Teen Librarian Toolbox
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YA A to Z: Bullying by Michelle Biwer

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), about 20% of students ages 12-18 reported being bullied in 2015. Notably, those statistics skyrocket for LGBTQ students. In 2013, 70.8% of LGBTQ students were verbally bullied because of their sexual orientation and 54.5% were bullied due to their gender expression (National School Climate Survey, 2015). Bullying rates are also higher for black students (NCES, 2016) and students with disabilities (Rose et al., 2012). Edutopia has some great resources for how to prevent bullying as a teacher and how to get teens involved in the process.

Notably, the NCES does not currently compile data on students with disabilities and bullying, meaning the government does not have a complete picture of bullying issues. However, other organizations have collected that data and made it available for reference.

The recent YA titles below feature teens who are bullied. While bullying may be the focus of a story, it’s more often presented as one of many problems a teen protagonist has to deal with.

dear martinDear Martin by Nic Stone (Crown, 2017)

Justyce is an African-American teen who attends an elite boarding school and the rich, white kids he is surrounded by constantly harass him with racial epithets. When his friend is shot by a police officer, he sees what happens when such pervasive prejudice is ignored.

eleanor and park

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (St. Martin’s Press, 2013)

Raised in an abusive household with no money, Eleanor goes to school in ill-fitting, patched-up clothes, making her an easy target for bullies. While trying to escape the bullies at home and at school, Eleanor makes a friend in Park, who shares her love of music.

ms. marvel 7
Ms. Marvel, Volume 7: Damage Per Second by G. Willow Wilson and Takeshi Miyazawa (Marvel Comics, 2017)

In issue #16 of the Ms. Marvel comics centered around New Jersey teen Kamala Khan, Dr. X threatens to reveal Kamala’s secret superhero identity to the world via the internet.

out of my mind
Out of My Mind
by Sharon Draper (Atheneum Books, 2010)

Melody is finally able to “talk” through her new assistive device, allowing her freedom she never had before as a person with cerebral palsy. She joins the quiz bowl team but suffers harassment from other members and even sometimes her teachers.

Positive: A Memoir
by Paige Rawl and Ali Benjamin (HarperCollins, 2014)

After Paige told her best friend that she was HIV positive, she was relentlessly bullied and struggled with depression. This memoir recounts that time in her life and promotes the importance of compassion.

rhyme schemer
Rhyme Schemer
by K.A. Holt (Chronicle Books, 2014)

Kevin’s unusual bullying tactic is cutting up old library books and arranging rude poetry about other students. When everyone finds out Kevin is the culprit, the tables are turned and he becomes bullied himself.

by Sarah Ockler (Simon Pulse, 2015)

Lucy steps in as a prom date for her best friend’s boyfriend and the next day she is hacked, with compromising photos of the two splashed all over her Facebook page. She fights against slutshaming and other bullying from her peers and is determined to find out who hacked her account.

simon v
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
by Becky Albertalli (Balzer + Bray, 2015)

Simon is a closeted gay teen who is blackmailed about his sexual orientation by classmate at school. The film adaptation, titled Love, Simon, will be out later this year.

yaqui delgado
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass
by Meg Medina (Candlewick, 2013)

Piddy moves to a new school and quickly finds herself the target of Yaqui Delgado and her gang.

YA A to Z: An Alphabet Soup of YA Authors – the list

Sometime this summer I sent out an email to my TLTers and said, “so . . . I have this idea, what to do you think of this?” And my idea was YA A to Z. As Robin once said, “you have good ideas, you just don’t have small ideas.” And YA A to Z turned out to be a rather big idea. But we did it! During the month of November we put together an A to Z list of some of our favorite YA authors and highlighted the books that touched us as both readers and librarians. Many people shared in the fun online by sharing their favorite authors with the hashtag #YAAtoZ. It was a lot of fun, and even I found some new titles and authors I wasn’t familiar with, making my TBR list that much bigger.

