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Take 5: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Inspired – New Twists on Old Tales in YA Lit

Last week, middle grade and YA author Martha Brockenbrough tweeted that her kid was reading the same books that she herself read in high school. This is also true in my house. Riley, who just graduated in May of 2021, read almost book for the book the same books that I read in high school . . . which was now 31 years ago. And most of those books were already old and outdated at that time. And they certainly didn’t represent the plurality of the world or any of the new innovations in science, justice, or even basic humanity that we have evolved to embrace over the scope of time. And yet there are no shortage of new, innovative takes on classic stories. So today I am going to share with you 5 new takes on some beloved classics that would make for some great comparisons. If you’re going to assign an old tale, why not ask readers to read a new take on those tales and make comparisons. There are so many ways we can invite readers to dig deeper and have a richer exploration of literature.

Bad Girls Never Say Die by Jennifer Mathieu is a take on the classic The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton. Where The Outsiders is the tale of bad boys from the wrong side of tracks in a strong friendship, Bad Girls Never Say Die is the gender bent version of this tale. Here we see bad girls being given the liberty to be, well, bad girls, and there friendship makes the cornerstone of this novel.

Publisher’s Book Description: 1964. Houston, Texas.

Evie Barnes is a bad girl. So are all her friends. They’re the sort who wear bold makeup, laugh too loud, and run around with boys. Most of all, they protect their own against the world. So when Evie is saved from the unimaginable by a good girl from the “right” side of the tracks, every rule she’s always lived by is called into question. Now she must redefine what it means to be a bad girl and rethink everything she knew about loyalty.

In this riveting story of murder, secrets, and tragedy, Jennifer Mathieu re-imagines S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders from a female perspective. Bad Girls Never Say Die has all the drama and heartache of that teen classic, but with a feminist take just right for our times.

I read Lord of the Flies way, way back in the late 90s and Riley read it just a couple of years ago. Although she hated it with a fierce, fiery rage of a 1,000 suns, she LOVES Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. In case you don’t know, Lord of the Flies are about a group of boys who are flying to a thing (I forget what thing) and their plane crashes onto an island and they quickly devolve into horrible, horrible humans. In Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, a group of girls on their way to a beauty pageant crash onto an island and things are not always what they seem. If you are going to read this book – and I highly recommend that you do – try listening to the audio read by Libba Bray herself. It is hilarious and inspiring.

Publisher’s Book Description: Teen beauty queens. A lost island. Mysteries and dangers. No access to email. And the spirit of fierce, feral competition that lives deep in the heart of every girl, a savage brutality that can only be revealed by a journey into the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Oh, the horror, the horror!


When a plane crash strands thirteen teen beauty contestants on a mysterious island, they struggle to survive, to get along with one another, to combat the island’s other diabolical occupants, and to learn their dance numbers in case they are rescued in time for the competition.

In Rebecca, a new wife goes to live a lush life with her new husband and learns that he is hiding a lot of secrets. In I Killed Zoe Spanos, a missing teen in the Hamptons village sets up a series of twists and turns that make for a great read. Inspired in part by Rebecca, Kit Frick writes a psychological suspense novel with its own gothic twists.

Publisher’s Book Description: This gripping thriller follows two teens whose lives become inextricably linked when one confesses to murder and the other becomes determined to uncover the real truth no matter the cost.

What happened to Zoe won’t stay buried…

When Anna Cicconi arrives to the small Hamptons village of Herron Mills for a summer nanny gig, she has high hopes for a fresh start. What she finds instead is a community on edge after the disappearance of Zoe Spanos, a local girl who has been missing since New Year’s Eve. Anna bears an eerie resemblance to Zoe, and her mere presence in town stirs up still-raw feelings about the unsolved case. As Anna delves deeper into the mystery, stepping further and further into Zoe’s life, she becomes increasingly convinced that she and Zoe are connected–and that she knows what happened to her.

Two months later, Zoe’s body is found in a nearby lake, and Anna is charged with manslaughter. But Anna’s confession is riddled with holes, and Martina Green, teen host of the Missing Zoe podcast, isn’t satisfied. Did Anna really kill Zoe? And if not, can Martina’s podcast uncover the truth?

