GEPL Teens Blog

GEPL Teens: World War II Historical Fiction

Teens Blog BannerLast time I discussed historical fiction on this blog, I specifically talked about how it sometimes seems like reading fantasy.  Well, today’s historical fiction list definitely does not feel like fantasy.  Perhaps it’s just because it’s a more recent period, or perhaps it is because as much as we might wish the events depicted were fantasy, we know they were not.  But either way, there is a lot of fantastic historical fiction about World War II that does an incredible job of bringing past events to modern readers, and helping us understand all the horrors and complexities of that war.  The list below highlights just a few of those books.

Blog Entry 97 - Image 1Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – Part spy novel, part action adventure, and entirely a powerful exploration of friendship and strength, Code Name Verity is a seriously outstanding book.  It starts with Queenie, a British spy, writing out her confession to the gestapo after she is captured in occupied France.  Knowing she only lives until her story is completed, she makes her confession a long tale of her friendship with her best friend, Maddie, a pilot ferrying planes around England.  The girls developed their friendship while working on the war effort, and maintained it throughout the years and as Maddie trained to be a spy.  The second part of the book is from Maddie’s perspective as she worries about her friend.  There are twists and turns, tons of historical info (especially about planes), and plenty of cry-worthy moments.  Seriously, this book is just so good.  It’s intense and powerful and captivating.  If you end up loving it as much as I do, you’ll want to check out Elizabeth Wein’s other World War II historical YA novel, Rose Under Fire (warning: both books will probably make you cry.)

Blog Entry 97 - Image 2The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – You’ve most likely heard of this one, especially with the recent movie adapted from the book.  But hearing about it and reading it are two different things.  The Book Thief tells the story of Liesl, a young girl living in Nazi Germany with a foster family.  It’s an interesting look at life for regular German people during a terrible time in the country’s past.  The book explores Liesl’s friendships, troubles, relationship with her foster family, and habit of stealing books.  Narrated by Death – an appropriate narrator for such a bleak period in history – this book is literary, beautiful, and completely heartbreaking.

Blog Entry 97 - Image 3Mare’s War by Tanita S. DavisMare’s War takes place in two time periods – the present time, when Octavia and Tali are on a much-dreaded road trip with their grandmother Mare, and during World War II.  As Octavia and Tali discover, there is more to their eccentric grandmother than meets the eye.  Mare recounts how as a teenager, she was determined to join the Women’s Army Corps during World War II.  To do this, she had to escape her life in the South and lie about her age.  As she tells Octavia and Tali the story of her experiences in the Women’s Army Corps, readers can follow along with Mare’s World War II story as well as Octavia and Tali’s story as they ride with their grandmother.

Blog Entry 97 - Image 4Tamar: A Novel of Espionage, Passion, and Betrayal by Mal Peet – Another book told in two time periods, Tamar tells the story of a granddaughter trying to learn more about her grandfather, and the story of two friends involved with the resistance in Holland during World War II.  After his death, Tamar receives coded messages from her grandfather (also named Tamar.)  She tries to follow up on his clues to learn the secrets of her grandfather’s past.  And during World War II, two young British spies in Holland desperately try to stay one step ahead of the gestapo, while at the same time navigating their friendship and a powerful romance.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Teens Write – Cool Kids

teens-blog-bannerBlog Entry 96 - ImageJust recently, while chilling out and listening to some tunes, I came across a song called Cool Kids by Echosmith. As guessed from the title, it acknowledges the difficulties of social life as a young adult.  As a high school student, this topic definitely applies to me. Every day, we struggle with feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt due to social status. Sure it’s not like Mean Girls where each lunch table is specifically divided into different cliques, but there are definitely groups one should be aware of.  Cool Kids addresses this struggle to be “popular” compared to self-identity.

Throughout the song, the kids who aspire to be cool kids are compared to the cool kids themselves. I greatly admire the message Echosmith is trying to send by reminding us that popularity does not give you everything you want, and it certainly won’t affect your future. At one point in the song, Echosmith admits that the cool kids “don’t know where they’re going” as opposed to someone who has a plan for his future but is still unhappy. These lyrics point out our illogical unhappiness when those of us who aren’t popular are still set up to become successful in life.

I appreciate this sentiment as I would like to have a career in medicine. To achieve this goal, I have to put a lot of effort into difficult school work and multiple extracurricular activities. This means that I won’t always be able to attend high school football games, or hang out with friends. Cool Kids reminds me that despite what my peers and social media might say, these decisions are good and will help me in the future.

