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It’s Not Just About Banned Books: Self-Censorship and Library Collections

Mon, 09/28/2015 - 06:25

It’s Banned Books Week! That time of year when we are all encouraged to discuss the importance of intellectual freedom and the problem with banning books. 2015 is not without its share of book challenges and bans making it into the news. For a few examples check out these articles on Ted Dawe’s Into the River, Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, or Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of a Dog in the Nighttime.

While news articles like these are a great place to start talking about book banning, there’s another kind of censorship I want to encourage us all to think about – self censorship. A simple search will pull up a number of interesting studies and articles on the subject, especially Debra Lau Whelen’s 2009 survey for School Library Journal and the accompanying article “A Dirty Little Secret: Self-Censorship.”

This Banned Books Week I want to challenge us all to think about self censorship in terms of our own choices, and hopefully keep it in mind as we make decisions for our library patrons throughout the year.

— Miriam Wallen, currently reading Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

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Week in Review: September 25th

Fri, 09/25/2015 - 07:00

Happy Fall Hubbers! Here’s your Week in Review for Friday, September 25th!

Books and Reading

Pop Culture

Just for Fun!

—Katie Shanahan Yu, currently reading Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen

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Fandom 101: The Doctor is In

Fri, 09/25/2015 - 07:00

Don’t Blink.

Wibbly wobbly- timey wimey.

Bow ties are cool.

It’s bigger on the inside.

Fantastic! Allons-y! Geronimo!

For the uninitiated, those phrases and words mean little to nothing. To the Whovian Fandom, fans of the British television series Doctor Who, they mean a whole lot. Doctor Who (never Dr. Who!) has been a phenomenon for over fifty years, and with each new Doctor a whole new generation of fans is born. To date there have been 13 different Doctors (if you include the War Doctor, who only appeared in the 50th anniversary special in 2013 and was played by Sir John Hurt). They are all the same person, though- a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey who regenerates every few seasons instead of dying. Though he keeps the memories of his past incarnations, every Doctor is a slightly different man, with a different way of dressing, connecting to his companions, and even reacting to the universe around him, and every Whovian has their favorite.

Chances are, if you’re a Whovian, you did just that!

Commonly referred to by either the actor’s last name (for example Tennant’s Doctor, or just simply Tennant) or their number (which is always capitalized) fans have spent the last 50 years touting their favorites as the best and arguing over whether the Daleks or Cybermen or Weeping Angels are the most villainous. Though times and special effects have changed, at the heart of the story (or really at the hearts, since The Doctor has two) is an alien who leads his usually human companions on amazing adventures through time and space while he tries to save as many people and aliens from bad situations as he can- even if it means occasionally losing himself in the process.

Deep, huh? But also a lot of fun! The Doctor travels through time and space in his T.A.R.D.I.S. (Time and Relative Dimension in Space), a space ship-time machine combo that always looks like a 1960’s British Police Phone Box because its chameleon circuit is stuck. Many of the show’s quirks stem from the fact that back in 1963, this “kids’ show” had a limited budget. Therefore, rather than create a new ship for every show the TARDIS has been stuck in its familiar blue box form for fifty years, a shape which has become an icon of the show. The Doctor’s ability to regenerate, too, was less a product of story telling and more a way to keep the show going when William Hartnell, Doctor number One, became too ill to carry on the role.

In the same way that The Doctor is not confined to any one place or time, Doctor Who is not confined to television. Here are some materials that any Whovian would be interested in reading, or would also be great introductions to The Doctor for any non-Whovians who like science fiction, graphic novels, adventure stories, or information about the behind the scenes world of the entertainment industry.

There are several newer Doctor Doctor Who novels available, as well as audio dramas that are often read by the actors in the show. These books read like episodes and may also appeal to non-fans of the show who are fans of action- adventure and science fiction. These are usually about a Doctor and his companions from Ten and on, though there is a short story compilation that was originally published online and recently revised to include 12 tales in it—one for each Doctor, and written by some notable authors (Neil Gaiman, Eoin Colfer, and Holly Black just to name a couple.) For fans of all Doctors this is a real treat, and though it’s a lengthy tome the stories are short and action packed. They are a great introduction to The Doctor in his many forms for new fans and non-fans alike.

If your interest turns to a more graphic literary experience, IDW and more recently Titan Comics have comic series with some stunning artwork as well as adventurous story lines. Doctors from all time periods appear, though Doctors Ten, Eleven and Twelve have gotten more love recently. If you’d rather not collect weekly or monthly installments most of these stories have been bound into graphic novels. There was even a Star Trek: The Next Generation – Doctor Who crossover well worth mentioning, particularly if you’re trying to introduce a Trekker to Who, or a Whovian to Trek, or if, like me, you’re just a fan of both.

If you’re looking to get more of a handle on the Doctor Whoniverse, or know someone who like to see how television shows are pulled together and special effects work, there are some excellent nonfiction titles that delve into the creation of the show, detail the monsters, go in-depth on the characters, and just discuss The Doctor himself. With the Fiftieth Anniversary having just happened in 2013 and a new regeneration of The Doctor coming on the scene about the same time many older non-fiction volumes have been updated with new information. Here are a couple that Whovians in my neck of the woods can’t get enough of as well as some resources to find out more:


Wikipedia’s Doctor Who page: I know, Wikipedia is not a librarian’s favorite tool, but Whovians are fiercely protective of The Doctor, and it’s unlikely that there will be any misinformation to be found on that page!

BBC’s Doctor Who: The BBC Doctor Who site is a great place to go for information on the new series, Doctor Who history, and even games.

IMDb Doctor Who page: The IMDb page that covers all episodes produced from 2005, when the series was rebooted with Christopher Eccleston as Doctor  number Nine.

Incidentally, my favorite Doctor is Ten, but I have a soft spot in my heart for Nine since he was technically my first.  And of the “classic” Doctors I’m partial to Four and his most excellent scarf.

— Carla land, currently reading Doctor Who: 12 Doctors, 12 Stories again because it was just that good.

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Booklist: Extraordinary New Nonfiction

Thu, 09/24/2015 - 07:00

Can you believe it’s already almost the end of September? I think I must do a lot of my Hub posts at the end of the month because by the time I’m writing them I’m astounded at how it’s suddenly the end of the month.

Anyways. Hubbers! Exciting news! Nonfiction for teens is getting better and better. I had my whole month filled to the brim with great nonfiction that totally read like fiction. I was on the edge of my seat; I wanted to learn more about each topic as soon as I was finished with each book I read. I was excited (for lack of a better word) about typhoid fever, WWII Russia and WWI Russia.

Teens may think that nonfiction is dull and boring (I’m pretty sure that I did when I was a teen), but I think that nonfiction for teens and adults has come a long way. Instead of rote recitation of facts and figures, nonfiction is including stories of hope, triumph, will, starvation, cannibalism (we’ll get to that later), and more in a way that is lyrically beautiful and hooks readers from the very first page.

I actually wanted to read most of these books because I participated in School Library Journal’s annual FREE all-day virtual conference, SummerTeen. If you haven’t participated in the SummerTeen experience, you totally should. It’s a fun day of presentations (Jason Reynolds’ keynote speech was so unbelievable; I’m still thinking about it 2 months later) that you can attend from your desk or in your pajamas – what could be better than that? So, at SummerTeen, I “attended” a great session on new nonfiction for teens that featured some of the books I’ll be spotlighting today. I’ll also be featuring a couple of additional nonfiction books that I loved that I just know the teens in your life will grab up and absorb knowledge from. Join me, won’t you – on this journey through the world of extraordinary nonfiction.

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming  (2015 YALSA Nonfiction for Young Adults Finalist): This book is the oldest of all the ones I’ll be talking about today; it came out in 2014 and was a finalist for the 2015 YALSA Nonfiction for Young Adults award as well as a 2015 Siebert honor book. And, it’s well deserved – this book was so engaging and entertaining, I wanted it to never end.

