Wednesday, December 17, 2014

LIghting the Darkness

Stories of future dystopian societies crowd our shelves in the Young Adult department, their popularity fueled by blockbuster series/movies such as Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games and Veronica Roth's Divergent.  But while that genre continues to explode, another type of story walks out of our doors more and more often these days: stories about normal people faced with huge, yet very real, problems: disease, injury, family trouble, and more.  This genre, simply called realistic fiction, appeals to teens who want to read stories of other teens "lighting the darkness" -- finding their way through these problem to some sort of resolution. The last five of our 2014-2015 Soaring Eagle book award nominees tell of these types of stories.
The Fault in our Stars, by John Green.  Green is one of few authors, YA or not, to have more than one title on the New York Times bestseller list at the same time, and the popularity of the movie version of The Fault in our Stars has landed the book on our Soaring Eagle nominee list for the second time in three years. 

This is the story of Hazel Grace. Living life with Stage IV thyroid cancer, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumors . . . for now.
We meet her two years post-miracle. Sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too - post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. She considers herself a "ticking time bomb" and refuses to let anyone get too close.  Then she meets Augustus Waters at the  cancer kids support group her mom insists she attend.  

Gus is gorgeous, in remission, and - shockingly - interested in Hazel. In fact he sets out to make Hazel’s wishes come true.  As Gus and Hazel fall more deeply in love, they have to accept the role cancer is going to play in their relationship. Is it worth falling in love if you don't know what tomorrow will bring?        

Counting by Sevens, by Holly Goldberg Sloan. Making friends is hard for 14-year-old Willow Chance. Instead of playing sports or watching movies with her friends, Willow would rather spend her time working on the garden she has created in her backyard or studying and diagnosing diseases…or counting by sevens. Seven is a lucky number and Willow sees it everywhere.

 Dell Duke is a lazy school counselor with no interest in the students that come to his office until he meets Willow Chance. Willow teaches Dell that not everyone teenager fits into the predictable categories that he has placed them in.  Willow’s meetings with Dell Duke pay off when she finally gets her chance to make friends. Quang-ha, one of Dell’s students, and Mai, his older sister, take an interest in Willow.

However, when tragedy strikes Willow, she is suddenly alone in the world with no one to take her in. She loses her ability to count by sevens.  Mai, Quang-ha, and Dell must work together to help Willow find her new place in the world, and to help her remember how to count by sevens. (Review by my colleague, Rachael Yates)

This Is What Happy Looks Like, by Jennifer E. Smith  If fate sent you an email, would you answer?
When GDL accidentally gets an email address wrong, EONeill decides to answer. They strike up a conversation, which leads to another, and another . . .until the two have developed an intimate rapport, all the while guarding their true identities.
However, GDL is convinced that EONeill is someone special, so he lobbies for his next movie to be shot in her hometown.  After all – this is Graham Larkin, the latest teenage heartthrob, and he can shoot movies wherever he likes.  Ellie O’Neill isn’t the type of girl to be taken in by the trappings of stardom, however, and when his true identity is revealed, she is shocked and unsure if she wants any relationship at all.
Can a star as big as Graham really start a relationship with a girl as ordinary as Ellie? And why is Ellie so intent on avoiding the media spotlight at all costs? Is her secret as big as Graham's?

The Running Dream, by Wendelin Van Draanen.  Jessica has everything going for her:  at 16, she has many friends, and her running ability makes her a superstar on the high school track team.  And then, the unthinkable happens: a random accident with the track team bus leaves one team member dead, and Jessica seriously injured. She has lost her leg.

Jessica doesn't know who she is anymore, without being a runner. Her recovery is long and difficult, but it forces Jessica to look hard at her life:  while she was a popular track star, she ignored people with disabilities, people like her math tutor, Rosa, who has cerebral palsy. Is that the type of person she really wants to be? 

This is the story of Jessica's quest to run again, but it is also the story of what Jessica learns when running is taken away from her.

Forgotten, by Cat Patrick. What would you do if you knew you would forget everything that happened today while you sleep tonight? How would you get ready for your science quiz, or remember what you and your friend talked about at lunchtime?  How would you remember meeting the new student, so that you didn't embarrass yourself by introducing yourself a second time?

