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2016 Morris Award Finalists Announced!

Thu, 12/03/2015 - 12:32

The wait is finally over! Here are the finalists for the 2016 Morris Award:

2016 Morris Award finalists:

  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda written by Becky Albertalli, published by Balzer & Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
  • Conviction written by Kelly Loy Gilbert, published by Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group
  • The Weight of Feathers written by Anna-Marie McLemore, published by Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press
  • The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly written by Stephanie Oakes, published by Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers
  • Because You’ll Never Meet Me written by Leah Thomas, published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Congrats to all the finalists! View a list of the finalists with annotations on the Morris Award page.

Attending Midwinter? YALSA will host a reception honoring the finalists and the winner, as well as YALSA’s Nonfiction Award finalists and winner, from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Jan. 11, Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, room 205BC. See a full list of YALSA’s events and programs at Midwinter on YALSA’s Midwinter wiki page.

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December Playlist

Thu, 12/03/2015 - 07:00

Curating the ultimate playlist is a common theme within some beloved young adult novels. Think of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn or consider Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Since the all-important soundtrack to life is an evolving creative process, below is a list of newer songs to start you off your own December playlist.

“The Neverending Sigh” by: Foo Fighters from the album Saint Cecilia EP

Released in November as part of a special EP, this song proves that rock can be fun, too.

“Alive” by: Sia from the album This is Acting

This is one the singles off of Sia’s upcoming album in January. If you need inspiring music to get you up in the morning, this is your song.

“The Answer” by: Savages from the album Adore Life

From their forthcoming album, this song has a hard post-punk shell and a soft heart with its message: love is the answer.

“Can’t Get Enough of Myself” by: Santigold from the album 99¢

This sunshine-y song will put some bounce in your step once you are finished rocking out.

“20th Century Boy” by: Ty Segall from the album Ty Rex

Segall’s rendition of T. Rex’s “20th Century Boy” will ensure that you do as many guitar riffs in your living room as possible.

“Hello” by: Adele from the album 25

Sure, the music video has already been parodied by Saturday Night Life (check it out here), but Adele has a heartbreaking voice and this song does all the heartbreaking for you.

“So Long” by: Leon Bridges from The Motion Picture soundtrack for Concussion

One last song new song to end your December playlist is a new one by the soulful Leon Bridges.

Happy listening!

— Diana Slavinsky, currently listening to Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

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2016 Nonfiction Award Finalists Announced!

Wed, 12/02/2015 - 12:02

Drum roll, please! The finalists for the 2016 Nonfiction Award have been announced! Check them out via the video below and keep reading for the list!

2016 Nonfiction Award finalists:

  • “Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir” written by Margarita Engle, and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing;
  • “First Flight Around the World: The Adventures of the American Fliers Who Won the Race” written by Tim Grove,  and published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, an imprint of ABRAMS;
  • “Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War” written by Steve Sheinkin, and published by Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan’s Children’s Publishing Group;
  • “Symphony for the City of the Dead:  Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad” written by M.T. Anderson, and published by Candlewick Press;
  • “This Strange Wilderness:  The Life and Art of John James Audubon” written by Nancy Plain, and published by University of Nebraska Press

Congrats to all the finalists! Learn more about the award, as well as read annotations for each finalist on YALSA’s Nonfiction Award page.

Attending Midwinter? YALSA will host a reception honoring the finalists and the winner, as well as YALSA’s Morris Award finalists and winner, from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Jan. 11, Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, room 205BC. See a full list of YALSA’s events and programs at Midwinter on YALSA’s Midwinter wiki page.

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Teen Perspective: Digitally Remastered – Comic books for gamers!

Wed, 12/02/2015 - 07:00

If something exists, chances are that somebody is already trying to profit from it. Popular book series starring a teenage girl in a dystopian future? Hollywood is already writin’ up the script! Another Disney movie about a princess? Somebody is already planning a musical!

Video game characters like Super Mario and Pac-Man have become just as popular as the likes of Mickey and Bugs Bunny, so when something is THAT popular, you know that they’re going to go beyond just video games, right? We’re not just talking action figures and posters, but full movies! I can see it now: the greatest actors all over the country, being called together to act out some of time’s most beloved video game stories, with fantastic… um……yeah.

The majority of video game movies fail to stay true to their source material. Forget ’em for now.

So, what other kind of media has proven to be faithful to gaming? Comics! The comic format is very nice for expressing a serious tone, while also allowing for a more relaxed and comedy-based narrative. Practically every big video game franchise from Japan has a Manga series adaptation, and many other American games have gotten the panel-by-panel treatment as well.

For today’s article, I’ll be looking at a few comic books, all of which are based on some of my favorite games to play!

The first is Mega Man, which is  published by Archie Comics, written by Ian Flynn, with art by Patrick Spaziante. This is the most recent of the 3 comic franchises, as it is the only one that debuted during the 21st Century. The story follows Dr. Thomas Light and Dr. Albert Wily, as they start work on service robots called ‘Robot Masters’. Angered by Light’s fame over his own, Wily corrupts the Robot Masters into becoming war machines. Doctor Light converts one of his own housekeeping robots, ‘Rock’, into a fighting robot in order to stop Wily’s reprogrammed Robot Masters.

One of my favorite things about the series is how each scenario in the story is taken very seriously, with weighty topics including the ethics of robotics. One such story arc involves the ‘Emerald Spears’, a criminal group that wants to rid the world of robotics because they fear that they will eventually become too smart for their own good. This series also features several new story arcs that weren’t inspired by the original games.

The next is Pokemon Adventures, which is the only manga series of the three  I’m discussing today. There are two print runs of this specific version, with the original being formatted to the American left-to-right reading format, while the more recent versions are printed in the the original right-to-left style.

Our story follows Red, an aspiring Pokemon Trainer, in his journey to becoming a Pokemon Master. Along his way, Red meets up with other rising Pokemon Trainers, and even the villainous Team Rocket. Most of the plot is made up of battles between Pokemon Trainers and their Pokemon, which would normally be repetitive and uninteresting, but the distinct style of each fight helps to keep story at a balanced pace. The art style is nice and helps express each battle with a little more realism as if you really were there experiencing the fight.

Pokemon Adventures is still running to this day, with new volumes constantly being released and translated to tie in with each new game. Since most of the story portions are constructed of battle scenes, it’s pretty easy to pick up a random volume and enjoy.

And finally, Sonic The Hedgehog, which is also published by Archie Comics. Sonic holds the record for being the longest-running comic based on any video game series. The original issues focus on a comedy-driven narrative, with most issues being directly inspired by episodes of the Sonic Saturday morning show. You know the drill: Doctor Robotnik’s snooping as usual, cookin’ up a scheme, and Sonic has to stop him with the help of his fellow Freedom Fighters. There are plenty of jokes that break the fourth wall, and they’re quite funny! The best ones involve Sonic going too fast for the rest of the plot.

One odd thing about the comic’s main story line. The original series had a distinct focus on short tales with lots of jokes between, but as time went on, the storytelling and art design of the story became more complicated, with more emphasis on longer plot arcs and the backstories of the main characters. In some ways, these choices worked because they showed how the Sonic series gradually matured over each issue. The only reason I don’t like this style is because the plot is now too confusing to keep up with!

If you want to read the Sonic series nowadays, you can pick up a copy of one of the Sonic Legacy compilation books. These special collection titles aren’t printed in color, but they only run for about $13 and come with upwards to 20 issues, making them very good choices for the average reader or library.

That’s all I have to talk about today. I’m sure I could have looked at others, but these were my top three. Check them out if you can, and if you haven’t already, make sure you try the game they’re inspired by as well! Now, where can I find a good Dance Dance Revolution comic series? Hmm…

David Peters is one of the founding members of the Teen Advisory Board at the Highland Branch of the Lake County Public Library, IN. He also reviews video games under the name GadgetJax.

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What Would They Read?: Brody Nelson from CSI: Cyber

Tue, 12/01/2015 - 07:00

Crime dramas are very popular, so much so that many shows (NCIS, CSI, Law & Order, to name a few) have spawned spin-offs which then become popular as well. CSI: Cyber is no exception.

This criminal show follows a team that tracks criminals who are using technology to commit their crimes. One of the newest members of this team is Brody Nelson, a convicted hacker who uses his computer skills to catch cyber criminals. If Brody were to walk in today and ask for a good book to read, this is what I’d offer him:

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (2009 Best Books for Young Adults) is an obvious choice. After a major terrorist attack, Marcus and his friends are suspected of orchestrating the attack due to their skills as hackers. Although Marcus is cleared of wrongdoing, he has to use his hacking skills to rescue one of his friends who was not so lucky.

Feed by M.T. Anderson (2010 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults). Titus doesn’t think much about his feed, the information downloaded directly into his brain, until a hacker implants a virus and causes him to live without his feed for several days.

