The Teen Scene: GEPL High School Blog

“Music People”

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

Revolution Radio by Green DayA couple weeks ago, the band Green Day released their first new music in about four years, the single “Bang Bang,” along with information about a new album that will be released in October. I listened to the song at least fifteen times the day it came out (I stopped counting after that), and have had it on pretty heavy rotation ever since then.

Green Day has been my favorite band since I was 13, and I have had similar excited freak outs relating to pretty much all the new music they’ve put out since then. I’ve seen them in concert during every tour they’ve had, went to New York to see American Idiot when it premiered on Broadway (and caught it again when it came to Chicago), and have memorized a pretty hefty quantity of their songs. I am, if it weren’t clear, a huge fan.

What’s interesting though is that generally speaking, I don’t consider myself a “music person.” I love plenty of music, sure, but I sometimes go days without really listening to music. I don’t seek out new bands or new acts. As a general rule (Green Day and a few other bands excepted) I’m not really in to seeing live music. But there are still artists, bands, composers and songs that have the capacity to inspire a level of devotion that almost nothing else does.

And I don’t think I’m alone in this. I know from talking to you all when you visit the library, as well as what I see in the world at large, that music is a huge part of most of your lives. While everyone has different tastes, there does seem to be something about music that reaches in to a deep part of us and engages us in a way that nothing else does. I’m not sure why this is, but I’m sure smarter people than me have spent years trying to figure it out.

Music NotesOne of the beauties of music is that there is so much of it, such a wide range of styles, and so many ways of interacting with it. You may not appreciate catchy pop music, but you could love 40s classics or Bach. Or you could love all of it–despite the massive differences among types of music. Maybe you don’t play an instrument but you love live music, or possibly blasting headphones is your preferred method of engaging with your favorite songs and pieces.

No matter how or why you love it, music has something for everyone. Those of you who are music people probably have a lot of music that speaks to you. But even for those of you who don’t feel like you’re “music people,” take a second look. Maybe there’s music you associate with your favorite memories. Maybe you have a song you can’t get out of your head. Maybe you’ll learn to play an instrument that will change your life. Maybe you just have one band that you can’t get enough of. But deep down inside, I think we’re all music people.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

The Feared Back-to-School Week

By: Ally K., Teen Blogger

Good Luck on the Transition from Doing Nthing at Home to Doing Nothing at School.Back to school week. The week that every teen dreads and every parent diligently waits for. As a teen I can tell you that back to school week is not something that I am particularly excited for. Just the idea of upcoming homework, tests and essays gives me a headache.

However, the idea of seeing all my friends is something that I do look forward to. The excitement of finding out your new schedule and the rush to see if your friends have class with you is a feeling that I have experienced first-hand.

It is no secret that the main stressor in most teenagers’ lives is school. With the combination of never-ending homework, weekly tests and huge projects it is a wonder that teens have any free time at all. Not to mention, all the sports teams require a major commitment from the players. Practices every day and games every weekend leave kids sweaty and tired, only for them to get home and need to complete a mountain of homework. The reason why stress levels in teens are surpassing those of adults is not some hidden mystery. School and the stressors of teenage social life put a ton of pressure on kids, so it is no wonder that they are not very eager to get back to it after a leisurely summer break.

I just made school seem like the bane of every teen’s existence, which in some ways it can be, but for every reason that there is to hate school there is a reason to love it. School is the glue that holds many friendships together. It allows you to meet new people and gives you something to talk (or complain) about with other people. School literally forces people to hang out with their friends every day, therefore strengthening friendships and keeping people in touch. As someone who is fairly antisocial, I can tell you that without school I would not have many of the friends that I have today because school is what introduced me to all of them.

Friends are wonderful, but people don’t only go to school for their friends, they go to learn new things. After all, learning is the whole reason that schools exist. Almost no teen will admit it, but they all love to learn new things about what they are interested in. School is how they learn about these things and a gateway to find their passion. With all of the classes and extra-curricular options that students are able to take, everyone has something that will pique their interest. Exploring new opportunities is made possible by everything school offers to students.

