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Heretic Heroes in YA Literature

Tue, 08/30/2016 - 07:00

What are the chances that two different books, one for middle grades, and one for older teens, would be published within six months of each other, both about heretics, set in medieval France in the years 1241 and 1242?

I don’t know about you, but aside from the story of Joan of Arc, I’ve rarely read many YA books about characters who can perform miracles (fantasy books don’t count) and who are considered heretics. A heretic, as defined by the dictionary is, “a professed believer who maintains religious opinions contrary to those accepted by his or her church or rejects doctrines prescribed by that church.” Although there are many YA books where characters are accused of being witches who could also be labeled heretics by the church, I’m limiting this discussion to just two new books.


If you’ve ever read Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, you’ll recognize the structure of Adam Gidwitz’s medieval tale called The Inquisitor’s Tale that’s set in France in 1242 (and this one’s written in more modern language and even has a farting dragon in it!). A stranger has stopped at the Holy Cross-Roads Inn, a day’s walk north of Paris on a dark night, the perfect kind of night for a story. The inn is packed with all sorts of people (female brewsters, peasants, priests, butchers, knights, and many others) all anxious to regale this stranger with the tale of how they’ve seen the miraculous children and their holy dog who are all wanted by King Louis IX.

These miraculous children are William, a giant of a boy, and a monk who is Muslim, whose mother was from Northern Africa, and whose father is a lord. William’s capable of performing feats of strength that would make Samson tremble. Jeanne (named for Joan of Arc) is a girl who sees true visions of the future and Jacob, a Jew, who can heal a wound as fast as Saint Luke himself. Holy dog Gwenforte loved Jeanne when Jeanne was a child but was killed by Jeanne’s parents after they mistakenly think Gwenforte attacked a killed Jeanne, when actually Gwenforte saved her. Ten years later Gwenforte has been miraculously resurrected.

These children meet each other as Jeanne’s running from a huge knight with red hair, Jacob’s fleeing the burning of his community by Catholic boys and William’s been sent on a mission to another monastery with books for the abbot. They realize that, despite their differences, they can talk easily with each other because they all feel like they’re different from other children. And they are! William tears a donkey’s leg off and fights off bandits with it then miraculously reattaches it to the unharmed donkey! The children are chased throughout France by the huge knight who finally catches up with them in Mont-Saint-Michel. The adventure tale is full of humor, heartbreak and amazing historical characters and legends – both real and made-up – with an afterward by Gidwitz that explains where the origins of the book came from.

Julie Berry’s The Passion of Dolssa (Best Fiction for Young Adults nominee), tells the story of  a  young woman, Dolssa de Stigata, who hears God and is branded a heretic in medieval France in 1241. When a church inquisitor warns Dolssa she will be excommunicated, and her soul will burn in hell and her body will burn in a heretic’s pyre, she says, “I dwell with my beloved, and when you slay me, I will dwell in his arms forever.” In trying to make her confess, they condemn her mother to burn at the stake, and when it’s her turn, she’s mysteriously saved. On the run from her inquisitors, she’s aided by the Flasucra sisters.

Teenaged matchmaker Botille finds Dolssa, and she and her sisters, Sazia, a fortuneteller, and beautiful Plazensa, the  oldest, hide Dolssa away in the tavern they operate in their village. They had a tough life, wandering from town to town stealing to get by after their  mother died, leaving them with her drunkard husband, until they settled down in Bajas (now Bages). Dolssa, grateful for being saved, begins performing miracles, like bringing dying villagers back to life or making sure the sisters’ jugs of ale are continuously full.

Saving Dolssa puts their entire village in mortal danger when Dolssa’s pursuers, particularly dogged Friar Lucien and a former knight get wind of the miracles occurring there. This book might seem a bit daunting in length, but the characters are distinct and engaging, and the earthiness and realism of how life must have been during that period, really shines through. It’s a beautifully written story that’s alternately funny, poignant, and sad and a testament to the power of belief.

Dolssa’s story was discovered by a friar who recreated her story from various places – as the tale told at a bishop’s deathbed; from papers belonging to a priest that were really written by a woman and from a tale by a friar in Barcelona. By putting all these pieces together, the friar recreated Dolssa’s story. Like Gidwitz’s book, the afterward contains the author’s notes about how this fictional book came to be, with it’s real locations and mixture of real and made up characters.

Both of these books about heretics are very different from one another, yet are both gorgeously written (as is the illuminated artwork in Gidwitz’s book).

— Sharon Rawlins, currently reading Naomi Novik’s Uprooted








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App Review: Serial Reader

Mon, 08/22/2016 - 11:00

Every year around this time, I’m faced with the same problem: Dozens of high school students are flocking to my library in search of their required reading for AP English classes, and even though I’m lucky enough to have two sets of shelves in my teen space set aside for these books, there never seem to be enough copies. When print copies run out, I can always direct the teens to electronic collections, but what happens when those copies are also checked out?

Last month, an article presented a potential solution when it introduced me to an app called Serial Reader. I interested in the claim that Serial Reader would let me “conquer the classics in ten minutes a day.” To get started, I downloaded the free version of the app to my iPad to try. I was then prompted to subscribe to a book from their extensive list of classic and public domain titles and set a daily delivery time. I chose Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, and for the next ten days, Serial Reader sent me a section of the book that I could read in an average of ten minutes (some sections took a bit longer, but none were longer than fifteen minutes). The app synced my progress across my devices, so I could start a section during a break at work on my smartphone and finish it later on my tablet at home. By the end of ten days, I had read all of Common Sense.

I was pleased to find that many of the titles offered in the app are the same titles that the AP students are trying to find in my library, and I was so delighted with my reading progress that I decided to upgrade to the premium version of the app for $2.99. Upgrading gave me access to all the same titles offered by the free version, but also allowed me to take notes, highlight, share my progress via social media, and change the size and style of the font.

For a second test case, I chose The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. Issues to me like clockwork, every day at 9:00 AM, but with summer reading going full force, there were a few days when I skipped my reading. The issues simply piled up, waiting for me to read them, and it was easy to catch up. If I was in a rush or excited about what was happening in the book, I could read ahead to the next issue.

I didn’t love The Turn of the Screw, but I was motivated to keep going by the fact that I never had to read for more than fifteen minutes at a time, and also by the fun badges with which the app marked my progress: I received a badge for reading a section a day for two weeks; a word for every book in Thomas Jefferson’s library (6,487); a word for every map owned by King George III of England (50,000), and more.

