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Cartoons and Complexity – Bridging the Age Gap

By: Shay M., Teen Blogger

Adventure Time SeriesTV shows are something that have captivated the whole of America ever since their debut after WWII. This phenomenon of short episodes made it easy and accessible for people to catch a bit of entertainment without having to go to the movies, and still gave the viewer something to, well, view, unlike radio shows. This became so popular that shows were coming out for all ages, with cartoons for the children and pretty much everything else for the adults.

This divide of “children’s shows” versus “adult shows” is very apparent in some places. For example, it is unlikely you will find a 60 year old man watching Dora while he enjoys his afternoon tea, nor are five year olds likely to be watching every episode of Game of Thrones. Yet in other situations, the lines become a bit more blurred, and has led to some speculation over what exactly differentiates adult and children’s programming.

A recent trend in cartoons has made this discussion more difficult, where the shows have light and creative premises, aimed to capture kids’ attention, but then they also are willing to get a little dark or explore more heavy and complex subject matter, ranging from loss and complicated love on shows like Steven Universe, to extremely complicated ciphers and puzzles on Gravity Falls. In all these cases, this is still light enough for kids to handle, but it has also drawn many older fans.

The allure of shows like these is that they are simple enough for kids to understand and love, but the writers also add elements which make the shows interesting for teens and even adults. More and more these shows take on issues dealing with society or identity, and they do it in a way that is able to balance the emotional tolls with lightheartedness. Less and less are cartoons purely for kids, and now, they are starting to become something anyone can enjoy.

Even if the premise is something as silly as three bears who travel around by stacking on top of one another, as it is in the show We Bare Bears, they can still attract adult viewers by putting a focus on diverse representation in their show, and also allowing social commentary on things like people’s obsessions with technology. This has also created the ability for parents to get involved in the same shows their kids watch, and can end up with the whole family sitting down to watch the latest episode of Adventure Time.

This kind of mature yet friendly programming is widely popular, and is becoming more and more common as people are realizing that they can put more complex ideas in simple shows. In the end, maybe it will become more common for a 60 year old man to watch cartoons as he enjoys his afternoon tea, although it is probably for the best if five year olds stay away from Game of Thrones.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

On the Ensemble Cast

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

Check out Six of Crows by Leigh BardugoLast week as I listened to Six of Crows (which is an excellent book and audiobook) I started noticing something. I was regularly googling fan art and fan casting for the characters in the book. Not just once, but often–like every time I learned new things about the characters, I wanted to re-visit people’s visual interpretations of them. This isn’t often something I do when I’m reading. Sure, I get a kick out of casting news for movies, and I sure do love any art involving dragons, which is frequently fan art. But generally speaking, I’m not someone who seeks out other people’s interpretations of characters, or who cares that much about fan casts. So what was different about Six of Crows?

When I thought back to other books that have inspired me to do similar fan-art and fan-casting related searches, I started to realize something: they were consistently books that featured an ensemble cast of main characters. As much as I may adore Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe or Fangirl, their tight focus on one or two main characters never made me seek out the same visuals as ensemble stories like Six of Crows, The Young Elites, or Harry Potter. Maybe it’s because with that many cast members, seeing actors or even fan art helps me keep the characters more distinct in my head. Maybe it’s because I just enjoy seeing all the different interpretations of that many different characters. I’m not sure what makes me seek out fan art, but it definitely seems to be most common when I’m reading about an ensemble.

This whole exercise naturally got me thinking about all the reasons to love large casts, beyond just fan art and fan casting opportunities. The interplay between that many different main characters, all with their own stories, motivations, and goals, leads to some of the most fun interactions and relationships to read about–and if there’s one thing I love reading about, it’s relationships! Ensemble casts also do a great job of ensuring that almost everyone can find at least one character that they really love or identify with. With so many to choose from, it’s easy to find “your” character. And every character helps build up and expand the world you’re reading about, thanks to their own unique perspective and experience–I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my favorite ensemble books are all fantasy novels. The broad range of characters and the world-building work together to create a wonderful, immersive experience.

You don’t have to care about fan art or read people’s fan casts to enjoy the fun that comes with a great, large group of characters. So next time you need a new read, treat yourself to a story about an ensemble of unique main characters. If you need a suggestion, you can find Six of Crows in our YA collection!

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Activities You Can Do With Your Middle Schooler

By: Christina Keasler, Middle School Librarian

Middle schoolers are back in school, and back to their highly-scheduled program. Even though they have homework, sports, music lessons, religious ed, and so many more activities through the week into the weekend, it’s important to schedule in some fun, quality time for the family. It may seem tough. Your middle schooler may be starting to enter the “everything’s embarrassing” phase, but you can find a happy medium of an activity you both like.