All in all, while school does have many of its downsides and stressors, it is something to look forward to rather than dread. The promise of knowledge and new friendships await students who walk the locker-lined halls. Why go into it with a bad attitude, when there are plenty of silver linings to find.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

New Schools and Next Steps

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

First Day At A New School And Trying To Make Friends? Scream And Run Away Every Time Someone Says Hi.As August draws to a close, it’s back-to-school for everyone (ugh.) While many of you are returning to the same high school you were in last year, for many of you, this month heralds a new beginning.

Maybe you’re an incoming ninth grader and getting your first taste of high school life. Maybe you’re moving in to college over the next couple of weeks. Maybe you moved, or transferred, and have to integrate into a whole new environment midway through high school.

And no matter who you are, a new school is probably some combination of exciting, scary, fun and nerve-wracking. How could it not be?

But even for those of you who aren’t starting at a new high school or college, you probably have some transitions on your horizon. You could be heading off to study abroad. You could be deciding what to do after high school–college?  No college? Which college? What will you do if it’s not college? Whatever is changing in your life, the end of August certainly seems like an appropriate time to contemplate the next steps.

In this month’s display, New Schools and Next Steps, located just outside the Teen Scene room, you’ll come across main characters facing all sorts of transitions, fresh starts, and yes, new schools. In Look Both Ways by Alison Cherry, Brooklyn is off to a theater camp that she hopes will transform her into the performer she’s always wanted to be. In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Junior is leaving the reservation to start at a new–mostly white–school and facing the unfamiliar. Cath from Fangirl is nervous not only about starting college, but about doing it more separated from her twin than she has ever been.

And even characters in speculative fiction face the same transitional challenges–from Dove in Karen Bao’s Dove Arising who embarks on a tough military training program to help her family, or Iolanthe from The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas who comes from a magical world and must pretend to fit in to a boarding school in our world. So whether you’re struggling with keeping a secret from your new school like Amanda in If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo, or feel a kinship with Marcelo’s struggles to move into a world that doesn’t understand him in Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork, or are moving to a new place and the new school that goes with it like Lea in Juniors by Kaui Hart Hemmings, you’ll be able to find a character going through the good and the bad of transitions similar to your own in our New Schools and Next Steps display.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

TV vs. Movies (Take Three)

By: Ashley H., Teen Blogger

Picture of an old TV on one side and a movie reel with film streaming off it on the other.I love storytelling. I love the concept of creating characters that are relatable to an audience and plots that keep everyone on their toes. As time and people change, the presentation of these stories evolve. From cave paintings to campfire stories, storytelling continues to adapt.

In today’s society we see storytelling in books, graphic novels, movies and TV. Though all are great ways to portray engaging stories to an interested audience, it has been brought to my attention that for visual storytelling one method is gaining more popularity with the public.

Typically, we assume that movies are the visual outlet for great storytelling given that Star Wars, Titanic and Pirates of the Caribbean are household titles. But recently it seems that television is becoming the greater storytelling medium. Personally I can understand why TV is becoming the more popular style of visual storytelling because it can reach a wider audience (depending on if they have cable or not) without the cost of movie tickets or the need to leave one’s home.

TV also offers longer screen time to develop plot and show character development, which is not always possible in 2 hour movies but is common in twenty-four 40-minute episodes. Though it has the possibility of having more to develop and explore, television does not offer the same budgets or popular actors that can be found in movies. But this doesn’t mean that television does not create stories that are addictive to watch. From the viewpoint of a 17 year old fangirl, I love TV. It is our generation’s way of sharing stories in the digital era. Yes, movies create stories that will become legends, but television creates stories with characters that we can relate to and see grow within their own crazy environments. For me, TV is the way to make stories come to life.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

What I Just Read – A Torch Against the Night

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

Check Out A Torch Against The Night Usually when I talk about books I’ve read on this blog, I stick with the first book in the series, or a whole-series review. But I’ve been fortunate enough to get an advanced reader copy of a much-anticipated sequel, and I am way too excited not to talk about it! Warning, Spoilers Ahead for anyone who hasn’t read An Ember in the Ashes.