As of this writing, I’m a little more than halfway through my fourth book in Serial Reader, and I’ve found that it has a little something for everyone. New titles are added often and range from popular fiction such as a wide range of Agatha Christie mysteries to classics like Les Miserables and Great Expectations and nonfiction titles including The Federalist Papers and Twelve Years a Slave. I am, indeed, conquering the classics ten minutes at a time.

Because many of the titles available are the ones that AP students are looking for in the library, I’ve told several of my patrons about this app. It has been useful for my AP students, and I’m looking forward to showing it to some reluctant readers, too. Using Serial Reader has encouraged me to catch up on some of the classics I missed over the years, and the appeal of reading short sections each day is certainly broad. As the start of school approaches and the demand for required titles for AP English assignments increases, I’m glad to have Serial Reader as a tool in my librarian arsenal.

Serial Reader is available for iOS and Andriod devices via the App Store and Google Play.

–Elizabeth Norton, currently reading Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

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Racial and Social Justice Podcasts for Teens

Fri, 08/19/2016 - 07:00

This presidential campaign season and recent current events have brought many social issues to the forefront. Teens (and adults) are trying to navigate many of these around racial equity, Islamophobia, and immigration. Often as library staff we try to help teens delve into issues, interests, concerns or questions they are experiencing with bibliotherapy, which can serve as a great tool, but published books don’t always capture to immediacy of what is happening right now.

News media channels are often the sources where we are encountering these subjects, but little segments don’t, or can’t, take the time to fully unpack particular aspects around these issues. The following is a list of current podcasts, podcasts that have teen appeal, that we can all be listening to that explore racial and social justice in the United States, and especially during a time where politics are front and center.

Here are six podcast to listen to and share with teens right now:

Politically Re-Active

Comedians and W. Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu come together to discuss some the most current hot-button topics that are arising during the current political campaign season. The podcast premiered at the end of June and will carry on through the election in November. Each week they have a guest on their show, and they get in deep to current issues such as private prisons, third-wave feminism, and dog-whistling politics – all issues of interest to teens. They also talk to other journalist of color and social justice leaders as they discuss the current political process and how it intersects with social justice issues.

Also check out Bell’s other podcast Denzel Washington is the Greatest Actor of All Time Period that he does with Kevin Avery and Kondabolu’s interview with NPR’s Nerdette Podcast from August 5, 2016, where he talks about the power of youth and how important it is to be reaching out to teens because this is when they are forming their opinions. Kondabolu gets teens and knows that humor and comedy is the best way to reach them.

Code Switch

An NPR Podcast about race and identity that is comprised of wide-array of journalists of color discussing the “overlapping themes of race, ethnicity and culture, and how they play out in our lives and communities.” The podcast began in late May 2016 and has covered topics from the killing of Philando Castile and how LGBTQ people of color were dealing with the Orlando shootings to people of color and their relationship to the great outdoors and the stress of how people of color are being portrayed on TV and in the movies. A must listen is their debut podcast from May 31, 2016 “Can We Talk About Whiteness.”


Activist, storyteller, and politico Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed and  writer, actor and comedian Zahra Noorbakhsh started #GoodMuslimBadMuslim in January 2015 to discuss the constant flips they have to make being Muslim in American culture and the ways they choose to live and create art. As they put it, “To the Muslim community, we are ‘bad’ Muslims” and “To non-Muslims, we are ‘good.’” Through humor and satire they take hard look at what is going on politically, pop culture, and the current rise of Islamophobia.

Our National Conversation About Conversations About Race

This podcast has been on hiatus since February, but will be returning September 2nd with hosts Baratunde Thurston, Raquel Cepeda, Tanner Colby and Anna Holmes. They describe the show as a, “lively multiracial, interracial conversation about the ways we can’t talk, don’t talk, would rather not talk, but intermittently, fitfully, embarrassingly do talk about culture, identity, politics, power, and privilege in our pre-post-yet-still-very-racial America.” As you wait for the return dip into the archives, and especially look for podcasts #BlackProtestsMatter, The A-Word (assimilation), and The Diversity Drinking Game (where they discuss the lack of diversity in the writers’ rooms of most television shows).

Propaganda Backtalk

Bitch Media editors talk about the week’s pop culture as it relates to women and race. Recent podcasts have covered the gender bias in the coverage of the Summer Olympics in Rio, the lack of diversity in Stranger Things, Beyoncé’s Lemonade, and the history of gender segregation of bathrooms and the laws being proposed across the county that would create discriminatory laws around who can use what bathrooms.


Latino USA

Produced by NPR and Futuro Media Group this is one of the longest running Latino-focused programs on U.S. public media. Hour-long episodes delve deep into the stories that are often overlooked by mainstream media. Recent podcasts have covered the election season, how media channels are reaching Latino youth in the U.S., and several court cases that have affected Latino individuals that aren’t necessarily being covered in mainstream news coverage.

What are you, or the teens in your life, listening to that is helping to wade through this political season and/or raise your social and racial justice awareness?

Danielle Jones, currently binge-watching The Get Down on Netflix

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Vote Now for the 2016 Teens’ Top Ten!

Mon, 08/15/2016 - 13:21

Voting for the 2016 Teens’ Top Ten is now open! Encourage teens to vote for up to three of their favorite titles now through Oct. 15. The “top ten” titles will be announced the week after Teen Read Week™, which takes place Oct. 9-15. Encourage voting by sharing the video featuring the 26 nominated titles on your library’s website! Vote now at

The Teens’ Top Ten is a teen choice list, with teens nominating and choosing their favorite books of the previous year. Nominators are members of teen book groups from 15 school and public libraries around the country. Library staff can now apply on behalf of their teen book groups for a chance to be a part of the official 2017-2018 Teens’ Top Ten book groups.

Nominations for the Teens’ Top Ten are posted in April during National Library Week, and teens across the country have the opportunity to read the titles throughout the summer and then vote on their favorite titles each year. To learn more about the Teens’ Top Ten, please visit the Teens’ Top Ten website.

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Introducing YALSA’s Backlist Reading Challenge!

Mon, 08/15/2016 - 07:00

Do you ever feel like you never get a chance to read older books because you’re so focused on trying to stay on top of new releases and current trends?

We can relate.