Here’s our alphabet soup of YA authors

A: Laure Halse Anderson

B: Libba Bray

C: Kristin Cashore

D: Sarah Dessen

E: E. Lockhart

F: Sharon G. Flake

G: Lamar Giles

H: Rachel Hawkins

I: Justina Ireland

J: Maureen Johnson

K: Julie Kagawa

L: David Levithan

M: Tahereh Mafi

N: Patrick Ness

O: Laruen Oliver

P: Stephanie Perkins

Q: Matthew Quick

R: Sarah Rees Brennan

S: Jenny Torres Sanchez

T: Terry Trueman

U: Anne Ursu

V: Siobhan Vivian

W: Jacqueline Woodson

X: Francisco X. Stork

Y: Gene Luen Yang

Z: Sara Zarr

As you can see, we cheated on about 5 of the letters. And on some of them, we were forced to make some really hard decisions choosing between several of our favorites. When this happened, we chose to highlight authors that we had talked about less on the blog. The planning process was part of the fun – there was debating, there was bargaining, there was weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. We wanted to heed the call put forth by the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign to include diversity. We wanted to share our experiences and highlight those moments that had touched us. In short, we want to share our love of all things YA lit. And I think we accomplished what we set out to do. If we did this a year from now – and don’t panic Heather, Robin and Amanda, we probably aren’t – I am sure we would come up with a completely different list. Because trying to choose a favorite is a really hard thing to do it turns out.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of YA authors, but it was a fun exercise for us in sharing some of our favorites. Please, feel free to share your favorites with us in the comments. We love to talk about YA authors and books and we want to hear from you.

YA A to Z: Sara Zarr

Photo credit: Jeffrey Overstreet

Why I chose Sara Zarr:

I’m a character-driven reader, and Sara Zarr excels in creating interesting characters who lead rich inner lives. Her characters aren’t always likable (and who cares about that anyway?), but they’re always well-drawn, realistic, and flawed. I often finish a novel by Zarr and think how so many pieces of the story were quietly beautiful, a description that may be meaningless if you haven’t read Zarr’s books, but hopefully will resonate for those who have. While I have greatly enjoyed all of her books, it’s How to Save a Life that stands out to me. Zarr tells the story of two teenage girls—Jill, whose mother is going to adopt a baby in the wake of Jill’s father’s death, and Mandy, the pregnant teen whose baby Jill’s mother plans to adopt. Told in alternating chapters, the girls reveal themselves to be angry, confused, hopeful, and vulnerable as they both navigate an uncertain time in their lives. It was this powerful and heart-wrenching book that ensured I would be reading anything else Zarr would write.


Brief biography (from her website):

Sara Zarr is the acclaimed author of five novels for young adults, most recently The Lucy Variations, which the New York Times called “an elegant novel.” Her sixth, a collaborative novel with Tara Altebrando, came out December 2013. She’s a National Book Award finalist and two-time Utah Book Award winner. Her books have been variously named to annual best books lists of the American Library Association, Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, the Guardian, the International Reading Association, the New York Public Library and Los Angeles Public Library, and have been translated into many languages. In 2010, she served as a judge for the National Book Award. She has written essays and creative nonfiction for ImageHunger Mountain online, and Response as well as for several anthologies, and has been a regular contributor to Image‘s daily Good Letters blog on faith, life, and culture. As of summer 2013, she’s a member of the faculty of Lesley University’s Low-Residency Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program. Sara also hosts the This Creative Life podcast. She is the current Salt Lake City Literary Death Match Champion. Born in Cleveland and raised in San Francisco, she currently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband,



Story of a Girl (2007)

Sweethearts (2008)

Once Was Lost (2009) (Republished as What We Lost in 2013)

How to Save a Life (2011)

The Lucy Variations (2013)

Roomies co-written with Tara Altebrando (2013)


Find Sara Zarr online:





If you like Sara Zarr check out these authors:

Donna Freitas, Jo Knowles, Leila Sales, Siobhan Vivian, Kate Bassett, Sara Ockler


Today’s the last day to join the conversation!  Share a post about your favorite author OR tweet us your favorite author with the tag #YAAtoZ. While we’re sharing our favorite authors, we would love to hear about yours. We all might find some new authors we haven’t heard of before. And the more authors we share, the more comprehensive and diverse the list becomes. On Twitter, we’re @TLT16 and I’m @CiteSomething

YA A to Z: Gene Luen Yang

Here we are in the homestretch – I mean, we’re at the letter Y – and not one single graphic novel has appeared on our list, even though statistical evidence suggests that graphic novels are some of the top circulating items in my library system (how about yours?). The truth is, I personally am not a huge reader of graphic novels, though I am a huge advocate for them because my tweens and teens love them. Even The Tween loves them, personally being a huge fan of GNs by Raina Telgemeier and a few other series. I know, I hang my head in shame. I should read more graphic novels. That should be one of my New Year’s Resolutions.

