what she orders, he gives her a coffee he thinks she would like. What this means is that he deceives this teenage girl about what she is putting into her body not knowing if she has any dietary restrictions, thus violating her and putting her in potential harm’s way. The book itself is quite good and fascinating, very discussable, and I think this scene can lead us to talk about food safety issues in ways that perhaps the author didn’t originally intend. In my post earlier today I shared with you the story of Kaye M., a young Muslim woman with religious food restrictions and how food prep people had purposely tried to get her friends and family members to violate those personal restrictions through deception. And when I originally reviewed FREE TO FALL I shared my personal concerns about the safety issues surrounding this scene regarding food allergy issues. This scene, completely unrelated to food issues and stuck in the middle of a thriller, is a poignant reminder that sometimes we can have meaningful discussions about important issues that the author never intended. It’s a good book and the scene is a good discussion prompt.

Edited 5/15/15 to Add::

Who I Kissed by Janet Gurtler

Janet Gurtler’s latest contemporary YA novel is by turns gripping, heart-wrenching, and joyous as one teen girl has to find the courage to carry on after a devastating tragedy.

She never thought a kiss could kill…

As the new girl in town, Samantha just wants to fit in. Being invited to a party by her fellow swim team members is her big chance…especially since Zee will be there. He hasn’t made a secret of checking her out at the pool. Sam didn’t figure on Alex being there too. She barely even knows him. And she certainly didn’t plan to kiss him. It just kind of happened.

And then Alex dies—right in her arms…

Consumed by guilt and grief, Sam has no idea what to do or where to turn when everyone at school blames her. What follows is Sam’s honest, raw, and unforgettable journey to forgive herself and find balance—maybe even love—in a life that suddenly seems to be spinning out of control.

In addition, there is a self-published book called SUNDIAL by M. I. Pearsall that exists and there are discussion questions available. I don’t normally read and review self-published titles because I have never worked in a library that purchased them for their collections, which I think will someday change, but I wanted to let you know it was out there because of the discussion questions that were available.

Take 5: Australian YA

It’s no secret that Australian YA tends to be amazing. For me, it all started in 2001/2002 with two books: Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty and Sleeping Dogs by Sonya Hartnett. I read the Moriarty book while working at The Children’s Book Shop in Brookline, Massachusetts (aka my favorite job ever) and was blown away. I read the Hartnett title around the same time for a course in graduate school at Simmons College and found it astoundingly brilliant. Together with my group of Simmons friends, we read and shared more and more Australian titles (at one point trying to put together a group independent study course of Aussie YA). Since then, I’ve continued to be a voracious reader of any Australian YA I can get my hands on. With very rare exception, I am never let down. New to reading Australian YA? Here are 5 of my favorite titles  to get you started (summaries from the publishers). See the end of the post for links to more posts talking about Aussie YA. 


Take 5: Australian YA


Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty

ISBN-13: 9780312287368

Publisher: St Martin’s Press

Publication date: 1/10/2002


Life is pretty complicated for Elizabeth Clarry. Her best friend Celia keeps disappearing, her absent father suddenly reappears, and her communication with her mother consists entirely of wacky notes left on the fridge. On top of everything else, because her English teacher wants to rekindle the “Joy of the Envelope,” a Complete and Utter Stranger knows more about Elizabeth than anyone else.

But Elizabeth is on the verge of some major changes. She may lose her best friend, find a wonderful new friend, kiss the sexiest guy alive, and run in a marathon.
So much can happen in the time it takes to write a letter…

A #1 bestseller in Australia, this fabulous debut is a funny, touching, revealing story written entirely in the form of letters, messages, postcards–and bizarre missives from imaginary organizations like The Cold Hard Truth Association.

Feeling Sorry for Celia captures, with rare acuity, female friendship and the bonding and parting that occurs as we grow. Jaclyn Moriarty’s hilariously candid novel shows that the roller coaster ride of being a teenager is every bit as fun as we remember–and every bit as harrowing.


Sleeping Dogs by Sonya Hartnett 

ISBN-13: 9780670865031

Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated

Publication date: 8/12/1995


When a stranger enters a family’s midst and insists on discovering all of their darkest secrets, the family begins a slow and painful descent into decay and madness.



Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

ISBN-13: 9780375869532

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books

Publication date: 2/14/2012


Senior year is over, and Lucy has the perfect way to celebrate: tonight, she’s going to find Shadow, the mysterious graffiti artist whose work appears all over the city. He’s out there somewhere—spraying color, spraying birds and blue sky on the night—and Lucy knows a guy who paints like Shadow is someone she could fall for. Really fall for. Instead, Lucy’s stuck at a party with Ed, the guy she’s managed to avoid since the most awkward date of her life. But when Ed tells her he knows where to find Shadow, they’re suddenly on an all-night search around the city. And what Lucy can’t see is the one thing that’s right before her eyes.


Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta 

ISBN-13: 9780375829826

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books

Publication date: 9/28/2004


Francesca is stuck at St. Sebastian’s, a boys’ school that pretends it’s coed by giving the girls their own bathroom.  Her only female companions are an ultra-feminist, a rumored slut, and an impossibly dorky accordion player.  The boys are no better, from Thomas, who specializes in musical burping, to Will, the perpetually frowning, smug moron that Francesca can’t seem to stop thinking about.