Now, I’m sure most of us know the story of the Romanovs: Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, Empress Alexandra, and their 4 daughters and 1 son loomed over Russia from 1868-1918, and through their policies created mass inequity between classes while living in decadence. When you first open the book and see that huge family chart with names and dates and all the lines connecting them and theirs, you might feel like “I’m not going to understand one thing in this book” (and “you” was actually me) – but, fear not – this book is so easy to read that first chart will be long forgotten after the first chapter. Fleming does a great job of incorporating not only accounts from those high in power in the government, but also accounts from everyday workers and those so poor they could not afford to eat; it provided a nice balance to the Romanovs who thought that everything was perfectly fine in Russia, and that everyone just wanted to complain. When it finally comes to the end that we all know about, I still ended up learning things that I’m still thinking about many months later (just remember the jewels under their dresses when you get to that part of the story. Good grief.).

Plus, Rasputin. People. That could have been a story all to itself. The book ends with the death of Lenin and the realization that Stalin is now coming into power. I was so mad when this book ended. I wanted to know what happened when Stalin came into power! But, guess what? Then I picked up this next book, and my wishes were granted…

Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson (2015 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature Longlist): So, short personal note first: I was listening to Here & Now on NPR Monday morning, and all of a sudden they started talking about this book! I yelped out loud, and my husband thought I had spotted a bug. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the interview here it is: NPR Symphony for the City of the Dead, and they play pieces of Shostakovich’s symphonies, too! Outstanding!

This book is so good, people. So good. It’s the story of Dmitri Shostakovich and his Symphony No. 7 – the Leningrad Symphony which he wrote during the ravages of WWII when Hitler’s army surrounded his beloved city and separated it from the whole world. No food, no fuel, no one coming in or out. Everyone was doomed to die within the city limits, but you know what? Not everyone did – and this symphony that was born out of starvation and fear and terror and sadness might have been a part of that city’s resilience and determination to survive. It’s broken into three parts: telling the early story of Shostakovich, the invasion and surrounding of Leningrad that also includes the composition of the symphony and its eventual performances, and what happened afterward. Plus, you get a whole history lesson on Stalin’s rise to power, and all the horrible things he did that made it so easy for Hitler to invade.

It picked right up where The Family Romanov left off, so it’s great as a stand-alone or paired with that book to provide the history of Russia over 2 World Wars. M.T. Anderson described his book (and I’m paraphrasing here) as a horrific dystopian novel where there’s cannibalism (there it is), espionage, murder, intrigue and more…but, IT’S ALL TRUE. If that doesn’t sell this awesome book to teens, I don’t know what will. I’ve included a link to the Leningrad Symphony below. Since I’ve read this book, it’s all I’ve wanted to listen to.

Terrible Typhoid Mary: a True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America by Susan Campbell Bartoletti: I really loved Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s other nonfiction works; Hitler Youth and They Called Themselves the KKK.   They both are just really great nonfiction books if you’re looking for other titles by her to try. And, I think that this book on Typhoid Mary is just as interesting as her previous works. It’s well-researched, full of “OMG!” moments, and just an overall fascinating and engaging read. Susan gives readers the full story (as best she can with spotty records. Oh, and Typhoid Mary wasn’t big on writing about herself or giving interviews) on the woman history has deemed the deadliest cook in America. Everywhere she was, people contracted typhoid fever, and many people died as a result. But, she never admitted responsibility, never admitted that she had ever even had typhoid. She was held for many years in a prison on an island, but was eventually released…and you won’t believe what happened after that. I didn’t know much about Mary Mallon, so this story definitely piqued my interest in learning more about her.

As I mentioned, there isn’t a lot of information about Mary available besides testimonials from the few people who pursued her over miles and time; Mary was very private, gave no interviews, and hardly ever spoke of herself. But, Susan did a great job at finding all the hidden sources of information and anecdotes to write a book that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. And, also make them deathly afraid of eating homemade ice cream with fresh peaches ever again.

Extraordinary People: a Semi-Comprehensive Guide to Some of the World’s Most Fascinating Individuals by Michael Hearst; illustrated by Aaron Scamihorn: Sometimes I just don’t have the time to read all the nonfiction books or biographies on all the people I want to know about (or on the people that I don’t know that I want to know about). That’s why I really liked Extraordinary People – it’s a book of single page stories of different people – some famous, some not – that gives readers a taste of a certain person’s extraordinariness. For example – did you know that Charlie Chaplin’s body was dug up and held for ransom? Have you ever heard of Jeanne De Clisson, the “Lioness of Brittany” (I hadn’t!)? There’s tons more information to be had in this fun and fast read that will engage readers with interesting stories and beautiful illustrations. I wanted to think that I’d read a story here and there, but once you get started, you just want to keep seeing who is going to pop up next. This book reminded me of a nonfiction book I enjoyed a few years back – How They Croaked: the Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg, illustrated by Kevin O’Malley – it’s a fun nonfiction title of all the weird ways famous people have died. Also, with fun illustrations!

Well, that’s it for this month! I had 2 more nonfiction books to read for this post, but I got so caught up in M.T. Anderson’s Symphony for the City of the Dead, that I lost track of time! I’ll do another nonfiction post soon, I promise! And, next month: a post on the books featured on the Longlist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. As you can see, nonfiction books can be just as exciting and awesome as fiction titles. So, the next time you have a teen asking for a book about disease or scary stuff or beautiful music or they just want an interesting read, make sure to include a nonfiction title in that stack of books you pass along. Until next month, Hubbers! Oh! And, if you have any fun nonfiction you’ve read lately, leave it in the comments.

— Traci Glass, currently reading, Foodprints: the Story of What We Eat by Paula Ayer

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YA Literary Tropes: The Old Clunker I Drive

Wed, 09/23/2015 - 07:00

“Trope” is defined as “a common or overused theme or device.” (Merriam-Webster). There are definitely over-used themes in the YA world; I know many of you have had enough love triangles and dystopian worlds.  On the flip side, tropes have always been used in literature, and they play an important part in driving a story.   Shakespeare himself successfully used literary tropes (mistaken identity anyone?)  I have found many times over that if a book has the goods, it doesn’t really matter how many common themes the author utilizes.

That said, I would like to invite you to join me each Wednesday for a hump day roundup of books that follow a familiar literary trope I have noticed and fully embrace.  Full credit and many thanks to my fellow Hub bloggers: Hannah Gomez, Jancee Wright, Carly Pansulla,  Robin Brenner, Anna Tschetter, Sharon Rawlins, Molly Wetta, and Kimberli Buckley for their awesome suggestions and input.

Literary Trope for Week 1: The Old Clunker I Drive

To say that cars are important to teens is putting it lightly.  A license to drive plus a set of keys equal freedom in a most tangible way.  Of course, most teens in life and literature have financial limitations and many drive rusty, second-hand, and always breaking-down cars.  But, those unexpected stops are usually what makes the journey so fantastic.  So, thank you clunker car literary trope, we love you.

  • Papertowns (2009 Best Book For Young Adults) by John Green: RHAPAW.  Q is without a car for a great deal of this story.  Getting away (specifically away from Orlando, Florida)  is an important theme in this story, and Q truly requires wheels to get him where he needs to go.  Q ends up having to borrow his buddy Ben’s old clunker fairly often, a hand-me-down not treated gently but a truly worthy car.  Bragging right for whomever knows what the acronym RHAPAW stands for.
  • Twilight Saga (Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers: 2006, 2007, Teen’s Top Ten: 2007, 2008, & 2009) by Stephenie Meyer: Bella’s Red Pickup.  Right after Bella arrives in Forks at the beginning of Twilight, Charlie gifts her an old beat up truck he bought off his friend Billy Black (aka Jacob’s father.)  Bella loves the truck at first sight.  Though Edward often pokes fun at the clunker, Bella likes her truck much more than any of the Cullens’ fancy rides.  It was a little sad when in Breaking Dawn Bella started driving a limited edition Mercedes; she missed the red pickup, and so did I.
  • Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black: Tana’s Gray 1995 Ford Crown Victoria.  Oh, this car. The Crown Vic helps Tana escape from the bloodiest party ever.  Tana and company travel in the Crown Vic to Coldtown; Aiden, ex boyfriend and newly infected, sometimes riding shotgun, Gavriel ancient and dangerous, sometimes riding in the trunk.  Along the way, they pick up some important hitchhikers…  really, what could be a more appropriate vessel for this journey?
  • The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Steifvater: “the Pig.”  In many ways, rich boy Gansey’s orange Camaro (aka “the pig”) plays a vital part in driving this story.  The broken down car (and Gansey’s inability to fix it) propelled his meeting poor scholarship student Adam whose mechanical skills helped keep the pig running and sealed their unlikely friendship.  Automobiles continue to play an important part through this saga, Ronan is definitely a car enthusiast.  But the entire gang, even Blue, consistently acknowledges the importance of “the Pig”.
  • Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2007 Best Books for Young Adults, 2007 Top Ten Quick Picks, 2008 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults) by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan: Nick’s Yugo.  Nick and Norah meet on a lark, fall in like/love to a great soundtrack, and tour all over New York city in the course of one long night.  And what gets them around?  Nick’s Yugo.  Transportation and a sound system.  What more could these two romantics need for the best date ever?

