Tag Archives: YA

Read Harder: Vol. 3

This year, I plan on chronicling my adventures with Book Riot’s 2016 Read Harder Challenge.

It’s always tough to talk about the third book in a series without giving away anything important, but I’m going to do my best. I flailed a bit about Pierce Brown‘s Red Rising about two years ago and it ended up being one of my favorite books that year. The overly simplified recap?  The series is set on Mars. Our hero, Darrow, is pulled up from his slave existence and sent to infiltrate high-society to spark a revolution.

In Morning Star, the revolution has spread far beyond Darrow’s spy games to a complete uprising, with most of the low-colors in the caste system warily banding together to overthrow the ruling Golds. Brown has expanded his toying with Greek and Roman mythology to include Norse legends and mythology – including a valiant warrior named Ragnar, his shield-maiden sister Sefi, and a veritable army of Valkyries. The book is stuffed with rousing war speeches, space battles, and political maneuvers.  If Red Rising has shades of Ender’s Game and Golden Son is a bureaucratic chess game, Morning Star throws the two into a blender, and comes out with Battlestar Galactica (Starbuck and Darrow would definitely be friends).

If you are into this, then Morning Star is for you.

As for the reading challenge, this will cover you for:

  • Read a book over 500 pages – it clocks in at 518
  • Read a book about politics, in your country or another (fiction or non fiction) – a stretch, sure, but it works

— Jess

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After Jessica Jones

Congratulations: you made it through all thirteen white-knuckled, soul-crushing episodes of Marvel’s Jessica Jones on Netflix. Now you need either bibliotherapy or the hair of the dog that bit you, depending on how much you enjoy psychological torture. Here are some Library experiences you can have to either calm yourself down or extend your terror buzz.

If You Just Can’t Even: The Gentle List

Right now you need sunshine, laughter, and reassurance that people are still essentially good. Snuggle up with one of the following suggestions:

Step Aside Pops / Kate Beaton –  Laughter is good for the soul, and this collection of literature and history-inspired comics will make you laugh until you can’t breathe.

Doctor Who: The Complete Second Series – You need to wash Kilgrave out of your head, and fast. Watch David Tennant at his best and most lovable.

This Christmas / Aretha Franklin – What could be better than the Queen of Soul singing seasonal songs of peace and joy? Crank this up and hit repeat.

Modern Romance / Aziz Ansari – Healthy, true love is a real thing! And getting there is more hilarious than heartbreaking. Let Ansari walk you through it.

Bridget Jones’s Diary / Helen Fielding – Because somebody named Jones should get a happy ending, right?

 

"Ida B. Wells," from Step Aside Pops, pg. 118. (c)2015 Kate Beaton. Click through to read more amusing comics.

“Ida B. Wells,” from Step Aside Pops, pg. 118. (c)2015 Kate Beaton. Click through to read more amusing comics.

 

If You’re All Fired Up: The Grrrl Power List

Pumped up and ready to fight the good fight?  Keep your adrenaline levels high and take these to the checkout desk:

Alias / Brian Michael Bendis – If you’re not familiar with the source material, catch up with all things Jessica.

Bitch Planet / Kelly Sue DeConnick – It’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you. And boy, are they out to get you.

Mad Max: Fury Road – Feminism, rage, explosions, catharsis.

The First Two Records / Bikini Kill – Loud, stomp-around-and-break-stuff therapy. Play it until your neighbors hate you.

Reign of Terror / Sleigh Bells – contains the song “Demons,” a/k/a That One Awesome Song in That One Scene.

Shadowshaper/ Daniel Jose Older – Urban fantasy about a gutsy teen discovering her own special powers.

Your turn:  did you, or will you, watch Jessica Jones? Have you got additional suggestions for post-viewing stress relief (or villain stomping)? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section, but please keep it spoiler-free!