Then there’s Francesca’s mother, who always thinks she knows what’s best for Francesca—until she is suddenly stricken with acute depression, leaving Francesca lost, alone, and without an inkling of who she really is.  Simultaneously humorous, poignant, and impossible to put down, this is the story of a girl who must summon the strength to save her family, her social life, and—hardest of all—herself.


Pink by Lili Wilkinson

ISBN-13: 9780061926532

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 2/8/2011


Ava is tired of her ultracool attitude, ultraradical politics, and ultrablack clothing. She’s ready to try something new—she’s even ready to be someone new. Someone who fits in, someone with a gorgeous boyfriend, someone who wears pink.

But Ava soon finds that changing herself is more complicated than changing her wardrobe. Even getting involved in the school musical raises issues she never imagined. As she faces surprising choices and unforeseen consequences, Ava wonders if she will ever figure out who she really wants to be.

Pink received an American Library Association Stonewall Award Honor for exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender experience.


If you would like to recommend additional titles on this topic, please leave us a comment. We always look forward to hearing what books others value and recommend.


For more suggestions of Australian YA titles, check out:

Epic Reads, “17 Australian YA Authors You Need to Read.” 

Inkcrush, “Aussie YA.”

Buzzfeed, “27 Awesome Australian Books Every YA Fan Should Read.” 


Take 5: You Spin Me Right Round, Baby: YA Books About Records

Record Store Day is Saturday, April 18.  As a music fanatic, I think this is a day worth celebrating.


From their website: “Record Store Day was conceived in 2007 at a gathering of independent record store owners and employees as a way to celebrate and spread the word about the unique culture surrounding nearly 1400 independently owned record stores in the US and thousands of similar stores internationally. There are Record Store Day participating stores on every continent except Antarctica.”


This year’s ambassador for Record Store Day is Dave Grohl. On the website, he writes, “Every weekend I couldn’t wait to take my hard earned lawn mowing cash down for an afternoon full of discovery. And, the chase was always as good as the catch! I spent hours flipping through every stack, examining the artwork on every cover, the titles and credits, searching for music that would inspire me, or understand me, or just to help me escape. These places became my churches, my libraries, my schools. They felt like home. And, I don’t know where I would be today without them.”


I spent a HUGE part of my teen years hanging out at Ernie November Records in Mankato, Minnesota. Other than going to shows and buying books, most of my babysitting money went to buying albums at Ernie’s. Some of my other favorite record store haunts as a teen were Extreme Noise in Minneapolis and Oar Folkjokeopus in Minneapolis. Lots of great music and zines purchased at all of those shops over the years.


To help celebrate Record Store Day, set up a display of YA books about record stores and musicians. Here are a few to get you started. These books take place in record stores, star DJs, and show what happens when you’re the subject of a hit song. Summaries via the publisher.


Take 5: You Spin Me Right Round, Baby: YA Books About Records


The Vinyl Princess by Yvonne Prinz

ISBN-13: 9780061715839

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 12/22/2009


Summer is here, and 16-year-old Allie, a self-professed music geek, is exactly where she wants to be: working full-time at Berkeley’s ultra-cool Bob and Bob Records. There, Allie can spend her days bantering with the street people, talking the talk with the staff, shepherding the uncool bridge-and-tunnel shoppers, all the while blissfully surrounded by music, music, music. It’s the perfect setup for her to develop her secret identity as The Vinyl Princess, author of both a brand-new zine and blog. From the safety of her favourite place on earth, Allie is poised to have it all: love, music and blogging.
Her mother, though, is actually the one getting the dates, and business at Allie’s beloved record store is becoming dangerously slow—not to mention that there have been a string of robberies in the neighbourhood. At least her blog seems to be gaining interest, one vinyl junkie at a time….


Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills 

ISBN-13: 9780738732510

Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.

Publication date: 10/8/2012

Read my review here


“This is Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, on community radio 90.3, KZUK. I’m Gabe. Welcome to my show.”

My birth name is Elizabeth, but I’m a guy. Gabe. My parents think I’ve gone crazy and the rest of the world is happy to agree with them, but I know I’m right. I’ve been a boy my whole life.

When you think about it, I’m like a record. Elizabeth is my A side, the song everybody knows, and Gabe is my B side—not heard as often, but just as good.

It’s time to let my B side play.

Winner of the 2014 Stonewall Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature.


Girl Defective by Simmone Howell

ISBN-13: 9781442497603

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Publication date: 9/2/2014

Read my review here


This is the story of a wild girl and a ghost girl; a boy who knew nothing and a boy who thought he knew everything.

It’s a story about Skylark Martin, who lives with her father and brother in a vintage record shop and is trying to find her place in the world. It’s about ten-year-old Super Agent Gully and his case of a lifetime. And about beautiful, reckless, sharp-as-knives Nancy. It’s about tragi-hot Luke, and just-plain-tragic Mia Casey. It’s about the dark underbelly of a curious neighborhood. It’s about summer, and weirdness, and mystery, and music.

And it’s about life and death and grief and romance. All the good stuff.


Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway 

ISBN-13: 9781595141927

Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group

Publication date: 4/2/2009


When funny, charming, absolutely-normal Audrey Cuttler dumps her boyfriend Evan, he writes a song about her that becomes a number-one hit-and rockets Audrey to stardom!

