Thursday, July 10, 2014

TFIOS is checked out. Now what?

John Green is a pretty inescapable force right now. He's one half of vlogbrothers, an intensely popular YouTube channel. He's doing World Cup stuff. He's doing Mental Floss stuff. Oh, and the movie adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars just came out, too. Maybe you've heard of it?

I totally get it. TFIOS is awesome. John's other books are awesome. You should totally read his books! But, because the world is so hyped on John Green right now, there's a good chance that you're not going to find his books on library shelves any time soon. Your best option might be adding your name to the hold list and waiting it out.

Don't lose faith! Your phone call or email will come, announcing that it's your turn with that coveted book. But in the meantime, try one of these other amazing contemporary YA authors. Waiting is hard, but you might just discover a new favorite.

Rainbow Rowell
Without a doubt, Rainbow Rowell is my favorite YA author ever, of all time, forever and ever, amen. Her books are clever, heartbreaking, and somehow totally satisfying while making you desperately wish that she'd write a sequel. (Rainbow, if you're reading: Eleanor and Park go to college. It's all I want.)  I've already extolled the virtues of Eleanor & Park. I also love Fangirl. It's a sometimes painfully relatable novel about Cath, a superstar fanfiction writer and (somewhat less superstar) college freshman who has to deal with anxiety, finding her place, her twin sister's drastic personality changes, her father's mental illness, and boys. As you can imagine, this is a pretty overwhelming combination of factors. You'll love rooting for Cath and occasionally cringing sympathetically for her.

Maureen Johnson
Maureen Johnson writes funny YA that sneaks in all unexpected and tugs at your heartstrings. I'm a big fan of her Shades of London series. It's got a lot going for it: English boarding school setting, a bit of romance, a bit of action, and ghosts! But if you're not a paranormal fiction fan, try one of her other novels first. If you're waiting for An Abundance of Katherines, try Maureen's 13 Little Blue Envelopes, a travel novel in which a girl follows instructions (enclosed in the titular envelopes) that take her to England and change her life. If you want friendship changes and other interpersonal drama, try The Bermudez Triangle. (More things to recommend Maureen she has a cool blog and is friends with John.)

E. Lockhart
E. Lockhart writes great YA books that have braininess to spare. Her most recent and most buzzed-about novel is We Were Liars. The pre-publication press was heavy on the mystery, imploring reviewers not to reveal anything about the plot. There is a huge twist, so all I'll say is that it deals with a group of privileged teenagers whose intertwined families vacation on a private island each summer. It's got more in common with Looking for Alaska than Gossip Girl, though. Speaking of Looking for Alaska, how about a great book with a school setting? The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks follows its brilliant titular character as she secretly infiltrates an all-male secret society, combating sexism and causing mayhem left and right.

Sarah Dessen
If you want contemporary YA, you have to read Sarah Dessen. She is a certified OG of the genre. Looking for romance, complicated situations, and characters you desperately want to succeed? Yeah, she's got you covered. Plus, she's prolific, so if you read one of her books and like it, you have 26 more just waiting for you! I suggest starting with Someone Like You. It's about Halley and her friend Scarlett, a teenage girl who finds out that not only has her boyfriend died in a motorcycle accident, but she's pregnant with his baby. It might sound like soap opera material, but trust me, it's good. I'm also a big fan of the movie How to Deal, which was adapted from Someone Like You and another of Sarah's novels called That Summer.

Lauren Oliver
Though perhaps better well-known for her dystopian Delirium trilogy, Lauren Oliver also writes great realistic novels. Before I Fall is probably better called realistic-ish. It follows a popular girl as she dies and is caught living the last day of her life over and over, trying to figure out what she can--and what she should--change. If that's too much suspension of disbelief for you, try Panic instead. Small-town teens competing in a high-stakes game of dares and dangerous activities, all for a shot at winning a big cash prize? Yeah, this multiple-perspective novel is awesome.

Stephanie Perkins
This recommendation comes endorsed from John Green himself! However, I would still recommend Stephanie's books regardless of nerdfighteria affiliation. Her books aren't a series, exactly, but they feature reoccurring characters, with secondaries in one book taking center stage as protagonists in the next. (Which is pretty fun to read.) Her first, Anna and the French Kiss, follows Anna as she reluctantly goes to boarding school in Paris. The second, Lola and the Boy Next Door, chronicles the return of the very troublesome Cricket Bell into the seemingly perfect life of Lola, a theatrical teenage girl living with her two dads. The final book in the trilogy, Isla and the Happily Ever After, is slated for release later this year.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

YA Reads for LGBT Pride Month

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month! LGBT Pride Month was established to recognize the identity, impact, and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans* people. Here at Read This Next for Teens, we're taking the opportunity to celebrate LGBT characters in YA fiction. These novels make for compelling reading, regardless of your orientation or identity. And they are all available through your local LPLS branch!