In the chorus, the lyrics read “I wish that I could be like the cool kids because… they seem to fit in”. This brings up a largely debated topic. The main reason anyone would want to change themselves is to fit in. Recent studies have shown that teens would rather be part of a “lower” social group and fit in than maybe be seen as higher in the social hierarchy and have no social identity.

Cool Kids focuses on the innate human nature of wanting to fit in.  We are pressured to “be like the cool kids” because this promises fitting in. yet through hearing this song I understand that what is more important is finding one’s identity because then and only then can one know what they should do to be truly happy.

-Anonymous

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: What I’m Reading Now – Clariel

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 95 - ImageOne of the most exciting things about being librarian is that sometimes I luck out and get to read a hotly anticipated new release ahead of time.  This is always exciting, but when that new release is the prequel to an outstanding trilogy of fantasy novels, and the first new novel in that series to be released in over 10 years, the excitement is way intensified.  Which brings us to today’s What I’m Reading Now!

What I’m Reading Now: Clariel by Garth Nix (to be released on October 14, 2014 – but you can put it on hold at the library right away!)

What’s It About (Jacket Description): Sixteen-year-old Clariel is not adjusting well to her new life in the city of Belisaere, the capital of the Old Kingdom. She misses roaming freely within the forests of Estwael, and she feels trapped within the stone city walls. And in Belisaere she is forced to follow the plans, plots and demands of everyone, from her parents to her maid, to the sinister Guildmaster Kilip. Clariel can see her freedom slipping away. It seems too that the city itself is descending into chaos, as the ancient rules binding Abhorsen, King and Clayr appear to be disintegrating.

With the discovery of a dangerous Free Magic creature loose in the city, Clariel is given the chance both to prove her worth and make her escape. But events spin rapidly out of control. Clariel finds herself more trapped than ever, until help comes from an unlikely source. But the help comes at a terrible cost. Clariel must question the motivations and secret hearts of everyone around her – and it is herself she must question most of all.

Do I Like It: I think I actually like it better than the original Abhorsen trilogy!

Thoughts: First, a disclaimer: although I will talk about this book in the context of a series, it is also completely functional as a stand-alone.  You don’t have to have read anything else by Garth Nix to understand and enjoy this book!

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from ClarielSabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen were fantastic books, and a wonderful trilogy.  But when I actually read them, Sabriel never quite grabbed me the same way some fantasy books do, though the next two (Lirael in particular) did absorb me.  But with that Sabriel experience of knowing I was reading a fantastic book and just never quite being able to get into it the way I wanted to, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about Clariel.

Lucky for me, I am loving it.  I’m enjoying re-entering the world of the Old Kingdom, and re-discovering the fascinating system of intertwined magic and politics that rules the kingdom.  Not only that, but Clariel is one heck of an interesting character.  She is one of the most distinctive protagonists I have ever read about, and I really mean that.  She is seriously antisocial, seriously uninterested in romance, and seriously single-minded.  She knows what she wants, and the pull she feels towards it seems almost magical (and I’m still not even halfway through the book, so for all I know, it is magical!)  She’s got an intensely destructive temper, but she is also laudably independent and self-sufficient.  Her parents won’t support her goals, so she begins to figure out other ways to achieve them.  She feels no compulsion to make friends or start romances, and sticks to her guns despite outside pressure.  She understands and even respects her parents without bowing to their wishes when they go against her own sense of self.  She is utterly unique and completely compelling, and I love her.

The plot has just started to pick up a lot where I’m at, and even if Clariel doesn’t care what’s going on politically, I do.  I can’t wait to see where the story goes and what happens, and find out more about Clariel, free magic, and what the heck is going on in Belisaere.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Teens Write – The Power of Literature

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 94 - ImageAs was noted everywhere from this blog to Buzzfeed quizzes, Banned book week was observed in September. While I could spout all the fun facts I learned about challenged works, I find myself reflecting further on the power of literature more than the books themselves. What is it about literature that causes people not just to take offense but even to curtail first amendment rights?

I’ve read a few articles that actually describe this very phenomenon of books and reading teaching and inspiring, in addition to just offending. One blogger on Reeder Reads recounts how the Harry Potter series taught her lessons from the power of a name to the true depth of evil. This is what most consider a children’s series, but it, like countless other tales, stirs the soul. This is literature.