Suddenly, tabloid paparazzi are on her tail and Audrey can barely hang with her friends at concerts or the movies without getting mobbed-let alone score a date with James, her adorable coworker at the Scooper Dooper. Her life will never be the same-at least, not until Audrey confronts Evan live on MTV and lets the world know exactly who she is!


DJ Rising by Love Maia

ISBN-13: 9780316121897

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication date: 2/12/2013


The first thing I hear is music. The first thing I’ve always heard is music.

Meet Marley, an unassuming high school junior who breathes in music like oxygen. In between caring for his heroin-addicted mother, and keeping his scholarship at a fancy prep school, he dreams of becoming a professional DJ.

When chance lands Marley his first real DJ job, his career as “DJ Ice” suddenly skyrockets. But when heart-rending disaster at home brings Marley crashing back down to earth, he is torn between obligation and following his dreams.


If you would like to recommend additional titles on this topic, please leave us a comment. We always look forward to hearing what books others value and recommend.

Take 5: Teens, illness, and hospitals

Did you know that under the Teen Issues link up there on the menu bar, you can find lots of great posts and book lists organized by issue? Everything from addiction to violence is covered. If you don’t see a topic covered that you think is of interest, please leave a comment, tweet us (Amanda MacGregor @CiteSomething or Karen Jensen @TLT16), or email us at the addresses provided on the About TLT page.


Take 5: Teens, illness, and hospitals  (2014 and 2015)

We all know that plenty of books about teens and illness existed before The Fault in Our Stars, and to say that any of these books are like TFioS is being lazy. However, for readers who loved TFioS and are now looking for other books featuring sick teens, they have a lot to choose from. Here are a few recent titles to suggest to these readers. All descriptions of these recently published and forthcoming books from the publisher.



Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

ISBN-13: 9780062217165

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 5/26/2015


At seventeen, overachieving Lane finds himself at Latham House, a sanatorium for teens suffering from an incurable strain of tuberculosis. Part hospital and part boarding school, Latham is a place of endless rules and confusing rituals, where it’s easier to fail breakfast than it is to flunk French.

There, Lane encounters a girl he knew years ago. Instead of the shy loner he remembers, Sadie has transformed. At Latham, she is sarcastic, fearless, and utterly compelling. Her friends, a group of eccentric troublemakers, fascinate Lane, who has never stepped out of bounds his whole life. And as he gradually becomes one of them, Sadie shows him their secrets: how to steal internet, how to sneak into town, and how to disable the med sensors they must wear at all times.

But there are consequences to having secrets, particularly at Latham House. And as Lane and Sadie begin to fall in love and their group begins to fall sicker, their insular world threatens to come crashing down. Told in alternating points of view, Extraordinary Means is a darkly funny story about doomed friendships, first love, and the rare miracle of second chances.


The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson 

ISBN-13: 9781481403108

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication date: 1/20/2015

Read my review of this powerful title here


A heartbreaking yet uplifting story of grief about a boy who has lost everything, but finds new hope drawing in the shadows of a hospital. Features a thirty-two-page graphic novel.

Andrew Brawley was supposed to die that night, just like the rest of his family.

Now he lives in the hospital, serving food in the cafeteria, hanging out with the nurses, sleeping in a forgotten supply closet. Drew blends in to near invisibility, hiding from his past, his guilt, and those who are trying to find him. His only solace is in the world of the superhero he’s created—Patient F.

Then, one night, Rusty is wheeled into the ER, half his body burned by hateful classmates. Rusty’s agony calls out to Drew like a beacon, pulling them both together though all their pain and grief. In Rusty, Drew sees hope, happiness, and a future for both of them. A future outside of the hospital, and away from their pasts.

But to save Rusty, Drew will have to confront Death, and life will have to get worse before it gets better. And by telling the truth about who he really is, Drew risks destroying any chance of a future.


Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling by Lucy Frank

ISBN-13: 9780307979742

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books

Publication date: 8/5/2014


This novel-in-verse—at once literary and emotionally gripping—follows the unfolding friendship between two very different teenage girls who share a hospital room and an illness.

Chess, the narrator, is sick, but with what exactly, she isn’t sure. And to make matters worse, she must share a hospital room with Shannon, her polar opposite. Where Chess is polite, Shannon is rude. Where Chess tolerates pain silently, Shannon screams bloody murder. Where Chess seems to be getting slowly better, Shannon seems to be getting worse. How these teenagers become friends, helping each other come to terms with their illness, makes for a dramatic and deeply moving read.


Zac & Mia by A.J. Betts 

ISBN-13: 9780544331648

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Publication date: 9/2/2014


“When I was little I believed in Jesus and Santa, spontaneous combustion, and the Loch Ness monster. Now I believe in science, statistics, and antibiotics.” So says seventeen-year-old Zac Meier during a long, grueling leukemia treatment in Perth, Australia. A loud blast of Lady Gaga alerts him to the presence of Mia, the angry, not-at-all-stoic cancer patient in the room next door. Once released, the two near-strangers can’t forget each other, even as they desperately try to resume normal lives. The story of their mysterious connection drives this unflinchingly tough, tender novel told in two voices.


 The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell

ISBN-13: 9781481430654

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers

Publication date: 6/2/2015


A teen grapples with ALS and his decision to die in this devastatingly beautiful debut novel infused with the haunting grace of samurai death poetry and the noble importance of friendship.

