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Kwame Alexander’s Picks

Mon, 02/22/2016 - 07:00

Newbery award winner, Kwame Alexander visited my school, Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas, this month. His novel The Crossover (2014) has received recognition and numerous awards: the Newbery Medal (2015), NCTE Charlotte Huck Award Honor for Outstanding Fiction for Children (2015), Coretta Scott King Author Honor (2015). Penn State/Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award (2015), and Paterson Poetry Prize for Young People’s Literature (2015).

The appeal of The Crossover stretches beyond age and gender of the reader – and reading level as many reluctant readers have enjoyed the focus on basketball in this story. It focuses on fourteen-year-old twin basketball stars Josh and Jordan who wrestle with the highs and lows of high school (on and off the court) while their father ignores his declining health. The “Basketball Rules” mentioned throughout The Crossover are inspiring rules that can be incorporated in life, not just basketball.




After a very engaging talk to middle school students, I was able to sit down with Mr. Alexander and ask what were his 5 good picks for (older) teens.

Kwame’s Picks:

  • Boy in the Black Suit (2015) by Jason Reynolds

Coretta Scott King Award Book Honor Award (2016)

Soon after his mother’s death, Matt takes a job at a funeral home in his tough Brooklyn neighborhood and, while attending and assisting with funerals, begins to accept her death and his responsibilities as a man. (The plot contains profanity.)

  • The Game of Love and Death (2015) by Martha Brockenbrough

Kirkus Prize Nominee for Young Readers Literature (Finalist, 2015)

In Seattle in 1937, two 17-year-olds, Henry, who is white, and Flora, who is African American, become the unwitting pawns in a game played by two immortal figures, during which Hendry and Flora must choose each other at the end, or one of them will die.

  • Brown Girl Dreaming (2014) by Jacqueline Woodson

National Book Award for Young People’s Literature (2014)
Newbery Honor (2015)
Siebert Honor (2015)
Coretta Scott King Award for Author (2015)
Claudia Lewis Award for Older Readers (2015)

Raised in South Caroline and New York, author Jacqueline Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. Through vivid free verse, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s.

  • 4. Out of the Dust (1997) by Karen Hesse

Newbery Medal (1998)
Scott O’Dell Award (1998)

In a series of poems, fourteen-year-old Billy Jo relates the hardships of living on her family’s wheat farm. It is set during the Great Depression and focuses on the family’s hardships during the Dust Bowl.

  • 5. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1976) by Mildred D. Taylor

Newbery Medal (1977), Buxtehuder Bulle (1984), George C. Stone Center for Children’s Books Recognition of Merit Award (1991), Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Nominee (1977),Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Fiction (2001), Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award Nominee (1978),Coretta Scott King Award for Author Honor (1977), Pacific Northwest Library Association Young Reader’s Choice Award (1979), Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Nominee for Fiction (1977), National Book Award Finalist for Children’s Literature (1977)

A black family living in the South during the 1930’s is faced with prejudice and discrimination which their children don’t understand.

(Summaries provided by AR Book Finder,

— Sarah Carnahan, currently reading The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

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Booklist: Schooled Unexpectedly, or Talking with Teens about Tough Issues

Mon, 02/22/2016 - 07:00

Just like food, variety seems to be the spice of life in reading. Yes, there are genres that you will always be current on because they’re dependable, but there’s something to be said for trying new formats or genres- sneaking them into to be read piles like a form of exposure therapy. Because of this, I’ve discovered so much and learned so much. I’m the first to share it with others too, especially the teens I work with in the high school library. Here are a few of my recent favorites and why they became other’s favorites too.

All American Boys by Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds

Hashtags are powerful tools and the conversation around social justice is far from over. Teens need to be sharing and talking about both, making up their minds about how they feel and what they can do to contribute to society.

In Reynolds’ recent visit to our high school, he asked the teen audience how many had seen posts on social media about police brutality and racial violence. They all raised their hands. He then asked how many of them reposted, re-tweeted, and shared those posts. Many raised their hands, but when he asked how many of them actually had a conversation with their friends face-to-face about it, sharing their thoughts and feelings about these incidents, to their peers, almost no one raised their hand. The take-away is that we need to encourage conversation and action– it’s not enough to know, you must act to make a difference.

First Bite: How We Learn to Eat by Bee Wilson

This is an adult title with YA appeal. So many teens are exploring their food preferences, likes and dislikes, or when eating disorders may develop, so Wilson’s position is that how we learn to eat can be unlearned. Retraining is possible and thinking about your eating can have a positive impact on your health and well-being.

As I was sharing this title with a teen who shares my love of quirky books, but also appreciates learning something from one too (we share a love for Diane Ackerman’s A Natural History of the Senses), she replied that she could use the book as evidence that “going vegetarian” can be a conscious choice. Sometimes it’s a moral issue and other times it’s about learning how food affects your body and adapting for it. A tenet of Wilson’s book is about training yourself, even though there are caveats like scientific proof that some will just always dislike the taste of Brussels sprouts.

Dime by E.R. Frank (2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

We want to think that sex trafficking is a taboo topic in the United States, but the truth is that we need to have more open and frank conversations with teens about facts such as an estimated 1 in 6 runaways were likely victims of sex trafficking. Frank shares intimate details of how young girls are groomed for this trade through the eyes of a fictional character that could partner well with so many documentaries about the subject like Playground produced in 2009 and Chosen produced by Shared Hope International. Teens of any background, whether privileged or disadvantaged, can sympathize with Dime, the main character while providing opportunities for empathy or action.

Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings by Margarita Engle (2016 Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist)

This memoir covers a time period about which we that doesn’t have a lot of first-hand accounts, so Engle’s story is a breath of fresh air, especially when it discusses cultural divides, traditions, and family dynamics. I learned about the terrain of Cuba and the hopes and dreams of a girl in the 1950s and 60s.

This time period,  as with anything that is not contemporary, provides an avenue for comparison and contrast to personal experiences. Many readers will relate because Engle never feels like she belongs in the United States, always being referred to as Cuban, and when in Cuba, is always referred to as American by family and friends. Identity is Engle’s constant struggle.

These influential books are highly capable of sparking conversations by introducing teens to relevant topics worth investigating more deeply.

Alicia Abdul, currently reading The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

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Booklist: Recent YA Fiction about Technology for Teen Tech Week

Mon, 02/22/2016 - 07:00

Teen Tech Week begins March 6th and runs through the time to showcase all of the great digital resources and services that are available to help teens succeed in school and prepare for college and 21st century careers as well as to highlight programs that emphasize science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. For programming ideas, see this post at the YALSAblog

It’s also a great time to highlight YA fiction that deals with technology issues. From steampunk to science fiction to thrillers, the theme of technology in the lives of humans cuts a across genres and can spark interesting conversations about the use and limits of technology. These 2015 and 2016 titles are great to highlight in a display in the library. Consider adding flyers that also remind patrons of the availability of digital books and audiobooks or sharing a “virtual” display on social media. Later this week, we’ll feature nonfiction resources on technology and science. 

Science and Technology in YA Fiction

Willful Machines by Tim Floreen

In this near future thriller, scientists have created Charlotte an artificial human with intelligence, who has uploaded her consciousness to the Internet and started terrorizing the American people—including the son of the president, Lee, who already has enough problems, like trying to keep the Secret Service off his back and figuring out what to do about his crush on new guy, Nico.

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

This is the story of a young Hispanic boy from the Bronx dealing with grief and identity and just wanting to forget who he is — in a world where there’s a company whose offering a mind-altering procedure that can do just that.

Where Future’s End by Parker Peevyhouse

Interconnected stories of five teens from two different worlds, one of of which is coming to an end, examine the way that technology and social media impact our lives in this new release for fans of Ghosts of Heaven or Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick.

The Rule of Three by Eric Walters

Adam fights to survive after a catastrophe knocks out power, utilities, and computer access in this thriller.

Six by Mark Alpert

A teenager with muscular dystrophy whose main outlet is virtual reality video games is tapped to save the world from a rogue artificial intelligence program that threatens the world.

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

The daughter of physicists who have invented an apparatus that allows travel through dimensions seeks to avenge her father’s killer this this sci-fi adventure full of romance and adventure.

Steampunk and Technology in YA Fiction

Illusionarium by Heather Dixon

During research for a cure for a deadly plague, a new chemical that allows for shared hallucinations is discovered. So begins a story of adventure in parallel worlds in this richly imagined historical fantasy.

Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson

In this alternate history, the British control with magic, but an underground society of mechanics and engineers hope to gain freedom through innovation in technology.

Mechanica by Betsy Cornwall 

This Cinderella re-telling imagines Mechanica, a girl with an evil stepmother, winning her independence with her inventions at a technology fair. With hints of magic and themes of social justice, this is a captivating story — with a surprise twist.



Forthcoming Releases about Science and Technology in YA Fiction

Future Shock by Elizabeth Briggs

A team of teens with special abilities are recruited by a tech corporation to travel to the future to bring back data in this science fiction thriller.

My Brilliant Idea by Stuart David

While Jack is daydreaming in class, he comes up with a brilliant idea: an app that makes it impossible to daydream in class. Are money and fame in his future, or is reality more complicated than that?

What are some recent releases that focus on science and technology that you would recommend to teen readers? 

— Molly Wetta, currently reading Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

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2016 Hub Challenge Check-In #4

Sun, 02/21/2016 - 07:00

Not signed up for YALSA’s 2016 Hub Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. Anything you’ve read since the awards were announced counts, so sign up now!

Hey Hub Challengers, we’re at week four, how are you doing? I’ve gotten a slow start to my reading but I feel it picking up now.


