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2016 Hub Challenge Check-In #3

Sun, 02/14/2016 - 07:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Books to Celebrate Galentine’s Day

Fri, 02/12/2016 - 07:00

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

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

Young Adult Literature with Strong Female Friendships

Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson (2016 Great Graphic Novels)

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

All Our Pretty Songs by Sarah McCarry

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

A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith

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

Friday Society by Adrienne Kress

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

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

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

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

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

The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg

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

Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler

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

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

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

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

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

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Diversify YA Life: Interracial Couples

Fri, 02/12/2016 - 07:00

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

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

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

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

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig 

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

Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman

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

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

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

Winter by Marissa Meyer (2012 Teens Top Ten)

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

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith

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

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga 

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

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

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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

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

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

Like No Other by Una LaMarche

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

We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

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

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

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

All The Rage by Courtney Summers

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

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

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

Interracial Couples Booklist Downloadable PDF

— Dawn Abron, currently reading a YA fantasy novel.

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Reality Scoop: Random Acts of Kindness for YA

Thu, 02/11/2016 - 07:00

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

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

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

Stage of Life’s statistics revealed:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Booklist: Asexuality in Young Adult Fiction

Wed, 02/10/2016 - 07:00

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


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

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

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

Young Adult Fiction with Asexual Characters

Quicksilver by R. J. Anderson

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

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

The Movement Volume 1: Class Warfare by Gail Simone

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

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

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

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

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

Demonosity by Amanda Ashby

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

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

Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oathbound by Mercedes Lackey

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

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

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

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

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

More Resources:

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

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

— Danielle Jones, currently reading Front Lines by Michael Grant

The post Booklist: Asexuality in Young Adult Fiction appeared first on The Hub.

Teen Creative Writing & Art Contest for Teen Tech Week

Tue, 02/09/2016 - 12:13

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

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

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

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

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


The post Teen Creative Writing & Art Contest for Teen Tech Week appeared first on The Hub.

Booklist: Genre Reads for Cold Winter Nights

Tue, 02/09/2016 - 08:00

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

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

Thrillers and Mysteries for Cold Winter Nights

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

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

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

Trapped by Michael Northrup

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

As White as Snow by Salla Simukka

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

Nightfall by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujiwinski

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

The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley

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

The Edge by Roland Smith

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

Romance for Cold Winter Nights

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


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

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

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

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

Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler

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

Lovely, Dark, and Deep by Amy McNamara

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

Fantasy and Fairy Tales for Cold Winter Nights

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

Snow Like Ashes by Sarah Raasch

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

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

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

Frozen by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston

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

Ice by Sarah Beth Durst

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

Winterspell by Claire Legrand

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

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

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

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


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

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Readers’ Survey Results

Mon, 02/08/2016 - 07:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Molly Wetta, currently reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

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2016 Hub Challenge Check-in #2

Sun, 02/07/2016 - 07:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Carli Spina, currently reading Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

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Readers’ Advisory, Bibliotherapy, and Grief in YA Literature

Thu, 02/04/2016 - 07:08

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

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

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

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

Readers’ Advisory and Books About Death

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

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

A Variety in Experiences of Loss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further Notes:

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

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

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

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

Wed, 02/03/2016 - 07:00

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

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

Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics

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

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

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

Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen

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

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

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

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

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

Peeps by Scott Westerfeld

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

Project 17 by Laurie Stolarz

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

The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

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

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

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

Be Not Afraid by Cecilia Galante

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

— Jenni Frencham, currently reading All Involved by Ryan Gatis

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Reality Scoop: Promoting Mental Wellness with YA Literature

Tue, 02/02/2016 - 07:00

There are no shortages of books for young adults that tackle mental illness; The Hub has focused on books for Mental Health Awareness Month and also written about the trend of suicide and depression in Young Adult literature in just the last year. But today for Reality Scoop, we’re focusing on characters in YA novels who develop coping mechanisms for dealing with depression and anxiety throughout the course of the story.

Fiction According to National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), about 20% of teens suffer from mental health issues and nearly 30% have depression before adulthood.  The impact on teens is more than just statistics, it’s the feelings and the emotions that they deal with that hurt the most.  Mental health problems just make things so much harder for teens.  It makes their home life, school and socializing much more difficult than it should be.  