What I Just Read: A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

What’s It About (Jacket Description): A Torch Against the Night takes readers into the heart of the Empire as Laia and Elias fight their way north to liberate Laia’s brother from the horrors of Kauf Prison. Hunted by Empire soldiers, manipulated by the Commandant, and haunted by their pasts, Laia and Elias must outfox their enemies and confront the treacherousness of their own hearts.

In the city of Serra, Helene Aquilla finds herself bound to the will of the Empire’s twisted new leader, Marcus. When her loyalty is questioned, Helene finds herself taking on a mission to prove herself—a mission that might destroy her, instead.

Do I Like It: Loving it so far!

Thoughts: After I read An Ember in the Ashes last year, I was recommending it far and wide. It was exciting, gritty, pulse-pounding fantasy with dystopian elements, and I couldn’t put it down. It wasn’t a perfect novel – few debuts are – but I enjoyed it and saw a ton of promise for expanding on the world-building, delving deeper into characters and relationships, and giving the incredibly evil, awful, hate-able villain more room to make readers cringe. So it will come as no surprise to anyone that when I had a chance to read an advance copy of the sequel, I jumped on it. And I am thrilled to say that A Torch Against the Night is not only meeting my expectations, but I’m finding that so far, I’m enjoying it at least as much if not more than the first novel.

The sequel takes us on a trip through the Empire, with our main characters Elias and Laia running from the terrifying new Emperor and of course, the ice cold, cruel, and brilliant Commandant. I love the chance to see more of the Empire, and so far the pacing in this book seems even better than An Ember in the Ashes. I definitely enjoy watching Elias and Laia’s friendship – and more? – develop now that they are on more equal footing. Laia’s increase in leadership and power make her more of a match for Elias (and eliminates the creepy slave dynamic from the first book), and that power extends to her other relationships as well. Even the hints of a love triangle are bothering me less than they usually do, since both love interests have a good mix of swoon-worthy qualities and serious faults. And because I’m a sucker for friendships, I’m excited about the return of Izzi, who like Laia, is growing in strength and confidence, and promises to be a wonderful friend and foil for the main character.

But while all of this is great and wonderful, I think my favorite parts of A Torch Against the Night are Helene’s points of view. I found Helene one of the most interesting and fascinating characters in the first book, and getting to see her suddenly gifted with newfound power as she struggles with her warring loyalties to Elias, her family, and the empire, is incredibly compelling. Helene isn’t a “good guy” by a long shot, but she’s also not the same style of heartless villain as we get in the Commandant and the Emperor. She is flawed and fascinating, with her own moral code, and promises to grow a lot as a character in this installment of the story.

On top of all this, I can’t put it down – I read the first 150 pages of this book in two sittings, and am eager to gulp up the rest of it. For fast-paced, dark fantasy, this series is an easy winner. Add in some of my favorite book elements in any book like strong women characters, great friendships, and complicated morals, and it’s easy to see why A Torch Against the Night is keeping me glued to the page!

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

The Dreaded College Essay

By: Sophie B., Teen Blogger

Keep Calm and Write the EssayAs an incoming senior at one of the “Most Challenging High Schools in America,” as proclaimed by the Washington Post, college has been on my mind since the first day of freshman year. And since I am about to embark on the journey known as my final year of high school, I am almost done with my college process, and am currently working on my college essays to submit with my applications.

While some may believe that narrowing down which colleges to apply to, taking the ACT and SAT, or maintaining my GPA was the most difficult and nerve-racking part of this lengthy process, surprisingly, I found that writing my essays came to be the part I dreaded the most. If not for a few tips I had picked up along the way from friends who had already been accepted into the schools they applied to, I would’ve found myself panicked and scrambling come time to submit my college applications.

Every college requires that their prospective students submit essays with their applications – whether they are answered with prompts provided by the “Common App” or other topics that the school has already provided for you. Even though writing essays for colleges might seem like the most difficult part in the college process, I have found that there is no need to sweat it. The purpose of writing essays with your application is for schools to see what type of person you are, and what you will contribute to their university. Universities want to get to know who you are, behind your test scores, GPA, recommendation letters, and extracurricular activities. So if you are worried that your ACT, SAT, and GPA aren’t as competitive as you would like, your essay is the place to shine!

When writing your college essays, make sure you start them early. I recommend that you try to get them finished by the time school starts for the fall, that way you won’t feel totally overwhelmed when it comes to doing school work and balancing your extracurricular activities. Also, if you get your essays done early, you will have plenty more time to edit and revise your final product. Whether it be by yourself, with the help of family and friends, or even your teachers once school starts back up again for the fall, try to get as many eyes on it as you can, that way your essay can be the best it can be!

Even though most schools provide prompts, most students find themselves at a loss about what to write about. I recommend that you write about something that schools can’t see when viewing your applications. For example, if you play a sport, refrain from writing about the time you scored the match winning point for your team. For one, the reader may not know any rules about your sport, and two, the school already knows you play that sport from your application. Try thinking outside the box and write about something that will set you apart from the other applicants. For example, if you have a specific hobby such as drawing, you can write about how drawing is an outlet for you when it comes to the stressors of school and other extracurricular activities, and how drawing has made you the student and person you are today. The heart of the matter is, try to set yourself apart from the other applicants applying in addition to relating who you are as a person.

I know the college process is scary, but to all you future seniors, getting your applications done early and thoroughly can help put your mind a little at ease before entering your final year of high school. Good luck writing!

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Carnival of Embarrassment

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

Summer reading is almost over, and you may have noticed something lacking this summer. Specifically, Middle School Librarian Christina and me making idiots of ourselves and posting the videos online. That’s because we decided to do a little something different this year – rather than ongoing humiliation throughout the summer (which, aside from being extra embarrassment, was really time-consuming) we are instead saving all our stunts for the end of summer reading. Next week to cap off summer reading, you can come see Christina and me undergoing a whole series of humiliations live and in person. We’ll be engaging in a hula hoop contest, a dance off, and more. And for the grand finale if you meet all your reading goals, we will be subjecting ourselves to a dunk tank – along with one of your teachers and some staff and faculty from local middle schools.

Now, while all this is super exciting (I know) there will be more to do than just watching Christina and me look like goofs. We’ll have non-embarrassing games for you to play and prizes to raffle off. Those of you who have read more than 10 books will get to take your turn trying to dunk me, and the rest of you can cheer and laugh when I go under…probably a lot.

But! To make this happen, you all need to read an average of six books each. You blew through your goals last year, so we upped it a little, but I think you can do it. You still have a lazy summer weekend left to get reading, so make sure you finish up a book or two while you relax. And if you’ve been reading but not logging, now is the moment to enter all those books in! I’m not exactly in a hurry to get thrown into cold water, but if it means you all hit your reading goals and helped buy appliances for a Habitat for Humanity family in need? It will definitely be worth it.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Hamilton Is Coming to Chicago

By: April G., Teen Blogger

Hamilton An American Musical PosterThe 11-time Tony Award winning musical, Hamilton, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, is a musical about the life of the Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton. Many would think that due to its rich history content, it would be filled with dialogue and portrayed by white actors. Lin-Manuel Miranda did the opposite when Hamilton was written, which is one of the many reasons it became a cultural phenomenon.

Across the country thousands, if not millions, of people became fans of Hamilton and felt as if it truly spoke to them. Hip-hop and rap are used to explain Hamilton’s plan to fix America’s financial debt, and the world went crazy when they saw it worked, since theatre and hip-hop have never been friends. A true piece of art was created. Hamilton will continue to thrive for years to come as new generations emerge and hear Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton fight via rap about establishing a national bank. Teenagers in particular have a sense of connection with Hamilton because it uses rap and hip-hop elements to explain such a boring part of history. Nobody cared about a dead man’s struggle to make a name for himself until it was given a great soundtrack.

