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Booklist: Nonfiction Lite

Fri, 10/30/2015 - 07:00

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling pretty swamped this month. Somehow, being an adult – or what passes for one – means I’m way busier than I thought I would be. As it turns out, adults are just as busy as college and grad students! I wish someone had warned me before I graduated.

When things get squirrelly, I usually don’t want to be overburdened by emotionally heavy books or movies. I like to turn to something lighter, something that will keep my interest but won’t bring me down. And when even the fluffiest of romances are too much for my over-taxed outlook – because there’s always the part where Our Hero and Our Heroine miscommunicate and almost break each other’s heart – I like to turn to nonfiction.

Nonfiction? Yes – but what I like to call Nonfiction Lite. It’s fun, it’s quirky, and it probably doesn’t have a whole lot to do with what you might traditionally think of as “educational value.” It just goes to show that there really is a book out there for anyone and any situation – just like any good librarian worth their salt will tell you.

Perhaps the best example of purely quirky fun is Have a Little Pun: An Illustrated Play on Words, by Frida Clements. Combining beautifully intricate illustrations of various flora and fauna with truly awe inspiring (or groan-inducing) puns, this book had me feeling more relaxed the minute I opened it. Got a problem with puns? Dill with it.


One of my favorites from the recent boom in cat comedy books (yes, that’s a trend) is You Need More Sleep: Advice From Cats by Francesco Marciuliano. Featuring glorious photos of cats doling out expert advice (“never let anyone dress you” is a classic example), this book is guaranteed to lift you out of the dumps and brighten up your day.


Find Momo Coast to Coast: A Photography Book by Andrew Knapp is an absolutely gorgeous work of photographic art featuring my all-time favorite animal: the border collie! Momo, of Instagram and Find Momo (2014) fame, frolics across the country – and it’s incredibly soothing to search the photos for his adorable face. This is a fascinating combination of coffee table book and game that would make a great gift.


In mood for more delightful dogs – and other assorted animals? Check out Unlikely Heroes: 37 Stories of Courage and Heart from the Animal Kingdom by Jennifer Holland. This features truly uplifting tales of animals overcoming obstacles and going above and beyond for their beloved owners. And don’t worry – because it’s divided into stories, you don’t have to read the whole thing in one sitting. If you’re looking for casual and quick, this book is the way to go.


For the list lover, check out Lists of Note: An Eclectic Collection Deserving of a Wider Audience by Shaun Usher. Perfect for occasional browsing, peruse this extensive collection of delightfully odd lists from historical personages. It also features relevant photographs and illustrations, and is a seriously great way to spend a quiet afternoon.



— Savannah Kitchens, currently reading Moving Target by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

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Week in Review: October 30th

Fri, 10/30/2015 - 07:00

Happy Halloween Hubbers! Here’s your week in review for October 30th!

Books and Reading

Movies and TV


Just for Fun!

—Katie Shanahan Yu, currently reading Nearly Found by Elle Cosimano

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Journey Through the National Book Award Longlisters…Part 1

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 07:00

Happy almost-Halloween, Hubbers! The leaves are changing, it’s cooling down (even in Arizona where I just was – it was 90 degrees! Brr!), and it’s my favorite time of the year. But, on to the books! Over the next couple of months, I thought I’d focus on the National Book Awards longlist for Young People’s Literature – although, due to my trip, I wasn’t able to get as much reading done as I’d have liked. But, we’ll start small this month, and I’ll be working my way through the longlist over these cold & rainy months to come. This month, I’m focusing on 3 books that are fun, interesting and perfect books for all the teens in your life. I know they’ve announced the finalists by now, but I thought it would be fun to celebrate all of the great books that made the longlist since they are all winners to me! Here we go…

Nimona written & illustrated by Noelle Stevenson: I remember a while ago, one of my teens kept telling me how much she loved this webcomic – Nimona – and, she thought I should read it, too. I kept putting it off until I saw they had put the webcomic into book form. I fell in love right away with the shapeshifting Nimona and the villain she is the sidekick to, Lord Ballister Blackheart. All Lord Blackheart wants to do is show the citizens that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, Mr. High & Mighty, Mr. Can-Do-No-Wrong, really isn’t that great. Plus – there’s a backstory to their relationship! And, there are dragons! And, feelings & emotions! Noelle’s illustrations are so bright and colorful and the characters are fully fleshed out; they feel like real people to me! It’s just a fun and hilarious story that certainly quenched my thirst for an action story without your typical leading man or lady. A great story of a girl who’s not afraid to show her strength, but showing her feelings might be a bigger problem than anyone realized.

Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson: This is a nonfiction title that I haven’t stopped thinking about since I finished it a few months ago. In September 1941, Hitler’s army surrounded Leningrad after previously fooling Stalin into thinking they were friends & allies. No one could come in or out of the city (legally, at least), and food was scarce if not nonexistent. During this time, Dmitri Shostakovich wrote a symphony, his 7th symphony, for Leningrad – his place of birth and life. But, the book is so much more than a story of the symphony; it’s also an engaging and thrilling story of the life of Shostakovich as well as a history lesson of Leningrad and Russia from the deaths of the Romanovs to the end of the war. This book is tough to read at times, the desperation and misery that the citizens of Leningrad went through is unbearable to imagine…but, to know that so many of them survived this torture is what makes the book so uplifting, as well. A nonfiction book that will intrigue anyone interested in the power of music or more generally, World War II.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby: This is a book that still stands out like a fairy tale to me – here’s what I said about it in my feminist teen literature post: I didn’t know what to expect when I opened this book. It’s described as magical realism, and I don’t know if I like magical realism. Well, I’m still not sure I do, but I definitely do if Laura Ruby is writing it. This is the story of Finn and Roza and the town they live in, Bone Gap. Roza was a beautiful and bright spark in the lives of Finn and his older brother Sean. She showed up one day, and then, after a while, she disappeared. But, Finn knows what happened; a man who moved like a corn stalk kidnapped Roza, and he stood by and watched it happen. No one believes him and his far out story, especially since he can’t describe what the man looked like. Told from many different voices and perspectives, nothing and everything is what it seems in Bone Gap. Lest you think this is some story of Prince Charming coming to Sleeping Beauty’s rescue, it’s not. Roza is determined to get away from the terrible man who has taken her away from everything she loves, and Finn is dead set on making people see that he’s more than just a “spaceman”; he has hopes and dreams, too – most notably, wanting people to believe him and realize that Roza is more than just her looks. She is a person. Plus, there’s a beautiful horse that takes him on wonderful rides with his sweetie, Priscilla – wait, she likes to be called Petey. If a book could be called ethereal (can it?), this is the epitome.

Sorry for only 3 books this time; I always like to base my life on High Fidelity and their “top 5 lists” whenever I’m listing things I like. Alas, I will do better next month. Join me as we continue along this journey through the National Book Awards and the great books for teens that have been recognized.

—  Traci Glass, currently reading The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

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Non-Fiction for Halloween

Thu, 10/29/2015 - 07:00

I don’t know about you, but Halloween has always been one of my favorite times of year. This was especially true when I was a teen and not just because I got to put on a crazy costume and run wild, although that was a big part of it, but also because of the spooky atmosphere and the chance to indulge in scary stories and movies.

CC Image via Flickr user Alejandro Tuñón Alonso

Thinking back on teen me’s favorite Halloween stories, though, I realized that it never occurred to me to look for something scary in the non-fiction section of the library.To help save the teens in my library from such a mistake I started wandering around the non-fiction shelves in our library and came up with a lot of fun non-fiction materials that show that truth can be even creepier than fiction. Here are just a few examples.

