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Rebels With a Cause

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

Hunger Games: Kidnap 24 children from neighboring districts and force them to kill each other - a rebellion probably won't happen.Teenage rebels – it’s a cliché almost as old as time, and personified in pop culture with books like The Catcher in the Rye or movies like Rebel Without a Cause. But nowadays, there’s more to the rebels of young adult literature than angst or aimless fury. Today’s YA is full of smart, passionate teens who stand up for something – rebels with a cause.

Everyone who’s read the Divergent or Hunger Games series knows the power of strong young women standing up for what’s right. But there are other types of rebels in fiction these days too, whether or not they’re leading a movement. Adelina Amouteru from The Young Elites rebels against a society that spurns her, while Laia from An Ember in the Ashes spies on a government that has long treated her people as second-class. There are more personal rebellions as well, whether it’s Pen in Girl Mans Up refusing to fit into the box of girlhood that she is pushed into, or Maya in This Side of Home pushing to protect her home and the people in her neighborhood.

Real life activists abound these days as well. You can read in I Am Malala about how Malala Yousafzai stood up for women’s right to be educated at great personal cost, while John Lewis lays out his work in the civil rights movement of his youth in a three-part graphic novel, March. From the activists of the past like Carlotta Walls LaNier, whose memoir A Mighty Long Way recounts how she bravely helped lead the charge for school integration, to more modern rebels like Sungju Lee who escaped from North Korea, as written about in Every Falling Star, real life teens have accomplished amazing things. Whether they are real or fictional, leading rebellions or opposing government oversight, part of a movement or simply standing up for themselves, everyone featured in this month’s “Rebels With a Cause” display is working hard to stay true to their beliefs and make their world a better place.


Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Technology and Kids

By: Christina Keasler, Middle School Librarian

Technology is taking over the world! But that’s not a bad thing. Technology is supposed to enhance our lives, making them better and easier. Why not embrace it?

Some may think kids these days are born with a mouse in one hand, and a touchscreen in another, but just because middle schoolers were born in this technological era, does not mean that they’re naturally competent in all things digital. It’s important to immerse yourself and your child in technology so you can both learn savvy techniques to survive in our digital world.

While it can be challenging, it’s important to steer into the techno-wave instead of skirting around it and hoping it’ll all blow over. With gift-giving season upon us, it’s hard to avoid things that need wires and batteries. Technology can be a great starting point for a conversation, or even a stronger relationship. Now is the time to start across the technological bridge into the future.

Talkies by ToymailYou can adjust slowly by using technology at a lower competency level. Maybe you don’t want your kids to be staring at a screen. Perhaps you want a way for them to connect to you or other loved ones without the hassle of their own smart phones or social media accounts.

Talkies by Toymail suggested age range goes from years 3 and up, but they’re so adorable that people of all ages will love them. Adding in the gold tooth factor ages these to younger middle schoolers easily.

Kids can have up to ten people in their “trusted circle” of messaging. Voice messages can be up to 30 seconds, and don’t delete until the Talkie runs out of storage. The toy messengers work on WiFi, not Bluetooth, but can only be assigned to one WiFi network at a time.

If your child is selfie ready, but you’re worried about the dangers that come with potentially hazardous selfie situations, you can try Snap Pets by Wow Wee. These adorable creatures, that come in dog, rabbit, or cat, help take hands free selfies – known to the older generations as a camera with a timer. They hold up to 20 pictures at a time, and can be sent to a trusted device where they have the ability to be edited or shared.

Technology can enhance and improve your life as well. Most know that fitness trackers can help with health goals and running techniques, but technology has taken it one step further with Wilson, who makes a “smart basketball” that can track and improve your skills on the court.

Like the idea, but not a basketball fan? Try the smart football instead.

Cozmo Robot Toy by AnkiYou can’t have a blog about technology without bringing up robots! Robots that are available today can be for educational or recreational purposes. The Cozmo by Anki is beyond cute, with facial expressions and its own attitude. Cozmo can play games and evolves the more time you spend with it. For the more advanced user, Anki offers an open-sourced platform where you can edit and build new features for your little friend.