Abe Sora is going to die, and he’s only seventeen years old. Diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), he’s already lost the use of his legs, which means he can no longer attend school. Seeking a sense of normality, Sora visits teen chat rooms online and finally finds what he’s been longing for: friendship without pity.

As much as he loves his new friends, he can’t ignore what’s ahead. He’s beginning to lose the function of his hands, and soon he’ll become even more of a burden to his mother. Inspired by the death poems of the legendary Japanese warriors known as samurai, Sora makes the decision to leave life on his own terms. And he needs his friends to help him.


If you would like to recommend additional titles on this topic, please leave us a comment. We always look forward to hearing what books others value and recommend.

Take 5 for Zombie Week: Variant Zombie Tales

I like a good zombie book. I also love a good zombie book which presents a variation on the traditional zombie tale. Sure I like them dark and scary and brooding. I like a good old fashioned zombie plague as much as the next living undead person. But I also love to read a new twist or a new take. Or to add a little humor. I mean, Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland may be two of the best zombie movies out there – so it’s great to find some books that add in a little – or a lot – of humor around the edges. And of course a good zombie novel can also ask us to explore important questions, drawing some distinct parallels between othered groups in our world and how the dominant or normalized group tend to view and treat marginalized groups. See, it’s not always just about eating brains and surviving, it can also be about asking us what it means to be human, what it means to be a monster, and what it means to be different in a way that makes you outcast from the rest. Today I am rounding up a few of my favorites for Zombie Week. Some of them are funny, some of them are more serious, but they all provide some slight variations on the traditional zombie tales.

The Infects by Sean Beaudoin

The Infects is funny, sarcastic, and biting. It also has a very fun take on the zombie tale when you learn where the zombie outbreak is coming from, which I can’t tell you because SPOILERS. You’ll just have to read it for yourself to find out what makes this one so fascinating and fun. (PS, want another twisted zombie tale with a similar theme but for the MG crowd? Check out ZOMBIE BASEBALL BEATDOWN by Paul Bacigalupi.)

Publisher’s Book Description: “A feast for the brain, this gory and genuinely hilarious take on zombie culture simultaneously skewers, pays tribute to, and elevates the horror genre.

Seventeen-year-old Nero is stuck in the wilderness with a bunch of other juvenile delinquents on an “Inward Trek.” As if that weren’t bad enough, his counselors have turned into flesh-eating maniacs overnight and are now chowing down on his fellow miscreants. As in any classic monster flick worth its salted popcorn, plentiful carnage sends survivors rabbiting into the woods while the mindless horde of “infects” shambles, moans, and drools behind. Of course, these kids have seen zombie movies. They generate “Zombie Rules” almost as quickly as cheeky remarks, but attitude alone can’t keep the biters back.

Serving up a cast of irreverent, slightly twisted characters, an unexpected villain, and an ending you won’t see coming, here is a savvy tale that that’s a delight to read—whether you’re a rabid zombie fan or freshly bitten—and an incisive commentary on the evil that lurks within each of us.”

Reboot by Amy Tintera

Zombies are rounded up by the government and forced to serve in a kind of army where they go out and capture other zombies. These zombies are sentient, can talk, and have feelings. Underneath all the fun is some layers that ask us to examine the way we feel about othered groups and what limits we think our government should have. REBEL is book 2 in the series. (PS, want another awesome book that looks at teens being used by the government? Check out BLACKOUT by Robison Wells.)

Publisher’s Book Description: “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).

Wren’s favorite part of the job is training new Reboots, but her latest newbie is the worst she’s ever seen. As a 22, Callum Reyes is practically human. His reflexes are too slow, he’s always asking questions, and his ever-present smile is freaking her out. Yet there’s something about him she can’t ignore. When Callum refuses to follow an order, Wren is given one last chance to get him in line—or she’ll have to eliminate him. Wren has never disobeyed before and knows if she does, she’ll be eliminated, too. But she has also never felt as alive as she does around Callum.

The perfect soldier is done taking orders.”

Dark Metropolis by Jaclyn Dolamore

This book is dark, gothic and truly fascinating. Magic is used to bring some people back to life where they are forced to work as slave labor. In the margins of this zombie tale are some real meaty discussions about socioeconomic class, how we view the poor, and what our faith might require of us. (PS, want another dark but awesome book? Check out SERVANTS OF THE STORM by Delilah S. Dawson. It’s about demons not zombies, but man is it good.)

Publisher’s Book Description:Cabaret meets Cassandra Clare-a haunting magical thriller set in a riveting 1930s-esque world.

Sixteen-year-old Thea Holder’s mother is cursed with a spell that’s driving her mad, and whenever they touch, Thea is chilled by the magic, too. With no one else to contribute, Thea must make a living for both of them in a sinister city, where danger lurks and greed rules.
Thea spends her nights waitressing at the decadent Telephone Club attending to the glitzy clientele. But when her best friend, Nan, vanishes, Thea is compelled to find her. She meets Freddy, a young, magnetic patron at the club, and he agrees to help her uncover the city’s secrets-even while he hides secrets of his own.

Together, they find a whole new side of the city. Unrest is brewing behind closed doors as whispers of a gruesome magic spread. And if they’re not careful, the heartless masterminds behind the growing disappearances will be after them, too.

Perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare, this is a chilling thriller with a touch of magic where the dead don’t always seem to stay that way.”

Eat, Brains, Love by Jeff Hart

What happens when a psychic is used by the government to track down a zombie? And what happens when you accidentally turn the girl you have been crushing on into a zombie? Is there any chance she’ll fall in love with you now? There is a sequel! Don’t forget to read UNDEAD WITH BENEFITS. (PS, want more zombies falling in love? Don’t forget about WARM BODIES by Isaac Marion.)

Publisher’s Book Description: “Two teenage zombies search for brains, love, and answers in this surprisingly romantic and laugh-out-loud funny debut novel with guts.

Jake Stephens was always an average, fly-under-the-radar guy. The kind of guy who would never catch the attention of an insanely popular girl like Amanda Blake-or a psychic teenage government agent like Cass. But one day during lunch, Jake’s whole life changed. He and Amanda suddenly locked eyes across the cafeteria, and at the exact same instant, they turned into zombies and devoured half their senior class.

Now Jake definitely has Amanda’s attention-as well as Cass’s, since she’s been sent on a top-secret mission to hunt them down. As Jake and Amanda deal with the existential guilt of eating their best friends, Cass struggles with a growing psychic dilemma of her own-one that will lead the three of them on an epic journey across the country and make them question what it means to truly be alive. Or undead.

Eat, Brains, Love is a heartwarming and bloody blend of romance, deadpan humor, and suspense that fans of Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies will devour. With its irresistibly dry and authentic teen voice, as well as a zombie apocalypse worthy of AMC’s The Walking Dead, this irreverent paperback original will leave readers dying for the sequel that’s coming in Summer 2014″

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride

Sam learns he is a necromancer with the power to raise the dead when the head of the girl he has been crushing on shows up in a box on his doorstep and starts talking to him. Things just get weirder – and funnier – from there. Possibly the funniest book ever. (PS, if you are looking for funny books also check out A BAD DAY FOR VOODOO by Jeff Strand and The Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan.)

Publisher’s Book Description: “Sam leads a pretty normal life. He may not have the most exciting job in the world, but he’s doing all right—until a fast food prank brings him to the attention of Douglas, a creepy guy with an intense violent streak.

Turns out Douglas is a necromancer who raises the dead for cash and sees potential in Sam. Then Sam discovers he’s a necromancer too, but with strangely latent powers. And his worst nightmare wants to join forces . . . or else.

With only a week to figure things out, Sam needs all the help he can get. Luckily he lives in Seattle, which has nearly as many paranormal types as it does coffee places. But even with newfound friends, will Sam be able to save his skin?


More zombie books on Goodreads

More Zombie Talk at TLT

Zombie Prom
Stephanie Wilkes talks about her annual Zombie Prom.  All the cool undead kids are doing it.

TPiB: It’s a Dead Man’s Party
Cool programming ideas you can do in your library whether you are a zombie or just running from them.

TPiB: Bring Out Your Dead, zombie party take 2

Zombies VS. Humans Lock-In, with a Doctor Who twist

Top 10 Survival Tips I Learned from Reading YA
Look, my chances are not good in a post-apocalyptic world.  I like to lie in bed, read a book and drink pop with either my air conditioning or heater on.  I don’t like to cook.  I do not take my indoor plumbing for granted.   Should the apocalypse happen, however, I have learned these 10 tips for survival which I am now going to share with you.  See, even zombie books are educational.

What’s the Deal with Zombies Anyway?

Zombie Book Reviews at TLT:

Reading the Zombie Apolcaypse

Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter
This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
The Infects by Sean Beaudoin
Fire and Ash by Jonathan Maberry
Contaminated by Em Garner
Sick by Tom Leveen
Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi
Monsters by Ilsa J. Bick
Eat, Brains, Love by Jeff Hart

Take 5: Books about eating disorders

Did you know that under the Teen Issues link up there on the menu bar, you can find lots of great posts and book lists organized by issue? Everything from addiction to violence is covered. If you don’t see a topic covered that you think is of interest, please leave a comment, tweet us (Amanda MacGregor @CiteSomething or Karen Jensen @TLT16), or email us at the addresses provided on the About TLT page.


Take 5: Books about eating disorders (2014 and 2015)

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is February 22-28. Visit the National Eating Disorders Awareness site for more information.

All descriptions of these recently published books from the publisher. Check the links provided for reviews and other posts by us on most of the books. See the “Body Image and Eating Disorders” list under Teen Issues for many great previous posts on TLT that cover this topic.


Skin and Bones by Sherry Shahan

Publisher: Albert Whtiman & Company

Publication date: 3/1/2014

ISBN-13: 9780807573976


Sixteen-year-old Jack, nicknamed “Bones,” won’t eat. His roommate in the eating disorder ward has the opposite problem and proudly goes by the nickname “Lard.” They become friends despite Bones’s initial reluctance. When Bones meets Alice, a dangerously thin dancer who loves to break the rules, he lets his guard down even more. Soon Bones is so obsessed with Alice that he’s willing to risk everything-even his recovery.

(Check out “Skin and Bones: Talking about Teens and Eating Disorders,” a guest post on TLT by Sherry Shahan.)