What say you readers?  What other literary clunkers are out there?  Do you think cars are important devices to “drive” a story?  Bad pun. Intended.

Join us next hump day for a roundup of books that utilize the “I already know you introduction” trope.

— Tara Kehoe, currently reading Breakaway by Kat Spears

top photo CC image Amber Gowens Hirschbergy and bottom photos by Maggie Stiefvater used with permission

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Celebrating National Library Card Sign Up Month With Fabulous Fictional Libraries

Wed, 09/23/2015 - 07:00

Happy National Library Card Sign Up Month! 

So, first things first, how many of you have a card for your local library?


I hope all of our trusty Hub readers raised their hands with enthusiasm! After all, having a library card is cooler than being cool, as the 2015 honorary chair Snoopy himself tells us.  Besides, a library is a gateway to a host of free and fabulous resources! If you haven’t had the chance to saunter on down to your local public library and receive your very own library card, take advantage of this celebration’s last couple weeks to investigate the process.

But if you need a reminder of just why libraries are in fact so cool, check out these examples of excellent and awe-inspiring fictional libraries.

The Hogwarts Library from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling


What library fan could resist the cavernous and mysterious space full of magical texts detailing everything from how to take care of baby dragons to the secrets behind the creation of dangerous potions?  The Hogwarts Library is located on the fourth floor of Hogwarts castle and contains thousands upon thousands of books.  The space is divided into many specific sections, including the Restricted Section–a roped off area which requires a signed note from a professor to access.  As far as we know, the librarian is the stern Madam Irma Pince.  Additionally, the library is the site of quite a lot of significant moments and discoveries for Harry, Ron, and Hermione during their time at Hogwarts; it’s clearly a cool place to hang out–or at least a good place to conduct research on dark secrets and even darker magic.  After all, as Ron so wisely states in his description of Hermione’s particular approach to problems, “When in doubt, go to the library.”

The Library of the Clayr from the Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix

This next library is equally magical, if perhaps somewhat lesser known.  In Garth Nix’s Lirael, readers enter the mysterious and fascinating world of the Clayr–the majority female branch of the magical Charter bloodline who possess the ability to See into the future.  Deep within the Clayr’s Glacier lies the labyrinthine Library, shaped like a downward shrinking spiral and containing books, documentations of the Clayr’s activities and visions, an array of intriguing mundane and magical artifacts, and at least one dangerous Free Magic Elemental.  Each librarian receives a set of specific equipment upon beginning work at the Library, including a whistle, a clockwork magic emergency mouse, magic-infused dagger, and a bracelet spelled to unlock door accessible to her particular librarian rank.  Who wouldn’t want to explore the twisting stacks and hidden caverns of such a library–especially with such exciting tools in hand?



Sunnydale High School Library from Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series


While the Clayr’s Library might be located in the depths of a cool glacial complex far from the rest of civilization, the Sunnydale High School Library rests directly on top of the Sunnydale, California Hellmouth, an area where barriers between Earth and various hell dimensions are weak and vulnerable to the creation of portals between such dimensions.  This unique location attracted both its unusual librarian, the Watcher Rupert Giles, and its most regular patrons, Slayer Buffy Summers and her group of allies & friends affectionally known as the Scooby Gang. Before its unfortunate destruction, the Sunnydale High Library acted as a research center, refuge, a storage space for weapons & magical artifacts, and headquarters for the teenage Vampire Slayer and her team as they battled the forces of evil–and the pains of adolescence.  In other words, it seems like an ideal high school library.



The Library – Doctor Who, “Silence in the Library” and “The Forest of the Dead”


This next library certainly takes the cake in terms of sheer volume.  After, even with their magical expansions, none of the previous archives cover an entire planet.  In Season 4 of Doctor Who,  fans of the British sci-fi phenomenon were introduced to a bibliophile’s dream– The Library.  The Tenth Doctor and his companion, Donna Noble, land in the 51st century on the universe’s greatest library–an entire planet devoted to the storage and safekeeping of knowledge, containing every book ever published.  Of course, during the Doctor’s visit The Library is under attack by Vashta Nerada, carnivorous creatures that dwell in shadows and seem likely to be the real reason everyone’s a little afraid of the dark.  But with that problem cleared up, what’s to stand in the way of a true library adventurer from investigating the planet’s countries of book shelves? Other than the complication of acquiring transport through time and space, of course.



Shermer High School Library – The Breakfast Club (1985)

While it might not be the size of a planet or contain any particularly magical volumes,  the library in the fictional Shermer High School in Shermer, Illinois possesses its own unique allure.  Beyond its notably large size and somewhat inexplicable decor of towering abstract sculptures, the Shermer High Library stands out from the average public school library purely for its role in one of the most iconic films about adolescence currently in existence: The Breakfast Club.   In this 1985 classic, five students from divergent social groups end up at school on a Saturday to serve detention in the library.  While the motley crew does occasionally escape to race around the school’s empty halls, the majority of the movie’s action (i.e. intense emotional conversations and occasional dancing) takes place amidst the library’s stacks.  And after all, what better place than a library to discover that you are not alone in your teenage angst and confusion?  Whether you’re finding your people among other library regulars or seeing your own fears, pain, or joys reflected back at you from the pages of a book, a great library can be that critical source of connection that makes adolescence bearable.

source What pop culture libraries make you want to dance?

Share some of your favorites in the comments!

-Kelly Dickinson, currently reading Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Power written by Ryan North and illustrated by Erica Henderson

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Booklist: Survival Stories

Tue, 09/22/2015 - 07:00

For readers looking for action-packed survival stories in real life situations, here’s a selection of fiction and nonfiction about struggles to live through harrowing condition at sea, in the mountains, and in the wilderness.

Peak by Roland Smith

On April 25, 2015, nineteen people died on the slopes of Mt. Everest when an earthquake triggered an avalanche. Nevertheless, the quest to scale the tallest mountain in the world calls to many, perhaps too many, guaranteeing that the slopes will once again fill with climbers. The showmanship of this kind of achievement is one of the issues in Roland Smith’s Peak. 

Peak is the given name of a fourteen-year-old, daredevil teen boy who is arrested for scaling a skyscraper in New York City. As a way out of juvenile detention, Peak agrees to cross the globe to stay with the mountaineer father he barely knows. His father has a scheme to make Peak the youngest to ever climb Mt. Everett, a dangerous scheme that could be big money for Peak’s dad. This is complicated by the fact that a fourteen-year-old Nepalese boy in the same expedition.

Readers can expect Smith’s characteristic high-level suspense and authentic details. The added drama of Peak’s race to be the youngest flushes out the undercurrents of greed and ambition that can fuel such deadly expeditions.

For a real-life counterpart to Peak, try No Summit Out of Sight: The True Story of the Youngest Person to Climb the Seven Summits by Jordan Romero and Linda LeBlanc. Romero holds the record for being the youngest person to climb Everest on May 22, 2010. This was after the publication of Peak. But Smith foresaw how controversy that would surround the ascent of such a young person. Although Romero breezes past these objections in his books, there were accusations that allowing Romero on the mountain was “verging on child abuse.”

Smith has a sequel to Peak coming out in October, 2015, titled The Edge. In this one, a group of young climbers is attacked by a group of mercenaries. Some are killed. Peak must track the group and rescue the survivors through the bleak landscape of Afghanistan.

Other books about survival in the mountains:

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
Alive: The story of the Andes Survivors by Piers Paul Read
Savage Mountain by John E. Smelcer
Death Mountain  by Sherry Shahan


Adrift by Paul Griffin

Friends Matt and John work at odd jobs as they save money for college. Thus, they are selling ice cream in the Hamptons when they meet three young people who invite them to a party. But that night, one of the girls tries to surf in the dark with disastrous results. Matt and John accompany their new acquaintances on a rescue mission. In hindsight, they should have known better than to head into open water in a small, unequipped boat. Once the group is adrift in the ocean, however, there is plenty of time for recrimination, and for facing unresolved issues of the past. As much a psychological thriller as a survival tale, all of the teens are tested in ways that could destroy their bodies and minds.