There are a few robotic options that have a more obvious educational track. Spheros have single and multiplayer games on them, but also teach simple coding structures. The coding missions are challenging but not impossible. Third graders from Wisconsin went above and beyond and programmed a set of Spheros to replicate our solar system’s orbit and were featured on Astrology Night at the White House. Students programmed speed, distance between planets, and the degree of their rotation to achieve this feat.

Ozobots teach basic concepts of coding with color coded line sequences. You don’t have to worry about purchasing expensive refill packets, since any brand marker will work providing that it can make a ¼ inch line. Ozobots come with markers, a helmet, and a book of activities and puzzles to get your child started. Once they get the hang of it, they can think way beyond the parameters to create costumes and even stories for the tiny robot that fits in the palm of your hand.

Dash from Wonder Workshop is the more advanced bot from the Dash and Dot duo. Kids learn coding starting with the Dash tutorial. Their free apps can teach kids by playing, and you can enhance their entertainment with add-ons like brick connectors and xylophones. Kids can operate Dash with any smart touch screen device, and can do anything from complete an obstacle course, to make a ball launcher.

Technology has advanced beyond the physical realm and into virtual reality. Devices like Google Cardboard, Playstation VR, and Oculus Rift all allow people to enjoy virtual reality in their own home, at different quality and price tiers. Virtual reality can be used at home or in the classroom to provide more personal experiences in environments that would otherwise be unattainable, allowing for more knowledge retention.

While new technology might be daunting and intimidating, there are a lot of benefits that can enrich your life, as well as your relationship with your middle schooler. Maybe you will purchase one of these gadgets for hours of family fun, or maybe you’ll stop by the library to play with them here. Either way, there’s nothing to be scared of. Jump in!

Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

On the Topic of “Based On” Movies

By: James M., Teen Blogger

Girl reading under a tree with "I've Already READ That Movie." text.In the world of entertainment, one problem which has irked me for quite some time is the increasing number of non-original “based on” movies which reach theaters. These are movies that pride themselves on being based on a true story, or a book, or on a previous movie (i.e. sequels), or any other existing tale.

Now, I call them non-original not because they lack creativity or original elements; in fact, many sequels and book adaptations feel just as, if not more, magical than their inspirations. The Martian, for instance, was an excellent book-to-film adaptation that I would happily watch a dozen times – even if the book had never existed.

However, having read the book, the premise of the movie wasn’t new to me, and therein lays the non-originality of “based on” movies: they fail to present an entirely new story. They don’t present a new intellectual property (IP). Most of the heavy lifting for writing such movies is done before the movie is even conceived. The world, characters, and aesthetics (like the world design and tone) can simply be copied from some existing intellectual property with little to no alteration; if anything, all that remains to be changed is what they all do. However, to use an analogy, if you reprogram your friend’s robot to do something somewhat new, you have not made a new robot. You’ve taken the same robot and made it slightly more appealing.

Now, the fact that these movies exist doesn’t trouble me; as I said earlier, many of these movies provide experiences as incredible as their original counterparts. What troubles me is the sheer number of “based on” movies that are created nowadays, their ratio to entirely original movies, and their implications. To demonstrate this, think of the newest, most popular movies at the time you’re reading this article. Create a mental list of the films that you might find at the Glen Arts Theater or the Marcus Theater.

Now remove all of the true story adaptations.

Now remove all of the book adaptations.

Now remove all of the sequels. (This includes anything in the Marvel or DC universe.)

How many movies are left?

Usually, the number of remaining movies is obscenely small, hovering between two and none; the number of movies removed is usually significantly larger. This trend persists even among lists of top-grossing or highest-rated movies of the last few years, where entirely original IPs are drowned out by adaptations or are entirely absent.

