The Teen Scene: GEPL High School Blog

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

Pros and Cons of AP Classes

By: Britta J., Teen Blogger

You Mean To Tell Me You Studied All Year And Didn't Take the AP Test?It’s that time of year! AP test registration time! I know that most of us AP students are pretty pumped about taking multiple 3-hour long tests, which could decide our future academic paths, in the middle of May. But, for those of you who aren’t completely sold, or don’t know what AP classes really are, here’s a breakdown of the whole AP situation.

AP stands for Advanced Placement, and consists of year-long classes and a cumulative test that is administered and regulated by College Board, the institution that also administers the PSAT and SAT tests your junior year. Of course, support for the AP program is varied, so here is a good old-fashioned pros and cons list on the topic (my favorite way to deal with complex subjects):

Pros:

  • AP classes often are taught with the best resources and teachers, so if you take an AP class it will likely be of high quality
  • AP classes often create a challenging environment sought by academically ambitious students
  • On a 1-5 scale, if a student gets a 3 or higher they could possibly receive college credit for their class, or test out of introductory courses in college
  • If a student scores a 3 or higher on an AP class, they will definitely receive college credit if they attend any public college in Illinois
  • Even if students don’t score well on the AP test, the class is still is great preparation for future college courses
  • There are programs that can help pay for the AP tests if you are financially incapable
  • AP classes are a great way to challenge yourself in subjects you find interesting

Cons:

  • Like I said above, AP classes are taught with the best resources and by the best teachers, creating an exclusive environment that could limit the opportunities of other students
  • Many colleges don’t accept AP credits anymore, which is slightly aggravating, if you’ve worked hard for an entire year to earn the credit
  • The College Board has some fishy financial records. Americans for Educational Testing Reform’s “report card” on the College Board awarded them a grade of D and cited numerous “areas of misconduct” by the College Board
  • This relates to the above point. Each test is 89 dollars. Add that up a few times for the average AP kid, and you’ve got a hefty sum
  • When schools push the AP curriculum on students so much, students often end up in classes that are too difficult for them, or in too many challenging classes, and the result is stressed out, sleep deprived teenagers (who are no fun)

So those are some basic arguments for and against AP classes. I am currently registered to take 5 AP tests this year. I love the classes I’m taking, find them very interesting, and plan to use them to further my college education. But I also rarely have free time to pursue projects I want to, and am currently running on 5 hours of sleep. There’s a balance you have to maintain regarding AP classes, so my advice is this: If you have already taken the AP class, register for the test, you might as well take your chances.

If you don’t know whether to enroll in an AP class, make sure it’s about a subject you’re actually interested in, and make sure you have the time to also have a life outside of school (I tried it once, it was pretty nice). But most of all, choose the class that you think will most benefit your overall education. That maybe an AP class, and it may not. Either way, remember that in high school, you’re just getting started. Don’t burn out just yet.

Yours truly,

– An AP student in a slight existential crisis

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

YA Audiobooks

By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

The Young Elites by Marie Lu Audiobook CoverAs many of you already know, I have a long commute. I spend at least an hour, often more, each way to and from work here at the library. A lot of times when people hear this, I get some variation of the question “How do you stand it?” There are a few answers, of course, including the fact that I love my job, and I love where I live, so it’s worth it. But there’s one huge factor that really makes the commute better – audiobooks!

I spend the vast majority of the time in my car listening to audiobooks, and they don’t just make my commute alright, they often make it really fun. And I’m here to tell you that even if you don’t spend hours and hours every week in a car, you should still pick up an audiobook every now and then. We’ve just purchased a whole bunch of young adult audiobooks here at the library, so you can find a great selection of great YA books on CD all in one place. Not feeling the CDs? Try using one of our ebook and eaudiobook apps like Hoopla or Overdrive on your phone. And as for why you should go through all this?

Unwind by Neal Shusterman Audiobook CoverHere’s three reasons to add audiobooks to your reading repertoire:

They allow you to multitask. Now, I’m not saying you’ll be able to do homework while you listen – you’ll definitely lose concentration on one or the other if you try. But audiobooks are great while you’re cleaning, walking, running, or doing anything that doesn’t require a ton of mental effort. They can even be good for some of your hobbies. I know a professional photographer who listens to audiobooks while he edits photos, and they can make a great background for while you’re doing things like cooking, art, crafting, coloring, etc.

They bring something new to the reading experience. Some books I really love I’ve both read physically and listened to on audiobook, and it’s amazing how many things I caught on the audio that I missed reading. Whether it’s nuances of phrasing or tone, details that I catch when I’m forced to slow down and comprehend every word, or just a different interpretation of a character, listening to a book can sometimes be a totally different experience than reading it. But don’t worry – it still counts as reading!

