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A Recap of the HOPE NATION Launch Event at Irving Public Library – and a GIVEAWAY

 Hope is a decision, but it is a hard one to recognize in the face of oppression, belittlement, alienation, and defeat. To help embolden hope, here is a powerhouse collection of essays and letters that speak directly to teens and all YA readers. Featuring Marie Lu, James Dashner, Gayle Forman, David Levithan, Julie Murphy, Jeff Zentner, Renee Ahdieh, and many more!

“Hope is a decision, but it is a hard one to recognize in the face of oppression, belittlement, alienation, and defeat. To help embolden hope, here is a powerhouse collection of essays and letters that speak directly to teens and all YA readers. Featuring Marie Lu, James Dashner, Gayle Forman, David Levithan, Julie Murphy, Jeff Zentner, Renee Ahdieh, and many more!”

Yesterday The Teen and I attended the HOPE NATION launch party at Irving Public Library. One of her best friends, a big reader and also the daughter of a YA librarian, was there with us as well. We were excited to learn more about this anthology, get copies signed, and to hear the authors share their stories. Here is a recap of that event with some of the Tweets I sent out as I live Tweeted.

Read TLTer Amanda MacGregory’s Review Here:

Book Review: Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration

And yes, The Teen did wear her favorite fuzzy pink slippers to the event to meet some of her favorite authors. We kid her about them, but I also love that she is who she is, likes what she likes, and just goes with it. I think they also make a fun juxtaposition to her frequent all black wardrobe.

The panel consisted of authors Ally Carter, Julie Murphy and Angie Thomas! These are three of the contributors to the HOPE NATION anthology. And the first question was editor Rose Brock asking why they agreed to be a part of this anthology.

Texas woman taps popular young adult authors in new book for teens

As a librarian who works at a small town library with a high rate of teen poverty, I am always glad to see stories set in rural areas that reflect rural and small town poverty.

The panelists were then asked what their stories are about. Ally Carter talked about wanting to be a famous writer and getting out of her small town. Julie Murphy talked about how they lost their home her senior year of high school and the concept of having a home and having the concept of home in your heart. Angie Thomas talked about wanting to give hope back to all of the readers who had given her hope and helped to make her dreams come true.


When it was opened up to audience questions, an audience member asked Angie Thomas how she should respond to parents who objected to The Hate U Give being offered in schools.

A second audience question and the audience member asked how we could get guys to read these books when there are girls on the covers. The audience member also suggested that these books needed different covers without girls on the covers to appeal to male readers.

All of the panelists did a great job of discussing how we needed adult males to help break down the barriers and stereotypes about reading “girl books”. Ally Carter shared a story about a male librarian who had booktalked The Gallagher Girl series to his school and he had emailed her to say it was the most popular book series at his all guy school. This was an example of men doing the work and challenging cultural norms and stereotypes.

At the end of the event the authors did a signing and The Teen got copies of several books signed for herself and we got a copy of the first Gallagher Girls book signed for Thing 2 (she’s almost old enough now for this series!). And, guess what? I got all the panelists to sign a copy of HOPE NATION to give away here to you all. So just do the Rafflecopter thing by Friday, March 2nd at Midnight to be entered to win a copy of HOPE NATION signed by Rose Brock, Ally Carter, Julie Murphy and Angie Thomas. Open to U.S. residents only please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Take 5: Five Reasons You Should Read THE 57 BUS by Dashka Slater, seriously right now

I don’t typically read a lot of nonfiction, but I was blown away by The 57 Bus, which I stumbled onto by accident. I’m part of a book club and this Christmas, we played some book exchange game where everyone brought a book and we traded and what not. The 57 Bus was hands down the book that everyone was fighting over, the premise is that compelling. I didn’t go home with the book that night, by the way. It was stolen right out of my hands. But they let me borrow it and I read it and wow! I have thought about, talked about, and recommended this book a lot since reading it.


The 57 Bus is narrative nonfiction that tells the true story of an agender teen, Sasha, who rode the 57 bus home every day. One day, on that bus, three teen boys are being obnoxious jerks and Richard takes a lighter to Sasha’s skirts and seems surprised when it goes up in flames. The remainder of the story discusses Sasha’s recovery and the court case surrounding Richard. It’s a remarkable story about identity, choices, consequences and, in the end, forgiveness.

In the midst, there are a lot of informational tidbits thrown in that I think everyone who values, raises, or works with teens should read.