Are You Afraid Yet? The Science Behind Scary Stuff
By Stephen James O’Meara

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
By Mary Roach

Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses
By Bess Lovejoy

The Other Side: A Teen’s Guide to Ghost Hunting and the Paranormal
By Marley Gibson, Patrick Burns, And Dave Schrader

Ghosts Caught on Film: Photographs of the Paranormal?
By Dr. Melvyn Willin

Extreme Costume Makeup: 25 Creepy & Cool Step-By-Step Demos
By Brian and Nick Wolfe

Do you have any favorite Halloween non-fiction books to recommend?

— Miriam Wallen, currently reading A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

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What Would Hermione Granger Read?

Wed, 10/28/2015 - 07:00

I will always be a fan of the Harry Potter series and will forever fondly remember how obsessed I was to read all of the books and watch all of the movies.  Now that the Sorcerer’s Stone is almost twenty years old, J.K. Rowling’s characters still ignite my mind.


One of my favorite characters is Hermione Granger.  We all know Hermione as the smart and studious muggle-born witch from the Harry Potter series, but after reading the series, I think that there is much more to Hermione all together.  To sum it up, Hermione is driven to be the best and the smartest student at Hogwarts.  She has a brilliant mind, is very gifted at spells, and may have a photographic memory.  She is a loyal friend with strong convictions and somewhat of a rule follower.  She doesn’t like bullies and she stands up to those that are cruel and indecent.  Hermione’s parents are both dentists, so she know all about teeth.  She wants to feel pretty sometimes and she longs for the love and attention of someone special.

So… what if Hermione walked into my library right now?  Let’s say she was done with school and on a break and wanted some books to read for fun.  What books would I recommend for Hermione? Well, here goes…

What the Spell by Brittany Geragotelis – A book about witches, spells and changing your looks, yes Hermione will love this one! 

When Brooklyn Sparks turn sixteen her life completely changes.  She finds out she is a witch and when her parents unbind her powers she can’t help making improvements on her life.  She changes her looks by giving herself a major makeover and she starts hanging with the elite crowd.

Of course there’s a price to pay for being the center of attention and Brooklyn is not sure that she wants this kind of life after all.  After all she has achieved, she has so much to lose and the fall from popularity may be a difficult one to face.


Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor – This story is about Brimstone a Chimaera who sends his adopted daughter Karou to collect teeth from all around the world. I’m guessing Hermione would love to hear all about Karou’s travels.

Karou is a seventeen year old girl living in Prague with a big secret.  She may look like a normal art student with friends and annoying ex boyfriend, but she secretly works for the mysterious Brimstone or “wishmonger” as he trades wishes for teeth.  When Karou is attacked by an angel her whole world collapses and all that she has ever known is set off in flames.  In an astonishing revelation, Karou’s suddenly return and she realizes that she was never really who she thought she was and her entire life was a disguise.  A tiny wishbone is all the proof she needs to finally understand the truth of who she really is.


Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell –  There’s no doubt that Hermione would flip for Simon and Baz!  I wonder which one she would fall for? 

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.  Well, the entire world love Simon Snow, but for Cath it’s more than that.  Simon Snow has been her friend when she was down and he has been her inspiration to start writing fan fiction, which she is really good at.  Her sister Wren is a fan fic writer too, and they both enjoy writing stories about Simon and his nemesis Baz.  Cath and Wren are going off to college and Cath worries about her dad a lot.  Wren has chosen not to room with Cath and that has caused a lot of hard feelings.  Cath feels very alone and lost in this new environment.

Will she immerse herself into the lives of her fiction friends or make new friends at school that could change her life forever?


Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige – You can’t go wrong with a kick butt girl from Kansas caught in the middle of a war in Oz. Hermione would absolutely love Amy’s courage and aptitude for witchery, and of course her good taste in cute guys! 

Amy Gunn has been bullied all her life.  The bullies nicknamed her “Salvation Amy” because she was poor.  Suddenly, Amy is transported through a terrible tornado to the land of Oz.  As she is finding her way around she realizes that Oz is not the place she remembers from her childhood.  The place looks like it was hit with apocalyptic bang and much worse than that, Dorothy has become an awful evil person.  Her minions the Tin man, Scarecrow and Lion are also evil and hurt and kill just for fun.  Amy meets up with the wicked witch gang and learns a thing or two about magic.

Will Amy be able to defeat the deranged Dorothy?  Amy is determined to try and that’s all that matters.


How to be Popular by Meg Cabot – Well, Hermione does not really care about popularity, but if she found a book like Steph Landry did, I bet she would read it and follow the directions, that just totally sounds like her.  Stephanie Landry feels like she is the most unpopular girl ever.  The mean girl in school has been making fun of her for years and even coined the phrase “don’t pull a Steph Landry” for when someone messes up or makes a mistake.  Steph is tired of taking the abuse, so when she finds an old book called “How to be Popular” she decides to follow the books’ rules and make some changes in her life.

As Steph begins to change, the kids at school begin to notice.  Steph has some great ideas to do a fundraiser for the school and soon everyone is looking at Steph in a different way.  The one thing that she forgot was that she was already great the way she was and she didn’t need to change to make anyone like her.  Reading the book did give her more confidence and that was what she really needed!

— Kimberli Buckley, currently reading Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

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YA Literary Trope: The Awesome Outfit

Wed, 10/28/2015 - 07:00

So far this fall we have explored many tropes commonly found in young adult literature including the Old Clunker I DriveThe I Already Know you Introduction, The I Have to Take Care of my Parent(s), The Manic Pixie Dream Girl (and Boy), and The A-Hole Friends.  This week let us discuss and celebrate the Awesome Outfit trope.

This trope is dedicated to someone I consider to be fiction’s original awesome dresser: Claudia Kishi.  Girl, no one could pull off a fedora in real life like you can on the pages.

  • Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff.  Yovanoff’s tale is genre-defying (or maybe it exists on a different plain without the constraints of genre).  All at once this book is a story of best friends and destruction.  It a ghost story, a love story, and a complex mystery.  It is also all about awesome outfits.  The main character in this book, Hannah, is one of the best dressed gals ever.  Hannah raids the thrift shops and improves upon their vintage awesomeness with her own crafty tools (including a hot glue gun, sewing machine, and maybe a be-dazzler)?


  • Twilight Saga  (Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers: 2006, 2007, Teen’s Top Ten: 2007, 2008, & 2009) by Stephenie Meyer.  Bella is in awe of the Cullens; and we’re not just talking Edward.  The rest of the family are described in terms of superlatives; the most beautiful ever,  strongest, and most dazzling voice.  But Alice stands out even in the land of the gorgeous rich vampires as having incredible style.  Her outfits are, well, awesome.  And she starts dressing up Bella too which we all really wish would happen to us.


  • Hush, Hush series (Teens Top Ten: 2010 & 2011) by Becca Fitzpatrick.  Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush series is steamy and full of twists and turns.  Patch might be the sexiest angel ever (though he does have some tough competition).  But when Nora dresses for a date or a non-date (depending the couple’s fight schedule) with Patch she takes it up a notch.  And Nora, we all appreciate the stuff you “throw on”.  You rock.



  • Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater.   Blue’s spiky hair, layered ensembles, and unique appearance are vital for her character.  Blue is a quirky girl, she may rail against the constructs of mainstream beauty, but we know she takes her time putting together a specific look.  Blue is a one of a kind kind of awesome and her outfits reflect that.