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell Audiobook CoverThe narrators! Sometimes, audiobooks are narrated by celebrities we love, like Lin-Manuel Miranda reading Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, or the range of celebrities including Mae Whitman and Sophie Turner who narrate Cassandra Clare’s books, or Jesse Eisenberg’s rendition of White Cat by Holly Black. You can also find celebrities narrating their own books, like Tyler Oakley’s Binge or Mindy Kaling reading her essays in Why Not Me? And even when the narrators aren’t celebrities, they can make an audiobook something spectacular. Two different narrators give each section a unique feel in Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Rebecca Soler does a wonderful job with each entry in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, and an entire cast brings The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman to life.

So next time you’re at the library, peruse our selection of YA audiobooks to find a new great listen, or ask at the information desk about eaudiobooks. Speaking from personal experience, listening to a book can add something special to your reading life!

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

GEPL Teens: Women’s History Month

Teens Blog Orange Banner

By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

Yes, we understand – you get history all the time in classes, on TV, and even these days, on Broadway (see a previous blog entry on the smash hit Hamilton.) But there’s a reason for the ubiquity of history in our world. It’s full of exciting, moving stories, not to mention connections to our current world and foreshadowing of events happening and that might happen in our future. History is what our civilization is based on, and that makes it great for learning, watching, and of course, reading!

Women's History Month Image With Rosie the RiveterWomen’s History Month specifically celebrates the contribution women have made to history. Women have been often-overlooked driving forces in our country’s history and the history of the world, contributing to everything from science to religion to politics to war. So this March, celebrate women’s history by reading some historical fiction (and maybe a little non-fiction!) centered on the famous and not-so-famous, the real and not-so-real, women who helped shape our world.

If you’ve always been fascinated by World War II, pick up one of Elizabeth Wein’s stunning books, Code Name Verity or Rose Under Fire. Prefer your history tinged with mythology? Check out The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. If you love a good friendship and adventure story, or are just a fan of the Oregon Trail games, you’ll enjoy Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee. If you’re usually more into magic or the supernatural, you can find a combination of both fantasy and history in Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger.

Graphic novel fans can find history and stunning artwork combined in Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang. Ready for a heart-wrenching love story and a good cry centered around a historical event? Printz Honor book Out of Darkness might be for you. Whether you want a good mystery like A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee, a look at the early history of our country like Copper Sun by Sharon Draper, or an early 20th century drama like Cinders & Sapphires, our Women’s History Month display is sure to have something for every reader.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

GEPL Teens: Abe Lincoln Awards

Teens Blog Orange Banner

By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

Abraham Lincoln Illinois High School Book Award LogoIf you’re a reader, you may remember voting for the Bluestem and Caudill awards as an elementary or middle school student. If you don’t remember, here’s a quick primer: these awards are given by the Illinois School Library Media Association (ISLMA) to authors of great books, based on votes from students around the state. It’s a great way to get kids actually involved in choosing what books win awards and accolades.

What you may not remember, or may never have known, is that there is a similar ISLMA award based on votes from high school students – the Abraham Lincoln Award. Like the other ISLMA awards, the Abe Lincoln Award is given to the author of a book deemed the best, based on the votes of high school students. In order to vote, teens just need to have read four of the nominated titles (there are twenty nominees this year). Titles are nominated by teachers, librarians, and students, so the award is centered around high schools and high school students right from the start.

Why am I telling you all this? Because voting for the Abraham Lincoln Awards is going on now, and will end on March 15, and I want you all to vote! You still have time to read more, if you haven’t read quite enough to qualify – you can see all the nominees here. And you can vote by checking in with your high school librarian, or attending Abe’s Books in the Glenbard West library during PLC on March 14.

This of course leads me to Abe’s Books! Abe’s Books is a reading club sponsored by the library’s Teen Leadership Council and the Elliott Library at Glenbard West. Teens read and discuss the nominated books, and the year will culminate with a voting party on March 14 (yes, there will be snacks!) You can learn more about the awards and how to vote at the school here.

So what’s the takeaway from all this?

TL;DR: You can vote on which books win a big prestigious award! Just read four of the nominated titles (some of which you may already have read) and check in with your high school librarian. It’s that easy to give a book or author some love!

If you have any questions, check in with me (Hannah) at GEPL, or with one if your high school librarians. And, because you read this whole blog entry without getting one stupid joke or picture of a cute animal, I’ll conclude with a kitten cuddling with a fawn.