Stormbreaker by Anthony HorowitzAlex is stuck in the middle of a terrorist plot and is given government technology to solve the mystery of his uncle’s murder.

Jennifer Goverment by Max BarryHack Nike finds himself in over his head when he signs a contract without reading it and discovers he’s tasked with murdering teens on the street to increase his company’s profits, and the police are no help.

Dirt Bikes, Drones, and Other Ways to Fly by Conrad WesselhoeftArlo is a master gamer, and his skills in an online drone game attract the attention of the government. Arlo is glad for the money he can bring to his family, but he’s hesitant to control a drone that may be used to kill people, even people he’s never met.

The Eye of Minds by James Dashner (2014 Teens Top Ten)Michael is a gamer who spends most of his free time in his “coffin,” a pod that allows him to experience near-reality in his gaming. When the government asks Michael to use his programming expertise to catch an in-game killer, he can hardly refuse. But will he be able to catch the killer without themselves being killed?

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson (2014 Teens Top Ten). David has vowed to avenge his father’s death at the hand of Steelheart, the most powerful supervillian the world has ever seen. But in a world full of supervillians, he’ll need help to accomplish his goal.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (2012 Alex Award). Wade is obsessed with his MMO called Oasis, and he thinks he can solve the puzzle the creator left within. But can he do it before other players, those who might be willing to kill him to win?

Insignia by S.J. Kincaid. Tom’s gaming skills have come in handy during the war. He is now a popular member of the Intrasolar Forces, but at what cost?

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (2008 Margaret A Edwards Award). Ender is one of the child geniuses taken from Earth and trained to be a soldier in the war against the Formic aliens. Ender’s the best soldier Battle School has ever seen, and he might be the only hope Earth has in this war.


–Jenni Frencham, currently reading Flawed by Cecillia Ahern

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Picture Books – Not Just for Kids

Mon, 11/30/2015 - 07:00

November is Picture Book Month. You might be surprised at how many aren’t just for children. In fact I think many are really for us older folks who may be reading them with children. For any of you who might not have read one in years, except maybe to younger kids, check out some of these books that have a lot of appeal for anyone 12 and older.

Moletown by Torben Kuhlmann (2015)

In this nearly wordless picture book, the author depicts the rise and fall of a civilization of moles in 15 cutaway spreads of life underground. A single mole settles under an idyllic daisy-studded meadow and digs for coal. The coal-mining operation takes off, attracting mole immigrants who arrive with suitcases and headscarves and live in tenements illuminated with bare light bulbs. Massive industrial growth with ever-larger mining machinery culminates in a metropolis glittering with lights and choked with traffic. “Many generations later,” Kuhlmann concludes, “the moles’ green meadow had completely disappeared. Almost.” The final page hints at a solution. There’s so much detail in this book to look at and it’s a great opportunity for anyone to discuss the issue of the threat of progress to our natural environment. (You might want to then read the similar allegory of colonization in The Rabbits by John Marsden and illustrated by Shaun Tan or Tan’s wordless book The Arrival about immigration)

The Tea Party in the Woods by Akiko Miyakoshi (2015)

This beautifully illustrated story by Japanese artist Miyakoshi weaves fairy-tale elements into a dreamy and sometimes haunting story reminiscent of Little Red Riding Hood, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” “Goldilocks” and the less-known tale of the “Twelve Months.” Perfect to read during the holiday season – or any time. Kikko sets off through the snowy woods to her grandmother’s with the pie her father has forgotten; she spies him walking far ahead of her and follows him to a house she’s never seen before and discovers it’s not her father at all, but a bear in a suit and hat. She’s invited inside by a well-dressed lamb and is surprised to find many more formally dressed animals—a boar, two stags, and many more seated around the table, who invite her to tea. Kikko realizes her trip through the woods has turned into something magical.

The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (2015)

This companion to the hilarious The Day the Crayons Quit is my personal favorite of all the books mentioned here. Just as funny as the first one, here the crayons are in need of rescue as they send postcards instead of letters to Duncan. Directionally challenged Neon Red is on a cross-country trip back to Duncan’s house after having been left behind on a family vacation; Big Chunky Toddler Crayon is desperate to escape from Duncan’s baby brother; and Glow in the Dark needs rescuing from the sinister basement. Turn out the lights while looking at Glow in the Dark’s postcard and get a surprise. If you like Jeffers’s other books, you’ll be happy to see characters from his previous works hidden in the postcards’ stamps. So much fun for every one of all ages!

The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Chris Raschka (2015)

A celebrated duo reunites for a look at 50 poems through history inspired by objects—earthly and celestial—reflecting the time in which each poet lived, from the Middle Ages to the present day. It includes everything from snowflakes, a rose, and clouds to street lanterns, a cat, manhole covers, and more in-between from such noted adult poets as Emily Dickinson, William Wordsworth, Pablo Neruda, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and others. Raschka’s striking watercolor illustrations accompany their poems.

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (2014)

This is a beautifully illustrated and written picture book biography of Peter Mark Roget, creator of Roget’s Thesaurus, a reference that I know all of us have used to find the perfect word when writing. The pages are filled with vintage typography and fascinating images of wonders of the natural world that invite the reader to really savor them. Roget’s curiosity and love of words is really brought to life in this 2015 Caldecott Honor Book and 2015 Sibert Medal Winner.

Mr. Wuffles! by David Wiesner (2013)

Mr. Wuffles, a big black cat, has no time for the inane toys his pet owners try to make him play with. Instead, he turns his attention to a small object which turns out to be an interstellar alien spacecraft occupied by Lilliputian aliens. Swatting at the ship, Mr. Wuffles manages to damage it, forcing the aliens to escape it and seek shelter under a nearby radiator. There, against all expectations, they form an alliance with some equally embattled ants and ladybugs. This is an amusing exploration of cooperation between aliens and insects, and of the universal nature of communication involving symbols, “cave” paintings, and gestures of friendship. 2014 Caldecott Honor Book

The Mischievians by William Joyce (2013)

Missing a sock? Just can’t reach that itch? Homework vanished into the ether? These and other woes are caused by imp like creatures known as Mischievians, as two siblings learn courtesy of one Dr. Maximilian Zooper. This fun book for all ages uses a funny Q&A format to unmask the culprits behind all the most annoying things you have to put up with such as the Homework Eater: the fiend who steals your homework. Or, the Endroller: the villain who uses up ALL the toilet paper! Or, the Yawn Mower: the creature who makes you yawn at the worst possible time! – And many, many more.

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (2013)

Duncan just wants to color but when he opens his box of crayons, he finds letters telling him that they all quit! Each crayon writes a funny letter about why they can’t take it anymore. Blue’s tired of coloring all that water and red’s worn out coloring all the fire engines, apples, strawberries and everything else that’s red – and even works on holidays like Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Yellow and Orange are fighting and aren’t speaking to one another because each believes it is the color of the sun and Pink just wants to be used, among others. You will laugh-out-loud at their hysterically funny letters that are very persuasive in their complaints. Jeffers’s crayon-made illustrations perfectly compliment the crayon written letters. Lots of fun, no matter how many times you read it.

These are just a few of the picture books that I recommend. What are your favorite picture books for all ages?

— Sharon Rawlins, currently reading Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman and listening to Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan


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Documentaries for Teens: Feminism

Fri, 11/27/2015 - 07:00

Though feminism has been around, arguably, since the Suffragette Movement, and though girls and young women have benefited hugely from the accomplishments of Second Wave Feminism, many teens are still hesitant to self identify as feminists or feminist allies. This may be due to a lack of understanding of what feminism actually means, or a false notion that sexism no longer exists and feminism’s work is done. However, just as Second Wave Feminists engaged in consciousness raising groups in order to make their fellow women aware of everyday patriarchal injustices, many young women, particularly on social media sites such as Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook, are actively engaged in drawing attention to everyday sexism as well as the intersections of racism, classicism, cissexism, ableism, and the ways in which mainstream feminism has (and in many cases still does) excluded other marginalized groups.

The library can serve as an excellent place for consciousness raising whether through book clubs, service projects, or topic specific forums. Documentaries can serve as a jumping off point for these discussions. Here are a few to get you started.

Miss Representation (2011)

The recent release of female-centric films and television shows such as Suffragette, Grandma, and Supergirl may spark young women’s thinking about why there isn’t more female representation in media. Miss Representation, directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom and Kimberlee Acquaro addresses the lack of good representation of women in media and the implications it has for female leadership. This documentary makes a compelling case for teaching media literacy in schools. Available for streaming on Netflix. Visit the official website’s curriculum page.