But I have read the award winning works of Gene Luen Yang and maintain that everyone should. Everyone. Yes, even you. These books are award winners for a reason!

About American Born Chinese:

“All Jin Wang wants is to fit in. When his family moves to a new neighborhood, he suddenly finds that he’s the only Chinese American student at his school. Jocks and bullies pick on him constantly, and he has hardly any friends. Then, to make matters worse, he falls in love with an all-American girl…

Born to rule over all the monkeys in the world, the story of the Monkey King is one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables. Adored by his subjects, master of the arts of kung-fu, he is the most powerful monkey on earth. But the Monkey King doesn’t want to be a monkey. He wants to be hailed as a god…

Chin-Kee is the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, and he’s ruining his cousin Danny’s life. Danny’s a popular kid at school, but every year Chin-Kee comes to visit, and every year Danny has to transfer to a new school to escape the shame. This year, though, things quickly go from bad to worse…

These three apparently unrelated tales come together with an unexpected twist, in a modern fable that is hilarious, poignant and action-packed. American Born Chinese is an amazing rise, all the way up to the astonishing climax–and confirms what a growing number of readers already know: Gene Yang is a major talent” (Publisher’s Description)

American Born Chinese has won a tremendous amount of recognition: “In 2006, Yang published American Born Chinese with :01 First Second Publishing and won the annual Michael L. Printz Award from the American Library Association recognizing the year’s “best book written for teens, based entirely on its literary merit”.[9] It was also the first graphic novel to be a finalist for the National Book Award, Young People’s Literature,[4] and it won an Eisner Award for best new graphic album.[10] American Born Chinese has since been recognized in many ways. It has been on the Booklist top Ten Graphic Novel for Youth; NPR Holiday Pick, Publishers Weekly Comics Week Best Comic of the Year, San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year, The Rueben Award for Best Comic Book, The Chinese American Librarians Association 2006/2007 Best Graphic Album – New, Time Magazine Top Ten Comic of the Year, and Amazon.com Best Graphic Novel/Comic of the year.” – From his Wikipedia page

About Boxers & Saints:

“China, 1898. Bands of foreign missionaries and soldiers roam the countryside, bullying and robbing Chinese peasants.

Little Bao has had enough. Harnessing the powers of ancient Chinese gods, he recruits an army of Boxers–commoners trained in kung fu–who fight to free China from “foreign devils.”

Against all odds, this grass-roots rebellion is violently successful. But nothing is simple. Little Bao is fighting for the glory of China, but at what cost? So many are dying, including thousands of “secondary devils”–Chinese citizens who have converted to Christianity.

Saints: China, 1898. An unwanted and unwelcome fourth daughter, Four-Girl isn’t even given a proper name by her family when she’s born. She finds friendship–and a name, Vibiana–in the most unlikely of places: Christianity.

But China is a dangerous place for Christians. The Boxer Rebellion is in full swing, and bands of young men roam the countryside, murdering Westerners and Chinese Christians alike. Torn between her nation and her Christian friends, Vibiana will have to decide where her true loyalties lie…and whether she is willing to die for her faith.” (Publisher’s Description)

Outside of the awesome storyline and storyboarding, Boxers & Saints has epic packaging in the way the two are clearly designed to go together. There are so many interesting things happening here, including diving into some of the myths and realities of China’s view of women and the world of Christians in China. As a youth ministry major at a conservative Christian college, we heard often about the life of Christians in China and it was fascinating to read about those struggles in a different storytelling format and outside the walls of a group of people who definitely had some bias in the ways that these stories were presented. This is truly an amazing story. In 2013 Gene Luen Yang was a National Book Award Finalist for this amazing story.

About the Author:

Gene Yang began drawing comic books in the fifth grade. In 1997, he received the Xeric Grant, a prestigious comics industry grant, for Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks, his first comics work as an adult. He has since written and drawn a number of titles, including Duncan’s Kingdom (with art by Derek Kirk Kim) and The Rosary Comic Book. American Born Chinese received National Book Award.