An essay from David Toscana in Mexico expresses similar sentiments. “Books,” he says, “give people ambitions, expectations, a sense of dignity.” In fact, his entire argument is that the reason the Mexican economy suffers is that people don’t read enough. Maybe if all Mexican people read more, he posits, they would more often pursue higher education and build careers instead of seeking dead-end jobs, like the dishwashers he mentions. Basically, if the people of a single nation would all read more real books as opposed to just newspapers or street signs, the country would improve socially and economically.

Isn’t that crazy? A story can teach a lifetime of experiences, and the act of reading a book can cause the growth of not only the people of a country, but of the nation itself. I find this really amazing; words on a page tell a story, and that story incites emotion and action. So, take a page from Toscana’s and Reeder’s books (haha, wordplay) and read some literature – be inspired.

-Rafaela

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Celebrating Fall

Teens Blog BannerAlthough some of the unseasonably warm weather recently would have you believe otherwise, fall is upon us (as proven by yesterday’s cold snap!).  You’ve all been back in school for several weeks, the leaves are starting to turn, and there have already been quite a few boots-and-scarves days.  I don’t know about you, but I love fall, so this is all good news for me!  And now that it’s fall, my books are accompanied by hot tea and blankets, instead of cold lemonade and warm summer sun.  And since there’s nothing like reading a seasonally appropriate book with seasonally appropriate comforts, I thought I would share a few books set in the fall to help everyone get into the joys of autumn!

Blog Entry 93 - Image 1The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater – Not only is The Scorpio Races set in the fall, it has one of the most memorable seasonally-based opening lines ever: “It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.”  Set on the cold, atmospheric island of Thisby during a bleak fall, The Scorpio Races is practically begging you to get into a big, warm, comfy sweater, make a nice hot cup of something to drink, and immerse yourself in the characters, the excitement, and the season.

Blog Entry 93 - Image 2The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling – Admittedly, each of these books take place over the course of a whole year, and they typically start in summer.  But plenty of the most memorable scenes – the troll in the dungeon, Harry’s first Triwizard Tournament task, Hagrid’s oh-so-memorable hippogriff lesson – take place in the fall.  Plus, as far as I’m concerned, any excuse to read Harry Potter is a good one, and autumn seems like as good a reason as any!

Blog Entry 93 - Image 3To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han – This sweet, romantic novel takes place over the course of a fall semester.  Lara Jean misses her sister, who is starting college abroad, and is trying to find her own place in school and at home without her big sister.  Although the season is less important in terms of weather, the start of the school year is an important factor in this book.  And Lara Jean’s baking will certainly leave you wanting your own warm cookies to complement the cool weather.

Blog Entry 93 - Image 4In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters – This is another book where the weather is the less important part of the fall season – in fact, since In the Shadow of Blackbirds is set in San Diego, the fall weather is almost non-existent.  But the fall of 1918 was an important season for everyone in the United States, as World War I raged in Europe, and a Spanish influenza epidemic ravaged the population at home.  It is during this difficult autumn that Mary Shelley Black must deal with love and loss, all while questioning her own beliefs about what is and is not real.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Teens Review – The Future of Us

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 92 - ImageReviewer: Sabrina

Book Title: The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

Description: It’s 1996, and Josh and Emma have been neighbors their whole lives. They’ve been best friends almost as long – at least, up until last November, when Josh did something that changed everything. Things have been weird between them ever since, but when Josh’s family gets a free AOL CD in the mail, his mom makes him bring it over so that Emma can install it on her new computer. When they sign on, they’re automatically logged onto their Facebook pages. But Facebook hasn’t been invented yet. And they’re looking at themselves fifteen years in the future.

By refreshing their pages, they learn that making different decisions now will affect the outcome of their lives later. And as they grapple with the ups and downs of what their futures hold, they’re forced to confront what they’re doing right – and wrong – in the present. (Description from Goodreads.com)

Review: The Future of Us is about two best friends Emma and Josh in 1996. Emma is given an AOL CD-ROM to use on her computer and she signs in to the program really excited. When she logs in, she finds a page that says Facebook, which is a new concept for her because Facebook hasn’t been invented yet. This page sends her to her life in 15 years and she thinks that this is all a joke. She shows Josh all the Facebook pages and they both determine this is no joke. They find that every little thing they do, changes how their future turns out on Facebook. It shows their future houses, kids, who they’re married to, and their career. Each day their future looks different on Facebook because of what they did in their lives every day. Aside from all this, there’s a story playing. The story about the friendship between both Josh and Emma and their friendships with other peers.