Girl Rising (2013)

Girl Rising, directed by Richard Robbins and featuring voice overs by several well known actors such as Anne Hathaway and Cate Blanchett, focuses on the stories of ten young girls around the world who face tremendous obstacles in their path to education. Each vignette follows a different girl who partnered with a screenwriter to help tell their story. In many cases the girls play themselves in the dramatizations. While many of the girls encounter disturbing struggles, the ultimate tone of the documentary is hopeful. Available for streaming on Netflix. Visit the official website.

Honor Diaries (2013)

Honor Diaries, directed by Micah Smith, explores the acts of violence perpetuated against girls and women committed in the name of “honor”. Nine female activists from Muslim majority countries of origin discuss why these atrocities occur and what can be done to stop them. This documentary contains graphic descriptions, and in some cases depictions, of violence including female genitalia mutilation. Recommended to older, mature teens. Available for screening on Netflix. Visit the official website.

PBS American Experience: The Pill (2003)

The Pill, directed, produced and written by Chana Gazit for PBS’s American Experience series focuses on activist Margaret Sanger and scientist Gregory Pincus’s quest to give women ultimate control over their own reproduction. Even though abortion rights are a hot topic in today’s political climate, many teens may be unaware of how long the fight for women’s reproductive rights has been raging on. They may also be unaware of how revolutionary and relatively new the concept of family planning is for women. This documentary does a good job of giving this background not often taught in schools or sex education classes. Available on Youtube. Visit the official website and read more about the film, find primary sources used, a teaching guide, and more.

Have you seen these films? Have others to recommend? Please let us know in the comments!

— Emily Childress-Campbell, Currently reading These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

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What Would Carter Stevens Read?

Fri, 11/27/2015 - 07:00

Have you had a chance to watch Finding Carter a very intense series that first aired on MTV last year?  The show is about a teenage girl named Carter Stevens who is confident, pretty, and popular, which are traits quite handy in navigating high school life.  She also has an amazing relationship with her mom who always tells Carter how much she loves her.  One fateful night Carter is out partying with her friends and things get out of control and she ends up being detained by the police.  Nothing prepares Carter for the punch-in-the-gut news that comes when she is told that she can’t go home to her mom – ever.  Carter finds out she was abducted when she was three, and now she must return to her biological family, who thought she was gone forever.  As Carter tries to forge a new life with her real parents, twin sister (fraternal), and younger brother, she must also adjust to life in a new school.  Carter misses her “mom” terribly and she can’t get over the fact that her real parents are pressing charges.

Carter has a lot of emotional issues and she jumps into anything that will take her mind off of missing the woman that she thought was her mother.  If Carter walked into my library right now what books would I recommend for her to read?  Here’s what I would suggest.

Whatever Happened to Janie? by Carolyn B. Cooney – This story is basically Carter’s life.  Janie Johnson is really Janie Spring and the Spring family wants justice, but who is to blame?  Just as Carter is trying to figure out her life, Janie is having difficulties having two separate families.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer – Just like Carter, Cinder is caught between duty, freedom, loyalty, and betrayal.  She must uncover secrets from her past in order to make way for her future.

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles – Carter likes the bad boys.  She’s got a soft spot for them, but she’s the one that usually makes them turn into puppy dogs.

Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid – I can just imagine Carter and her friends going on an adventurous trip just like the five strangers that Leila meets on her trip to see the Northern Lights.  Carter would really enjoy a story about love, loss, and finding yourself all intertwined in a cross country adventure.

Boys Like You by Juliana Stone – I think Carter could totally relate with Monroe Blackwell.  One mistake and everything changes and life as you know it will never be the same.  Both Carter and Monroe can speak to how mistakes can tear a family apart.


Kimberli Buckley, currently reading The Syndrome by Ridley Pearson

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Line by Line: Poetry in Teen Fiction

Wed, 11/25/2015 - 07:00

Poetry has been figuring in a lot of teen literature lately. Have you noticed? I don’t mean novels in verse, quality as some recent titles have been. Nor do I mean poetry collections for teens (a la Poisoned Apples or Paint Me Like I Am). The Guardian noticed this poetry trend, too, pointing out a few examples in a recent article, and asked its readers for more.

I liked how the article noted authors’ uses of poetry, such as Meg Cabot beginning the chapters of Avalon High with stanzas from The Lady of Shalott. These stanzas just happen to give a clue about the characters’ identities. The article also mentioned a similar use of poetry in Clockwork Angel, by Cassandra Clare: the lines that open the chapters are all from poets who lived in the time of the novel’s setting, late-19th century London.

For me, my mind went immediately to characters who read or write poetry. Anna Dalin covered a few of these in a 2014 Hub post for National Poetry Month. Writing poetry is often an accessible coping mechanism for teens who need a release or a creative outlet. In The Sky Is Everywhere, Lennie drops poems all over town, writing to and about her sister who has died. Every Last Word depicts the refuge Samantha finds in the Poet’s Corner club the year she most fears her OCD being discovered. Apple is only able to admit her real feelings about her mother through poetry in Apple and Rain. Gabi, A Girl in Pieces, chronicles Gabi’s eventful senior year, with poetry as the vehicle for finding her voice and confidence.

And when Emily deals with her boyfriend’s suicide through writing poetry in And We Stay, her connection with dead poet Emily Dickinson brings her in line with a poetry trend-within-a-trend. Have you spotted all of the Dickinson inspirations happening lately? Catch yourself up with titles such as Emily’s Dress and Other Missing Things, A Voice of Her Own: Becoming Emily Dickinson, Nobody’s Secret, and Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia. And that’s only the teen books — there are more in middle grade! It’s an Emily revival!

What other instances of poetry in teen literature can you recall? I know I missed some good ones — share your favorites in the comments!

–Rebecca O’Neil, currently reading The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown

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Musicals Can Enhance Collections and Curriculum

Tue, 11/24/2015 - 08:12

Music has been in the classroom for decades, but not everyone highlights the musical, which then neglects some of the most amazing storytellers from classic writers and composers such as Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webb to modern and unique writers and composers Jason Robert Brown and Lin-Minuel Miranda.

CC image via Flickr user Gary

Besides breaking up power point lectures and textbook readings with the entertainment of music or YouTube performances, musical performance can enhance the curriculum by offering an alternate voice to the same lesson.  Perhaps a song or two from 1776 will help students remember the founding fathers who wrote the Declaration of Independence.

While a musical is not 100% factual (most need to speed history along to fit in a 2-3 hour production) the positives of including musical theater into a curriculum or library collection outweigh the historical inaccuracies.  Find me any historian who doesn’t rise up to “Do You Hear the People Sing?”

Many libraries already include musical soundtracks or DVDs, but I want to encourage the partnership between libraries and the academic curriculum by going beyond books and articles.  Let the students listen to a different type of lesson.  Musicals such as Wicked are based on popular fiction, but people often forget about the musicals that can help teach history or culture, such as racial prejudices shown in Show Boat to Vietnam protests in Hair.  American culture has always been portrayed in music and theater, why not use musicals as another format to teach?

Plays and musicals are a great way to witness a story and as they focus on historical figures and events, these theatrical masterpieces can assist with curriculum.  Theater has created an opportunity to reach new audiences and teach history in a new context to a new audience.

With the newly opened Hamilton musical and the classic 1776, history lessons not only liven up with hip-hop and song, but they could be included with curriculum and collections.  George Takei’s Allegiance, which opened this month on Broadway, tells of the atrocities of an era when the American government locked away Japanese Americans into the Internment Camps.   Considering this tidbit of history is often excluded in history classes, with this new musical teachers can not only discuss its continued relevance in today’s politics and the current conversation surrounding immigration.

Sample from Hamilton:

“And? If we win our independence?
‘Zat a guarantee of freedom for our descendants?
Or will the blood we shed begin an endless
Cycle of vengeance and death with no defendants?

I know the action in the street is excitin’
But Jesus, between all the bleedin’ ‘n fightin’
I’ve been readin’ ‘n writin’
We need to handle our financial situation
Are we a nation of states? What’s the state of our nation?”

In Hamilton, audiences will learn of Alexander Hamilton’s rise from an immigrant to an American politician.  The friendship turned political rivalry between Hamilton and Aaron Burr is the moving force through the show.  Using the musical to teach deeper lessons is not new of course. From early lyrics in “My Shot” when Burr recommends discretion he also references an earlier musical, South Pacific, with the song “Carefully Taught” about how racism is taught.

“Geniuses, lower your voices
You keep out of trouble, and you double your choices
I’m with you, but the situation is fraught
You’ve got to be carefully taught:
If you talk, you’re gonna get shot!”

Speaking of war and racism found in shows like South Pacific and Allegiance, topics of immigration and social justice are headlines in our current news and offer daily topics in government and social science classes.  Students can hear new perspectives and relate these musicals to current events.  Teachers and librarians can then use the comparisons as an opportunity for discussion or to connect teens to other sources of information.   From offering examples of history and people striving for a better life in Argentina with Evita or France in Les Miserables, to pieces of literature that compare and contrast the story to stage with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Big River, musicals can enhance any collection or class experience.