In Orpheus and Eurdyce, Orpheus is a young lover who must travel to the depths of Hades to rescue his true love. In Never Look Back, Eury (catch the name there) is haunted by Hurricane Maria – and an evil spirit. Pheus falls in love with her and wants to help save her from all that haunts her, but does love always conquer all? You’ll want to read this moving retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Publisher’s Book Description:

Eury comes to the Bronx as a girl haunted. Haunted by losing everything in Hurricane Maria–and by an evil spirit, Ato. She fully expects the tragedy that befell her and her family in Puerto Rico to catch up with her in New York. Yet, for a time, she can almost set this fear aside, because there’s this boy . . .

Pheus is a golden-voiced, bachata-singing charmer, ready to spend the summer on the beach with his friends, serenading his on-again, off-again flame. That changes when he meets Eury. All he wants is to put a smile on her face and fight off her demons. But some dangers are too powerful for even the strongest love, and as the world threatens to tear them apart, Eury and Pheus must fight for each other and their lives.

This is an #OwnVoices retelling of the Greek myth Orpheus and Eurydice.

We all know the story of star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet. The Violent Delights takes the tale of star-crossed lovers and sets it in Shanghai in the year 1926. Rival gangs control the streets. Rumors of a madness start to take hold when gang members appear to claw out their own throats and rivals Juliette and Roma must join forces to discover what’s happening before their empires fall apart. This is book 1, there is more story to come.

Publisher’s Book Description: The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.

What are your favorite updated takes on some of the classics? Share with us in the comments. Happy reading!

Book Review: In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner

Publisher’s Book Description: From the award-winning author of The Serpent King comes a beautiful examination of grief, found family, and young love.

Life in a small Appalachian town is not easy. Cash lost his mother to an opioid addiction and his Papaw is dying slowly from emphysema. Dodging drug dealers and watching out for his best friend, Delaney, is second nature. He’s been spending his summer mowing lawns while she works at Dairy Queen.

But when Delaney manages to secure both of them full rides to an elite prep school in Connecticut, Cash will have to grapple with his need to protect and love Delaney, and his love for the grandparents who saved him and the town he would have to leave behind.

Karen’s Thoughts:

This is a soul crushing book that makes your heart soar while ripping it out at the same time; it is profoundly moving and well written in the way that makes you want to frame quotes on your bedroom wall to carry you through life’s dark days.

Cash is a high school teenage boy who lives in abject poverty in the Appalachia region with his grandparents who are raising him since his mom died from an overdose. He is best friends with Delaney, who just happens to be a scientific genius. Because of an amazing discovery that she makes, the two are offered a scholarship to a prestigious boarding school (she is the type of friend who negotiates her deal to help a friend instead of leaving him behind). In the Wild Light is a peek behind the curtain in the life of a group of teenagers, but mostly a boy named Chase, who are trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be.

At school, Chase discovers poetry as a language to help him talk about his feelings, he finds his people, and in the process, he starts to find himself. It’s a moving character study that dismantles toxic masculinity, explores the heart of family and friendship, and introduces us to characters who have every obstacle put before them and you can’t help but root for them.

This is a stunning, achingly moving book. I loved everyone (except for the roommate, who you are not supposed to love). If you like moving and triumphant character studies, this is the book for you: full of grief, hope, joy, anger and triumph.

Some of the issues tackled in the book include addiction, grief, sexual violence, bullying, and toxic masculinity.

Highly recommended.

Some additional books on the opioid crisis and addiction include:

Book covers pictured include Heroine by Mindy McGinnis, The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley, They’ll Never Catch Us by Jessica Goodman and You’d Be Home by Now by Kathleen Glasgow (comes out September 28th)

Resources for Discussing the Rise in Asian American Violence in the United States

I hope you are all aware that there has been an increase in violence and hate crimes against the Asian American community here in the United States. Two days ago, a horrific and deadly spree happened in the state of Georgia. I have rounded up a short list of articles and resources for school and public librarians to help us learn more and find ways to address the issues in our buildings and with our tweens and teens. I know one of my go to responses is to use the tools I have at hand, which means promoting books by Asian American authors and illustrators, which I hope you are doing all the time. While I don’t believe that books can change the world, I do believe that they can change hearts and one heart at a time we can provide tools to help make the world better. It’s not a lot, but it’s a tool we have and doing something is better than doing nothing.