  • Mortal Instruments Series (Teens Top Ten: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 Readers’ Choice Nomination) by Cassandra Clare.  Does anyone else take the fashion chances that Magnus takes?  He is not afraid of the bold, colorful, sparkly or feathered.  What makes this man such a fashionista? Living over three centuries?  Being comfortable with his sexuality?  Having magical powers to make any outfit he wants (or change the color of his hair, skin, or eyes)?  I vote all of the above.  And Magnus; I’m jealous.

Some of our favorite YA authors whip up some pretty swanky clothes for their characters. Who else out there is a well dressed character?  Did you ever wonder how would an author describe the way you dress?  Spoiler alert: for me it would be pretty boring. Join in next week for a discussion of the trope: “The Repressed Protagonist.”

-Tara Kehoe, currently reading Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay & Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

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2015 Teens’ Top Ten Titles Unveiled!

Tue, 10/27/2015 - 11:37

The moment is finally here! Teens voted and the results are in. Here are the official 2015 Teens’ Top Ten titles.

2015 Teens’ Top Ten

  1. The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen (Scholastic)
  2.  I Become Shadow by Joe Shine. (Soho Teen)
  3. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. (Simon & Schuster)
  4. My Life with the Walter Boys by Ali Novak. (Sourcebooks)
  5. Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas. (Bloomsbury)
  6. The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare. (Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry)
  7. The Young Elites by Marie Lu. (Penguin/G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
  8. The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson. (Macmillan/ Henry Holt & Company)
  9. Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson. (Simon & Schuster)
  10. The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith. (Hachette/Poppy)

Thanks to all the teens who voted and congrats to all the authors! Learn more about the Teens’ Top Ten here.

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Genre Guide: Paranormal Romances for Teens

Tue, 10/27/2015 - 07:00


Paranormal Romance is a sub-genre of Romance. For a novel to be a Paranormal Romance, a simple thing must occur: love must begin between a human and a supernatural being (whether wholly supernatural or partially, just as long as there are supernatural elements present). However, this can be a broad interpretation. Usually, the protagonist (often the human) in these novels is put in some kind of danger, where they come to realize they can overcome this danger either on their own or with the help of the supernatural love interest.

Authors to Know

Main characters include both humans and supernatural beings. The supernatural being can be wholly supernatural or partly, and include but are not limited by the following “types”: vampire, werewolf, fairy, magician, mermaid, zombie, psychic, ghost, demon hunter, demon, angel, shapeshifter, dragon, and gods or goddesses.  Additionally, the human in Paranormal Romances can have a touch of the paranormal as well.  An example is the teen psychic that can see the ghost. Quite often, when it comes to paranormal romances written for teens, a love triangle is involved.  There could be more than one human, or more than one supernatural being in the triangle.

Plots of supernatural romances are first and foremost about the love, but often the human in the relationship is put in some kind of danger or plays an important role in a dangerous mystery. Traditionally, the lines between the good and the bad characters are well defined in paranormal romances, and heroes and heroic attributes are prominent in the plots and characters.  Settings of Paranormal Romances can be in the past, present, or future (often centering on time travel).  A common theme of reincarnation can be used to create an epic love story.  The tone of Paranormal Romances can be both light and dark.  In other words, Paranormal Romances can range from the funny, lighthearted romance to the dark, horror with an emphasis on the paranormal.

The appeal of the Paranormal Romance novel lies not only in the romance itself, but the circumstances around the romance.  It could be the idea of the forbidden romance where two people should not be together, but against all odds they are making it work.  It could also be the idea of supernatural powers and how having those can make the romance more magical and heighten the stakes of love.  The appeal of Paranormal Romance also lies in the scary factor– the love could literally kill you or vice versa.  Finally, Paranormal Romances seem to always be written in a way where the love is more true, more real, and more loving than anything possible between two humans.

While Paranormal Romance saw it’s heyday about five years ago, it is still a strong genre for teen readers.  Now, Paranormal Romance can be mixed with other genres, like dystopias, but the ones that we see finding interest among teens now are the ones where there is a new twist on the Paranormal Romance.  The more interesting and unique of the paranormal aspect of the novel, the more likely teens are going to be interested in reading it.  As Scott Westerfeld pointed out in his novel, Afterworlds:

“What about a selkie?” Coleman suggested. “YA hasn’t had many selkies.”

“What the hell is a selkie?” Oscar asked…

…”It’s a magical seal you fall in love with,” Darcy explained.

“Just think of it as a portmanteau,” Coleman said. “Combining ‘seal’ and ‘sexy.'”

Oscar raised an eyebrow. “I don’t see the appeal.” (page 57)


Reference Books

Rocked by Romance: a guide to teen romance fiction by Carolyn Carpan (Libraries Unlimited, 2004).

Fang-Tastic Fiction: twenty first century paranormal reads by Patricia O’Brien Mathews (ALA Editions, 2011).

Forthcoming publication: Perfectly Paranormal:  a guide to adult and teen reading interests by Nanci Milone Hill (Genreflecting, February 2016)

Most publishers both large and small produce paranormal romance novels but Entangled publishing, SwoonReads, and Harlequin Teen are examples of publishers who specialize in the teen romance genre.

The RT Awards for Young Adults has a Young Adult Urban Fantasy/Futuristic/Paranormal category

The Romance Writers of America Awards (RITA Awards) includes a Paranormal Romance and a Young Adult Category

Recommended Titles

— Colleen Seisser, currently reading Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

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Take Five: Favorite Teen Movies

Mon, 10/26/2015 - 07:00

With the changing of the season, it seems like a perfect time for a movie marathon, and after reading the submissions from a handful of Hub bloggers about their favorite teen movies, I bet you’ll be ready for a marathon, too.

What’s your favorite teen movie? 

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  Hands-down the best teen flick ever.  Sly Ferris.  Moody Cameron.  Fun-Loving Sloane.  And (of course) super angry/jealous Jeanie.  One of the best movies of all time!  And my second place choice:  Dazed & Confused.— Stacy Holbrook

Clueless. Based on Emma by Jane Austen (one of my favorite authors) and it perfectly captures the styles of the ‘90’s. — Carla Land

Sixteen Candles.  John Hughes makes moves that totally express the teenage experience in such a normal way.  Sixteen Candles was a movie my older sister loved, and when I was a teenager, I identified so much with Sam (embarrassing grandparents, unrequited crush) that I wanted to be her – if only to end up with Jake Ryan in the end!  —Traci Glass

Mean Girls.  This movie has it all.  The cool A-list clique called the Plastics, the handsome guy Aaron, the fun Christmas play with short skirts, the burn book, and of course Lindsay Lohan as Cady.  The movie tells the story of Cady’s rise to popularity after being homeschooled in Africa her entire life.  I love this movie and can even relate to it now as a grown up in my daily life at work and out in the world.  — Kimberli Buckley

My favorite teen movie is the oft-overlooked and totally underrated Pump Up the Volume, starring Christian Slater and Samantha Mathis.  Shy, awkward Mark keeps his pirate radio alter-ego, Hard Harry, a secret until the audacious and persistent Nora, a fellow student at Hubert Humphrey High, discovers his true identity.  Come for the familiar story, but stay for Harry’s spot-on rants and disaffected, but hopeful, rambling.  And buy the soundtrack. — Julie Bartel

—Molly Wetta, currently reading A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

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Cute and Creepy Autumn Anime for Book Lovers

Mon, 10/26/2015 - 07:00

I love horror, but sometimes I crave a little sweetness mixed in with my scary stories. If you too enjoy some cuddles with your creep-outs here are a few anime titles that you may enjoy!