This week I finished The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten. I had a bit of trouble getting into it at first but I’m glad that I stuck it out. It’s the story of Adam, a teen with OCD who has been in treatment and going to group therapy for a little bit when Robyn shows up. He is instantly smitten with her and decides that he must “get better” for her. Apart from his OCD, Adam has a lot more going on in his life: family stress between his mom and stepmom, the threatening letters that his mom is receiving but can’t seem to talk about, plus school and friends. I appreciated learning more about OCD and seeing Adam and his friends getting help when they needed it. Not to be too spoiler-y, but I’m glad that Adam and Robyn’s relationship developed to where it did by the end, and I thought they both acted really maturely.

I also read The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant. This book had been on my to-read list for a while so I was so happy to see it on the Amelia Bloomer list. I unabashedly love the Amelia Bloomer list and am excited about feminist books in general, so I pounced on the opportunity to read this. The book reads as a slice of life narrative of Addie Baum, the daughter of Jewish immigrants in Boston at the beginning of the 20th century. Addie narrates the earlier years of her life to her granddaughter telling her story and dispensing advice along the way. It’s a sweet story and as a Massachusetts resident, it was fun to recognize places around Boston and Cape Ann!

In the next week, I’ve got three books lined up and waiting for me: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Sacred Heart by Liz Suburbia, and Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee. They are all really different titles, but a great thing about the Hub Challenge is that it can push you to read books you might not usually pick up.

What are you reading? Add your thoughts in the comment below and join in the conversation on social media, too! We’re chatting on Instagram, Twitter, and the 2016 Hub Challenge Goodreads group. When you’re done, be sure to fill out this form.

-Anna Tschetter, currently reading Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

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Booklist: Realistic Romance

Fri, 02/19/2016 - 07:00

If you’re searching for romantic novels in the young adult genre, you will only have to look for approximately ten seconds before being buried beneath an annal of books. Just recently, Hub bloggers have compiled a great list of interracial romances and a list of their favorite recent releases in YA contemporary romances. 

This makes sense, as romance tends to be an important part of people’s lives and everyone remembers the relationships they either had or wanted to have in high school. Older adults read these books to reminisce about their own experiences. Young adults may read these books because they are interested in stories that align with their experiences or what they wish their experiences had been.

One of the complaints I’ve heard (and made) about a lot of young adult romance novels is that they’re not always very realistic and are oftentimes cliche-ridden and predictable. The awkward and/or quirky girl or boy meets up with the girl or boy who is popular but really has these hidden depths that only the quirky unpopular person can truly understand. These may be fun, escapist, well-written, and engrossing stories. They just maybe don’t reflect the reality of most teen relationships. 

Many readers like a little romance now and again, but still want some romance that didn’t follow tropes or ended with the ambiguity that often occurs in real life. 

These are books that do a good job of tackling romance in more realistic ways.


The Big Crunch by Pete Hautman

This is a book about a boy named Wes and a girl named June who meet and do not immediately fall in love with each other. They also don’t hate each other and then come together a lá Pride and Prejudice. They meet each other and exist. Eventually June starts pity-dating one of Wes’ friends but even then, he isn’t overwhelmed with a jealous desire for her. Eventually they just start spending time together and before you know it, they’ve got some hard decisions to make about the future.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (2014 Michael L. Printz Honor Book) 

Eleanor and Park meet and bond over her needing somewhere to sit on the bus. Park reads comic books every day and she secretly reads along with him. They start to hang out with each other even though they don’t have a lot of opportunity and they seem to be total opposites. That mantra might sound familiar but this is “opposites attract” without the requisite clichés.

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

Ezra has to reinvent himself when an injury during a car crash robs him of his identity as a tennis star. He tries new things, reconnects with old friends along the way, and meets a girl who seems like the perfect manic-pixie dream girl. But is she the reason he’s changing? Is she perfect for him? Does she have to be?

Paper Towns by John Green (2009 Best Books for Young Adults)

I know the movie came out this past summer so it’s not like this is some diamond in the rough I’ve unearthed for you, but this has one of my favorite endings ever for a book. There’s a lot to digest about putting people on pedestals and finding out whether people can ever live up to the expectations we set for them.

Empire State: A Love Story (or Not) by Jason Shiga

Jimmy’s friend Sara goes to live in New York. Jimmy has feelings for her and writes her a letter asking her to meet him at the top of the Empire State Building before heading for New York himself. He finds himself surprised by both Sara and the city itself.

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

This is a heart-breaking love story, and I honestly don’t think there are enough of these in YA. Because sometimes you fall in love and it is so, so terrible and it definitely isn’t going to work out. While this book is amazing because it offers a global perspective on LGBTQ rights, anyone who has every felt the heartache of a love that doesn’t work out can relate to this story.


So if you’re not always looking for that typical romantic comedy formula,* you should check some of these books out. They’ll get you thinking about whether soul mates and “love at first sight” actually exist.

*You know, boy or girl likes someone/feeling is reciprocated/one person does something stupid to make other person mad/first person has to get other person back and (often) inexplicably does/cue tears and roll credits.

I think this is important as I’ve had plenty of students who believe you can find love while in high school as well as others who scoff at the idea of wasting time with relationships and think teen relationships end up failing more than they end up working out. I like to see types of both stories available to meet the needs of all readers.


What books have you read that chose to switch things up from the typical way romantic seasons are portrayed within young adult novels?

— Ethan Evans, currently reading The Hunted by Matt de la Peña and listening to The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien whenever he’s driving somewhere, with contributions from Hub Manager Molly Wetta

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Hub Bloggers Love: Recent Young Adult Romances

Thu, 02/18/2016 - 07:00

Valentine’s Day might be over but that doesn’t mean some readers aren’t still in the mood to fall in love with a good love story!  If you’re looking for some recent titles to spice up a suddenly sparse book display or you’re in need of some new recommendations for your eager romantic readers, the Hub bloggers are here for you!

This week we’ve gathered together to showcase just a few of our recent favorite young adult romances.  Some of our picks are well-known titles while others might have slipped under the radar.  Either way, we hope you’ll find something new and exciting to read or share.  Want even more romantic reading inspiration? Check out Dawn Abron’s latest Diversify YA Life post highlighting interracial couples in young adult fiction or search our tags for past romance book lists.

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (2016 Morris Award Winner; 2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

After several months anonymously corresponding with a classmate he knows only as Blue, Simon Spier is sure of several facts: he is definitely gay, he is falling in love with Blue, and he does not want to share either of these realities with anyone else–at least, not yet.  But then Simon’s emails fall into the wrong hands and suddenly, his–and Blue’s–secrets are in serious danger of being revealed.  Can Simon find a way to come out on his own terms, without causing even more drama amidst his increasingly complicated group of friends, becoming the center of unwanted attention at school, or–worst of all–losing his chances with Blue, the perfect boy he’s never met? -Kelly D.

What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

In high school, Gretchen and Toni were that couple.  They prided themselves on the fact that they never fought and their friends all joked that they were already practically married.  Gretchen and Toni had the kind of love everyone else envied.  Then Gretchen decides that she’s not coming to Boston with Toni in the fall–she’s going to try out NYU for at least a semester instead, abandoning the plan the two have carefully constructed.  Toni is angry and Gretchen is guilty but still they’re convinced that they’re going to make it.  But while Toni, who’s quietly identified as genderqueer for about a year, finds a new sense of belonging with a group of older transgender students, Gretchen struggles to redefine herself as someone other than Toni’s girlfriend.  Is love enough or is the distance between more than mere geography?  – Kelly D.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Sandwiched between the dependable Margot and mischievous Kitty, Lara Jean feels secure as the shy and quirky middle Song sister. She’s content being the one who stays home to scrapbook or bake on Friday night and she finds expression for her unrequited crushes in writing letters that she hides in a hatbox under her bed. But then Margot is heading off to Scotland for college and within weeks, disaster strikes when Lara Jean’s secret letters are mistakenly mailed out.   Now all her past crushes are coming back to haunt her as her first kiss, her camp crush, and the boy next door ( also Margot’s ex-boyfriend) each confront her about the letters.  And suddenly Lara Jean’s dependable and tidy life is spinning out of control.  -Kelly D.


Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Sharing in witty banter whether in instant messaging or miming from separate windows across the street, Maddy and Olly are two oddballs for different reasons who find a friendship which later deepens. Maddy is a “bubble girl” locked in the sterilized safety of her house and she and Olly are awkward in their cuteness as they focus on the restrictions and the joys of life. –  Sarah C.

Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne

Kate’s been sleep walking through her life since her mom died. One day she comes home from school to find the press camped out on her aunt and uncle’s lawn – waiting for her. Kate walks in the house and meets the man running for President – and her father. – Jennifer R.

Wild Hearts by Jessica Burkhart

Usually settling into a new town and seeing the sights is fun, but not when the whole town hates your father without meeting him. They think Mr. Carter’s going to destroy the town with his development, including destroying the land where the wild mustangs roam. Brie starts talking to Logan, he’s a protester, but he’s not the jerk she imagined him to be.  As they get closer, the tension between their fathers heats up. How can think about a possible romance when their families are enemies? – Jennifer R.

A Matter of Heart by Amy Fellner Dominy

Abby’s amazing at swimming. So amazing that at age 16, she’s hoping to qualify for the Olympic team. She’s on track. Until she faints after a race. Her coach makes her get checked out by a doctor before she’s back in the pool. Abby assumes that she’ll be back swimming before the end of the week, but the doctor hears something with her heart. Abby goes for more tests, not believing that her dreams could come crashing down. Who is she without swimming? – Jennifer R.