The Future Of Us has love in it which is shown through the Facebook pages. There’s also little struggles that teenagers faced in the 90s and struggles that are still faced by teens now. It’s little things that teens face no matter what age it is. This book has a concept that a lot of us would like in our lives. Everyone would love to see how their future turns out. Both Emma and Josh try to figure out their future identity by exploring and experimenting things in their own time. The story is told in two perspectives, Josh and Emma. It’s cool and unique but it’s confusing to read sometimes. The book is pretty intriguing but it’s a little weird and confusing if you weren’t alive during that time. There’s a few references to that time but other than that it’s a really fast paced book and it’s a pretty easy read. It has a very interesting story line that’s very creative. Reading this book will make you realize that your actions have consequences. I would recommend this book as easy reading; not the most incredible book in my opinion but still good.

-Sabrina

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Banned Book Mugshots

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 91 - ImageLast week, we talked a little on this blog about Banned Books Week, and public libraries’ commitment to ensuring everyone has access to information and books.  This week, we’re doing something a little different to recognize Banned Books Week and celebrate First Amendment freedoms – we’re inviting you to the library to get a “mugshot” taken with a banned book.

Chances are you have read at least one banned or challenged book in your lifetime.  So at GEPL, we’re inviting adults and teens to come to the second floor information desk to get a “mugshot” taken with a banned book.  Choose the banned book you’ve read, or your favorite if there are several, or one you want to check out and decide about for yourself, and we’ll take a picture to display on our second floor.

And in case you were wondering, the image is the cover of one of my favorite books of all time – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  That’s just one of the many banned books we have here, so feel free to grab a library copy of your choice for a photo when you come by.  I’m looking forward to seeing what banned books you’ve taken the time to decide on for yourselves!

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Banned Books

Teens Blog BannerOnce again, it’s time for a new display in the Teen Scene to highlight a new set of books.  And because September is when the American Library Association celebrates Banned Books Week (September 21-27), this month’s display is showcasing some of the books that have been challenged and banned over the years.

Blog Entry 90 - Image 2The American Library Association and libraries all over the country are defenders of First Amendment free speech rights.  This means that while everyone can probably find something in the library that offends them, it all stays on the shelves so that readers can make their own judgments.  We don’t defend or condemn content, we just make sure that everyone has access to books and information and can make their own decisions.  Banned Books week is a time when the American Library Association, libraries, and booksellers can celebrate their commitment to the First Amendment and access to information.

Books are challenged and banned for a variety of reasons.  According to the American Library Association, here are some books that have been challenged or banned by schools and other organizations in the United States, and the reasons these books have been challenged:

  • The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling – Most challenged book(s) in 2001 and 2002, on the basis of anti-family content, occult/Satanism, religious viewpoint, and violence.
  • The Captain Underpants Series by Dav Pilkey– Most challenged books(s) in 2012 and 2013, on the basis of Offensive language, unsuitability for age group, and violence.
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain – Challenged on the basis of offensive language.
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson – Challenged on the basis of occult/Satanism, offensive language, and violence.
  • The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer – Challenged on the basis of religious viewpoint, sexual content, and unsuitability for age group.
  • The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins – Challenged on the basis of sexual content, unsuitability for age group, and violence.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Challenged on the basis of offensive language and racism.
  • The TTYL Series by Lauren Myracle – Challenged on the basis of offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexual content, and unsuitability for age group.
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck – Challenged on the basis of offensive language, racism, unsuitability for age group, and violence.
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger – Challenged on the basis of offensive language, sexual content, and unsuitability for age group.

This is just a small sample of books that haveBlog Entry 90 - Image 1 been challenged or banned since 2001, according to the American Library Association.  The thing about banned or challenged books is that, in many cases, reading those books is not the right choice for a child, a teenager, or a family.  But fortunately, we live in a country where families are trusted to make their own decisions about what suitable reading material is, and a country where all these books stay on the shelves of public libraries so anyone can read them.

So this month, pick up a banned or challenged book (discuss it with a parent or librarian if you’re concerned about content), remember that libraries are here to provide access to information for everyone, and decide for yourself what you think of these banned books.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Teens Write – Books Are for Everyone

Teens Blog BannerThe Slate Book Review recently wrote an article by Ruth Graham on how adults should be ashamed about reading books written for teenagers. These types of books include realistic fiction such as the well favored novels The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park. However I disagree with this judgmental article, and the author seems to be the wannabe dictator of books. Last time I walked into a library, there were no gates blocking off different sections in the library.