For a real life look at the physical and psychological torments of being adrift at sea, Laura Hillebrand’s Unbroken: An Olympian’s journey from airman to castaway to captive is unsurpassed. The story of Louie Zamperini has captivated readers and movie-goers with more-harrowing-than-fiction adventures. The young adult version is packed with photographs and includes as interview with Zamperini.


Other novels about survival at sea:

The Raft by S. A. Bodeen
Adrift: Seventy-six days lost at sea by James Callahan
The Great Wide Sea by M. H. Herlong
The Perfect Storm: A true story of men against the sea by Sebastian Junger


Alabama Moon by Watt Key

For all of his ten years, Moon has lived deep in rural Alabama with his radical anti-government father. They live almost completely off the grid, interacting only with the man at the store that trades with them. Moon’s father has created Moon’s reality, and when he dies, Moon truly has no idea what the world holds beyond their primitive life. He is about to find out.

Many issues are raised here. Are parents obligated to raise their children to succeed in the dominant society, even if that society violates the parents’ own set of moral values? Legally, parents do have some responsibilities, such as education and health care. This is why some families decide to sever all ties with society and government. Once a minor is identified, the state is authorized to insure that the child is receiving shelter, schooling, etc.

That is what happens to Moon.

Key wrote a companion novel to Alabama Moon that follows the story of Hal Mitchell, an older boy that Moon meets when he is sent to a reformatory. Dirt Road Home is another kind of survival story, as Hal is trapped in the gang warfare that surrounds him in lockup.

Other novels about survival in the wilderness:

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
My Abandonment  by Peter Rock (adult with teen appeal)
Black Helicopters by Blythe Woolston


For readers who want short but true survival stories, try Tanya Lloyd Kyi’s When the Worst Happens: Extraordinary stories of survival.  Reading like a guided tour through catastrophe, the book includes four main stories that take place in such diverse locations as an ice floe in the Arctic Ocean, a mine deep underground, a rainforest in Brazil and a stranded cruise ship. The tone is a bit incredible, but the accounts are real.

Diane Colson, currently reading an advance readers copy of The Big Dark by Rodman Philbrick.

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2015 Teen Read Week Display Ideas: Get Away @ Your Library

Mon, 09/21/2015 - 07:00

This is a guest post courtesy of Kristyn Dorfman, a member of the Teen Read Week Committee. 

This year’s Teen Read Week theme is Get Away @ Your Library. What is so great about this year’s theme is that it is so versatile. “Get Away” can mean whatever you want it to mean. You can adapt your displays to fit your library collection, your interests or the interests of your patrons.

If your teens are realistic fiction fans, go the travel route. You can highlight your collection of road trip titles. For your teens that like romance, stress titles where the meeting happens abroad. Bring on the gap year titles. It might be fun to display books that focus outside of the United States. You can create a map display and emphasize books written in or take place in other countries. We often tend to focus on North American titles but there are some great books out there that emphasize other parts of the world. However, there is no harm in staying local and you can create a map of the United States and have a title for each state. There are so many map possibilities. 

If your teens enjoy science fiction set up your favorite Doctor Who display. 2015 is a great year to highlight Back To the Future, as it is the “future” featured in the 1985 film. You could even make a Back to the Future Timeline featuring titles spanning from 1955 to 2015. Westerns, books that take place in the 50s, books that take place in 80s, science fiction titles all work.

Don’t be afraid to feature some historical fiction titles as well. Let your patrons get away to another time period. You can pick a particular era or just go back in time in general. Don’t forget for a lot of your teens the 80s and 90s can be considered historical fiction. If you have a passion for those decades, get creative and show off some cassette tapes and big hair.

This year’s theme is so adaptable and so open to your own interpretation that you can really emphasize your collection’s strong suit or your own passions. Displays are often best when the creator is interested in the theme or selections. Think about what you love and how that can be an example of getting away.

For more information on displays check out our Pinterest page here.

Also head over to the ALA store for fun TRW merchandise.

For those who want more ideas check out these sample book titles below:

Road Trip Reads:

European Romance:

  • Just One Day by Gayle Forman
  • Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard
  • Flirting in Italian by Lauren Henderson

Historical Fiction:


Science Fiction:

International Reads:

  • Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (2009 Printz Award)
  • Nothing by Janne Teller
  • Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

If you need help developing display ideas or just want to see what else can be done you can check out the Teen Read Week Ning Site Here! We would love to see all the different and amazing things you are all doing!

Kristyn Dorfman is a Middle and Upper School Librarian at the Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn, New York. She also occasionally writes reviews for School Library Journal. She is a new mom that loves reading and watching TV shows serially when she can.

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Take Five: Favorite Hero in YA Literature

Mon, 09/21/2015 - 07:00

Last week, we discussed the latest books that we couldn’t put down or had kept us up all night, and several also chimed in and said The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

This week, we’re asking who’s your favorite hero in YA literature?

Bean from Ender’s Game is my favorite. He figures out that he’s smarter than Ender, and he understands the seriousness of “the game” they’re playing at command school, so he stands ready to take Ender’s place if Ender should fail. He’s willing to stay in the shadows and get little or no recognition because he knows how high the stakes are. – Jenni Frencham

I’m going to say Jace Wayland from Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series.  I love this character because he has so much heart.  He fights for the ones he loves and he would even die to save his own kind – the Shadow Hunters.  He loves Clary Fray with a fury and an uncontrollable passion.  There’s even enough love in his heart to care for Clary’s best friend Simon.  And he even saved Simon from dying by offering him his own blood.  There are times where he is led astray, but that is because the annoying Valentine is constantly messing with his life.  Through all of his disadvantages, Jace always seems to prevail.  He also rides a motorcycle and wears black leather, and can draw runes on his body so what else could you ask for?  – Kimberli Buckley

Froi from The Lumatere Chronicles is definitely my favorite hero. His character arc through the three books is so full of redemption. When we first meet him, he’s a petty thief who tries to rape the heroine of Finnkin of the Rock, Evanjalin. But she sees potential in him and challenges him to be a better person, and over the course of the series, struggles with his past and his terrible deeds, takes on great risk for his adopted kingdom, and even finds love. – Molly Wetta

Melina Marchetta’s Froi was actually one of the first that sprang to mind for me too, but since Molly already mentioned him I’m going to be completely unoriginal and say Harry Potter.  It’s true.  There are so many meaningful characters in Rowling’s series, but at the end of the day I somehow always come back to Harry.  Harry never loses his sense of self, even when he’s full of doubt, nor does he lose hope.  He makes difficult choices time and again, endangering and even sacrificing himself for others.  He’s not a martyr, though, and his anger keeps him honest and makes him feel real.  Harry makes mistakes, too, and though he often learns from them, sometimes he doesn’t, just like the rest of us.  I think Harry is what many of us would hope to be, should we be called upon to battle a Dark Lord while keeping up with homework and friends, winning the big game, and dating. – Julie Bartel

Sage/Jaron from The False Prince. I loved his quick wit, mysteriousness, and cunning throughout the entire series. He fought for his people, for his friends, even when he was sick and seemingly helpless.  One of my favorite characters ever! –Stacy Holbrook

Who is your favorite hero in YA literature? Share in the comments!

— Molly Wetta, currently reading A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

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The Magical Girl’s Guide to Books, Anime, and Graphic Novels

Mon, 09/21/2015 - 07:00

This is a post about the power of friendship . . . magical girl friendship.

All three of these anime titles feature coming of age stories with a sprinkling of magic and science fiction on top.  Like the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants . . . but with superpowers.


Sailor Moon Crystal

It is a huge shock when Usagi Tsukino discovers that she is Sailor Moon, a magical warrior sent from the distant past to defend earth. Luckily she is about to find the rest of the Sailor Guardians to help her fight the forces of evil.