Jesse’s Girl by Miranda Kenneally

Maya longs to become a musician. For her Career Shadow Day, she’s paired with country superstar Jesse Scott. Their first meeting went terribly wrong. Jesse’s ego can barely fit through the door; it’s clear he’d rather be anywhere but spending time with her. Still, she gives it her best shot. Before long, defenses are broken down on both sides. What starts off as a nightmare could turn into a daydream. Can they help each other achieve their dreams? – Jennifer R.

I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios (2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Skylar has grown up poor, but her artistic ability and hard work have won her a scholarship to art school in San Francisco, if she can just survive the summer in her small town. But when her single mom loses her job and falls apart, and Josh, a former co-worker and crush, comes back from Afghanistan missing a leg, she struggles with leaving everyone behind. This is a a stunning, gripping coming-of-age story that is as much about family and friendship as first love. – Molly W.

What are some of your favorite young adult romances from the last couple years? 

— Kelly Dickinson, currently The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

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Fiction and Non-Fiction for fans of The Emperor of Any Place by Tim Wynne-Jones

Wed, 02/17/2016 - 07:00

Tim Wynne-Jones’ latest work The Emperor of Any Place, has popped up on a lot of recommendation lists recently. It is one of YALSA’s 2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults, is one of School Library Journal’s best books of 2015, and is on Horn Books fanfare list. Any Place has a great deal to recommend it and, like many works with an historic element, has the potential to awaken a desire to learn more in its readers.

In Any Place Wynne-Jones delves into such topics as the Pacific Theater in World War II, the mythology of Japan, the experience of that war from the viewpoint of both Japanese and American soldiers, and relationships ranging from those of enemies in battle to beloved family members. It will appeal to those with an interest in history,  as well to those who enjoy both realistic dramas, mysteries, and magic realism.

The Emperor of Any Place tells the story of a 16-year-old boy named Evan whose father has very unexpectedly passed away.  With little other choice, he contacts his estranged grandfather for help. At the same time he discovers a copy of the diary of a Japanese soldier stranded on a mysterious island in the Pacific during WWII, which Evan’s father was reading just before his death. The diary’s prologue, as well as some of Evan’s father’s last words, hint that his grandfather may have played a sinister role in the author’s life. Evan makes the decision to hide the diary and read it in secret while at the same time clashing dramatically with his militaristic grandfather and dealing with his grief.

The vivid and exciting diary that comprises at least half of the novel grabs a reader’s attention and makes them wonder about what is happening beyond the purview of the story. Was the battle of Tinian really as it was described? Did Japanese civilians and soldiers really believe that the Americans would commit horrible acts of savagery, such as eating babies? And are the strange and terrible creatures that haunt the island made up just for this novel, or do they have a basis in Japanese mythology?

To answer these questions, readers may consult a number of non-fiction resources that can help to answer these questions and more. While the uniqueness of the story makes it hard to find solid read-alikes, I have also included a few fiction novels that might be good follow-ups for fans of Wynne-Jones’ compelling story.

Non-Fiction Resources on WWII in the Pacific

More than half of Any Place is composed of diary accounts of the lives of Isamu Oshiro and Derwood Kraft, both of whom are stranded on the same island in the Marianas. For those students who fall in love with this more personal and individual approach to history, there are a number of other accounts, both in print and available online, with which they might like to follow up.

Breaking the Code: A Father’s Secret a Daughter’s Journey, and the Question That Changed Everything by Karen Fisher-Alaniz is an ideal non-fiction companion to Any Place. While it doesn’t delve into fantastical islands and mythological creatures, it is the story of a younger generation uncovering their forefathers actions in WWII through their own writing. In this case it is Karen Fisher-Alaniz seeking to help her aging father come to terms with his experiences in WWII by reading, researching and discussing his letters from that time. The books is an easy and compelling read cutting between Fisher-Alaniz’s account of her discussions with her father, her family, and others as she researches WWII and transcribed copies of her father’s letters.

Eyewitness accounts can be a powerful tool for learning about historical events. In Eyewitness Pacific Theater: Firsthand Accounts of the War in the Pacific from Pearl Harbor to the Atomic Bombs by John T Kuehn and D.M. Giangreco, readers are provided with not only chapters providing general overviews of events leading up to war with Japan and many of the battles throughout the war, but also personal statements from individuals in the US and Japanese forces who took part in the events described. Eyewitness also includes a CD of selected interviews and explanatory narrations, providing another option for those who prefer to listen to their history.

If your library doesn’t own a copy of Eyewitness, there are a number of online collections of WWII accounts that will work as great alternatives. The National World War Two Museum, for example, has a video oral history collection. These videos cut between the individual who is telling about their experience and archived footage from the war.

While the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are only mentioned in passing in Any Place, any study of WWII should include information about both. First published in 1946, John Hersey’s Hiroshima tells the true and truly horrifying personal accounts of six survivors of the atomic bomb dropped by the United States on August 6, 1945. Hersey records the experiences of a clerk, a widow, a Methodist minister, a Jesuit, a doctor and a surgeon for up to a year after the bombing, and in an additional chapter (first published in 1985) he includes an account of what happened to these and other hibakusha (explosion-affected people) forty years later. The 1985 Kirkus review describes this book beautifully calling it “A truly disquieting work of human journalism, which still has the capacity to stun and shock.”

For visual learners, Ken Burns’ The War provides an overview of WWII as told from the perspectives of several American soldiers. The 7 part series looks at the European, African and Pacific fronts. While not all teens will be up for the full 14 hour presentation, episode 4. “Pride of our Nation” includes the battles mentioned at the beginning of Oshiro’s journal.

Japanese Culture and Mythology

In one amazingly effective sequence, Wynne-Jones recounts part of the battle of Tinian through Oshiro’s eyes. He envisions the battle as a Banraku puppet production in a vivid hallucination. While I’m sure there are print resources where Banraku can be read about, a visual example may be more engaging.

The Japan Foundation has published several youtube videos of Banraku performances. One interesting example is an excerpt from The Sonezaki Love Suicides. Love Suicides is a by the famous playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon and was first published in 1703. The work has been equated by some with Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.

For those who are ready for a little more in-depth information including Banraku history and details about the puppets and stage construction, the Japan Arts Council has put together a pretty friendly website with some general information and great pictures.

The bizarre creatures that haunt Kokoro-Jima, the heart-shaped island on which Oshiro and Kraft are marooned, are another potential area of interest for readers.

Checking my own library’s shelves I wasn’t able to find many with references to the Jikininki, the horrible creatures that seek to eat the dead bodies of the soldiers who wash up on the island. One collection of Japanese ghost stories, Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things by Lafcadio Hearn, does include a story about Jikininki haunting a mountain village. This work is available online for free through Project Gutenberg if it is not found in your library.

Tales of Tengu, the bird-faced monster that attacks Oshiro and Kraft, can be found in a number of different places. One good example is a collection of folktales entitled Japanese Tales, edited and translated by Royall Tyler.  Among the over 200 Japanese tales are several stories about Tengu. Each one is short, easy to read, and a great choice for any fan of myths, legends, and folktales.

YA WWII Fiction in the Pacific

While nonfiction resources like those mentioned above can help enrich a reader’s understanding of Any Place, for others, a fiction read-alike will always be the preferred choice.

For younger readers, Photographs in the Mud by Dianne Wolfer provides a stark view on the cost of war and particularly the hand-to-hand combat during WWII battles on Papaua New Guiniea. As in Any Place two young soldiers, one Australian, one Japanese, are wounded and find themselves spending time in each other’s company. Over a single long night, the two men share images of their families left behind, but only one of them survives his wounds.

Manga, and it’s ability to examine important historical and social topics, plays important role in Any Place. Barefoot Gen: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima by Keiji Nakazawa is for this reason a fantastic choice to read alongside the novel. In Barefoot Gen Nakazawa, a survivor of the 1945 bombing himself, recounts the experiences of a young boy directly before and after the bombing. Meryl Jaffe, writing for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund website, calls this work “a strong anti-war piece that cannot and should not be silenced.”

Eyes of the Emperor by Graham Salisbury is the tale of a 16-year-old Hawaiian boy of Japanese descent who lies about his age in order to join the U.S. Army. While he and his friends were driven by patriotism and the desire to defend their country, the army isn’t convinced. What follows is a disturbing and haunting look at WWII and the racism faced by Japanese-American citizens.

Finally, the graphic novel The Faceless Ghost and Other Macabre Tales from Japan by Sean Michael Wilson and Michiru Morikawa provides another take on some of the traditional ghost stories that are featured in Kwaidan which is mentioned above. Wilson and Morikawa depict six of these stories and allows readers to imagine yet another way that Oshiro and Kraft’s stories could have been told.

— Miriam Wallen, currently reading Assassin’s Heart by Sarah Ahiers

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Pairing Music with YA Lit: “Jennifer E. Smith” edition

Tue, 02/16/2016 - 07:00

February and romance go hand in hand like February and below zero temperatures–at least in New England (well, maybe not this winter).  So for this edition, I chose to pair music with books by Jennifer E. Smith.  Smith’s books feature romance, and often focus on fate, serendipity, and… the spark, the instant connection, that pulls two people together.  

Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between (2015)

Summary: On the last night before they head off to college, Clare and Aidan have to decide whether they will try to make a long distance relationship work (possibly delaying the inevitable) or choose break up (on their own terms).  The two spend the night reliving some of the important events of their relationship, keeping their memories close as they get ready to head off to different parts of the country.

