Wednesday, August 27, 2014

School Year Panic: You Mean I Need a Book?

Mid- to late-August can be a relatively quiet time here in the public library:  most summer reading programs have ended, and most of the patrons who have been "hanging out" all summer have started band and sports practices, or have left town for late-summer vacations.  The week of school orientation, however, brings its own flurry of activity:  because the secondary schools in our district mandate a 20-minute reading period at the beginning of every class, students new to the routine rush into the library, eyes wide, a little shocked at the news that "library book" has now been added to the list of first-day school supplies.  Students who are accustomed to the reading period routine still wait until the last minute to make their selections; the result is that the most popular titles are simply not available. 

I thought of titling this post: "What to read when all the copies of Divergent  are checked out."  Last year, I could have just substituted Hunger Games for the title; seven years ago, Twilight.  Particularly in the late summer/early autumn, there are always a few teen books that are wildly popular, making it difficult for us librarians to keep enough copies available. 

So, what follows are some suggested substitutions for this year's most popular titles. . . . or, what your teen patron can read, and be engaged with, when all the copies of Divergent are checked out:

For those readers who are looking for Divergent, by Veronica Roth -- This is a currently popular example of dystopia, a genre wildly popular since the buzz created by Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy.  (Reviewed in this blog here .)  Some newer dystopian titles to read instead of the Divergent trilogy include:

* Legend trilogy, by Marie Lu
* Dustlands trilogy, by Moira Young
* Insignia by S. J. Kincaid
* Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
* Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

For those readers looking for The Giver, by Lois Lowry -- Some patrons are surprised to find that this classic YA novel has been around since 1993, and is one of several predecessors for the dytopia genre.  (For a more complete review of Lowry's entire series, click here.)  Nonetheless, the current movie has made the old new again;  look for these older titles when Lowry's masterpiece is not available:

* Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld
* Feed  by M. T. Anderson
* Lord of the Flies by William Golding
* 1984 by George Orwell
* Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

For those readers looking for City of Bones, or the Mortal Instruments series, by Cassandra Clare -- Both this series, and its prequel series, The Infernal Devices, employ a compelling blend of paranormal characters, dangerous plot, and romantic setting.  The genre of steampunk -- a blend of history and fantasy/sci-fi -- does this combination well.  When Clare's books are not on the shelf, try these instead:

* Steampunk Chronicles series, by Kady Cross
* Finishing School series, by Gail Carriger
* Sherlock Holmes: The Legend Begins series by Andrew Lane
* The Unnaturalists by Tiffany Trent
* Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve

For those readers looking for The Lost Hero, by Rick Riordan -- Riordan's series hold appeal for lovers of fantasy.  The blend of mythological creatures and action-packed adventure particularly entices younger readers, those who are not quite ready for high fantasy.  Depending on the age and interest of the reader, the following selections also offer monsters, action, and fantastical settings, in varying degrees:

* The Syrena Legacy by Anna Banks (for more mature readers)
* Loki's Wolves by Kelley Armstrong
* Peter & the Starcatchers series by Dave Barry
* Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor
* Warrior Heir series by Cinda Williams Chima

For those readers looking for The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green -- Some patrons looking for Green's book are simply looking for anything that isn't dystopia or paranormal!  Others really are looking for books about strong characters dealing with disease or disability.  Try one of the following selections:

* Me & Earl & the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
* Deadline by Chris Crutcher
* Going Bovine  by Libba Bray
* The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork
* The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

For readers who are looking for If I Stay by Gayle Forman -- Again, this is a little older novel (2007) enjoying renewed popularity because of the attention of Hollywood: the movie version of Forman's story is out this month.  The novel, reviewed in this blog here, tells the story of a girl faced with an impossible choice in the aftermath of a devastating car accident.  Similar stories that will appeal to teen readers include:

* Elsewhere, by Gabrielle Zevin
* The Princesses of Iowa, by M. Molly Backes
* Before I Fall, Lauren Oliver
* The Sky is Everywhere, Jandy Nelson
 * Tears of a Tiger, Sharon Draper