1. Gender and Sexual Identity

Sasha does not identify as male or female and considers themselves to be agender. Sasha’s preferred pronouns are they/them. I am not going to lie, I what my friend calls “an old” AND I come from a conservative Christian background, so trying to think differently about the gender binary is challenging. And although I have teens and adult friends that identify as asexual or aromantic, I continue to grapple with what these terms mean and put them into context into what I thought I knew about the world and the people who populate it. The 57 Bus has one of the best, most straightforward discussions about what various terms on the GLBTQ spectrum mean. In addition, seeing how Sasha’s parents and the community respond to Sasha is a very educational experience. In my library, we have a lot of teens who identify as being on the GLBTQAI+ spectrum and this discussion is helpful in understanding what those various labels mean.

2. The Teenage Brain


Part of my job is knowing and understanding adolescent development. One thing we know is that the teen brain is very different from the adult brain. Teens don’t make the same decisions that adults would make because their brains are literally wired different. The 57 Bus has one of the best discussions of those differences and what that means that I have ever read. If you work with teens, you need to read this chapter alone just to help get a deeper understanding of why teens think and act differently, and why they make decisions that make absolutely no sense to adults. Teens are not mini-adults, and understanding the teenage brain is imperative in being able to serve them.

3. Adolescent Justice

It is no secret that the United States has one of the highest rates of incarceration in the world. At a previous library I worked there was a local juvenile detention center and I worked with that detention center in various ways to provide services and materials to those teens. The 57 Bus really challenges the idea of trying teens as adults given what we know about the adolescent brain. It posits the question: given what we know about the development of the teenage brain, can we justify trying teenagers for their crimes as adults?

4. Forgiveness

Throughout the story of The 57 Bus is a discussion about forgiveness and reconciliation. Sasha’s family is approached by a group that wants to lead them through the reconciliation process with Richard. Richard himself writes several letters to Sasha asking for forgiveness. In the end, Sasha’s family chooses to speak on Richard’s behalf, despite the overwhelming pain and suffering that Sasha has undergone. Even if you don’t agree with the ideas presented, it’s an interesting point of view to sit with.

5. Awards

The 57 Bus is now an award-winning book, having won a Stonewall Book Award at the 2018 Youth Media Awards recently announced. It was also honored with a YALSA AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN NONFICTION FOR YOUNG ADULTS. It deserves these awards, it’s that good.

The 57 Bus also features teachers being awesome, a look at complex family dynamics, friendship and more. The teens in this story also create their own game which is one of my favorite things ever. I just highly recommend this book.

New Releases and Mini Reviews: Little & Lion, The Bakersville Dozen, and The Epic Crush of Genie Lo


Today is a good day for book releases, as apparently all the recent books I have chosen to read release today. Is it fate? Destiny? Hard to say. Let’s dive right in, shall we.

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

august83Two step-siblings who were closer than close are reunited after one, Little (the female) spends a year in boarding school so that her step sibling, Lion (the male), can figure out how to deal with his bipolar disorder. At first the two of them deal with tension as they try to navigate who they are now after a year apart and the secrets they are both keeping, but as everything starts to unravel they have to learn to face their various truths.

There’s a bit of every aspect of teen life in this one: friendship, family, siblings, identity (both racial/ethnic and sexuality including frank discussions of bi and pansexuality), mental health, sex, teen, pregnancy, abortion, feminism, drinking and drug use, consent and more. It is in many ways the most authentically fleshed out and inclusive YA book I have ever read. There are a few brief moments where the character’s get a little didactic in how they talk about these various subjects, but it almost has to in order to make sure that the reader fully understands the topic at hand. For example, many readers may be unaware of the difference between bi and pansexuality and the discussion helps flesh out the concepts for the reader. There are moments in this book where teens clearly make bad decisions, sometimes even acknowledging that they are making bad decisions and then going on to make them anyway, and we see the ultimate results of those decisions. It’s a thoughtful look at the very real complexity of teen life with a respectful tone and engaging story. Brandy Colbert is a fantastic author and really does a good job of telling this story and diving into these issues.

The Bakersville Dozen by Kristina McBride

bakersvilledozenWhen compromising videos of several – a dozen to be exact – students go viral, life is not the same for the students in this Ohio high school. Then one of the Bakersville Dozen goes missing. Soon, a note is found with a challenge: find five trophies, follow the rules or everyone dies. It’s a macabre scavenger hunt full of twists and turns that you won’t see coming. Kristina McBride is a good author who deals with issues like online bullying, friendship, rivalries, broken relationships and more in the pages of this mystery thriller. Every step of the way you’re shouting to the teens, no don’t go into the basement and please call the police – which of course they can’t do or else we don’t have a story. And what a story it is.