Blog Entry 89 - Image 1A quote from the article reads: “But the YA and ‘new adult’ boom may mean fewer teens aspire to grown-up reading, because the grown-ups they know are reading their books.” Honestly, books are meant for your pure enjoyment. Coming from a teen, I don’t care who reads what novels and how old they are because it really doesn’t matter. Why should it? I think the adults lashing out using this ridiculous argument are just getting grouchy from reading too much of their so sophisticated and realistic adult books. Why are some adults angered by other adults reading young adult novels when grown-ups are the ones who write these books!

“I’m surrounded by YA-loving adults, both in real life and online. Today’s YA, we are constantly reminded, is worldly and adult-worthy. That has kept me bashful about expressing my own fuddy-duddy opinion: Adults should feel embarrassed about reading literature written for children.” -Ruth Graham

First of all Mr. Graham, there is a difference between childrenBlog Entry 89 - Image 2 and young adults. Young adults are teens that have progressively begun to mature into an adult, whereas children are still in their content little world. Literature written for children would be The Cat in the Hat or The Magic School Bus.

Why should adults feel the need to be embarrassed by what they read? Does this mean that once you grow up and become a woman/man that you can never again entertain yourself with sprightful tales that remind people of their youthful days? There is no age limit on books. Some adults might find some novels fitting their age boring or old. Reading YA books can transform the oldest man into the young boy that he once was and captivate the minds of any age. As Chili Davis once said: ” Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.”

-Geraldine

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Teens Review – The Giver, Book to Movie

teens-blog-bannerRecently, I went to see The Giver and shortly after, read the book. Both were very different in many ways. Yet, both were very amazing and enjoyable works of art.

The Giver is a thought provoking movie with cool visual arts, a great cast and questioning themes. However, did it stick very close to the book? Unfortunately, no. But before you cross the movie off your list, let me tell you these differences and why I think the movie was still pretty decent.

Blog Entry 88 - Image 1In Lois Lowry’s The Giver, the book takes place in a dystopian community where 12 year old Jonas is growing up in a world of “Sameness.” Everyone is completely and totally equal and the world is in black and white, void of emotions. Each year there are ceremonies to celebrate the lives of children. For some examples, there is the Newborn ceremony where babies are assigned to families. When you are Nine you receive a bike, when you are Twelve, you are assigned a job. Jonas’ friend Asher is goofy and fun, assigned to work in the Recreation center, while his quiet and polite friend, Fiona, is assigned to work with the Elderly. Jonas is assigned to be the Receiver of memories, where he is given old memories of the world before this community by an old man called the Giver. He begins to experience a world of color, emotions and liveliness, along with cruelty and war.

The movie takes place in a similar black and white setting, but the characters and story are slightly changed. There are less ceremonies, and the ages of the characters are raised from 12 to 18. This slightly frustrated me, because I felt one of the central themes of the book was the fact that Blog Entry 88 - Image 2Jonas was just a child. There is also a love story in the movie centered around Jonas and Fiona. At first this did slightly bother me as well, in a world where there is no emotions and the characters are only supposed to be 12, it’s not like a love story is even practical. I do understand why the directors did it: these days it feels like to be a successful teen movie there has to be some central romance. I find this slightly unrealistic in many of these dystopian settings. However, the actress who plays Fiona in The Giver does a wonderful job of portraying a strong female character and in watching the movie you grow to like her and her character. Towards the end I even felt myself rooting for the love story. Jonas’s friend Asher also plays a much larger role in the movie. The movie is also filled with more action and a very different ending that focuses less on Jonas and more on hope for the entire community. I felt the ending and its whole focus on a “boundary of memories” was also slightly unrealistic, but I did like the sense of hope you got at the end. Although as you can see there are a lot of differences, the movie is exciting and action packed and raises many interesting questions about humanity.

Overall, I thought that despite quite a few differences between the book and the movie, I still love both. I felt like the directors just tried turning Lois Lowry’s thought-provoking teen novel into just another dystopian thriller, however, I can’t deny that I did enjoy watching the movie. It makes you laugh, think and fall in love. It is incredibly heart-wrenching to watch some scenes, especially those with Jonas and the Giver and seeing him react to feeling emotions or hearing music for the first time. My recommendation is that first you read Lois Lowry’s book, because it in itself is amazing.  Nothing can truly match the power of that book. Then, go see the movie, but don’t go in with expectations that it stays true to the book. Because although the two differ greatly, The Giver is still a very enjoyable movie that delivers a great thriller for a Friday night at the theater!

-Amanda

Posted in GEPL Teens