However, what bothers me even more than that is the implications this carries for the current mindset of Hollywood. Rather than taking the time and energy to create interesting new worlds, most studios now take the easy way out and ride the coattails of existing works for publicity. In the case of sequels, this is more respectable, as such a hypothetical studio would be reaping the harvest of their own work; however, as studios are shifting from sequels to adaptations of books and TV shows (e.g. The Peanuts Movie), Hollywood seems to be getting lazier and lazier, retelling stories that have already been told by others (and, in the case of the latter, that have already been shown in video form). I understand that, in most cases, it appears more profitable to studios to recycle existing content than to create new content, as the risk involved is minimized, but the result is that audiences are robbed of actual new content.

I know that I’m an individual voice lost in the sea of the Internet and, as a result, my opinion carries next to no weight here. I don’t intend to change the workings of Hollywood or inspire new, original films with this blog entry. My point is to show people how saturated Hollywood has become with “based on” movies and to shine a light on a bothersome pattern that’s emerged alongside them. But, who knows. Maybe if enough people read this text and show some love for original movies, the world will change. Only time will tell, though, and time hasn’t been the most helpful with this case so far.


Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Happy Thanksgiving!

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! As I’ve mentioned before, this is my favorite holiday. Part of this is because it’s my mom’s favorite holiday, plus I always celebrate with my extended family at my parents’ house, and part of it is because there’s a LOT of good eating involved. But part of it is because it always reminds me of how much I have to be grateful for, and for me at least, gratitude goes a long way towards happiness. But rather than focus on the big things that I’m grateful for, like family, my work, etc., today I wanted to focus on a few of the small things that I’m feeling gratitude for this year!

Netflix LogoNetflix. Because honestly, being able to binge on Parks & Recreation, Master of None, Gilmore Girls, etc. whenever I want is a treasure. It makes cooking more fun, it gives me an endless supply of amazing quotes, and is a great distraction when I’m feeling exhausted or down. And that’s not even getting into the fact that I can watch Clueless, Bring It On, and Kung Fury as often as I want. Thanks, Netflix.

Picture of Hermione Granger DollHermione Granger. I recently re-read the entire Harry Potter series, and remembered all the reasons why Hermione is one of my favorite fictional characters of all time. I identify with her, I strive to be like her, I love that she has realistic flaws while still being a powerful woman (who does an awful lot of saving the day for someone who isn’t the main character). Having Hermione in my life makes that whole life better. Thanks, Hermione.

Bluetooth. As you may know, I spend a lot of time in my car. A lot. That’s what happens when you commute from Chicago to Glen Ellyn. And this year, I got a car with Bluetooth, and it opened up a whole new world of audiobooks. I now have a much wider selection of audiobooks to choose from, and I can download them any time, and just go. No waiting for CDs to come in, no changing them out while trying to merge, no finishing a book on the commute home and having to wait till the next day for a new book, just listening. Added bonus? I can also now talk on my phone safely and hands-free, and use those commutes to catch up with family and friends as well. Thanks, Bluetooth.

A long fall. Fall is my favorite season, and we got an extra-long one this year. Being able to spend November mornings and afternoons outside walking along Lake Michigan enjoying fall colors for longer than the usual two-ish weeks was a real treat, and helped me brace for a winter that, like every winter in the Midwest, will feel much longer than is comfortable. Thanks, fall.

A Dog in a TuxDogs. Especially in clothes. I am, without a doubt, a dog person. Yes, this might be because I have a slight cat allergy. But it’s also because I find dogs fun, loyal, big enough to wrestle with and give hugs to, endlessly goofy and entertaining, and much more. One of my favorite things in the world is going home to see my parents and getting to roughhouse with, be shed on by, and give big hugs to their German Shepherd. I’ve also received endless giggles and hours of entertainment from the @dog_rates Twitter, which literally just…rates dogs. Add in some goofy outfits, and I’m starting to wonder if dogs are too big for the “small things” I feel gratitude for category. Thanks, dogs.

Green Day LogoGreen Day. Okay, so for me, this another one that pushes the boundaries of “small things” to be grateful for. When a band has been your favorite as long as Green Day has been mine, they start to take up a lot of space in your life. And a new album from Green Day this fall, plus an amazing intimate concert, helped re-ignite my love of music, helped me remember the pure joy of experiencing a great live concert, and gave me lots of fantastic new songs to belt off-key in my car during the aforementioned long commutes. Thanks, Green Day.