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Lee

august81Genie thought she was just a regular girl trying to get into a good college, until the Monkey King shows up and she discovers that she is a celestial being with a destiny to fight demons. Things get complicated – and snarky. For those of us old enough to know what this means, it definitely has a Buffy the Vampire Slayer feel to it in both storytelling and vibe, but has some unique twists in that it is steeped in Chinese culture and folklore. For the younger crowd, think Shadowhunters with a Chinese folklore infusion. I was not familiar with the legend of the Monkey King and found this story to be both entertaining and enlightening. It’s a fun read and that is high praise indeed. We need more flat out fun reads and this fits the bill.

About the Books

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

A stunning novel on love, loss, identity, and redemption, from Publishers Weekly Flying Start author Brandy Colbert

When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn’t sure if she’ll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new…the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel’s disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself–or worse.

The Bakersville Dozen by Kristina McBride

You have four days to locate five treasured trophies. Break the rules and you all die. Happy hunting!

Back in September, the town of Bakersville, Ohio made national news when a video went viral featuring thirteen of the high school’s elite in compromising positions. Now it’s May, and every month since the “Bakersville Dozen” made their infamous appearance on the national stage, one girl has gone missing. Officials are no closer to identifying the criminal.

Bailey “Like a Virgin” Holzman is getting really fed up with the scrutiny. She just wants to enjoy the rest of her senior year and have an epic summer before heading off to college. So when she discovers a note in her locker on the last day of school inviting her on a scavenger hunt, she thinks it’s just a sweet surprise from her boyfriend trying to cheer her up.

But following the clue leads her, instead, to the first official casualty. And another sinister envelope. The killer is close, and it could be anyone. Even the people Bailey’s always trusted most—her best friend, her perfect boyfriend, or the boy-next-door she’s always pined for.

With the clock ticking, she faces a terrifying choice: play the game by the killer’s rules—follow the clues, tell no one, and no cops—for a chance to save the rest of the missing girls, or risk becoming the next grisly victim.

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Lee

The struggle to get into a top-tier college consumes sixteen-year-old Genie Lo’s every waking thought. But when her sleepy Bay Area town comes under siege from hell-spawn straight out of Chinese folklore, her priorities are suddenly and forcefully rearranged.

Her only guide to the demonic chaos breaking out around her is Quentin Sun, a beguiling, maddening new transfer student from overseas. Quentin assures Genie she is strong enough to fight these monsters, for she unknowingly harbors an inner power that can level the very gates of Heaven.

Genie will have to dig deep within herself to summon the otherworldly strength that Quentin keeps talking about. But as she does, she finds the secret of her true nature is entwined with his, in a way she could never have imagined… (Amulet Books, 9781419725487)

Take 5: Using YA Lit to Talk Government, Power, Politics, Corruption and More (An #SJYALit Book List)

A few years ago, I believe it was Cory Doctorow who Tweeted that no one discusses politics in literature anymore. Which struck me, at the time, as an odd statement because it was the height of YA Dystopian, which arguably is all about power and politics. It could also have been someone other then Cory Doctorow, for the record, I’ve just always remembered the tweet as being from him, and we all know that memory is a trickster god.

But since then, I have often read books with that tweet in the background of my mind, unconsciously noting books that I thought fit the bill. And now, more then ever, it seems particularly important that books talk about politics. I’m not just talking about the 2016 election, I’m talking about the way the North Carolina GOP just in effect executed a coup by stripping the incoming Democratic governor of any real power. Of the way our elected representatives remain silent about the fact that 17 intelligence agencies have stated that Russia has had undo influence on our recent government and election. Of the way that legislators just quietly made the investigation into Flint go away or the way that Governor Kasich of Ohio just signed a bill making it illegal for local governments to raise the minimum wage. I’m talking about the fact that we go into the next administration with effectively no checks and balances because for the first time in years all three arms of our federal government are now in the control of only one political party, thanks in no small part to things like gerrymandering and the repeal of voter rights acts.

Now more then ever – although we can argue that it is in fact too late – we need to be talking about politics and democracy and government with our teens. In fact, in the next presidential election, my teen will be able to vote. So we talk about it.  We read about it. And here are 5 books and series that I recommend to get teens reading and thinking about power, politics, government, corruption and more.