Finally, for readers who are looking for The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak -- Actually, this title's current popularity seems to be due to adult, rather than teen, check-outs.  The award-winning novel of Nazi Germany, told from Death's perspective and via the story of a girl who steals books, has some equally compelling historical fiction companions on the shelves right now:

* Daniel, Half-Human by David Chotjewitz
* Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys
* Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein
* Yellow Star, by Jennifer Roy
* Run, Boy, Run: a novel, by Uri Orlev

So . . . I've listed 35 possible titles that might help those students who just don't know what to read as the school year begins.  Hopefully, one of the above choices will appeal, and will lead to other great selections.  If you'd like to do some other research on your own, check out our Novelist database, available on this website, or at this link:

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

July Teen Summer Reading -- Spark a Reaction

The month of July has continued to be busy in the Teen Room!  We've offered our summer reading incentive program, various weekly clubs, and drop-in afternoon activities all month long.  Although we continue to offer the reading incentives and club opportunities through August, we are now finished with the drop-in afternoon activities.  However, teens who have enjoyed playing with science, art and their own creativity during these activities can still find novels in the YA collection to feed their interests. 

Spark a Reaction: Chemical Reactions -- During this week, teens experimented with chemical reactions that caused soda to freeze instantly, and laundry detergent to from crystals.  In YA literature, the science of chemistry forms the backdrop for many compelling stories, particularly in dystopian novels that explore chemical and genetic experiments gone awry.  Readers interested in chemical and genetic engineering might enjoy one of these selections:

  • Jekel Loves Hyde, by Beth Fantaskey
  • Vitro by Jessica Khoury
  • Beta by Rachel Cohn
  • Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
  • Maximum Ride series by James Patterson
  • Altered by Jennifer Rush

Spark a Reaction: Glowing Reactions -- The activities this week were more about creative fun than science:  teens were able to make glow-in-the-dark slime and glowing lanterns, and to give themselves a "glowing" manicure!  However, the idea of glowing makes me think of stars and planets,  and recently, YA fiction has seen a resurgence of science fiction about space, alien invasions, and extraterrestrial life.  If "Star Wars" appeals to you, you might enjoy:

  • Glow series by Amy Kathleen Ryan
  • Across the Universe series by Beth Revis
  • Galahad series by Dom Testa
  • The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer
  • Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Spark a Reaction: Survival Reactions -- "Survival skills" can mean anything to today's teens:  from surviving junior high school, to wilderness survival, to living through a zombie apocalypse.  Our drop-in activities focused on creating survival gear from duct tape, braiding survival bracelets, and cooking s'mores in solar ovens.  In recent years, YA fiction has exploded with titles that use survival skills as a plot device; obviously, The Hunger Games is one exceptionally popular example, but there are many more.  Teens who enjoy gritty stories of endurance and resourcefulness should try these lesser-known titles:

  • Ashfall series by Mike Mullin
  • Stung by Bethany Wiggins
  • Enclave by Ann Aguirre
  • Orleans by Sherri L. Smith
  • Life As We Knew It series by Susan Beth Pfeffer
  • The Living  by Matt de la Peña

Hopefully, the above lists of titles will spark more reading, and more lists of suggested titles!  For teens in Gillette, remember that we will draw for our grand prize baskets during our final summer reading event, August 6 from 1 to 4 p.m., so be sure to get your tickets in!  Following that final event, we'll still offer our reading incentives until school starts. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

June Teen Summer Reading - Spark A Reaction

Hmmm. . . it appears this blogger has been a bit remiss in her duties.  In youth library services, spring and summer are times of increased levels of program planning and interaction with our patrons, so there is less time for reading and reviewing literature than in the fall and winter. At least, that's my excuse for not writing these last few months!

Here in the Teen Room, we are nearly one month into a very busy summer of club meetings, a reading program, drop-in afternoon activities, and volunteer opportunities. In this blog post, I'd like to link some of these popular activities with potential reading selections, so that patrons who enjoyed a particular activity can find a book with similar themes and subject matter.