So those are just a few of the small things I’m feeling extra grateful for this year, although there are many, many more. What are some of the small things you’re grateful for this year? What about the big things?

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Picture Books – Categorized for Easy Selection

By: Melissa Hilt, Youth Assistant Director

Row of shelved picture books.We have been in our newly remodeled Youth Department for almost a year and the excitement is still alive as we hear our members express how much they love the new play area, the layout, the colors, the 3D printers and the picture book categories to just name a few.

In the beginning we had comments from people wondering why we decided to categorize our picture books and I am always happy to tell them that we did it because we listened to how our members asked for books. Because picture books tend to be for children who are not reading yet, it was hard for them to understand how to find books. Now they learn where their favorite topics are and know where to go each time they visit. Just the other day a three year old walked in with his grandmother and said, “let’s find a new truck book,” and he knew exactly where to go! The grandmother started to stop at the desk to ask but he said “come on, this way.” He was so proud of himself and I loved seeing the smile on his face as he showed his grandmother right where to go without any hesitation.

Shelves of picture books.As I was coming up with the 15 main topics and countless subtopics for categorizing our collection of picture books, my coworker and I tried really hard to think of all of the popular topics children like. I think our members have been more than happy. With the new way to find picture books, our collection check out has grown from about 20% to 30% at any point in time.

If you have questions about the new way we shelve our picture books, please stop at the Youth Desk and ask us for assistance. We are here to help you. We love to hear feedback and have even made a couple of changes after hearing our members ask for a certain author or character.

Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

Allegiant Review

By: Melissa G., Teen Blogger

*Spoiler Alert: Includes Spoilers for Allegiant – Read with Caution*

Allegiant by Veronica Roth Book CoverOctober 22, 2013. The day the world of literature went into shock after the release of Allegiant, the final book in the Divergent trilogy. Readers everywhere went into a rage, confused as to why Veronica Roth ended the book the way she did. I’ll admit, it was quite the plot twist, and I keep rereading and rereading, trying to find the exact moment she began to resent her main character enough to kill her off. Yep, she pulled the ladder out from every fan, and killed the beloved Tris Prior.

I read the first two Divergent books in the span of a week, and I connected with Tris on a level that didn’t have anything to do with the book. She didn’t know what her future had in store. She didn’t want to betray her family, but she felt that she didn’t fit in with them, and she started a major rebellion within her community. These are all things the average teenager understands. Well, maybe not the actual rebellion thing. Tris fought for her life and she fought for what she believed in, even if it meant death. In her case, it eventually did.

I lived in the world Divergent and Insurgent created and when the third book came out, I read it within a day. When I closed the cover after an eventful day of sitting on the couch and reading, I couldn’t believe that Tris was gone. She was no longer living in the futurist dystopia that had been all I could think about for the many months I had waited for the book to come out. I was devastated and I couldn’t figure out what reason Veronica Roth had to kill her. So I did what any normal person would do and I looked it up. I looked up the motive authors had that made them kill the protagonist. In my research, I found that she wasn’t the only one who was sadistic enough to break the hearts of their fans: J.K. Rowling and multiple Harry Potter characters, Suzanne Collins and several citizens of Panem. The list goes on and on.

For a very long time, authors have gotten rid of main characters to add suspense and show that not everybody gets a happy ending. It’s the harsh truth. Noble people who have pure hearts and good intentions don’t always come out on the other side. Heroes lose people they love. Innocent bystanders are swept up into a storm they didn’t create. Life isn’t always a fairytale, and that’s what authors like Veronica Roth and Suzanne Collins try to tell us. They also tell us that sacrifice and loss can result in something better. Harry Potter gets married and has children, even after the mess of a life he’s had. Katniss loses Prim, yet comes out on the other side to live a happy life with Peeta back in District 12. And Tris, despite dying, frees the people living in the futuristic Chicago and completes her goal.