Sailor moon was a huge hit in America in the 1990s, but fans of the original will need to adjust their expectations for this reboot. All five of the original Sailor Scouts have joined up by episode eight (it took up to thirty-three in the original series).  This rapid pacing means that the series is missing character development and a number of subplots (including a few romantic relationships), but the tighter storyline also brings the viewer’s focus to the fantastical science fiction elements of the Sailor Moon Universe.


Cardcaptor Sakura

When Sakura Kinomoto opens a book containing dozens of magical Clow Cards they escape the house and scatter around her hometown. She must reclaim them before they cause too much trouble! Can she learn how to wield her new magic before mischievous card sprits destroy her town?


The show is fantasy and magic heavy but also oddly practical. Sakura doesn’t have a magical transformation scene and instead has to get changed before fighting each card. Her best friend designs her costumes in return for getting to record her adventures.  This girl group is small but mighty!


Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Madoka Kaname has to decide whether she wants to become a magical girl and help fight off the witches plaguing her city. It is a lot of responsibility and a little scary. If she joins up she gets a wish and magic powers, but Madoka wants to know more before she signs up. Where do the witches come from? What happens when a magical girl is defeated?


The series starts out light, and then turns around and punches you in the gut with startling depth and intensity. The action the sequences where the girls are sucked into a witch’s trap are both beautiful and horrifying and the relationships between the characters are meticulously developed.


Want More Magical Girl Stories?

More Fantasy:

More Science Fiction:


-Jennifer Billingsley, currently listening to Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage and reading She-Hulk, Vol. 1: Law and Disorder by Charles Soule

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Week in Review: September 18th

Fri, 09/18/2015 - 07:00

Happy Friday, Hubbers!  There’s been A LOT of exciting news this week regarding new movies, new book deals, and more.  Plus – Chipotle!  Our precious Bachelor in Paradise might be over for the season, but ICYMI, I’m here to compile all the other fun and interesting news here just for you!  Here’s your Week in Review for Friday, September 18th.

Books & Reading

  • Yes!!  The National Book Award longlist for Young People’s Literature was announced on Monday.  I’ve already read a couple of these titles, and I’m so excited to read the rest.  Plus – for the first time ever, a webcomic is one of the finalists – Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona.
  • Did you love Ava Dellaira’s book Love Letters to the Dead?  Well, I sure did, and so do so many of my teens.  Fortunately, she has a new book coming out in 2018 (no, it has to be now!!) titled 17 Years.  It sounds so awesome.
  • Speaking of M.T. Anderson (see my first bullet point!) – he, along with a few other great authors (Lois Lowry! Mary Roach!) are contributing short written works for Chipotle’s Cultivating Thought series featured on their bags & cups.  A great way to be introduced to new authors while inhaling a burrito.
  • Have you checked out this blog:  Reading While White?  Dhonielle Clayton, co-author of the amazing book, Tiny Pretty Things, shared it via her Twitter feed.  First post was Tuesday, and I can’t wait to read more.
  • One more thing from Twitter:  Do you or teens you know love Sherlock?  I’m assuming Yes!  Then, you need to get Lock & Mori in their hands immediately – it just had its book birthday on Tuesday.  Check out Heather Perry’s Twitter feed for more news about this awesome tale of Sherlock as a teenager!
  • TokyoPop is getting back in the manga game and has a new self-publishing app coming in 2016.
  • Bill Koningsberg, author of Openly Straight and The Porcupine of Truth, is on tour visiting schools and librarians to talk talk about how suicide isn’t the answer for anyone, gay or straight, and he shares his response to being asked to not emphasize the “gay” parts at one school on the Huffington Post blog.

Movies, TV, Music & Video Games

Just for Fun

Any news we missed? Let us know in the comments! 

— Traci Glass, currently reading Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson

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Who Is Young Adult Literature For?

Fri, 09/18/2015 - 07:00

As a collection development librarian who selects materials for the teen collection, I’ve noticed a trend: there is more mature content in some YA books. Many books are being labeled with a 14 (or even 15 or 16) and up target audience, instead of 12 and up, the entire span of the traditional age designation of young adult literature. I am careful when I put together my orders to balance books that have appeal to older teens and adults with those titles that I can give to parents who are looking for books to ease their new 11-year-old sixth grader into the YA section of the library because he’s already read everything in the children’s room. I sometimes worry that with the growing popularity of YA fiction for adult audiences, there will be a push to market YA to adult readers and the category will cater to them, and there will be less choice and variety for those readers in the range on the upper end of middle grade or lower end of YA.

I want to be sure there are books for all sorts of teens represented in the category of YA fiction. When adults start appropriating YA literature, and marketing firms start defining what young adult literature is and who it is for and talking about these books in terms of profits and sales, I can get defensive. YA literature should first and foremost be for teens.

Earlier this week, Nielsen, a market research firm, held a conference for “leading experts and fellow decision-makers in children’s publishing and media” and because of Twitter (and notably, Publisher’s Weekly’s Children’s Bookshelf account), many librarians and library workers, authors, as well as young adult literature enthusiasts, got to hear the discussion.

One panel, a live focus group of adult readers of YA crossover books, created some controversy. The panelists seemed to be average adult readers of YA who follow the latest trends in a peripheral way rather than being deeply engaged with the YA lit community. They expressed some interesting thoughts about what YA should be and who it should be for.

I used Storify to archive the conversation as reported by Publisher’s Weekly and a journalist, as well as the reactions of teen librarians and library workers, YA authors, and even an actual teen. If you want to wade through more commentary, check out the #KidsBookSummit hashtag.

Some adult readers of YA on the panel explained that they like YA because “the sci-fi is better than what they can find in adult” and the category is so “accessible”, but they wished “there was less dystopia in YA, and more stories of normal people finding their way in the world, instead of fighting for their lives.” This seems like perfectly good reasons for an adult to enjoy YA. And with as many contemporary, realistic YA fiction titles as there are about everyday teens and their struggles, perhaps these adult readers simply need some quality reader’s advisory from their local library to help them find what they’re looking for in that vein.

This was just the beginning of the conversation, however. These panelists also called for a renaming of the entire category—because they think young adult literature sounds so juvenile. A panelist said that instead, it could be called “pop literature” or for those that are “young at heart” rather than young adult, which is a confusing label and apparently, a turn off.

Many library workers and authors took issue with this suggestion.

I’m sure that marketing teams at publishing companies, who look at Nielsen’s statistic that 80% of readers of YA are, in fact, adults, are very interested in what these panelists have to say. Their interests are in turning a profit. These “leading experts” are telling them that adults who buy YA are their dream customers, because they are engaged and buy in hardback.

But young adult literature isn’t a market segmentation or an abstract category to me. YA is Willow by Julia Hoban, which I found with handwritten notes on the inside cover that declared the book had “saved my life” in a teen’s handwriting.

YA is Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, which a teen told me she really identified with, even though she wasn’t a gay boy, because the tight-knit Mexican-American families reminded her of her own.

To me, YA literature is for the girl who read and reviewed 56 YA books over the summer that she got for free from the library.

It’s for the teenage boy who didn’t like to read until I recommended I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga and The End Games by T. Michael Martin to him after he told me about the anime he likes to watch and the video games he likes to play. He now comes in to regularly ask for book suggestions.

To me, and many teen librarians, YA isn’t for anyone’s bottom line. It’s one of the ways we help support the intellectual, emotional, and recreational needs of teens.

I am not opposed to adults reading YA. Obviously, I read YA. I lead a YA for Grown Ups book club at my library. I don’t think that adults should feel shame about reading and enjoying stories about and for teens. I want adult readers to buy big blockbuster YA titles so that publishers can bankroll quiet YA books that defy categorization and push boundaries and surprise and delight readers with the profits from the commercially successful ones.

I want there to always be stories not just about, but for, teens.

— Molly Wetta, currently reading Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

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Documentaries for Teens: Varieties of Teen Experiences

Thu, 09/17/2015 - 07:00

Documentaries are sometimes overlooked forms of media for both education and for entertainment. They cover all types of subject matter and can tell intimate, moving stories. This series focuses on documentaries that may appeal to teens, and each installment will focus on a particular theme. This month, we’re highlighting documentaries that capture modern teen experiences from around the world.

Rich Hill

This documentary is an “examination of challenges, hopes and dreams of the young residents of a rural American town.” It focuses on the lives of three young men and their everyday lives. The intimate look at this small Missouri town is deeply moving. Rich Hill is readily available on DVD.