This is Our Story by Ashley Elston

In a small town, a group of privileged, elite teen boys goes hunting. One of them does not come back. Because of power and influence, the case of the River Point Five is given to a district attorney with the expectation that he will lose. But Kate Marino is an intern that works for him and she challenges him to pursue justice and the truth, so he does. This is a compelling read that shows you how guilty people go free and the innocent can go to jail for crimes they didn’t commit. Overall, it’s a good read. My only quibble with the book is that this intelligent and driven teenage girl compromises things because she “falls in love” with one of the suspects, which is annoying, but it’s still a powerful look at the themes being discussed. The Teen also read this book because she said, I really want to read a mystery and so I handed her this book, here’s what she thought:


The Fixer series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes


Tess Kendrick finds out that her sister is not who she seems to be, in a lot of ways. Her sister is, in fact, a fixer. This means that she covers up the dirt in Washington. Scandals disappear, murders look like suicides, and more as we get an inside look at how people in power scheme, make power plays, and manipulate what the public sees and thinks about people and politics. I’ve read books 1 and 2 in this series and they are so good. Also, book 2 gives you a real sucker punch to the gut. Because this is Jennifer Lynn Barnes these are fun and engaging reads, but there are also strong female leads, meaningful conversations about important topics, and a lot of good quips. It’s interesting to note that some people in politics are called “King Makers” because it is said that they have the power to make and break kings. You’ll definitely want to check this series out. The Teen read and loves this book as well.

Publisher’s Book description:

This thriller YA is Scandal meets Veronica Mars.

Sixteen-year-old Tess Kendrick has spent her entire life on her grandfather’s ranch. But when her estranged sister Ivy uproots her to D.C., Tess is thrown into a world that revolves around politics and power. She also starts at Hardwicke Academy, the D.C. school for the children of the rich and powerful, where she unwittingly becomes a fixer for the high school set, fixing teens’ problems the way her sister fixes their parents’ problems.

And when a conspiracy surfaces that involves the family member of one of Tess’s classmates, love triangles and unbelievable family secrets come to light and life gets even more interesting—and complicated—for Tess.

Perfect for fans of Pretty Little Liars and Heist Society, readers will be clamoring for this compelling teen drama with a political twist.

Embassy Row series by Ally Carter


Grace Blakely goes to live on Embassy Row with her grandfather, a place where politics is everything. Here, families from countries all over live in close proximity to one another and how you act, where you go, and what you say matters – the slightest misstep could start a new war. It is here that Grace begins to learn more about her mother’s murder. It is also here that Grace begins to learn more about politics, power and corruption. On the one level, these are just teens who want to do the things that teenagers do, but they can’t just be teens because their actions have never had so much consequence. I love both The Heist Society and the Gallagher Girls series, and this one does not disappoint.

Publisher’s Book Description

A new series of global proportions — from master of intrigue, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Ally Carter.

Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:

1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.

As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her — so there’s no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door, who is keeping his eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands.

Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can’t control Grace — no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn’t stop it, Grace isn’t the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab


Monsters are real. In fact, monsters are born out of our violence. Two opposing cities sit near each other, in the midst of a delicate truce. But there are unseen things in place that are working to upset that delicate truce. There are factions that seek to force the other party to break the truce so that a war can be declared and the monsters can reign supreme. I love this book. I love how it takes the mythology of monsters and makes it something new, I love how it puts our humanity next to the monsters and asks us to question which one is truly evil, and I love the way it takes this really creative premise and uses it to examine power and corruption in politics.

Publisher’s Book Description

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan


A luxury yacht is gone, and there are very few survivors. Some people want to hide the truth of what happened – and why. Frances Mace knows the truth, and there are some people who will go to any length to keep her silent. I picked up this book because I am a fan of Ryan’s zombie series, and I was surprised by this book; It was the first book I read on this list and it made me go hmmm, that’s a really interesting look at the world of political influence for teens. So I end this list by the first book that got me compiling this list in my head. I know there are others, so what titles do you recommend? Please add yours in the comments. I think it’s really important that we get teens reading books like these and thinking about what’s happening behind the scenes in their local, state and federal government.

Publisher’s Book Description

I’m the daughter of murdered parents.
I’m the friend of a dead girl.
I’m the lover of my enemy.
And I will have my revenge.

In the wake of the devastating destruction of the luxury yacht Persephone, just three souls remain to tell its story—and two of them are lying. Only Frances Mace knows the terrifying truth, and she’ll stop at nothing to avenge the murders of everyone she held dear. Even if it means taking down the boy she loves and possibly losing herself in the process.

Sharp and incisive, Daughter of Deep Silence by bestselling author Carrie Ryan is a deliciously smart revenge thriller that examines perceptions of identity, love, and the lengths to which one girl is willing to go when she thinks she has nothing to lose.

P.S., Cory Doctorow is, of course, a great author that you should be reading on this topic as well.