A few suggestions to begin your own experience:


  • 1776 – “Molasses to Rum” where the hypocrisy of delegates from northern cities is shown concerning the slave ships and trade.
  • Parade – “How Can I Call This Home?” questions the displaced Jewish factory owner now living in Atlanta.  He is later sentenced to a crime he didn’t commit and lynched by a mob, based on the true story of Leo Frank.
  • Miss Saigon – “Bui Doi” mentions the children born to Vietnamese mothers and abandoned by their American fathers to be ostracized by their culture.
  • Ragtime – “Wheels of a Dream” tells the story of different racial groups in early 20th century America and wanting a better future in America.
  • Pirate Queen – the story of Grace O’Malley, a pirate and chieftain in Ireland who became her own captain, defended Ireland, and met with Queen Elizabeth to negotiate the release of family members. “Woman”  to see the injustices of being born ‘just a woman’ when she has the skill of any man.


  • Next to Normal – “You Don’t Know/ I Am the One”
  • Company – “Being Alive”


  • Les Miserables – all songs are necessary to cover Victor Hugo’s great masterpiece of 19th century France and the lives of Jean Valjean, Javert, and the revolutionaries.  “One Day More” is the ultimate show stopper.
  • Big River – “World’s Apart” shows the friendship, yet the difference between Jim and Huck in the musical adaptation of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
  • Jekyll and Hyde – “Confrontation” from the book with the same title shows the mental struggle between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as they each try to take control of the other.


  • In the Heights – Lin Manuel Miranda’s first musical about the community of Dominican-American Washington Heights in New York City.  The first musical focused on such a community follows locals, those with larger dreams, and those searching for a true home.  “96,000” is the opening number where nearly the entire cast dreams of winning the lottery.
  • Fiddler on the Roof – focuses on the community of a small Jewish village in Russia from the normalcy of matchmaking to the political reasons the town, and community, must leave their community and its traditions.
  • West Side Story – besides being a musical version of Romeo and Juliet and a beautiful love story, it is another brilliant example of how prejudices can get out of hand and destroy lives.

  • Jesus Christ Superstar – tells the story of Judas’ concerns over Jesus’ rise in the community and shows a softer side to both Mary Magdalene as well as a Jesus who (briefly) questions his God.  Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice certainly took on a controversial story, but it is one often studied in World Religion classes and doesn’t a rock opera make any class more exciting?

What are your favorite musicals? Have you used these resources in curriculum or library programming?  

— Sarah Carahan, currently reading All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

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Putting Women Back in the Narrative: Historical Fiction That Remembers The Ladies

Tue, 11/24/2015 - 07:00
It was pretty much inevitable that I would become a Hamilton addict.  As both an American history nerd and a musical theatre geek, I found Lin-Manuel Miranda’s brilliant musical exploring the story of Alexander Hamilton and the founding of the United States irresistible from the moment I first listened to the opening number. However, my love of Hamilton comes not only from Miranda’s incredibly well-crafted soundtrack and book but also from his clear interest in highlighting perspectives often left out of the historical record, including the voices and experiences of women. source Obviously, I am not the first to notice this; articles like Michael Schulman’s “The Women of Hamilton and Constance Gibbs’ “How the Hero of Hamilton the Musical is a Woman”  explore the powerful ways that Miranda’s writing and the performances of Phillipa Soo, Renee Elise Goldsberry, and Jasmine Cephas Jones illuminate the often unacknowledged perspectives, experiences, and contributions of women in our history.  Singing along to songs like “The Schuyler Sisters,” “Satisfied,” and “Burn,” I can’t help but feel the urge to read some great historical fiction that places women and their stories in the spotlight.

Audacity – Melanie Crowder Clara Lemlich has always wanted to learn but as the daughter of an Orthodox Jewish family in rural Russia in 1903, Clara is banned from studying Russian, reading, or writing. When the Russians’ pogroms reach their village, Clara and her family escape to join the teeming crowds of immigrants entering New York City in search of a new life. But, in America, Clara finds herself even more trapped by her lack of education and her new work in the garment industry’s sweatshops.  Soon, Clara puts aside her dreams of becoming a doctor to become an activist, leading the fight for better conditions, pay, and treatment for women garment workers. Under A Painted Sky – Stacey Lee In 1849 the trek west along the Oregon Trail is always dangerous but for young women like Samantha, a Chinese-American musician, and Annamae, a runaway African American slave, the journey is especially perilous.  After her father’s sudden death and an violent encounter at a local boarding house, Samantha has to get out of town–fast.  Annamae has been looking for a chance to make her break for freedom.  On the run from the law and disguised as boys, Sammy & Andy work together to survive and seek their freedom in the face of racism, sexism, stampedes, and deadly disease.    Lies We Tell Ourselves – Robin Talley  Sarah Dunbar starts her senior year at Jefferson High School in 1959 with the knowledge that she is about to make history as one of the first black students to graduate from the previously all white school. However, making history feels far less heroic when it involves facing the daily teasing, bullying, and constant threats of violence. Meanwhile, Linda Hairston despises the turmoil caused by the school’s decision and reiterates her father’s anti-integration opinions. But when Sarah and Linda are assigned to work together on a class project, the two young women must confront harsh truths that will shake their perceptions of each other—and stir up passions both have tried to ignore. Out of Darkness – Ashley Hope Perez Arriving in racially divided oil-mining town of New London, Texas with her younger biracial twin half-siblings, fifteen-year-old Mexican Naomi immediately knows that life here will be rough.  Living with the twins’ white father, Naomi must learn to keep the household running and deal with the community’s overwhelming racism and ominous hostility.  Her only friend is Wash Fullerton, a kind and brilliant African-American student.  But as Naomi and Wash’s friendship kindles into a passionate romance, horrific tragedy strikes the community.

A Mad Wicked Folly – Sharon Biggs Waller (2015 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults)     Miss Victoria Darling appears to have everything a wealthy young lady at the top of 1909 London society could want—except the one thing she craves above all else: to become an artist. After posing nude for her clandestine drawing class in Paris, Vicky gets shipped back to England in disgrace where her parent frantically work to get her engaged to a wealthy and appropriate young man. Meanwhile, Vicky refuses to give up and soon find herself very preoccupied with her forbidden application to the Royal College of Art, her inconvenient feelings for a young policeman, and her growing involvement with the women’s suffrage movement.

House of Purple Cedar – Tim Tingle In 1896 in the Skullyville settlement in Oklahoma territory, a horrific fire struck burned down the New Hope Academy for Girls and twenty Choctaw girls die in the blaze.  Rose Goode survives and in the aftermath, returns to her parents and beloved grandparents.  Then, while visiting the nearby town of Spiro, her grandfather is brutally attacked by the drunken town marshall Hardwicke.  As the community reacts to the attack, Rose attempts to make sense of the violence flooding her world and the continued slow destruction still facing the Choctaw people. These Shallow Graves – Jennifer Donnelly Jo Montfort, daughter of an old money family in 1890s New York, knows what her future should hold: an advantageous and appropriate marriage followed by children and a life attending an endless stream of tedious social events.  Yet Jo can’t help but dream about another life–a life where she could travel freely or write for the newspapers like Nellie Bly. Then her father is found dead in his study and Jo’s world tilts on its axis. But when she hears rumors that his death might not be an accident, Jo can’t resist her need to understand and investigate–even though the truth might destroy her. Paper Hearts – Meg Wiviott In the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz, bartering for paper or borrowing scissors could mean death.  But in the brutal winter of 1944, prisoner Zlatka risks everything to secretly craft an origami heart filled with birthday messages for her best friend Fania.  Based on a true story, this novel in verse gives voice to a group of young women who banded together to survive the horrors of Auschwitz and reclaim their humanity in seemingly impossible circumstances. — Kelly Dickinson, currently reading Infandous by Elana Arnold

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2015 Young Adult Services Symposium: New Adults

Mon, 11/23/2015 - 07:00

Sorry this wrap-up is so late, dear Hubbers – conferences always knock me out for at least a week after. Anyways, I was happy to attend the “New Adulthood: Literature & Services for NA Patrons” presented by Meg Hunt Wilson, Teen Librarian & Reference Librarian in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (my home state!) and our own Hub member manager, Molly Wetta, Collection Development Librarian at the Lawrence (Kansas) Public Library. They focused on  four aspects of the NA market – what is new adult, appeal and marketing, booktalks, and library services. I was thoroughly fascinated by their presentation, and without further ado – here’s the highlights of their talk at the 2015 YALSA YA Services Symposium.


So – what is New Adult?