Despite the bitterness towards Veronica Roth over how she ended her trilogy, she teaches the readers a good lesson. You can do everything right and fight for what you believe in, but sometimes bad things happen. And maybe, just maybe, you can come out on the other side.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Immigration Stories

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

Back in a past life (as in, pre-library days) I spent a few years working in immigration law, both private practices and non-profit. Perhaps partially because of that, I’ve always found myself interested in reading books about immigration experiences, whether they are set in the U.S. or elsewhere. With Thanksgiving around the corner, a holiday that dates back to the arrival of the very first immigrants in the United States, I wanted to highlight a few books from our Young Adult collection that deal with the lives and experiences of immigrants. All descriptions are from goodreads.com.

Check Out Joyride by Anna BanksJoyride by Anna Banks – A popular guy and a shy girl with a secret become unlikely accomplices for midnight pranking, and are soon in over their heads—with the law and with each other—in this sparkling standalone from NYT-bestselling author Anna Banks.

It’s been years since Carly Vega’s parents were deported. She lives with her brother, studies hard, and works at a convenience store to contribute to getting her parents back from Mexico.

Arden Moss used to be the star quarterback at school. He dated popular blondes and had fun with his older sister, Amber. But now Amber’s dead, and Arden blames his father, the town sheriff who wouldn’t acknowledge Amber’s mental illness. Arden refuses to fulfill whatever his conservative father expects.

All Carly wants is to stay under the radar and do what her family expects. All Arden wants is to NOT do what his family expects. When their paths cross, they each realize they’ve been living according to others. Carly and Arden’s journey toward their true hearts—and one another—is funny, romantic, and sometimes harsh.

Check Out The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. CarlesonThe Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson – When her father is killed in a coup, 15-year-old Laila flees from the war-torn middle east to a life of exile and anonymity in the U.S. Gradually she adjusts to a new school, new friends, and a new culture, but while Laila sees opportunity in her new life, her mother is focused on the past. She’s conspiring with CIA operatives and rebel factions to regain the throne their family lost. Laila can’t bear to stand still as an international crisis takes shape around her, but how can one girl stop a conflict that spans generations?

J.C. Carleson delivers a fascinating account of a girl—and a country—on the brink, and a rare glimpse at the personal side of international politics.

Check Out Something in Between by Melissa De La CruzSomething in Between by Melissa De La Cruz – Jasmine de los Santos has always done what’s expected of her. Pretty and popular, she’s studied hard, made her Filipino immigrant parents proud and is ready to reap the rewards in the form of a full college scholarship.

And then everything shatters. A national scholar award invitation compels her parents to reveal the truth: their visas expired years ago. Her entire family is illegal. That means no scholarships, maybe no college at all and the very real threat of deportation.

For the first time, Jasmine rebels, trying all those teen things she never had time for in the past. Even as she’s trying to make sense of her new world, it’s turned upside down by Royce Blakely, the charming son of a high-ranking congressman. Jasmine no longer has any idea where—or if—she fits into the American Dream. All she knows is that she’s not giving up. Because when the rules you lived by no longer apply, the only thing to do is make up your own.

Check Out Girl in Translation by Jean KwokGirl in Translation by Jean Kwok – When Kimberly Chang and her mother emigrate from Hong Kong to Brooklyn squalor, she quickly begins a secret double life: exceptional schoolgirl during the day, Chinatown sweatshop worker in the evenings. Disguising the more difficult truths of her life like the staggering degree of her poverty, the weight of her family’s future resting on her shoulders, or her secret love for a factory boy who shares none of her talent or ambition. Kimberly learns to constantly translate not just her language but herself back and forth between the worlds she straddles.

Through Kimberly’s story, author Jean Kwok, who also emigrated from Hong Kong as a young girl, brings to the page the lives of countless immigrants who are caught between the pressure to succeed in America, their duty to their family, and their own personal desires, exposing a world that we rarely hear about.

