The Teen Scene: GEPL High School Blog

#WeNeedDiverseBooks

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

We Need Diverse BooksAs you may recall, last May we had a display celebrating the We Need Diverse Books movement. This movement started with a simple Twitter hashtag about two years ago, with people from all over the country sharing reasons why we need more diverse books, particularly books for children and young adults. One of our teen volunteers wrote about We Need Diverse Books a few months after it began, and you can read what she had to say here to get a great overview of the movement.

In the two years since the Twitter campaign started, We Need Diverse Books has become a full-fledged non-profit, devoted to encouraging diversity not only in books, but in the publishing world in general. They give awards and grants to encourage and recognize diverse books, publishers, editors and more; they help educate publishers, librarians and booksellers; they organize mentoring programs to help people break into the publishing industry and much more. Their work has certainly increased discussion and recognition of the diversity issue in publishing. So once again, we want to celebrate the work We Need Diverse Books is doing, and highlight some of the diverse young adult books from our own collection!

This month, stop by our #WeNeedDiverseBooks display to find a great adventure like Ink and Ashes or Endangered, or maybe some historical fiction highlighting experiences you may have missed, such as Under a Painted Sky or Honey Girl. If contemporary is more your style, you can check out All American Boys, Everything Leads to You, or Tiny, Pretty Things. Into real life people? You might like Laughing at My Nightmare or Rethinking Normal. We also have science fiction, fantasy, horror, romance and more on display. So stop by and find a great new read in your favorite genre, and see why #WeNeedDiverseBooks.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

What I Just Read – The Memory of Light

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork Book CoverI told you there was going to be more book talk coming down the line. And unlike last week, I know exactly how I feel about today’s What I Just Read.

What I Just Read: The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork

What’s It About (Jacket Description): Vicky Cruz shouldn’t be alive.

That’s what she thinks, anyway—and why she tried to kill herself. But then she arrives at Lakeview Hospital, where she meets Mona, the live wire; Gabriel, the saint; E.M., always angry; and Dr. Desai, a quiet force. With stories and honesty, kindness and hard work, they push her to reconsider her life before Lakeview, and offer her an acceptance she’s never had.

Yet Vicky’s newfound peace is as fragile as the roses that grow around the hospital. And when a crisis forces the group to split up—sending her back to the life that drove her to suicide—Vicky must find her own courage and strength. She may not have any. She doesn’t know.

Inspired in part by the author’s own experience with depression, The Memory of Light is the rare young adult novel that focuses not on the events leading up to a suicide attempt, but the recovery from one—about living when life doesn’t seem worth it, and how we go on anyway.

Do I Like It: It’s amazing!

Thoughts:  The Memory of Light was, believe it or not, much less of a downer than I expected. While it deals with extremely heavy subjects, the writing is so beautiful, the main character so strong and all the characters so compelling that far from bringing me down, it mostly made me feel contemplative and hopeful. That said, there were some dark moments in the book, and it’s hardly sunshine and roses at the end.

Vicky is a main character who is easy to sympathize with, even if you don’t have depression like she does. The grind of feeling inadequate, struggling in school, family strife and more were easy to relate to. And despite her difficulties, Vicky was a really kind, caring and strong character. It’s clear early on that her suicide attempt was not a result of weakness. If anything, it seemed like a result of deep exhaustion and lack of knowledge. Watching her connect with the members of her group and her therapist, as well as learn more about herself and what it means to be depressed, was really powerful. In fact, despite a slow plot, I found myself lingering in my car for just a few minutes more when I parked to hear more of her story.

The writing in The Memory of Light is top notch. The way Vicky described being depressed was descriptive, evocative and really made me as a reader understand what she felt and really grasp what she was going through. There was also a really well done writing trick in the text, which especially came through in the audiobook. At the beginning, Vicky’s voice is a little dull and, at least in the narration, monotone. But as the story progresses and she begins to deal with some of her depression and find some rays of hope, the prose gets more lively and the narration does too. It was such a great way to reflect Vicky’s experiences and mental state.

Lastly, this review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the side characters. Ignore the Breakfast Club-like description, because none of the characters in Vicky’s group are “types.” They’re all living, breathing characters with their own stories and issues outside of Vicky. But the way they bond with each other and with Vicky, and the way their stories play out, was really engaging to read about, and made me feel like I knew them all. The same thing goes for Vicky’s family.  Despite their flaws and failures in taking care of Vicky when she needs them, they never came across as caricatures or villains, but as people who just didn’t understand what was going on, and didn’t know how to care for someone they loved.

