Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Remember me?

If you're a regular viewer or follower of this blog, I owe you a huge THANK YOU for still checking in!  I have been absent from this blog for quite a while -- since July, actually. 

However, I have not been absent from reading YA literature; I've been taking a class about Children's and Young Adult literature for my master's degree this fall, and have been reading some really great books, both classic and contemporary. Along with reading, I've been writing a different blog to review some of the titles.

Now that the class is over, I can share what I've been writing about all fall.  You can find my review blog from the class I've been taking here:  Feel free to scroll through, and even follow or comment if you'd like.  I've already done some cross-posting, using work I've written for this blog to complete some entries for the other one; I may continue to do that.

You'll notice that the Word Press blog is not limited to YA literature, but also includes YA nonfiction, and CH fiction.  I hope you enjoy all the books!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Unmask! Everyday Heroes

Every week, I receive a copy of the New York Times’ bestseller list for Young Adult literature; I review it mostly to be sure we have the listed books in our collection. As I was skimming the July 12, 2015 edition, I noticed several unusual items:

  1. Four of the top ten books are novels by John Green: Paper Towns (1); Looking for Alaska (3); The Fault in our Stars (6); and An Abundance of Katherines (8).  Perhaps that shouldn’t surprise me, as Green is an excellent author and the first two titles have been made into movies . . . but still, four out of ten?  I think Green might be living every author’s dream. Even more remarkable, for YA literature, is the fact that each of these is a stand-alone novel; none belong to a series.
  2. In fact, only one of the top ten books is part of a series: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs (5).  The sequel is Hollow City.
  3. Miss Peregrine’s Home, along with The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (4), are the only two novels in the top-ten list that contain elements of the fantastic. Miss Peregrine’s Home is a thriller/ghost story, and The Book Thief is told from the perspective of Death himself. Still, both books contain plenty of reality, and realistic fiction populates the rest of this week’s list: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jessie Andrews (2); We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (7); Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (9) and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (10), as well as all four of the Green novels already mentioned.  Although dystopia still fills the NYT best-selling series list, none of the most popular novels are dystopias.
  4. Finally, with the exception of the Andrews, Riggs, Lockhart, and Rowell novels, the top-ten bestseller list is relatively old.  The other six YA titles on the list have copyright dates ranging from 2005 to 2008. . . ancient, in terms of YA literature.


All of these are interesting facts, but what can we infer from them? That teens like to read books that are going to be made into movies? That many adults are reading teen realistic fiction, and driving up sales? That today’s teens have suddenly developed an interest in reading books that were published when they were still in kindergarten? That John Green now owns the New York Times?

Perhaps all these statements are true; who knows? What is certain is that dystopian fiction is less popular than it was a year ago, and realistic fiction more popular, and that teens (and probably adults) are gravitating toward novels with real-life problems and real-life heroes, no matter the publication date.

Therefore, in celebration of our Unmask! teen summer reading program, here are some more recent YA novels about realistic, everyday heroes:


Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen: Younger sister Sydney has always been overshadowed by her big brother, Peyton.  When Peyton is imprisoned for a drunk-driving accident, their mother seems to forget about Sydney even more. Sydney shrinks into herself and her reality-TV programs, until a school transfer causes her to meet Layla. As Sydney and Layla become friends, Layla’s support helps Sydney take steps toward healing and a new beginning.

The Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver: In this story of two sisters, each dealing with their own turmoil following a terrible accident, Oliver weaves together mystery and family tension. Nick leaves her parents’ home to move in with her older sister, Dara, hoping to mend the divide between them. But when a little girl goes missing in their town, and Nick thinks Dara disappears in a similar incident, she discovers secrets about her sister that threaten to unravel their bond even more.

If You’re Reading This by Trent Reedy: Ever since Mike Wilson’s father was killed in Afghanistan when Mike was eight, he’s tried not to give his mother any problems, taking on extra responsibility and doing what she asks. All he wants is to play football, but she won’t allow it.  Mysteriously, Mike begins receiving letters from his dad – letters that were written long ago.  Inspired by the letters, Mike forges his mother’s signature and joins the team. In joining the team, Mike experiences both the love of the game and the guilt that comes from living a double life. Bullying, hazing, and a budding relationship with a Muslim girl complicate Mike’s decision even further. Can his father’s letters help him sort it all out?  

Biggie by Derek Sullivan: Henry Abbott is an obese 17-year-old who suffers from the dual pressure of being bullied about his weight and being pressured to succeed by his locally-famous father. Henry has little ambition, and even less self-esteem . . . until a fluke perfect game in gym class makes him believe that he may have the potential to, like his father, excel at baseball. His friends begin to help him on his quest to get healthy, but along the way discover that Henry’s weight isn’t the only thing keeping him down.  Language and some mature content make this a choice for older readers.


By all means, read some of the Young Adult bestsellers listed above; they are wonderful novels. But if all those are checked out of the library, delve into a newer, less well-known story of realistic, everyday heroes; you won’t be disappointed.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Teen Summer Reading 2015: Unmask!