Sumer #YALit #ARCParty


A look at some upcoming May, June and July ARCs of YA Lit

  1. Getting ready to start an #aRCParty with The Teen & Bestie to look at some upcoming new releases.
  2. Here’s how it works: they’ll read the back of each book out loud & share whether they think it sounds good. #arcparty
  3. Here's a look at the May 2016 #yalit titles we'll be looking at for today's #ARCParty https://t.co/W8dLF5lih5

    Here’s a look at the May 2016 #yalit titles we’ll be looking at for today’s #ARCParty pic.twitter.com/W8dLF5lih5
  4. Montana, Romance, The Bestie says YES because she is into horses & loves romance #ARCParty Present day & past https://t.co/VhO1G2tPoa

    Montana, Romance, The Bestie says YES because she is into horses & loves romance #ARCParty Present day & past pic.twitter.com/VhO1G2tPoa
  5. Selective mutism, power, identity - @VictoriaLBYR sold me hardcore on this book & its look at power #arcparty https://t.co/tULhLdv9is

    Selective mutism, power, identity – @VictoriaLBYR sold me hardcore on this book & its look at power #arcparty pic.twitter.com/tULhLdv9is
  6. Summer in Hawaii, can you escape home? Betrayal, relationships, forgiveness #ARCParty Disney Hyperion https://t.co/tX58JpCB74

    Summer in Hawaii, can you escape home? Betrayal, relationships, forgiveness #ARCParty Disney Hyperion pic.twitter.com/tX58JpCB74
  7. A new Bryan Bliss! Military families, effects of service, identity, one night adventures #ARCParty https://t.co/zQULx51iJX

    A new Bryan Bliss! Military families, effects of service, identity, one night adventures #ARCParty pic.twitter.com/zQULx51iJX
  8. THE LIE TREE: A young woman can not resist a mystery, family scandal, science, fantasy SOUNDS GOOD 
#ARCParty https://t.co/Ix0sOIakEW

    THE LIE TREE: A young woman can not resist a mystery, family scandal, science, fantasy SOUNDS GOOD
    #ARCParty pic.twitter.com/Ix0sOIakEW
  9. After her mom does, a teen girl finds a priceless piece of memorabilia; southern life #ARCParty https://t.co/VGumQD2Pci

    After her mom does, a teen girl finds a priceless piece of memorabilia; southern life #ARCParty pic.twitter.com/VGumQD2Pci
  10. A TOTALLY AWKWARD LOVE STORY : "toilet boy Cinderella", sounds funny, romantic #ARCParty https://t.co/snp0891v8Q

    A TOTALLY AWKWARD LOVE STORY : “toilet boy Cinderella”, sounds funny, romantic #ARCParty pic.twitter.com/snp0891v8Q
  11. Teenage rebellion, teens falls in love w/poet, self discovery, the power of story #ARCParty https://t.co/nyTvClVHof

    Teenage rebellion, teens falls in love w/poet, self discovery, the power of story #ARCParty pic.twitter.com/nyTvClVHof
  12. Keplinger uses her own experiences growing up legally blind to inform this story; friends on the run #ARCParty https://t.co/SYMXO9dyfb

    Keplinger uses her own experiences growing up legally blind to inform this story; friends on the run #ARCParty pic.twitter.com/SYMXO9dyfb
  13. Alternate Earth; identity, sci fi, . . . "Nothing on Earth will ever be the same again" #ARCParty https://t.co/avAAqCJdYs

    Alternate Earth; identity, sci fi, . . . “Nothing on Earth will ever be the same again” #ARCParty pic.twitter.com/avAAqCJdYs
  14. What if everyone in town starts to turn into wax figures? Love this author, great concept #ARCParty https://t.co/AjysxKkUyN

    What if everyone in town starts to turn into wax figures? Love this author, great concept #ARCParty pic.twitter.com/AjysxKkUyN
  15. Teen writes an article for the Huffington Post, scores an agent; Reshma tries to be "American girl" #ARCParty https://t.co/Gyq3QHj6vS

    Teen writes an article for the Huffington Post, scores an agent; Reshma tries to be “American girl” #ARCParty pic.twitter.com/Gyq3QHj6vS
  16. "One of these truths is a lie, and not everyone will live to find out what it is" - Boom! #ARCParty https://t.co/Yy3jXZT2Id

    “One of these truths is a lie, and not everyone will live to find out what it is” – Boom! #ARCParty pic.twitter.com/Yy3jXZT2Id
  17. 7 interwoven stories about 1 fateful day that changes everything #ARCParty https://t.co/eq01yVd5Ks

    7 interwoven stories about 1 fateful day that changes everything #ARCParty pic.twitter.com/eq01yVd5Ks
  18. World War 1; Poppy volunteers as a front line nurse; romance and identity #ARCParty https://t.co/Pu2rR7yFEw

    World War 1; Poppy volunteers as a front line nurse; romance and identity #ARCParty pic.twitter.com/Pu2rR7yFEw

Priorities, or An Embarrassment of Riches

So sorry I was incapacitated on Monday and didn’t get to post my usual Middle Grade Monday! I hope you can forgive me.