This is not the book for you if you’re looking for a fast-paced plot, drama (really) or action. But it is a character-driven, incredibly realistic look at what depression is like and what comes after a suicide attempt, and it’s told through beautiful prose and a compelling and sympathetic protagonist. It’s a wonderful, quiet, powerful read that I highly recommend.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

What I Just Read – More Happy Than Not

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera Book CoverI hope you’re braced for another few weeks heavy on book talk, because boy have I been reading some amazing things lately. This is one that actually, I’m still a little unsure on – but it’s a book that’s stuck with me since I finished it almost a month ago.

What I Just Read: More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

What’s It About (Jacket Description): In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again–but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely.

When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is.

Why does happiness have to be so hard?

Do I Like It: Well, as I mentioned above, I’m still not totally sure what I feel about this book. But since I’m still thinking about it and I will probably read it again, I think I’ll go with yes on this one!

Thoughts:  First off, let’s be really clear – I think this was an excellent book in terms of writing, theme, plot, characterization and more. My mixed feelings have to do with a couple of things that could be construed as flaws, but mostly with my own personal feelings about the book. So, let’s get to it.

More Happy Than Not is without question a gripping, super readable book. Thanks to the sense I got of Aaron’s New York and the realistic dialogue, even the scenes or sections where it seemed like not much was happening were still great to read. And when things began to pick up with the arrival of Thomas and strife within Aaron’s friend group, it became even harder to put the book down. The best parts of this book for me were the way the side characters and Aaron’s interactions with them really informed the plot and his character growth, without any of them ever being reduced to only the role they play in Aaron’s story. In fact, I felt like I wanted to read books about Genevieve, Thomas, Evangeline, Aaron’s brother and Aaron’s mother, since they all so clearly had their own stories.  But this was Aaron’s story, and as in real life, it was his interactions with these people around him that really drove it.

There is an abrupt shift in the way the story moves forward about two thirds of the way through, and a development I found really unexpected towards the end, which I think is where my conflicted feelings come from. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – I haven’t made up my mind how I feel about these turns of events, but I do plan on re-reading this book down the road to try and make sense of what I think. And given that my standard for good books is usually whether or not I would re-read them, More Happy Than Not certainly passes that test with flying colors.

If you’re looking for a nearly realistic fiction book (the near-future/sci-fi element is so light it’s almost unnoticeable) that will make you think, an immersive experience into a tightly knit neighborhood and group of friends, a character-driven but still gripping novel or an exploration of some philosophical questions through a great narrative voice, More Happy Than Not is a book I would highly recommend. It’s sure to leave you with plenty to think about and lots of feelings.  And if you do read it, please come talk to me about it, because I’m dying to discuss this one!

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

If you’ve been by the library in the past couple of weeks, you may have noticed a small (or arguably big) change to my appearance. After nearly a month of agonizing (really) I cut off almost a foot of hair and went from braids and ponytails to a short pixie cut. Can you tell from the picture how nervous I was?

Hannah Before Cutting Her Hair Hannah After Cutting Her Hair
But! As much as this may seem like an excuse to brag about my new hairstyle (which I love) what I actually wanted to talk about was the decision making process. Because let me tell you, deciding to cut off that much slow-growing hair was not easy. And while this decision wasn’t as difficult as some of the ones you are facing right now (AP or honors classes, college choices, friendships and relationships, etc. etc.) it did make me think about how we make decisions. Here are some of the things that helped me make my decision:Research. I read about what are the best cuts for thin, fine hair like mine. I researched how long it would take for my hair to grow back. I read personal stories of people who had cut their long hair short and loved it (and some who hadn’t been happy with it.) I looked at hundreds of pictures of pixie cuts, and tried to find people whose facial shape was similar to mine. By the time I was heading to the solon (decision still un-made) I was armed with everything I could possibly need to know about what I wanted and how to take care of it. Feeling knowledgeable is a great way to make up your mind, and feel confident in whatever decision you make.

Analyze your reactions. This is harder than it seems. I was changing my mind every two hours for a couple of weeks, but things clarified a little when I thought about what I was feeling while I was leaning one way or the other. For instance, when I thought about getting the cut, I was mostly feeling excited. When I was leaning towards not getting my hair cut, I was mostly feeling scared. Now, sometimes listening to the fear response is a good thing (for instance, if you’re considering dropping out of school, trying heroin, and hitchhiking to California, being scared is probably a good thing and you should absolutely listen to that fear response.) But in this case, I was talking about hair. So it made a lot more sense to listen to the excited feeling instead of the scared feeling.