New adult titles are geared towards teens who are just past high school life – 18-25 years of age is the common age range. NA books began as a self-publishing phenomenon, but eventually move on to the “regular” publishing world. The books are mostly set on college campuses, are relationship centric, fast-paced, and emotionally intense. And, oooh! Are they ever steamy! As one of my teens told me when I told her about this panel: “aren’t those the books with a lot of sex in them?”

Yes, missy. Yes, they are. They have some straight-up steamy YA appeal and feature lots of “sexytimes” – I had to work their definition into my write-up!

Even though they seemed to hit their peak in 2013, NA is still going strong with publishers picking up the “big names” of the game and leaving everyone else to the self-publishing world which has been working fine all this time.

Be aware of some common tropes in theses novels; one might define them as “problem” novels similar to teen books that deal with problem issues. Bad boys, differing economic situations between characters, drug abuse and mental illness all play heavily in NA books. One trope to be aware of: rape and sexual assault is featured often in NA books. Oftentimes, the hero of the story steps in and stops the attack; yet, the incident is usually never discussed further and could be a trigger to some readers. Unfortunately, there are other pitfalls in the realm of NA books – a lack of editing, formulaic plots, one-dimensional characters and the use of traditional gender and class stereotypes are often cited as problems within.

Molly and Meaghan gave some great booktalks. You can find the slides from their presentation on Molly’s blog, along with an even longer list of New Adult titles and additional resources. Seriously, check out all the books they talked about! I was really surprised to see a lot of YA authors also writing NA fiction – I guess I wasn’t surprised, I just didn’t know!

One list of books I will include is a list of YA titles that have some major NA appeal:

  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  • The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle (this one has graphic sex, ya’ll)
  • Just One Day by Gayle Forman
  • Girls Like Us by Gail Giles
  • The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick (this one’s angsty & dramatic!)
  • I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios (steamy!!)
  • Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lise McBride
  • What We Left Behind by Robin Talley
  • Dirty Little Secret by Jen Echols (also steamy!!)


So, why should YA Librarians care?

Well, for one thing – information seeking behaviors of college students mimic or are more similar to teens than other age groups. Those of us who work well with teens will also work well with new adults.  Guess why?  Because they were literally just teens!  Also, what about new adults who don’t self-identify as “new adult”? They actually identify more with teens as opposed to adults. The thing is, we’re helping these kiddos – it’s hard moving from teen to suddenly adult. We can be there for them to help move them up the adult ladder until they’re standing there with us!

After booktalks, Meg and Molly gave some great ideas for programming – homebrewing, weeknight dinner planning, writing workshops and book groups, financial literacy, retro gaming and digital services. You can see even more examples and ideas in this post on Molly’s blog. And, you know what? New adults aren’t always in the library. They might be in the pub on the corner, so think about your outreach and how it translates to new college students or those new to the workforce.

Meg and Molly both had some really great closing thoughts as well.  Meg: NA acknowledges and occupies a gap in between the literature and services for teens and the very different interests and behaviors of adults. Molly: NA won’t ever break outside contemporary romance and a special designation is unnecessary. But, we need to catch those patrons because we’re losing them.

Yup – we’re losing them. And, I think teen librarians and other adults who work with teens are the gateway between children’s & adult services that will help not only teens, but new adults as well. Thanks, Meg & Molly for such an entertaining and informative presentation!

— Traci Glass, currently reading Up to This Pointe by Jennifer Longo

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Diversify YA Life: LGBTQ Fiction and Non-Fiction

Mon, 11/23/2015 - 07:00

If your library is anything like mine, your LGBTQ displays and books are among the most popular in your collection.  LGBTQ fiction and non-fiction is what we like to call window and mirror books.  When teens see themselves in the book, it’s a mirror.  When teens see other people in the book, it’s a window.  Either way, LGBTQ books serve many purposes.  Bullied teens can find inspiration and the will to live in these books.  LGBTQ books can be cathartic to the teen who feels alone.  Teens with LGBTQ friends or family members seek out these books to understand and/or support their loved ones.

Below is a list of books that feature LGBTQ teens from all genres including non-fiction, humor, paranormal, romance, and graphic novels.


Kate Hill shares her journey of undergoing gender reassignment surgery.

  • Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out (2015 Stonewall Book Award Honoree) by Susan Kuklin

Interspersed with pictures, six transgender or gender neutral teens share their personal acknowledgements.

  • Branded by the Pink Triangle (2014 Stonewall Book Award Honoree) by Ken Setterington

Through personal accounts and history, Branded reveals human cruelty and stories of bravery of homosexuals in Nazi Germany.

  • Some Assembly Required: The Not so Secret Life of a Transgender Teen by Arin Andrews

Arin Andrews shares her journey of gender reassignment surgery in high school.

  • Rapture Practice: A True Story about Growing up Gay in an Evangelical Family by Aaron Hartzler

Waiting for the rapture, Aaron decides to live life but his family may not be ready for it.

  • The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to the Younger Selves Edited by Sarah Moon

Sixty-three award winning authors write stories to their teen selves about perseverance, love, and understanding.


Simon isn’t quite out of the closet and neither is Blue, his anonymous email friend. When    Martin accidentally sees Simon’s emails, Simon finds himself on the other side of blackmail and is forced to hook up Martin and his friend Abby.  Putting Makeup on a Fat Boy (2012 Stonewall Book Award Winner) by Bil Wright

What happens when a plane crashes with twelve teen beauty queens?  Will get along? Will they survive? Will they learn the opening dance number in time?

Dean is fourteen, in love with his best friend, and finds himself in the middle of a school tragedy.


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. His friend, Kyle, feels responsible for the death of his twin brother but the Leteo Institute erased Kyle’s memories. Aaron is more happy than not. This title also features another element of diversity: the POV Protagonist is Puerto Rican. 

Every Day A wakes up in a different body-sometimes it’s a girl and sometimes it’s a boy.  One time, he falls in love.

Evie is a spunky clairvoyant who is forced to live with her uncle in New York City to escape a misdeed.  When a serial killer begins to terrorize New York, Evie uses her skills to solve the murders.

A dystopian novel about genderqueer Kivali who is sent to a government sanctioned camp that develops teens into hard-working heterosexuals.

Aidan is living in a fog until his best friend moves back in town.  Suddenly, family secrets slowly begin to reveal themselves.


As a lesbian, London feels alone in her high school until she discovers the most popular boy in school is gay.  Their bond sparks rumors which results in the nickname of Dirty London.

  • Because of Her by K.E. Payne

Tabby has had to leave her girlfriend to move to London.  She’s forced to enroll into a “lady-making” school for girls.  Her relationship with her parents is on the rocks and her girlfriend has dropped a bombshell during her recent visit but then Tabby meets Eden and her world changes because of her.

Lucas and Tessa are best friends and when Lucas decides to ask her to prom, he’s surprised to learn that she’s a lesbian and will go to prom with her crush.  Will Lucas stand up for Tessa’s right to go to prom or will he walk away?

Alek’s parents spring news that he’s to attend summer school to improve his grades.  This is the worst news ever until he meets Ethan, a cool guy who want to be Alek’s friend and maybe more.  Alek, who’s never had a boyfriend or girlfriend, has to decide where his heart lies. This title also features another element of diversity: one of the protagonists is Armenian-American.

Not only is Leila different from her classmates because she’s Persian, she’s also a lesbian.  She’s almost made it through high school without a crush until Saskia moves to town.  While dealing with Saskia’s mixed signals, Leila discovers that many of her classmates have secrets of their own.  This title also features another element of diversity: the protagonist is Persian-American. 

Rather than dealing with bullies, Del decides to drop out of high school to save her dad’s cafe-The Flywheel.  Along with her prison bound best friend Charlie and her crush, a flamenco dancer, can Del’s life have a happy ending?

Mara lives in a conservative town with church-going, abusive, alcoholic parents.  When her father puts her best friend/brother Iggy in the hospital, Mara turns to a new girl Xylia for friendship.  When Xylia’s secrets, which involve Mara, are close to being revealed, Mara fears the consequences.

Andrew survived a near fatal accident but his family didn’t and now he lives and works in the hospital avoiding death.  Convinced that death is after him and Drew, a new patient, Andrew will stop at nothing to save themselves.

Farrin is the daughter of important people in Iran where homosexuality is punishable by death. With her mother’s rebel activities and Farrin’s romance with Sadira, will she and her family be rescued or will she face death?This title also features another element of diversity: the protagonist is Iranian.

Noah and Jude are twins and aspiring artists.  Noah is in love with the boy next door and Jude is “that girl.”   Due to a family tragedy and life changing secrets, Noah and Jude find themselves estranged and only honesty can save this small family.

Naomi is dreading her summer with her mother in The Hamptons until she meets some very interesting teens including the mysterious Jacinta.

Kristin’s life is perfect.  She’s homecoming queen an athlete and in love with her boyfriend.  When her first sexual encounter reveals she’s intersex, she must cope with her new self and the possibility of being exposed.