Pairing: Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between shows the manys ups and downs of a relationship–and that true love, lasting love, is not always an easy path.  Because of this I chose “Book of Love” by The Magnetic Fields.  (The book of love is long and boring/ And written very long ago/ It’s full of flowers and heart-shaped boxes/ And things we’re all too young to know).  This is a great song about the endurance of love, just like the novel.


The Geography of You and Me (2014)


Summary: Lucy and Owen are from two different worlds living in the same building.  Lucy, a native New Yorker, lives on the 24th floor, while Owen, having just moved from Pennsylvania, lives in the basement with his dad.  The two become trapped in the elevator during a citywide blackout and continue to develop a connection through the night, long after being rescued.  This connection to follows them as they part ways, Lucy to Europe and Owen to the Pacific Northwest, and they find that it isn’t always a place that feels like home, but a person.


Pairing:  I’m pairing this book with “Who am I?”  by Vance Joy.  As soon as they meet, Lucy and Owen’s connection can’t be shaken (And I’ve got this heaviness in my chest/ Since your love came breaking through) and neither knows much about the other (And there’s no need for us/ Knowing all the answers yet) they just know it feels right to be together.

This is What Happy Looks Like (2013)


Summary: Graham and Ellie live on two different sides of the country.  Graham is a movie star that lives in California with his pet pig, Wilbur.  Ellie lives in a small town in Maine with a secret that she can’t even share with her best friend.  A mistyped email brings them together as Graham convinces the producers of his new movie to shoot the film in Ellie’s town.  But with Paparazzi always lurking around Graham, Ellie is afraid to get too close and have her secret exposed.


Pairing:  More for the song title than the lyrics, I chose “Paparazzi” by Lady Gaga because the photographers are one of the biggest barriers between Ellie and Graham.



 Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight (2012)


Summary: Hadley is on her way to England to be in her father’s second wedding–and she is dreading it.  So much so that she procrastinates and misses her flight.  Stuck at JFK, she meets Oliver, who serendipitously ends up sitting near Hadley on her new flight overseas.  


Pairing: Because this book shows how quickly two people can fall in love, I chose “Falling in Love at a Coffee Shop” by Landon Pigg as the musical pairing for this novel. (I think that possibly, maybe I’m falling for you/Yes, there’s a chance that I’ve fallen quite hard over you).



Of course, not all of us hear music the same way, just as not all of us interpret the books we read the same way.  So what songs might you pair with these novels?  


— Stacy Holbrook, currently reading Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson


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Fandom 101: One Direction

Mon, 02/15/2016 - 07:00

After five years, more than 50,000,000 (yes, that is 50 million) albums sold, and 325 headlining shows played, it is probably fair to say you’ve encountered One Direction at some point. Maybe you, like me, have been to a show or two . Maybe you’ve heard someone talking about it at the library. Or maybe you’ve just seen the headlines while you tried to catch up on pop culture news. Believe me, 2015 and 2016 have definitely seen some headlines. “Zayn Malik Leaves One Direction,” “Different Directions for One Direction,” so-and-so signed a solo contract, someone else is in the studio rapping.

You may be wondering why you need to know about them if they are on hiatus. You’re busy, you’ve got other trends to keep up with, I get that. But did you know that on January 27th, Louis Tomlinson (1/4th of One Direction) tweeted a picture of himself with his 6-day-old son? Within 20 minutes, “Freddie” was trending on Twitter. 1,652 pieces of One Direction fanfiction were published on popular fanworks site Archive of Our Own (also known as AO3) over a period of just four weeks in January 2016. Those four weeks came after the hiatus, after the last promotional appearance, after the last of the new music had been released. The One Direction fandom is huge, it spans platforms, and it is as alive as ever.

Let’s start with the basics. One Direction, also known as 1D, started on U.K. reality show X-Factor in 2010. Five teenage boys auditioned for the show and got through the first round only to find out they didn’t have what it takes to make it as solo artists. Tears were shed. Dreams were crushed.


When production asked Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, and Harry Styles back on stage, the boys remember Harry saying it was because Simon wanted to make them cry because it would make good television. Instead he offered them a second chance at their dream. They could continue in the show, but only as a group. A boy band.

What followed was a fever dream of bad performances and terrible outfit choices, but people were captivated. By the time One Direction were eliminated, in third place, the crowds of fans waiting outside had become so large the boys needed security to escort them through and people worldwide were declaring their love for the band on Twitter and tumblr. One Direction went global before they had even recorded a single. They had a tumultuous five years of stadium tours, multi-platinum albums, and famous girlfriends, and then, in 2015, the departure of Zayn, the announcement of the hiatus, impending fatherhood for Louis, and rumors of solo plans for Harry and Liam. Zayn and Louis got into a tiff on Twitter, and Zayn signed to RCA and began working on an album for a 2016 release. This is, in the broadest strokes, the history of 1D.

Let’s talk about materials. One Direction aren’t a text, so there aren’t graphic novel adaptations and sequels and prequels. Instead there are albums and official books, unofficial books, movies and one fanwork-to-professional-publication. I’ll introduce you to some of those. You could find out the album names with a quick Google search, but I’ll make it easy on you. In order, they go:

  1. Up All Night
  2. Take Me Home
  3. Midnight Memories
  4. FOUR
  5. Made in the A.M.

There are concert films available for the tours corresponding to albums 1-3. Up All Night: The Live Tour is pretty self-explanatory, but the other two are a little harder. The tour for Take Me Home was filmed and turned into a movie directed by Morgan Spurlock, director and star of the Oscar-nominated documentary Super Size Me. That movie is called One Direction: This Is Us, and it is practically sacred to the 1D fandom. It charts the band pre- and post-X-Factor and provides behind-the-scenes details about the boys, their friendship, and their relationship to the machine that is One Direction. Last but not least, the Where We Are: Live at San Siro Stadium concert movie was filmed during the tour following the release of Midnight Memories.

There is an official autobiography, Who We Are: Our Autobiography, in which all five boys trade off talking about their lives and the band. It is a quick read, and not terribly enlightening, but it is fun and the real joy is that the audiobook is read by the boys themselves.

In a similar vein as 50 Shades of Grey, although much tamer, the One Direction fandom did give birth to one fanwork that has since been altered for professional wide release. After, by Anna Todd, is the first in a series of novels telling the story of good girl Tessa, who goes to college and falls for bad boy Hardin Scott (originally Harry Styles). It’s usually classified as New Adult, and it has many of the traditional traits of that genre. After has also been picked up for a screen adaptation, although there aren’t many details about the project.

The Adventurous Adventures of One Direction is a web-series about the lads as superheroes created, voiced, and animated by Mark Parsons. The jokes aren’t exactly G-rated (in the first series, 1D are trying to solve the mystery of why all the cats have gone missing, and use a magnet to retrieve them…), but they are funny and well-known in the fandom, with a professional-level sheen that gets them mistaken for official cartoons. Chances are, if someone is asking you about a 1D cartoon, this is what they’re talking about.

Finally, on a closing note: One Direction fandom, like most fandoms, is heavily involved in social media and in the creation of fanworks. Fandoms can be brutal, especially across “ship” lines, so you may want to be prepared to talk about online bullying. If a teen is opening up to you about being really into One Direction, you might find a teachable moment in talking about finding credible sources (a recent joke on tumblr led to actual news sites reporting Louis’s child was named “Conchobar”) or how to craft smart searches to find exactly what you’re looking for (dig into AO3’s search functionality a little!) or finding resources for creative writing, or drawing, or graphic design. Fandoms are creative, vibrant hubs of connection, and although One Direction may be on hiatus, the fandom isn’t.

I hope you found something helpful! If I forgot something totally obvious, feel free to school me, and if you have any questions, I’m happy to answer.

— Kenzie Moore, currently reading I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

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2016 Hub Challenge Check-In #3

Sun, 02/14/2016 - 07:00

Not signed up for YALSA’s 2016 Hub Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. Anything you’ve read since the awards were announced counts, so sign up now!

It’s week three of the 2016 Hub Reading Challenge! How are you doing so far?  There are so many great books eligible this year, my biggest problem right now is simply deciding what to read next.

Of course, what I actually decided to read (or re-read) next is a book I devoured all the way back in January of last year, Marcus Sedgwick’s The Ghosts of Heaven.  I haven’t seen a whole lot of discussion of this 2016 Printz Honor title, though I know it had some early–and clearly warranted–buzz, but it was my favorite book of last year, and the one I was most hoping to see acknowledged at the ALA Youth Media Awards last month.

I’m not sure I can articulate, even after a third reading, exactly why this book has made such an impression on me, but lets start with the first of the four interconnected stories, “Whispers in the Dark.”  I’m a hard sell on free verse, but this story of a stone age girl on the cusp of making a connection that will lead to written language absolutely haunted me.  It’s elegant and understated, while virtually dripping with foreboding and the thrill of discovery.  The second story, “The Witch in the Water,” seemed to be rushing headlong to an inevitable conclusion, though understanding that diminished none of the anger and claustrophobic horror I felt reading it.  Accusations of witchcraft never end well.  “The Easiest Room in Hell,” the third story, was terrifying, and also made me cry.  A lot.  The creeping horror that’s threaded through the first two stories really ramps up here, as a new assistant superintendent discovers the truth about the asylum he’s come to manage, and about one of the inmates in particular.  And then finally, or maybe not, depending on how you’re reading, there’s the fourth story, “The Song of Destiny,” which has the distinction of being the only story in recent memory that actually made me gasp out loud in shock, as though I was watching a horror movie on a big screen.  Stories set in space do tend to creep me out–I find them stifling and scary and absolutely compelling all at once–but this one really, literally, made my hair stand on end.