To help match you up with the best media on the sweet vs scary scale I have rated them using creepy cupcakes. 


Cupcake rating: super creepy



The school-live club members have dedicated themselves to living at their high school full time. Yuki Takeya, Kurumi Ebisuzawa, Yuri Wakasa, and Miki Naoki sleep in one of the classrooms and use another as a kitchen/dining room. Yuki Takeya, one of the oldest girls in the club, is a total flake so the other members usually end up taking care of her. Is there something important that Yuki is missing?

Warning: this series starts off all cuteness and sunshine, but it takes a sharp turn into horror and heart wrenching sadness. Be prepared for blood and violence liberally mixed in with adorable school shenanigans.

Love this series? You will also love…

I Love Him to Pieces (My Boyfriend Is a Monster #1) by Evonne Tsang, Illustrated by Janina Görrissen (Graphic Novel)

A perfect fit for fans of the Kurumi Ebisuzawa character (and her shovel) this graphic novel also features a strong female lead with creative survival skills in an atypical zombie apocalypse story.

Fracture by Megan Miranda

A fast read with a paranormal twist, this book is full of intense relationships and the same sense of seeping dread as the mid-season episodes of School-LIVE!

Hometown rebuilding: Folktales from Japan

Cupcake rating: mostly cute and occasionally creepy



Each twenty five minute episode covers three folktales and they range from adorable talking vegetables to ghost stories. Two tales from the series on the spookier end are “You There, Grandpa?” about a man haunted by his dead wife, and “The Cursed Blade that Sank into the Swamp” is about a sword that slaughters everyone around it.

This series is a great chance to see Japanese folklore retold by modern artists using a variety of animation styles and the two voice actors do a marvelous job with the multitude of characters they each play. It is great to watch in small snippets.

Love this series? You will also love…

Skeleton Man by Joseph Bruchac

A chilling, modern interpretation of a Mohawk legend, Skeleton Man and its sequel The Return of Skeleton Man are written by Bruchac, of the Abenaki tribe. The first book is a short but thrilling story about missing parents and listening to dreams.

Mercury by Hope Larson (Graphic Novel)

This graphic novel is a powerful tale about magic, family, and betrayal. The distinctive art style, multiple timelines and ghost story elements in this work make it a good match for fans of Folktales from Japan.

Kiki’s Delivery Service

Cupcake rating: mostly cute, but witches?



Part of a witch’s right of passage is leaving home after they turn thirteen. The witch must prove her self sufficiency by living on her own for a full year. Kiki has to leave home but the only skill she has is flying on her broomstick, so she starts a delivery service!  In addition to the bright and lovely Kiki you will get to know a reclusive artist, an aviation obsessed schoolboy, and Kiki’s adorable cat sidekick Jiji.

All of the Studio Ghibli works are beautifully animated and full of lovely characters and fueled by the power of friendship. If you have never seen a movie by Hayao Miyazaki, feel free to start with this title. This movie is the cutest thing on this list, possibly the cutest thing ever filmed.

Love this series? You will also love…

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor (Book two in this series is coming out Fall 2016!)

Like Kiki, Sunny is an engaging and bright young witch who is looking for her place in the world. The author does a fabulous job of weaving Nigerian culture into a genre dominated by eurocentric magic systems, but the book is as much about building friendships and dealing with change as it about saving the world.

The Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce (Sandry’s Book is the first volume)

Like Kiki’s Delivery Service, this title has plenty of suspense but never really trips the line into scary. This is a long running series that eventually goes beyond magical school story-lines, and the first books are centered on a diverse quartet of young magic users banding together to cope with their growing powers. They will fill you with feels.


— Jennifer Billingsley, currently reading Gotham Academy, Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy by Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, and Karl Kerschl.


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An Ode to the Magic in Bone Gap and A Corner of White

Fri, 10/23/2015 - 07:00

It’s October and I’ve been thinking a lot about cornfields and scarecrows since Halloween is almost here. I associate cornfields and scarecrows with horror (Children of the Corn, the short story by Stephen King anyone?).

Actually I’ve been thinking about cornfields ever since I listened to the wonderful A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty this past summer as part of the summer SYNC audio book program that pairs a YA book with a classic title.

I also recently listened to Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, a 2015 National Book Award finalist for Young People’s Literature, and currently nominated for YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults and noticed that cornfields play a big part in that book too. So, although it might be more seasonal to discuss horror books, I’m going to focus on two wonderful magical tales, one with a touch of horror, instead.

Ruby deserves all the praise she’s getting for her unforgettable book Bone Gap. It’s an amazing read, and it’s also terrific on audio. Bone Gap is a town in the Midwest where Finn and his perfect, and very responsible older brother Sean live on a farm. Their mother’s left them to live in another state with a new guy. One day a beautiful woman named Roza shows up in their barn, hurt and on the run from something that she won’t talk about.

They help her and she ends up staying – until one night she’s kidnapped right in front of Finn but he can’t recall enough about the man who took her to help the police find her. Roza’s been taken to a place between – a gap – by a terrifying man who has magical powers and she must try to figure out if, or how, she can get away. At the same time, Finn and his girlfriend Petey are trying to find a way to find Roza too.


A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty is also hard to describe because it also combines our world with a parallel one that’s also mostly set in the present, but with a uniquely magical and quirky aspect to it. In Cambridge, England, 14-year-old Madeleine is struggling to adjust to her new life after she and her mother mysteriously leave their rich father and their wealthy lifestyle for a more impoverished one.

Elliot lives in the Kingdom of Cello on a farm with his mother. His father has disappeared under strange circumstances. People think that one of the villainous colors “a third-level purple” was responsible because in Cello, colors can actually attack and kill people. Madeleine and Elliot become aware of each others existence after they begin exchanging letters through a crack between their worlds. Elliot leaves a letter in a sculpture in his world that appears in a slit in a parking meter in Madeleine’s world. As they get to know each other, events in their lives begin to intertwine.

In Bone Gap, Finn and his girlfriend Petey are attempting to write their college entrance essays and they love trying to come up with their own strange essay questions such as “Describe someone who has had the biggest impact on your life using only adverbs.”

As an ode to both of these extraordinary books, I will answer the essay that asks me to:“Describe the magical awesomeness of these books, written in a recipe format.”


6 characters (Elliot, Madeleine, Finn, Petey, Roza, Sean)

5 Rude boys

2 homeschooled teens (Jack and Belle)

2 fathers who are missing or not around

2 Princess Sisters (Ko and Jupiter)

1 chicken obsessed old man named Charlie Valentine

1 Scare Crow

1 magical horse named Night

1 magical Butterfly Child

1 parking meter

1 sculpture made of broken TVs

1 best friend Miguel

Colors that can attack people (Amaranth Cerise, Crimson, Gray, Lemon Yellow)

Quirky characters from Bone Gap

Isaac Newton

Kingdom of Cello (that includes the Farms; the Magical North; Olde Quainte; Jagged Edge



Corn fields

9 girls sitting on the side of the road

1 doz. Fence posts

1 Dog That Sleeps in the Lane

1 Dog as Big as a Horse


To Make First Layer:

Combine 1 parking meter and 1 sculpture made of broken TVs. Mix in Elliot and Madeleine, and then slowly stir in 2 homeschooled teens; Isaac Newton, and 2 princesses. Using a sieve, scoop out 2 fathers. Whip together a handful of sub-level dangerous Colors, and then blend a magical Butterfly Child into the mixture. Beat in Deftball; Mix well. Cook for 300 years. Result: The quirky and colorful Kingdom of Cello from A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty.

