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Book Review: Coda by Emma Trevayne

I step back from the mike. “Pixel,” I say, shaking my head when he glances at me. I stare the guy down. “Yeah, you don’t feel it. That’s because this is real music, and you’ve got to want it. You’ve got to let it get inside your head. Do that, and the high is better than some processed drug. This is what the Corp keeps from you so that they can make us listen to the stuff that’ll kill us. So they can keep us under control, use our bodies for energy, take our credits, and run our lives. If that high is worth it to you, go back to your console.”

He doesn’t say anything. I’ve started it, now. It’s too late to turn back, but I guess it’s been too late since that day Johnny first showed me the basement. Everything was always leading here.

“There used to be five of us,” I continue, gesturing to the band before I face the audience again. Rapt expressions nearly make me shut up. I’m not the person for this. “Our friend put on a track one day and dropped dead. They killed him, and he’s not the only one. It could happen to any of us, any time we put on a track. Have you ever pissed off the Corp? You might not know even if you have. Maybe our friend was lucky. Maybe it’s a good thing that he won’t go through what happens when the music’s finally eaten through enough of his brain. But do the Corp care? No, it just makes room for the next person to come along: someone else for their guards to threaten, someone else to give up their life for the Corp’s glory.”

Murmurs ripple. “And you’re gonna change all that?” asks the guy, raising his voice to be heard. Yeah, I don’t really believe it either.

“I’m saying that this is what they take from us.” I slap the body of my guitar. “The right to express ourselves. They take it and use it to kill us, instead. I’m saying we take it back, but we need your help. We need people.”

“For what?”

I can’t see where the question comes from, but it’s one I’ve asked myself a thousand times. “Change,” I say. “To show President Z, the Board, and everyone else involved with encoding the music and keeping real stuff from us that we don’t want this anymore. That they have to give music back to us and know they can never get away with doing this again. To replace them, if that’s what it takes.”

Welcome to the future, where the United States of America is no more, and everything is run by The Corp. Humans are born with numbers, energy is one of the most precious commodities and generated from people and their emotions, and music is how you get medicine- and mandatory highs- and is controlled (like everything else) by the Corp. Eighteen year old Anthem tries to lose himself and his troubles in the clubs, but nothing seems to beat the highs he gets from playing music himself, which is illegal and extremely dangerous. When his friend and mentor Johnny is killed by a track, Anthem, his girlfriend Haven, his ex Scope, and the rest of the band decide to take on the Corp by fighting the only way they know how:  by growing resistance through underground concerts. Yet when The Corp decides that they are too big of a threat to ignore, and a traitor destroys everything, Anthem has to chose between resistance and what he feels is right, and the safety of his family. 

Coda is extremely gripping and a wonderful (and disturbing) dystopia built upon a media that almost everyone is familiar with. The dialogue is exquisite, and the characters are colorful, flawed, and extremely well-described. Readers fall into Anthem’s world almost immediately, and are carried along for the ride. The twists and turns within the story carry throughout the book, and keep readers on edge and wanting more. It definitely fits within the cyberpunk genre (confused? think about the movie Tron: Legacy for inspiration) and throughout does not lose its core or optimism. 5 out of 5 stars. As of July 21, 2013, Goodreads rates Coda 4.05 out of 5 stars (what is WRONG with them?!??!). 

I love the fact that music is used as the control over the human population, especially when you consider how much we listen to music. Anthem is such a complicated character, and his decisions are not easy ones. As a reader I felt each decision with him, and when the twists hit, I agonized with him through his choices. I also loved the fluidity within love that Anthem feels- like some of my teens he loves who he loves, no matter what body they happen to be in. Haven (his current love) is female, yet Scope (his former love) is male, and no one bats an eye over this. 

Another thing that really struck me with this book is how dedicated Anthem is to his family. His mother dies early in his life, and his father is dying, so it’s up to Anthem to take care of his younger siblings (twins, who have called themselves Alpha and Omega). He’s constantly worrying about them, about how fast they’re growing up, about them getting addicted to the music like he is and going through the cravings, and about how they’re destined to grow up like he is, to become little more than a living battery for the upper elite. Anyone with siblings has been in that situation before- worrying about their situation- and Emma writes it so believably that it strikes chords within your soul. It’s a beautiful book, and I’m excited that there is more to come from her including Chorus…. 

Coda is nominated for the 2014 Rainbow Project List, and is a 2014 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adult nominee.

I got my galley of Coda after totally fangirling on Emma at ALA Midwinter 2013 in Seattle.
It’s signed, and to me, and I’m keeping it. I did try to find her at ALA Annual in Chicago
(she had all purple hair then) but just missed her signing, so alas, no giveaway for this one.