Darcy's Note:  We are a month into our Teen Summer Reading program for 2015 -- Unmask!  Here in the Teen Room, we are using this theme not only to focus on activities and crafts that "unmask" the teens' creativity, but also to focus on books and movies that "unmask" the heroes in our world -- both superheroes and unlikely heroes.

Alyssa, our newest staff member, wrote the following review of an unlikely heroine for this summer blog post.  Don't miss this engrossing title; summer is a great time for a mystery!

The Diviners by Libba Bray

With the summer reading theme of “Unmask!”, The Diviners, by Libba Bray,  seemed an intriguing choice not only for the unlikely heroine who  begins her journey in a selfishly reckless manner, but also for the elements of horror,  historical fiction, romance, mystery, and the supernatural all wrapped into one book.

 Evie O’Neil is a spoiled girl of the 1920’s who, because of poor behavior and an unfortunate parlor trick, is sent to her Uncle’s in New York City where he manages The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult.  Evie reaches New York ready for a life filled with speakeasies, dancing, and the moving pictures.  We follow her and a special set of characters as they navigate the city; all the while evil unlike any other is unleashed as a string of murders takes place.  When investigators find strange symbols left on the bodies, Evie, her Uncle Will, and his assistant are asked to help solve the mystery.

 As the case grows and more victims are found an intricate web is cast throughout the city connecting characters and unraveling secrets.  Soon Evie finds she must confront her own secrets and channel her inner powers in order to bring justice to the city and its citizens.
The sequel to The Diviners, titled Lair of Dreams, is due to be released in August, 2015.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Michael L. Printz award

Every year at the end of January, the American Library Association announces a list of top books, audio books, and video for children and young adults.  One of the awards listed is the Michael L. Printz award for excellence in young adult literature. The winners and nominees share a higher level of literary quality than some of the more “trendy” YA novels.  If you are looking for a novel that is challenging, innovative, or just exceptionally well-written, try one of these Printz winners or finalists.
(Please note:  Many of these reviews have been posted previously in this blog; they are simply collected here.)


Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (2011 Printz honoree)

This novel is set in a post-oil world, following an apocalyptic world disaster. Now, the world’s few remaining wealthy people sail the oceans on enormous hydrofoil ships, and the many poor scavenge old shipwrecks and destroyed buildings for whatever they can sell. Nailer, the main character, is scavenger whose job is tearing up old hulks of ships, living day to day, until a rich girl arrives to change his life.


Going Bovine by Libba Bray (2010 Printz winner)

All 16-year-old Cameron wants is to get through life with a minimum of effort. It's not a lot to ask.  But that's before Cameron finds out he's sick and going to die. Dulcie, an angelic hallucination tells Cam that there is a cure, if he's willing to go in search of it. With the help of a video-gaming dwarf and a yard gnome, Cam sets off on the mother-of-all-road-trips through a twisted America to find his quest. (Some mature language and content)


Stolen by Lucy Christopher (2011 Printz honoree)

It’s a parent's nightmare: 15-year-old Gemma is drugged and kidnapped in an international airport, the crime crafted so carefully that her kidnapper is able to pass her off as his girlfriend. It takes Gemma days to realize that she has been taken to a place so remote and oppressive that she will not be able to escape. Gemma fights, with whatever limited means she has, to resist her captor's twisted plan, and to take back her life.


A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly (2004 Printz honoree)

Mattie Gokey lives in upstate New York at the end of the 19th century; she has a suitor, and it seems that a life of marriage and family has already been decided for her. When she takes a summer job at a nearby lake resort, she learns the truth about a suspicious murder case; her findings help her to step out into a life of her own design.


Looking for Alaska by John Green (2006 Printz winner)

At his new boarding school, Miles Halter experiences a new life: academic challenges, lack of parental supervision, and, for the first time, friendship. One of these new friends is Alaska, a clever, funny, messed-up girl with a penchant for pranks.  In the end, Alaska’s pain wins over her spark, and her friends are left wondering why. A somber read that somehow ends up being hopeful. (Some mature language and content)

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgewick (2014 Printz winner)

On a remote Scandinavian island, we begin to read the story of a photographer there to document a mysterious plant. Within pages, his story ends; another abruptly begins. Soon, we delve into seven seemingly disparate, but cunningly intertwined, short stories about the power of the midwinterblood.


Code Name Verity  by Elizabeth Wein (2013 Printz honoree)

Julia, formerly a wireless operator for the British, is being held captive in France by a sadistic Nazi interrogator. She has supposedly "sold her soul" in exchange for small bits of freedom. Interspersed with the story of her fierce fight for survival is a different tale: that of how she came to be in France and of her friendship with Maddie Brodatt, a British civilian pilot. In the second half of the book, Maddie narrates, telling of her desperate attempts to rescue her friend and revealing both the truth of what happened to each of them, and the truth of Julia's bravery.