And the ending. No spoilers here. But this one–for me at least–sticks the landing.  Absolutely.

I can’t honestly say that I’d give this book to everyone.  I want to, but it’s the kind of book that feels huge and personal and important and (that word again!) haunting and I’m pretty sure it isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea.  But if you haven’t read it yet, do yourself a favor and dip in.

If you have read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.  If you’re not reading The Ghosts of Heaven, what are you reading?  What’s been the most challenging or rewarding title you’ve picked up so far?  What are you hoping to pick up next?  Remember, you can find a complete list of eligible titles here.

And finally, don’t forget to join the conversation on Instagram, Twitter, or at the 2016 Hub Challenge Goodreads group and when you’ve completed the Challenge, be sure to complete this form.

– Julie Bartel, currently reading Ms. Marvel Vol 3 and All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely.

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Books to Celebrate Galentine’s Day

Fri, 02/12/2016 - 07:00

Galentine’s Day is a very special holiday from Parks & Recreation, where Leslie Knope and her lady friends have brunch on February 13th. “It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst, plus frittatas.” Basically, it’s a time during the season very focused on romantic love to recognize other relationships in your life, like female friendship.

This week and next we’re featuring many booklists that focus on romance, but in honor of Galentine’s Day, these titles focus on strong friendships between young women. After all, at least for many teen girls, female friendships are the most important relationships in their lives.

Young Adult Literature with Strong Female Friendships

Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson (2016 Great Graphic Novels)

Five friends and supernatural adventures! With quippy lines and a strong message of female solidarity, this is a perfect comic for Galentine’s Day!

All Our Pretty Songs by Sarah McCarry

Set against the lush backdrop of the 90s grunge rock scene in Seattle, this is a story of an incredible friendship between the beautiful and charming Aurora and the devoted, soulful unnamed narrator. A retelling of the Orpheus myth, this is very much about the bonds of female friendship.

A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith

The world needs more books like this one — books about female friendship, and how fraught with complications they can be during adolescence. This is the story of Annabeth’s senior year of high school. For years, she’s been buoyed by her close friendship with Noe. But now Noe is pulling away from her, and she’s feeling alone and uncertain. Ultimately, she works through these issues — and several others, all wrapped in Smith’s fierce and intimate prose.

Friday Society by Adrienne Kress

A steampunk mystery, this is about three young women who are thrown together in their quest to solve a murder in turn of the century London. Full of fun and adventure with a diverse cast, this is a romp that celebrates female friendship.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (2010 Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults)

Karou has a lot going on in her life beyond art school—like coping with the loss of the only family she’s ever known and a mysterious angel from a past she doesn’t remember, plus being drawn into an ancient war. Luckily, she has Zuzana, who is not only accepting, but enthusiastic, even when she takes up the position of resurrectionist for a race of warrior monsters. Now that is real friendship.

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

This is a paranormal mystery with a hint of a love triangle and a healthy dose of both wit and angst — but ALSO strong female friendships. Kami may be an aspiring journalist with a weird relationship with a voice in her head, but she’s got friends in Angela and Holly, and they don’t fade away when the romance gets going.

The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg

This graphic novel is about a group of girls all named Jane who form an art-loving gang of People Loving Art In Neighborhoods as a way to survive the horrors or high school.

Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler

Reagan and Victoria are ready to escape their town after their senior year of high school, as long as its together. A road trip to visit potential challenge their friendship in unexpected ways in this poignant novel.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

This March release has a powerful friendship at its core. When Hermione is drugged and raped at an end of cheer camp party, her best friend, Polly, is unwavering in her support. The fierceness and loyalty between these two is inspiring and comforting.

What are your favorite young adult novels that feature a strong friendship between teen girls? Share in the comments! 

— Molly Wetta, currently reading This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

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Diversify YA Life: Interracial Couples

Fri, 02/12/2016 - 07:00

As you walk down aisles and aisles of books, that one cover catches your eye.  There’s a couple gazing longingly into each other’s eyes or perhaps it’s just hands inches from touching.  You take that book home to read about that girl who’s suffered a loss and goes to beach to wash her troubles away.  During her moment of reflection, a swoony bad boy walks by and smiles.  Hooray, a new ship has sailed your way.

Find your next OTP (One True Pairing) from the romance titles below.

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

After a serious accident left singer Elyse mute, she decides to live a life of solitude.  During a party Elyse meets Christian, a playboy who doesn’t treat her like glass.  Will Elyse give her heart to a boy who steals many hearts?

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig 

Nix is a member of a four man crew aboard The Temptation-captained by her father.  Captain Slate is fiercely searching for a map from 1868 to go back into time to save his one true love.  Will Nix help him or sabotage his search?

Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman

What was Blackbeard, the pirate, like as a teenager?  Blackhearts imagines Blackbeard as a teen as he falls in love with Anne, his father’s bi-racial servant.

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera (2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Aaron has a girlfriend who loves him but his friends aren’t always supportive. His mother loves him unconditionally but his father recently committed suicide. His older brother ignores him but he’s found a new best friend. Aaron is more happy than not.

Winter by Marissa Meyer (2012 Teens Top Ten)

Winter, Levana’s stepdaughter, refuses to use her glamour which makes her mentally unstable.  When Cinder arrives on Lunar, will Winter be strong enough to help her reclaim the throne?

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

Etta was a semi-content violinist when she’s suddenly pushed back into time.  If she wants to save her mother, she must travel time and location to find a special device.

The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare (2011 Teens’ Top Ten)

Searching for her brother, Tessa finds herself in the underbelly of London.  With the help of The Institute, home of the Shadowhunters, Tessa battles paranormal monsters while on the hunt for her missing brother.

Legend Series by Marie Lu (2012 Teens’ Top Ten)

June is a military prodigy. Day is a felon on the run. The government enlists June to go undercover to capture Day but when she discovers he’s wrongly accused, will June turn him in or help him escape?

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Kaz, a member of the Dregs gang, has scored a big heist but he needs help.  He enlists five others to help him break into the unbreakable Ice Court to steal some precious cargo.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (2016 Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers)

Madeline suffers from the bubble boy syndrome where she’s allergic to everything and can’t go outside. Her only human contact are her mother and her nurse. One day a new family moves in and she fall in love with Olly.

100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith

Finn suffers from epilepsy and just happens to be a character in his father’s popular book.  When a new girl comes to town, Finn falls in love. When she suddenly leaves town, Finn and his best friend set out on a road trip to get her back.

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga 

(2013 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers2012 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers2015 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)

Jazz’s father is a notorious serial killer Billy Dent who is currently serving time.  When a copycat murderer begins killing young women in his small town, Jazz and his friends help local law enforcement to find the killer.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Laia is a Scholar, the lowest of the low, and her brother has been taken by The Masks.  He is her only living family member and she will risk her life to find him.  Elias is a Mask but he doesn’t want to be.  Laia and Elias’ paths cross when Laia goes undercover as a slave at Elias’ military school to get information on her brother.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Cady remembers waking up in the lake in only her underwear but doesn’t remember how she got there.  In order to stop her debilitating headaches, Cady returns to her seaside summer home for answers.

Like No Other by Una LaMarche

Devorah is a good girl from a Hasidic home and Jax is a nerdy kid uncomfortable around girls.  Although they live in the same neighborhood, their paths have never crossed until a chance meeting in an elevator.  Devorah’s family forbids the relationship but will she disobey her parent’s wishes for the sake of love?

We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

The world is going to end on January 29, 2016 and the aliens are allowing Henry Denton to decide to save it.  Between his father’s abandonment, his aging grandmother, and his complicated relationships, Henry’s not quite sure the world’s worth saving.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Have you ever wondered what the teens from District 3 were doing while Katniss and Peeta were saving the world? Well, wonder no more.

All The Rage by Courtney Summers

Know one wants to believe Romy when she says the sheriff’s son sexually assaults her.  When a fellow classmate goes missing along with the sheriff’s son, Romy sets out to find the missing girl and expose the truth.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes (2016 Morris Finalist)

Minnow’s compound has burned down and her cult’s leader was murdered. Minnow is in juvenile detention accused of the crime and  while she tries to survive life outside the cult, Minnow must decide if she can trade her secrets for freedom.

Interracial Couples Booklist Downloadable PDF

— Dawn Abron, currently reading a YA fantasy novel.

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Reality Scoop: Random Acts of Kindness for YA

Thu, 02/11/2016 - 07:00

Back in December we covered how holiday stress can affect teens.  One of the ideas that was mentioned as a stress reliever for teens was to partake in random acts of kindness.  This is a great idea, with Random Acts of Kindness Week coming up next week during February 14th-20th, teens can continue to spread the kindness.  The purpose of this special week is to urge everyone to be kind to each other and especially to be kind for no reason at all.  Random acts of kindness or RAKs can be done any day of the week and numerous amounts of times, there is no limit on showing kindness to others! RAKs are selfless acts performed to either assist someone in need or to cheer up a person and make them smile.  The driving force behind RAKs is having a selfless concern for the welfare of others.  Selflessness focuses on doing good without receiving a reward in return.

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has put together a very comprehensive website with resources for teens that want to learn more about how kindness affects the world.  The RAK Foundation thinks that kindness is a science and that it should be studied very carefully.  They have posted studies on kindness and how it can make a difference for teens in their attitudes toward others and how RAKs affect those who receive such kindness.