Different ways of decorating pumpkins without a knife.Believe it or not, having a middle school aged kid is a great opportunity. They’re finally old enough to do things that may have been too risky or intense when they were younger. You may finally be able to trust them with the carving tools to make a wicked pumpkin. If not, there are some really cool pumpkin decorating techniques that don’t involve a knife.

Maybe you’d like to learn a new skill together. While your middle schooler may not be up for the tandem karate class, maybe you’d both like to learn advanced, or remedial, yo-yo tricks, or maybe how to properly fly a kite.

This fall may be a great time to try that scarier haunted house, or the giant corn maze that was too difficult in the past. You know, the one with the crazy chainsaw guy at the end? It’s possible they’re more up for it than you, but you may find that your suspenseful jump into midair may make you walk a little closer the rest of the way through.

If you’re not wanting to go the scary route, try creating something together. Middle schoolers absolutely love making things. Keeping the Halloween theme, make a scarecrow or some other decorations that may put the little ones in the trick-or-treating mood.  You can try upcycling some discarded magazines, or something low maintenance like painting pottery.

If you’re just tired from running around all week, why not try a family movie night instead? Here are some titles that can keep adults and kids entertained:

Zootopia

Check out Zootopia on DVD.
Zootopia is a city like no other, comprised of habitat neighborhoods like ritzy Sahara Square and frigid Tundratown, and is a melting pot where animals from every environment live together. But when optimistic Officer Judy Hopps arrives, she discovers that being the first bunny on a police force of big, tough animals isn’t so easy.

Determined to prove herself, she jumps at the opportunity to crack a case, even if it means partnering with fast-talking, scam-artist fox, Nick Wilde.

Princess Bride

Check out The Princess Bride on DVD.
Heartbroken over the death of her beloved Westley, beautiful Buttercup finally succumbs to the advances of the wicked Prince Humperdinck. Yet, when she’s suddenly kidnapped by a motley band of deviants, what gallant hero comes to the rescue? None other than Westley–alive, well and as wonderful as ever.

But before these two can live happily ever after, they must first overcome formidable odds. Will these star-crossed lovers ever fulfill their destiny?

Song of the Sea

Check out Song of the Sea on DVD.
When Saoirse and Ben’s mother mysteriously disappears into the ocean, the two children go on an epic journey to find out the truth about her. In the process, they discover mystical secrets about both their mother and Saoirse herself.

The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Check out The Tale of Princess Kaguya on DVD.
Found inside a shining stalk of bamboo by an old bamboo cutter and his wife, a tiny girl grows rapidly into an exquisite young lady. The mysterious young princess enthralls all who encounter her, but ultimately she must confront her fate, the punishment for her crime.

When Marnie was There

Check out When Marnie was There on DVD.
When shy, artistic Anna moves to the seaside to live with her aunt and uncle, she stumbles upon an old mansion surrounded by marshes, and the mysterious young girl, Marnie, who lives there.

The two girls instantly form a unique connection and friendship that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality. As the days go by, a nearly magnetic pull draws Anna back to the Marsh house again and again, and she begins to piece together the truth surrounding her strange new friend.

Monster House

Check out Monster House on DVD.
A group of kids discover that a neighborhood house is actually a monster. To solve the mystery of the house they must go inside it, before it takes everyone that crosses its path.

Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

Wattpad

By: Ally K., Teen Blogger

Wattpad Readers. Wattpad Readers Everywhere.Every day I open up my phone to see a little orange circle staring back at me in the upper left corner of my phone screen. It sits there right next to Netflix, which means that it is one of my top priority apps. By this point you have probably guessed that the name of this app is Wattpad, due to the title. If you didn’t, then now you know.

Though you may have deduced the name of this app, I have yet to tell you what exactly it is. Wattpad is a huge writing community that allows users to read and write stories, poems, articles, or Fanfiction. There is everything from horror stories to romance novels and users range in age and gender, allowing for a vast audience from all over the world.

One of the wonderful things about this app is that it makes it incredibly easy for authors to share their writing with a huge community of people. As a writer myself, I have researched how hard it would be to get published and it seemed like an impossible task until I found Wattpad. The minute that I found the site I fell in love with its simplicity. Sharing my writing no longer seemed like it was only a dream. With the click of a button anyone can publish what they have written.

The app also allows for other users to comment on your stories and give you instant feedback on your writing. This is incredibly valuable because as new writers people are always skeptical of whether people will like what they write. The comments help tremendously with editing and it is always nice to know when someone likes your book. Not only can people comment but when you are reading a chapter you can click a little star and vote on the story. A vote essentially translates to a like. Both of these components are helpful and encouraging to new and old writers.