Pointe by Brandy Colbert 

Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group

Publication date: 4/10/2014

ISBN-13: 9780399160349


Theo is better now.

She’s eating again, dating guys who are almost appropriate, and well on her way to becoming an elite ballet dancer. But when her oldest friend, Donovan, returns home after spending four long years with his kidnapper, Theo starts reliving memories about his abduction—and his abductor.

Donovan isn’t talking about what happened, and even though Theo knows she didn’t do anything wrong, telling the truth would put everything she’s been living for at risk. But keeping quiet might be worse.

Brandy Colbert dazzles in this heartbreaking yet hopeful debut novel about learning how to let go of even our most shameful secrets.

(See my review of Pointe, and Christa Desir’s guest post for TLT, “Consent and Teenage Vulnerability: A Look at Pointe)


Running Scared by Leslie McGill

Publisher: Saddleback Educational Publishing

Publication date: 9/1/2014

ISBN-13: 9781622507061

Series: Cap Central


Capital Central High School, or Cap Central as the students like to call it, is in the northeast quadrant of Washington, D.C. Any urban school faces broad challenges, and Cap Central is no different. But some tight-knit juniors meet the difficulties head-on with courage, friendship, determination, and hard work. Rainie’s grades were slipping. Good grades were a lifetime ago. Back when her dad was around. Before her mom’s boyfriend started hanging out at their house. Commenting on her figure. Looking her up and down. Before she decided to stop eating. Become invisible. Her friends were alarmed, especially Joss. She knew times were tough for Rainie’s family. But she felt like there was more going on. Something serious. And she was going to figure it out.


Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz 

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication date: 3/3/2015

ISBN-13: 9781481405966


Etta is tired of dealing with all of the labels and categories that seem so important to everyone else in her small Nebraska hometown.

Everywhere she turns, someone feels she’s too fringe for the fringe. Not gay enough for the Dykes, her ex-clique, thanks to a recent relationship with a boy; not tiny and white enough for ballet, her first passion; not sick enough to look anorexic (partially thanks to recovery). Etta doesn’t fit anywhere—until she meets Bianca, the straight, white, Christian, and seriously sick girl in Etta’s therapy group. Both girls are auditioning for Brentwood, a prestigious New York theater academy that is so not Nebraska. Bianca might be Etta’s salvation…but can Etta be saved by a girl who needs saving herself?

(See my SLJ review of this title here)


Elena Vanishing: A Memoir by Elena Dunkle and Clare B. Dunkel

Publisher: Chronicle Books LLC

Publication date: 5/19/2015

ISBN-13: 9781452121512


Seventeen-year-old Elena is vanishing. Every day means renewed determination, so every day means fewer calories. This is the story of a girl whose armor against anxiety becomes artillery against herself as she battles on both sides of a lose-lose war in a struggle with anorexia. Told entirely from Elena’s perspective over a five-year period and cowritten with her mother, award-winning author Clare B. Dunkle, Elena’s memoir is a fascinating and intimate look at a deadly disease, and a must read for anyone who knows someone suffering from an eating disorder.


If you would like to recommend additional titles on this topic, please leave us a comment. We always look forward to hearing what books others value and recommend.


Take 5: Books about suicide

Did you know that under the Teen Issues link up there on the menu bar, you can find lots of great posts and book lists organized by issue? Everything from addiction to violence is covered. If you don’t see a topic covered that you think is of interest, please leave a comment, tweet us (Amanda MacGregor @CiteSomething or Karen Jensen @TLT16), or email us at the addresses provided on the About TLT page.


Take 5: Books about suicide (2015)

All descriptions of these recently published books from the publisher. I’ve reviewed three of them recently (and the other two reviews will be forthcoming), so check out the links for my thoughts on them. It’s interesting that three of the books on this list all came out on the same day. Books about suicide are certainly not a new trend, but the publication of so many titles about this topic so close together is worth noting.


All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books

Publication date: 1/6/2015

ISBN-13: 9780385755887


Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.


Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff 

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 1/27/2015

ISBN-13: 9780062310507


Part mystery, part love story, and part coming-of-age tale in the vein of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Spectacular Now.

There was a party. There was a fight. The next morning, Sam’s best friend, Hayden, was dead. And all he left Sam was a playlist of songs and a suicide note: For Sam—listen and you’ll understand. To figure out what happened, Sam has to rely on the playlist and his own memory. But the more he listens, the more he realizes that his memory isn’t as reliable as he thought. And it might only be by taking out his earbuds and opening his eyes to the people around him that he’ll finally be able to piece together his best friend’s story. And maybe have a chance to change his own.

Playlist for the Dead is an honest and gut-wrenching first novel about loss, rage, what it feels like to outgrow a friendship that’s always defined you—and the struggle to redefine yourself. But above all, it’s about finding hope when hope seems like the hardest thing to find.

(See my review of this title here.)


The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 2/10/2015

ISBN-13: 9780062318473


Since her brother, Tyler, committed suicide, Lex has been trying to keep her grief locked away, and to forget about what happened that night. But as she starts putting her life, her family, and her friendships back together, Lex is haunted by a secret she hasn’t told anyone—a text Tyler sent, that could have changed everything.

In the tradition of Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why, Gayle Forman’s If I Stay, and Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall,The Last Time We Say Goodbye is a thoughtful and deeply affecting novel that will change the way you look at life and death.