To Make Second Layer:

Combine Finn, Sean, Roza and Petey, and 1 Dog as Big as a Horse in a large vat that is propped up with 1 doz. fence posts. Mix in quirky Bone Gap characters. Stir in generous amounts of honey; Add 1 magical horse and 1 Dog That Sleeps in the Lane. Gently fold in 9 girls sitting on the side of the road and 1 best friend Miguel. In a separate bowl, chop up 5 Rude boys; and grind up 1 Scare Crow into a fine paste; season with 1 chicken-obsessed old man. Add contents of this bowl to vat. Sprinkle several bushels of cornfields over the top. Bake for 3 days. [Queen bee garnish optional]. Result: Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, a magical confection full of mystery and suspense with a warm gooey center.

Combing both layers together will create an even more exquisite and magically delicious dish.

Serves: Unlimited lucky readers

— Sharon Rawlins, currently reading Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis

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Week in Review: October 22nd

Fri, 10/23/2015 - 07:00

We’ve still got a few more days of Teen Read Week left! Browse the #TRW15 hashtag on Twitter or Instagram to see what fun activities and events libraries had to celebrate reading for the fun of it.

There’s been lots of buzz this week about the end of an icon, too: the ‘future’ of Back to the Future is now.

Check out the rest of the roundup of interesting and helpful links for those who work with teens in the library.

Books and Reading

School Library Journal rounded up a list of under the radar YA novels to “get away” with this week.

The Washington Post reports what we all know: kids need time to read at school. Nancie Atwell explains why: “All that quiet time reading stories chosen for me by an adult who loved me changed me forever. Now I had all these narratives inside me, all these people, and all this knowledge, not to mention a passion for books and the ability to read fast and with feeling.”

Gearing up for Halloween? Epic Reads has a list of 18 scary stories and Penguin Teen has some books that prove you should be scared of the dark.  If zombies are more your thing, check out this post at Lit Reactor.

Amanda at Teen Librarian Toolbox rounds up the forthcoming LGBTQ titles for the rest of 2015.

The B&N Teen blog shares a list of YA romances between characters on opposite sides of the tracks.

Graphic Novels and Comics

What does diversity mean in today’s comics? Check out this post at Comic Book Resources about a New York Comic Con panel.

How cool is this behind the scenes look at how Lumberjanes is made?

Movies and TV

So how many times have you watched the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer?! Also, it’s hard not to realize just how evil Darth Vader really is after watching the supercut of his kill count.

In a win for diversity, a new Sesame Street character, Julia, is on the autism spectrum.

The new Alice in Wonderland-inspired Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes was optioned for film by Universal.


Ah, sometimes collection development can be overwhelming because of all those shiny books. Pam at Teen Services Underground shares her process for deciding what to buy and keeping track of orders.

Kansas City and Toronto libraries are getting into some friendly competition over their respective baseball teams bid for a spot in the World Series.

Video Games

Back to the Future isn’t the only video game that predicted the future. Check out these other blasts from the past at Mashable.

Share this list of debunked myths about video games with those who wonder if video games are a worthwhile resource for libraries.

Check out four video games based on mythology. How easy is it to make connections to other literature through these games! Awesome readers’ advisory opportunity.

Even more applications for video games! They might be able to help kids with autism exercise.

Did we miss any other important news or great articles this week? Share in the comments! 

— Molly Wetta, currently reading Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios

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Is This Just Fantasy? : How To Get Away With Fantasy

Fri, 10/16/2015 - 07:00

Next week is Teen Read Week and around the nation, libraries will be creating programs, book displays, and lists of reading recommendations surrounding the 2015 theme: “Getting Away @ Your Library.”  When I realized that I was scheduled to post this month’s edition of ‘Is This Just Fantasy?’ just before Teen Read Week’s kick off, I found myself wishing to reflect on the many connections between this year’s theme and fantasy fiction.

Let’s start with the basic terminology.  The word ‘fantasy’ can be defined as the ability, activity, or product of imagining things, especially ideas or concepts that are impossible, improbable, or otherwise removed from our reality.  When applied to fiction, the term usually references a genre of literature that takes places within alternative worlds or includes events and characters which operate outside of the rules that govern our universe–usually through the existence of some kind of magic.  At its most basic level, the fantasy genre is all about getting away by leaving behind certain rules or limitations of our present reality.  

However, for this very reason, fantasy readers are likely to be told at least once that they’re reading escapist fiction–and that’s somehow a shameful, silly, or otherwise lesser reading experience.  Now, as I’ve hopefully established, reading fantasy fiction might be viewed as an escape from our world.  After all, when I read a novel about half dragons musicians or artists with the ability to call on and control spirits, I am especially aware that I am entering a separate and alternative reality through the portal of a good, inventive story.  However, what I fail to see is how that reading choice and experience is any less valuable than any other.

image from

Sometimes we need to escape our own reality–especially during our teenage years.  I had a comparatively gentle and positive adolescence but my love for fantasy fiction was absolutely connected to the escape from my mundane and sometime painful life it provided.  Some of my strongest memories about my teenage years are tied to the fantasy books I read–and the comfort & strength they gave me.  I finished reading Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce sitting up alone on a scratchy couch, the last person awake at a sleepover party I had far from enjoyed. I will never forget the exuberant excitement of that experience.   If Alanna could face her magical destiny, then I could brave the social minefield of middle school.  As Neil Gaiman noted in his 2013 Reading Agency lecture, escapist fiction (especially fantasy) “opens a door, shows the sunlight outside, gives you a place to go where you are in control, are with people you want to be with . . . can also give you knowledge about the world and your predicament, give you weapons, give you armour.”

However, while fantasy fiction can and should offer readers an opportunity to get away from reality, it cannot ignore or avoid key human realities.  Even in fantasy, when the action might take place among werewolves or in a world populated by magically gifted individuals, the most successful stories remain grounded in core human emotions and experiences.  And if a piece of fantasy fiction is to be rooted in its human elements, it cannot ignore the diversity of human identities and experiences.  In a recent post titled “Truth and Lies About Diversity in Speculative Fiction” over at Diversity in YA, author Corinne Duyvis discussed some of the all too common excuses for the lack of diverse characters in speculative fiction and clearly explained why their inclusion in all kinds of fiction is critical:

“Writing stories with speculative elements doesn’t magically turn the world homogeneous, and it’s disingenuous to pretend that writing the story in any other way would be ‘too much’ or a ‘distraction.’ Marginalized people are not an optional add-on—we’re just as much part of the world as anyone else.”

Fantasy should provide every reader with the opportunity to see someone like themselves as a hero.  It should not be yet another media representation that ignores or erases the presence and experiences of people of color, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups.  In her post, Duyvis goes on to note, “Fact is, even when my books aren’t set on this world, they will be read here.  I want them to resonate here, too.”

At its best, imagining the impossible through fiction allows both the creator and the reader to see our reality from a new perspective.  With the distance offered by an imagined world, we can often more clearly explore larger social questions, such as how social structures and governments function or how the definition of ‘normal’ connects to a society’s systems of privilege and power. By getting away from the familiarity of our daily lives, we often return with new ideas about the ways humans live, work, love, hate, and interact.  In a recent Diversity in YA post, “Normalizing Marginalized Identities in Fantasy and Science Fiction,” author Malinda Lo notes: “fantasy and science fiction can be so liberating and wonderful: We don’t have to create fictional worlds that are exactly like the real one. We can imagine a world in which it is normal to be non-white or LGBTQ+. ” Through fantasy, we can experience new versions of reality and so we can imagine ways that our world could be different–and, perhaps, better.