NRRP reported that an estimated 67%-70% of teens in the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health disorder.  Adolescence is a very vulnerable time for teens as well as a critical period for mental, social and emotional well-being.

Mental wellness is something that can help teens to think about their own abilities and how to cope with the stresses of life.  Focusing on mental wellness can teach teens to take care of themselves by eating healthy, getting enough sleep, going outdoors and exercising.

The stresses that teens deal with during daily interactions can sometimes trigger a negative effect on their mental well-being.  There are many difficulties they have to go through and their emotions may go through a range of different degrees from mild to severe.  According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), teen depression can affect a teen regardless of gender, social background, income level, race, or school or other achievements, though teenage girls report suffering from depression more often than teenage boys.

Emotional wellness can be put at risk by social factors or loss of friends, so good coping skills are important to help to reduce stress for teens.  Coping skills are methods that teens can use to deal with stressful situations. Maintaining good coping skills does take practice.  However, utilizing these skills will become easier over time.  Some valuable coping skills are practicing meditation and relaxation techniques such as breathing.  Physical activities that get the heart rate up will release endorphins.  Reading is a great stress reliever and laughter is a very big stress reliever.  Adding humor to any stressful situation can definitely lighten the mood.

It is important for teens to practice skills that can help to improve their mental wellness.  A big plus is the skill of self-appreciation, this helps teens to recognize their strengths and their weaknesses.  Resilience plays a big factor in mental wellness and how teen cope and recover from adversity.  One of the most important skill is how teens associate with other teens.  This is how they develop and maintain friends.  It also helps if they have an extended support system in place.  The idea is that teens must become life-long learners of themselves and their surroundings.  Physical exercise and fun activities with friends can also help to achieve mental wellness.

Some YA realistic fiction books that tap into the idea of coping with stress and mental issues, with an emphasis on resilient characters that face adversity and overcome obstacles are listed below.

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira – When Laurel’s teacher asks the class to write a letter to a dead person as an assignment she has no idea who she is going to write to.   There are many famous people listed like Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin or Heath Ledger.  Laurel decides to write her first letter to Kurt Cobain, but then she continues to write to all of the dead people her sister May liked because she is dead now too.  Unfortunately, Laurel can’t bring herself to turn the letters in for her assignment, as they are just too personal.  But she keeps on writing and writing because the writing makes her feel closer to her sister.  Writing helps Laurel to remember the truth and brings her closer to accepting what happened to May.

Slick by Sara Cassidy – Liza is thirteen and her parents are divorced.  The only thing that keeps Liza from losing her mind and not giving into total sadness is working on DIY projects.  She makes fun things with recycled materials and items she finds a the local thrift store.  To further keep her mind off of being sad, Liza decides to throw herself into a good cause.  Since she doesn’t like her mom’s boyfriend, he seems like a good target since he works for an oil company that is ruining the environment in Guatemala.  Liza’s is group appropriately named GRRR! (Girls for Renewable Resources Really!) is out to save the environment and breaking up her mom and her new boyfriend will be an added bonus.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (2007 Best Fiction for Young Adults) – Craig Gilner is in high school and right on top of his game.  He goes to one of the most prestigious prep schools in New York and he is totally stressed out.  Through a series of events where Craig is feeling overwhelmed and depressed, he ends up spending five days on Six North, an adult psychiatric wing at the hospital in Brooklyn.  Six North is just what Craig needs.  He’s able to tap into his true self and reach inside himself and he begins to create art again.  This heartwarming story shows that a young person can find healing in even the oddest of situations.  Craig is able to find solace at Six North and true friendship that he would not have been able to find anywhere else.

The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart (2006 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers) – Lockhart has wooed us with many female YA voices.  We’ve seen Frankie a super feminist in The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and Cadence, the lost and lonely amnesiac soul in We Were Liars.  However, in The Boyfriend List we find Ruby Oliver a girl who continues to experience difficulties with friends, boys, and school that lead to her having panic attacks due to the stress. Things start to look up for Ruby after she starts seeing a therapist.  She is able to talk about her home life and all of the difficulties she has been having at school with boys and how her parents fight all the time.  Ruby is able to mend some of her broken pieces and find her own voice by taking steps to maintaining her mental wellness in this delightful book by E. Lockhart.

Tune in next month for more Reality Scoop where we will be talking about Random Acts of Kindness.

— Kimberli Buckley, currently reading Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

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