(See my review of this title here, as well as my thoughts on the character’s attitude toward mental health medications here)


My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga 

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 2/10/2015

ISBN-13: 9780062324672


Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.

There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution—Roman, a teenage boy who’s haunted by a family tragedy, is looking for a partner. Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other’s broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together.

(See my review of this title here)


When Reason Breaks by Cindy L. Rodriguez

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA

Publication date: 2/10/2015

ISBN-13: 9781619634121


A Goth girl with an attitude problem, Elizabeth Davis must learn to control her anger before it destroys her. Emily Delgado appears to be a smart, sweet girl with a normal life, but as depression clutches at her, she struggles to feel normal. Both girls are in Ms. Diaz’s English class, where they connect to the words of Emily Dickinson. Both are hovering on the edge of an emotional precipice. One of them will attempt suicide. And with Dickinson’s poetry as their guide, both girls must conquer their personal demons to ever be happy.

In an emotionally taut novel that is equal parts literary and commercial, with a richly diverse cast of characters, readers will relish in the poetry of Emily Dickinson and be completely swept up in the turmoil of two girls fighting for their lives.


If you would like to recommend additional titles on this topic, please leave us a comment. We always look forward to hearing what books others value and recommend.


Some other great posts that detail more books can be found at:

Stacked, “Suicide and Depression in YA: A Discussion and Book List.” 

YA Book Shelf, “Suicide Awareness Week Wrap Up.” 

Jennifer R. Hubbard, “YA Books about Suicide.” 

Editing this to add: Stacked: “The Rise of Suicide in YA Fiction and Exploring Personal Biases in Reading.” 

Take 5: 5 Thoughts I Had While Reading BRUTAL YOUTH by Anthony Breznican, reflections of a teen librarian

When author Eric Devine recommended Brutal Youth to me for our #SVYALit Project chat on the topic of hazing (which will happen on January 28th at Noon Eastern), I hadn’t heard of it before. In large part probably because it’s not published as YA. Brutal Youth is published as adult, though it features as many teen voices as it does adult and really is a crossover novel. The thing is, it’s a really good one. The amount of stuff packed into this novel is profound. So for today’s post I’m going to share with you 5 things I loved about Brutal Youth.

1. This quote:

“So now she was trying her best to make conversation, but a parent can’t leave a child alone for so long and expect the occasional nicety to count for much. Those bonds break away much more quickly and permanently than most people would like to believe.”
Anthony Breznican, Brutal Youth

Time and time again I have watched as parents mistakenly withdraw from their teenage children under the mistaken belief that teens don’t need much active parenting. I get it; parenting is hard and exhausting and after 13, 14 and 15 years it’s easy to take a breath and think finally you can take a moment to yourself. The truth is, teens need parents. Teens need active, involved parents who are willing and able to be real and engaged. I thought this quote towards the end of the book was so completely profound because I have worked with these kids. I have known these kids who had these parents and I have seen how hard it is to try and pick up the pieces, sometimes after it is too late. Teens need adults that care, be that adult. That’s what makes us good YA librarians, choosing to be that adult.

2. This quote:

“Yeah, kids who trash bathrooms. Maybe those kids matter more than even the good little ones who sit in the front row and try to answer every question.”
Anthony Breznican, Brutal Youth

The kids that are hardest to love are often the ones who need it the most. Not always, but often. It’s just that they are stuck in this negative cycle where they pretend that they don’t need love and affirmation so they actively push others away. You see, it’s easier to put up defenses and pretend that you don’t need love and affirmation then it is to constantly allow yourself to be vulnerable and allow yourself to say you have that need and then watch as the people around you fail you by not choosing to fill it. Those tough, hard to love teens have been taught by life that they aren’t going to get love, so somewhere along the way the start pretending that they don’t need it. As someone who works with teens, it’s our job to be patient and kind and to know that for most teens, this rough exterior is just a bullshit act meant to protect. It’s our job to understand enough about adolescent development to know that quite often the kids we fear the most, the kids that push our buttons, the kids that challenge us every step of the way – those kids are often the kids who need us the most. Choose to rise to the challenge.

3. This quote:

“Maybe it’s the way you talk, or the color of your skin, or the color of your underwear, or whether you’ve got a clip-on around your neck. Assholes will find a reason to fuck with you.”
Anthony Breznican, Brutal Youth

There will always be bullies. They will always find a reason to bully others. It doesn’t matter what a kid may look like, what they may wear, where they may live or how much money they may or may not have. Bullying is not really about the victim, it is about the person doing the bullying. It is about the need for power and control. It is often about the need to build oneself up on the backs of others. Our job is to stand up against bullying. To use story to enlighten and educate, to open eyes and build compassion. Our job is stand up to bullies and say that this is not acceptable.