For some, fantasy fiction can be a critical reminder that they too can be heroes.  For others, fantasy fiction provides an opportunity to rethink assumptions.  For anyone and everyone, getting away with fantasy can be much more than a vacation–it can be the safe haven, the fueling fire, or the comforting vision that spurs us to re-imagine reality.

If you’re interested in further information about the ongoing conversation about the need for diverse representation in fantasy fiction, check out my previous posts exploring the representation of LGBTQIA+ characters and characters of color in fantasy.

-Kelly Dickinson, currently reading Punch Like A Girl by Karen Krossing

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Week in Review: October 16th

Fri, 10/16/2015 - 07:00

We made it through another week, happy Friday! Comic Con in New York was this week. Check out the hashtag #NYCC for more details of everything that went down. And if you missed it, here’s a quick roundup of news this week.

Books & Reading:
Censorship doesn’t just stop with Banned Books Week. John Green’s Looking for Alaska is yanked from school libraries in New Jersey (against the policy).
New YA books hitting the shelves this week.
Did you head the news that Shannon and Dean Hale are co-writing a Captain Marvel novel? With Black Widow: Forever Red and the TV show Supergirl could this be the start of female superheroes?
Epic Reads is revealing some pretty cool covers for next summer.
The finalists have been announced for the NBA for Young People’s Literature.
October is anti-bullying month. First Book has a list of books perfect for a display.
Baseball playoffs are upon us, check out an older post on baseball books.

Movies and TV:
Get all the details of the Shadowhunters TV series. Also check out the changes made from the book.

Just for Fun:

Scholastic has some photos from Comic Con
National Novel Writing Month begins in November, check out #NaNoWriMo and #NaNoPrep for details and encouragement.

~ Jennifer Rummel, currently reading The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick

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Pairing TV and Movies with YA Literature:  “The Monster Mash” edition

Thu, 10/15/2015 - 07:00

As I was thinking about a topic for my post this month, the horror genre immediately came to mind (hmmm… I wonder why?).  Ghostly tales, monsters, suspense.  Stay-up-through-the-night novels.  A great genre to read as the nights get longer, colder.  Winds that howl, rains that mist, and fog every morning. As I was considering possible music pairings for some of my favorite horror novels, I couldn’t help thinking about movies or tv series that I could pair them with instead.  So here you’ll find a horror you can watch, paired with horror you can read.

Harper’s Island (2009)

Harper’s Island follows Abby Mills, whose mother died tragically at the hands of the island’s notorious serial killer.  She hasn’t returned to the island since, but seven years later her best friend invites her to his wedding–the destination: Harper’s Island.  Abby must face her fears and confront her mother’s killer as family and friends start disappearing in tragic endings.  There was only one season of Harper’s Island; 13 episodes in which at least one gruesome murder happened in each, ending with a twist no one saw coming. Really? He did it?

Book Pairings:

Ten by Gretchen McNeil (2012)

Also set on an island in the Pacific Northwest, Ten features a weekend house party turned murderous. The fun stops as people start dying and a DVD is found with the message: Vengeance is Mine. Another pairing for Ten; one that features a house party gone wrong?  Scream (1996)–and its many sequels.  But for the ghostly alternative: The House on Haunted Hill (1999)–or the 1959 version starring the master of creepy, Vincent Price.


The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd (2013)

Juliet had presumed her father dead.  But after seeing his work, literally, splayed before her, she realizes the truth.  He is alive, living on an island… and he is again conducting inhumane experiments.  But those having undergone the experiments don’t seem as at peace as the doctor believes.  And, like Harper’s Island, a series of murders begin a terrifying investigation.  As this title is inspired by H.G. Well’s  The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996, 1977), the movie version is a great pairing.  

Supernatural (2005-present)

Currently in it’s 11th season, Supernatural is filled with suspense, monsters and ghosts, drama, a touch of humor, and plenty of bro-mos (bro moments).  It also features the best classic rock soundtrack. Seriously–the best. I cannot listen to “Carry on My Wayward Son” by Kansas or “Renegade” by Styx without thinking of this show. The series started with brothers Sam and Dean Winchester as they hunted monsters and ghosts–a different baddie each episode–while tracking the yellow eyed demon that killed their mother.  It has since morphed into a complex drama involving the tension between the brothers, with angel Castiel and demon Crowley sharing the Supernatural spotlight.

Book Pairings:

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancy (2009)

The Monstrumologist is the tale of Will Henry, assistant to Dr. Warthrop, a Monstrumologist.  Like Sam and Dean, Warthrop is a monster hunter, studying monsters to figure out what makes them tick–and how to destroy them. Like the Winchesters, Will Henry and Dr. Warthrop work late into the night and have to battle some fierce opponents.  But, set in 1888, the monstrumologists can’t rely on “Search the Web” to help them in their searches.  They are more like the creators of the information Sam and Dean often find.


Project 17 by Laurie Faria Stolarz (2007)

Early in the Supernatural series, Sam and Dean often did battle with ghosts, using salt and iron.  But to end the ghost baddies, Sam and Dean had to learn about about what tethered them to the mortal world.  In Project 17, there is a similar ghost-encountering-vibe. Project 17 shares the perspectives of six teens as they film their encounters in haunted Danvers State Hospital (birthplace of the lobotomy) the night before it is to be torn down.  Another pairing for Project 17:   Blair Witch Project (1999).


—Stacy Holbrook, currently reading Infinite in Between by Carolyn Mackler


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Documentaries for Teens: LGBTQIA+ Issues

Thu, 10/15/2015 - 07:00

Documentaries are sometimes overlooked forms of media for both education and for entertainment. They cover all types of subject matter and can tell intimate, moving stories. This series focuses on documentaries that may appeal to teens, and each installment will focus on a particular theme. To honor LGBTQ history month, this installment spotlights documentaries that portray the LGBTQIA+ experience of today’s teens or historical queer communities.

I’m Just Anneke

This short documentary is the story of a gender-nonconforming teen and their supportive family. Libraries can purchase it through New Day films. Educators can also find a discussion guide.

Do I Sound Gay? 

This thought-provoking documentary explores the idea of a “gay voice” in popular culture, with commentary from George Takeii, Margaret Cho, David Sedaris, and more. It will be available on DVD (and Netflix) in November.

Growing Up Trans

This PBS Frontline documentary follows 9 individuals, ages 9 through 19, during their transition process.

Bullied: A Student, a School and a Case That Made History

This documentary is a bit didactic, but does have an important message about tolerance.

Paris is Burning

Although the focus of this film is the New York City drag ball culture of the late 80s, it’s a fascinating documentary that may capture the imagination of teens interested in how LGBTQ communities have evolved over the last 25 years.

Documentaries can offer new insight into the world, and more rich learning experience than text and photographs alone. Especially if these are not a part of your teen collection, they can be easily overlooked when recommending resources to teens, but they can be the most relevant information on a topic of particular interest or the format may have particular appeal for some teens. Incorporate them into displays, or readers’ advisory lists. Those available online can be shared in library blog posts, on social media, or in any way you curate content for teens.