I’ve recently come to the realization that, although my Mother generously gave me a bookcase last year, I still have stacks of books around my house. They’re decorative! But, seriously, I’ve had a rather large number of titles pop up in my mailbox (both physical and electronic) lately. As well, we’ve gotten some new books at the library that I have started reading – you know, to get an idea of how to book talk them…and haven’t been able to put them down. It’s nothing like Karen’s collection, but to me it’s overwhelming.

That’s where you come in, dearest reader.

I still need to finish Kekla Magoon’s Camo Girl, Jennifer Nielsen’s Mark of the Thief, and Elana K. Arnold’s Infandous – all of which I am in the midst of reading. And after that my next title to review is Sarah Dessen’s Saint Anything (stay tuned for a giveaway!) But, after that, I need to decide between the following books. First, we have the physical ARCs and copies that have found their way onto my stacks:

 But next, we have all of the eARCs for which I’ve been approved lately, including these:

So, dear reader, which would you choose?

Talking Teen Fiction with Victoria Scott

This week many libraries across the nation will be celebrating Teen Read Week, a YALSA initiative designed to remind teens to read for the fun of it – even in the middle of the school year.  Yesterday we announced that this week we were doing a fun contest sponsored by YA author Victoria Scott.  Don’t know what I am talking about, check it out here!  Since Victoria is our host for the week, let’s ask her what she thinks about the state of teen fiction today and its future.

Why do you think having teen fiction is important?
I think it’s important because it eliminates reading gaps during formative years. I read a lot when I was younger, but when I reached my teenage years, I strayed from books. Adult books seemed too distant from what I was going through, and middle grade books were too childish. Teen fiction gives teens a category so their literature can grow along with them.
Do you have any lines you won’t cross while writing for teens?

Yes, only one. If I include sex scenes, I always have them fade to black. There’s no need to be graphic. Everything else: cursing, drugs, alcohol, light sexual content—I’m not afraid to include those things. I don’t believe in sugar-coating the choices teens face.
Do you read YA? It seems a lot of adults buy books packaged for teens.
Yes, I read YA almost exclusively. I think adults enjoy them because many times the pacing is faster, and some of the more mundane subjects—mortgages, children, keeping a marriage healthy—aren’t visible. It’s just about reliving raw emotions at a critical time in your life.
Why would you say to adults who think YA has gotten too “heavy.”
I’d say if it’s gotten heavy, it’s because that’s what’s selling, which means that is what teens want to read. Sometimes it’s difficult for teens to speak with parents or teachers about what they’re dealing with, and in literature they can explore these heavier subjects in a safe place. 
What do you think lies ahead for teen fiction?
I think we’ll see the cost of ebooks fall. I think you’ll see fewer divisions at bookstores (paranormal romance, teen thriller, teen science fiction), and a more generic teen fiction area. And I think we’ll see more GLBT and racial minorities as lead characters, which is great! 
About Victoria Scott:
I’m a YA writer with a die-hard affection for dark and humorous books. My work is represented by Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger literary agency. I have a master’s degree in marketing, and currently live in Dallas with my husband, Ryan.
My first YA book, THE COLLECTOR, will be published by Entangled Teen, April 2013. It is the first book in a trilogy. My second YA series will begin with FIRE & FLOOD and is being published by Scholastic in spring 2014.

Victoria is deathly afraid of monkeys.  Find out more at her webpage.  

Reproductive Rights in YA Lit: Christie’s Take

If you follow me on Twitter, you definitely know where I stand on this issue, and personally I am scared for where this country is headed. I realize that the issue is completely tied up to everyone’s personal beliefs, and I have close friends who fall on both sides of the lines- we just agree to disagree on this subject.

However, I know a lot of people across the country who feel the same way, who were activists before and after Roe vs Wade became law, and fear we’re headed down the same road as before abortion became legal, and access to women’s clinics (whether they perform abortions or not) were available to all. I do feel that the way “pro-life” is marketed is wrong- I feel that my viewpoints should be considered pro-life even though I consider abortion an option- just as I consider birth control an option, and federal and state care after birth options.

I remember the scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High that Karen writes about, but that wasn’t the first movie I saw that deal with abortion. The first one I saw was the horrible botched abortion in Dirty Dancing, when abortion was illegal. I didn’t understand the whole situation, and I didn’t ask my parents about it (I didn’t see it in theaters, I saw it at a friend’s house a few years later)- instead, I went and researched it at the bigger city library nearby (no way could I go to the library in my small town- would everyone have gossip then, even if they would have had information about the subject). When I understood what was going on, and why it was going on, I thanked the powers that be (fill in whatever God/Goddess/Deity you like) that we (women) didn’t have to go through that now. That was when I decided I was going to be a feminist and an activist- I finally had a title to how I felt. However, I now have the scary feeling we’re headed backwards to that time.