Lots of young adult librarians and library workers have had a great time participating in the Hub Reading Challenge, which focuses on reading the recent award winners and selection lists, we thought it would be fun to focus on reading older titles from the YALSA awards and lists that you may have missed and always meant to go back to, but just haven’t gotten around to reading yet.

The challenge is simple: read 5 titles from our Bingo Board to complete it, or go for a blackout and read 25 books to knock out the entire board.

Read 5 books in a row, a column, or diagonally across the board. You can even go for outside corners, small diamond, or whatever combination suits you. The point of the challenge is just to read older books—from lists and awards 2015 and older—to deepen your readers’ advisory knowledge and familiarity with the best of young adult literature.

Even better, we’re hoping that everyone can benefit from a great discussion and refresh their knowledge of backlist titles. Have these titles stood the test of time? Are they relevant? Are there amazing titles that are perfect read-alikes for popular current titles? We want to hear!

To facilitate discussion, we’ll be having two twitter chats Sunday, September 11th at 7 pm Eastern and Tuesday, October 25th at 9 pm Eastern. We’ll also have monthly check-in posts for readers to share the titles they’ve picked up for the challenge.

You can print off the Backlist Reading Challenge Bingo Board and browse all the past awards and selected lists on the YALSA website.

You can comment below with your intention to participate! The challenge is open to anyone and everyone who is interested in reading and discussing young adult literature.

Questions? Email Molly at

— Molly Wetta, currently reading How to Set a Fire and Why by Jesse Ball

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Make America Read Again

Mon, 08/08/2016 - 07:00

There’s still a couple of weeks before the start of school and this is the perfect time to see this great nation of ours. Whether by plane or by car, visiting one of the United States can be entertaining and educational; however, sometimes a two day trip or a quick stop at a historical landmark leaves you wanting more culture.  Reading books set in the states is a great way to fill your cultural needs.  Authors often set their books in the states where they were raised or currently live and as the reader, we get to see the character’s city/state through their eyes.  We experience the people and their traditions, religion, and family life.

Many Americans may never visit West Virginia yet we have our own prejudices but in Free Verse, Sarah Dooley illustrates the daily life of coal miners and why they continue to work in dangerous conditions.  Most of us may not be a member of a Pentecostal snake handling church and we may not understand it but Jeff Zentner introduces us to a boy who is a member of this church and although he is embarrassed by the crimes of his father he is not embarrassed by his faith.

So grab your devices and your trail mix and go on a reading tour of the USA. Perhaps you will discover something exciting and new.

Cassie has had a tough summer mentally and romantically.  To explain her behavior to the boy’s heart she broke, Cassie writes him a personal letter of loss and loneliness.

  • PENNSYLVANIA- Great American Whatever by Tim Federle

Quinn hasn’t left his room in six months since the death of his sister and filmmaking partner.  After reluctantly going out with his best friend Geoff, Quinn falls in love, uncovers secrets, and come to terms with his sister’s death.

After her older brother dies, Sasha has no one and is sent to live in a foster home.  Living on a street named Caboose West Virginia, Sasha dreams of leaving this coal mining town everyday but the discovery of an uncle and a cousin causes her to see her small town through new eyes.

Lennie Cash’s name is legendary and not just for her criminal father but for her family’s legacy as moonshiners and wish granters.  Reeling from her friend’s brutal murder and wanting to fit in, Lennie unwittingly brings the magic moonshine to the party of the year where everyone makes outrageous wishes.  Lennie is then tasked with taking back those wishes and cleaning up her mess.

Dill’s father is the minister of a snake handling church, in prison, and Dill must live with his father’s name.  Living in a small town with no dreams of leaving and secretly being in love with his best friend who has big dreams of leaving, Dill struggles to figure out his life.

Natalie is ready to have the best summer in her small Kentucky town before she begins seeing visions of a different life.  After a visit from a stranger who called herself grandmother and beautiful boy named Beau, Natalie tries to solve the mystery of her visions.

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?

Willowdean “Dumplin” Dickson is a Texan, daughter of the Miss Teen Beauty Pageant’s coordinator, and overweight.  She has best friend issues, boy issues, mommy issues but she decides to honor her aunt by entering the pageant.

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.

  • WASHINGTON- Essential Maps for the Lost by Deb Caletti

While taking a swim, Madison finds a dead woman floating in the water.  Upon learning it was a suicide, Madison who has also contemplated suicide becomes obsessed with the woman’s life which includes her son.  Madison inadvertently develops a relationship with the woman’s son and Madison fears that if he finds out about her obsession, he’ll end it.

When Ash’s mother returns to the commune she left years ago, Ash follows her only to find a city surrounded by corn stalks.  Soon after her arrival, Ash begins to have visions of her ancestor that are initially lovely messages of love and immortality that soon give way to gruesome murders.  Ash must save her mother before all the visions become reality.

Fed up with life, Anna steals her mother’s credit card and heads to LA to spend the summer with her glamorous sister.  While working on a movie set, Anna is tasked with researching the Manson murders and soon begins to see herself and her sister in the Manson girls.

When Miss-fix-it-Jill’s mother walks out on her and her father, Jill begins to feel helpless until a new boy with scars moves in next door.  While trying to “fix” the new boy, Jill discovers she can’t fix other people’s problems until she can fix her own.


Make America Read Again Printable PDF

Dawn Abron, currently  reading Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson

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Women in Comics: Welcome to Riverdale

Tue, 08/02/2016 - 07:00

First appearing in 1941, Archie Andrews is a classic comic figure. In the years since his debut, a community has developed around him, made up of his friends and family in Riverdale as well as an array of famous figures Archie has bumped into, from the band KISS to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This long and storied history includes a huge list of authors and artists who each bring something different to the characters and settings that are iconic for Archie comics, but this month’s post will focus on a few of the talented female authors and artists who have contributed to the world of Riverdale over the years.

One frequent contributor to the Archie universe is Melanie J. Morgan who has written several popular stories about the characters over the years. In Archie: Goodbye Forever, she partnered with artist Norm Breyfogle to tackle what would happen if Archie was forced to leave Riverdale. When his father is given the promotion of a lifetime, Archie is left with no choice but to support the decision to move out of state for this new opportunity. The comic packs in a range of emotions from laughter to tears as it covers a topic that is relatable, but also one that feels very unexpected in the Archie universe.