In 1959 segregated Virginia, Sarah is the first Black student at her newly integrated high school and Linda is the daughter of a proponent for the segregated south.  During a school project, Sarah and Linda discover their feelings are deeper than friends.  This title also features another element of diversity: one of the protagonists is African-American. 

Graphic Novels

When Callie becomes a set designer for her middle school play, Moon Over Mississippi, drama happens on and off stage.

Shuichi and Yoshiko have several things in common, the fifth grade, happy homes, and living in the wrong bodies.

Meet Riverdale’s new resident, Kevin.  Find out how me meets Archie, Jughead, and the gang and how he deals with bullying and discovering who he is.

Nimona is a shapeshifter who wants to team up and wreak havoc with super villain Ballister Blackheart.  During their missions of revenge on Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and the Institution, Ballister learns that Nimona is wreckless and mysterious.

“Since most of the world is straight, they can’t relate to issues surrounding a teen who is struggling with their sexuality.  Because of this, LGBTQ fiction is an education for the straight world.” – Katie

“There are books where a character is presumed to be gay and then there are books like More Happy Than Not where the main character is out.  For teens who are struggling, and I know a girl who is, books like More Happy Than Not show her that it’s okay to be gay.” – Nathalie

Katie and Nathalie are the reason by We Need Diverse Books.

— Dawn Abron, currently reading The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

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All the Players are Belong to Us: Multiplayer Games in Libraries

Mon, 11/23/2015 - 07:00

A lot of gaming has become about community. Many games are built to be an experience. The boom of rhythm games, family gaming on the Wii, and the Kinect, all facilitate a multi-player experience. Really, some of my best experiences are hanging out at the arcade, with my quarter on the glass, waiting for my turn on Mortal Kombat.


In teen spaces, multiplayer gaming is vital. Why have a single player game when you can have four … or eight … or sixteen? It is most cost-effective and efficient to offer games where the greatest number of players can get in on the action.

While many multiplayer games are competitive, thus creating winners and losers (and sometimes sore feelings), they still tend to create a great sense of community. Lesser players will team up. Good sports will congratulate others. And win, lose, or draw, a great play still elicits excited shouts of joy from all players.

Games (for consoles, don’t worry, I will get to PC games in the future)

Super Smash Bros – In any iteration this is a must own title. Sure, it is just mindless button mashing, although seasoned players will disagree. However, this beloved Nintendo fighting game lets players fight with their favorite characters (from Link to Luigi). They get crazy weapons and special moves. SSB tournaments still bring in the numbers.

MarioKart The Wii version sucks, so spring for a Gamecube and Double Dash. This zany racing title requires precision, along with some button mashing. Everything moves so fast, this one hardly ever creates bad blood. Pick your characters, pick your cars, and off you go.

Injustice: Gods Among UsNow, some may be a bit queasy about offering fighting games, especially depending on the age makeup of your area. This DC Universe title is a bit more brutal than Smash Bros. However, teens seem to glom on to being able to fight their favorite characters against each other. While the action in this rivals an action movie, there is little blood, and much like the comic universe, no one ever really dies.

*sidenote* Make sure you have a way to deal with waiting players. “Loser walks” is often a suggestion of the teens but can lead to hurt feelings. We tend to switch it up based on who has been playing the longest. If you are doing competitive play, there is no way to get around hurt feelings. Well, besides, you know, not calling teenagers “Losers.” *end sidenote*

Any Football Game (Madden, NCAA)Chances are, there are some sports-obsessed teens in your area. The Madden football franchise (and most titles like it), give these teens a great experience. Football games seem to go over best, since the controls make sense. Games can go a bit long, and having more than 2 players rarely works. However, teens not playing will still gather to watch thanks to ever improving graphics. While not generally as popular, for multiplayer anyway, other sports games like FIFA and NBA Live also get played.

Rhythm games (DDR, Guitar Hero)The boom has gone bust. Most people, generally, aren’t clamoring to play Rhythm games anymore. That doesn’t mean they aren’t still fun and there isn’t still an audience. Nostalgia, even for teens, can be a powerful draw. Don’t go out of your way to buy new Rhythm games. However, if you already own them, have a tournament or a special day.

Mario Party – This might be the Monopoly of videogames. It takes forever. Friendships are ruined. Teens always want to play it. While it works best for a small group (like when noone else is waiting), this game has its fans. There is plenty of replay value with the variety of mini-games, and the luck aspect makes sure everyone has a chance. But … it does take for-ev-er to play.



It sure seems that way Andre.

There are also plenty of old school games that have multi-player options. While newer systems are shinier with better graphics, teens are not averse to playing good games with their friends, even in 8-bit. There are plug-and-play games that are affordable (those aren’t really multi-player, but you can set up head-to-head competitions pretty easily.) You can also create a STEAM activity and refurbish an old arcade machine and get 520 games in one (please note some of the titles on these gameboards are a bit racy).

Plenty of the above titles are pretty standard, so what multi-player console games have you had luck with?

— Scott Rader, currently playing New Super Mario Bros

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Week in Review: November 20th

Fri, 11/20/2015 - 07:00

Hello! Congratulations, we’ve all made it to the end of another week, and looming on the horizon is the holiday season, and of course, end of the year best of books lists. Check out some highlights from this week in books and reading and resources on collection development.

Books and Reading

Neal Shusterman’s Challenger Deep won the National Book Award for young people’s literature.

This shadow-themed book list would make a great idea for a book display!

Barnes & Noble’s blog shared books for fans of The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.

Books that can be windows and mirrors into Muslim life at Rich in Color.

Looking to help readers make sense of tragedies like terrorist attacks? Tips on making book recommendations on sensitive and difficult issues might help.

Diversity in YA has rounded up this week’s new releases featuring diverse characters or authors

Collection Development

Have you ever thought of circulating a kit? Andrea from Teen Services Underground discusses putting together bags full of materials to learn ukulele, magic tricks, and more.

VOYA also has an article on circulating kits, this time with a technology focus.

Looking to build up your collection of Spanish language YA? Here’s a list of popular YA translated into Spanish.

Want to snag some great deals on video games for your collection on Black Friday? Teen Librarian Toolkit has some tips.

— Molly Wetta, Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan

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Transgender Day of Remembrance: A Booklist

Fri, 11/20/2015 - 07:00

November 20th marks Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to remember those who have been killed because of their gender identity or expression. While there are not yet many children’s and young adult books featuring transgender characters, here are a few books that can be used in a display or program.

Picture books are a great way for a person to engage briefly with an idea, and most are written for children, so the language is accessible to a wide variety of people.

  • Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall. This story of a blue crayon who is mistakenly labeled “red” is a great way to introduce young children to a character who doesn’t fit the label s/he’s been given.
  • I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings. This is the picture-book biography of Jazz Jennings, a transgender teen who publicly came out when she was still in kindergarten.
  • My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis. This story of a boy who enjoys sparkly, pink things is another way to introduce the idea of being gender-nonconforming in an accessible format.
  • Be Who You Are by Jennifer Carr. This picture book is the story of Hope, a fictional character who was born Nick and comes to the realization that she is, in fact, a girl.
  • Rough, Tough Charley by Verla Kay. This is an account of Charley Parkhurst, a California stagecoach driver who was discovered, upon death, to be a woman who had been living life as a man.

Nonfiction books can provide information, especially when readers are reluctant to search online in fear that someone may see what they’ve been searching for.

  • Transparent by Cris Beam. Beam profiles four transgender teens at a school for transgender students in Los Angeles. This narrative nonfiction has been described as carefully written and sensitive to a sensitive topic.
  • Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen by Arin Andrews. Arin tells the story of his transition and life as a trans teen in this autobiography.
  • Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition by Katie Rain Hill. Katie, who at one time was dating Arin, tells her side of the story in her transition as a transfeminine teen.
  • Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin (2015 Stonewall Honor Book). This collection of photographs and interviews with transgender and gender-noncomforming teens is another easily accessible way for those who are not familiar with the concept of being transgender to take a brief walk in another person’s shoes.
  • My Gender Workbook by Kate Bornstein. Hands-down this was the most recommended book when I asked those in the trans* community to identify books that would be helpful to teens and those who work with teens.
  • Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws by Kate Bornstein. While this book doesn’t focus singly on issues affecting the transgender community, it is true that transgender people have a higher rate of suicide than their cisgender counterparts. This book is a list of suicide alternatives, some silly and some serious.

Young adult novels are a great way to provide both windows and mirrors to those who may wish to learn more about Transgender Day of Remembrance.