Cat Laying On Top of a Fawn

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

GEPL Teens: What I Just Read – None of the Above

Teens Blog Orange BannerBy: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio Book CoverI’m going to indulge myself a little today and talk about one more of my wonderful vacation reads from earlier this winter. There were so many good ones, I have to talk about at least one more!

What I Just Read: None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio

What’s It About (Jacket Description): What if everything you knew about yourself changed in an instant?

When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She’s a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she’s madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she’s decided that she’s ready to take things to the next level with him.

But Kristin’s first time isn’t the perfect moment she’s planned—something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy “parts.”

Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin’s entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?

Do I Like It: Enthusiastic yes!

Thoughts: None of the Above was an engaging, emotional read almost from the very start. Kristin was a very likeable, realistic protagonist. Sure, most of us aren’t scholarship-level athletes, but I could definitely relate with Kristin’s passion for her sport, her close relationship with her two best friends, and her relationship with her father, so she was easy to connect with right away. Despite being in her head, it took a little bit for her flaws to expose themselves, which was actually nice for me as a reader – I already liked her before I started seeing any reason why I shouldn’t. And don’t get me wrong, flaws and all, Kristin is still super likeable and relatable the whole book.

This was also a very emotional read though. In large part, this was because of Kristin’s struggle to figure out her identity and who she is after being blindsided by the truth about her body. But it was especially emotional after her secret gets revealed to her classmates. The bullying she experiences felt very visceral, and very real – there was nothing so extreme it wasn’t believable, which made Kristin’s pain all the more relatable, and the bullying all the more ugly. And because the bullying centered around something very new to Kristin as well, it just made her question herself even more, which was sad to see.

As usual for me, one of my favorite parts of the books was Kristin’s relationships to other people – particularly to Faith and Vee, her two best friends, and to her father. Each of these relationships is complicated in some way. With Faith and Vee, Kristin has to deal with the betrayal of one friend, and the inability of the other to help her in any meaningful way. But she is also tied to both of them by a long history and deep mutual affection, so watching them find their way through a difficult situation was really satisfying. And Kristin’s relationship with her father was everything it should be – complicated but loving, occasional difficult but usually a support system, and tinted with their shared grief over the death of Kristin’s mother. Kristin’s relationships weren’t always easy or simple, but they were all realistic, layered, and compelling to read about.

None of the Above was wonderful on any number of levels, and a great read for anyone trying to figure out who they are, anyone dealing with a sudden change in their lives, anyone who has been bullied, or anyone who enjoys a great, complex realistic fiction novel.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

GEPL Teens: African American History Month

By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

As you almost certainly know already, from school if nothing else, February is African American History Month. Now, if you’re anything like me, you know this month celebrates interesting, important, and often overlooked people and events in history. But if you’re anything like me, you also prefer reading novels to textbooks or lectures. Luckily for us, historical fiction exists! While of course these books are fiction, good historical fiction is always rooted in great research and real events, so it’s a wonderful way to learn a little while still immersing yourself in a good book. With that in mind, here’s a few of the many books you could read to help you celebrate African American History Month!

Copper Sun Copper Sun by Sharon Draper Book Coverby Sharon M. DraperStolen from her village, sold to the highest bidder, fifteen-year-old Amari has only one thing left of her own: hope.

Amari’s life was once perfect. Engaged to the handsomest man in her tribe, adored by her family, and living in a beautiful village, she could not have imagined everything could be taken away from her in an instant. But when slave traders invade her village and brutally murder her entire family, Amari finds herself dragged away to a slave ship headed to the Carolinas, where she is bought by a plantation owner and given to his son as a birthday present.

Survival seems all that Amari can hope for. But then an act of unimaginable cruelty provides her with an opportunity to escape, and with an indentured servant named Polly she flees to Fort Mose, Florida, in search of sanctuary at the Spanish colony. Can the elusive dream of freedom sustain Amari and Polly on their arduous journey, fraught with hardship and danger? (Description from Goodreads.com.)

Willow by Tonya Cherie Hegamin Book CoverWillow by Tonya Cherie HegaminIn 1848, an educated slave girl faces an inconceivable choice — between bondage and freedom, family and love.

On one side of the Mason-Dixon Line lives fifteen-year-old Willow, her master’s favorite servant. She’s been taught to read and has learned to write. She believes her master is good to her and fears the rebel slave runaways.