Written in an indelible voice that dramatizes the tensions of an immigrant girl growing up between two cultures, surrounded by a language and world only half understood, Girl in Translation is an unforgettable and classic novel of an American immigrant-a moving tale of hardship and triumph, heartbreak and love, and all that gets lost in translation.

Check Out Undocumneted by Dan-El Padilla PeraltaUndocumented by Dan-El Padilla Peralta – Dan-el Padilla Peralta has lived the American dream. As a boy, he came here legally with his family. Together they left Santo Domingo behind, but life in New York City was harder than they imagined. Their visas lapsed, and Dan-el’s father returned home. But Dan-el’s courageous mother was determined to make a better life for her bright sons.

Without papers, she faced tremendous obstacles. While Dan-el was only in grade school, the family joined the ranks of the city’s homeless. Dan-el, his mother, and brother lived in a downtown shelter where Dan-el’s only refuge was the meager library. There he met Jeff, a young volunteer from a wealthy family. Jeff was immediately struck by Dan-el’s passion for books and learning. With Jeff’s help, Dan-el was accepted on scholarship to Collegiate, the oldest private school in the country.

There, Dan-el thrived. Throughout his youth, Dan-el navigated these two worlds: the rough streets of East Harlem, where he lived with his brother and his mother and tried to make friends, and the ultra-elite halls of a Manhattan private school, where he could immerse himself in a world of books and where he soon rose to the top of his class.

From Collegiate, Dan-el went to Princeton, where he thrived, and where he made the momentous decision to come out as an undocumented student in a Wall Street Journal profile a few months before he gave the salutatorian’s traditional address in Latin at his commencement.

Check Out The Arrival by Shaun TanThe Arrival by Shaun Tan – In a heartbreaking parting, a man gives his wife and daughter a last kiss and boards a steamship to cross the ocean. He’s embarking on the most painful yet important journey of his life- he’s leaving home to build a better future for his family.

Shaun Tan evokes universal aspects of an immigrant’s experience through a singular work of the imagination. He does so using brilliantly clear and mesmerizing images. Because the main character can’t communicate in words, the book forgoes them too. But while the reader experiences the main character’s isolation, he also shares his ultimate joy.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Funny Books

By: Leigh Ann Vock, Youth Page

“The book ends?!” Elephant – We Are in a Book by Mo Willems

We Are in a Book by Mo Willems is a story about best friends that discover they are in a book that a reader is reading! They go along in this delightfully funny story until one of the characters discovers that the book ends. Despair ensues and the hilarity of how it is dealt with is worth reading over and over again. I love funny books.

It is sheer brilliance in writing when an author makes adults and children laugh simultaneously. Funny picture books are at the top of my list followed closely by tear jerkers, which is another blog post entirely, stay tuned.

I have found over the years that funny books are usually the ones that children choose to be read over and over again. Usually they end up memorizing the book which is a great reading readiness skill. So gather your giggles together and pick up one of my favorite funny books:

Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

Has the Internet Become America’s Favorite Storytelling Medium?

By: Sean Ma., Teen Blogger

Gangnam Style from PSY Video StillAs the age of computers has come to dominate how people interact with others, it has become apparent that the Internet has become more influential than more traditional forms of storytelling in American culture, such as television, due to its increased presence in the household.

Many articles online have found that the average amount of views for Internet videos has vastly outnumbered those for weekly television episodes, which intrigued me enough to investigate further, seeking truly how much more influential the Internet has become, compared to television. When researching the most viewed Internet video, and the most viewed television broadcast in U.S. history, the difference was shocking.

The most viewed YouTube video of all time was found to be Gangnam Style, with nearly 2.6 billion views since its release in 2012. As for the most viewed television broadcast in U.S. history, the result was Super Bowl XLIX with only 115.2 million views. However, this information can be deceiving, as the Internet allows for anyone to watch any video multiple times, whereas television broadcasts such as the Super Bowl are exclusively shown once, rarely to be aired again. Due to the availability of endless streaming for Internet videos, it becomes hard to determine the true influence of Internet over television. On the other hand, this availability for audiences to view videos that are uploaded to the Internet at any time may add to the Internet’s power and influence over television.