  • What We Left Behind by Robin Talley. This book follows Toni and Gretchen as they head to college and face the world outside their cloistered high school. Apart for the first time in two years, each has the opportunity to explore what it means to be themselves.
  • Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde (2014 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults). Elle is sixteen, but her mother has given her her own apartment so that Elle will be out of her way. In meeting the neighbors, Elle discovers that one of them is a transman.
  • Luna by Julie Anne Peters (2005 Best Books for Young Adults, 2006 Popular Paperbacks, 2005 Stonewall Honor Book). During the day, Liam acts like every other boy at school. At night, however, he transforms into Luna, the person she truly is. Can Luna’s friends and family accept her transformation?
  • Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher (201o Best Books for Young Adults). Logan is recovering from a breakup when Sage moves into town and begins attending his school. Logan is drawn to Sage, and then he discovers that Sage is transgender, and hasn’t been allowed to attend regular school for the past four years because her family is scared of the way people will react to her.
  • Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger. Grady’s family won’t accept him as a boy and even his best friend has deserted him. However, he finds an ally in Sebastian, who explains to him that parrotfish sometimes change their gender when needed.
  • Happy Families by Tanita Davis. Unlike other books on this list, this book tells the story of a family where one of the parents comes out as transgender. Told in alternating viewpoints between the two children, the journey of this family on the road to recovery is not to be missed.
  • Wandering Son by Takako Shimura. This graphic novel series features two transgender characters: one girl who was born in a boy’s body and one boy who was born in a girl’s body.  Written and drawn in a manga style, this book would be very accessible to those who find traditional print materials daunting.
  • Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills. Gabe is very interested in music, and he is looking to participate in a DJ contest, but he wants to do it as Gabe, while much of the world still sees him as Elizabeth. This is a great book for music fans with additional information in the appendix for those who wish to learn more about being transgender.
  • Being Emily by Rachel Gold. Emily is having difficulties getting her friends and family to accept her as the girl she is, but her therapist works with her to help her be strong, and eventually even her girlfriend comes around to be her supporter.
  • Run, Clarissa, Run by Rachel Eliason. Clarissa is a hacker, and she repairs people’s computers in order to save money for the sex reassignment surgery (SRS) she eventually wants to have. Without the support of her family, Clarissa escapes to Thailand to have this surgery performed.
  • Every Day by David Levithan. This book features a character named A who wakes up every day in a new body. Sometimes the bodies are male, sometimes female, sometimes gay, sometimes straight. One of the bodies A inhabits is transgender.
  • Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. This story, which is a satire on reality TV, beauty pageants, commercialism, etc., tells of pageant contestants who crash-land on an island and must survive until help comes, or until they create a rescue themselves. One of the characters is transgender.
  • I Am J by Cris Beam. This is an inner-city story of a boy who has to move out of his home because his parents cannot accept that he is transgender. He navigates the world of therapy in the hopes of beginning hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
  • Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark. This novel in verse a la Ellen Hopkins tells the story of a boy who is coming to grips with the fact that he may be transgender, his girlfriend, and a transwoman at an LGBT teen center who is “paying it forward” by working with teens. The free verse style of writing will appeal to teens who enjoy stories written in verse or want something they can read relatively quickly.
  • If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan. This story takes place in Iran, where homosexuality is punishable by death, but being transgender is treated with surgery and hormones. Sahar does not consider herself to be trans, but she is willing to go through the necessary surgeries if it means she can stay with Nasrin. This is an excellent multicultural story that features transgender characters.

–Jenni Frencham, currently reading You’re Never Weird on the Internet by Felicia Day

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In Defense of YA Horror

Thu, 11/19/2015 - 07:00

 I grew up as a really sheltered kid – well, as far as books and movies went. I didn’t even see The Terminator until I was in college.

So when I was exposed to horror movies for the first time as an older teen (to classics like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead), I was overcome. Mostly just because I was so unused to it, but still – I could not wrap my head around the idea that people willingly exposed themselves to such terrible concepts.

Honestly, I think a lot of what really bothered me about horror – as a genre – was the amount of terrible things that the main characters could not control. As a person who wrestles with always wanting to be in control (of, like, everything), it was difficult to watch people of my age (at the time) grappling with things that were that horrific. How, I can remember wondering, can we be expected to do this? How can we possibly deal with stuff like this? If you look at the broader picture, I think that as a teen, I was overwhelmed by the world and all the terrible things it contained. How could I face it?

Keep in mind, I also grew up as a post-9/11 kid. I was 14 when I they announced over the intercom that there had been a terrorist attack. As a ninth grader, I didn’t even know what a “terrorist” was. I had no idea that terror – horror’s real-world counterpart – would become such a staple of my adult news exposure.

Maybe that’s what upset me so much about horror movies – the way terrible, incomprehensible things just happened to regular people – people (especially in teen slasher flicks) that were just like me. They didn’t deserve it, they didn’t want it, and they couldn’t control it. All they could do was deal with it. In those first years after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, those concepts were all too real.

I got older. I still didn’t like horror very much – until, that is, I began to deal with clinical depression. Much like (the heroic, fantastic, beloved) Allie Brosch in her now-famous comic on the topic, depression was my turning point. Dealing with something that was so real and overpowering was the scariest thing I’d ever done. And then one day I watched a scary movie (well, not that scary – it was Ghost Ship, after all) alone, and I actually enjoyed myself.

What attracts me to horror now – in movies and books – is what I learned on that day: horror isn’t about the Horrific Event. Horror is about surviving the Horrific Event.

As adults, we know that terrible, tragic things happen all too often. It’s a hard thing to accept at any age, but especially as a teenager. You emerge from a (hopefully) happy childhood into a world where awful things happen all too frequently.

YA horror showcases two very important concepts: first, that the terror is real; and second, that there can be survivors. We the readers (or viewers) watch, as the Teen Who Is Sort of Like Us is faced with a monster. We watch, with bated breath, as she deals with it to the best of her ability. It’s messy and it’s scary and it’s terrifying. And we watch as she survives. We watch, and are reassured: if they can do it, so can we.

Yes, YA horror is dark – and no, not everyone survives in every book. But YA horror is always the story of someone attempting to deal with a scary world. I can think of no better age group that needs this kind of story than teens, as they leave childhood to enter a crazy, messed up world. Give your teens a horror book as a way of telling them: yes, the world is scary. Here’s a story of someone who made it through anyway.

If you’re looking for some great YA horror books to recommend, check out two of my favorites:


Survive the Night, by Danielle Vega




The Boy Meets Girl Massacre (Annotated) by Ainslie Hogarth



– Savannah Kitchens, currently reading I am Princess X, by Cherie Priest

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Reality Scoop – Epilepsy Awareness Month

Wed, 11/18/2015 - 09:00

I’m back with another round of Realistic Fiction for young adults!  November is Epilepsy Awareness Month.  Epilepsy affects about 2 million people in the United States and is characterized as recurrent, unprovoked seizures.  Of the 2 million, about 326,000 youth under the age of 18 have epilepsy and around 200,000 new cases are diagnosed every year.  Teens with epilepsy have seizures that start in the brain.  The brain uses electrical signals to pass messages between brain cells.  If these signals are disrupted, this can lead to a seizure.  For some teens, it will be a temporary problem, easily controlled with medication and outgrown after a few years.  For others, it may be a lifelong challenge affecting many areas of their lives.

Epilepsy is usually diagnosed when a teen has more than one seizure.  The types of seizures can vary.  Seizures can affect their feelings, cognizance, and even their movement.  Sometimes there is an aggregation or accumulation of seizures that may cause disorientation, unusual feelings, repeating movements, or they may even black out and suffer brief moments of unconsciousness.

The impact of epilepsy can be multifaceted for teens.  They are dealing with regular or normal teen issues and then on top of that they are hit with seizures.  This can aggravate or create problems of low self-esteem, dependency, mood swings, and sometimes behavior difficulties in adolescence.  Many teens struggle with epilepsy and it can be hard for them to come to terms with such a life changing condition.  Talking about any worries they may have and asking questions about epilepsy may help teens to make sense of what is happening to them.

In honor of Epilepsy Awareness Month, this month’s Reality Scoop focus on YA books will be teens living with epilepsy and the challenges they face as well as how it affects their lives.

Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas – Ollie and Moritz are best friends, but they can never meet.  Ollie is allergic to electricity.  Contact with it causes debilitating seizures.  Moritz has a weak heart and has a pacemaker.  The two are both hiding away from the world and by writing to each other a strong friendship is forged.  This keeps both boys sane in times of darkness and despair.  This is a story of how differences can bring two people together and how their struggles can reach beyond what is normal and what is fair and bring it back around to just being real people waiting to step out of the darkness.

100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith – Finn Easton lives by miles not minutes.  While other people are looking at their watches, Finn is calculating in miles.  Sometimes he has seizures and he has a scar on his back from when a horse fell out of the sky.  He’s got an amazing best friend, the one and only Cade Hernandez.  The two go on an adventure together and end up being unlikely heroes.  The story blends together how a teen can live with epilepsy and still try to enjoy friendship and love, and still try to navigate the normal pitfalls of adolescence.