He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his lovely wife and children and teaches at a Roman Catholic high school. (This bio is ripped from his Goodreads bio)


Join the conversation!  Share a post about your favorite author OR tweet us your favorite author with the tag #YAAtoZ. While we’re sharing our favorite authors, we would love to hear about yours. We all might find some new authors we haven’t heard of before. And the more authors we share, the more comprehensive and diverse the list becomes. On Twitter, we’re @TLT16, @boothheather, @robinreads, and @citesomething.

#YAAtoZ Schedule: Week 1 4: A ; 5: B ; 6: C ; 7: D  Week 2 10: E ; 11: F ; 12: G, H, I ; 13: J, K ; 14: L  Week 3 17: M ; 18: N, O ; 19: P, Q ; 20: R, S ; 21: T  Week 4 24: U ; 25: V, W ; 26: X ; 27: Y ; 28: Z

YA A to Z: Francisco X. Stork (a guest post by Linda Jerome)

Alright, so we had to cheat a bit with the whole letter “X” thing but trust me, this author is worthy of rule-bending. If you haven’t read anything by Francisco X. Stork, then let me implore you to read my favorite book (so far) of his called Marcelo in the Real World. It’s the story of a young man on the autism spectrum who works in the mail room for a summer at his father’s law firm in order to gain “real world” experience and not only does this experience change his life, but it changes the lives of all involved.

As is the case with all my favorite books, Marcelo in the Real World isn’t just about one thing, it’s about the many threads that weave together to make a life. Yes, it’s a coming-of-age story told from a unique viewpoint but it’s also about the cost of doing the right thing, the shortcomings of our legal system, the differences between faith and religion and how a deep connection to music can shape a life. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? But in the hands of a master storyteller, all those pieces fit together in a gorgeous, seamless way that makes you feel like a better person for reading it. And what Marcelo discovers is that it is in the asking of the big, difficult questions that we find our humanity:

“For all the pain I saw at Paterson, it is nothing compared to the pain that people inflict upon each other in the real world. All I can think of now is that is is not right for me to be unaware of that pain, including the pain that I inflict on others. Only how is it possible to live without being either numb to it or overwhelmed by it?”

                                –page 302

Just like in the lives of the teens we serve, there are no easy answers and there are hard lessons to be learned. But there is also love and humor and the joy of finding your place in the world. And for me, books like Marcelo in the Real World are the kind that stick with me and I find myself recommending again and again because they speak powerfully about what connects us as human beings, no matter the differences.

Brief Biography

Francisco Xavier Arguelles was born in 1953 in Monterrey, Mexico. His mother, Ruth Arguelles, was a single woman from a middle-class family in Tampico. Six years later Ruth married Charles Stork, a retired man of Dutch ancestry, who adopted Francisco.When Francisco announced that he wanted to be a writer, Charlie gave him a portable typewriter for his seventh birthday. Two years later, Francisco and his family moved to El Paso, Texas, where he was sent to grammar school to learn English.

As a teenager, Francisco was given a scholarship to the local Jesuit academy and soon rose to the top of his class. Based on his success there, he received an honors scholarship to attend Spring Hill College, a small Jesuit school in Mobile, Alabama. Francisco majored in English literature and philosophy and received the college’s creative writing prize. He was awarded the prestigious Danforth Fellowship to attend graduate school at Harvard University, where he studied Latin American literature with writers like Octavio Paz, the Mexican Nobel Laureate. After four years at Harvard, Francisco went to Columbia Law School, planning to make a living as a lawyer while writing fiction. Twenty years, and twelve or so legal jobs later, he published his first novel for adults, The Way of the Jaguar.

Francisco X. Stork works in Boston as an attorney for a state agency that develops affordable housing. He is married and has two adult children.