Spark a Reaction: Chain Reactions.  All summer, our drop-in afternoon activities are emphasizing creativity and imagination, the idea that one thought or person can spark an entirely new idea or reaction.  For the first week of our drop-in activities, teens were able to innovate with our 3D printer pen and LittleBits, create with chalkboard paint, and collaborate with one another in clubs and a book discussion. This was also the week of our Robotics Club launch, very exciting for some of our newer patrons.  Teens who particularly enjoy creating with technology -- or exploring the impact technology can/could have on the human race -- may enjoy these fiction selections:
  • BZRK series Michael Grant
  • Homeland by Cory Doctorow
  • Hungry City Chronicles by Philip Reeve
  • Mila 2.0 by Debra Drizza
One Book, One Teen Room discussion.  We concluded our first One Book, One Teen Room promotion early in the summer with a discussion of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  With the popularity of this title, we aren't able to keep any of John Green's novels on our shelves for long!  While TFioS deals with the very heavy subject of childhood cancer, Green's other novels deal with additional realistic topics relevant to teens' lives.  If you are a reader who likes the realistic fiction genre, you aren't restricted to John Green! Try one of these novels, too:
  • Somebody Up There Hates You by Hollis Seamon
  • Please Ignore Viera Dietz by A. S. King
  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
  • Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You by Joyce Carol Oates

Spark a Reaction: Rhythmic Reactions.  In our second week of drop-in activities, patrons were encouraged to explore the science involved in music, and to create their own musical instruments and accessories.  While listening to music is a huge part of teen culture, not too many YA novels write about teen musicians. Here are four -- one dystopia, one realistic fiction, one historical fiction, and one fantasy -- that all portray the importance of music in teens' lives:
  • Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony
  • Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John
  • Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
  • Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Spark a Reaction: Electric Reactions. As I type this, we are finishing up our third week fo drop-in activities, this time with a focus on electricity, batteries and circuitry. Patrons have been able to use litmus paper to test soda acidity, create batteries with zinc, copper and fruit, and invent jewelry using bits and pieces of old appliances.  For those teen patrons who enjoy learning about all sciences, these science fiction novels will continue to "spark" their interest:
  • Michael Vey series, by Richard Paul Evans
  • Delirium trilogy, by Lauren Oliver
  • Lunar Chronicles, by Marissa Meyer
  • Lorien Legacies, by Pittacus Lore
In the CCPL Teen Room, we'll take a break from our drop-in programming next week, although all clubs will be meeting at their regular times. Beginning the second week of July, we'll continue our afternoon activities with "Spark a Reaction: Chemical Reactions."  All teens entering 7th through 12th grade are welcome to join us, and to participate in our summer reading program to earn great prizes!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Time to Vote!! Soaring Eagle voting period February 15 through March 15

Teens in 7th through 12th grade who have read three books from the 2013-2014 list of Soaring Eagle nominees are invited to vote for their favorite, now until March 15.  Voting takes place at both school and public libraries throughout Wyoming.  Teens are also invited to nominate other titles for next year's Soaring Eagle list.

A complete list of this year's nominees (reviewed in the last several months in this blog) follows:

Rise of the Elgen (Michael Vey, #2) by Richard Paul Evans
Outcasts (Brotherband Chronicles, #1) by John Flanagan
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
BZRK by Michael Grant
Tiger's Curse (Tiger's Curse, #1)  by Colleen Houck
Framed by Gordon Korman
Legend (Legend Trilogy, #1) by Marie Lu
Finnikin of the Rock (Lumatere Chronicles, #1) by Melina Marchetta
Rot and Ruin (Benny Imura, #1) by Jonathan Maberry
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Everlost (Skinjacker Trilogy, #1) by Neal Shusterman
I, Q.: Kitty Hawk (I,Q., #3) by Roland Smith
Raven Boys (Raven Cycle, #1) by Maggie Stiefvater

Happy voting!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Final three Soaring Eagle nominees for 2013-2014

As we get closer to the voting period for this year's Soaring Eagle book award, there are only three titles on the list of nominations that I've not yet reviewed here.  If you haven't been reading the other reviews, you may find them in the last three posts of this blog.