–Leigh Anne

 

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Some Books Are

Nothing rockets a book faster to the top of my TBR list than the news that it’s been banned or challenged by somebody somewhere. That’s how I found myself burning through Courtney Summers’s YA novel Some Girls Are, which was recently removed from a South Carolina honors English summer reading list at the request of a parent who found it objectionable. The school’s principal pulled the book from the list without subjecting it to the normal review process, which is exceptionally disturbing since Some Girls Are was just one of three books the students could choose from (ironically, Summers’s book was replaced with Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, another YA novel that frequently turns up on banned and challenged lists for its frank discussion of uncomfortable topics).

Some Girls Are tells the story of a popular girl’s fall from grace and subsequent bullying at the hands of her former friends. Regina is one of the Fearsome Fivesome, the clique that rules her small town’s high school. But staying in a clique can be just as hard as getting into a clique, as Regina discovers after her BFF’s boyfriend tries to rape her one night at a party. When the friend she confides in proves untrustworthy, Regina finds her reputation smashed to pieces and her membership in the Fivesome revoked…possibly for life.

“An Abstract Exploration of Bullying,” student artwork from Beyond the Book. Click through to learn more.

One thing this book does exceptionally well is examine the relationship between being bullied and bullying, examining how a person can shift back and forth from one state to the other. It’s not an easy read: not content to explore one teenage challenge, Summers throws the entire kitchen sink of adolescent problems at her characters at once, including eating disorders and the death of a parent. Every child in this novel is a hot mess, and their teachers and parents are pretty much either oblivious to what’s going on with their kids, or deliberately turning a blind eye.

I could see where that might make a grownup reader feel uncomfortable.

Summers mounts an eloquent defense of the book on Tumblr that, I think, gets to the heart of the matter:

I have made a career out of writing young adult fiction about difficult topics. It’s my deepest hope teenagers living the harsh realities I write about–because they do live them–will read my books and feel less alone. It’s incredibly powerful to see yourself in a book when you’re struggling. Not only that, but gritty, realistic YA novels offer a safe space for teen readers to process what is happening in the world around them, even if they never directly experience what they’re reading about. This, in turn, creates a space for teens and the adults in their lives to discuss these topics. Fiction also helps us to consider lives outside of our own, which in turn makes us more empathetic toward others.

Including Some Girls Are on a summer reading list for students entering West Ashley High School could have been an opportunity to send a message about the types of shaming, language, and bullying that would not be tolerated as well as increase students’ awareness of the effects this type of behavior has and open up critical lines of communication about it.

Summers understands intuitively that the most offensive thing a teenager can experience in a classroom is silence.

Some books are hot potatoes nobody wants to touch. Some books push us out of our comfort zones. Some books remind you that some things never change, and never will change unless they’re brought out into the sunlight. Some books are the only means by which a teenager in trouble can reach out for a lifeline. Some books might be the only opportunity some children will have to develop compassion for others who are less fortunate. And every book is one somebody’s “some books are” list. Read them before somebody decides you shouldn’t be allowed to.

Truth-telling time: were you bullied in school, or were you a bully? Both? Neither? Do you think bullying has gotten worse in the digital age, or does it just seem that way because it’s more widely reported? What would you want your high school classmates to know about you now?

–Leigh Anne

If you are a teen being bullied, or in an otherwise violent or abusive situation, the Teen Services staff has put together a resource guide with information to help you cope. Parents who would like to talk about bullying with their kids and teens can consult the information available through the National Bullying Prevention Center. The American Academy of Child and Educational Psychiatry also maintains a resource page for parents and clinical professionals who work with bullies and their victims.

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Summering in Wildwood

This summer, I read the first trilogy I’ve finished since The Hunger Games, and I loved every minute of it. Unlike a lot of recent popular YA series, The Wildwood Chronicles* isn’t a romance, nor a dystopian thriller, it’s the story of an adventurous young girl (and a whole host of secondary characters), set in a magical wilderness in the heart of Portland where multiple interrelated storylines run together to tell one epic tale.  I realize that makes it sound like the perfect book for precocious tweens,(and it pretty much is), but, as an adult reader, I loved it too.