Keep in mind worst scenarios. I don’t mean this as a way of being pessimistic, but as a way to put your decision in perspective. For instance, in the drop-out, drugs, hitchhiking scenario, the worst case outcomes include death, prison, addiction, etc. – pretty bad stuff. In the hair-cutting scenario, the worst case outcomes include…a not-so-great haircut for a few months until it starts to grow back. Which is really not so bad.

Flip a coin. Really. I did this right before I went into the salon. Not that you have to do what the coin flip says. But flip a coin, see what the result is and go with your gut. If the coin says “yes” to the haircut/college/class/relationship and your gut clenches and you’re disappointed, then don’t go with that decision. If the coin says “yes” to the haircut/college/class/relationship and you start to smile and get excited, then go with that decision! Coin flips, magic 8 balls or other randomized decision makers can sometimes be the best way of getting right to the heart of the matter and figuring out what you really want amidst all the noise of overthinking.

So whether or not you are considering a dramatic haircut, what college to go to or even what book you read next, I hope some of these steps that helped me make a small but hard decision might help you too!

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Throwbacks

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros Book CoverI don’t know about you, but I have a hard time keeping up with all the great new books coming out. I read reviews as part of my job, so I’m always learning about books being published that immediately go on my “to be read” list, and even though I’ll never catch up, I valiantly keep trying. It would be so easy to make it a decade or more without reading anything older than a few months or years. But things are always slipping through the cracks, and if I only read brand new books, I’d miss out on a lot of older titles.

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer Book CoverYou all may not have quite the same problem, since I’m guessing you aren’t reading book reviews by the dozen, but there’s still a lot of hype and buzz around new books. Plus (and I don’t mean this in a bad way) you’re young. A lot of great young adult books were published while you were still too young to read them, or even hear about them. Heck, Twilight was published over 10 years ago! And while that one is still popular, there are many more wonderful books that were published around the same time or before then that have faded out of our consciousness. They don’t fade because they’re not good, just because they’re old. And that doesn’t seem quite fair to me.

Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac Book CoverSo this month’s display, Throwbacks, is dedicated to all those older YA titles that can be every bit as good as the newer ones, but that maybe you haven’t heard of or had a chance to read. Stop by this month to find out what you’ve been missing. Whether it’s the classic Forever by Judy Blume, a book you might have missed when it was assigned like The House on Mango Street, or an exciting adventure that you may never have heard of like Code Talker, you’ll find all kinds of books in our display. You might reconnect with some old favorites while you’re at it – several of Sarah Dessen’s novels were written over ten years ago, and the much-acclaimed Walter Dean Myers wrote plenty of his best work well before the last few years. So this spring, find a comfortable place to enjoy that warm weather and get a blast from the past with one of our YA Throwbacks.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

What I Just Read – X: A Novel

By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

X by Kekla Magoon and Ilyasah Shabazz Book CoverIt’s been a while since I wrote about what I’ve been reading, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some great books in my life over the past few weeks. Today’s What I Just Read was not only a great read, it had the added bonus of being a really fantastic audiobook.

What I Just Read: X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon

What’s It About (Jacket Description): I am Malcolm. I am my father’s son. But to be my father’s son means that they will always come for me. They will always come for me, and I will always succumb.

Malcolm Little’s parents have always told him that he can achieve anything, but from what he can tell, that’s nothing but a pack of lies—after all, his father’s been murdered, his mother’s been taken away, and his dreams of becoming a lawyer have gotten him laughed out of school. There’s no point in trying, he figures, and lured by the nightlife of Boston and New York, he escapes into a world of fancy suits, jazz, girls and reefer.

But Malcolm’s efforts to leave the past behind lead him into increasingly dangerous territory when what starts as some small-time hustling quickly spins out of control. Deep down, he knows that the freedom he’s found is only an illusion—and that he can’t run forever.

X follows Malcolm from his childhood to his imprisonment for theft at age twenty, when he found the faith that would lead him to forge a new path and command a voice that still resonates today.

Do I Like It: Yes!

Thoughts:  I admit, when I was assigned chapters from The Autobiography of Malcolm X in college, I skimmed them and then mostly forgot about him. I didn’t know much about Malcolm X, aside from the fact that he was a famous activist who found direction in prison, until I picked up X: A Novel. I certainly didn’t know anything about his life before prison, which is the focus of this novel. But after reading some rave reviews, and realizing that Ilyasah Shabazz is one of his daughters, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this novel, and it did not disappoint.