These final three titles don't have a lot in common, so it's difficult to group them by genre or intended audience.  They are, however, my personal favorites from this year's list of nominees . . . for whatever that's worth!

Marie Lu

We'll begin with another dystopian novel, which, like The Hunger Games, is set in a future world where there is no middle class, only very rich and very poor, and where government corruption is rampant.  The Republic is at war with the Colonies, and no one remembers the existence of the United States of America. In this world, one of the main characters, Day, is an infamous rebel fighting to remain alive and keep his family safe.  Day sabotages the Republic's war efforts, but he does not directly fight for the Colonies as he refuses to kill anyone.  The other main character, June, is a Republican prodigy who will soon become one the of military's elite fighters. Day and June tell their stories in alternating chapters, giving readers a perspective into their very separate lives. One day, however, June's beloved older brother is killed, allegedly by Day, and their worlds collide. June sets out to capture the elusive teen. As she seeks him, she changes from the rebellious schoolgirl to a top strategist who not only locates Day but brings him to justice. But is it really justice? Day swears he didn't kill anyone. But if Day didn't kill June's brother, who did?

The other two books in this action-packed trilogy are Prodigy and Champion.  Both are already released.

Finnikin of the Rock
Melina Marchetta

The next title on today's list is a fantasy set in a world called Lumatere. Like all good fantasy, though, there are themes that resonate with readers because of their familiarity to the real world.
Imagine living most of your life away from your homeland, wandering from country to country in search of a place to live. That happens to millions of people exiled from their countries by war, famine and other natural disasters in our world, and it’s what happens to Finnikin, the main character of this story. The difference is that Finnikin’s homeland is not torn apart by only war and famine; it has also been cursed by a powerful witch who was tortured during the ten days of "the unspeakable". After Lumatere was cursed, nobody who escaped from its borders could return, and nobody trapped within its borders could leave. Families are torn apart, and terrible things happen to those living within the kingdom. According to the curse, only the return of the legitimate queen of Lumatere will restore peace.  Finnikin, a man now,  makes it his work to find this queen – but finds instead a poor peasant girl hiding in a mountain cave who claims to be able to "walk the sleep" of the people of Lumatere.  Could she really be the long-lost queen? And if she is – how will she have the power to break the curse?  Will Finnikin ever be able to have a home again?

Because, as in real life, the prisoners and exiles are subjected to all forms of human brutality, this is a novel for more mature readers.  It is also a more challenging novel.  Finnikin of the Rock is the first title in the Lumatere Chronicles: the sequels,  Froi of the Exiles and Quintana of Charyn, are already published.
A Monster Calls
Patrick Ness
 The final title that I'm reviewing is an unusual one, for two reasons.  First, this is an illustrated novel -- not quite a graphic novel, as not every page has a picture, but the pen and ink drawings of illustrator Jim Kay add meaning and emotion to the narrative story.  The second reason is that the idea for the story was inspired by another YA author, Siobhan Dowd.  Dowd was dying of cancer when she conceived the idea for this story, and knew she wouldn't be able to write it. So she shared the idea with author Patrick Ness, who wrote the story in his own way, his own voice, and asked Kay to add the illustrations. There are few examples of this type of collaboration and unselfishness in literature, so this one is worth noting.
Now, on to the book review. . . .
Conor O’Malley has nightmares.  First of all, his real life is a nightmare:  his mother has cancer, and although she tells him the treatments are working, she doesn’t seem to get better. His father lives across the ocean in the United States with his new family, and Conor doesn’t feel welcome there. When his mother is in the hospital, Conor has to live with his grandmother in her antiques-filled home, and try not to make her angry.  In his sleep, Conor also has nightmares: he keeps having a recurring dream in which his mother hangs over the edge of an abyss, and Conor can barely keep hold of her hands. So, he has nightmares by day and nightmares by night. Therefore, when the yew tree in his backyard turns into a monster and comes walking into his living room, Conor tells the monster that he’s “seen worse.”  The tree tells Conor that is has come walking to tell him three stories, and that at the end, Conor will have to tell his own story – the truth. But can Conor face the truth?
This is an emotional, powerful book that is not very long -- recommended for all readers.
And, so, I conclude this year's series of reviews of the current Soaring Eagle book award nominees.  As always, these titles are available in our public library in various formats, and in school libraries as well.  If you are a teen, or know a teen in Wyoming, encourage them to read three titles from this year's list, and then vote for one favorite from February 15 through March 15.  Voting can happen at either the school or public library.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Soaring Eagles for Sci-Fi Fans