Each night at precisely 4:33 a.m., while 16-year-old London Lane is asleep, her mind "erases" the previous day’s memories. In the morning, all she can “remember” are events from her future. She relies on elaborate notes to re-establish her memory before she goes to school each day, and usually, her system works.

But when Luke Henry, the new boy in school, enters the picture, life gets even more complicated. Luke is not someone you’d easily forget – and yet, London cannot find him in her future “memories.”  When she starts experiencing disturbing dreams, London realizes it’s time to learn the truth about whatever destroyed her memory in the past – before it destroys her future.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Setting An Example: Strong Voices, Strong Women

Sometimes the list of Soaring Eagle nominees, since it is entirely based on nominations from teens throughout Wyoming, does not easily divide into genre categories. This week's list of books represent that fact:  the titles include historical fiction, historical fantasy, and nonfiction. All three titles, however, represent strong female voices telling their stories with dignity and intelligence.  All three present female characters fighting oppression within their respective societies.

The Royal Ranger, by John Flanagan.   We'll begin with the lightest of the three books:  the 12th in Flanagan's acclaimed Ranger's Apprentice series.  Whereas Will Treaty, the series' main character, has generally been presented as enthusiastic and optimistic, this title paints a much darker picture of Will. Due to a terrible tragedy that befell the Ranger in an earlier installment, he's grown morose and obsessed with the idea of revenge.  Will's saving grace comes in the form of a second main character, but she has her own troubles.  Madelyn, the daughter of Will's best friend, Horace, and Princess Cassandra, feels constrained by the restrictions of royal life, and battles against her parents and her lifestyle in increasingly risky ways.  Enter Halt, Will's former mentor:  he proposes that Will become mentor to Madelyn, and train her to become the first female Ranger in Araluen. Will reluctantly agrees, and Madelyn happily gives up her royal privileges to enter the Ranger force.  But when investigating a suspicious death leads Will to believe he's back on the trail of his nemesis, Madelyn's safety becomes a concern. Can Will pursue his enemy and still keep Madelyn safe?  Even more to the point -- can he satisfy his quest for revenge and still uphold the Ranger code of honor?  As stated, this is book 12 in Flanagan's historical fantasy series; find more backstory about the Ranger's Apprentice here.   However, since this title, Royal Ranger, introduces Madelyn as a new main character, it would not be necessary to have read the preceding eleven books to understand this one.

Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys.  Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. But one night, Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way out of their beloved Lithuania with others from their communities.  Nobody knows what they've done to deserve the inhuman treatment they receive; they are given little food and drink and subjected to filth, violence and worse. After stops at several labor camps, Lina and her family slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Through it all, Lina makes secret drawings, desperately trying to capture the truth of what is happening to her family and culture.  Her prayer is that her drawings, which she sends away with various accomplices, will make their way to her father, wherever he might be.  Lina holds on to this scrap of hope when faced with losing her freedom and everyone she loves. This masterful work of historic fiction presents a story of humanity that is not well-recorded in young adult literature: that of the disappearance of millions of people during the Soviet occupation, and their forced relocation to the Siberian labor camps.

I am Malala:  The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, by Malala Yousafzai. This nonfiction book, the only nonfiction to appear on this year's list of Soaring Eagle nominees, requires little introduction. Most people have heard at least something about the girl who was shot by a Taliban soldier, survived, and went on to be named, this fall, as the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

However, there is more to the story than that.  Malala's memoir, co-written with journalist Christina Lamb, recounts the rich culture and history of Pakistan, her homeland.  For readers, particularly teens, who have trouble understanding complicated Middle Eastern politics, Yousafzai explains -  in the voice of a teenager - the gradual occupation of the Swat valley by Taliban forces, and the increasingly fundamentalist Muslim restrictions placed on society.  One such restriction was prohibiting education for girls over the age of 11. Yousafzai, with the support of her parents, rebelled against this restriction and continued to pursue her own education; it was on the bus home from school that she was shot, in October of 2012.  That she recovered is considered a miracle.

