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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.

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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.

Conversation Snapshots: Let’s Talk YA Lit Titles & YA Programming Success

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YA Lit Suggestions

Although I do a lot of blogging here, sometimes good conversations happen on Twitter. Last Sunday, I wrote a post about updating YA titles that are discussed in media discussions and then I asked people on Twitter to recommend books for those updated discussions. Follow the tweet and you will see some of the recommended titles.

There were several recommendations for Scythe by Neal Shusterman, One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus and They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera. All great recommendations.

I keep thinking about how odd it is in retrospect that all these articles that talk about older YA don’t mention two of the first really popular – like word of mouth and all the teens come in asking for them popular titles: Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. What titles – old or new – do you think need to be included in the conversation? Please let us know in the comments.

Teen Programming Success!

The second question I asked this past week was about popular YA/Teen programming. What, I asked, is the most popular program you have ever hosted past or present? You’ll get lots of great programming ideas by reading through this thread. Many have them have been and continue to be popular for me and some of them are completely new ideas that I am looking forward to trying out.

Have some other teen programming success stories that you would like to share? Drop us a comment.

Sunday Reflections: Let’s Update Those YA Lit Articles with Current Titles, and more suggestions for how we talk about YA lit in the media

Several years ago, I wrote a post to the media asking them to write their hot takes about YA literature differently. It was snarky and full of anger at a media that continued to denigrate YA literature and by proxy the teens that read it. At the time, their was a lot of pearl clutching about how dark YA literature was, without a real acknowledgment of how dark the lives of real teens can be, and often are. Recently, there have been a lot of additional articles about YA, with a lot of focus on the idea of “Toxic YA Twitter”, which as best as I can tell is really just people from marginalized groups asking for better representation in YA literature and calling out those books that they feel have harmful stereotypes and representation that may harm teen readers of color.

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But what all of these articles have in common is that they continue to discuss YA literature using books like Twilight, The Hunger Games and Divergent as their go to reference. One of the most recent ones did add The Maze Runner series to the list. The problem with this is, every single one of these books is around 10 years old or older and aren’t really representative of YA literature today. They are a small microcosm of YA lit, and in many places they are now a historic perspective on YA but by no means offer a good look at what is happening in the current YA lit marketplace nor do they represent what today’s teens – the intended audience for YA – are reading.

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For example, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas has topped the New York Times bestseller list for 2 consecutive years. Like the books mentioned above, it was made into a move. Angie Thomas’ most recent release, On the Come Up, debuted on the NYT Bestseller list and was a title that we had so many holds on before release that we had to order additional copies. None of the books mentioned above have appeared on my library’s hold list for years. In fact, given the circulation statistics of the Twilight series, I could easily have justified weeding them from my library’s collection, though I did not.

It’s interesting that articles discussing YA tend to focus on that handful of older titles and neglect to mention more recent bestsellers for several reasons. One, in the past few years the bestseller list has grown increasingly diverse, which is a good thing. But when writers focus on this handful of older titles, they are continuing to highlight white, cisgender and heteronormative titles. Both The Hate U Give and The Children of Blood and Bone, another long term NYT Bestseller, are written by women of color, but they keep being written out of the narrative about YA literature.

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Simon Vs. the Homosapien Agenda by Beck Albertalli is another NYT bestseller that got the movie treatment. It is the story of a gay boy trying to figure out who he is and is accepted by his friends and family. This is just one of the growing number of LGBTQ titles that are popular among teen readers and have been high circulating, NYT bestselling titles in the past few years. Yet the titles being mentioned in these articles fail to represent LGBTQ teens.

Twilight was a huge hit among teen readers, but the first book in that series was released in 2005 and the final book in the series, Breaking Dawn, was released in 2008. I’m not excellent at math, but that seems to be almost 11 years ago. While there are some teens today that still seek our and read these books, this series is by no means as meaningful to today’s teen readers or the landscape of what’s happening in YA as many newer titles. As a reference for discussion on YA lit, it’s now a weird go-to reference.

The same can be said for The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Maze Runner series. What’s also interesting is that several of these authors haven’t really released a new YA title in many years. Further, the author of The Maze Runner series was recently accused of sexual harassment and if I am not mistaken, is currently without a publisher. Veronica Roth is the only author from this particular group who is currently and actively publishing YA books and her most recent series, Carve the Mark, has been criticized by people of color as engaging in racist and harmful tropes. The titles in the series have debuted on the NYT bestseller list, but they have not had the demand or circulation as other titles among my teen readers.

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It’s also interesting that these articles which seem to want to focus on older titles often fail to mention authors of color with longstanding careers, such as Walter Dean Myers. It is unfathomable to me that you can talk about YA literature in any form and not mention Walter Dean Myers, who was a prolific writer and was the first recipient of the Printz Award Medal in it’s inaugural year for his book, Monster. Sadly, Walter Dean Myers is no longer with us, but no discussion of YA literature seems complete without mentioning his influence on the category. By the end of his career, Walter Dean Myers had written over 100 books for children and teens.