Standing Against Anti-Asian Violence: https://blog.workday.com/en-us/2021/how-we-can-all-take-stand-against-anti-asian-violence.html

Articles and Resources: General

Anti-Asian American Violence Resources: https://anti-asianviolenceresources.carrd.co/

PBS News Hour: How to Address the Surge in Asian American Hate Crimes: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/watch-live-how-to-address-the-surge-of-anti-asian-hate-crimes

CNN: How Parents Can Help Their Children: https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/18/health/parents-support-kids-asian-hate-crime-wellness/index.html

Students Talk ABout Their Experiences: https://www.dailygamecock.com/article/2021/03/students-experiences-with-anti-asian-asian-american-discrimination-and-violence-news-bozard

Teen Vogue: Understanding the History of Anti-Asian Racism in the United States: https://www.teenvogue.com/story/anti-asian-hate-crimes-violence-us-history

NPR: Anti-Asian Violence Rises in the Pandemic: https://www.npr.org/2021/03/17/978055571/anti-asian-attacks-rise-during-pandemic-read-nprs-stories-on-the-surge-in-violen

Countering Stereotypes of Asian Americans: https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/12/countering-stereotypes

Publishing/Book Resources

Kibooka: Kids Books by Korean Americans: https://kibooka.com/

Lee & Low: Asian, Asian American Children’s Books: https://www.leeandlow.com/cultures/asian-asian-american-interest

Is this one of the most beautifully illustrated picture books you will ever see? Yes. Yes it is.

Picture Books Written by Asian American authors and illustrators: https://www.pragmaticmom.com/booklists/asian-american-book-lists-kids/

Middle Grade Books Written by Asian American authors: https://readingmiddlegrade.com/asian-middle-grade-books/

YA/Teen Fiction Books Written by Asian American authors: https://www.epicreads.com/blog/books-for-asian-pacific-american-heritage-month/

More YA/Teen Fiction Books Written by Asian American Authors: https://readingmiddlegrade.com/asian-ya-novels/

Please know that if during this pandemic you ever referred to Covid-19 as the China Flu or the Kung Flu, you have directly contributed to the rise in hate and violence for our Asian American students.

If you are on social media you can follow the tag #StopAsianHate for more discussion, resources and places to donate.

Don’t Believe Everything You See: A Discussion of Deepfake by Sarah Littman with Lisa Krok

Having seen some deepfake videos, I was curious to read Deepfake by Sarah Darer Littman. This book is a fictionalized account of how this synthetic media can have drastic consequences.

First, what exactly is a deepfake? The term itself comes from a combination of “deep learning” and “fake”. Deepfakes are AI (artificial intelligence) generated media where someone’s likeness can be swapped with another, or manipulated with the intent or likelihood of being deceptive about the recorded person’s words or actions. A creator of this would first need to train a neural network to understand what the person looks like in different lighting and angles. This can be constructed by using many hours of real video footage to make a realistic deepfake video. This process was invented by Ian Goodfellow, a Ph. D. student in 2014. Popular Mechanics reports that he now works at Apple.

In the novel, seniors Dara and Will are not only competing for valedictorian, but they have also been dating on the sly. When a video posts to the school’s gossip site, Rumor Has It, Will is stunned to see Dara accusing him of paying someone to take the SAT for him. Feeling betrayed and falsely maligned, he breaks up with Dara and is facing an investigation that could rescind his college acceptance. Here’s the catch: Dara knows she did not say those things or share that video. Leave it to this valedictorian candidate to scrutinize the video and surrounding evidence to discover what is really going on. This disturbing tale grips readers, who will be turning pages to find out how, why, and who is responsible for this.

According to a recent report from University College London,“Deepfakes are the most dangerous form of crime through artificial intelligence…This is because while deepfake detectors require training through hundreds of videos and must be victorious in every instance, malicious individuals only have to be successful once”. This leads to the question of the legality of these videos. Clearly, spreading misinformation via this manipulated media is very concerning. Anything pornographic is subject to defamation or copyright suits, but deepfakes with deceitful or controversial statements that were never said currently remain legal.

Tips to spot a deep fake from MIT’s Detect Fakes project:

 (retrieved from https://www.media.mit.edu/projects/detect-fakes/overview/)

“The Detect Fakes experiment offers the opportunity to learn more about DeepFakes and see how well you can discern real from fake. When it comes to AI-manipulated media, there’s no single tell-tale sign of how to spot a fake. Nonetheless, there are several DeepFake artifacts that you can be on the look-out for. 