Yousafzai continues to champion the cause of education for women, and has been noted as a global symbol of peaceful resistance to oppression. Her story both inspires and educates.

As we look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving next week, let's remember to be especially grateful to live in a country in which females have unlimited opportunities. And let's take from the example of Madelyn, Lina, and Malala the strength to stand up against oppression in any form, in any society.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

This is America? More Soaring Eagle book award nominees

One of the most prevalent trends in Young Adult fiction continues to be the dystopian adventure -- a novel that presents some sort of post-apocalyptic view of society, and the efforts of the protagonist(s) to make sense of, and survive in, their new reality.  With many of these novels, the setting is our country, the United States of America; however, these novels present an America forever changed from our country's founding ideals.  Since next week we celebrate Veteran's Day to honor all those who have fought to uphold these founding ideals, let's look at three Soaring Eagle book award nominees that present a chilling future for our country.

The Selection by Kiera Cass:  In this future society, "America" is only the name of the main character.  Our country is instead called Ilyria, and has reverted to being ruled by a monarchy.  In this novel, something of a cross among The Hunger Games, "Cinderella," and "The Bachelor," the time has come for the prince to marry.  Since there are no other royal options for his marriage, the palace will hold a Selection:  35 young women from across the country will move into the palace and compete for the hand of the prince.  Marrying the prince becomes the dream of most all eligible teenage girls in Ilyria: not only would the bride achieve title and prominence, but she would become a One.  Society in Ilyria is divided into levels, much like castes in some third-world countries: jobs, social position, and, of course, wealth are all determined by the number assigned to your family, and the only way to move up from the level of your birth is through marriage.  There is one teenage girl, however, who wants nothing to do with the Selection: America Singer, a talented Five who has been secretly seeing Aspen, a Six, for over a year.  When America finally succumbs to her mother's urging and enters her application for the competition, she discovers that everything she thought she knew -- about friendship, about her future plans, about the Prince, and even about Aspen -- has been turned upside down.  This is the first title in Cass' trilogy:  the following titles are The Elite and The One.

The Darkest Path, by Jeff Hirsch:  Six years ago, Callum and his younger brother, James, were kidnapped from their upstate New York home.  Since then, they've been living at the headquarters of The Glorious Path -- a militant religious group founded by a former U. S. soldier.  The Path has taken over control of several southern and western states, and the United States is now engaged in its second civil war. Cal, now 15 years old, has been trained as a deadly secret agent for The Path, but he is also considered rebellious; in an effort to control him, he is given the duty of cleaning the kennels of the fighting dogs raised by The Path.  He befriends one dog, and in an attempt to save him, ends up committing murder.  Cal and the dog are now on the run, and they head north - out of Utah, where The Path is headquartered, and into Wyoming.  There, Cal meets Natalie, part of a group of teenage rebels who are fighting The Path.  They are nearly killed in one battle; will they survive a second? And how will Cal rescue his younger brother, still in the clutches of The Path?  Hirsch says on his website ( that he is at work on a companion novel to Darkest Path; at this writing, the title is planned to be a digital-only release, and a date is uncertain.

Insignia by S. J. Kincaid:  14-year-old Tom Raines just wants to "be somebody."  Since he and his father live on the fringes of society, he's lived most of his life as a nobody; even his teacher at the virtual school he sometimes attends has called him a loser.  Kincaid's novel presents a view of the United States at a time when kids attend school by logging onto the Internet and attending a virtual classroom via their avatar; when gaming happens in virtual spaces that can be publicly viewed, again via the Internet; and when World War III is being fought, not between countries, but between huge multinational corporations who control all society.  Tom happens to be an expert gamer; he's had to be, because his gaming scams often provide the only money he and his dad have for food and hotel rooms.  During one brilliant match, Tom attracts the attention of one of the country's top military generals.  The general is interested in him because World War III is a different war from anything in history:  it's being fought in outer space, with unmanned drone-like battleships controlled from earth.  The soldiers controlling the battles?  Not traditionally-trained soldiers, but gamers -- kids, like Tom, who excel at video-gaming.  Tom is recruited, and he enlists willingly -- after all, he views this as his chance to "be somebody."  But at what cost?  Tom's about to find out. This is also the first of a trilogy, followed by Vortex and Catalyst.