What's this pipe-smoking, eye-patch-wearing wolf up to? You'll have to read Under Wildwood to find out.

What’s this pipe-smoking, eye patch-wearing wolf up to? You’ll have to read Under Wildwood to find out.

Colin Meloy, also known as lead singer and song-writer for English-major favs, The Decemberists, wrote the series, and it features milieus that will be familiar to any Decemberists fan including (but not limited to): bandits, pirates, revenge, crime and punishment, shape-shifting woodland creatures, sea shanties, lost love, dying children, pacts with evil/supernatural forces, political uprisings, nature imagery, orphans, tragic heroes, and magic spells.

If that wasn’t enough for you, here’s a list of  things I loved about this series:

  • Fast-paced, plot-driven story.
  • Imaginative, richly descriptive writing.
  • A focus on friendship, cunning, and courage (Sound familiar, fans of another series?)
  • Humor (Lots of asides for adult readers to pick up on; For example, I loved the nods to Portland’s well-known hipster culture –  in one of the first scenes, our main character Prue rides her bike to shop for vinyl and nosh on veggie tacos.)
  • Beautiful illustrations by Carson Ellis, including several full-color plates in each book (Despite generally being a big fan of audiobooks and ebooks, I think the illustrations make a pretty good case for reading this in traditional print format).
  • One of the heroes is a talking circus bear with hooks for hands.

If you decide to spend some time in Wildwood, I hope you find it as whimsical and gratifying as I did.

-Ginny

*The order of the series is:

  1. Wildwood
  2. Under Wildwood
  3. Wildwood Imperium 

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The First Rule of Book Club …

… is to apparently talk about Book Club. Apologies to Chuck Palahniuk.

I belong to the same extracurricular book club that Ginny discussed in her last post.  As you’ll recall, our goals are simple: read good YA books and charm waiters across the city. We’re doing okay on both accounts.

Here’s what we’ve read recently…

Everything Leads to You, Nina La Cour (book, ebook) – Emi, a recent high school graduate, is getting her start in the film industry as a set designer. During a visit to an estate sale with her boss, she finds a letter that leads to Ava – a bit of a manic pixie dream girl. Pros: LGBTQ characters, movie-making fun. Cons: Unrealistic expectations of post-high school job prospects

The Darkest Part of the Forest, Holly Black (book, ebook, audio) – Twins Hazel and Ben live in a small town where humans and faeries mostly co-exist without any issues. Deep in the forest, a boy has been sleeping in a glass coffin for as long as anyone can remember – until one day, he finally wakes up. Pros: Sword-wielding girls, LGBTQ characters. Cons: Static characters (we all agreed that the story would have worked better as a graphic novel)

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Benjamin Alire Saenz (book, ebook, audio) – Ari’s older brother is in prison and no one will talk about it. Dante lives in a house where they talk about everything. After meeting at a community pool, they begin an uneasy friendship that turns into the most important relationship in their lives. Pros: Beautiful writing, LGBTQ characters. Cons: Not many (this book has won ALL of the awards – Lambda Literary Award and Stonewall Book Award for LGBT fiction, an Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award honor, Pura Belpré Narrative Medal for Latino fiction, and Michael L. Printz Award honor for Young Adult fiction.)

And we went with Gabi, a Girl in Pieces for next time.

If you’re looking to get some book club action for yourself, check out our Events page to find one that works for you!

– Jess

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Help Me Choose: YA Book Club Edition

Before I ever worked for the Library, I was a member of a Young Adult book club. Our book club has gone through a few different iterations, but in the past year or so, we’ve settled into a pretty great rhythm: One person picks the book and the restaurant, and we meet up on a predetermined date to eat tasty food and chat about our book. It’s my turn to pick our title for August, and my deadline to choose just so happens to be tonight. I have so many potential choices I’m having difficulty narrowing it down.  Here’s a look at a few books I’m considering – if you’ve read any of them, please comment and help me decide what my pals and I should read next.