Another feature that I absolutely love about Wattpad is that instead of publishing a whole book at one time, authors publish one chapter at a time. This allows for busy writers to have some flexibility in their writing schedule. It no longer takes years before someone can read what you have written. You update when you have the time without having to dedicate all of your time to writing a book so that you can be exposed as a writer while you are still alive.

Writers can achieve even more exposure by entering contests, whether they are run by the Wattpad staff or individual users. The Wattpad staff runs stories for every genre and fandom there is. Not only are there the traditional contests, but there are also contests where users come together to create a collective story by submitting chapters to Wattpad. The chapter that wins is the next chapter in the book and it grows from there every few weeks with a new chapter from a new writer.

I just covered the writing half of Wattpad, but there is also the reading half of the site. Readers can add stories to their private library or public reading lists. Using reading lists readers can share stories that they like and make it easier for people to find stories that they want on a particular subject.

All in all, Wattpad is a wonderfully helpful app for aspiring writers to get a taste of what it is like to publish what they create and have people read and react to it. The Wattpad community is a massive group of people who all share a passion for reading and writing, which creates the perfect environment for new writers, bibliophiles, and fangirls/fanboys.

Personally I have always loved to write, but until I discovered Wattpad, I never took the initiative to put my writing into the world. Wattpad has sparked my devotion to the art of writing. Not only that but Wattpad is a positive environment that encourages me to keep writing and updating my stories. The same goes for every user that I have had the pleasure of talking to. The people on the site are encouraging, kind, and understanding. My only question is: “Who wouldn’t want to be a part of something that wonderful?”

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

What I Just Read – If I Was Your Girl

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

Check Out If I Was Your Girl by Meredith RussoIf there’s one thing I love more than reading a good book, it’s finding a book I would love anyways, and then loving it even more thanks to stellar narration on the audiobook. Today’s What I Just Read fits the bill, and while I always recommend reading in any format, if you’re up for an audiobook, this is a good one.

What I Just Read: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

What’s It About (Jacket Description): Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school in Lambertville, Tennessee. Like any other girl, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. There’s a reason why she transferred schools for her senior year, and why she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

And then she meets Grant Everett. Grant is unlike anyone she’s ever met—open, honest, kind—and Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself…including her past. But she’s terrified that once she tells Grant the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew. Will the truth cost Amanda her new life, and her new love?

Do I Like It: Loved the book, loved the audiobook even more!

Thoughts: This book just ticked so many of my boxes, it was practically guaranteed to be a favorite. Strong and complex main character? Check. Sweet romance? Check. Lush setting (a hot Tennessee summer and beautiful fall)? Check. Well written and realistic parent-child relationships? Check. And of course, always my favorite, incredible and complex relationships between friends? Check, check, check.

Don’t let the description of If I Was Your Girl fool you—this is not a romance, although there’s some good romance in it. This is Amanda’s story through and through, and honestly, her relationships with her parents and her friends are every bit as important to the story as her relationship with Grant. The story is told mainly through a linear narration, but interspersed with flashbacks to Amanda’s life and journey before coming to Lambertville (which is where we get some of my favorite scenes, between Amanda and her mother). This gives us a much fuller picture of who Amanda is, and how she became that person, than we would get just with her Lambertville life. It also lends a harsh reality to what is—as the author admits—an overall rosy picture of life as a transgender teen in the South. While things go pretty decently for Amanda in Lambertville (with exceptions, of course, including a particularly harrowing scene near the end), what brought her there in the first place was a lifetime of bullying culminating in a brutal assault.

But it is her Lambertville life that the book is really focused on. It’s beautiful to see Amanda forming normal high school friendships and relationships for the first time, as well as repairing her estranged relationship with her father. Her group of girlfriends are all interesting characters in their own right, who never fail to surprise the reader as much as Amanda when they defy stereotypes and demonstrate deep friendship. Amanda herself grows in confidence as she experiences what it is like to live, not without fear, but with less fear, and with support that she never had growing up. And of course, there’s Grant—like every other character, there’s more to him than we see at first, and as the book goes on it’s easy to see why Amanda falls for him. Despite that though, the highlight of this book for me is by far and away Amanda’s relationships with her new friends.