So, teens in Wyoming have nominated three titles that present some disturbing views of the United States of America. Some would say the changes presented in these novels could never happen.  Some would say they are imminent.  What would you say?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Creepy Soaring Eagle book award nominees

Sometimes, it's hard to believe how quickly time passes.  This autumn is one of those times:  putting up the Halloween decorations, celebrating Teen Read Week, and going out to the schools to talk about the new Soaring Eagle book award nominees . . . all these actions feel oddly routine, as if we just completed them a week ago.

Nonetheless, the calendar says an entire year has passed. And so, it's time to introduce this year's set of Soaring Eagle book award nominees:  books that, for reasons of popularity and literary quality, have been nominated by Wyoming students in 7th-12th grades as possible winners of our state youth book award.

I've just been in one of our junior high schools, talking about these books with the students.  This year's list has generated a lot of excitement about reading, and that's a very good thing.

As usual, I won't write about all fourteen nominees in one blog post.  As we're getting close to Halloween, I'll focus on the "creepy" books first:

Thirteen Days to Midnight by Patrick Carman:

15-year-old Jacob Fielding should not have survived the car accident that killed his foster father, but he did.  Weeks later, he returns to school and meets a new student, Ophelia, or "O" for short.  O is smart, pretty, daring; she wears a pink cast on her arm, the result of a skateboarding accident.  Jacob and his best friend, Milo, ask to sign O's pink cast.  On a whim, Jacob writes "You are indestructible" -- the very words his foster father spoke to him before their car smashed into a giant redwood tree.

That afternoon, Ophelia tries another skateboarding stunt, and wrecks - badly. She should have had more broken bones, or worse, but she walks away without a scratch.

Could Jacob's foster father have given him some magical protection before he died? And could Jacob have passed that protection on to Ophelia?

What would you do if you had the power to control life and death. How would you decide who to protect? How would you decide who lives and who dies?

Zom-B by Darren Shan:

B Smith is a bully and a thug.  B's father is worse: racist, sexist, alcoholic, and violent.  B's father keeps control in their London home by spouting prejudicial opinions, then berating -- or beating -- anyone who disagrees with him.

At school, B behaves similarly:  using insults, racial slurs, and fists when necessary, to stay on top. 

When news program footage shows a gruesome zombie attack in Ireland, B's father pronounces that the footage is just a government plot to scare citizens; and besides, he notes, the world could do without a few Irishmen anyway.

But the zombies are real, and they show up at B's high school.  In one terrible afternoon, B and his gang zigzag though classrooms and corridors, trying to escape the zombies; around every turn is a new threat.  Finally, B faces a moment of truth -- and B's true character, as well as true identity, is revealed. 

This is the first book in Shan's Zom-B series; nine books have been published so far.

UnWholly by Neal Shusterman:

The second book in Shusterman's UnWind series, UnWholly continues his disturbing vision of "Happy Jack Harvest Camp," where unwanted teenagers are "unwound" -- their body parts harvested for organ and tissue donation while they are still, barely, alive.  In the first book of the series, a group of teens manages to escape, and they continue to live underground, searching for ways to help other teens like them. 

Meanwhile, the harvesting continues, as big business and big science have teamed up to exploit these unwanted teens.  New to the story is Camus Comprix, a 21st-century Frankenstein who was constructed of donated parts from 99 gifted teens.  He is the centerpiece of "Proactive Humanity's" campaign to expand the general harvest to include not only troublesome teens, but also the imprisoned and impoverished.  Cam begins to fall in love, however, and this new development leads him to search fro meaning in his life, and to question whether a "rewound" being can actually have a soul.  

As Cam begins to question his identity, he has to also question the unwinding process that made him, and his connection to the teens who have escaped.

As stated, this is the second book in what Shusterman calls a "dystology".  Other titles include UnSouled (#3) and UnDivided (#4).

There are other titles on this year's list of nominees that are "creepy," for a variety of reasons, but these three definitely have the potential to make you jump at loud noises and peek around corners while you read them.  Happy spooky reading!

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.