X: A Novel was immersive right from the start – the very first line plunged me right into the middle of Malcolm’s life: “Friends tell me trouble’s coming. I ease out of the restaurant onto the sidewalk, gun in my pocket.” And it just kept going from there. From his family and upbringing in Lansing, Michigan, to the jazz clubs of Harlem, I couldn’t get enough of the atmosphere and feel of the 1940s, especially the parts of that era that I’d never known much about. But even more than that, I was fascinated to learn more about Malcolm X. The great thing about historical novels like this one is that I got the feel of a novel and fiction, but most of what I learned about the person was accurate (seriously – there was a phenomenal author’s note at the end that really outlined what was real, what wasn’t, and why those changes had been made.) As he appears in this novel, Malcolm was an arrogant, brilliant, angry and charismatic man. Those traits, which later led him to become a powerful civil rights leader and activist, also led him to be a successful hustler and petty thief, immersed in the seedier parts of Boston and Harlem.

Hearing about Malcolm making bad choice after bad choice could have been almost painful. But it was so clear from the book why he was doing destructive things, what the appeal was, and how he was using these choices to distract himself from his own anger and grief and the injustices around him. And knowing all that made it understandable and relatable to read about, even as I was shaking my head at his decisions. Watching Malcolm grow and mature almost in spite of himself was almost as much fun as discovering everything that made him so remarkable. I never got tired of hearing what he was up to next, about his interactions with the people around him, and about the loyalty to his family and sense of injustice that he never could erase, no matter how much he tried.

X was a wonderful novel as historical fiction, as an immersive look at a time and place, and as a character study of a fascinating, frustrating and ultimately incredible man. How much did I love it? Well, I just checked out The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and I can’t wait to dive in.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

The College Search

By: Britta J., Teen Blogger

As part of the junior class this year, I can definitely feel all the pressure suddenly put on us to start looking at colleges and preparing for all the standardized tests we’ll have to take. It can be really stressful, especially if you’re not sure where to start, or if you have no idea what you want to do in the future. If you are in that boat, don’t worry! A lot of people are. But here are some tips I’ve gotten so far that have really helped me prepare for finding the right school:

School size

There are some schools with less students than my high school and some that are bigger than my town. Just knowing if you’ll be successful in a smaller or larger school, or somewhere in between, can help narrow down your options. You should also pay attention to the campus surroundings; whether a school is in an urban, suburban or rural environment can also be a big factor in how big it actually feels.

Location

Some students want to go to a school that is across a country, while others want to stay in state. If you have some idea of the distance you want from home, or any specific location you like or dislike, you can focus your search on colleges in that area where you’ll be most comfortable.

Majors

If you are definitely an Engineering major, maybe a small liberal arts school isn’t for you. When researching colleges, look into what majors they have, how easy it is to change majors, and how big their programs are for the subject of your choice. Also, pay attention to statistics like class size and student to faculty ratio to get a good feel of their academic environment.

Cost

If you are at the same stage as me when looking for colleges don’t limit your search by cost. College is expensive, but the “sticker price” that they present is often not what you will have to pay. There are scholarships and financial aid that you don’t even know exist that you could qualify for, so don’t rule any schools out because of cost just yet. Also, keep in mind that just because a school is in state, it is not necessarily cheaper than other out of state schools.

Out of the 4,000 colleges and universities in America alone, there is definitely a school where you can be successful and happy. There are also some great resources to help you look. At www.collegeboard.org, there is an extensive search system that makes it easy to find colleges that match your requirements, from religious affiliations to whether cars are allowed for freshmen on campus. My school uses Naviance, which is also extremely helpful in finding colleges and even provides data about the amount of students from your school who applied, were accepted and who attended each college. Finding the right school can be intimidating but there are a lot of resources that can help you along the way. Good luck!

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

We’re Listening!

By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

Young Girl Doing Homework With FriendsAs you may know, GEPL has a wonderful Teen Leadership Council (TLC) that meets monthly, helps out with events and planning and gives us an actual teen perspective on our programs and services. One of the most important things they do is help us to learn what you all want from your library.

They aren’t the only way we get this feedback – we also talk to your teachers, talk to you as much as possible, take book requests and use program feedback forms to find out more. It’s still hard, but as much as possible, we want to know what you really think about your library, and hear what you really want from us.

Over the course of the last few months, we’ve heard one thing over and over. Apparently, you love our Homework Café program! If you’re not familiar with Homework Café, it’s pretty simple: after school on certain days we serve coffee and hot chocolate in our Teen Scene Room while you do your homework. Simple, yes, but we like to think the hot drinks help with studying, and it’s our way of telling you we’re glad you’re here.