Rachel Is

This film is a portrait of Rachel, a young woman with developmental disabilities. Made by her sister, this film gives a window into a family struggling with their loved ones disability while also capturing a teen evolving from a child into an adult. You can view the movie streaming on Vimeo. Public libraries and schools can purchase it on DVD through 7th Art.

The World is as Big or Small as You Make It 

This short documentary is about a group of Philadelphia teens at a rec center, and the friendships they forge with other teens around the world. You can view the film in its entirety online.

Last Train Home

This documentary explores China and globalization through the families separated when young people move to cities to work in factories, and rush to take the last train home. It first aired on PBS and is available on DVD.

Somewhere Between

This film explores the lives of four young Chinese women who were adopted by Americans and how transracial adoption has impacted their identity.

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

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

— Molly Wetta, currently reading Saga Vol.5 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples


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Booklist: Gods, Princes, and Ancient Rome in Historical Fiction

Thu, 09/17/2015 - 07:00

Exploration has been on the minds of humanity since the beginning of time. Whether it is discovering a new star, landing on a new continent, or making scientific breakthroughs, exploring the world has piqued the curiosity of men and women for ages. Perhaps this is why I find the historical fiction genre so satisfying. I was (and still am) enthralled with the ability to pick up a book and find myself in a different place on Earth, fighting for survival on the Titanic, seeing women’s suffrage in the early 1900’s, or attending a magical boarding school in Victorian England.

Historical fiction is not only entertaining, but it promotes listening to and understanding multiple perspectives. Oftentimes, history is portrayed as one-sided and flat: events transpired and results occurred. However, in a good historical fiction plot, we see the protagonist handling conflict, weighing different points of view, and examining the complex nature of issues at hand.

While there is no way I could definitively state which time period or location is my favorite to read about, I have chosen a few young adult novels that will take you back in time to Ancient Rome! The following novels are so exciting that you can practically hear the clash of steel and feel the hot desert sand sting your face.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Possibly my favorite book of 2015, Sabaa Tahir’s debut novel has been taking the world of YA literature by storm. Originally published without concrete plans for a sequel, Tahir’s novel is set in the Martial Empire- a brutal, fight-or-die empire inspired by Ancient Rome. The novel follows two protagonists from opposite sides of this empire’s spectrum. Laia is a lowly Scholar whose brother is captured by Martial soldiers for conspiring against the empire. Determined to rescue the only family she has left, Laia risks everything to go undercover and spy on the Commandant, the brutal head of the Martial military, in exchange for her brother’s freedom. Elias is an elite member of the Martial military, the Masks, endowed with special rights and powers to use for the empire’s benefit. However, he did not choose this journey and instead longs for his own freedom. As Laia and Elias’ paths cross, they realize that freedom will be much more difficult to attain than they thought. With the rapid popularity that this novel has received, a sequel has been confirmed for this series.

Mark of the Thief by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Nic is a slave with a penchant for rebellion. Forced into slavery in ancient Rome, Nic is required to retrieve an amulet that once belonged to Julius Caesar. This is no ordinary amulet- it is filled with power reserved for the gods. Nic ultimately desires freedom and decides to use the amulet for that end. However, he finds himself at the center of a complex inside conspiracy to destroy Rome and all its glory. Nic must battle evil, traitors with nefarious intentions, and magical influences to save Rome and gain his freedom. Mark of the Thief is perfect for readers who love Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series or Jennifer A. Nielsen’s The Ascendance Trilogy.

The Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman

This edge-of-your-seat historical fiction thriller was recently released in August. Author Eleanor Herman, who is incidentally also a historian, brilliantly weaves historical details alongside sizzling action and intrigue. Imagine living in a time where it was believed that the gods decided your fate; or in a time where an empire rose and fell at the whim of an alliance, and magic was more than just superstition. In Legacy of Kings, this is the reality. Alex is Macedonia’s sixteen-year-old heir who is about to realize his fate as one of the world’s most renowned leaders. In the turmoil and confusion of the palace, he’s drawn to Katerina, a new face in Pella who is attempting to navigate the intrigues of the palace while pursuing her own mission. Meanwhile, Kat’s first love, Jacob, needs to do everything in his power to become worthy of Kat’s lasting affection, even if it means joining the ranks of a brutal group of elite warriors known as the Aesarian Lords. Jacob struggles to remain loyal to this new task and Kat. As Alex delves deeper into the recesses of his Empire, he learns secrets about those closest to him, including his best friend Hephaestion, who has a dark past that threatens to unravel their friendship and the Empire. Finally, Zofia, a Persian princess who lives across the sea, is Alex’s fiancée. Yet, they’ve never met each other, and Zo is determined to alter her fate and live a life of freedom and independence. Eleanor Herman’s historian background is evident in this young adult debut, as the world of ancient Rome jumps off the page with ferocity and passion. This novel is a perfect adult crossover for young adult and adult readers who enjoy historically based plots with a hint of magic woven throughout.

— Elise Martinez, currently reading Walk the Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson and Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

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Pairing Music with YA lit: “Under Pressure” edition

Wed, 09/16/2015 - 07:00

September:  The summer heat gives way to sweater mornings, t-shirt afternoons, and hoodie evenings.  The leaves begin to turn into the firey oranges, reds, and yellows that might only last for a few weeks, or if we’re lucky, a whole month before the snow sets in (at least in my part of the country).  It’s the beginning of a new season and a new school year, which for many high school seniors is the start of the college application process; of finding a school that will soon become home.  Essays.  Scholarship applications.  Dreaded “We regret to inform you…” letters.  Acceptance packets.  Safety schools.  Major declarations.  And, often, LOTS of pressure from friends, parents, or even themselves.  Luckily, there are some great books to help us all through this stressful time.  So here are some of my favorite off-to-college novels, paired with music that connects to each one.  Of course, not all of us hear music the same way, just as not all of us see the books we read the same way, so this is my interpretation–”Under Pressure” style.


  I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios (2015)

Summary: Skylar is finally fulfilling her dream of getting out of Creek View.  She has a full scholarship to art school and is ready to take off to San Francisco, ready to leave behind the small town she grew up in.  She just has to get through the summer.  But after graduation, Skylar’s mother is a downhill slide (again) after losing her job, and Skylar feels the need to stay and take care of her.  And then there is Josh.  He used to be a giant jerk, a player, kind of a douchebag, but coming home from Afghanistan has changed him.  Both physically as he lost his leg, and mentally, as he is dealing with the aftermath of war.  Throughout the summer, Skylar and Josh grow together, becoming friends instead of work acquaintances, and falling in love one day at a time. Skylar is left wondering if it’s not only her mother she feels compelled to stay for, but Josh as well.   

Musical pairings:  There are a lot of artists referenced in “I’ll Meet You There”, providing it’s own soundtrack.  But as I read this book, there are two songs that immediately stuck out to me:  Dan Black’s “Symphonies” featuring Kid Cudi and “Sometimes” by Sound of Guns.  I connected “Symphonies” to Skylar to describe her desire to leave Creek View (Gimme, gimme, symphonies/Gimme more than the life I see), but also connected it to how she feels different than the other girls in her town, how she knows she is meant to do more with her life than work at the Paradise motel (I live, I live, I live, I live for symphonies/I know that there’s some place just right for me). “Sometimes” is the song that reminds me of Josh as he is trying to find his place back in Creek View, at first trying to be the same Josh he was before he joined the Marines, before he lost his leg (When your mind aches, pupils dilate/Give me some alcohol to stop me growing older).  The same Josh that knows his place is in the small town (Oh oh oh, I was born here and I’ll die here), and knows everything about his neighbors (Oh oh oh, see for miles and miles around here, Oh oh oh, every violence, every silence).  


The Kidney Hypothetical: or How to Ruin Your Life in Seven Days by Lisa Yee (2015)

Summary: Higgs Boson Bing has everything he could hope for–an early acceptance to Harvard, a popular girlfriend, and he is a shoe-in for the Senior of the Year award.  But the week before graduation everything starts to unravel.  All because of not answering his girlfriend’s “kidney hypothetical”–would he would give her one of his kidneys if she needed one?  His non-answer ends the relationship on the spot and by the end of the day he is hated by every girl in school. Everything becomes too much for Higgs until he meets a girl living in the woods who calls herself Monarch; a girl who has all of the freedom Higgs does not.  Monarch helps him put things back together and become who he really wants to be.  But she has a few secrets of her own, and Higgs is far too wrapped up in his own problems to see who she really is.