Look for a new post each month highlighting documentaries on various topics that may be of interest to teens in our Documentaries for Teens series. We’d love if you’d share your favorites in the comments!

— Molly Wetta, currently reading Riders by Veronica Rossi

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YA Literary Tropes: The Manic Pixie Dream Girl (and Boy)

Wed, 10/14/2015 - 07:00

In our ongoing examination of literary tropes that are pervasive in young adult fiction we have covered “The Old Clunker I Drive“, “The I Already Know You Introduction“, and “I Have to Take Care of my Parents.”

Today let us delve into one of the most pervasive tropes of our time, one that appears in literature, films, television, and maybe even our fantasies: the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (and Boy) (MPDG/B).  Just in case your are not familiar with this moniker, it was identified by Nathan Rabin in 2005 when describing Kirsten Dunsts’ character in his movie review of “Elizabethtown”:

“The Manic Pixie Dream Girl exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” 

The “MPDG/B” trope has developed and grown in this past decade and definitely includes both girls and boys.  Let’s get right to this quirky trope, which just always awakens something in me…

  • Papertowns (2009 Best Book For Young Adults) by John Green: Margo Roth Spiegelman.  Margo invades Q’s room one night dressed as a ninja and demands his help to carry out an evening of vengeful pranks–each crazier than the last.   Margo is wild, brave, and full of life; she has boyfriends, adventures, and late nights.  Q is quiet, smart, and likes to stay home (playing a video game called “Resurrection.”)  Q has always pined after Margo and after their night together something changes in him.  But the next day Margo has disappeared, leaving behind only some very confusing clues about her whereabouts.  Many have pondered Margo’s existence as the quintessential MPDG, and Green himself addresses the issue in this excerpt from his blog:

“Paper Towns is a book about–at least in part–the MPDG lie, and the danger of the lie–the way it hurts both the observer and the observed. In order to uncover Margo’s fate, Q must imagine Margo as a person, and abandon his long-held MPDG fantasies.”

  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2000 Best Books for Young Adults, 2000 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 2002 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)  by Stephen Chbosky: Sam and Patrick.  Charlie is an introvert; a wallflower.  Charlie does not socialize much or actually have much personality when we first meet him.  Along comes Sam (hey, is Sam a common MPDG name or what?) and Patrick who introduce Charlie to life: in the form of wild nights out, mix tapes, romance, risk, and the Rocky Horror Picture Show (which they both perform in, of course.)  Here, the Charlie/Sam/Patrick dynamic really shows what this trope means: it’s not about the MPD girl or boy, it’s about the straight character waking up.
  • Looking for Alaska (2005 Teens Top Ten, 2006 PrintzAward Winner, 2009 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, 2006 Best Books for Young Adults, 2006 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers) by John Green: Alaska Young.  Pudge’s life was so boring he decided he wanted to go to boarding school to explore “the great perhaps”.  And he found it: it was Alaska.  The girl’s vivaciousness, boldness, and zest for life enthralled Pudge from his first day.  Alaska is the epitome of the MPDG: she is quirky (she makes her volcanoes out of dripping wax), unpredictable (she purposely gets kicked out of class so she and Pudge can look for four leaf clovers), and beautiful.  I venture to suggest that Alaska might  be one of the only MPDGs who actually suffers from bipolar disorder (a.k.a. “manic depression.”)  Green uses smoking with literal and figurative significance here, and Alaska is like a match to Pudge; she ignites in him something explosive that was not there before.
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green: Gus.  Augustus Waters is a prime example of the inherent romance of a Manic Pixie Dream Boy– what more could Hazel want?  Gus seems to exists only for Hazel.  To woo her (with an unfailing semi-stalker like devotion with no regard for her continued rejection), to be there when she is not feeling well, and to whisk her away on a spur of the moment-ish adventure (Amsterdam.)   Gus keeps an unlit cigarette in his mouth “ironically” (oh so quirky) and, after learning her middle name insists on always calling her “Hazel Grace.”

So, where do you come down on this issue?  Manic Pixie Dream Girls and Boys; dangerous lies like John Green states?  A common trope because repressed characters often covet in others the characteristics that they lack?  Or fun characters we all wish we could collect for their quirky powers like Pokemon cards?  Where else have you read or seen a MPDG/B?

Join in next week for another examination of a literary trope in YA: “The A-Hole Friends.”

– Tara Kehoe, currently reading Walk on Earth a Stranger (The Gold Seer #1) by Rae Carson

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Booklist: Books for Fans of Supernatural

Wed, 10/14/2015 - 07:00

Supernatural just began its 11th season, and its fans are notoriously dedicated and enthusiastic. In fact, Supernatural is part of the trifecta of super-fandom: the “super” in SuperWhoLock, which unites fans of Supernatural, Doctor Who, and Sherlock.

The show follows brothers Sam and Dean Winchester, who travel across America in a black 1967 Chevy Impala investigating and combating paranormal events and other unexplained occurrences, many of them based on American urban legends and folklore as well as classic supernatural creatures such as vampires, werewolves, and ghosts.

Luckily, these themes are prevalent in YA fiction, so there are a myriad of options of books to recommend to readers who watch the show.

Theses books feature a bit of horror, a lot of humor, and all things supernatural, and a fan of the show is sure to find a great book on this list. In addition to these YA fiction (and two adult crossover titles), fans of the show might be interested in nonfiction related to urban legends, folklore, or ghost-hunting. 

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

A witch has prophesized that the world is going to end on Saturday, so the forces of Good and Evil are converging for one final battle. Told with Gaiman and Pratchett’s signature dark humor, this is a must read.

The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan

Brothers + demonology (what does that remind us of?). Nick’s on the run from magicians in this tense paranormal thriller.

Sister’s Red by Jackson Pearce

After a werewolf kills their grandmother, two sisters become hunters targeting werewolves in this paranormal adventure with just a tinge of romance.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults

Magic. Myth. Mystery.  This atmospheric novel is about four prep school boys and a girl named Blue and their hunt for a lost Welsh king and a tragic curse.

Unbreakable by Kami Garcia

When Kennedy’s mother dies, she discovers she was part of a secret society and is drawn into a world of spirits and demons. This fast-paced paranormal thriller will keep you up all night reading!

Angelfall by Susan Ee

Like they say, “angels are just demons with better PR.” And they’re taking over the world in this post-apocalyptic thriller with loads of action and romance.

Skullduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

A wise-cracking  skeleton detective and a 12-year-old team up to save the world from evil in this paranormal adventure.

Evil Librarian by  Michelle Knudson

The new school librarian might be totally crush-worthy, but he also just might be a demon in this darkly funny novel.

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

Thomas, a short order cook, talks to the dead in this un-put-downable novel.

The Devil’s Intern  by Donna Hosie

Mitchell internship in hell is so bad, he steals a time-travelling device to escape, but his life gets even more complicated when some of his friends accompany him back to Earth in this funny novel.

Another Little Piece by Kate Quinn

Stephen King meets Pretty Little Liars in this eerie mystery about a girl trying to put together her shattered memories.

White Cat by Holly Black

Magic and the mob collide in this noir mystery.

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

Two young men at a psychic detective agency must battle all matter of ghosts terrorizing London in this mystery with a hint of humor.

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride (2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2011 Morris Award Winner

Sam dropped out of college and works at a fast food job, but he’s got friends and is living on his own and life is okay. Then, a weird guy visits him at work, his friend ends up as a reanimated head, and things get weird. This novel is full of sarcastic humor and a unique cast of supernatural creatures.