Personally, I have begun to spend more time viewing media via the Internet rather than looking up shows on TV. The freedom of choice that the Internet gives to viewers may seem more intriguing than television’s scheduled broadcasts that are aired and gone within an hour. As the future of television becomes weaker and weaker with new ways to stream media via the Internet, only time will tell whether the Internet has truly become America’s main storytelling medium.


Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

What I Just Read – Labyrinth Lost

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

Check Out Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida CordovaIt’s not every day you find a book you devour most of in a day and have a chance to meet the author. Having done both, I think it’s safe to say I’m a little obsessed with today’s What I Just Read book.

What I Just Read: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

What’s It About (Jacket Description): Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires.

Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange markings on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Do I Like It: SO. MUCH.

Thoughts: Oh my goodness. This book, y’all. THIS BOOK. I’d been hearing about Labyrinth Lost for a few months, so when I finally got it checked out right before I left for a conference, I was thrilled. Even better? The author, Zoraida Córdova was at the conference. So I’ll admit, with all the buzz and starting the book literally within hours of meeting the author, I was predisposed to like Labyrinth Lost.

But I was also a little worried about it not living up to the hype. Nothing kills a good reading high like going from something you love to something disappointing. Luckily for me, Labyrinth Lost was all I hoped and then some. Magic, family, adventure, friendship, romance – this book has basically everything I want from my fantasy novels. Add in some dragons and it would be perfect.

At its heart, Labyrinth Lost is a classic “hero’s journey,” but with a few fun twists. Our heroine, Alex, gets a call like any other hero – but also not. Her call is the awakening of her powers, powers she’s known about her whole life, powers her mother and sisters embrace. But although the call is not unique to her, Alex, like many other heroes, rejects it. Unfortunately, rejecting the call is precisely what sets her on the path for her quest, because, as it turns out, banishing her powers means banishing her family. And Alex loves her family more than anything.

I loved that Labyrinth Lost was a familiar quest story, but also that it plays with some of the tropes. Alex is not learning about powers she never knew she had, she’s simply learning to accept a part of her she’s known about all along. And while she screws up plenty on her journey, the story isn’t about Alex getting drawn into an adventure by someone else, Baggins-style, but instead about her taking responsibility for her own mistake and dragging herself off on an adventure.

Like most books I love, Labyrinth Lost excels at portraying complicated, intense relationships, particularly when it comes to Alex’s family. Her father’s gone, she feels distant from her mother, fights with her older sister, and doesn’t quite understand her powerful younger sister. She prefers focusing on school and athletics rather than communing with dead spirits and looking through the Book of Cantos, the heart of her family’s spell-casting. But never, even at the beginning when she resents them, does Alex question her love for her family. She puts them above everything, and even her fear and dislike of her own power is born largely from her love of her family, and her fear on their behalf.

Alex’s interactions with her best friend, Rishi, and her guide in Los Lagos, Nova, are also really well-done. Nova is something of a mystery, and Alex (and the reader) are unsure of his motivations or how much to trust him. But he’s also charismatic and likable, and puts himself in great danger for Alex, and watching her try to balance how much she likes him and is drawn to him with how much she distrusts him is fascinating. As for Rishi, the best friend who accepts Alex fully no matter what, she’s kind and magnetic, and it’s easy to see why Alex falls for her. But the romantic element of their friendship never overpowers the fact that it is also a friendship, and a great one. I love that Córdova doesn’t make the romance and friendship mutually exclusive; after all, are any of our relationships just one thing?

On top of all this great characterization and relationships, there is a page-turning adventure with some immersive world-building. Elements of Los Lagos and bruja magic reminded me of this mythology or that, this trope or that, but without ever being clearly based on just one thing. That gives the world of Labyrinth Lost both the comfort of familiarity, and the excitement of a whole new world and magical system.

If it wasn’t already abundantly clear, I loved Labyrinth Lost, and I can’t wait for the sequel. If you like magic, otherworldly adventures, quests, or great relationships, I highly recommend this book!

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School