The RAK Foundation has listed many articles that talk about how kindness helps reduce stress with emphasis on how kindness should be taught to young adults.  Stage of Life, a site that is dedicated to helping teens shares the experiences and thoughts on the different stages in their lives asked 344 teens to complete a national survey about RAKs.  The survey data displayed staggering results that teens who perform RAKs often find that it reduces stress and boosts their self-esteem.  This is excellent news because reducing stress also leads to better physical and emotional health.

Stage of Life’s statistics revealed:

  • 96.5% of teens have performed a random act of kindness
  • 88% of teens have been on the receiving end of a random act of kindness
  • 85% wanted to pass the kindness to someone else
  • 56% teenagers that had performed a random act of kindness have done so more than 7 times

It’s evident that as teens continue to perform RAKs for others they will want to continue because of the great feeling it gives them to dole out kindness.  There are a plethora of things that teens can do to celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Week.  There are many things that can be done to brighten someone’s day for free.  Just think about how great it would be if everyone took time to make someone smile.  The kindness could go on and on.  Let’s encourage teens to take part in RAK Week and get the ball rolling!  Help them be creative and come up with some awesome ideas.  When it comes to kindness, there’s no limit to the number of ways you can make a difference in someone’s life.  Here are some fun ideas:

  • At a drive-thru pay or toll bridge for the person behind you
  • At the gas station offer to pump gas for someone
  • At the grocery store buy some supplies for the local food bank or animal shelter
  • Around the neighborhood rake the yard or cut the grass for an elderly neighbor
  • Visit someone in the hospital or make a meal for a family dealing with illness

Here is a list of teen realistic fiction books that focus on teens having compassion and kindness for others and how that affects their lives and the lives of others.

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella – A terrible incident with her school friends disrupts fourteen-year-old Audrey’s life. She is ridden with anxiety and hides in her house at all times wearing dark sunglasses as a shield against her fears.  She meets with her therapist Dr. Sarah and wonders what the meetings will do to help her.  When she meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate Audrey feels a sense of relief come over her. Linus has a wonderful smile and a deep warm and caring disposition.  They begin their friendship through writing notes back and forth.  Linus brings such kindness and sweetness to the crazy upside down life that Audrey is trying to deal with and he soothes her anxiety with his delightful smile.

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli 2001 Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults – When Stargirl Caraway arrives at Mica High as the new girl it’s obvious that she’s not like any other girl.  She dresses differently and acts the opposite of the norm, which creates various catalysts for change.  Are these changes for the greater good?  Leo Bolstruck may have an idea of how Stargirl has changed his own point of view and his opinion on love.  Stargirl jumpstarts her classmates and when they notice her, it takes her from zero to hero with mass popularity and then back down to zero again, which is very traumatic for Stargirl and Leo. Stargirl is a classic story about bullying and how some can overcome the fear of peer pressure and stand up for others by using kindness and consideration. This is truly a compelling story about an amazing girl and a kindhearted boy who must choose between his friends or be true to himself and act on his feelings for Stargirl.

I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak 2006 Michael L. Printz Honor – Ed Kennedy is a 19-year old cab driver who lives in a tiny little shack with his smelly 17-year old dog named the Doorman.  Ed’s life is boring and insignificant as he struggles with daily issues of being in love with his best friend Audrey and hanging out playing cards.  One day Ed’s life changes forever when he is faced with a decision while accidentally walking into a bank robbery.  Ed becomes a hero when he points a gun at the incompetent robber and that’s when his life of redemption starts.  He begins to receive assignments from an anonymous person.  Hesitant to pursue the assignments, he realizes he’s been chosen to care, to be kind, and to act as a protector for those that can’t protect themselves.  This story is fantastic and as it progresses  Ed transforms into a real hero and the changes he makes in his life and in others lives are quite memorable.

How to Save a Life by Sarah Zarr 2012 Teens Top Ten Best Books Nominee – This powerful YA novel packs a lot in the kindness and compassion department.  It’s about a family that is hurting and through that hurt and pain they reach out to a teen girl who is hurting internally in her own way.  17-year old Jill is dealing with the recent death of her dad, and her mom Robin is trying to move on with her life, but feels that there is something missing.  Robin reaches out to young mother to-be Mandy who in turn fills a void in both Robin and Jill’s lives even though Jill might not be willing to admit it at first.  Zarr is incredible at relaying true feelings and emotions that run deep with teen angst.  How to Save a Life is a story of hope, kindness, and resiliency and offers a fresh look at what can happen if you do something good for someone else out of the kindness of your heart.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio – Although this is more of a middle school book, it really hits home in the area of being kind and compassionate to others.  10-year-old Auggie Pullman has been homeschooled his entire life and now he is starting 5th grade at a private middle school in his neighborhood.  He hopes that other students at his school will think he’s just a normal person under his disfigured face, which is an affliction he was born with.  Auggie’s classmates are challenged to “be kinder than necessary” under all of the circumstances that should be an easy task, but can they really do it?  This uplifting story shows readers that everyone carries some kind of stigma that makes them feel different at times, maybe not on the outside, but definitely on the inside.  Auggie managed through his difficult time and it was very moving to see how kindness can change the lives of those who really need a helping hand.


— Kimberli Buckley, currently reading Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

The post Reality Scoop: Random Acts of Kindness for YA appeared first on The Hub.

Booklist: Asexuality in Young Adult Fiction

Wed, 02/10/2016 - 07:00

As we embrace more inclusion in our media, strides are being made for more diverse representations in literature. The result is that we are starting to see where there are major gaps. When it comes to books featuring queer characters, those that are not exclusively heterosexual or cisgender, we are slowly building the canon of books that feature prime or side LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer) characters. When we continue the acronym to be inclusive of sexualities to LGBTQIAP, we see where we are lagging, and it is in those IAP (Intersex, Asexual, and Pansexual) representations.  In young adult fiction we had the groundbreaking 2015 teen novel, None of the Above by I.W. Gregario featuring an intersexed teen, as well as the 2014 Alex Award winner Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin, but there have been few to use the word asexual or pansexual to describe characters.


Asexuality can be very isolating, especially as a teen when your peers are experiencing crushes, talking about love interests, and/or sex. You can feel like something is wrong with you, especially if you don’t know what an asexual is. It can be very validating when you meet a character on the page that experiences the world similarly to you, yet it is rarely called out in text, so it is often more of a kinship than a chance to understand one’s sexuality.

Asexuality or “Ace” is a spectrum. One can be asexual and/or aromantic, demisexual or a gray ace. Society as whole seems to make assumptions and misjudgements about Aces and asexuality, which can be invalidating to others experiences, another reason why it never hurts to have more representation in media forms so there can be both “mirrors and windows.”

Below are book titles that have characters that identify as asexual. It usually isn’t the story, but just a part of who they are.

Young Adult Fiction with Asexual Characters

Quicksilver by R. J. Anderson

The second in the sci-fi thriller Ultraviolet Series, follows the character of Tori. In a new home and with a new identities, Tori and her family are on the run to hide a secret about her unusual DNA. Just when she thinks they might be able to pull it off, someone from her past shows up showing she is not as safe as she thinks.

Tori, the main character, is explicitly asexual, and her asexuality is integrated throughout the story. Tori’s sexuality is only one facet of this multidimensional, strong, female character, who is dealing with high stakes situations.

The Movement Volume 1: Class Warfare by Gail Simone

A group of young super-heroes rise up to take back the streets of their corrupt city sparking a revolution that goes viral world-wide. The corruption leads to one of their own being kidnapped by police, those that are supposed to protect, and issues between the “haves” and the “have-nots” rise up.

This is a full cast of characters all unique from one another. Tremor, aka Roshanna Chatterji (previous from comic series Secret Six), comes into this new series where she identifies herself as asexual. Her story arc isn’t focused on sexuality, but rather her path to redemption for previous grievances.

Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey (2011 Morris Award Finalist, 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Steeped in the Maori legends of New Zealand, a string of murders start to occur at the boarding school where Ellie is a new student. Underlying magic and myth shake her world as she tries to stop a fairy-like race of creatures who are determined to regain their lost immortality.

Ellie falls for Kevin who comes out as asexual. Though there isn’t much exploration of Kevin’s asexuality, and it  isn’t so much integrated into character development as it is more of a plot point, it is written on the page even if it ends there.

Demonosity by Amanda Ashby

This lively, humorous take on good vs. evil has the reluctant Cassidy Carter-Lewis being chosen to assist the spirit of fourteenth-century knight, Thomas Delacroix in protecting a powerful ancient force, the Black Rose. Now she has to learn sword fighting and start killing the demons infiltrating parties, the mall, and school.

Cassidy’s friend and sidekick, Nash, explicitly identifies himself as asexual. This is a very rigid portrayal of his sexuality, not allowing for any fluidity,  he does however remain asexual throughout the whole of the book.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor

This epic trilogy explores the gray areas that surround good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy. Set in a European world filled with mythical and magical beings, this follows Karou as she rises an army of monstrous beings to avenge her people. From the dark streets of Prague to the ruins of Rome, humans, chimaera, and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die.

In the second book Days of Blood and Starlight, side character Liraz comes out as asexual. Though she reads true, later in the series there is a little flirtation with another character, though not done explicitly or fully explored, one could read it as showing the complex nature of asexuality.

How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford (2010 Best Books for Young Adults)

Beatrice’s family has moved around a lot, leaving her a life with no close friends. Not wanting to let her familial irritation show, she portrays a lack of emotions having her mother nickname her Robot. Now her family has just moved to Baltimore where she is starting at a boarding school

where everyone has known each other since kindergarten. There she meets up with Jonah, aka Ghost Boy, a nickname referring to his pale skin and middle school prank that won’t go away.