The Way of the Jaguar (2000)

Behind the Eyes (2006)

Marcelo in the Real World (2009)

The Last Summer of the Death Warriors (2010)

Irises (2012)

In Anthologies

What You Wish For: Stories and Poems for Dafur (2011)

Two and Twenty Dark Tales: Dark Retellings of Mother Goose Rhymes (2012)

Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices (2013)

You can find Francisco online at:




If you like Francisco X. Stork’s books, I’d recommend:

Matt de la Pena

John Green


Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Natalie Standiford

Meet Our Guest Blogger:

Linda Jerome is the teen librarian at La Crosse Public Library and has been working with teens for the last 13 years of her 24-year library career and still finds teens to be the most fascinating, amusing and delightful group of human beings. When she isn’t reading, she’s watching sports, directing two handbell choirs, working on her family history and hanging out with her two dogs.

YA A to Z – Jacqueline Woodson

I hope you, like me, were jumping out of your seat and gleefully exclaiming “Yes!” when you heard the news of Jackie Woodson’s win at the National Book Awards last week. The other contenders were all strong, but this book is amazing. In fact, if you want to read more of my thoughts about Brown Girl Dreaming, you can click here to go to my review. Two things are still ever-present from that review. One, I want Brown Girl Dreaming to win ALL THE AWARDS – it’s just that good. I want the cover to look like the cover for Walter Dean Myers’ Monster. I want there to be so many stickers on that book that you have to buy a poster of the cover art so everyone can see its beauty undisguised. And two, I am still reading the poem from page 61 to my students as they come for book talks, each time to gasps of appreciation. This last week I had a student exclaim, “That’s me!” Yes, yes it is you, affluent young blonde boy from the suburbs, that is you. Her poems are all of us.

Woodson’s young adult titles explore themes that are equally universally resonant. The pain of loss, the excruciating joys and sorrows of finding your place in the world, how to go on in the face of experiences that seem as if they will crush your soul, the importance of relationship – all are found within the pages of her novels. She is a blessing to those of us who constantly seek to put books into the hands of students who are underrepresented in today’s published novels, due to race, socioeconomic status, or GLTBQ identity. Her strong voice will be with us long after she is gone.

Brief Biography

As you know if you’ve read Brown Girl Dreaming, Woodson grew up in both Greenville, South Carolina and Brooklyn, New York. A full time writer, she teaches creative writing in the graduate program at City College for Goddard College. She also works with the National Book Foundation’s Summer Writing Camp to teach writing to young people from disadvantaged communities. She currently resides in Brooklyn with her partner and their two children.


Jacqueline Woodson has won so many awards over the years that I fear to list them lest I miss one. However, forging on, Woodson was the recipient of the 2006 Margaret A Edwards Award for significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature. She has received the Newbery Honor on 3 occasions, been a finalist for the National Book Award for Young People’s literature twice previously, been given the Coretta Scott King Honor 4 times and won it once, and had one of her books be awarded the Caldecott Honor.

Young Adult novels

  • Beneath a Meth Moon
  • Hush
  • Behind You
  • If You Come Softly
  • Miracle’s Boys
  • From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun
  • I Hadn’t Meant to Tell You This
  • Lena
  • The House You Pass on the Way
  • The Dear One

You can find Jacqueline Woodson online

Some other ‘W’ authors I love

YA A to Z: Siobhan Vivian

I read and reviewed Siobhan Vivian’s Same Difference for Booklist the year it was released. I was struck – I still am – by the book’s slow, deliberate unfolding of the story mirroring the unfolding and growth of the main character. I was surprised by the character, just as she was surprised by what she was growing into.

Siobhan Vivian has never shied away from these types of characters: young women who know themselves, and stretch to know themselves better. What I find really wonderful about this is that these are not easy characters to write. It’s easy to find teen characters who learn and grow – it’s kind of a thing in YA lit – but finding teen characters who are conscious of their growth, interested in stretching beyond the boxes that they have been placed in by their age, their gender, their social groups, or their society, and realistically self possessed as they do so. I love that her characters feel so real because they, like all of us, are complicated. They have dark sides, they want things they’re not supposed to want, they think things that “nice girls” don’t talk about, but they’re people we cheer for because this realness makes us know them.

Vivian is a New York native, an editor and teacher in addition to her novel writing. She can be found online, and is active on Twitter, but fun fact: there’s no Wikipedia page about her yet. So someone get on that, ok?