On the other side of the line is seventeen-year-old Cato, a black man, free born. It’s his personal mission to sneak as many fugitive slaves to freedom as he can. Willow’s and Cato’s lives are about to intersect, with life-changing consequences for both of them. Tonya Cherie Hegamin’s moving coming-of-age story is a poignant meditation on the many ways a person can be enslaved, and the force of will needed to be truly emancipated. (Description from Goodreads.com.)

X by Kekla Magoon and Ilyasah Shabazz Book Cover X by Kekla Magoon and Ilyasah ShabazzI 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. (Description from Goodreads.com.)

Invasion by Walter Dean Myers Invasion by Walter Dean Myers – Walter Dean Myers brilliantly renders the realities of World War II.

Josiah Wedgewood and Marcus Perry are on their way to an uncertain future. Their whole lives are ahead of them, yet at the same time, death’s whisper is everywhere.

One white, one black, these young men have nothing in common and everything in common as they approach an experience that will change them forever.

It’s May 1944. World War II is ramping up, and so are these young recruits, ready and eager. In small towns and big cities all over the globe, people are filled with fear. When Josiah and Marcus come together in what will be the greatest test of their lives, they learn hard lessons about race, friendship, and what it really means to fight. Set on the front lines of the Normandy invasion, this novel, rendered with heart-in-the-throat precision, is a cinematic masterpiece. Here we see the bold terror of war, and also the nuanced havoc that affects a young person’s psyche while living in a barrack, not knowing if today he will end up dead or alive.  (Description from Goodreads.com.)

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley Book Cover Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin TalleyIn 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept separate but equal.

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it. (Description from Goodreads.com.)

These books cover just a few moments in American history, but there are many more out there. Check out other books by these authors, or come by and ask a librarian if you need more good historical fiction suggestions this month!

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

GEPL Teens: What I Just Read – Ink and Ashes

Teens Blog Orange Banner

By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

Ink and Ashes by Valynne E. Maetani Book CoverI only just returned from a vacation, and being the book nerd I am, that means I read a lot over the past couple of weeks. I got through many great books, so you may be getting a few editions of What I Just Read in the next few weeks, but I wanted to start with my first vacation read, a super exciting and engaging mystery.

What I Just Read: Ink and Ashes by Valynne E. Maetani

What’s It About (Jacket Description): Claire Takata has never known much about her father, who passed away when she was a little girl. But on the anniversary of his death, not long before her seventeenth birthday, she finds a mysterious letter from her deceased father, addressed to her stepfather. Claire never even knew that they had met.

Claire knows she should let it go, but she can’t shake the feeling that something’s been kept from her. In search of answers, Claire combs through anything that will give her information about her father . . . until she discovers he was a member of the yakuza, the Japanese mafia. The discovery opens a door that should have been left closed.

So begins the race to outrun his legacy as the secrets of her father’s past threaten Claire’s friends and family, newfound love, and ultimately her life. Ink and Ashes, winner of Tu Books’ New Visions Award, is a heart-stopping debut mystery that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the very last page.

Do I Like It: I couldn’t put it down!

Thoughts: Ink and Ashes was the perfect book to read on an airplane, because from the moment the mystery began to appear in the first few chapters, I didn’t want to put it down. It kept me absorbed from take off until I finished it, and made me forget I was crammed in the middle seat next to two strangers while functioning on way less sleep than usual. But while the excitement and captivating nature of the book were definitely highlights, there was more to love beyond that as well.

Claire was a great main character, especially for a mystery. She was smart, ultra-curious, athletic, and sometimes made really dumb decisions (that of course just helped the plot thicken.) She was surrounded by supportive friends and family, and her concern and care for them heightened the stakes when things started to get ugly. I loved that she was flawed but strong and powerful, and her need to keep digging at a mystery was great for me as a reader, since I was dying to figure things out almost as much as she was. Another small element that I loved was the way Claire, who has mainly been friends with her brother and other guys her whole life, came to realize how much she valued her friendships with other women as well as with her group of guy friends.

Another element I liked was that a lot of what was going on was different from anything I’ve read before. I’ve never read or seen much involving organized crime, and I knew nothing about the yakuza going in to the story, so everything – from the significance of tattoos to the concepts of honor that govern the eventual climax – was new to me. It was fun to benefit from Claire’s knowledge, as well as to learn new things alongside her. It’s not like this book made me an expert on Japanese organized crime, but it was fascinating to get even a small glimpse into a world I knew nothing about before this book.

Overall, I think Ink and Ashes was a great, gripping mystery that was strong in both plot and character. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of Claire, her family, and her friends, but even if there is no sequel planned, I’ll be eagerly looking forward to whatever Maetani writes next!

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School