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A High School Student Reviews CONCRETE ROSE by Angie Thomas

I was very fortunate to receive an advanced reader’s copy of CONCRETE ROSE by Angie Thomas in the mail. My teenage daughter read it, and loved it, but I wanted to reach out to a friend who has been working hard at her high school to get her students reading and I knew that they were huge fans of Angie Thomas. So with her help, we have a student review of Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas. This review is coming to you today from Aaliyah, a senior.

Concrete Rose Angie Thomas https://app.asana.com/0/1135954362417873/1168658175790681/f

Angie Thomas always has a way of captivating readers’ minds and sucking them in with her storylines and moving words. As we read in The Hate U Give, each character stood out on their own by their powerful stories. But Maverick Carter, Starr’s father, captured the hearts of many readers.

The Hate U Give gave readers a glance into the life that Maverick Carter had to live in the Garden and Starr’s point of view on his trials and tribulations. Concrete Rose gives the readers the chance to understand the real background behind the story of Garden Heights and the questions that plenty of us had about the real Maverick Carter. Concrete Rose explains the journey that Maverick had to endure in the Garden to become a real man. Angie has a way of entangling her stories with real life events that the reader is able to relate to. For Maverick Carter, life hasn’t always been easy. As the son of a former gang legend, Mav does the only thing he was taught to do: dealing for the King Lords in order to provide and keep the bills paid in his home with his mother. His mother worked two jobs while his father was incarcerated, but for Mav that was normal; he had to do what he had to do in order to survive. Through the bad, Mav had his “Fresh-to-death” girlfriend and Brother-like cousin by his side; he was in control of everything in his life. But life always has surprises, and Mav’s surprise was the newfound information of becoming a teen father by someone who wasn’t his girlfriend. Mav’s Life changes drastically as he deals with having a son while trying to balance life as a King Lord, finish school, and be the best father he can be to Seven.

Life teaches lessons to Maverick in many forms. Being a teen father, part of a gang, and finishing school can be stressful to any average teen. As a Black teen myself, I have encountered similar obstacles that life has thrown at me in different ways. As a Black teen though, the standards set out for us are to become a minority in society and to fail. Concrete Rose gives different perspectives of Black teens and their journeys to adulthood and the limitations that are put on us by society at a young age. The future is unpredictable, and when the characters are put in the position to decide their fate it reveals the unlawful truths that society has set for them. With societal norms against Mav–Loyalty, Love, Revenge, and Responsibility become a battle in Mavericks life to become the man he needs to be for his family. Societal norms that are formed against Maverick and the other Black teens in the novel to become a failure to society create a force of motivation to beat the odds of Garden Heights that are set against them.  The novel opens up about the societal problems within a Black teens life, the Black community, and a look at a Black family who’s not perfect nor the ideal look but full of love and open arms.

Angie Thomas’ words always leave a mark in my mind about the reality of society and the world we live in. The book holds a powerful meaning and definition of the oppression many Black men face on a daily basis all over the world and the unimaginable events that occur in our neighborhoods. It’s clear that race is still a big problem in America today, and it may be a never ending problem that we will face for years to come.  Growing up in a world where there are unwritten rules for a Black child to go by from birth just to survive in America shows the discrimination and the targets that are put on African Americans from the minute we take our first breath.  We shouldn’t be obligated or responsible for the undoing of someone else’s ignorance and harmful ways and feelings. We also shouldn’t have to deal with violence within our own neighborhoods done by mislead people who fight for their image and worth in this world. Concrete Rose addresses gang violence and calls out the Black on Black crime in our communities by showing different ways these crimes are performed and the void that they create. 

Reading Concrete Rose allowed me to understand that we are not alone in this inhumane society, that I am in control of my destiny, and to use this voice that I was given to show that I will not go unheard in a world where I am supposed to be silenced. Yes, Black lives matter all the time, but the Mavericks in America especially matter to me.Hopefully, they matter to you, too.

Publisher’s Book Description:

International phenomenon Angie Thomas revisits Garden Heights seventeen years before the events of The Hate U Give in this searing and poignant exploration of Black boyhood and manhood.

If there’s one thing seventeen-year-old Maverick Carter knows, it’s that a real man takes care of his family. As the son of a former gang legend, Mav does that the only way he knows how: dealing for the King Lords. With this money he can help his mom, who works two jobs while his dad’s in prison.

Life’s not perfect, but with a fly girlfriend and a cousin who always has his back, Mav’s got everything under control.

Until, that is, Maverick finds out he’s a father.

Suddenly he has a baby, Seven, who depends on him for everything. But it’s not so easy to sling dope, finish school, and raise a child. So when he’s offered the chance to go straight, he takes it. In a world where he’s expected to amount to nothing, maybe Mav can prove he’s different.

When King Lord blood runs through your veins, though, you can’t just walk away. Loyalty, revenge, and responsibility threaten to tear Mav apart, especially after the brutal murder of a loved one. He’ll have to figure out for himself what it really means to be a man. 