Like Karen, I don’t know of any 11-15 year old ready to be a parent (boy or girl or inbetween), and like Karen, I have worked with teens in that age range who have had to deal with that issue.

In previous work experiences it was usually the girl alone who was having to deal with her parents and the decision as the boy was long gone or denying responsibility (and leading a campaign of slut shaming along with his *new* girlfriend), in my current one it has been more of a mix which I think is due to the culture more than anything else. However, they are still struggling with options, and to have one option taken away means that they are left with two: adoption (which while may be the best case has stigma attached in a lot of cultures) and keeping the baby (which may not be the best case for the child or parent/parents). This is why we have trends in libraries of grandparents as parents collections, and grandparents as parents programming- because adoption was not a viable option in anyone’s mind (for whatever reason) and the baby ended up with grandparents.

16 and Pregnant : MTV

We, as teen service specialists (which I use to encompass all of us who work with teens) are always advocating for books that reflect teen life- because teens turn to YA fiction to find themselves, and to help know that they are not alone. Abortion in YA fiction is a subject that is extremely hard to find, and needs to be written about more, in a compassionate way- not just in a sentence or two that it was a consideration before moving on to other options. When we have television shows that glorify and make stars of teen moms acting badly and abusing their kids (yes, I’m looking at you, MTV), and media that can’t honestly deal with the issue except on the margins we need a counterbalance somewhere.

TPiB: Poetry Crafts!

Like a lot of Middle and High School students, I started writing angsty teenage poetry with the best of them.  And I love doing National Poetry Month (April) activities with my tweens and teens.  Actually, you can read some of my poetry as I wrote a few poems as part of the awareness campaign for Hyperemesis Gravidarum, a pregnancy disease I suffered 3 times.  As someone who loves poetry, I love doing poetry related activities with my tweens and teens at the library.

 For my tweens and teens, all it takes is a canvas of open sidewalk and some sidewalk chalk to make some amazing poetry.  But I like to step it up a notch and give them something they can take home, as well. You can do simple things with the sidewalk chalk poetry, like take Instagram pics and do any number of Instagram crafts to create poetry keepsakes. (Links to the Instagram crafts appear at the end of this post.)

However, one of my favorite craft activities is to make your own Magnetic Poetry Kits.  Magnetic poetry kits were all the rage at one time, but I like to invite teens to create personalizes ones.  It’s an easy craft, great for sitting around and talking while you are working on it in a group setting.


  • An old tin of some sort.  Used Altoid and other types of mint tins work well for this.
  • Discarded magazines, especially teen ones (look, a great Earth Day craft as well!)
  • Blank magnets of various sizes.  These are quickly and easily purchased at any craft store.  I do, however, recommend that you don’t buy the rolls as they seem not to have quite as much sticking power and they are harder to flatten.
  • Scissors
  • Glue or, my favorite, one of those scrapbooking tools that you can feed things through that turns things into stickers. (Xyron, for example, makes a line of these in various sizes)
  • If you want to decorate your tin, you can use acrylic paints or scrapbooking paper to give it a unique look.

Have teens go through the magazines to find a variety – and I mean a lot – of words that mean something to them.  They can be short, long, creative, embellished, whatever.  As they find the words, have them cut them out and put them aside.

Once they have the words they want, you can begin putting them onto the magnets.  For a cleaner look, they will want to cut the magnets down to size.  You can use glue, which is messier, or the sticker machine to adhere the words to the magnets.

It really is that simple! You can decorate your tin if you would like.  But the best part about using a tin is that when you open it, the lid can become your portable poetry canvas. Tutorial: Altered Altoid Tin

Bookspine Poetry

Set up a Bookspine Poetry table in your room.  All you need is a wide variety of titles on a table and teens can go and create some bookspine poems at their leisure.  I recommend taking pictures as the poems are created so you can share them on your social media sites and, again, you could also do a variety of Instagram crafts of the poems or create these Instagram bookmarks. 

Blackout Poetry Canvas

A canvas (new or used)
Discarded newspaper
Black markers
Mod Podge
Black paint

Step 1: Prep your canvas

I think the picture looks better with a black edge, but this is debatable.  If you pre-purchase canvases, there are some black ones available.  If you don’t, you can easily spray paint your canvas before beginning.  Or, you can use a sponge brush and black paint to paint the exposed edges after you put your final project together.