Neither main character say that they are asexual, but descriptions of Jonah can read as though he is. Beatrice and Jonah have a very rocky and emotionally intense friendship without any romantic or sexual feelings getting in the way.

Oathbound by Mercedes Lackey

The first book in this 1980’s Vows and Honor trilogy has Tarma swearing vengeance after she witnessed her clan’s murder and Kethry fleeing a forced marriage. Tarma becomes a master warrior and Kethry obtains a magical sword which draws her to others in need. The two join forces to avenge the wrongs done to women.

Though the text of the novel does not have Tarma claiming her asexuality, Lackey has said in one edition of the book that she created the character Tarma as “celibate, chaste, and altogether asexual.”

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

Darcy Patel is a prodigy author getting her first novel published at the age of 18. Moving to New York City, she has to navigate the world of publishing. Her novel, that is told in alternating chapters, follows her heroine surviving in the Afterworld after a terrorist attack.

Darcy’s sexuality in never explicitly stated but mentions that she doesn’t look at people and feels attraction. She reads as more a demisexual/gray-asexual, as she has a girlfriend, Imogen. When questioned on it, she says how she doesn’t look at people and feel things, that maybe she is only “Imogen-sexual.”

More Resources:

There are a variety of online resources from the asexual community. The Asexuality Archive is “a repository for all-things-ace anywhere else,” and has an exhaustive glossary of terms. The Asexual Agenda blog strives to be a community center for other asexual blogs. Their resource page links to two key article series that go into depth about asexuality understanding, awareness, and issues: “Ace Talk: Asexuality Uncovered” on Matthew’s Place and “Asexuality: The ‘X’ In A Sexual World” on The Huffington Post.

Be sure to check out vlogger Swank Ivy’s ongoing Youtube series series Letters to an Asexual. Also see her book, The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality, written under her penname Julie Sondra Decker.

— Danielle Jones, currently reading Front Lines by Michael Grant

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Teen Creative Writing & Art Contest for Teen Tech Week

Tue, 02/09/2016 - 12:13

As part of Teen Tech Week, YALSA is teaming up with the Connected Learning Alliance, Deviant Art, National Writing Project, and Wattpad for the Twist Fate challenge.

The challenge is to get young people (ages 13-17) telling stories about what happens when a hero becomes a villain, or a villain a hero (through writing, video, digital art, animation, etc.) and sharing them across the Deviant Art and Wattpad platforms. It’s happening March 6-April 6th, and to ramp up for it there will be a series of free webinars with guests including Mimi ito, Christina Cantrill, Candice Mack, Josh Wattles from DeviantArt, and Jing Jing Tan from Wattpad:

Connecting the Creative Sparks of Young Makers to Supportive Communities of Practice Feb. 11, 7pm EST

Storytelling and Making Redefined: Get to Know the Wattpad Community Feb. 18, 7pm EST

Meet the “Deviants”: Networked Artists and Makers of DeviantArt Feb. 25, 7pm EST


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Booklist: Genre Reads for Cold Winter Nights

Tue, 02/09/2016 - 08:00

The temperatures are dropping below freezing and the sun sets early, making it the perfect time of year to curl up with a good book. Whether you like thrillers, swoon-worthy romance, or an escape from reality, there’s a book here to warm you up.

This is also a great list for a seasonal book display that can incorporate many genres and appeal to a wide range of readers.

Thrillers and Mysteries for Cold Winter Nights

If you’re in the mood for an adrenaline rush, these books are sure to  get your heart pounding. These mysteries and thrillers will chill you to the bone!

Bonechiller by Graham McNamee (2009 Best Books for Young Adults)

After his mother’s death, Danny moves with his father to a remote Canadian town next to a frozen lake with a terrifying legend that haunts it.

Trapped by Michael Northrup

Seven teens are waiting to be picked up from school when a killer snowstorm hits. Can they survive? This is a good bed for readers who want a thriller without paranormal elements.

As White as Snow by Salla Simukka

Atmospheric Nordic crime thrillers have been popular with adult readers, and this trilogy brings the blood (and cold) to YA and adds a fairy tale twist.

Nightfall by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujiwinski

When the season turns, more than severe weather threatens an isolated island and residents flee. When a group of teenagers are left behind, they must fight to survive. With hints of supernatural threats in addition to the terror of the elements, this is a spooky thriller for middle school readers.

The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley

This has all the elements of a classic ghost story: an orphan is sent to live in an isolated house in the woods, where he finds a spirits and a mysterious secrets. Fans of staples in this genre, like Poe or Gorey, will delight in this homage to Victorian ghost stories.

The Edge by Roland Smith

The follow up to Peak, this story revolves around a mountain-climbing and documentary film expedition that turns sinister when the director is murdered and other climbers are taken hostage.

Romance for Cold Winter Nights

There are countless summer romances in YA fiction, but sometimes it feels like the winter-themed stories are limited to holiday collections. These novels take place in the winter months.


To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

This adorable romance takes place over the fall semester of school, but many key scenes take place during the winter months. Laura Jean loves to bake, and especially to make holiday cookies, and there’s a school ski trip that figures prominently into the plot.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (2010 Best Books for Young Adults, 2010 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers)

This paranormal romance is very much tied to the changing of the seasons. The ability of werewolves to shift to human form is contingent upon the temperature, and the atmospheric prose about the winter weather is sure to put readers in the mood to curl up with a good book.

Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler

This coming of age novel is mostly about growing up. Hudson is trying to balance helping her single mother run a diner with her ambition to be a figure skater, while also contemplating her attraction to two hockey players.

Lovely, Dark, and Deep by Amy McNamara

This emotionally intense YA novel is about a girl who retreats to the wilderness of Maine after high school graduation to process her grief.

Fantasy and Fairy Tales for Cold Winter Nights

These fantasy and fairy tale retellings offer unique settings and worlds with wintry climates.

Snow Like Ashes by Sarah Raasch

This high fantasy series follows Meira, an orphan in the kingdom of Winter, which has been robbed of its magic, fights to help her kingdom rise to power again.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Set in a Russian-inspired fantasy world with a wintry landscape, this complex fantasy series is perfect for long, cold nights.

Frozen by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston

In this fantasy world, Las Vegas isn’t the desert oasis it once was — it’s a wintry landscape blanketed in ice and ruled by sinister magic. A young blackjack dealer dreams of escape to the Blue, a paradise where he’ll be free of prosecution.

Ice by Sarah Beth Durst

This novel, inspired by a Norwegian fairy tale, tells the story of a girl who makes a bargain with a Polar Bear King to try and save her mother. Set in the Artic North and Canadian forests, this tale of survival and sacrifice is perfect for readers looking for out of the ordinary fairy tale retellings featuring headstrong and smart protagonists.

Winterspell by Claire Legrand

The Nutracker inspired this young adult novel about Clara, a girl who is forced to journey to a mysterious, cold land of Cane to save her father with the help of a cursed Prince. A dark, gritty, and sexy fairy tale, this is a perfect read for winter nights.

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George (2009 Best Books for Young Adults)

This fairy tale blends elements of The Beauty and the Beast with Norse fables. Lass, who has always been an outsider, makes a deal with a curse polar bear that her family will become rich if only she will accompany him to his castle of ice.

Do you have any favorite wintry reads? Add them in the comments!


— Molly Wetta, currently reading This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

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Readers’ Survey Results

Mon, 02/08/2016 - 07:00

Thanks to everyone who took the time to give us some feedback in our year end readers’ survey. We were thrilled to have so many responses, and the Hub Advisory Board and I discussed many of your suggestions and are working to make the Hub the best it can be. your destination for information on library collections for teens.

Many indicated that they wished we provided programming ideas. There are other places where YALSA focuses on this aspect of teen services.  Also, YALSA recently launched Teen Programming HQ, a site to share library programs designed for and with teens. Be sure you are following The YALSAblog, which not only covers information about the organization, but also posts on programming. The Hub has partnered with the YALSAblog to highlight collections in conjunction with various programs, so look for that new monthly feature as well.

Many lamented the sunsetting of the YALSA Monday Polls. These were discontinued last fall for a number of reasons: Hub bloggers felt we had exhausted many topics, and also thought we could use the time and effort to deliver more value-added content. However, after a break, we decided that we would bring them back as a monthly feature rather than a weekly one. Look for the first poll of 2016 on the last Monday of February!

We received many compliments about the graphic booklists we create to accompany some readers’ advisory posts. I’m happy to report that we’re going to be creating more of these booklists, and that we’ll also archive downloadable pdfs and Microsoft Publisher files on this page. These are free to use with patrons in the library.

Many other individual suggestions sparked ideas, and we took all feedback into account. We want the Hub to be your destination for information on library collections for teens.

If you are interested in blogging for The Hub, we’re always accepting new bloggers. If you’re already a member of YALSA, you can update your volunteer form or contact the member manager at If your are interested in joining YALSA, more information on the benefits of membership can be found here. Bloggers must be current YALSA members and agree to the blogger guidelines.

If you have any concerns or questions, feel free to get in touch.

— Molly Wetta, currently reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

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2016 Hub Challenge Check-in #2

Sun, 02/07/2016 - 07:00

Not signed up for YALSA’s 2016 Hub Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. Anything you’ve read since the awards were announced counts, so sign up now!

Welcome to the second check-in for the 2016 Hub Reading Challenge! As always, there are some great books eligible for the Challenge this year, which makes it easy to get excited about participating!

There are a lot of books on the list that have me excited, but regular Hub readers probably won’t be surprised to learn that I am most excited for the eligible graphic novels, given that I write about comics a lot here. This year there are graphic novels on several of the awards and selected lists including the Alex Award, Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers, Popular Paperbacks, and, of course, the Great Graphic Novels list.