Not only was this book a joy, but Samia Mounts’ narration was impeccable. Her Southern drawl brought the setting to life, each character had a distinct voice and inflection, and she absolutely nailed every nuance of Amanda’s voice—all in a spot on teenage girl voice. So if you’re in the mood for a book that will leave you feeling uplifted, for incredible character development, for amazing parent-child relationships, for sweet romance, for a great audiobook, or for some seriously awesome and heartwarming friendships, If I Was Your Girl is a perfect pick.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Banned Books Week: September 25−October 1

By: Melissa Hilt, Youth Department Assistant Director

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Over the years we have had many banned book displays and members are always shocked to learn that books are still, to this day, banned and/or challenged. Now, just because a book is banned in one place doesn’t mean that is banned everywhere, thankfully. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the thought of someone telling me I should not or cannot read a certain book just because they don’t agree with something that is in the book. I might have different beliefs than someone else about the same topic and we should both be able to have access to books that we find helpful or enjoyable.

Some books you might have read over the years that have been banned or challenged are titles like:

Check Out James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
 
James and the Giant Peach

Challenged For: Inappropriate language, encourages disobedience to parents, references to drugs and alcohol, and because it contains “magical elements.”

Check Out Buster's Sugartime by Marc Tolon Brown
 
Buster’s Sugartime

Challenged For: Featuring a lesbian couple.

Check Out Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss
 
Hop on Pop

Challenged For: Someone thought it encourages children to use violence against their fathers.

Check Out The Adventures Of Super Diaper Baby By Dav Pilkey
 
The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby

Banned from the Channelview, Texas Independent School District (2011) because it contained the phrase “poo poo head.”

Check Out Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
 
Harry Potter Series

This is one of the most banned and challenged series. Many people feel there are occult/Satanism and anti-family themes.

Check Out And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
 
Tango Makes Three

Challenged For: Containing themes of homosexuality.

Come celebrate your freedom to read and check out a banned or challenged book! We have a special display in the Youth Department next to the magazines.

Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

College Essay Tips

By: Emma E., Teen Blogger

If you are one of the millions of American teenagers entering their senior year, you are likely stressing about college applications. And if you are anything like me, the most intimidating part of a very intimidating process is the essay. With three years of grades logged, standardized tests taken, and extracurricular activities participated in, the essay stands out as a new challenge for students to tackle. The most personal part of the admissions process, the essay can make or break an application, and because it’s within your control, here are some tips for wherever you are in the process.

Start early

Because it can seem daunting, starting your essay is often the hardest part. However, the advantages to starting early are numerous. Just free writing a rough draft will get you thinking about what’s important to you and thus what you want to include. By starting early, you maximize brainstorming time, so you can pick the best topic for you. You also give yourself more time to edit and proofread, creating a better, mistake-free essay. Finally, many colleges have supplemental essays on top of the usual one-page personal statement, so an early start leaves plenty of time to respond to every question clearly and thoughtfully. Even if you are feeling overwhelmed, starting will take some of the stress out of the process.

Write about genuine interests

You don’t have to cure cancer or solve world hunger to get into college. Instead of dwelling on how you should have spent your free time, consider what you did do, and choose a topic that highlights your unique experience. Rather than writing what you think an admissions officer wants to hear, a topic that you find interesting will make the entire process easier, and allow your passion and personality to show.

Avoid generic essays

The essay is one of the most personal parts of your application, and sheds a lot more light on your character than your GPA or ACT scores. Use this opportunity to offer a fuller picture of yourself and your world view by sharing personal thoughts and creatively displays parts of yourself that can’t be found elsewhere in the application. Avoid cliché statements, and do your best to show, not tell, by describing specific details or events.

Stay focused

Don’t try to jam your biography into 500 words. Instead, answer the question, and stick to a single story, theme, or topic. Some essays try to cover too much, and end up reading as a superficial description rather than personal one.

Proofread

Have a parent, friend, or sibling proofread your work. Sharing your essay and getting fresh input can help you work through writer’s block. It can also help prevent simple mistakes that will leave a bad impression on an otherwise stellar essay.  Just make sure that the finished product is your own words, not someone else’s.

Obviously, there’s no simple trick or formula for the perfect essay. Instead, focus on what you are passionate about and stay personal. Don’t stress out too much, and get writing!

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

What I’m Reading Now – Three Dark Crowns

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare BlakeOnce again, I’ve lucked into an advanced copy of a much-anticipated new book, and I can assure you that with every sentence, I’m feeling luckier about this one.

What I’m Reading Now: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

What’s It About (Jacket Description): Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.

Do I Like It: It’s amazing so far!