  • A Little Friendly Advice
  • Same Difference
  • Not That Kind of Girl
  • The List
  • Burn For Burn (with Jenny Han)
  • Fire With Fire (with Jenny Han)
  • Ashes To Ashes (with Jenny Han)

Join the conversation!  Share a post about your favorite author OR tweet us your favorite author with the tag #YAAtoZ. While we’re sharing our favorite authors, we would love to hear about yours. We all might find some new authors we haven’t heard of before. And the more authors we share, the more comprehensive and diverse the list becomes. On Twitter, we’re @TLT16, @boothheather, @robinreads, and @citesomething.

#YAAtoZ Schedule: Week 1 4: A ; 5: B ; 6: C ; 7: D  Week 2 10: E ; 11: F ; 12: G, H, I ; 13: J, K ; 14: L  Week 3 17: M ; 18: N, O ; 19: P, Q ; 20: R, S ; 21: T  Week 4 24: U ; 25: V, W ; 26: X ; 27: Y ; 28: Z

Middle Grade Monday – Anne Ursu

So it turns out that it is difficult to find YA authors whose last name starts with ‘U’ – go figure. Karen asked me to cheat and do a middle grade author for our ‘U’ day for YA A to Z, because she knows how much I love Anne Ursu. You should love her, too. Not only does she write beautiful, enthralling middle grade novels that leave me a sobbing emotional wreck for days, she is also a tireless and eloquent advocate for diversity and the interests of children in the publishing community. Which is why she so often makes it into the Friday Finds ‘Authors Being Smart on the Internet’ category.

Breadcrumbs (my favorite of her novels) starts, like so many middle grade novels, at a turning point for the main character, Hazel. She has grown up with her best friend Jack who suddenly abandons her. She is understandably devastated. Her mother tries to help, explaining that this often happens with friendships, and attempting to help her find new friends. It was at this point that the sobbing began for me. I may have unresolved childhood issues. Regardless, Breadcrumbs is able to powerfully evoke this feeling of childhood loss with a palpable ache. The writing only becomes more brilliant as the story moves from our world into the realm of fantasy and Hazel attempts to rescue her friend Jack from an evil witch. It is modeled somewhat on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, but also weaves in elements from his other stories. An absolutely stunning story, this is also helpful to have on hand for middle graders who are beginning to deal with some of the more harsh realities of life.

I book talked both Breadcrumbs and The Real Boy last week with one 6th grade class, introducing Anne Ursu as an author. All of my copies were gone in seconds. Her books have real appeal to children. In fact, earlier this year, one of my 6th grade students found Breadcrumbs on the shelf and brought it up to check out and tell me, “This was my favorite book last year – I’m going to read it again!” I was so pleased to be able to hand her a copy of The Real Boy (once I had finished attaching the cover.)

More recently, Anne has been a vocal advocate for diversity in children’s and young adult literature. She can be found passionately advocating for diverse voices and perspectives in the comments sections of certain tone deaf blog posts. She regularly responds with great depth of thought and reason to specious claims made in the media which attempt to marginalize and devalue children’s literature. In deconstructing the popular narrative about it, Anne illuminates the true value of books for children and young adults, as well as the value of their readers. You can visit her Tumblr for several excellent examples – this one is my favorite.

Brief Biography

Anne Ursu lives in Minneapolis, MN with her son and multiple cats. In addition to her writing, she teaches Writing for Children in the Hamline University Master of Fine Arts program. She received the 2013 McKnight Fellowship Award in Children’s Literature, which awards a Minnesotan writer a stipend so they can pursue their writing unhindered. Both Breadcrumbs and The Real Boy have been featured as IndieBound Next list picks. Breadcrumbs was featured on multiple Best of 2011 lists and was a featured title on NPR’s Backseat Book Club. The Real Boy was chose for the National Book Award long list.


  • The Real Boy (2013)
  • Breadcrumbs (2011)
  • The Cronus Chronicles
    • The Shadow Thieves (2006)
    • The Siren Song (2008)
    • The Immortal Fire (2009)

You can find Anne online

YA A to Z: Terry Trueman

In 2001 author Terry Trueman won the Michael L. Printz Honor Award for his book Stuck in Neutral. In this work, we step inside the mind of Shawn McDaniel, a boy who has Cerebral Palsy. He is also a boy that things his father is about to kill him. You see, Shawn can’t communicate with the outside world and his father is worried that Shawn is in pain, so he wants to help him. And now Shawn is trying desperately to find a way to let his father know that he wants to live.