The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson
The close-knit friendship between Mel, Avery, and Nina--the titular Triangle--is threatened when Nina spends the summer away at a pre-college leadership camp. When she returns, she discovers that Avery and Mel's friendship has become something more. And none of them knows quite how to deal with the changes.

A violent hate crime rocks a small Southern town and sends sixteen-year-old Cat on a mission to identify the perpetrators. Despite the premise, this gritty book is much more than a simple mystery.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
When Cameron's parents die in a car crash and she's sent to live with her aunt, she's almost relieved. Now, they will never have to deal with the truth: that Cameron is a lesbian. This relief is short-lived, and when Aunt Ruth discovers her secret, she sends Cameron to a camp to be "fixed."

Two boys' attempt to break the world record for longest kiss--a whopping 32 hours--brings other young men's struggles with their sexuality and identity, and the would-be record breakers' feelings for one another, to the forefront.

Coincidence and a mutual friend bring together two very different young men, both named Will Grayson, who become friends amid heartbreak and the staging of an over-the-top high school musical.

Ari, an angry loner, and Dante, an outgoing know-it-all, meet at the swimming pool and form a deep, life-changing friendship.
Dangerous Angels: The Weetzie Bat Books by Francesca Lia Block 
This lyrical magic realism series takes place in a darkly beautiful version of Los Angeles and features characters of all sorts. These include the couple Dirk and Duck, whose relationship is tested by personal fears and the threat of HIV.

The Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George

Jessie is a self-described "weirdo" with clunky boots and a homemade haircut. Emily is the perfect  overachiever, complete with boyfriend and position as Student Council President. The only thing they have in common is their secret relationship.

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsburg

Rafe is tired of his sexuality being the first thing that everyone notices about him, so when he transfers to an all-boys school, he decides to keep it to himself. But school assignments, a suffering fellow classmate, and a new love interest make keeping secrets difficult.
Friendship with Sage has helped Logan to trust again following the devastating news of his girlfriend's infidelity. But when Logan acts on his new feelings for Sage, he discovers a startling secret: Sage was born a boy.

Ash by Malinda Lo

Orphaned and left with her cruel stepmother, Ash spends her days working and her nights reading fairy tales, dreaming of the day when the fairies will take her away.  When she meets Sidhean, she believes that her wish has been granted, and that it's only a matter of time before she leaves her old life behind. But her burgeoning friendship with Kaisa, the King's Huntress, brings about a change of heart... and complications, since Sidhean has claimed Ash as his own.

Freakboy by Kristin Clark

Brendan is a typical teenage boy. He's on the wrestling team, plays video games, and is a good boyfriend. But he can't help fantasizing about what it would be like to be different. To be a girl. 
Unable to confide in anyone else, Astrid spends her time lying on the picnic table in her back yard, addressing her most pressing questions to the passengers in the airplanes that fly overhead. Questions like what it means that she has fallen in love with another girl.

Holland is set on her path to an Ivy League school and is content with her high school life, including her boyfriend. All of that changes when she meets Cece and the two acknowledge their feelings for one another.
If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
Living in Iran, Sahar and Nasrin must keep their relationship secret. Everything they hold dear is threatened when Nasrin's parents announce that they have arranged a marriage for her. Sahar comes up with a way for them to continue their relationship openly: She will have to become a man.

Did we miss your favorite LGBT read? What do we need to add to our collection? Share your picks in the comments!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

RCS Summer Reading Survival Guide

Good news!  We have the Rutherford County Schools reading list.  And we also have the books!  The bad news?  Everyone in your grade needs them, too.  We've put together a few pro-tips to help you get your hands on them, and ace your assignment.
Get on the waiting list early.  The length and speed of the waiting list correlates directly to how far into the summer season it is.

Have a plan B. A plan C can't hurt, either. If your first choice book is checked out, look for others on your list. You might want to get on the waiting list for multiple books. After all, you never know which one will come in first.

Don't rely on renewals.  If someone else is on the waiting list behind you, you won't be able to renew it.