Step 2: Write your poem

 Blackout Poetry is the practice of blacking out most of the words on a newspaper page while the remaining words that are visible become your poem.  Check out the Newspaper Blackout website and book for more information.  Cut a piece of newspaper the size of your canvas, and begin creating your poem using your black marker and newspaper page.

Here’s a fun alternative: You can use pages from discarded teen magazines.  So a fan of One Direction can use a page with a One Directon picture and use this technique and the words on the page to write their own orginal poem about 1D and create some awesome 1D fan art. Also, book pages work well too.

Step 3: Mod Podge away

Glue your page to the canvas and give t a little time to set and dry.  Then, use Mod Podge over the top of the entire page to seal it all in.  Now you have some awesome wall art for any teenage room, totally unique and original.

Some YA titles inspired by poetry

Variations on a “Poem in My Pocket”

The Cootie Catcher Poem
Cootie Catchers, or Fortune Tellers, are back in style thanks in no small part to our friend Origami Yoda.  This is also a fun way to have teens create poems with their friends.  Fold your cootie catcher, then have teens write words or lines of poetry into each fold.  As teens go through the motions of the game with their friends, they will be writing short, fun poems together.  This is a fun variation on the Poem in My Pocket activity.  Also, this is a fun variation on the Exquisite Corpse project, which you can learn more about at Poets.orghttp://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5619.

The Duct Tape Pocket
You can use this cell phone duct tape case pattern to create a duct tape “pocket” for teens to carry their poems in.

More Poetry on TLT:
TPiB: Poetically Speaking
Freeing Your Life with Words

Instagram Crafts
Instagram Bookmarks

January 2013 Releases

Here’s a look at what new releases I am reading in January 2013

Finding Zasha by Randi Barrow
Hitler’s troops are marching across Russia and 12-year-old Ivan has joined a secret group fighting against the Nazis.  When he meets Zasha and Thor, he knows that he must save them and stop them from becoming weapons of war.

Return to Me by Justina Chen
Tagline: And there it was again, the troubling notion that I barely knew the people I loved.
Rebecca’s life is upturned when her family moves and dad takes off.

Gabriel Stone and the Divinity of Valta by Shannon Duffy (Middle Grade)
The first title from Month9Books, a new YA imprint focusing on speculative fiction.  Gabriel Stone finds a crystal that transports him to strange new worlds, literally.

The Dead and the Buried by Kim Harrington
This line really says it all: “I was living in a murder house.”  There are ghosts, mysteries, swoony guys and a cute little brother.  Christie G. has read and is writing her review as we speak.

The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman
It is 1923 and Jade Moon is a headstrong, reckless girl; something that is not valued in Chinese girls.  But when her father and her find the chance to move to America, they discover that freedom isn’t always what they think it is, especially for Chinese immigrants.

Catherine by April Lindner
Chelsea sets off to New York to try and find her missing mother, Catherine.  In a dual voice narrative, we learn about the great and obsessive love of Catherine and Hence while Chelsea tries to understand what could make a mother leave her daughter.  A modern day mystery, this is a play on Wuthering Heights.

Victoria Rebels by Carolyn Meyer
Princess Victoria is destined to be the queen of England.  Meyer bases this work of historical fiction off of Queen Victoria’s own diaries.  This is not only a sweeping love story, but an intimate look at one of England’s most beloved queens.

Whatever After: If the Shoe Fits by Sarah Mylnowski (Middle Grade)
Mylnowski continues her Whatever After series with a little twisted Cinderella.  What’s Cinderella going to do with a broken foot? The Tween and I love this series and can’t wait to read this next title.

Altered by Jennifer Rush
Tagline: When you can’t trust yourself, who can you believe?
Anna lives with a group of genetically altered boys who are poised to be secret government weapons. They soon find themselves on the run, fleeing for their lives and Anna has discovered she has a secret connection to one of them, Sam. They must find out what that connection is in order to survive.

Falling for You by Lisa Schroeder
Tagline: Love found her. Now it won’t let her go.
Rae has always dreamed of having a boyfriend like Nathan, but is he really the dream guy she thinks he is?

Then You Were Gone by Lauren Strasnick
Two years ago Adrienne’s best friend walked out of her life.  One week ago she left a desperate message asking for help.  Adrienne never called her back.  When Dakota disappears and leaves behind a rumored suicide note, Adrienne can’t help but wonder.  Can Adrienne find and help Dakota, or is it really too late?

Other titles I can’t wait to read this month:
Prodigy by Marie Lu, the sequel to Legend
Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi
Shades of Earth by Beth Revis
Archived by Victoria Schwab
Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff
Prey by Andrew Fukuda, the sequel to Hunt

What are you looking forward to in January?