In Betty & Veronica in Bad Boy Trouble, Morgan and artist Steven Butler shift the focus to the girls of Riverdale and, in particular, the friendship between Betty and Veronica. The story focuses on Veronica’s relationship with Nick St. Clair, the new boy in town, who just might be a bit of a bad boy. Betty sees him more clearly than Veronica can and in the end, he threatens to jeopardize their friendship. Readers who are interested in comics that focus more on female friendship will definitely want to check this one out.

In the summer of 2015, the Archie comics were rebooted as part of “New Riverdale,” with author Mark Waid and artist Fiona Staples tasked with reinventing and modernizing the classic characters. They delivered this and more in Archie Vol. 1, which offered a fresh take on the character that had a little something for all ages. Focusing on Archie’s previously unknown origin, the story proved popular and has helped to spawn other new series, including a new Jughead series by writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Erica Henderson (a name some may recognize from the recent Squirrel Girl series). This series has already made its mark on the classic character of Jughead Jones with the fourth issue earning headlines by revealing for the first time that Jughead is asexual and even before that revelation it had earned a large fanbase.

Crossovers are an iconic part of the Archie world and one that has recently proved extremely popular is Archie vs. Predator by Alex de Campi with art by Fernando Ruiz. Though these two cultural icons might not seem immediately suited to one another and this limited series prompted some skepticism when it was initially announced, it was ultimately a bestseller. It is a perfect option for horror fans and anyone who enjoys their humor with a dark side.

This fall, Archie is going to be welcoming two new works featuring female creators. The end of September will see the launch of a new Josie and the Pussycats series written by Marguerite Bennett and Cameron DeOrdio with art by Audrey Mok. The series will focus on the bandmates’ friendship and is a great option for readers who wish they were in a band or who love humor. In October, just in time for the 40th anniversary of the Ramones, Archie will meet the band in a crossover event entitled Archie Meets the Ramones. Written by Alex Segura and Matthew Rosenberg with art by Gisèle Lagacé, this is another great option for music lovers and represents the latest in a long history of Archie crossover events. Both of these new comics promise to make this an exciting fall for long-time Archie fans and new readers alike.

I hope this will help bring the world of Archie comics to a whole new audience. If you are already a fan of Riverdale and its inhabitants, let me know other great Archie comics by women in the comments!

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Monthly Monday Polls: Current and Upcoming YA page-to-screen adaptations

Mon, 08/01/2016 - 07:00

Happy August, and happy Monday, Hub readers.

Last month, we asked about your favorite historical fiction set in 18th century North America. A whopping 48% of you voted for Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chains and/or its sequel, Forged (good news for fans of the series; the third and final volume, Ashes, has a tentative publication date of November 20, 2016). The second and third most popular choices were, respectively, either volume of M.T. Anderson’s The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing (25%), followed by any of the 15 titles by Ann Rinaldi depicting the era (21%). Joseph Bruchac’s Winter People garnered 6% of the vote; The Portsmouth Alarm, by Terri A. DeMitchell, did not receive any votes.

This month, as many of us take refuge in that classic summertime heat-busting destination, the air-conditioned refrigerated movie theater, the Hub wants to know: which current or upcoming YA/cross-over page-to-screen adaptation are you most excited about?

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.

A note about the options: I included only films with a PG-13 or lower rating for the poll. This excluded the dystopian survival story Into the Forest (released July 29), starring Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood, based on the novel of the same name by Jean Heglund, and fraternity hazing tale Goat (in theaters September 23), starring Ben Schnetzer and Nick Jonas, based on the memoir of the same name by Brad Land. Both of these projects have strong appeal for teens, especially older teens, based on their casts and themes, but I opted not to include picks with a R-rating, as that can present a barrier for teen viewers.

If you like to build Reader’s Advisory materials around page-to-screen adaptations, I like IMDB’s Coming Soon feature to help me stay on top of which movies are coming down the pipeline (use the drop-down menu to preview future months). November and December tend to be *big* months for movie releases, so there are plenty more future projects to get excited about (ahem, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, opening November 18!) . Let us know of current adaptations we missed, and resources you love for staying informed about new page-to-screen projects in the comments.

-Carly Pansulla, currently reading Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

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Mutism in YA books

Tue, 07/26/2016 - 07:00

I’ve noticed an increase recently in the number of YA books being published featuring characters who are selectively mute (at least four published this year). They can speak, but choose not to – as opposed to characters that are involuntarily mute who cannot speak because of injury, illness or magic. I can’t exactly explain this trend except to say that maybe current events have made authors focus more on mental health issues. Many of the characters in these books who are selectively mute have experienced traumatic events and have reacted by engaging in self-harm or risky behaviors, or been bullied or bullied others. This has contributed to their loss of their voices – they’ve withdrawn into themselves and don’t want to anyone to pay any attention to them. It’s at this most vulnerable time in their lives that teens are finally becoming independent and learning to think for themselves. It’s vital that they be allowed to find their voices and express themselves in healthy ways because it will shape who they become.

Characters that are unable to speak but are able to communicate in other ways, such as through telepathy, are pretty common in science fiction and fantasy books. Most of the recent books I’m mentioning here are realistic fiction. There’s also a trend away from the secondary characters being the mute ones; it’s becoming more common for the main characters to be mute. Even if they have been victimized and become selectively mute, they have found other ways to express themselves – especially through art.

The withdrawn character who rarely speaks isn’t a new phenomenon in YA literature. Speak (1999), by Laurie Halse Anderson, (2000 Michael L. Printz Honor Winner; 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Winner) is a classic example, and a book that’s on many high school required reading lists and has inspired other books. In Speak, Melinda enters her freshman year of high school friendless and treated as an outcast because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. She becomes increasingly isolated and selectively mute. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at the party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends the same school as she does and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication.

Another book that made a big impact on me when I read it was Hush: an Irish Princess’ Tale by Donna Jo Napoli (2008) (2009 Best Fiction for Young Adults). In Napoli’s story, Melkorka is a princess, the first daughter of a magnificent kingdom in medieval Ireland — but all of this is lost the day she is kidnapped and taken aboard a marauding slave ship. Thrown into a world that she has never known, alongside people that her former country’s laws regarded as less than human, Melkorka is forced to learn quickly how to survive. Taking a vow of silence, however, she finds herself an object of fascination to her captors and masters, and soon realizes that any power, no matter how little, can make a difference.