Use the movie as a supplement, not a replacement.  There are at least ten different film versions of Frankenstein.  They're all different from each other and different from the book itself.  Your teacher will know.  Trust us.

Make sure you actually have the book you're looking for. It's easy to accidentally check out a book of critical essays about the book you need, rather than the book itself. Always check your title and author. (Hint: If the author is Harold Bloom, then it's not the book you want. Ditto for any title like Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.)  If you're not sure, ask a staff member.  We're here to help!

Explore your resources.  If you've read the book and want to read more about it or you need help understanding it, those critical essays can really help.  You can also check out the Literature Resource Center on the Tennessee Electronic Library website.  Your TEL results are much more reputable than just Googling!

Read something fun for pleasure.  Even if it's something small.  It's easy to burn out from too much assigned reading all at once.  Just make sure you leave yourself enough time to finish all the assigned reading before school starts!

Sign up for summer reading! Books you read for school count toward the summer reading program at your library! You're reading anyway. Why not enter to win prizes while you're at it? Ask a staff member for more details.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Review: The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell

Each year, the American Library Association gives the Alex Award to ten books "written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18." The Alex Award spotlights books that are perfect for teens who are ready to explore adult literature but find it difficult to locate books that hold their interest and to which they can relate.
One of 2014's Alex Award recipients is The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell. Marnie (age 15) and her sister Nelly (age 12)  have never known a calm life or the love of their parents, so when both their mother and father die, they react with relief rather than sadness. They bury the bodies in the backyard, determined to keep the deaths secret from their neighbors, the authorities, and anyone who might try to separate them from one another.

When the girls' neighbor Lennie notices that they are alone, he assumes that they have been abandoned--it wouldn't be the first time their parents left--and begins to take care of them. Although this rare display of kindness in the girls' lives is much needed, it also increases the chance that their secret will be discovered. This discovery is an event that the reader both wishes would happen sooner and dreads along with the girls. At times, the cringe-worthy tension is almost unbearable.

O'Donnel alternates chapters from the perspectives of the three major characters, giving the reader an intimate view of their secrets and struggles. The reader is privy to facts that they conceal from each other: Lenny's deep pain at the loss of his partner and his shame about an inappropriate encounter with a minor; Nelly's undiagnosed autism and her anxiety about her developing body; Marnie's conflicts with her friends, her drug use, and her encounters with men. The resulting narrative is as wonderfully complex as it is troubling.

Though some readers may find The Death of Bees at times difficult to read, it is nonetheless a page-turner that you can't stop thinking about even after you finish. When so many characters in YA literature are upper class and their most pressing issues are related to social climbing, it's refreshing and important to have protagonists like Nelly and Marnie. Their situation, though extreme, reflects realities that are uncomfortable to confront, but which are important to recognize and examine. The discomfort and disapproval readers might feel toward the characters can be a powerful catalyst for thought and discussion.

While this is not a breezy read and won't be the book for everyone, it is well worth reading. I would recommend it for more mature teens who feel ready for the subject matter.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Watch this Next: Perks of Being a Wallflower

Many of you might have heard about a little book called The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.  Well, for those of you who are fans of this novel about an endearing wallflower named Charlie, they've made it into a movie.  

This might worry some of you, because the book is written in letters from Charlie to an anonymous schoolmate, describing the ups and downs of freshman year, but honestly, the movie does a brilliant job of adapting this book into a movie.

The story follows Charlie (Logan Lerman) through his freshman year of high school in a Pittsburgh suburb. Naïve but intelligent beyond his years, he is an unconventional thinker. As the story begins, it is revealed that Charlie is also shy and unpopular.   During his first year of high school, this outsider has to cope with first love (Emma Watson), the suicide of his best friend, a haunting secret, and his own mental illness while struggling to find a group of people with whom he belongs - which might just be with two seniors, Sam and Patrick, who welcome him to the real world.

Chbosky directs the adaptation of his book, and uses beautiful visuals to his advantage in order to provide the alternating lonely and awe-invoking atmosphere that reflects Charlie's emotions. Chbosky's heartfelt dialogue also helps to capture seemingly forgettable, yet extraordinary, moments.  He provides his characters with individual voices draw the audience into their lives and connects you to them.  And it helps that Chbosky does not balk from the realities of life: that life is complex, with no easy answers, and the development of wisdom can often be painful.