TLT TAB member Lexi is a HUGE A. S. King fan

TLT TAB member Lexi is a HUGE A. S. King fan

However, if you want your article to reference authors who have been publishing for a long time and are still publishing, I would recommend authors like Sarah Dessen, who writes popular contemporary books and has been in this business for almost as long as I have. Her latest book, The Rest of the Story, will be released later this year. Might I also recommend A. S. King, who writes mind-bending surrealistic fiction that recognizes teens as intelligent readers and challenges them to think outside the box. Her newest book, Dig, will be released on Tuesday, March 26th. These are just two of the authors that teen readers continually ask for who are still actively engaged in writing YA literature.

What I would like to see in articles about YA literature is some better and more current examples of titles that are of interest to today’s YA reader. Unless you are writing a historical perspective on the category, it seems outdated and out of touch to continue to use this small handful of examples that aren’t even the most popular titles with today’s teen readers. I also would like to see more diversity in the titles being used as examples to better reflect today’s teens. 40% of the population are not white, so shouldn’t the titles we talk about when discussing YA literature reflect the world?

Since the days of The Hunger Games and Twilight, YA publishing has exploded. I have read figures that state that the YA literature category has experienced an increase of around 400%. That’s a lot of growth and a lot of new titles to talk about. And my experience working in libraries directly with teens for 26 years has proven several things:

1. A majority of YA lit titles have a short shelf life and high turnover rate. Titles that my teens were begging for even 2 years ago can have a sharp and sudden drop off in circulation, demand and popularity. There are always exceptions to this rule, but it’s an important perspective to keep in mind.

2. There is often a huge difference between what adults readers of YA are interested in compared to what teen readers of YA are interested in. When discussing YA literature in the media, maybe we need to be more clear about what types of readers we are discussing. As the title of this blog probably informs you, I’m here for teen readers. I begrudge no adult who wants to read YA for whatever their reasons, I’m just personally dedicated to serving and advocating for teens and would like YA category to continue to be written with them in mind and I would like articles that discuss the YA category to be cognizant of teens as readers.

3. When discussing YA in the media, we need more data to help support our discussions. We need things like circulation data, bestselling data and feedback from actual teen readers. This will help us make sure that we are, in fact, talking about YA literature in ways that center factual data and actual teen readers. I’m tired of lazy articles that discuss what’s wrong with YA literature and continues to reference Twilight as THE teen book example.

4. When discussing YA in the media, I want some background discussion at the beginning of the article about a person’s qualifications to write said article. Are you an author? Are you a publisher? Are you a librarian? How long have you been actively engaged in the YA community? What are your credentials and why are you a knowledgeable, reliable and unbiased source of information? In a time when we are trying to inform the general public how to suss out fake news and seek out reliable news sources, we should be asking this information of every article written about teens and YA lit.

To be true to this above demand, let me take a moment to tell you that I have been a YA/Teen Services Librarian for 26 years. I have worked at 5 systems in 2 states in various types of communities, both rural and big cities. I talk with teens directly on an almost a daily basis about books and use circulation data and patron requests to help me purchase books for libraries and build inclusive collections of YA lit. I run this blog, write articles for journals like School Library Journals, and have spoken and taught at numerous conferences and webinars.

If you are a media entity seeking to publish an article about YA lit, please seek out reliable sources and actual data and make sure to talk about current titles that reflect the diversity of YA lit readers. I would recommend contacting a handful of YA librarians in public and school libraries and asking them what their teens are reading and asking them for some circulation data. Most librarians should have a way to go in an run a circulation report to tell you what the highest circulating titles in their YA collection are. In most cases they can give you historical and current data. You should also look at things like the New York Times Bestseller list which will also tell you how long a title has appeared on the list.

If you are a reader of these articles, please take a moment to look at them critically and ask yourself what makes them qualified to write the article, whether or not they have an agenda they are trying to push, and to examine critically the list of titles they are using to talk about YA literature.I would recommend immediately questioning the validity or intent of any article that is referencing older titles and seem to have no knowledge of current YA publishing trends.

If you are a publisher, author or YA librarian and you are asked to consult on an article being written, please take the time to answer thoughtfully and diversely, being respectful of and centering actual teen readers. Provide examples with data whenever possible.

Moving forward, let’s all agree to talk about YA literature differently in the media making a conscious effort to center teen readers and to more fully represent the breadth and scope of all that YA literature has to offer.

The Teen Reads the Complete Works of A. S. King

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At some point last year, The Teen and I both read an Advanced Review Copy of DIG by A. S. King, an author of whom I have been a long time fan. It is, in my opinion, one of her best works. I handed the ARC to The Teen telling her, when you get to the end it will blow your mind the way all the various bits and pieces come together – and it did. She loved DIG so much that she decided she was going to read every book by A. S. King. I’m going to tell you more about DIG in an upcoming post and book review as it comes out on March 26th. But we you need to know and understand that she was so moved and blown away by DIG that it prompted her to decide on her own that she was then going to read each and every book by A. S. King and then proceeded to do so.

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The Teen says that DIG is “Simply perfect. It all comes together.”