Musical Pairing:  At first I thought I would pair Queen’s “Under Pressure” with this book, but as soon as “Get It” by Matt & Kim played on my Spotify songlist, I knew I had to change the pairing.  Higgs’ life seems golden until a week before graduation, when everything spins out of control (At 1 a.m. we go for gold/At 1 a.m. when we we lost control).  And even though the path isn’t right for him, has never felt true, he still tries hard to be the best at everything (We all sing along/But the notes are wrong).  As Monarch comes into his life, he feels free to make mistakes, to be himself (At 1 a.m. let’s make mistakes/At 1 a.m. when we we cut the brakes).  More than the lyrics, the vibe of the song works well with the writing of “The Kidney Hypothetical.”  It’s upbeat, fun–just like the book.


Conversion by Katherine Howe (2014)

Summary: During Colleen’s senior year at St. Joans Academy, the girls in her class start having convulsions, losing their hair, and other extreme symptoms.  No disease can be identified; no toxic gas leak can be found.  The residents of Danvers, Massachusetts (formerly Salem) are terrified.  Could the girls be… possessed?  Just like the girls in Salem so long ago?  Or is it the pressure, the stress of getting into an Ivy, of being Valedictorian, that’s causing the rapidly spreading epidemic through St. Joans?

Musical Pairings:  I knew that I had to include “Conversion” in a booklist about being under pressure–it is one of the best books that shares the pressure put on teens at different times in history.  But what to pair it with?  Given the possibility of possession recurring throughout the book, my mind immediately went to “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by Charlie Daniels.  I also thought anything sung by vocal powerhouse Amy Lee would fit the mood perfectly, especially “Bring me to Life” by Evanescence.  (Wake me up inside, save me/Call my name and save me from the dark, wake me up…Before I come undone, save me).  And, hear me out here, “Duelling Banjos” would also make a good pairing.  Even though the book is set in New England and has nothing banjo-y, or “Deliverance”-y, my mind still went there.  The chapters alternate between the St. Joans epidemic and transcripts from the Salem Witch trials.  The plot for each is slow at first, mirroring each other in their own separate ways.  But as the novel continues, each plotline becomes stronger, faster and the reader starts to connect the two together which each result in a shared chaos.

— Stacy Holbrook, currently reading Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith

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YA Titles Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month

Tue, 09/15/2015 - 07:00

National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15) celebrates the heritage and culture of Hispanic and Latino Americans. September 15th is the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico, Chile and Belize also celebrate their independence days during this month.The term Hispanic or Latino refers to Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.

To commemorate this month, I am highlighting some of the recent and forthcoming YA books either written by, or about, Hispanic and Latino fictional or real characters.

Megan Miranda’s Soulprint, published this past February, is about Alina, a half-Hispanic 17-year-old, who has been confined on a secluded island for most of her life. She’s not confined for a crime that she committed in her present life, but for the past incursions of her soul. In this novel set in the not too distant world, scientists have discovered a way to create a fingerprint called a  “Soulprint” of a particular soul that allows them trace its passage from individual to individual. Alina happens to possess the soul of the late June Calahan, a Soul Database hacker who blackmailed public figures with nefarious past lives. Broken out of prison by three strangers, Alina hopes to finally escape from June’s shadow and begin to live her own life, but her rescuers have ulterior motives.

Matt De La Peña’s The Hunted (published in May) is the sequel to the 2014 Pura Belpre Honor winner The Living (2014 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults). A tsunami has sunk the cruise ship Mexican-American teen Shy Espinoza was working on for the summer. He and teens Marcus and Carmen and their adult guide Shoeshine have survived the sinking ship; escaped an island harboring a deadly secret and survived over a month at sea. They have discovered that some of the passengers were working for an evil biotech company responsible for a deadly contagion ravaging Southern California. In an area of California patrolled by rival gangs, the dead and dying, and those desperate to survive, they struggle to make it to the nearest operating laboratory in Arizona. By bringing the chemical formula and samples of the vaccine there, they hope scientists will be able to duplicate the vaccine samples and save the population.

Shadowshaper (June) by Daniel José Older is an inventive tale that combines contemporary and magical realism in a stunning way. Sierra Santiago, a graffiti artist, is stunned when she notices the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep real tears. Her ill grandfather gives her a strange warning and old men from her Brooklyn community begin mysteriously disappearing. After a zombielike corpse crashes a party one night and chases her, she and a cute guy from her neighborhood try to find out what’s going on and discover her family’s magical abilities. Sierra’s forced to do battle with a crazy anthropologist who wants that magical power for himself. What’s not to love about a kickass Latino heroine?

In Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not (June), it’s been very hard for Puerto Rican Aaron Soto, 16, to find happiness since his father’s suicide and Aaron’s attempted coming out and subsequent rejection by the boy he likes and by his friends. The grief and the scar on his wrist prevent him from ever completely forgetting. Maybe the solution is to have The Leteo Institute erase parts of the memory, even if he risks severe amnesia and possibly death.


Several recent memoirs feature prominent Hispanics or Latinos. Margarita Engle’s Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings came out in August. Engle, the first Latino woman to receive a Newbery Honor (for The Surrender Tree), writes lyrically about her childhood summers at her mother’s idyllic homeland in Cuba while spending the rest of the year in LA trying to live the American Dream during the 1950s Cold War era.


Sonia Manzano, beloved Sesame Street star and 2013 Pura Belpre Honor winner for The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, recently published her memoir, Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx. In it she recounts her life growing up in the 50s and 60 in the Bronx living with her large, noisy and often troubled extended Puerto Rican family. She seeks release in daydreaming of a better life to avoid the reality of living with an often abusive and alcoholic father and to escape her less than ideal living conditions. Mixed in with the darker moments are a lot of lighter ones filled with warmth and humor that show how all of these experiences shaped her life and who she would later become.

The recent September release of Marie Marquardt’s Dream Things True is about two teens – Evan and Alma – who live world’s apart in the same Georgia town. Evan’s from a wealthy, but dysfunctional family. Alma’s from a large Mexican family that has lived there since she was very young. They both want out. His way out is through soccer and her’s is through academic success. They meet and fall in love but then Immigration and Customs Enforcement comes.  Alma knows that she needs to share her secret with Evan that she and almost everyone she’s close to are undocumented immigrants. Theirs is a bittersweet love story against a backdrop of US-Mexican immigration policies. (Marie E. Andreu’s 2014 book The Secret Side of Empty also explores the story of an undocumented teen whose family is from Argentina.)

The multi-layered story in Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez, also published earlier this month, is an historical novel set in Texas that tells the story of a Naomi, 15, of Mexican descent, and her younger biracial twin half-siblings who are living with the twins’ white father in a segregated community where store signs say “No Negroes, Mexicans, or dogs .” Naomi falls for Wash, a smart African-American boy and their ill-fated love story is told in the months leading up to the real school explosion that occurred in New London, Texas in 1937.


Two titles with Hispanic characters to look for in 2016 include Dan Wells’s Bluescreen (February) and Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina (March). Wells’s novel is set Los Angeles in 2050 where almost everyone has a smart device implanted into their head and gangs control the communities. Mexican-American teen Marisa and a group of her friend live almost 24/7 online plugged into virtual games. When they discover a virtual drug that gives them a non-chemical safe high, they are drawn into a conspiracy involving something much bigger and more dangerous than they ever imagined.

Medina’s Burn Baby Burn takes place in New York City during the infamous summer of 1977, when the city is besieged by arson, a massive blackout and the Son of Sam serial killings. For Nora, the real danger may be closer to home. She has a threatening, bullying brother, a mother who can’t cope, and an absentee dad. Nora’d like to date the new guy she works with at the deli but isn’t sure it’s worth the risk with a killer on the loose. She finds out that the greatest dangers are those that are hardest to accept.

I think the push for more diversity in YA books is evident in the increased number of books with Hispanic and Latino characters being published  – although there’s always room for more! If you know of others I’ve missed, please suggest them. (I didn’t include new books geared more for younger readers with Latino characters like Christina Diaz Gonzalez’s Moving Target or Laura Resau’s The Lightning Queen).