4. This quote:

“Your problem is that you don’t know how to be happy with unhappiness.”
Anthony Breznican, Brutal Youth

My timeline is often full of pithy quotes that seem to want to remind others that no matter how bad your life may be, someone somewhere else has it so much worse so you should be grateful for what you do have. We seem to want to deny others the right to feel what they are feeling in the midst of wherever they are in life. The other problem with this is that these ideas are used to allow us to turn our backs on very real problems that need addressing in our society. Take, for example, the idea of poverty, which is what a lot of recent quotes I have seen have to deal with. Yes, a good education can help you turn your life around. The problem is, that those born into areas of poverty don’t often have access to those educations. Kids born into areas of poverty are sent to barely surviving schools on basically empty stomachs without the same resources or curriculums that you would find at schools with more money. What we often suggest is that these students, these barely surviving students, shouldn’t feel rage and fear; we want them to be grateful and happy for what they do have instead of demanding more. But the thing is, we should all be demanding more. We should be demanding more because our humanity requires it of us. We should be demanding more because we know that poverty, in the long run, effects us all. Poverty affects us all because it affects health outcomes, it affects education, it affects what type of working adults we will have in the future when we want to turn to these new adults to take care of the society that we live in. We need the kids of today to be successful so that they will be the successful adults of tomorrow.

5. And finally, this quote:

“Surprise, surprise—the good guys don’t always win. Sometimes, they’re lucky if they just get to keep on being the good guys.”
Anthony Breznican, Brutal Youth

Life can really knock you around. In Brutal Youth, Breznican presents a world in which brutality is institutionalized and codified.  It seems like it might be an exaggeration, but I have lived enough life to know that this is sadly true in a lot of ways and in a lot of places. There are people and places that embrace and relish this type of brutality. The thing is, it changes you. In order to survive you often find yourself changing the core of who you are. As adults, we can’t allow these type of scenarios to persist because we should want to raise good people. Moral people. Compassionate people. The types of people who make the hard decisions because they are the right decisions. I don’t know what kind of world you want to live in, but I want to live in one where people care about one another. How we treat kids today helps form what types of adults will be running our world tomorrow.

Brutal Youth was a profound reading experience for me. I saw in the pages of this book so much that I see wrong with this world and it reminded me of what life can be like for our teens – and our adults. These were painfully flawed characters, often barely surviving. At one point, a young woman is brutally beaten by a parent and then later, when she awakens from being knocked out, she goes and places a blanket over the sleeping mother that has just beaten her. This young woman has to chose to create a type of peace in her home time and time again because it is the only home she has. This young woman broke my heart because I know far too many teens living in the same types of environments. Our teens are living with the very scenarios that I kept reading in Brutal Youth.

There are also some very profound moments that discuss the abuse of police authority that really resonate with the discussions we are having across the U.S. in light of recent events. Here we see the police fabricating evidence to manipulate events, to steer them in the directions they want them to go. Yes, there are good police. But we also do a huge disservice to ourselves and our communities if we turn a blind idea to the discussions happening about the abuse of power that can happen in our local police forces. And that’s a lot of what Brutal Youth is about, the abuse of power and the many and various ways that can happen. Sometimes, it is the police. Sometimes, it is teachers and school administrators. Sometimes it is the clergy. Sometimes it is your peers. In Brutal Youth, it is often all of the above, as it can be in life.

Rumors, gossip, fear, power, faith and lack of faith . . . there is so much tucked into the stories of the many characters here. Some of them try to do the right things but end up really screwing things up anyways. Some of them have no intentions of doing the right thing. Whatever their reasons, the story is fascinating. It is discussable. It stays with you.

Take 5: The Robot Test Kitchen’s Reading List

The five of us in the Robot Test Kitchen all came to this project from different comfort levels with technology. Some of us couldn’t get enough of it, some of us were skilled at it, some of us were dragging our heels, and some of us were curious but trepidatious. Some of us were a little bit of it all. Now that our project year has ended, we don’t have the amazing instructors in the ILEAD program to guide us every few months, we’re looking for ways to keep on learning. Here are a few books on our reading list this winter:

Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom By Sylvia Libow Martinez & Gary Stager
This guide is geared toward teachers, but that approach is really nice here, especially as an advocacy tool. It’s a great title for those librarians who ask themselves, “why robots? why STEM? why here?” because it looks at tinkering and making in the context of educational philosophy before getting into answering the “what” and “how” questions that will follow.



Making Makers: Kids, Tools, and the Future of Innovation by Dr. AnnMarie Thomas

Dr. Thomas is behind the super fun, super simple, super instructive Squishy Circuits concept. In her book, she interviews makers of all kinds to take a closer look at how childhood experiences can light a spark that can lead to creation and innovation. I love her playful approach to technology. It feels right and real to me.




Design, Make, Play: Growing the Next Generation of STEM Innovators by Margaret Honey

Another one to add to your list, especially if you feel you might face resistance to the concept of integrating STEM programs, whether from others in the library, or within yourself. Treating each activity: designing, making, and playing, as different pathways into learning is a really interesting concept, and certainly something that we at the Robot Test Kitchen have seen play out in our programs.



Zero to Maker: Learn (just enough) to make (just about) anything by David Lang

If you’re on board and ready to start making stuff, this is the book for you. Lang walks you through his process of embracing the maker movement and learning that it’s “really not about DIY or do it yourself, this whole thing is about DIT or do it together.” What a great concept, right? What a library friendly concept!




The Maker Cookbook: Recipes for Children’s and Tweens Library Programming by Cindy R. Wall and Lynn M. Pawloski 

Written by librarians for librarians, this is a great grab-and-go programming resource. And while the title says Children and Tweens, I’m pretty confident that the fun factor of a lot of the programs will bring them up to the teen level, or could be expanded upon in a way that would make them appealing to your teens.

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

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.

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.