The Cemetery Boys  by Heather Brewer

This novel blends classic horror with a darkly funny coming-of-age story about the dangerous power of belief and the cost of blind loyalty.

The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman

They call it the killing day — something dark and sinister has come to a small Kansas town, prompting many residents to go on a murderous spree, then kill themselves. Can five survivors save the town?

Bonechiller by Graham McNamee

This novel blends horror and mystery and truly lives up to its title.

Storm  Front by Jim Butcher

Harry Dresden is a wizard detective with a deadpan sense of humor and a long duster. This supernatural mystery series is a fan favorite.

Croak by Gina Damico

Lex’s family think she’s going to spend the summer shoveling manure on her uncle’s farm, but she’s really going to learn the family business: reaping souls. This is perfect for readers looking for dark humor and a fun mystery.

The Diviners by Libba Bray (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

During the Prohibition era, sassy and rebellious Evie gets caught up in solving a series of mysterious occult murders. If you like the roaring 20s, religious cults, secret magical abilities, social outcasts, and menacing murders, this the book for you.

What books would you recommend for fans of Supernatural? 

— Molly Wetta, currently reading Riders by Veronica Rossi

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Storytelling in Video Games

Tue, 10/13/2015 - 07:00

As an educator, I think it’s clear early on that the best way to motivate your students is to make connections with them.

I remember a kid talking excitedly with his buddy in one of my seminar classes a few years ago. He was talking about a game he was playing on his Xbox 360. “It’s crazy,” he kept saying as he continued to list what he loved about it. I listened for awhile before interjecting. “Are you guys talking about “Bioshock: Infinite?”

They looked at me incredulously and nodded. “Dude, that game is crazy,” I said. “Have you played the first one?” The boy who had been telling the story shook his head. “It surprised me so much I tossed my controller across the room,” I told him.

They laughed and we started talking about different games we liked and before I knew it, I’d begun my tenure as the resident gamer on the teaching staff.

image via Flickr User JD Hancock CC 2.0

I appreciate the cultural shift that’s happening with gaming. I know that as an English teacher, I was expected to be shaking my finger at kids who want to “rot their mind” with all those TV shows and games.

I was supposed to be pushing them to read books instead. And you know what? I love reading. I taught English for three years and I’m now in my first year as a librarian and there is nothing more exciting to me than connecting a student with a book.

But I don’t think gaming is a hindrance to what English teachers and librarians are promoting.

Here are some of the things I tried to do when I assigned a book in the classroom:

  • Promote discussions about grammar and dialogue with my students. Not just for the sake of the boring but sometimes necessary worksheets about prepositions or comma placement, but to talk about dialogue and idioms and why we think we talk normal but somebody on the other side of the country talks funny.
  • Try to get kids out their respective “cultural boxes.” Maybe help them see that a kid growing up in a different culture and/or country is not all that different than them.
  • Talk to kids about character development and plot. Connect story to things going on in current events.

These are all things that can happen with students and the games they play. Gaming studios are investing more and more money into the teams building their games. Writing for video games is an actual job that people have and they’re doing an increasingly good job as the years go on.

Here’s a list of games that show exceptional craft when it comes to storytelling.

Bioshock: The first Bioshock game is a first-person shooter, a genre which traditionally doesn’t get a lot of credit for storytelling ability but this one changes that. The game is set in a failed underwater utopia populated by power-drunk madmen and broken plasmid-addicted civilians. (Plasmids are scientific drugs that were developed to give people super-human abilities) You don’t know anything about the character you embody at first but the game does a great job of building its backstory as you progress until a climax that blindsides you. (Though I don’t promote throwing your controller in shock like less-controlled individuals)

Bioshock: Infinite is the most recent title in the series and it’s in much the same vein although this time the world is set in a dystopian city in the clouds. The story is unraveled in much the same way as the first. You learn tidbits as you go that reveal information about characters and your mission. The twist at the end wasn’t as wrenching as when I played the first game, but that was probably because I expected it from the series at that point. It was still ridiculously fulfilling.

Mass Effect: This game is basically an interactive choose-your-own adventure novel set in space. The choices you make will define the story you experience throughout the course of three games. Granted, the choices aren’t geared toward completely changing the playthrough, but they can still affect the fate of your teammates and how your character handles different missions.

The Elder Scrolls and Fallout: Bethesda makes both of these games. Skyrim is a fantasy first-person game where you can fight bandits and dark wizards and, in the most recent game, dragons. The game has many role-playing elements and typically has a main quest with countless hours of side quests. Fallout’s gameplay is in the same vein but the story is set in a post-apocalyptic future after nuclear war.

Telltale’s The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, and Game of Thrones: These games are often first released on mobile devices and are tied into their respective series. Much like Mass Effect, they require players to invest in certain characters and make decisions that can affect character development as well as the outcome of the story itself.

These are just a few examples of games that, in my opinion, are pushing the evolution of gaming. Hopefully that evolution translates to the way teachers look at their gamer students and how they can reach those kids. Because I think there’s something to be said for being able to talk about the decisions you made in the Telltale Walking Dead games and perhaps connect that with Jonathan Maberry’s phenomenal Rot and Ruin series. Who says you can’t then make the jump to survival stories like “The Most Dangerous Game” or  any story by Jack London?

When it comes to promoting student engagement, it’s all about discovering their interests and finding a way to then make connections with what you want to teach them. Or the books you want them to read.

— Ethan Evans, currently reading Armada by Ernest Cline and playing Mass Effect 3

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Crossovers: Weighty Issues

Tue, 10/13/2015 - 07:00

One of this year’s hot debuts is Dietland by Sarai Walker. Written for adults, the novel is related by the immensely likable Plum Kettle, an intelligent young woman who responds to “Dear Kitty” emails from adolescent girls in need of guidance. Beyond that, Plum hides. Weighing in at over 300 pounds, Plum attracts all the wrong kinds of attention, and it’s just unbearable. Her plan is gastric bypass surgery, after which she can reclaim her given name, Alicia, and wear all the cute clothes she’s been storing in her closet.

But Plum’s life goes completely off course when she meets a group of woman who battle society’s preoccupation with physical beauty. Plum alternately loves them and hates them, reactions, no doubt, shared by many readers. What seems to be a straightforward story about one overweight woman explodes into a high stakes action adventure featuring a terrorist group known as “Jennifer.” This book packs a lot, but perhaps most poignant are the “Dear Kitty” emails. Teen readers will come to love Plum through her thoughtful and funny responses.

In Julie Murphy’s new Book, Dumplin, Willowdean Dickson seems undaunted by her extra pounds. It could be the love and support of her best friend that keeps her centered, or it could be the absurdity of her mother’s preoccupation with the Miss Clover City beauty pageant. Once a winner, Will’s mother has wrapped her entire life purpose around the organization of each year’s pageant. Will knows it’s ridiculous and pathetic and she usually just ignores the whole thing. But this year is different. This year, Will is entering.

Will is dismayed, however, when Millie Michalchuk, inspired by Will, decides to enter the contest as well. As Will privately observes, “I’m fat, but Mille’s the type of fat that requires elastic waist pants because they don’t make pants with buttons and zippers in her size.” But Millie is inspired by Will’s confidence. And she brings some other non-typical pageant contestants with her. In it’s way, the book takes a turn as revolutionary as “Jennifer’s” terrorism.

Crossovers is a new column that links adult books with teen appeal to teen books. Readers are encouraged to add any related crossovers in the comments below!

—Diane Colson, currently reading Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn

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