  1. Pay attention to the face. High-end DeepFake manipulations are almost always facial transformations. 
  2. Pay attention to the cheeks and forehead. Does the skin appear too smooth or too wrinkly? Is the agedness of the skin similar to the agedness of the hair and eyes? DeepFakes are often incongruent on some dimensions.
  3. Pay attention to the eyes and eyebrows. Do shadows appear in places that you would expect? DeepFakes often fail to fully represent the natural physics of a scene. 
  4. Pay attention to the glasses. Is there any glare? Is there too much glare? Does the angle of the glare change when the person moves? Once again, DeepFakes often fail to fully represent the natural physics of lighting.
  5. Pay attention to the facial hair or lack thereof. Does this facial hair look real? DeepFakes might add or remove a mustache, sideburns, or beard. But, DeepFakes often fail to make facial hair transformations fully natural.
  6. Pay attention to facial moles.  Does the mole look real? 
  7. Pay attention to blinking. Does the person blink enough or too much? 
  8. Pay attention to the size and color of the lips. Does the size and color match the rest of the person’s face?

These eight questions are intended to help guide people looking through DeepFakes. High-quality DeepFakes are not easy to discern, but with practice, people can build intuition for identifying what is fake and what is real. You can practice trying to detect DeepFakes at Detect Fakes.”

Creating deepfakes is surprisingly easy with the right app/software, and can be created for fun or learning purposes, rather than used fraudulently. Here are some examples:

Princess Leia Deepfake

Bill Hader Pacino Schwarzenegger Deepfake

Queen Elizabeth Deepfake

Home Alone “Home Stallone” Deepfake

If you would like to try making a fun video of your own, check out these apps and websites:

Best Deepfake Apps and Websites

There is a teaching guide for this book available here: https://sarahdarerlittman.com/teacherreading_guides/deepfake_guide_-copy.pdf

Meet Librarian Lisa Krok

Lisa Krok, MLIS, MEd, is the adult and teen services manager at Morley Library and a former teacher in the Cleveland, Ohio area. She is the author of Novels in Verse for Teens: A Guidebook with Activities for Teachers and Librarians. Lisa’s passion is reaching marginalized teens and reluctant readers through young adult literature. She recently concluded a term on the Best Fiction for Young Adults committee (BFYA 2021), and also served two years on the Quick Picks for Reluctant Reader’s team. Lisa can be found being bookish and political on Twitter @readonthebeach.

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

Book Review: The Project by Courtney Summers

Publisher’s Book Description:

“The Unity Project saved my life.”

Lo Denham is used to being on her own. After her parents died, Lo’s sister, Bea, joined The Unity Project, leaving Lo in the care of their great aunt. Thanks to its extensive charitable work and community outreach, The Unity Project has won the hearts and minds of most in the Upstate New York region, but Lo knows there’s more to the group than meets the eye. She’s spent the last six years of her life trying–and failing–to prove it.

“The Unity Project murdered my son.”

When a man shows up at the magazine Lo works for claiming The Unity Project killed his son, Lo sees the perfect opportunity to expose the group and reunite with Bea once and for all. When her investigation puts her in the direct path of its charismatic and mysterious leader, Lev Warren, he proposes a deal: if she can prove the worst of her suspicions about The Unity Project, she may expose them. If she can’t, she must finally leave them alone.

But as Lo delves deeper into The Project, the lives of its members, and spends more time with Lev, it upends everything she thought she knew about her sister, herself, cults, and the world around her–to the point she can no longer tell what’s real or true. Lo never thought she could afford to believe in Lev Warren . . . but now she doesn’t know if she can afford not to.

Welcome to The Unity Project.

The next pulls-no-punches thriller from New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award-winning author Courtney Summers, about an aspiring young journalist determined to save her sister from a cult.

Karen’s Thoughts:

Let’s start with I love all things Courtney Summers and this book does not disappoint. Courtney Summers dives deep into the female psyche and explores the complex nature of growing up in a patriarchal society that puts young girls at risk in a variety of ways. She also does a great job of looking at the complex mental and emotional states of young people, which is why her books resonate with readers of all ages.

The Project does all of things and looks specifically at the idea of a cult, making it one of the timeliest books to come out in 2021. At the risk of alienating some readers I feel like this book really captures the zeitgeist of the current political landscape that we have just seen play out in the 2020 election where there has often been a very real dismissal of provable facts that has come at a great harm to a lot of people, including 250,000 Americans dead from a deadly global pandemic. So this deep dive into the psyche and what makes someone fall into a cult is perhaps the most necessary reading of our time.

Another thing Summers does well is to present us as readers with a complex female character that is realistic. What I mean is, she’s not always likable or perfect in any way, which is true of every one of us. Lo’s journey is complicated and she is a rich, rewarding character that takes a journey through a life many of us could never imagine. There is a tremendous burden placed on Lo because of other people’s external expectations and part of what motivates her is trying to fill shoes she never asked to have to wear. That, more than anything, will resonate with teens who are trying to figure out how to become more fully themselves while living with the expectations of others.