How I Survived Conferencing with Teens and You Can Too

The other day I talked about how ALA 2013 was going to be a commuter conference for me, and mentioned that I would be bringing teens along for the first time.  All of this contributed to an e..x..h..a..u..s..t..i..n..g weekend, but honestly, I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity and would do it again in a heartbeat.  What’s the tradeoff that makes it so worth it?  Let this picture tell you the thousand words of why:

She met Ellen Hopkins!
Oh my gosh! The teens were so over the moon excited about it all, it was better than Christmas.  In the pic above, she had just met and spoken to an author (Ellen Hopkins) for the very first time.  If you could bottle that excitement and joy, you’d be a millionaire.  

Our trip wasn’t just about hobnobbing with authors and picking up galleys, though don’t get me wrong – that was crazy exciting for these teens.  The six teens I brought to Chicago were there to share their opinions and perspectives about the Best Fiction for Young Adults nomination list
The mic and crowd were intimidating, but the teens shone.
And share, they did. You can view the whole session on YALSA’s blog, or read the Storify of tweets of comments and impressions during the session.   
So how does all of this work exactly?
For the BFYA teen session, be on the lookout for the callout from YALSA this fall for teens in the Philadelphia area for the Midwinter Meeting, and next spring for teens in the Las Vegas area to come to the Annual Conference.  The application process involved describing my teen group and including some reviews and opinions on the nominees from my teens.  It’s helpful to plan ahead if you think you might want to do this so that you have some reviews at the ready when the time comes.  
If you’re not near one of the upcoming conference cities, that doesn’t mean your teens can’t participate in something similar.  You could host a teen book summit with libraries nearby, work to get your teens involved in any reader created selection lists in your state, or play off of the Teen Top Ten nominees during Teen Read Week.  
I was fortunate to have partnered with a school librarian on this endeavor, and she had access and practice in the nuts and bolts of moving teens around.  Permission forms and parent contact was her domain!  We were also lucky to be able to walk and take public transportation to get around, which eliminated a lot of my worry over driving teens around or ensuring that they arrive safely on their own.
Some tips: 
Remind them to bring water and wear comfortable shoes.  
Explain, in as much detail as possible, what you expect from them and what they can expect from the event
Communicate your time table clearly with parents.
Collect cell phone numbers from the teens and give them yours.  This is not a level of intimacy I’m typically comfortable with, but when one of our teens was separated from the group on the Exhibits floor, wow was I glad she had my number and quickly found us!
Plan timing carefully and build in some cushion so you are sure to arrive where you need to be when you need to be there.
Take a deep breath, and have some fun — that’s what your teens are doing!
What seemed most valuable to the teens was being taken seriously.  
Is it possible to convene a teen committee to review potential summer reading titles for the school?  Could you create a yearly Local Favorites list that is similarly teen informed?  If so, what about opening the deliberations on the titles up to the public so that the teens get a wider audience and a chance to demonstrate how informed and thoughtful they are?  Bring in technology too!  You could encourage Vine submissions for teen book votes for a barrage of six second platform videos that could loop on your website or in the teen lounge.
The author connection
Truth: meeting authors and getting galleys was a HUGE draw for our teens.  We were fortunate enough that Simon & Schuster and Penguin both hosted events that teens were invited to, which lead to  signings and conversations with Ellen Hopkins, D.J. MacHale, Julie Berry, and Holly Goldberg Sloan.  Visiting the Exhibit floor got the crew up close and personal with Frank Beddor too.  This was big (see photo above if you’ve forgotten already how amazing it was for teens to meet an author).  But Annual is not the only place to meet an author.  For many of us, hosting an author event at our own library is simply cost prohibitive.  But partnering with other local public and school libraries might make it possible.  
Frank Beddor, author of Looking Glass Wars
Don’t limit yourself to the library world either.  Check out your local book stores for author signings and coordinate a trip for a handful of teens.  Be on the lookout for smaller regional conferences and events.  Here’s the deal: one thing librarians can offer even the most jaded teens is access.  We offer them access to information and resources, books and their authors.  Staying connected to the book world around you and enables you to extend that information to your teens.  You become the conduit through which they can delve even deeper into their favorite books, and forge connections to other teens who share their interests.  
Teens from several library groups connected and immediately bonded over books.

How do you work to connect teens with authors and the larger book world?  Have you hosted authors that work easily with libraries?  Taken teens to author signings?  Escorted them to conferences and events?