Some of the recently published books featuring selectively mute characters include:

The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout (2016). Mallory is a foster kid who, during her traumatic childhood,  protected herself by remaining mute. She was rescued from abusive foster parents when she was 13 and, since then, has been living with a loving foster family being homeschooled. Now, 17, she’s attending public high school for the first time, and she must gain the strength and courage to learn to speak up for herself.

Tommy Wallach’s Thanks for the Trouble (2016) (current Best Fiction for Young Adults  nominee). Hispanic Parker Santé hasn’t spoken a word in five years, after witnessing his father’s tragic death in a car accident. While his classmates plan for bright futures, he skips school to hang out in hotels, killing time by watching the guests. But when he meets silver-haired Zelda Toth, who claims to be 246-years-old, but looks like a teenager, he discovers there just might be a few things left worth living for.

You Were Here by Cori McCarthy (2016). It’s been five years since Jake died – he broke his neck the day of his high school graduation while attempting a daredevil stunt. Jake’s sister, Jaycee, has had a hard time letting him go. It’s now Jaycee’s own high school graduation, but she’s still consumed with sadness, guilt and anger over his death. When she discovers a map in Jake’s old room of all the locations he visited during his urbex explorations (going to abandoned man-made structures like a mall or amusement park), she and a group of unlikely friends, including Mik, Jake’s former best friend who is now selectively mute, decide to re-create Jake’s path. Each character tells the story from their point of view, including Mik’s in graphic novel format, and another character’s through street art.

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow (August 2016). Charlotte “Charlie” Davis has gone through so much in her almost 18 years. Her father committed suicide, and her mother’s grief turned to anger towards Charlie. Charlie hits her mother back, and gets kicked out on the streets. She cuts to cope. Then she meets a beautiful new girl in school and they become inseparable – until she’s gone too. That and several other traumatic experiences trigger the suicide attempt that lands Charlie in a mental facility where she’s selectively mute. Charlie’s experiences there are only a small part of this book that chronicles Charlie’s recovery and fight to regain her voice and her will to survive.

There are a number of books where the characters are involuntarily mute as well. The main reason the characters can’t speak is because their tongues have been partially or fully cut out of their mouths. This seems to be a common form of punishment throughout the ages.

One of the more unforgettable books where a character experiences this is All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry (2013) (2014 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults). Even though it’s not set in medieval times, it has an otherworldly feel to it, not unlike Hush. Judith is the village outcast because she was kidnapped, held prisoner and had her tongue partially cut out to silence her from talking about what happened the night she was taken. After two years, she was returned to her village, but is unable to speak and is shunned by everyone, including her own mother. Encouraged by an old friend, Judith is inspired to try to regain some speech. If she can find the means and courage to communicate what she knows, she and other innocent victims might find a form of salvation. It’s a haunting and unforgettable story.

It seems like many of the characters who become involuntarily mute by having their tongues removed are servants. The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal (2013), a 2014 Michael L. Printz Honor Book, beautifully chronicles the fates of a young seamstress and a mute royal nursemaid that find that they are at the center of an epic power struggle set in 16th century Scandinavia in this complex and lyrical YA debut.

Corinne Duyvis’s fantasy Otherbound (2014) features Amara, a bisexual mute servant girl from another world who is charged with protecting a princess in hiding, while in our world, a disabled epileptic teenager named Nolan is trapped in Amara’s mind and can experience her thoughts and experiences every time he blinks. At first he’s only an observer in Amara’s world—until he’s not. At first, Amara is terrified by this new presence controlling her. But they eventually learn that the only way to protect the princess and escape danger is to work together.

The last recently published book featuring a character who’s rendered involuntarily mute is Devil and the Bluebird by Jennifer Mason-Black (2016) (current Best Fiction for Young Adults nominee). Blue Riley has wrestled with her own demons ever since the loss of her mother to cancer. But when she encounters a beautiful devil at her town crossroads, it’s her runaway sister’s soul she fights to save. The devil steals Blue’s voice—inherited from her musically gifted mother—in exchange for a single shot at finding Cass. This search for her sister exposes her to America’s marginalized, as her mutism elicits confusion, confessions, and sympathy along the way in this adventure story laced with magical realism.

Many of these stories may not be easy to read but they reflect the real experiences of many teens. They need to know that there is hope for them and that they are not alone.

~Sharon Rawlins – currently reading Rise of the Wolf by Jennifer A. Nielsen

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Booklist: Steampunk Reads for Teens

Mon, 07/18/2016 - 07:00

Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that is usually set in the late 19th or early 20th century. It’s notable for a unique aesthetic featuring clockwork and steam-powered technology. As it has gained popularity, steampunk has begun to include themes ranging from alternate history to time travel and can be set in the near past, the distant future and anywhere in between.

If you want to learn more about steampunk as a genre you can check out the Hub’s steampunk genre guide written up by Colleen Seisser. Carli Spina has you covered if you’re looking for some steampunk comics by female authors. If you’re still not sure where to start, read on for more recommendations.

If You Want Adventure:

  1. Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger (2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2015 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults): When fourteen-year-old Sophronia is sent to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality she soon discovers that deceit and espionage part of the curriculum along with etiquette and dancing.
  2. Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff: Sent to capture an arashitora for the Shogun, Yukiko soon finds herself stranded in the wilderness with the creature. This unlikely pair will have to set aside their differences and work together when Yukiko hears of the Shoguns injustices from a secretive man named Kin and the rebel Kage cabal.
  3. Airborn by Kenneth Oppel (2005 Printz Award Honor): Cabin boy Matt and heiress Kate travel the skies via airship searching for elusive winged creatures rumored to live in the clouds.
  4. Ashes of Twilight by Kassy Tayler: Wren McAvoy works as a coal miner in a domed city. After two hundred years, everyone takes life in the dome for granted. The only problem is that the coal is running out. When a friend escapes the dome he is used as a gruesome warning for those who try to challenge the established society. But his last words to Wren–“The sky is blue.”–will set Wren on a path that could change everything.
  5. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (2010 Best Books for Young Adults, 2011 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults): Alek–heir to the clanker Austro-Hungarian Empire–and Deryn–a girl disguising herself as a boy to serve as a Darwinist airman–have to form an uneasy alliance if they hope to stave off the coming World War which begs the question: Do you oil your war machines? Or do you feed them?

If You Want Romance:

  1. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (2011 Teens’ Top Ten): Everyone seems to want something from Tessa. The Dark Sisters want her to use her strange ability. A shadowy figure called the Magister seems to need her. The Shadowhunters want her help to fight creatures known as Downworlders. All Tessa wants is to find her brother and to forget all about the Downworld and her own place in it . . . even if it would mean forgetting about William Herondale and James Carstairs, two Shadowhunters with their own inner demons to battle.
  2. The Inventor’s Secret by Andrea Cremer: Charlotte and her fellow refugees survive as best they can on the edge of Britain’s industrial empire in the American colony until a newcomer arrives with no memory of his own past and revelations about what befalls those who try to abandon the bonds of the empires Machineworks.
  3. Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore: When Nimira is invited to sing with a wealthy magician’s automaton, she soon learns that nothing is as it seems at the fine estate of Vestenveld. As Nim learns more about her new home and the automaton she will have to make dangerous choices to protect herself and save the one she loves.
  4. The Perilous Journey of the Not So Innocuous Girl by Leigh Statham: In 17th Century France, Lady Marguerite lives a luxurious if dull life while she contemplates if she may love her best friend, Claude, a smithy’s son. When Claude leaves to pursue better prospects in New France, Marguerite decides to follow him in this story inspired by true story of Louis the XIV’s endeavor to settle Canada with women of noble birth.
  5. Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson: When Verity Newton arrives in New York City, she quickly secures employment as a governess among the upper class magisters who rule Britain and its American colonies with magic. Recruited into the fledgling rebellion of colonists calling themselves the Rebel Mechanics, Verity soon learns that anything goes when it comes to revolution–and love.
If You Want Scary:

  1. Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard: The dead are rising in Philadelphia and Eleanor Fitt’s brother has been kidnapped by whoever controls them. Now, Eleanor will have to risk her reputation and her life if she hopes to rescue him.
  2. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher (2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2011 Amazing Audiobooks, 2012 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults): Incarceron is a closed system. Nothing enters the prison and nothing ever leaves. Food is recycled, materials made over and over. Prisoners, when they pass, are not buried or burned–their atoms are used to create new inmates. In a prison so vast, most prisoners cannot imagine a world Outside their misery. Finn is different.
  3. Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel: The year is 2195. The place is New Victoria. The problem is the Lazarus virus which is spreading rapidly and turning citizens into zombies. With the whole world changing maybe a human girl and zombie boy really can be together . . . for a little while at least
  4. Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve (2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults2012 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults): Fever Crumb, an orphan raised by Dr. Crumb, is the only woman to serve on the order of engineers in a place where women are not thought capable of reasonable thought. When Fever leaves Dr. Crumb and the order behind to join a top-secret project she begins experiencing memories that are not her own–memories that make Fever question everything she thought she knew about herself.
  5. The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding: Wych-hunter Thaniel and his mentor Cathaline have to delve into the world of dangerous creatures in London’s Old Quarter to find out how to help Alaizabel Cray, a girl possessed by a mysterious something that draws all manner of evil and dark horrors to her.
If You Want Mystery:

  1. The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults): With mysteries all around her and far more at stake than she can imagine, Katharine Tulman will have to decide who to trust and who to protect when she is sent to her eccentric inventor uncle’s ramshackle estate to determine if he is actually insane.
  2. The Transatlantic Conspiracy by G.D. Falksen: Rosalind’s trip on her father’s Transatlantic Express, the world’s first underwater railway, turns sinister when Rosalind’s best friend and her housemaid are found murdered. Trapped on the train, Rosalind will have to find the killer to clear her own name and search for Cecily’s missing brother.
  3. The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason: Mina Holmes, daughter of Mycroft Holmes, is a talented detective used to working alone.  Evaline Stoker, on the other hand, is a veritable social butterfly eager to use her preternatural strength and speed for their intended purposes–killing vampires. With obstacles at every turn and odious men underestimating their skills, both young women will have to stay sharp to solve a supernatural murder mystery before it’s too late.
  4. The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress: Cora, Nellie, and Michiko are assistants to some of the most powerful men in London. When their chance meeting at a ball ends in murder the three young women will use their unique skills to solve the crime (without drawing too much attention, of course).
  5. Revenge of the Wild by Michelle Modesto: Nine years after losing her family and her arm to cannibals on the wagon trail, Westie lives in Rogue City with her adopted father, Nigel, a local inventor who made Westie a mechanical arm. Westie’s search for justice ends when wealthy investors come to town who look exactly like the cannibals who attacked her so long ago. Determined to prove their guilt, Westie sets out on a quest for revenge that could cost her everything.
If You Want Magic or Mayhem:

  1. The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross (2012 Readers’ Choice List): Finley Jayne will have to put her darker (and stronger) alter ego to the test when she is recruited by Duke Griffin to help in the capture of a criminal, known as the Machinist, behind a series of automaton crimes.
  2. Illusionarium by Heather Dixon: When Jonathan and his father are recruited to help find the cure to a dangerous plague, Jonathan discovers his talent for working with a new element called fantillium that creates shared hallucinations or illusions. But with the plague spreading, will working with fantilium bring Jonathan closer to the cure or harm everyone he cares about before the plague can be stopped?
  3. Spare and Found Parts by Sarah Maria Griffin: In a world where epidemic survivors are all missing something–an eye, an arm, a leg–Nell Crane’s missing piece is her heart. When she finds a mechanical hand, Nell wonders if she can assuage her loneliness, and maybe follow in her scientist father’s footsteps, by building a companion of her own.
  4. Innocent Darkness by Suzanne Lazear: Noli thinks her dreams have come true when a mysterious man rescues her from her nightmarish boarding school and brings her to the Realm of Faerie. Unfortunately he forgot to mention that she was brought over to die as a sacrifice in order to save said  realm.
  5. The Falconer by Elizabeth May: Edinburgh, 1844: Lady Aileana Kameron leads a double life as she secretly uses her magical ability and knack with inventions to hunt and kill the faery that killed her mother.
If You Want a Retelling:

  1. Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell: Nicolette, nicknamed “Mechanica” by her horrid stepsisters, is an inventor and mechanic. On her sixteenth birthday she discovers a secret workshop filled with books, tools, and an assortment of mechanical animals led by a metal horse named Jules. With a royal ball and technological exhibition approaching, the secret workshop may be exactly what Nicolette needs to earn her freedom in this retelling of Cinderella.
  2. Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine: Wen works with her father in his haunted medical clinic. When Wen is humiliated by one of the workers she makes an impulsive wish which is granted by the ghost . . . with brutal results in this retelling of The Phantom of the Opera
  3. Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin: Araby Worth copes with the fear and destruction of her plague-stricken home with nights spent in the Debauchery Club in this retelling of “The Masque of the Red Death.”
  4. This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee: In 1818 Geneva men built with clockwork parts hide away, cared for by the illegal mechanics called Shadow Boys. Alasdair Finch’s brother, Oliver, is dead. Desperate and grief-stricken, Alasdair brings his brother back to life in this retelling of Frankenstein.
  5. Everland by Wendy Spinale: London has been ravaged by bombs and disease. Gwen Darling and her siblings have survived the bombings and seem to be immune to the plague. When her sister is kidnapped by the mad Captain Hook in his hunt for a cure, Gwen will do whatever it takes to save her–even joining with a strange boy named Pete and his gang of Lost Boys in this retelling of Peter Pan.

— Emma Carbone, currently reading The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

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Read UK: YA Books Set in the United Kingdom

Fri, 07/15/2016 - 07:00

Thanks to Libba Bray and her Gemma Doyle Series and Cassandra Clare and her Infernal Devices Series, there was never a shortage of books set in Victorian England with a lovely girl in a fabulous dress gracing the cover.  But it’s been a couple of years since the publication of those books and there had been a bit of a shortage of YA set in the UK especially contemporary and science fiction. Thankfully 2016 is seeing a resurgence.  So before England Brexits from the European Union, enjoy these YA books from all genres that are set in the United Kingdom.

Elodie desires more for herself than a life of tea parties and when her father finds himself in trouble, Elodie must travel to China to save him and her family.

After a disfiguring accident, Evelyn finds employment as John Merrick’s nurse.  Caring for The Elephant Man gives Evelyn strength to seek justice as Jack The Ripper terrorizes London.

Forced to lay low Faith and her family are exiled to an island where her father mysteriously dies.  While looking for answers for her father’s death, Faith discovers a tree that may hold the answers she seeks.

Katie’s grandmother, Mary, suffers from Alzheimers and does not have a good relationship with Katie’s mother.  Unbecoming is the story of three generations of women and the secrets that plague their lives.

Gottie is grieving her grandfather’s death and the end of a relationship which are both causing her to lose time.  Is she falling through black holes or she suffering from a mental breakdown? Only Gottie can find answers.

The Sihde are angry and they are abducting teens.  If you get called, you only have 3 minutes and 4 seconds to find your way back home or be lost forever.

Marguerite is the daughter of two brilliant physicists who invent a device that allows people to travel to different dimensions.  One day, one of their interns steals the device and is suspected in the murder of Marguerite’s father. Marguerite and a second intern, Theo, travel through dimensions to find and kill Marguerite’s father’s murderer.

There are four Londons that exist in four dimensions and only two people in the world can travel between them and one of them is Kell.  Kell is a smuggler and one day his illegal activities catch up to him.

Emma is hot and she knows it. She likes to drink and party but when she’s sexually assaulted and pictures are spread all over the internet, Emma’s friends don’t believe she’s the victim.

After the drowning of her twin brother, Elsie has not gone in the water for many years.  While hanging out in her favorite hiding place, Elsie meets a free diver who helps her use diving to deal with her loss.

Printable PDF

Dawn is currently reading Ghostly Echoes by James Ritter


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Celebrate International Zine Month

Wed, 07/13/2016 - 07:00


July is International Zine Month, and July 21 is International Zine Library Day. As explained by ZineWiki, a Zine (derived from magazine) is “an independently- or self-published booklet, often created by a single person.” With this broad term, we can see zines going as far back in time to Revolutionary War pamphleteers like Thomas Paine with his Common Sense and John Dickinson who penned Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, but the modern zines took off more with the wider distribution of magazines in the 20th century, and became a way of sharing fan love, especially, but not specifically, of music performers.

During the 1990s, networks of zine publishers started to emerge, and since then many libraries have been curating zine collections. Having a zine collection in your library is a great way to bring local flavor to your collection as well as new voices. Some libraries allow their zines to circulate, while others find it best to have them as in-house reference, much like mainstream magazines. Whichever way a library chooses to circulates, allowing teen readers access to zines is a new chance at meaningful reader’s advisory opportunities and sparks for teen creativity.
Here are just a few resources that can help with starting and/or maintaining a library zine collection:

Julie Bartel’s From A to Zine is a valuable resource for thinking about zine collections, and especially how to market them to teens in the library or through programming and outreach.

Zine Library is also a wealth of information. The have information on shelving options, categories, and you can access the Zine Librarians Code of Ethics. A couple of other online resources are the Barnard Zine Library, especially for a listing of zine libraries, and the portal Book of Zines. Many of these site have links to where zines can be purchased, as does The Stolen Sharpie Revolution.

Here are just a handful of recent zines that have strong teen appeal:


Claudia Kishi; My Asian-American Female Role Model of the 90’s by Yumi Sakugawa

A fanzine at its best – growing up in the 1990’s, Yumi Sakugawa, a second-generation Japanese American, didn’t see herself represented in pop culture. But there was Claudia Kishi, the talented, confident, fashionista of Ann M. Martin’s book series, The Baby-sitters Club.

Falling Rock National Park by Josh Shalek

This black and white comic is set in a fictional National Park in the American southwest. Ernesto the lizard, Ranger Dee, and various other animal characters head into the Uncanny Valley, where everything gets weird.

Ghost Guide by Rebecca Artemisa

Artemisa shares her drawings and descriptions of different kinds of ghosts and how to deal with them.


Two squirrels give advice in this illustrated zine to poets who are curious about the possibility of publishing their work.

477 Bright Circle by Daryl Seitchik

A little girl notices a shop called Now, which is never open, is open today in this black and white comic. Once inside, odd things begin to occur.

The Prince Zine by Joshua James Amberson and illustrated by Rachel Lee-Carman

An everything you would want to know music zine about the legendary icon, Prince.

What are some popular zines with the teens in you life?

–Danielle Jones, currently listening to the podcast Denzel Washington is the Greatest Actor of All Time Period by W. Kamau Bell & Kevin Avery



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ALA Annual 2016: Alex Award Recap with Ryan Gattis

Tue, 07/12/2016 - 07:00

One of the best highlights of this year’s trip to ALA Annual was undoubtedly the Alex Award ceremony on Sunday, June 26th. A small group of dedicated individuals, including current and former committee members, made their way to the South Conference Center to listen to 2016 Chair Angela Craig deliver a brief presentation on the top ten award-winners and the vetted titles and hear the acceptance speech of special guest Ryan Gattis, author of All Involved (2016 Alex Award Winner).

In the wake of the acquittals over Rodney King’s beating at the hands of a few members in the Los Angeles Police Department, much of the Los Angeles metropolitan area experienced riots, lootings, arson, and violence including murders. Just six days of lawlessness resulted in:

  • eleven thousand fires
  • just under eleven thousand arrests
  • over two thousand people injured
  • more than $1 billion in property damages
  • approximately sixty deaths.

During these six days, Gattis set his novel and chose various characters taken from real interviews with those who experienced the riots, bringing to life the different realities during this turbulent period. Gang members, a firefighter, a nurse, a dreamer, an artist, a homeless man, and others give unique testimonies to all sides of the 1992 violence and show the complexities of survival, vengeance, desperation, and loss.

For more information about the history of the period, see

Award winner Ryan Gattis at ALA Annual, Orlando 2016

During Ryan’s acceptance speech, he described his own history with violence and how it created an author:

“I was seventeen when my nose was torn out of my face. Seventeen, when I had two facial reconstructive surgeries to fix it. I was eighteen when my senses of smell and taste returned. Before, I was on track to apply to the US Air Force Academy, and after, all I wanted to be was a storyteller. 

Suffering violence, enduring it and not allowing it to determine everything about me has made me who I am today. And that is a very difficult thing to say, but an important thing.”

Winning an Alex has brought about some powerful results for Gattis, who shortly after the award, was asked to speak at Marco Antonio Firebaugh High School in Lynwood in South Central Los Angeles, an area described: “as inextricable from Compton as Long Beach Boulevard, sharing all of its violence and troubles but none of its notoriety”. They had not known he had won an Alex, but afterwards, were more enthused at the news. Upon his visit, in an area where “South Central Los Angeles is an island unto itself [and] the cities within it are locked off from the LA tax base and school system and must fend for themselves,” Ryan and his publishers (Ecco, HarperCollins, Picador and Macmillan in the UK, and Writers House in New York) were able to donate 150 books to students and over 100 to the library, including 2016 Alex Award titles. He found that the high school students knew very little of the Rodney King riots because “the generation before them had made an unspoken pact not to raise their children as they had been raised”. This discovery was “incredibly moving” and “filled [me] with hope for Lynwood and its future”. He shared with attendees a few photos and described his experience: 

“Their students are young and excited and so eager to learn but they don’t read. They don’t read enough. So all I did when I went in there was talk about what reading means to me and how it changed my life. Especially the year of my life where I was basically a hermit trying to recover from my surgeries and…and my injury…”

Soon after this visit, he describes how he was invited to Lynwood Middle School and visited immediately after a second 8th grader was killed due to gang violence, an 8th grader whose “body had been discovered in a parked car at the end of an alley”.

He notes: “Standing in front of a room full of young teenagers who know the cost of violence, who are dealing with its monstrous grief, at that very moment being asked to comfort them, to inspire them, is by far the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. And yet…nowhere was it more important to say that reading helps us learn the consequences of behavior without having to suffer them ourselves. I remain in awe of the decision that the Alex committee have, not least because its incredible foresight forced me to see my work more clearly but it also pushed me to refocus my efforts to make certain that I reach an entirely new generation in Lynwood, and I do whatever I can to inspire them to be writers to tell their own stories to the world.”

While there, in their largest room which was a science lab because they didn’t have a theater, he noticed the two empty seats of the dead students and shared this excerpt from the end of his book, inspired by losing a former gang member during his research for the novel:

It occurs to me then that maybe that’s how these riots are for everybody around here. You know you’re gonna lose, but you kick and fight to lose as little as possible. It could be property, or health, or a loved one…but it’s something and when it’s gone, it’s gone for good. No one feels peace tonight, and we haven’t for days. The curfew may be lifted, but it doesn’t mean things are normal or that they’re fixed, or that they will be anytime soon.

In L.A., it only means that things are different from the last time you could go out at night, and from now on, when we talk about these days, we’ll talk about what they did to us, we’ll talk about what we lost, and a wedge will get driven into the history of the city. On either side of it, there will be everything before and everything after, because when you’ve seen enough bad things, it either breaks you for the world, or it makes you into something else–maybe something you can’t know or understand right away, but it might just be a new you, like when a seed gets planted, yet to be grown.

My favorite part of his speech came from Ryan’s quotes from teen students at Lynwood Middle School who shared their gratitude for his visit:

“I feel it’s important you came because I feel most kids don’t have these types of talks with adults. Thank you for telling us life that isn’t always easy.”

“What you said about your past friend really meant something since I’m feeling something similar right now and I wasn’t expecting to have felt the way I did when I walked in. This one took me by surprise how I related to your experience.”

“You’re right, Gattis, I want to say thank you for coming. Your words have inspired me to be a better person and not to give up in life. Things you said about the gangs and the stories you shared about people in jail have taught me not to be like that because I was headed down almost the same direction. Two of my homies just died. It’s been kinda tough because I miss them so much, but in the long run it’s taught me not to go down the same path. So thank you.”

New readers of All Involved should visit for his unique soundtrack accompaniment for the novel as well as details on the art and special seal created in honor of his book.

Ryan Gattis extended his thanks to all 2016 Alex committee members; YALSA; ALA; fellow winners Sara Nović, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Camille DeAngelis, Joe Abercrombie, David Wong, Brandon Stanton, Liz Suburbia, Dan-el Padilla Peralta, and Keija Parssinen; students and teachers from Marco Antonio Firebaugh High School, but special thanks went to those at Lynwood Middle School for their testimonies above.

Members of the 2016 Alex Award Committee (l to r): Joy Worland, Karen Brooks, Kenneth Petrilli, Angela Craig, author Ryan Gattis, Mara Cota, Kara Hunter, Kristen Thorp.

Share other inspiring 2016 Alex Award winners and vetted titles with teens, or make a suggestion from adult titles published in 2016 suitable for a younger audience.

– Kara Hunter, former 2016 Alex Award administrative assistant, currently reading A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

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