As Hamilton went into the Richard Rogers Theatre, it became the hottest ticket on the scene and sold out instantly. The tickets started off at $300 for a seat in the balcony area, which is the farthest seating option, and a seat closest to the stage started off at $900. People became disappointed as they had no funds to see the show or there were no seats available to the public anymore. The tickets may seem really expensive but it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and everyone has to be paid for their work. The original cast won 11 Tony awards for their skills, and actors in Chicago have to live up to this set of expectations. Hamilton is a musical that has broken records and is unique in every aspect. The ticket prices are fair and the public will get a big bang for their buck. History is happening in Chicago and we just happen to be a part of it.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

What I Just Read – Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

Check Out Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara FarizanA few years ago, I read a haunting debut novel called If You Could Be Mine, and was thrilled to hear that the author had a new book coming out. Somehow though, I never got around to her second offering until this summer, and boy am I glad I did.

What I Just Read: Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

What’s It About (Jacket Description): High-school junior Leila has made it most of the way through Armstead Academy without having a crush on anyone, which is something of a relief. Her Persian heritage already makes her different from her classmates; if word got out that she liked girls, life would be twice as hard. But when a sophisticated, beautiful new girl, Saskia, shows up, Leila starts to take risks she never thought she would, especially when it looks as if the attraction between them is mutual. Struggling to sort out her growing feelings and Saskia’s confusing signals, Leila confides in her old friend, Lisa, and grows closer to her fellow drama tech-crew members, especially Tomas, whose comments about his own sexuality are frank, funny, wise, and sometimes painful. Gradually, Leila begins to see that almost all her classmates are more complicated than they first appear to be, and many are keeping fascinating secrets of their own.

Do I Like It: Yes, and I can’t believe I waited so long to read this!

Thoughts: If I had to really distill Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel down to one word, I think I would choose “realistic.” Not just because it’s part of the genre of realistic fiction, but because every detail of the book rang so true to me, from things that were painfully familiar to experiences totally outside of my own. Leila was an amazing main character in part because she is simultaneously average and extraordinary – just like most people are. She’s a middling student, hates running in gym class, both loves and resents her family, and falls hard for someone who might not be the best choice for her. In short, she felt like someone I knew – or someone I once was.

Not surprisingly for a book I loved, this book centers almost entirely around Leila’s relationships with others. Sure, there’s a play, and some parties, but most of the tension, drama, and wonderful scenes are focused on Leila re-negotiating her relationships with those around her after Saskia enters the picture. From Leila’s “perfect” older sister to her wallflower best friend, from the new people in her life like Saskia and Tomas to the old friends like Lisa, Leila is forced to realize time and time again that she may have been wrong about even the people closest to her, or that even if she wasn’t, her relationships to them could change when she forces them to realize they may have been wrong about her. It’s a fascinating interplay between Leila being forced to question herself and her judgments while at the same time her confidence in herself grows.

And then, of course, there’s Saskia. Even in audiobook format, which in this case I thought detracted from my appreciation for her as a character, she shone. She was compelling, entrancing, and engaging, but also remote. Just like Leila, it’s hard for readers to really wrap their mind around her, especially as she sends inconsistent signals. She’s at the center of the story, but somehow, absent from the page – like Leila, we have a hard time seeing what, if anything, is below the surface, which makes her all the more fascinating but also inconsequential. If all these descriptions sound like contradictions, that’s because Saskia if full of them. Ultimately though, she is really only a catalyst – someone who comes in, changes everything, but remains unchanged herself. And that makes her both a really unique and interesting character, as well as one of the least important and relatable characters in the book. Love her or hate her, Saskia is worth the price of admission – but the changes she brings about in Leila’s life are worth so much more.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

TV vs. Movies (Take Two)

By: Sean Mc., Teen Blogger

Picture of an old TV on one side and a movie reel with film streaming off it on the other.TV has been a medium that has fascinated the nation since the 50’s when people really started to make their way out to the suburbs and start new lives there. With the advent of this new technology, people in the storytelling business found a whole new way to get their products to the public at large, and began filling every American home with shows of all kinds, although the number of channels has seen a decent increase since then, as well as the kinds of shows and the subjects they cover.