At the time, this was one of the first books I ever read from the point of view of a character that had a disability. And later it would come to mean something so much more to me. You see, I am the aunt to three boys on the Autism spectrum. Like Shawn, my nephews have a real inability to communicate, more so when they were younger. One of my nephews can become so frustrated with his inability to communicate his thoughts and feelings that he bites himself to the point of bleeding. Children’s services has been called many times by outside parties, though thankfully children’s services are aware that self harm, OCD, echocholia and more can be a part of Autism.

I also have several close friends who have children on the spectrum and their lives require a navigation that is quite different than others. Childcare can be a challenge, if you are able to find any at all. Trips out in public must be carefully orchestrated, in part because variations of routine and be quite stressful for those on the spectrum. But also in part because the public often does not respond well when they see kids on the spectrum. And if a meltdown should occur in public, the stares and comments you will get are horrific, withering.

Which is part of the reason why books like Stuck in Netural are so important. You see, books can create empathy, compassion. Atticus Finch once talked about walking a mile in another pair of shoes and how doing that helped us to develop a sympathetic viewpoint. That’s what Stuck in Neutral does, it allows us to see into the heart and soul of a young boy, it humanizes him in a world that would seek to make him less than human. Stuck in Neutral is not about Autism, it’s about Cerebral Palsy, but it is an important reminder for us all that those who are differently abled than us, those whose lives may seem challenging and overwhelming, are still people with thoughts and feelings and dreams and fears and love. Whatever our bodies may look like on the outside, at the core of us we’re all just people.

If Stuck in Neutral was the only book Terry Trueman ever wrote it would still be the accomplishment of a lifetime, but it isn’t. Trueman went on to write a wide variety of additional novels, including Cruise Control which tells the story of Shawn from his brother’s point of view. There are 10 books listed on Terry Trueman’s Goodreads page, including No Right Turn (2006),  7 Days in the Hot Corner (2007), and Hurricane (2008).

In 2012 Trueman released Life Happens Next, which tells us more about Shawn’s life: “How do you connect with others when you can’t talk, walk, or even wave hello? In the sequel to Stuck in Neutral, which ALA Booklist called “an intense reading experience,” Shawn McDaniel discovers a new definition of “normal” and finds that life happens next for everyone.”

Terry Trueman went to school and resides in the state of Washington. Trueman has a son, Sheehan, who himself has Cerebral Palsy. Stuck in Neutral was eventually turned into a stage play and you can read a bit about that process here.

It is not always easy for me to understand this life that the people around me live that is dictated by the spectrum. My nephews are now all teenagers and to be completely honest, this life has been a tremendous challenge for them and the people that love them. None of them will ever live on their own. One of my friends already has their son on a waiting list for a long term care facility because they know that their son will always need extensive care and because of the rapidly rising rates of Autism the waiting list is long. They worry about what will happen to their children when they are no longer able to care for them. I want the world to be more compassionate to these families, to stop sneering at them in public, to stop turning their noses in disgust. I want the world to read Stuck in Neutral and other books with differently abled characters so that they will develop a deep and abiding empathy for all human life, even those lives that look radically different than what our world has decided the norm should be.

Join the conversation!  Share a post about your favorite author OR tweet us your favorite author with the tag #YAAtoZ. While we’re sharing our favorite authors, we would love to hear about yours. We all might find some new authors we haven’t heard of before. And the more authors we share, the more comprehensive and diverse the list becomes. On Twitter, we’re @TLT16, @boothheather, @robinreads, and @citesomething.

#YAAtoZ Schedule: Week 1 4: A ; 5: B ; 6: C ; 7: D  Week 2 10: E ; 11: F ; 12: G, H, I ; 13: J, K ; 14: L  Week 3 17: M ; 18: N, O ; 19: P, Q ; 20: R, S ; 21: T  Week 4 24: U ; 25: V, W ; 26: X ; 27: Y ; 28: Z

Autism and Libraries


YA A to Z: Jenny Torres Sanchez

Here’s a fun fact for you: The first author to ever work with me for anything here at Teen Librarian Toolbox, when it was just me and I had zero to no idea what I was doing, was then debut author Jenny Torres Sanchez. I met her at ALA as she was promoting her debut novel The Downside of Being Charlie.