So when I asked TLC members about what we could best do to serve teenagers, more than one of them suggested expanding our Homework Café program, and they weren’t the only ones saying it – we heard it on feedback and comment forms too. Well, I’m here to tell you that we’ve heard enough! We’re expanding Homework Café to twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, to give you more of what you asked for!

I know it’s just one small change – a twice a week program instead of once a week – but we hope that making this change will encourage you to tell us more! Tell us about programs you want, books you’d like to read, things the library could bring to your class or club or life. You can call me at 630-790-6748 or email me any time with suggestions, feedback and more. I promise you, we’re listening.

And even if you don’t have any other ideas you want to share, we still want you to stop by on a Tuesday or Thursday after school and enjoy some hot chocolate while you do your homework.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Mortal Instruments Has Returned to the Screen – Time to Cringe or Fangirl?

By: Ashley H., Teen Blogger

Shadow Hunters TV Show PosterYour favorite book is being turned into a movie or TV show. Your reaction will probably be between 😭 and 😡. Most of us in a book fandom haven’t found a movie adaption that has lived up to our expectations. The director either totally changed the plot, added in unneeded romance, created a new character or, fandoms forbid, deleted your favorite character so they never existed!

So when I learned that The Mortal Instruments was getting rebooted after its movie flop I was a little wary. But It looks like I had nothing to worry about! The TV show, called Shadowhunters, is one of my new favorites and it seems that most of the fandom agrees with me. The show is airing on Freeform (formerly ABC Family) is produced by McG (Supernatural and The Duff) and had the creative input by the big kahuna herself, Cassandra Clare!

With the big names and the influence of Cassie I had pretty high hopes for the show. When I watched the premier I was glad that it did NOT disappoint. Though the show did change a few details like Clary and Simon being in college and making Luke a cop, I thought that it kept the characters true to themselves and the whole mystical and even gruesome feel that is the Shadow World. The changes kept me, who loves and has read the Mortal Instruments more times than I can count, on my toes! I even found myself fangirling over the tiniest details in the show that I knew were part of the original book series. Though I can see why some book lovers do not like the TV show for the same reasons why I love it, I do believe that the overall fandom loves the show and has grown even larger because of it.

I can honestly tell you that I have not missed a single episode and love how on every Tuesday night the cast and crew bring to life my favorite shadowhunters, downworlders and even mundanes.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Full STEAM Ahead

STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art Math) Header

By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

If you’ve been by the library recently, you may have heard or seen something about our 3rd annual S.T.E.A.M. Fair, going on tomorrow. If you haven’t, or aren’t sure what that is, here’s the quick version: organizations from all over Illinois will be bringing in activities and exhibits relating in some way to science, technology, engineering, arts and math; and we’ll be showing off some of the library resources as well. The whole library will be all STEAM from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm, and hundreds of people will show up to see everything.

But, I know many of you may be thinking: “man, that sounds an awful lot like school and not what I want to be doing on my weekend” or “isn’t that for kids?”  And yes, there is quite a bit of educational content, and yes, there will be a lot of kids around. But there’s plenty of stuff that’s fun for teens and adults as well, and I promise that if you really want to avoid the educational stuff, you can. Here’s a few things that might make it worth your while to stop by tomorrow!

The Elgin Paranormal Investigators will be showing the technology they use to investigate and review claims of paranormal activity. Yes, this does mean there will be ghost hunters at the STEAM Fair.

The NASA Solar System Ambassadors Program (SSA) will be here to talk about the solar system and space exploration missions from NASA. And if Neil DeGrasse Tyson has taught us anything, it’s that space is awesome.

Kids Watching the Making of Ice Cream with Liquid NitrogenChemical Reaction: A Chemistry Magic Show (10:30, 12:30 and 2:30) is pretty much exactly what’s on the box. Magic, but with science. This may sound like it’s aimed at kids (I’ll admit, the kids are pretty amazed) but it’s a super fun show for everyone. Also, if you’re under 18, you’ll need a parent signature to attend, and anything that requires a waiver has to have a certain cool factor, right?

ChiBots-Chicago Area Robotics will have robots. I mean, I could say more, but I don’t think it’s necessary, because robots.

GEPL’s Digital Media Lab will be on display, and we’ll be highlighting our green screen. You’ll be able to take a picture and choose a background, or record a video talking about how great the library is (because we are great…right? Right?)

These are just a few of the displays, exhibits and activities that will be at the library tomorrow – we have a total of 17 different exhibitors. Even if you don’t want to make a day of it, you should definitely stop by and see what all the fuss is about!

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School