Thoughts:  Look, I’ll be honest–with the premise of this book, I was pre-disposed to love it. Three awesome and strong women, magic, politics and court intrigue, and oh yeah, a battle to the death. What’s not to love? And I am thrilled to say that Three Dark Crowns is absolutely living up to the hype in my mind. Each queen has a distinct personality, and all are likable–which promises lots of heartache when they are inevitably pitted against each other. But at least one of them is starting to show a very dark side, which makes me simultaneously sympathize with her and find her terrifying–I’m hoping for more darkness from the other two as well. Even within the first few chapters, the friendships and loyalties if all three have been well-established. None of them are isolated, and they are all part of factions and families that have their own agendas and are pushing the queens, kindly or not, to be something very specific.

I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by the amount of political wrangling already making its way into the books. I’m a sucker for some good court intrigue, so I was delighted to realize that the queens aren’t just fighting each other, but are doing it with varying levels of protection and backing from powerful factions in the kingdom. And already, the level of darkness in the book has been steadily inching upwards. From the opening chapter that gave me some truly grotesque mental images (I expect nothing less from Kendare Blake) to the shock of reading about human sacrifice in relation to one of the queens, I’m quickly learning to be prepared for the worst in this book.

Three Dark Crowns so far has been well-paced, although the action hasn’t picked up, and completely engrossing as I learn about Fennbirn, the triplets, and the people and powers surrounding them. I can’t wait to tear through the rest of the book and see what happens when confrontation among the queens begins! If you like fantasy, sibling relationships, political intrigues, or just a healthy dose of delicious darkness, I highly recommend Three Dark Crowns.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

First Friends

By: Leigh Ann Vock, Youth Department Page

Tinkers the Tabby CatFirst friends for many young children are beloved stuffed animals. Some children develop a stronger attachment than others. My granddaughter’s present best friend is a much-loved and tattered tabby cat named “Tinkers.” Tinkers is real to her and possesses feelings that she is careful to be considerate of.

I recently spent some time convincing my son that his daughter’s obsession with Tinkers was normal and healthy. There are many benefits to having a pretend first friend. This relationship helps a child deal with separation anxiety by having a familiar object with them when parents are away. Temper tantrums are sometimes a result of a child’s inability to express what they are feeling. Having a comrade to explain how something has made them feel can be helpful.

Children in the toddler age group are in a language explosion. When a child speaks to their pretend first friend they hear the sound of their own voice and this improves their pronunciation along with their vocabulary. Toddler-aged children are at the beginning stages of making friends. Having a stuffed animal or doll allows them the opportunity to model sharing, taking turns, following rules and developing empathy. All good things that outweigh the possible frustration that ensues when the toy gets lost or takes a much needed washing machine bath.

Enjoy some of my selections of wonderful books about fluffy, stuffed first friends. All have been Tinkers-approved.

 

Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

TV vs. Movies (Take Four)

By: Melissa G., Teen Blogger

Picture of an old TV on one side and a movie reel with film streaming off it on the other.Growing up in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries allowed me to be exposed to lots of different forms of entertainment. In particular, the compelling shows on the ever-present television in my house. Our generation grew up in homes where every Saturday morning we would rush downstairs, plop down in front of the TV, and watch Tom and Jerry while we waited for our parents to start their day.

As young kids, we grew dependent on the TV because it was always there as a distraction. Occasionally, we would convince our parents or caretaker to take us to see a movie, but going to see a film in theaters was tough to do at the drop of a button. They were expensive, they were long, and nobody really wanted to pay for the over-priced popcorn. So, we turned to TV as our main form of entertainment instead of movies. As we’ve grown up, we got used to watching TV shows instead of movies because we generally prefer having characters that we stick with throughout countless seasons and we love the cliff-hangers at the end of each episode. Although movies can have cliffhangers, they aren’t as captivating as ones within a TV show because movies are all the same-the good side always wins. TV shows have characters that we grow to love, and even if the producer of the show continues to kill off all of our favorite characters (I’m looking at you, Grey’s Anatomy), we still continue to watch the show to make sure that whoever remains gets their happy ending.

In addition to a generation that grew up with television, the producers of each show have figured out ways to reach a larger audience. Now, with streaming apps like Netflix or Hulu, we can watch short episodes wherever and whenever we can. On the train, on the bus to school, before we go to bed, before we get out of bed in the morning, waiting in the doctor’s office, you name it. Movies, while engrossing, are too long for us to watch whenever. We need to sit down, and make the time for a movie, while TV is short enough for us to watch without us feeling as if we’ve wasted our day.

Personally, I prefer TV because there is always a new show for me to watch when I finish another one, whereas if I want to watch a movie, I have to do a little bit of research beforehand if I want to find a movie that entrances me. The television isn’t a large time commitment, and that’s why TV has become the major visual storytelling medium in our culture. We as a generation watch more TV, and more people get recognized from TV, therefore making the television the place to be if you want to become famous in showbiz.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School