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Your Connection to Teen Reads
Updated: 4 hours 2 min ago

Jukebooks: Wildflower by Alecia Whitaker

Wed, 09/03/2014 - 07:00

The Barrett Family Band travels the road in Winnie, their trusty RV, playing bluegrass at bars, festivals, and any other kind of venue that likes footstompin’ music. They’re scheduled to play at the Station Inn in Nashville when Dad, the family’s lead singer, comes down with laryngitis. Suddenly the focus is on sixteen year-old Bird, usually the fiddle-player and back-up singer, to take the lead. Nervously, Bird sings one song that she knows very well because she wrote it herself. As it happens, the president of a large record company is in the audience, and he offers Bird a deal.

Fans of the television show Nashville will know it’s a big deal when Bird is invited to play with other young musicians at the Bluebird Cafe. Like Scarlett on the show, Bird uses the words from her journal to compose songs. Her first big hit is “Notice Me.” What does it sound like? Well, no one will really know until the end of September. That’s when the winner of Justine Magazine’s Wildflower Talent Search is announced. Author Whitaker includes the lyrics and sheet music for “Notice Me” in the book. It’s up to the contestants to display their talent through interpretation and performance.

For now, curious readers can listen to “Girl in a Country Song” by Maddie and Tae. Whitaker says:

This is exactly the sort of song I can see Bird writing. I love that these two girls, Maddie and Tae, write music from their hearts. This song really says something – boldly. I picked up on a few of the references about the male heavy world of country music and these girls weren’t shy about it. They are straight calling guys out.

-Diane Colson, currently reading Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

Librarians Love: Contemporary Romance Beyond Best Sellers

Tue, 09/02/2014 - 07:00

by Flickr user Leland Francisco

YALSA-bk is a listserv with lively discussions among librarians, educators, and beyond about all things YA lit. Sometimes one listserv member will ask for help finding books around a certain theme or readalikes for a particular title. This post is a compilation of responses for one such request.

The original request
One of my book clubs is looking for a good romance to read but I can’t give them “the usual suspects” (aka John Green, Huntley Fitzpatrick, Rainbow Rowell) because they’ve read all of those highly publicized ones. I’m looking for one that is off the radar, preferably paperback, that will sweep them off their feet and isn’t too brazenly in-your-face with the language and physical stuff (aka Jamie McGuire, Simone Elkeles, Katie McGarry.)

Suggested titles

  • A Blindspot for Boys by Justina Chen
  • Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
  • Something Real by Heather Demetrios
  • Reclaimed by Sarah Guillory
  • To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
  • The Big Crunch by Pete Hautman
  • OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu
  • Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu
  • Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
  • Like No Other by Una Lamarche
  • Doon by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon
  • Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
  • The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
  • Althea and Oliver by Cristina Moracho
  • Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
  • The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler
  • #scandal by Sarah Ockler
  • Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet
  • Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens
  • Fan Art by Sarah Tregay
  • Beatle Meets Destiny by Gabrielle Williams

Suggested authors

  • Deb Caletti
  • Susane Colasanti
  • Sarah Dessen
  • Jennifer Echols
  • Elizabeth Eulberg
  • Gayle Forman
  • Maureen Johnson
  • Morgan Matson
  • Stephanie Perkins
  • Leila Sales
  • Suzanne Selfors
  • Jennifer E. Smith
  • Amy Spalding
  • Siobhan Vivian
  • Kasie West

Have more titles you think should belong on these lists? Add them on the YALSA wiki or leave a comment! Looking for more compiled booklists? Check out the YALSA wiki or other booklists here at The Hub.