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas releases tomorrow, January 12th, from Balzer + Bray

Kicky’s Post It Note Reviews: On the Come Up and The Devouring Gray

kickypostitreviews

The Teen, as many of you know, is a prolific reader of YA lit but basically hates to write reviews. So years ago she decided to write short reviews on post-it notes and thus, Kicky’s Post It Note Reviews was born. I try to fill in the gaps when I can because she and I talk about the books that she reads often, though not always. So here today are some thoughts from a prolific teen reader about some new and upcoming YA lit titles.

onthecomeup2

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

onthecomeup

Publisher’s Book Description

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s homage to hip-hop, the art that sparked her passion for storytelling and continues to inspire her to this day. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; of the struggle to become who you are and not who everyone expects you to be; and of the desperate realities of poor and working-class black families.

Post It Note Review

“An absolutely amazing and powerful book.”

The Teen and one of her best friends both read this book at the same time. At first she was kind of meh about it and told me that she thought it was okay but liked The Hate U Give better. Then one afternoon we were driving and she was reading in the passenger seat and she literally gasped/squeed/yelled and starting texting her friend about what was happening. This was a huge turning point in the book for her and as you can see from her brief post-it note review, she ended up really liking it.

The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

devouringgray

Publisher’s Book Description

On the edge of town a beast haunts the woods, trapped in the Gray, its bonds loosening…

Uprooted from the city, Violet Saunders doesn’t have much hope of fitting in at her new school in Four Paths, a town almost buried in the woodlands of rural New York. The fact that she’s descended from one of the town’s founders doesn’t help much, either—her new neighbours treat her with distant respect, and something very like fear. When she meets Justin, May, Isaac, and Harper, all children of founder families, and sees the otherworldly destruction they can wreak, she starts to wonder if the townsfolk are right to be afraid.

When bodies start to appear in the woods, the locals become downright hostile. Can the teenagers solve the mystery of Four Paths, and their own part in it, before another calamity strikes?

Post It Note Review

“Interesting. I’m not a big fan of series but I may read the second book.”

So the Jensens are notorious for leaving series unfinished. The Teen in particular prefers stand alone titles, with paranormal fantasy, mysteries and realistic fiction being her favorites. She liked this book enough that she would consider reading the second book, and I need you all to understand this is high praise indeed.

The Devouring Gray comes out on April 2nd. On the Come Up is out now.

Hip Hop is Happening in YA Lit, a guest post by Lisa Krok

The Grammys have often failed to recognize hip-hop artists in the most notable award categories. Based upon the lack of representation of Black performers in the Motown tribute, the Grammys clearly still have work to do. However, the steps toward progress are in motion, with huge wins for Childish Gambino and Cardi B. Childish Gambino’s “This is America” won Grammys for Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Best Rap/Sung Performance, and Best Music Video. The Song of the Year honors writers of songs, while the Record of the Year honors the recording artist. “This is America” was the first rap song to win these two distinguished accolades. Additionally, Cardi B was the first female solo artist to win the Grammy for Best Rap Album for “Invasion of Privacy”, alongside several other award nominations. This year Childish Gambino and Cardi B made history, and Young Adult Lit is here for it!

Three strong and exceptionally talented Black YA authors have hit the trifecta with books that are new releases or coming soon and reflect hip-hop culture. As rapper and social theorist KRS-One stated, “Rap is something you do, hip-hop is something you live”.

hiphop1Many teens will already be familiar with author Angie Thomas from (NYT Bestseller for 100+ weeks) The Hate U Give (Balzer + Bray, 2017) book and movie. The Hate U Give has received multiple awards and honors, including YALSA’s William C. Morris Award, a Coretta Scott King honor, a Printz honor, and the National Book Award long list, just to name a few. Thomas, a former teen rapper herself, recently released On the Come Up featuring Bri, a female teen rapper trying to make it big. Living up to a dead father who was a rap legend is tough. Combine that with racist actions from school security, a recovering addict mom desperately trying to make ends meet, and competition in the ring, finding your voice is difficult and is sometimes misconstrued by those who want to knock you down. Thomas passionately and realistically portrays the harsh realities of being Black and poor, while pushing forward and going for your dream. On the Come Up released February 5, 2019 from Balzer + Bray.

See Epic Reads track-by-track breakdown of Spotify’s On the Come Up playlist, along with a rap name generator. Playlist features tracks from Biggie, Common, Cardi B, Tupac, Nicki Minaj, Queen Latifah, Nas, Kendrick Lamar, Missy Elliott, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, Lauryn Hill, and many more legends. Selections for the playlist were chosen by Angie Thomas.

https://www.epicreads.com/blog/on-the-come-up-playlist/

hiphop2Lamar Giles is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books, and was an Edgar award finalist  for both Fake ID (Harper Collins, 2014) and Endangered (Harper Collins, 2015). Additionally, Overturned (Scholastic, 2017) was a 2018 Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers and a Kirkus Best Book of 2017. Giles also edited the WNDB anthology Fresh Ink (Random House, 2018) and contributed to anthologies Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America (Balzer + Bray, 2019) and Three Sides of a Heart (Harper Collins, 2017). He is best known for his crime fiction, and in his newest release, Spin (Scholastic Press, 2019), takes on a murder mystery involving DJ Paris Secord, aka DJParSec. This fast-paced mystery starts off with DJParSec’s two estranged friends, Kya and Fuse, under suspicion for her murder. When some of the ParSecNation fandom spins off into an ill-intended Dark Nation side, Fuse and Kya band together to uncover the true killer. Tough female protagonists + hip-hop + murder mystery = a winner for Lamar Giles. Spin was released January 29, 2019 from Scholastic Press. Giles also has a middle grade fantasy forthcoming, The Last Lastay-of-Summer from Versify/HMH on April 2, 2019.

Spin has a Spotify playlist, too!

Check out these tracks inspired by DJParSec, featuring Cardi B, Queen Latifah, Monie Love, Missy Elliott,

Lil’ Kim, Drake, J. Cole, Beyonce, Jay Z, and more.

https://t.co/Di5WOPGGv1

hiphop3Tiffany D. Jackson is a master of twist endings, as evidenced by the shocking revelations in Allegedly (Katherine Tegen Books, 2017) and Monday’s Not Coming (Katherine Tegen Books, 2018). Jackson’s awards and honors include 2018 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers for Allegedly, and most recently the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent for Monday’s Not Coming. Additionally, Monday’s Not Coming received a Walter Dean Myers honor and was named a SLJ Best Book of 2018. She adds her own contribution to this hip-hop book fest with Let Me Hear a Rhyme (Katherine Tegen Books, 2019). Jackson collaborated with Malik “Malik-16” Sharif, who provided the lyrics within the novel. Set in the 1990’s in Brooklyn, friends Steph, Quadir, and Jarrell are mourning the loss of Biggie Smalls, who they felt represented their neighborhood via his music. When Steph is shot and killed, his two friends conspire with his sister, Jasmine, to commemorate him. When they unearth shoeboxes full of recordings of Steph’s songs, they promote him as “The Architect”, while the producer has no idea that he is promoting a dead client. This amusing situation adds levity to the mystery, as the team of three begin to uncover what really happened to Steph. Let Me Hear a Rhyme is forthcoming from Katherine Tegen Books on May 21, 2019. 

“I think about the lyrics in so many hip-hop songs and understand why Steph made me listen to them. Life has never been easy for black folks, and survival means doing things you wouldn’t do normally. Can I really judge someone trying to live?”

 – Jasmine, Let Me Hear a Rhyme

Great songs tend to have a “hook”, and so do great books. The three aforementioned novels each have a KILLER first line:

  • “I might have to kill somebody tonight.” – On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
  • “I did not kill Paris Secord.” – Spin by Lamar Giles
  • “You’ve probably seen this scene before: Ladies in black church dresses, old men in gray suits, and hood kids in white tees with some blurry picture printed on the front and the spray-painted letters RIP.” – Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson

The hot, striking covers, cool beats, and captivating hooks make all three of these selections great for many types of readers, including the most reluctant of readers. Books like these, and rap music itself, lend themselves to many creative opportunities for teens to break down lyrics and even write some of their own.

So, if rap = poetry + rhythm, then poetry as lyrics can work in many different ways.

“A poet’s mission is to make words do more work than they normally do, to make them work on more than one level.     – Jay Z

Teens may also be interested in trying their hand at Poetry Slams, a la The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. Tips about poetry slams can be found here:

https://www.powerpoetry.org/actions/how-write-slam-poetry

Angie Thomas stated at an event in 2018 that hip-hop has given a voice to urban America. See Angie’s comments here:

Lastly, give the amazing Bahni Turpin’s audiobooks a listen. Turpin narrated Allegedly, The Hate U Give, On the Come Up, and DJParSec’s portion of Spin, among many others. Her voice is a perfect fit for the characters in these stories. Please see the links below for more information about Bahni Turpin, We Need Diverse Books, and these three fantastic authors.

https://www.audible.com/search?searchNarrator=Bahni+Turpin

https://diversebooks.org/

https://www.facebook.com/ACThomasAuthor/

https://www.lamargiles.com/

http://writeinbk.com/

 

lisakrok– Lisa Krok is a longtime fan of hip-hop, especially Queens Latifah and Nicki, along with the legendary Biggie. Her rap generator name is “Bad Swerve”. Lisa is a die-hard YA reader and a Ravenclaw, with a passion for reaching reluctant readers. She served on the 2019 and 2018 YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers teams. Lisa can be found being bookish and political on Twitter @readonthebeach.

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