I fell instantly in love with Charlie because here was a book about a very authentic teenager, the geeky, insecure and uncomfortable in his own skin teens that I knew and had been working with for years. And Charlie was an artist, using photography as a means to help him figure out the world much the way that another great YA character I love does: Glory O’Brien. Except Charlie did it first, but these are great complimentary novels to highlight using art and looking at life through the lens of a camera.

But as much as I loved Charlie, I was blown away by Sanchez’s second book: Death, Dickinson and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia. Frenchie Garcia is obsessed with death, and very, very depressed. She is getting ready to graduate high school but suddenly her after school plans are changing, in part because her male best friend is thinking about going in some different directions. One of the main reasons for Frenchie’s current struggles involves her high school crush. You see, when she finally spends one night hanging out with him, she wakes up the next morning to learn that after they parted ways he took his own life. Now she is struggling with questions: Did he do something that night that might have indicated what was going to happen? Did she miss something? Could she have helped? So one night she embarks on a journey with a new friend where they revisit all of the stops she made that night to see if she can find the answers she needs to move forward. I really love this book and think it is an under-rated gem. It taps into those deep emotions of fear and guilt and uncertainty and really allows us to journey with Frenchie as she tries to find a way to move out of the molasses of depression that is holding her hostage.

About Jenny:

“My name is just Jenny, not Jennifer, or Victoria, or Elizabeth, or Lizzie, which is what I tried to make friends and my sister call me when I was younger because Jenny didn’t sound fancy enough. I spent a lot of time trying to come up with better names because I thought Jenny was too plain. I was quite the aristocrat, you see. I even tried to convince my fourth grade teacher that my name was Gennifer (like the creative spelling?), which caused a lot of confusion on that year’s state assessment test. Anyway, I like Jenny now and find it suits me just fine.” As you can see from reading a part of her bio, Jenny has a fantastic sense of humor.

I follow Jenny on Twitter and she claims to be a long lost twin sister of Dallas author Julie Murphy. Jenny is artistic, which probably helps explain why both of her main characters in her first two novels have been so artistic. But I say bring on the arts, we need more arts! Jenny was a high school teacher but is now writing and raising her kids, the youngest of whom is around 1 years old. For those of you who are actively looking for ways to support more diversity in your YA collection, Jenny Torres Sanchez is a Latina author that you can confidently add to your collections because her books have an authentic teen voice that captures the rich emotional lives of teens.

I can tell you that Jenny loves A. S. King and even wrote a post about Please Ignore Me, Vera Dietz as part of the Why YA series. Her post about King prompted me to read the book and I am now obsessed with A. S. King. So if you ever get sick of my A. S. King obsession, just remember that Jenny Torres Sanchez is the one who started it all. Jenny may be the only person who understands that every time I get to have a moment in conversation with A. S. King I kind of tear up; we have a mutual admiration society going. She was one of the first authors I interviewed and you can read that interview here. I haven’t actually gotten any better at interviewing authors, but I’ll never forget how kind she was working with me in those early blog days.

I am looking forward to reading more great YA novels in the future by Jenny Torres Sanchez. If for some reason you don’t yet have Jenny on your radar, do be sure and go pick up both The Downside of Being Charlie and Death, Dickinson and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia. And yes, the Dickinson is Emily Dickson (her ghost makes an appearance of course). And in case I didn’t make myself clear, I really, really, really adore Death, Dickinson and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia.

Join the conversation!  Share a post about your favorite author OR tweet us your favorite author with the tag #YAAtoZ. While we’re sharing our favorite authors, we would love to hear about yours. We all might find some new authors we haven’t heard of before. And the more authors we share, the more comprehensive and diverse the list becomes. On Twitter, we’re @TLT16, @boothheather, @robinreads, and @citesomething.

#YAAtoZ Schedule: Week 1 4: A ; 5: B ; 6: C ; 7: D  Week 2 10: E ; 11: F ; 12: G, H, I ; 13: J, K ; 14: L  Week 3 17: M ; 18: N, O ; 19: P, Q ; 20: R, S ; 21: T  Week 4 24: U ; 25: V, W ; 26: X ; 27: Y ; 28: Z