– Gretchen Kolderup, currently rereading The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

Bookish Brew: Summer Smoothie Edition

Mon, 09/01/2014 - 07:00

Image by Flickr user Pamela Bates

I don’t know what the weather’s like where you are, but here in southern California we’ve had some pretty hot days recently.  So I thought that for this entry in my occasional Bookish Brew series, a cool summer smoothie would be more in order than a hot drink.  Make that two smoothies– one for each of the narrators of Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando’s wonderful and authentic Roomies (2015 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers Nominations List)

When Roomies begins, teens Lauren and Elizabeth are a couple months away from starting their freshman year at the University of California, Berkeley.  They have just received each other’s names and email addresses from the campus housing office because they have been matched as dorm roommates.  Lauren lives in San Francisco, California, which is not far from the city of Berkeley.  In her loving two-parent family, she is the eldest of her siblings by several years.  Her responsible nature may stem partly from her heavy child-rearing responsibilities.  She is somewhat shy, concerned with honesty and aims to work in scientific research.  Elizabeth, also known as E.B., lives in suburban New Jersey near the Shore with her single divorced mom with whom she does not have a close relationship.  Elizabeth can be overly sensitive at times and is more impulsive than Lauren, as well as more outgoing.  She plans to study landscape architecture. 

Initiated by Elizabeth of course, the two begin an email correspondence over the summer.  They share the details of their lives and soon after their feelings and frustrations about friends, family and boyfriends.  This is not an epistolary novel, however; these emails are one component of a traditional narrative.  The two girls alternate narrating chapters. 

Initially Lauren and Elizabeth experience a mainly positive interaction, getting a feel for each other’s personalities, leaning on each other throughout a couple situations in their personal lives and sharing the joys of their respective first loves.  A misunderstanding arises, however, connected to Elizabeth’s estranged father, who lives and owns an art gallery in San Francisco.  Both girls are challenged to look at the situation through the other’s eyes and decide whether reconciliation is possible.  In an interview with Harvard Magazine (September-October 2014) Tara Altebrando describes how she and Sara Zarr wrote the book both separately and together over a period of three years and mentions that they are considering either a sequel or another collaborative project.

I highly recommend listening to the audiobook version of Roomies if you can, which is voiced by Becca Battoe and Emily Eiden.  These two readers do an amazing job of vocally capturing the distinct rhythms and personalities of Lauren and Elizabeth, not to mention the differences in regional accents. 

But now the time has come to blend!  When choosing the ingredients for a “bookish brew” I consider the setting and the essential traits or qualities of the main character of a novel.  As there are two quite distinct main characters in Roomies, I’ve created two smoothies. 

The Recipes

Both of the following recipes will make one serving.  Feel free to double or otherwise increase the amount of each ingredient as needed.   Then just throw all of the ingredients into your blender, turn it on at the setting that you prefer for ten to thirty seconds and voilà!


The Ladylike Lauren

Lauren is the more cautious of the two girls, which to me suggests starting with a more traditional smoothie recipe.  Her hometown of San Francisco is also the home of Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, which in my book almost requires the addition of something derived from the cocoa bean!


  • 6 ounces vanilla yogurt
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ½ cup frozen raspberries
  • ½ tablespoon raspberry jam (optional)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons chocolate syrup


The Electric Elizabeth

Elizabeth seems to feel more at ease with trying new things (e.g., traveling across the country for college).  Given this and her love for plant life, I used a green smoothie as a base.  To make the green “electric” I added a little carbonation in the form of wishniak black cherry soda (a non-alcoholic drink), which is popular in New Jersey, but can be found in most beverage stores elsewhere.


  • 1 cup chopped spinach or kale
  • ¼ of an avocado, peeled and with pit removed
  • ¾ cup apple juice
  • ½ apple, peeled, cored and chopped (make sure your blender can handle apples)
  • 1/2  cup wishniak black cherry soda

I wanted to finally note that Roomies has been included in a few reading lists created by my fellow Hub bloggers.  If you like the fact that Roomies centers around email communication, try the book suggestions at “Teen Tech Week: YA Fiction About Online Life” (3/14/14).  If you want to read more books with alternating narrators, try the titles included on “Is This the Real Life? YA Books with Multiple Perspectives” (3/13/14).  If you’re starting college this semester or in the next couple years, definitely check out the books on “Heading to College? Read These Books First” (9/6/13).

Happy reading and smoothie-making! 


- Anna Dalin, currently listening to The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman