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

Tue, 02/16/2016 - 07:00

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

Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between (2015)

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

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

 


The Geography of You and Me (2014)

 

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

 

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

This is What Happy Looks Like (2013)

 

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

 

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

 

 

 Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight (2012)

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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Fandom 101: One Direction

Mon, 02/15/2016 - 07:00

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2016 Hub Challenge Check-In #3

Sun, 02/14/2016 - 07:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Books to Celebrate Galentine’s Day

Fri, 02/12/2016 - 07:00

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

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

Young Adult Literature with Strong Female Friendships

Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson (2016 Great Graphic Novels)

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

All Our Pretty Songs by Sarah McCarry

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

A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith

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

Friday Society by Adrienne Kress

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

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

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

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

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

The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg

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

Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler

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

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

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

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

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

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Diversify YA Life: Interracial Couples

Fri, 02/12/2016 - 07:00

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

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

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

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

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig 

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

Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman

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

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

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

Winter by Marissa Meyer (2012 Teens Top Ten)

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

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith

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

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga 

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

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

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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

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

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

Like No Other by Una LaMarche

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

We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

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

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

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

All The Rage by Courtney Summers

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

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

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

Interracial Couples Booklist Downloadable PDF

— Dawn Abron, currently reading a YA fantasy novel.

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Reality Scoop: Random Acts of Kindness for YA

Thu, 02/11/2016 - 07:00

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

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

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

Stage of Life’s statistics revealed:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Booklist: Asexuality in Young Adult Fiction

Wed, 02/10/2016 - 07:00

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

 

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

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

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

Young Adult Fiction with Asexual Characters

Quicksilver by R. J. Anderson

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

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

The Movement Volume 1: Class Warfare by Gail Simone

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

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

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

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

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

Demonosity by Amanda Ashby

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

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

Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oathbound by Mercedes Lackey

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

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

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

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

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

More Resources:

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

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

— Danielle Jones, currently reading Front Lines by Michael Grant

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Teen Creative Writing & Art Contest for Teen Tech Week

Tue, 02/09/2016 - 12:13

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Booklist: Genre Reads for Cold Winter Nights

Tue, 02/09/2016 - 08:00

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

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

Thrillers and Mysteries for Cold Winter Nights

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

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

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

Trapped by Michael Northrup

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

As White as Snow by Salla Simukka

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

Nightfall by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujiwinski

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

The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley

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

The Edge by Roland Smith

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

Romance for Cold Winter Nights

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

 

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

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

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

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

Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler

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

Lovely, Dark, and Deep by Amy McNamara

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

Fantasy and Fairy Tales for Cold Winter Nights

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

Snow Like Ashes by Sarah Raasch

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

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

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

Frozen by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston

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

Ice by Sarah Beth Durst

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

Winterspell by Claire Legrand

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Readers’ Survey Results

Mon, 02/08/2016 - 07:00

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

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

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

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

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

If you are interested in blogging for The Hub, we’re always accepting new bloggers. If you’re already a member of YALSA, you can update your volunteer form or contact the member manager at yalshub@gmail.com. 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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