33 Snowfish by Adambookcover (5) Rapp – A gritty-yet-lyrical look at three teenage runaways and their life of crime, this book is sure to be emotional and should inspire some pretty interesting discussions.

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kristin Cronn-Mills –  Gabe is balancing his transition from female-to-male, his course load at school, and his burgeoning success as a late-night DJ, and he does it all with uncommon humor and honesty.

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero – Written like a journal, this book gives readers a glimpse at the complicated, messy life of Gabi Hernandez as she navigates everything from a drug-addicted parent to her blossoming sexuality during her senior year in high school. Lots of CLP staff have already declared their love for this title, one review I read on GoodReads described this book as “the YA poster child for #WeNeedDiverseBooks“, and it’s the theme book for this year’s Teen Alternative Homecoming, so this one seems like a pretty strong contender.

bookcover (4)Sunrise over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers – I’m not typically very interested in books about war, but the description of this book sounds really compelling:  it’s told from the perspective of several young soldiers in the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, with less of a focus on tactics of war and more of a focus on the people grappling with this incredibly difficult situation. It’s easy for us to forget how many members of the armed forces are still teenagers, and I expect this to be a sobering reminder. Also, I think I’ve only ever read one other book by Walter Dean Myers, which seems like a major gap in my reading history.

Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin – We’ve only read one other historical fiction title in my book club, and we all enjoyed it. I’m intrigued by the description of this book’s plot, where the main character tries to break free of gender roles in 1920s America.

So, friends, help me decide: What should my book club read next?

-Ginny

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What Book Changed Your Story?

Happy end of Pride Month, everyone! We celebrated with you this June at PrideFest by making a community quilt, and now I want to share what a wonderful experience we had. We asked PrideFest attendees to write a title of “A Book That Changed Your Story” on a quilt square, and the finished quilt will start to travel around our 19 branches in the fall. Here’s a teaser:

Photo taken by the author.

Photo taken by the author.

So, “What book changed your story?” I love this question for a few reasons. First, reading is a highly personal activity. We pick what we read, and we read what we love, which makes bookshelves probably the second window into the soul. (Raise your hand if you, too, make a beeline to someone’s bookshelf as soon as you spot it.)

Second, I like that this question makes us think about the profound effect reading has on our lives. There’s probably that one line you’ve read that you never came back from — that changed how you saw yourself, the world and your place in the world.

And then I like this question because, at PrideFest, it became abundantly clear that a concomitant joy of reading is living in the company of readers. There’s the thrill of excitement and sense of affirmation seeing someone read a book that’s dear to you as they wait for the bus and the fun of talking to someone about that book, or them asking you about it.

Photo by Maggie McFalls.

Photo by Maggie McFalls.

At PrideFest, some of you knew right away what book changed you. Others left the table, thought about the books they’d read and themselves, and came back hours later to answer the question. And when you answered, some shared stories about those books: reading Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love in the early nineties after the AIDS crisis, naming a beloved daughter with some clever wordplay from the The Velveteen Rabbit (which is read by Meryl Streep on OverDrive). Many people answered that Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues changed your story, but almost all of you had different reasons why. One person praised Winnie the Pooh’s values and the character’s disregard for “gender role or size”. (It’s all about that honey!) We talked about children’s novels (Mommy, Mama, and Me), YA (I Am J, How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship and Musical Theater, The Miseducation of Cameron Post), fiction (Rubyfruit Jungle, The Front Runner) and non-fiction (Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity, anyone?).

Another reason I love this question is because we identify ourselves in so many different ways. Identifying and claiming a title is empowering. Sometimes, we find community, and we find ourselves when we do so. The only thing I know for sure is that on a fundamental level I am a reader, and I’ve always loved meeting my own people. Pittsburgh makes a lot of best-of lists, but one thing that isn’t mentioned explicitly is the people. So let me say explicitly that the best thing about Pittsburgh is yinz. Thank you to all who shared, thanks for being… my neighbor.

–Isabelle

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