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence – Alex Woods is not afraid to speak his mind.  He thinks a lot and he talks even more.  Alex could be considered annoying, but he’s not, he’s straightforward, trustworthy, and charming.  It’s the universe that really needs to figure the whole thing out not Alex.  Readers can go on a journey with Alex as explains his diagnosis of epilepsy and how he has had to deal with death and the questions that he has about his life going forward.

Zane’s Trace by Allan Wolf – Zane Guesswind is running from one tragedy right into another.  Unfortunately, it’s his own tragedy over and over again.  Zane has epilepsy and he jumps into a stolen 1969 Barracuda on his way to Zanesville, Ohio.  He brings along a six-pack of Mountain Dew, his brother’s driver’s license, and a big pack of black Sharpies.  Zane is in for a big surprise when he picks up Libba a hitchhiker and finds out that there is much closer to finding out who he is and how to deal with the effects of epilepsy on his life.

A Handful of Stars by Barbara Girion – This is a classic young adult novel that dates back to 1983, although it has a timeless quality to it because it speaks to all teens that have ever felt out of place.  Julie is a busy high school sophomore who is suddenly stricken with epileptic seizures.  She must learn to live with her condition as the doctors attempt to control it through medication.  Julie struggles against the cruelty of her own friends and her own bitterness, searching desperately for her “handful of stars” and finding them in unexpected places.

If you or someone you know is a teenager with epilepsy you don’t have to struggle alone.  There are several resources available to assist you in navigating and handling the various aspects of epilepsy.  The CDC’s Managing Epilepsy Well (MEW) network is composed of individuals interested in improving the care of people with epilepsy.  The CDC is working to create management programs and tools that help those with epilepsy better  manage their disorder and improve their quality of life.  Teens with epilepsy seeking resources or information can go to the Youth & Teens Epilepsy Navigator created by the Epilepsy Foundation of America.

— Kimberli Buckley, currently reading The Syndrome by Ridley Pearson



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YA Literary Trope: The Buried Memories

Wed, 11/18/2015 - 07:00

Welcome back readers! We are wrapping up our on-going discussion of literary tropes: common recurring themes found in YA literature.  So far we have examined The Old Clunker I Drive, The I Already Know you Introduction, The I Have to Take Care of my Parent(s), The Manic Pixie Dream Girl (and Boy), the A-Hole Friends, the Awesome Outfit, The Repressed Protagonist , and The Goofball Best Friend.  All good things come to an end.  But before we say goodbye to these weekly tropes, let us not forget: The Buried Memories. BEWARE, SPOILERS AHEAD!

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.  Cady has always spent her summers on the private island off the coast near Cape Cod with her wealthy family plus a “special” family friend.  But something happened two summers ago– and Cady cannot remember.  According to her mother, Cady has been told the truth of what happened that night over and over, and everytime she forgets again.   So, she returns to the island to try to dig up her memories.  No matter how many times I re-read this fantastic tale, I cannot help the shock I feel when Cady remembers the truth.

Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black.  Hazel and Ben grew up in Fairfold; a small town like many others.  Except for the Fairies, they live there too.  Oh, and there is a boy encapsulated in time asleep in a glass coffin in the woods.  Usually the humans and the others live in symbiosis in Fairfold.  But there are attacks. There are unexplained disappearances.  When the siblings were younger, Hazel toted a antique sword and pretended to be a Knight while Ben played his flute and “enchanted” the monsters.  But something happened, and now Hazel is just an average girl and Ben never plays music anymore.  Hazel navigates her way through the murkiness of fairy rules and memories taken from her, and what she learns is shocking.

Charm & Strange (2014 Morris Award Winner) by Stephanie Kuehn.  Win knows that there is something different about him.  He feels it most when there is a full moon.  Sent away to a boarding school in Vermont, Win does not trust himself to deal with his current fears and sift through reality.  But the boy recalls when he was Drew; a championship tennis player with a violent temper.  This is a psychologically suspenseful tale told by one of the most unreliable of narrators.  Do not trust.

Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson.  Emily Bird was the good girl, she always did what was expected of her, had the proper friends, the perfect boyfriend, and the right groomed look.  But when a trusted authority doses Emily with a powerful drug intended to carve out a memory of something she was not supposed to see, she becomes “Bird”– the girl who dates the school drug-dealer, who finds new friends, and allows her hair to go natural.  But in the near-future Apocalyptic version of Washington, DC uncovering lost memories does not prove simple.

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver.  Nick was always the more responsible sister.  Dara was the younger, wild, and beautiful one.  But the two were best friends.  After a dangerous car crash, the sisters and their relationship were forever changed.  Now, years later, Dara has been missing for days.   When a younger girl in town also disappears, Nick starts to worry.  An investigation of the seedier parts of town leads Nick to find things perhaps best left uncovered.

Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee. Rose is the perpetual new girl.  When she and her father move yet again to a small town in Australia, Rose is surprised that outgoing, popular, and beautiful Pearl wants to be friends with her.  An annual tradition draws near, where the girls in town dress up for a Harvest celebration.  Pearl encourages Rose to join in and get a dress made by a local seamstress.  But the dress is more than a dress and on a magical night the two girls are changed irrevocably.  This is a mystery which starts at the end and ends at the start.  And what is revealed in between will shock and amaze you.  Chilling, charming, and utterly unique.

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma.  Chloe’s older sister Ruby is the girl everyone wants to be; and be with.  The girls’ mother is a negligent alcoholic and Ruby practically raised Chloe.  One night at a party at the reservoir, Chloe jumps into the water on a dare. The prank turns deadly when Chloe bumps into the floating corpse of London: a girl who sits near her in class.  Devastated, Chloe is sent away to live with her father.  Ruby comes a few years later to “rescue” her and Chloe returns to her home town.  But somehow, London is alive and well and hanging out at parties. This twisted story is fairy-tale-like as it’s truths unravel.

Any other buried memory tropes out there?  I am wondering why all seven authors are female– is this a feminine trope?  Where are the dudes?  Thank you for joining in this weekly adventure into YA literary tropes!

-Tara Kehoe

Currently reading: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

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Crossovers: Race Matters

Tue, 11/17/2015 - 07:00

It’s 1987. A middle school teacher follows the sound of anguished cries to find a young black girl lying in the filth of an abandoned basement. The girl, fourteen-year-old Sybilla, is bound and has racial epithets scrawled on her body. Later Sybilla reveals that she had been left in the basement after being abducted and repeatedly raped by white cops. Although Sybilla clearly wishes to avoid the publicity her charges will bring, her case becomes a crusade for justice in the impoverished African American community. A well-known civil rights champion, Reverend Marcus Mudrick, teams with his lawyer brother to publicize and punish the accused, but there are unintended consequences.

The Sacrifice, an adult book by Joyce Carol Oates, is told from multiple viewpoints. Sybilla’s mother, Ednetta, has learned the skills needed to survive a life of poverty and abuse. She lives with a convicted murderer, Anis, who has lived his own life in the shadow of racial violence. Readers are plunged from the interior life of one character after another, quickly realizing the verity of each viewpoint.

Similarly, in Kekla Magoon’s young adult novel, How It Went Down, the story of sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson’s death is examined from many angles by witnesses and community members. Gunned down on the street by a white man, African American Tariq may have been guilty of brandishing a gun, or he may have been carrying a Snickers bar. The difference is in the eye of the beholder, it seems. Once again, the issue is taken up by a crusading minister, this time it’s Reverend Alabaster Sloan, whose motives are mixed. As in The Sacrifice, one terrible crime is strategically poised as the emblem of racism.

Both authors ably manipulate the reader’s understanding of events, probing at cultural blinders and fears. Both incidents feel “ripped from the headlines.” Indeed, Sybilla’s story is patterned after a true incident that occurred in New York in 1987. Fifteen-year-old Tawana Brawley was found in a trash bag, covered with racial slurs and feces. She accused six white men of raping her. The details of the story closely parallel the actual events, while Magoon’s book conveys the spirit of many recent incidents, if not the details themselves.

It is the spirit, however, that makes these fictitious novels pulse with relevance. Each is unsparing in the examination of racism, that elephant of distrust that sits implacably in the midst of American society. For a nonfiction look at the inequalities of American justice, check out Jill Leovy’s Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America. While focusing on the murder of a police detective’s son in South Los Angeles, Ghettoside takes a hard look on the routine tolerance of black-on-black homicide. Leovy, the author of the Homicide Blog, takes readers into the homes of families that have lost sons, brothers, and fathers to gang-related violence, murders that are never resolved despite the fact that “everyone knows” who did it.

For those who believe that justice is blind, these books are powerful evidence that when it comes to crime in America, race does matter.

— Diane Colson, currently reading an advanced reader’s copy of I’m from Nowhere by Suzanne Myers

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