Equally important are the casting choices for the three main characters - Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson &
the Olympians), Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk about Kevin), and Emma Watson (the Harry Potter films).  Lerman's Charlie is a complex portrayal, perceptive and intelligent but naïve, a loner desperate for companionship.  He can become fierce when his friends are threatened but is as fragile as glass when his buried secrets threaten to overwhelm him. Miller's Patrick is incredibly charmingly, a character who uses his flamboyance to mask his frustrations and sometimes despair at the unfairness of life, while revealing hints of his desperation for love beyond this protective front. And Emma Watson's Sam is confident and adventurous, and yet, can not seem to bring herself to believe that she deserves a future, or a better boyfriend.  These three actors bring to life some very complex and contradictory characters, looking for acceptance, in a relatable and subtly realistic manner.

If you haven't seen this movie (or read the book), give this beautiful and moving adaptation a chance.  If you have seen it, let us know in the comments below what you thought of it.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review: Rock On by Denise Vega          The sound reverberates off the rocks that surrounds the seats, natural acoustics for our music.  The music is pure and perfect; record execs will be knocking over one another after the show to sign us.
          I look out on the crowd, my voice hitting all the notes.  I --
          "Ori.  Dude.  You've got to come out now.  We're going on soon."
          I blinked once.  Twice. 
          The stage dissolved.  I wasn't a rock star.  I was a 16 year old dork in a dingy bathroom stall, staring at the F-word scratched into the door in all its glorious forms.  It took me a second to remember that we were at the FX Lounge on Mic Night Monday for our first public appearance.
          And I was hiding in the bathroom.
          "Don't make me crawl under this door, dude," Nick said.  "The floor is disgusting."
          "But we don't even have a name," I said.  "Or a bass player."
          "We'll get those things."  Nick thumped the metal door.  "Dude, how are you going to play at the Battle with hundreds of people watching if you can't even get out there in front of a few dozen who are mostly friends and family?"
          The Battle.  Our shot at doing what we loved, at making music that other people would listen to.  Something we couldn't go into cold, never having played anywhere but in the garage or at my sister's birthday party.
          (abbreviated: p8-10)

Ori Taylor is a musical prodigy, playing by ear since the age of seven.  He's the lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter of the Band To Be Named Later, a garage band he started with his friends.  And after finding a name, a bassist, and some confidence, they will finally compete in the High School Battle of the Bands.  To further complicate matters, Ori's big brother, Del, returned from college after realizing he was no longer the big man on campus.  And he thinks that Ori's life is going a little too well.  When he sees Ori is no longer the idolizing little brother he left behind, and is instead becoming a star in his own right, Del decides to make Ori as miserable as he is by trying to ruin Ori's chance at winning the Battle, and his chance with the poetic Jane.

With his confidence failing, will Ori be able to overcome his stage fright and lead the band to rock glory?  Will the Band To Be Named Later ever get a real name?  Will Del ever let his little brother finally grow up?  Denise Vega provides the answers in her book Rock On: A Story of Guitars, Gigs, Girls, and a Brother (not necessarily in that order).

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Review: Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Recently, while I was shelving books at the library, I found a book with an interesting cover.  The simple lines depicting a girl with a ghost in her hair intrigued me, so I checked it out.  And I'm really glad I did.   

Of all the things Anya expected to find at the bottom of an old well, a new friend was not one of them. Especially not a new friend who’s been dead for a century.

Falling down a well is bad enough, but Anya’s normal life might actually be worse. She’s embarrassed by her family, self-conscious about her body, and she’s pretty much given up on fitting in at school. A new friend—even a ghost—is just what she needs, especially when that friend is determined to help make her cool.

Anya's Ghost is not just a spooky tale, it's a hilarious and relatable story about fitting in and being true to yourself.  Anya is one of those completely normal
teenagers who wants to be cool, has a crush on the most popular guy and thinks she looks fat in her shirt, but her transformation into someone who's comfortable with herself is a a very realistic evolution.  The ghost is another character who was desperate to fit in during her life, but her death stopped that from ever happening, so when she finds Anya, her desperate attempt to make her over is not only believable, but also helps provide the creepy and slightly disturbed atmosphere needed in a ghost story.  This is necessary because the ghost herself is not at all scary. 

The artwork itself is simple but incredibly evocative.  The characters' emotions are conveyed clearly on their faces without drawing unnecessary attention away from the story.  The art is fluid and elegant, and the fact that the entire book is in variants of grey assists in the spooky atmosphere of the ghost's tale.

This book is a fun, fast read and enjoyable even for the most reluctant of readers.

Are there any other graphic novels that you've really enjoyed? Let us know in the comments below!