Sharon Rawlins, currently reading Sarah J. Maas’s Queen of Shadows


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Display Idea: First in Series

Mon, 09/14/2015 - 07:00

Don’t get me wrong — color-themed book displays? I love them. They’re eye-catching, easy to make, and easy to refill. But the most successful super-simple display we’ve had outside of those? Book #1 of the series.

My library recently undertook a project to add the spine label “Book #1 of the series” to all of the series openers in our teen and adult fiction. Since the fiction books are shelved by author and then title, an ordered series is usually out of order, and a reader browsing is hard-pressed to figure out where to begin. Many teens bring an intriguing book to the desk to ask where it falls in the series, only to discover that it’s book 3 or 4. The label has made finding the beginning a snap for those who wander the shelves.

The display was my colleague’s brainchild, and proved to be one of our fastest-emptying displays, since each book was what so many readers ask for when coming to the library: “I want to start a new series.” The labels made it easy to refill, but the beauty of this idea is that you don’t need labels to do it. Identify as many series as you can, pull their first titles (you may have to go deep into older series to find available ones!), and invite teen readers to embark on a new read. This display sells itself!

–Rebecca O’Neil, currently listening to Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray

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Take Five: “Up All Night” Books

Mon, 09/14/2015 - 07:00

Last week, we discussed our favorite heroines in YA literature. While Hub bloggers named our favorites, like the ladies of the Graceling Realm series and Tamora Pierce‘s favorite characters, we also had some fantastic suggestions from the comments, including Frankie Landau-Banks and Julie from Code Name Verity.

This week, we’re asking: What was the last book that was so great you stayed up past your bedtime reading?

The Martian by Andy Weir. It’s also the only book I’ve ever re-read less than a month after finishing the first time. — Jenni Frencham

My Most Excellent Year: a Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park by Steve Kluger. The characters were so real and the story so engaging that I didn’t want to put it down (and I’ve re-read it a couple times, too!) — Carla Land

Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez. No matter how sad or affecting a book may be, I don’t tend to cry, but this one did it. And when I got to the last 30% or so (obviously I was reading on my Kindle), I was so distressed and worried about the main characters that I had to stay up and find out what happened to them. It’s the saddest and most well written book I’ve read in ages. — Hannah Gómez

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma.  This story was so layered and cleverly deceptive, I really felt driven to get to the end.  The changing character perspectives, time, and setting were flawless.  Suma also used great quotes from other literature that really added to the meaning of the plot.  — Tara Kehoe

I was reading Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen late one night and I couldn’t stop reading it.  I had to keep reading to find out what happened and kept hoping it wasn’t going to be too bad or too sad.  I ended up finishing it that night and was very satisfied with the ending. — Kimberli Buckley

What was the last book you couldn’t put down? Let us know in the comments! 

— Molly Wetta, currently reading Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston

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Love Triangles in YA: Is There Hope After All?

Mon, 09/14/2015 - 07:00

Let’s face it, there are a lot of love triangles in YA literature and many readers either love them or hate them.  I first saw a spike in the love triangle concept when Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight came out in the mid 2000s.  The Edward, Bella, Jacob combination was one that I—and many fans— found compelling.  I was so excited to find out which guy Bella would pick.  The choice that she made definitely added to the suspense of the plot.  Unfortunately, she didn’t pick the guy that I liked, so I was devastated.  Why?  Well, what is it about the one girl, two guy factor that is destined to ruin our world?  Most obviously we will have to make a choice and one guy will end up being the loser.  Portraying love triangles in YA novels is a good way to show how hard it is for teens to stay neutral and how they might have to make a list of pros and cons in order to make their decision.

Let’s look at the choices involved in most love triangles.  Often, there’s the hot bad boy who makes all the girls drool.  You know this guy, he’s almost always a jerk or has obsessive tendencies.  The bad boy might be a chosen because he seems exciting and adventurous.  His good looks are fine, but beyond his looks there is a possessively driven heart.  Then, there’s the adorable best friend type, a dependable guy who usually melts our hearts with his sweetness. Each appeal to characters—and readers—for different reasons.

The good news is that love triangles have been evolving and changing over the years since Twilight and a few have redeemed my faith in them.  Here’s what I found out:  Some love triangles have two good guys, but one is just a little sweeter and bakes really good bread.

YA Novels with Love Triangles

The City of Bones by Cassandra Clare — In this YA fantasy novel we meet Clary Fray and Simon Lewis best friends and confidants.  Enter Jace Wayland the gorgeous and golden Shadow Hunter that might just sweep Clary off her feet.  Clary can’t cut the ties of Simon’s friendship any more than she can resist the overpowering draw of the undeniably attractive Jace Wayland.


The Selection by Keira Cass — In this Sci-Fi/Dystopian YA novel we meet America Singer who has been in love with a sweet guy next door named Aspen.  Everything is smooth sailing for the couple until America heads off for the Selection, which is a reality television show where she must try to win the heart of Prince Maxon.  Will Aspen fade into the woodwork while America is away in the prince’s arms?


Splintered by A.G. Howard (2014 YALSA Teens’ Top Ten) —What you see is not always what you get in this ark and twisted re-telling of Alice and Wonderland. Right now I am hooked on A.G. Howard’s Splintered series, which features a love triangle extraordinaire.  Pitted against each other are a human boy named Jeb who is a skater boy next door and a otherworldly being named Morpheus who seems like a really hot version of the Mad Hatter.  These two are fighting for the love of the beautiful Alyssa Gardner, who loves skateboarding, is a creative artist, and her mom has been in a mental hospital for as long as she can remember. Believe me, it gets intense because these two guys both want her for themselves.  Who will she choose?  I don’t know, but Morpheus’ blue hair is definitely swaying my decision.


Matched by Ally Condie — In this Dystopian future where the Society makes all of the rules, Cassia Reyes is matched up to be married to her best friend Xander Carrow.  However, when Cassia views the video for her match she sees a picture of a different boy named Ky Markham on the screen.  Intrigued, Cassia attempts to figure out this mishap, and as she spends time with Ky, she becomes much closer withhim.  She becomes conflicted about whether she has a future with Xander or Ky and must make the most important decision of her life.


What are some of your favorite YA books with love triangles? 


— Kimberli Buckley, just finished reading I Was Here by Gayle Forman about to start Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

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Fandom 101: K-pop and K-drama

Fri, 09/11/2015 - 07:00

YALSA-bk is a listserv with lively discussions among librarians, educators, and beyond about all things YA lit. Sometimes one listserv member will ask a question of the group and others will provide feedback. This post is a compilation of responses for one such request.

Staying up with trends and interests of teen patrons is crucial to providing up-to-date collections and developing programs that will capture the attention of a teen audience. While teens are a great resources and will likely be happy to discuss their latest obsession at length, it’s also helpful to consult other resources to get a primer on a trend. Here at The Hub, we want to make it easier, so we’re introducing our Fandom 101 series.

A recent request on the YALSA-bk listserv caught my attention because it was asking for resources that would serve as an introduction to K-pop and K-drama for library staff who were unfamiliar with the culture and genre surrounding Korean music and movies but had teens in their library who were enthusiastic fans and wanted to start a club devoted to all things K-pop. These are some resources helpful members of the YA and library communities suggested as places to begin. Thanks for sharing your expertise!

Kpop CC image via Flickr User Republic of Korea


Recently, The New York Times reported on the wild popularity of South Korean culture, known as hallyu, or the “Korean wave.” So this isn’t an isolated phenomenon. For more information in K-pop and K-drama, check out:

This YouTube channel is maintained by a Canadian couple who has lived in Korea. It provides lots of content related to Korean culture for a non-Korean audience. The couple doesn’t present an insider perspective, but their time in Korea has given them a wide range of knowledge.

Fans of Korean movies, music, and pop culture may be interested in learning the language. This website was born out of a need for quality Korean instruction.

Korean Drama CC image via Flickr User Cory Doctorow

While it began as a site to host Korean dramas, this site is home to all sorts of television, film, and documentaries from around the world.

This English language site showcases viral Korean pop culture, covering everything from movies and TV to fashion and music.

This site claims to have “all the latest K-pop celebrity gossip and news.”

Are you a fan of Korean culture? Where do you stay up on trends and news? We’d love to hear about your favorite artists, actors, movies, etc. in the comments! 

— Molly Wetta, currently re-reading The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutowski

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