Perhaps the most unpopular I would share about this book is that I don’t think it should technically be classified as Young Adult (YA), as it fits more solidly into what should be the New Adult (NA) category had that ever taken off the way that it should have. None of the characters in this book are in high school, they are all at or over the age of 19, and they live independently, though not necessarily successfully. Having said that, I think that teens will in fact read it, just as teens have always read adult books. In the truest sense of the word this is a crossover novel as it will appeal to a wide age of readers.

This is a moving portrait of loss, self discovery, and sisters trying to find their way back to one another. It’s a passionate exploration of how the mind works and how others can manipulate it for their cause. It’s suspenseful, rich and illuminating.

The Project releases February 2021 from Wednesday Books and it is highly recommended.

Abortion in Teen and Young Adult Literature

As the election approaches, the topic of abortion and reproductive rights has been getting a lot of attention in the news. And with the sad passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg this past weekend, a newly open Supreme Court seat is really pushing this conversation to the forefront of 2020 election issues. Below you will find a gallery of YA/Teen titles that discuss the topic of abortion.

I haven’t read all of these, but I have read a good number of them.

Girl on the Verge is a great title that focuses on three teen girls who take a road trip together as they support one of the girls who are trying to obtain an abortion. This title takes place in Texas and it highlights a lot of hurdles, including a judge that makes decisions based on their own religion and how a friend who is Christian and against abortion personally decides to support her friend making a decision she doesn’t necessarily agree with.

The Truth About Alice is by a Texas author and pulls back the current on the truth about abortion protestors: many of them get abortions of their own even while they are protesting the very medical service that they are using. It’s a profound novel about shut shaming and rumors.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear is one of my favorite feminist books for a wide variety of reasons. One, it highlights the truly competitive nature of high school cheerleading. Two, it highlights female friendship and how you can stand by a friend who was raped. And three, it highlights a teen girl being allowed to make decisions about her body after being raped.

The Whitsun Daughters was just released and Amanda MacGregor reviews it here. She says it is a “gorgeously layered look at love, loss, and the complex lives of girls. Not to be missed.”

I actually just listened to All Eyes on Her last week and was surprised by the role that abortion played in this story. It’s a psychological thriller in which a teen girl is accused of killing her boyfriend by pushing him off of a cliff. At one point during the trial a picture which is presumed to be of her entering an abortion clinic appears on social media, which is used to make her look even more guilty. She’s an unreliable narrator so you don’t know if she’s telling the truth about the events of the story or the abortion throughout a large portion of the story. Tucked away in this psychological thriller is a lot of feminist discussion about the difference in the ways that teen boys and girls are treated in social media, in the justice system, and more. It was a really good book. Recommended for fans of Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany Jackson, which tackles a lot of the same themes and is one of the best psychological thrillers with feminist discussions out there.

Whatever one’s personal opinion on this topic, it’s important that we provide books and resources on it for our patrons, yes even teen ones. These novels can help our teens read about and wrestle with this topic that they are hearing about in the news. And let’s not forget, many of our teens have or will have abortions.

If you have other titles to add to this list, please share a comment with us.

May #ARCParty: A brief look at some of the new titles coming out in May 2020

It’s time for another ARC party, where The Teen and I take a look at some of the titles coming out in May.

Kicky’s Post It Note Reviews: Elysium Girls, Verona Comics and a lot of April Henry Novels

It’s a pandemic and we’re sheltering in place, which means that we should have all the time in the world for reading, right? I am personally one of the ones who through a combination of anxiety and illness, have not really been able to read. The Teen, however, has been reading like normal. So she joins us today for another installment of Kicky’s Post It Note reviews. You may recall that she wants to be a forensic scientist so she’s been reading a lot of April Henry books lately. Let’s see what she’s reading and what she thinks about it. Here’s what a teen reader thinks about some of the YA lit she’s been reading.

Publisher’s Book Description:

In this sweeping Dust Bowl-inspired fantasy, a ten-year game between Life and Death pits the walled Oklahoma city of Elysium-including a girl gang of witches and a demon who longs for humanity-against the supernatural in order to judge mankind.

When Sal is named Successor to Mother Morevna, a powerful witch and leader of Elysium, she jumps at the chance to prove herself to the town. Ever since she was a kid, Sal has been plagued by false visions of rain, and though people think she’s a liar, she knows she’s a leader. Even the arrival of enigmatic outsider Asa-a human-obsessed demon in disguise-doesn’t shake her confidence in her ability. Until a terrible mistake results in both Sal and Asa’s exile into the Desert of Dust and Steel.

Face-to-face with a brutal, unforgiving landscape, Sal and Asa join a gang of girls headed by another Elysium exile-and young witch herself-Olivia Rosales. In order to atone for their mistake, they create a cavalry of magic powered, scrap metal horses to save Elysium from the coming apocalypse. But Sal, Asa, and Olivia must do more than simply tip the scales in Elysium’s favor-only by reinventing the rules can they beat the Life and Death at their own game.

Post It Note Review: I really enjoyed this book and I loved all of the relationships.

Karen’s Note: One of the draw backs of this review format is that sometimes it really under sells a book. We talked a lot about this book and she really found it quite enthralling. You should check out The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough as a similar read.

Publisher’s Book Description:

From the author of Hot Dog Girl comes a fresh and funny queer YA contemporary novel about two teens who fall in love in an indie comic book shop.

Jubilee has it all together. She’s an elite cellist, and when she’s not working in her stepmom’s indie comic shop, she’s prepping for the biggest audition of her life.

Ridley is barely holding it together. His parents own the biggest comic-store chain in the country, and Ridley can’t stop disappointing them—that is, when they’re even paying attention.

They meet one fateful night at a comic convention prom, and the two can’t help falling for each other. Too bad their parents are at each other’s throats every chance they get, making a relationship between them nearly impossible…unless they manage to keep it a secret.

Then again, the feud between their families may be the least of their problems. As Ridley’s anxiety spirals, Jubilee tries to help but finds her focus torn between her fast-approaching audition and their intensifying relationship. What if love can’t conquer all? What if each of them needs more than the other can give?

Post It Note Review: I didn’t finish this book but it was sweet.

Karen’s Thoughts: Dugan is the author of Hot Dog Girl, a book The Teen really liked. She didn’t finish this book and I think it may have to do with the fact that an important relationship of hers ended during this time, but Amanda loved it.

Publisher’s Book Description:

Sixteen-year-old Cheyenne Wilder is sleeping in the back of the car while her stepmom fills a prescription for antibiotics. Before Cheyenne realizes what’s happening, the car is being stolen.

Griffin hadn’t meant to kidnap Cheyenne and once he finds out that not only does she have pneumonia, but that she’s blind, he really doesn’t know what to do. When his dad finds out that Cheyenne’s father is the president of a powerful corporation, everything changes–now there’s a reason to keep her.

How will Cheyenne survive this nightmare?

Post It Note Review: This book was really interesting. I didn’t want to stop reading it.

Publisher’s Book Description:

Cheyenne sets out to save her former captor in this much-anticipated sequel to Girl, Stolen.

Six months ago, Griffin Sawyer meant to steal a car, but he never meant to steal the girl asleep in the backseat. Panicked, he took her home. His father, Roy, decided to hold Cheyenne―who is blind―for ransom. Griffin helped her escape, and now Roy is awaiting trial. As they prepare to testify, Griffin and Cheyenne reconnect and make plans to meet. But the plan goes wrong and Cheyenne gets captured by Roy’s henchmen―this time for the kill. Can Cheyenne free herself? And is Griffin a pawn or a player in this deadly chase?

Post It Note Review: I learned a lot of new things from this book and I loved it.

Publisher’s Book Description:

What happens when someone who’s only ever wanted to be a hero becomes a suspect?

When a woman’s body is found in a Portland park, suspicion falls on an awkward teen who lives only a few blocks away, owns several knives, loves first-person shooter video games, and doodles violent scenes in his school notebooks. Nick Walker goes from being a member of a Search and Rescue team to the prime suspect in a murder, his very interest in SAR seen as proof of his fascination with violence. How is this even possible? And can Alexis and Ruby find a way to help clear Nick’s name before it’s too late? 

Post It Note Review: I read this book so fast because it kept me guessing so much.

Karen’s Thoughts: As I’ve mentioned, The Teen wants to be a forensic scientist. Hooking her up with the April Henry books was a genius move on my part. She’s really enjoying them and I get to feel like I’m supporting her scientific and professional interests. It’s a win all around.

If You Like The Good Place, Read This

Today YA Librarian Cindy Shutts has put together a fabulous list of recommended reads for fans of The Good Place. If you have titles to add, please leave us a comment. We’re huge fans of the show in my house and I want to hear all your reading recommendations.

Warning Spoilers!

The Good Place is the popular sitcom on NBC starring Kristen Bell and Ted Denson. The basic premise is that a group of four people are placed in the afterlife and they think they are in the good place but are actually in the bad place and part of an experiment to change how torture is done. This is the fourth and final season.  This season is about finding out if you can be a good person in a world connected to bad consequences. For example, if you drink a Coke-a-Cola, do you lose points because they are the worst plastic polluter in the world, even though you personally recycle the bottle? Is it possible to become a better person in the afterlife? What do we owe each other?

Just for fun, check out Hypable’s list of 34 of the best The Good Place quotes

Afterlife

Elsewhere: A Novel by Gabrielle Zevin

Fifteen- year -old Liz has just died and moved on to Elsewhere, where people who have died age backward and get jobs. She has to learn to move on from life to the afterlife, while falling in love with a man who is also learning to age backward and whose wife is still alive.

More Than This by Patrick Ness

A boy about to die wakes up and does not know if he is in the afterlife. He will have to figure out where he is to go on with his life.

Croak by Gina Damico

Lex is sent away to spend time with her Uncle Mort, but when she is with him she finds out he is a grim reaper.  Uncle Mort is now going to teach Lex the family business, but Lex develops a taste for justice.

It’s a Wonderful Death by Sarah J. Schmitt

RJ’s soul is accidently reaped by a grim reaper and she wants to talk to a manager because she should not be dead.

I Woke Up Dead at the Mall by Judy Sheehan

Sarah is murdered and wakes up at the Mall of America. She is given a death coach and told she will have to be able to move on after her death or be forced to walk the mall forever.

Demon Chick by Marilyn Kaye

Jessica always had a rough relationship with her politician mother, but she never expected her mother to sell her soul to the devil. Jessica finds herself living in one of the better neighborhoods of hell with a demon named Brad who seems to be a nice guy.

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

The Christmas Spirits gave Holly Chase a second chance at life. She did not listen to their advice and now she is one of the ghosts of Christmas Past, who is in charge of warning people about their possible fates.

The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand by Gregory Galloway

Adam is depressed and tries to commit suicide thirty-nine times, but every time he wakes up and feels fine. He will have to find out why this keeps happening.

Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall by Wendy Mass

Tessa wakes up after a gym accident in the mall. She is very confused and she starts to relive her life and the moment that led up to her death. She has to figure out who she is and what she wants now.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Everyone used to die after a period of time, but now in a world where death has been eliminated people have taken on the role of the scythe. The people of the scythe have the responsibility of quelling the population. Two teens have been chosen to be the scythe and they must succeed, because if they do not they will be killed.

Open Mic Night at Westminster Cemetery by Mary Amato

Lacy wakes up and finds out she is dead in Westminster Cemetery. She must try to adjust to her afterlife, but it is hard not knowing how she died and what happened to the people she cared about.

Moral Complex

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson

Octavian has grown up learning philosophy and science, but as he becomes a teenager he realizes something is wrong. He learns that he and his mother are part of a science experiment testing the mental capability of Africans and that he is enslaved.

Feed by M.T. Anderson

In the near future everyone gets their entertainment from feeds in their head telling them what is cool and what is not. However, on a spring break trip to the moon Titus and his friends fall victim to a hacker who turns off everyone’s feed. Titus has to learn to live without someone always telling him what to value.

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

Regina was one of the mean girls at her school, but when she is falsely accused of cheating with her best friend’s boyfriend she is expelled. She slowly learns to deal with the consequences of her actions.

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

Matt is not like everyone else. He is the clone of a narcissistic drug dealer. Everyday he is in danger from people who wish him harm and the only way out is to escape.

Firecracker by David Iserson

Astrid loves her life going to a posh boarding school and her grandfather happens to be a nuclear arms dealer.  Astrid gets kicked out of her boarding school and vows revenge on everyone who betrayed her, but she starts to learn things about herself. She realizes she is a trashy person and she had to decide if she is going to change.

Eleanor Shellstrop

Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina (Parent Issues)

Nora knows something is wrong with her brother, but her mother is not listening to her. She wonders if he is connected to a string of murders in her city.

Dicey’s Song by Cynthia Voigt (Parent Issues)

Dicey’s mother abandons her and her three younger siblings. Dicey is trying to keep her young siblings together and takes them to their grandmothers home, but she does not know how to relate with having someone who wants to help her.

Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang (Unlikeable Narrator)

Liz Emerson decides to drive her Mercedes into a tree because she thinks the world would be better off without her. What does her life mean and how can people impact each other?

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy (Unlikeable Narrator)

Alice had cancer and thought she was going to die, so she created a bucket list and completed most of it. Now suddenly she is in remission and has to deal with the consequences of her actions.

Chidi Anagonye

Finding Felicity by Stacey Kade (Indecisive)

Caroline is not good at making decisions and after her parents’ divorce instead of living in the real world she finds comfort in an old television show she found online.  Her mother decides to push her out into real world and Caroline must makes real life decisions.

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor (Nigeria)

Sunny lives in Nigeria but she was born in America. Sunny is an albino so she has to avoid direct sunlight but suddenly she discovers she has magical powers.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (Anxiety)

 Aza decides to hunt down a missing billionaire and reconnects with her old friend Davis. She has to deal with her anxiety from her OCD while solving this mystery.

Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos  (Anxiety)

James is experiencing anxiety and depression and he decides to make his own therapist, Dr. Bird. This way he can deal with his vanished sister and his abusive parents.

Tahani Al-Jamil

People Like Us by Dana Mele (Boarding School)

Kay has decided reinvent herself at her new school to cover up her past. But unexpectedly, a dead body is found near the lake of her school and her new world starts to collapse.

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake (Sibling Rivalry)

Three siblings who are princesses and have been raised apart are now forced to compete in a battle to the death to decide who will be the new queen.

All You Never Wanted by Adele Griffin (Sibling Rivalry)

Thea wants everything her sister has such as beauty, brains, popularity, and a good-looking boyfriend. Thea decides to spin the truth to get what she wants.

Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik (Wealth and Name Dropping)

Elise’s sister has caught the attention of Hollywood royalty and now Elise must spend time with the rich and famous. Is your importance based on who you know?

Jason Mendoza

Gym Candy by Carl Deuker (Football)

Mick wants to be the best running back for himself and his team, but he knows he needs an edge to make him bigger and faster.

DJ Rising by Love Maia (DJ)

Marley lives for music, but has to struggle with the fact his mother is an addict. Marley’s dream is to be professional DJ. When he gets a job things start to go well, but disasters at home cause everything to fall apart.

Past Perfect by Leila Sales (Pranks)

Chelsea wants to hang out with her friends and eat ice cream, but she has to get a summer job at the Essex Historical Colonial Village. She learns about friendship while being involved in an epic prank war.

Paper Towns by John Green (Florida)

Quentin lives in Florida and has lived next door Margo his entire life. When she is missing, he has to find her and goes on the adventure of a lifetime. 

Janet

Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza (Robot But Not a Robot)

Mila finds out that she is an experiment in artificial intelligence. Her mother is actually one of the scientists who created her.  It has been decided that Mila should be scrapped and now she will have to fight for her life.

Your Robot Dog Will Die by Arin Greenwood (Robots)

Nano lives on Dog Island where a company has decided to make robotic dogs and this island is the home of the last of the living dogs. After a genetic experiment, dogs have stopped wagging their tails and are being recalled.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver (Falling in Love)

Lena lives in a world where love is considered a disease and you are supposed to receive the cure when you turn eighteen. Lena meets Alex just before she is to receive her cure and her feelings change.

LIFEL1K3 by Jay Kristoff (Artificial Intelligence)

Eve lives on a junkyard island filled with radiation. She learns she is gifted with the power to destroy robots with her mind and now she has to escape a gangster who has her on his most wanted list.

Michael

The Good Demon by Jimmy Cajoleas (Demons)

Claire was possessed by a demon, but when her demon is exorcised away from her she is left all alone. Her demon was like a friendly sister who helped her. Claire is ready to do anything to get her demon back.

The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles (Underworld)

Zoe is dealing with her father’s death in a caving accident and she and her brother are attacked and then saved by a bounty hunter called X. X is from a hell called the Lowlands and he is sent to take the soul of Zoe’s attacker. X makes a mistake and wants to capture Zoe.

The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd-Jones (Demon Deals)

Dee’s life is not going well. Her home life is terrible and she is about to be kicked out of school, but she decides to make a deal with a demon. He asks for her heart.

Serpentine and Sacrifice by Cindy Pon (Underworld)

Skybright has always wondered who she really is but has focused her time training to be a lady’s maid for her friend Zhen Liu. One night, she realizes she is not quite human and has to find her destiny.