She had already read Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, a book that she likes and recommends frequently. She has even gifted Glory O’Brien to friends for Christmas and birthdays. You can read more about Glory O’Brien here. She has also already read Ask the Passengers, a book she loves and widely recommends as well. In fact, she recently recommended Ask the Passengers and Please Ignore Vera Deitz (discussed below) to her English teacher. So over the past month or so, The Teen has been reading the entire works of A. S. King and today we are going to share that experience with you. Because she had already previously read Ask the Passengers and Glory O’Brien’s History of the World, they are unfortunately not reviewed or discussed below. Just know that she likes and recommends them both. In fact, Ask the Passengers is one of her favorite books.

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Another favorite of mine is Please Ignore Vera Dietz, so I was excited that The Teen was finally going to read this one. This is the story of a young girl, Vera Dietz, dealing with the death of her friend and crush Charlie. Here’s what she had to say about it . . .

king5“I love this book so much. Showcases grief, friendship, family betrayal and all the things that come between. Beautifully written.”

She then read I Crawl Through It. I will honestly admit that this is a book that has always seemed way over my head. I get bits and pieces of it, but it has never come together for me in the ways that King’s other books have. So when The Teen finishes reading it, I asked her to explain it to me. Her response was, “I can’t explain it to you, but it makes sense to me and I think it’s really powerful.” I Crawl Through It is about 4 teens who are traumatized by various life events, including sexual violence, school shooting drills, and over testing and their attempts to escape the high pressure life they find themselves being forced to live in. This is what The Teen had to say about it . . .

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“A great book on the issues teenagers face in school and how important it is to deal with your problems.”

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She then tackled Still Life with Tornado. This is a book in which a 16-year-old girl named Sarah finds herself talking to various other versions of herself as she works through some very real issues. The Teen had this to say about it . . .

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“Shows to many important things and touches on many common issues in society.”

The Teen also read, but did not love, Reality Boy. Reality Boy is the story of Gerald, a teenage boy who is forced to live his life on reality tv who struggles with anger issues. This is what The Teen thought about it . . .

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“I don’t like Gerald but {this book} shows how influential media and abuse are.”

The Teen then read Me and Marvin Gardens, which I was slightly surprised about because it is a middle grade book and kind of outside her reading interests, but she read and liked it. I give her credit for her commitment to the reading project. This is what she had to say about Me and Marvin Gardens . . .

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“Precious and 100% worth the read.” The Teen doesn’t really do precious, she prefers dark and murderous, but we all contain multitudes and I was glad to see this review.

Everybody Sees the Ants is another one of my favorites and I was also glad when she tackled this one. Everybody Sees the Ants is about Lucky Linderman, whose grandfather never came home from the war, whose father never got over that, whose mother pretends that nothing is wrong and who is, quite unfortunately, being bullied mercilessly by the hands of Nader McMillan. This is what the teen had to say about Everybody Sees the Ants. . .

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“An inspiring story, very uplifting.”

As an aside, I am a part of an adult book club and every time it’s my turn to pick a book, I choose a YA book. My adult book club has read this book and every adult there loved this book as well. It’s an important and moving story about overcoming, healing, and dealing with the very real trauma that life throws at you.

And finally, The Teen read The Dust of 100 Dogs. Funny story, this is the only A. S. King book I have never read but I am sure I will eventually because I now own a copy of it. The Dust of 100 Dogs is one of the few A. S. King books that doesn’t really contain her now characteristic surrealist style and The Teen found that to be a real drawback, though your mileage may vary. A late teenage female pirate is reincarnated as a modern day teenage girl trying to get to Jamaica to unearth treasure she knows is buried there. This is what The Teen has to say about it . . .

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“Not her usual surreal book, but still an interesting story.”

Let me just take a moment here to tell you that this is the book we have had the most discussion about. This book contains an interesting mother/daughter dynamic, which The Teen explained to me, and we talked a lot about it. The mother, it seems, is trying to live vicariously through her daughter so she is controlling and the relationship is unhealthy. It’s interesting to me that although she liked this book perhaps the least, it would be a tie between this one and Reality Boy I think, that it generated the most discussion.

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Her favorites, in no particular order are:

  • Dig
  • I Crawl Through It
  • Everybody Sees the Ants
  • Still Life with Tornado
  • Ask the Passengers (another previously read title that is a favorite)

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As a mom who also happens to be a YA librarian and a fan of A. S. King, it was fascinating to watch The Teen decide she wanted to do this thing and then do it. I checked out books from the library as she asked for them. I bought some of them online for her. We talked about each book as she read, some more than others. She has actually met A. S. King in the past at a teen author event, so she is not unaware of who she is. And as I have mentioned, she had previously read a couple of her books. I think that A. S. King earned a lifelong reader and fan through this process, and it all happened because one teenager read one book and decided she wanted to keep going. A. S. King’s books spoke to my daughter about the teenage experience, but they are also – as she says – smart, intelligent, complicated and twisted and demonstrate that as a writer, A. S. King respects and understands her readers. I think more than anything that what I heard my daughter saying as we talked about these books was that she felt understood, moved and valued.