Today is January 15 -- which means there is only one month left until the voting period for this year's Soaring Eagle book award opens!  Students will be able to vote between February 15 and March 15; time to start reading!

If you've been reading much Young Adult fiction at all, you know that dystopian novels continue to be popular.  Many of those dystopias take on a sci-fi twist, and this week's four SEBA nominees are no different.  These novels will appeal to fans of both dystopian fiction and traditional science fiction.

Michael Grant

You control all your actions, right?  You make choices about what you eat, where you go, who you like to be with? Well, what if you didn’t have as much control as you think?

In BRZK, Michael Grant presents a scary, futuristic world in which people are not as much in control as they think they are . . . instead, they are pawns in a nano-world battle for power. On one side, controllers use the nano-technology they implant into their hosts’ brains to rewire their synapses, and control their actions. On the other side of the battle, agents send “biots” into the hosts’ brains to fight against the nanobots. In either case, the victims never realize what is happening to them, or that an outside force is controlling their actions.
Thankfully, the world of Michael Grant’s BRZK is pure science fiction, something that could never happen  . . . or could it?

This is the first book in a trilogy; the second, BRZK Reloaded, is already out.


Rise of the Elgen

Richard Paul Evans

In book one of this series, Michael Vey: Prisoner of Cell 25, we met Michael, a boy with a strange ability to control electricity.  We also found out that an evil force, the Elgen, wants to control Michael's power. (For a more complete review of book one, see the December 12, 2012 post of this blog.)

In book two, Michael and his friends have escaped the Elgen and Hatch, and continue their quest to locate Michael's mother. With 10 electric kids, as well as the 3 non-electrics, they hope that they can avoid the Elgen, but do not realize what they are fighting. After an unsuccessful trip to Idaho and contact with a mysterious and powerful helper, the group heads to Peru to find Michael's mother. There they discover Hatch's evil plan to control the world with billions of electric rats. How can a group of teenagers, no matter their talents, stay alive and rescue Mrs. Vey...... and the world?

Book three in this trilogy, Battle of the Ampere, wraps up this exciting (electrifying?) adventure.

Rot and Ruin
Jonathan Maberry


Picture any day, anywhere in the world. People die every day, but on that day, someone dies and becomes a zombie.  That zombie starts biting others who become zombies also. Soon, everyone who dies. Becomes. A. Zombie. The only way to prevent turning into a zombie upon death is if the brain is separated from the spinal cord.  What follows is total chaos. The death of millions. Eventual loss of all technology.


Benny was two when this zombie apocalypse happened. He is now 15 and knows no other life beyond his town. His brother Tom was twenty when the zombies came, and is now a zombie hunter out in the Rot and Ruin, the world beyond their fenced community. Benny is a typical teen, joking with friends and holding history (and his brother) in contempt. But he has to get a job, (it's the law or he doesn't eat) and when he can find no other, he finally takes Tom up on his offer for apprenticeship. Their first trip to the Rot and Ruin opens Benny's eyes; his eventual betrayal within the town opens his world.

This is the first book in Maberry's very popular series; the sequels are Dust and Decay; Flesh and Bone; Fire and Ash.



Neal Shusterman

This unusual story begins with a head-on collision, with two fourteen-year-olds dying.....but instead of "going on," they collide and veer off the path of light. Months later, they awake as in a parallel universe between life and death. Young spirits who do not go on, as well as things which are beloved in life, live again in an alternate, overlaid world.