Given all these great options, I can’t wait to dive in and read all of them. But, first up for me is rereading Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. Stevenson is well-known for both Nimona and her work on the Lumberjanes series (which is also on the Great Graphic Novels list!), and while they are quite different from one another, they are both enormously fun. Nimona combines silly humor with a story that has compelling characters and great relationships between these characters. It is a great option for anyone who enjoys fantasy and humor, even if those readers who don’t typically gravitate towards graphic novels. Over the course of the Challenge, I am sure I will branch out to other books that I haven’t read yet, such as Henni by Miss Lasko-Gross and Sacred Heart by Liz Suburbia, but for now I am looking forward to delving back into the world of Nimona and I hope that those of you who have already read it will share your thoughts in the comments below! And, even if you haven’t read Nimona, let me know what you are most excited about reading for the Challenge!

With more participants joining all the time, this is shaping up to be a great Hub Reading Challenge! Join the conversation on Instagram, Twitter, or at the 2016 Hub Challenge Goodreads group and when you’ve completed the Challenge, be sure to complete this form.

What have you been reading for the challenge? What are you most excited to get to? Share in the comments!

– Carli Spina, currently reading Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

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Readers’ Advisory, Bibliotherapy, and Grief in YA Literature

Thu, 02/04/2016 - 07:08

The benefits of reading go beyond entertainment and into therapeutic tools when focusing on loss and grief in young adult literature. This year, the practice of bibliotherapy celebrates 100 years* in assisting mental health professionals and readers cope with many issues through informed choices about reading material. It is especially relevant to young adult readers in understanding loss and the grief process.

Teenagers today are said to have higher levels of anxiety and depression and informed readers’ advisory creates an opportunity to help teens by using the comfort and familiarity of reading. However, it is not to be misunderstood or considered as true therapy unless a therapist is involved.   Through readers’ advisory, especially in a school setting, adults can both assist in book recommendations and also listen to teenagers (and possibly notice when teens need to speak to a school counselor).  Just as librarians do not parent or restrict readers, we also do not assume any professional opinion about therapy or mental illness. See this article on the difference between bibliotherapy and readers’ advisory.  The actual practice of bibliotherapy includes a skilled therapist, but adults who are familiar with stories of loss can assist with recommendations.  After all, we already know the interest of our readers (and reading levels) and can offer novels that address grief and coping.

Recently, additional focus to how characters deal with loss has been the focus. Stages of grief appear more than a brief sadness or attending a funeral in one chapter then quickly moving onto a happy ending. In books such as All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, Out of Reach by Carrie Across, and If You’re Lucky by Yvonne Prinz, authors delve further in the topic of loss in that there is not a healing resolution at the end of each novel. In fact, these novels are honest accounts of the stages of grief and display healing as an ongoing process.

Novels offer examples of how others cope and, most importantly, they show the range of emotions that people experience. Gone are the days of a nicely concluded story at the end of a 300 page book. Readers experience a wider range of emotions from characters and are shown healing is a struggle, if accomplished at all.

Readers’ Advisory and Books About Death

Readers’ advisory should not be as obvious as “after facing a loss in our community, here are books about death,” but as library staff and teachers are often safe adults sought out by teens to confide in, we are the sources to provide support to teens dealing with grief.

By showing other teenagers have faced similar problems, it offers readers hope that they will get through a current hardship. It also shows that not everyone heals over the same course of time, but that moving on and finding acceptance might occur eventually, as shown in the novels. Authors are responsibly including the help of therapists, support groups, and sometimes medication in these stories, which may convince readers that seeking help is normal and worthwhile.

A Variety in Experiences of Loss

The types of loss have increased in variety as well, exhibiting stages of grief in a raw, honest, often angry narration. In other words, these plots are mirroring life which benefit readers not only in experiences, but possibly finding solace in their own grief.

In And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard, a suicide’s intention is questioned, but those left behind are confused, ashamed, and sad. Hubbard covers the confusion and anger well, questioning God’s existence and why a young death occurred. It is often difficult to explain tragedies to teenagers who question how bad things can happen in our world and these novels help show readers how questioning the goodness of the world or perceived fairness is common.

In The Truth About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin, Suzanne, a 12-year-old whose best friend drowns, does not accept the reason “sometimes bad things happen” and spends the entire novel trying to prove that something had to have caused her friend’s death. She comes to the conclusion that while “bad things happen” is not a good reason, it is sometimes the truth. Questioning the logic behind a death reoccurs in many novels with teenagers trying to understand death, proving that processing grief is a continual struggle.

Often people don’t discuss loss and death with teenagers or if they do they only discuss one type of grief. How many teens are told it is okay to get angry when someone dies? Trying to understand death or why bad things happen is a challenge people of all ages face, but it is especially difficult to understand while still in the adolescent stage of development.

From John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars when Gus puts on his prefuneral to Gayle Forman’s I Was Here, where Meg plans a timed email suicide note and packed her belongings so that her family wouldn’t have to, authors cover the topic of death in original ways and show the emotional and mental state of those left behind.  By reading about grief, teenagers are exposed to the depth of loss and the different reactions it causes. There is not one way to grieve and grief is not a time when teens need to feel they are not fitting the norm in expected behavior.

By experiencing the variety of loss in literature, perhaps teens will know it is acceptable to feel anger, confusion, denial, guilt, and sadness after a death. The range of emotion in these books goes from feeling “the tentacles of suicide” (Gayle Forman) to the beautifully written idea of seeking out the “bright places” in our own lives (Jennifer Niven), mirroring the range of emotions teens experience in their own moments of grief.

Reading books that deal with sad topics are not to be avoided, especially for adolescents who are gaining life experiences.  Reading how others process information or that others experience grief validate a teens emotions and thoughts yet sensitivity should always be at the forefront of any book suggestions. Adults can offer reading as a way to gain experience, but is not the same as talking to a professional.

To hide youth from sadness hides them from a healthy range of emotions. To exclude plots of depression or suicide blankets over the real problem of mental illness. By showing negative emotions associated with overcoming a death, such as the plots in And We Stay, I Was Here, and If You’re Lucky, authors tell the readers that even in a time of sadness or confusion, focusing on yourself is important. Teens will know it’s not selfish to feel a variety of emotions or even want part of their old routine.  The honesty shown by Jennifer Niven, specifically once the family agrees to talk about their loss, expresses how being honest about what you feel is healthy.  Instead of shielding youth from sad topics, adults should welcome the reading of these books and hope that once the novels are begun so will this topic of conversation.

Further Notes:

If you are in a setting where counselors are present, there are also many opportunities to assist in bibliotherapy with the guidance of trained professionals such as themed book talks, art or writing exercises, or even anonymous letters to characters.

*Samuel Crothers was the first to use the term Bibliotherapy in 1916 (Laura J. Cohen, “Bibliotherapy: The Right Book at the Right Time.” Journal of Psychosocial Nursing 26.8 (1988).

— Sarah Carnahan, currently reading The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

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What Would They Read?: Fox Mulder from the X-Files

Wed, 02/03/2016 - 07:00

I grew up watching the X-Files, so I was really excited when I heard that the show would be reappearing this spring.

If Mulder and Scully were to walk into my library, I’d probably want to follow them around to find out what weird things have been happening, but if they asked for book recommendations, this is what I’d give them.

Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics

Amanda’s family leaves their home in the mountains to live out on the prairie and hopefully leave behind the memories of the last, harsh winter they had to face. Her father chooses to move the family into an abandoned cabin that is covered in dried blood, and unfortunately for Amanda, things only get creepier from there.

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King (2015 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

After drinking a mixture of beer and desiccated bat dust, Glory and her best friend begin having strange visions of the future.

Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen

Cynthia’s best friend is in love with the new school librarian, but Cynthia is sceptical. The new librarian isn’t just creepy; he might be an actual demon.

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

Harper Price just wants to finish high school and become the true Southern Belle she was born to be. But when she inherits magical powers that enable her to toss her quarterback-boyfriend across the school yard, she realizes she may have more difficult challenges to face than the Homecoming Dance.

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride (2011 Morris Award Finalist, 2011 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2014 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)

Sam is just trying to survive another shift at a fast food chain when he is attacked by a man who thinks Sam is a necromancer. Sam receives advice from his friend’s (still living) severed head, which he keeps in a bowling bag. Will Sam be able to defeat the other necromancer and claim his territory?

Peeps by Scott Westerfeld

Cal is a carrier of the vampire virus, so all of his girlfriends become infected. He joins a secret society bent on eradicating this virus and hunts down his first girlfriend, the person who initially infected him.

Project 17 by Laurie Stolarz

Six teens break into an abandoned mental institution with the plan to film the ghostly events that are said to occur there.

The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

Juliet is attempting to escape her past and her father’s reputation for unorthodox experiments when she is summoned back to the island he calls home. There, she finds a slew of experiments gone wrong, one of which is bent on killing the inhabitants of the island.

Ten by Gretchen McNeil (2013 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers)

Meg is invited to an exclusive party on an island getaway, where things quickly turn dark and creepy as the guests are killed off one by one. Can Meg discover who’s behind the murders and save herself?

Be Not Afraid by Cecilia Galante

Marin sees people’s pain as colors shining around them. When her classmate, Cassie, has a breakdown in class and points at Marin, shouting, “YOU!,” Marin feels compelled to help solve Cassie’s pain, no matter what the cost.

— Jenni Frencham, currently reading All Involved by Ryan Gatis

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