One of the big issues in television has been that more and more people want to stay home and watch things there, rather than go to the movies, where they have to pay to go see something once and sit in (formerly) not-too-comfortable chairs. Especially with channels like HBO and Starz, people are becoming more and more likely to stay home, and wait until a movie comes out on a channel like this or on Netflix, where they can then watch it at their own leisure, and for a much better price (especially in regards to the food served).

The question has risen in some circles of whether movies are a thing of the past, and whether TV will replace them, or even become the only place that they are shown, because companies could make more off advertisements rather than huge productions and marketing campaigns to get people to go out to the theatres. In response, this has led to campaigns to get people to go to the movies and support the production companies, even having a little video by one of the actors in the film you are about to see thank you for going to the movies. These campaigns, as well as a rise in popularity of the dine-in theatre and the new design for chairs, have helped to increase attendance, especially for movies with less of a fan following.

Movies overall do not seem to be suffering, save for those that absolutely bomb on the openings (Batman v. Superman, I am looking at you), yet people still think that TV is the new way to go. Nobody has to have a campaign to make people watch more TV, and it is much more accessible to the general public.

However, there is a very important comparison to make, one that can be looked at through something which also began to gain a lot of popularity a bit before TV was invented. Comics were something that had rarely been seen before the 1930’s in America, although serial stories were not unheard of (see: Great Expectations). These short and colorful tales were enough to capture the reader’s attention, especially in the younger generations, who leaned towards comics instead of full length novels.

TV is much like this in the sense that they are short issues that come out every week or so and give the reader a short amount of time to travel to another place, without losing those with shorter attention spans. In fact, many of the TV shows that fared best were those that, like comics, could still create a following, but required less time to make than a full movie, and could be marketed to the public as a simpler alternative to movies.

Classic shows like The Simpsons, Star Trek, and Batman, featured a bright and colorful show but still tackled themes in society and politics that movies simply did not have the reaction time to deal with. This allowed TV to be a more versatile medium, still moving, but more available, and very different from movies. Movies still excel in areas like moving people and telling beautiful stories, allowing them to be a much better place to demonstrate the new technical capabilities of film-making, rather than on the TV or even phone screen.

Movies even tried to copy TV in creating series, some more successful (such as the widely followed Marvel movies), some were less successful (such as Jaws, which, on its own was a masterpiece, yet by the third movie, the audience lost interest). It was here that the movie industry found its weakness. It had great stories to tell, but when those stories went well once, the tendency to tell the same thing over and over created an air of repetitiveness that has led to a general distrust of sequels to critically acclaimed movies, in fear that they might ruin the experience that was gained from the original.

Books and comics are two very different mediums that both captured the attention of the nation, over and over. As time has gone on, they have changed forms, from long novels to short online stories written by fans, and from comic strips in the newspaper to web comics followed more for the author than the story, yet neither has faded. Neither has taken a hold of the culture completely, although they have fought for it constantly. TV and movies are much the same. They will fight for the spotlight until we can stream both directly to our brains, and even then will never relent in their struggle to be the best.

The one issue with this is that neither truly can be “better” than the other. For every James Bond film, there will be another season of Law and Order. For every Star Trek movie, there will be another season of The Simpsons. The two are so fundamentally different, it is almost impossible to truly compare the two under the same light. Some studios, like Marvel and DC, have even accepted this, and have worked on creating a world in both, doing shorter stories in TV more like individual issues, yet also doing larger projects in the movies, more like novels. This has helped both companies greatly (save for the latest attempt at movies from DC’s end) yet both have realized how different the mediums are. This is a realization that seems like more common sense than anything, but it really truly is something new to many people.

TV and movies cannot replace one another, and other mediums are coming into view as well, such as in video games, which have a long way to go until they are critically recognized at the same level as TV and movies, but it shows that consumers are more than willing to accept these stories in more than one way, and that is something that will never change. They may fight, but in the meantime, we can still go out to midnight premiers of our favorite movies, and then relax at home and binge-watch a whole season of our favorite show, and in the end, both can be just as amazing.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School