Allie and Nick, along with Leif who's been alone in an Afterlife forest for decades, find a dangerous world of sinking earth and gang children. They also find Mary, who writes books about the Afterlife from her home in the Twin Towers, now home to hundreds of dangerously content children. Allie and Nick do not wish to become like the others, who not only forget their names and history, but even change their appearance to match their vision of themselves.

The two "Greensouls" meet the Haunter who declines to teach them the darker skills of ecto-ripping and skin-jacking; and The McGill, a monstrous pirate of a sunken ship. Ultimately Allie and Nick have to decide which to be: safe but unthinking followers like the Tower children, or endangered but independent thinkers.

This is the first book in Shusterman's Skinjacker trilogy: the subsequent titles are Everwild and Everfound.


With this set of four, we've discussed over half of this year's Soaring Eagle nominees.  We'll wrap up with the final three titles in another post.



Wednesday, January 8, 2014

More Soaring Eagle nominees

Happy New Year!  We all hope your year promises new friends and new adventures.

Hopefully, those adventures will include reading some wonderful books.  Although we started talking about this year's Wyoming Soaring Eagle book award nominees last fall, we will really  be focusing on them now in the final weeks before voting.  Students who read at least three of the books on this year's list can vote for their favorite at their school or public library; the voting period is February 15 through March 15.

This week, we will focus on three nominees that will particularly appeal to girls:

Tiger’s Curse
Colleen Houck

When 18-year-old Kelsey needs a summer job, she signs on as a temporary helper at a local circus. There, she meets Ren, a white tiger with piercing blue eyes. Kelsey senses an unusual connection with this beast, and begins to spend her spare time with him. Those blue eyes draw her in . . . to Kelsey, the eyes seem almost human.

With her connection to the tiger, Kelsey embarks on the adventure of a lifetime . . . an adventure that carries her across the ocean to India, where Kelsey encounters gods and goddesses, cobras that turn into jewelry, vampire monkeys, and tigers that are not at all what they seem to be.
This title is the first in the Houck's very popular series; the sequels are Tiger’s Quest; Tiger’s Voyage; and Tiger’s Destiny.

Raven Boys
Maggie Stiefvater

Blue has always been "different". Her mother is a psychic, as are the others who live in their house, and Blue has found it easiest to accept her differences. She also has been told, by all the psychics, that if she kisses her true love, she will kill him. Blue has become so used to the prophecy that she doesn't even think about it; she has decided that she simply will stay away from boys, especially the Aglionby boys.

Aglionby boys, also known as Raven boys, go to the exclusive boys’ academy for spoiled sons of wealthy parents. Unfortunately, she is drawn against her will to a certain Raven Boy: Gansey. 

Gansey has a secret of his own, however: he is an obsessive quest for the burial site of an ancient dead Welsh king who will reward whoever brings him back to life. Together with his friends, who have various problems and personalities, he joins forces with a sometimes reluctant Blue to explore the mystery and mythology of the ancient king.

What the group does not figure on is a power-hungry psychic, a ghost, a murderer, and true magic.
The sequel to Raven Boys is The Dream Thieves, just released.

If I Stay
Gayle Forman

If a person is in critical condition between life and death, can they consciously choose whether to go or to stay?

When Mia's family is in a car accident, her parents and brother don't make it. But she does. Her spirit looks upon their deaths as well as her own severaly injured body, and follows herself to the hospital. There, she watches her grandparents, other relatives, her best friend, and her boyfriend as they grieve, worry, and talk to her, hoping that she can hear them and live.

But Mia is grieving too, and is not sure she wants to live with a broken body and the loss of her parents and beloved brother. She feels no physical pain, but the emotional pain of her loss encourages her to let go. Should she leave her family, her friends and go on?

The sequel to Mia's story, Where She Went, is already released.
I hope you found at least one title that sounds appealing; although these are very popular with girls, we've seen many boys reading all three of these. This year's list of Soaring Eagle nominees includes thirteen books; we'll publish reviews of four titles for science fiction fans next.