GEPL Teens Blog

GEPL Teens: What I’m Reading Now – Anna and the French Kiss

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 73 - ImageOnce again, I’m immersed in the joys of both trying new things and audiobooks, which have combined for today’s What I’m Reading Now post!

What I’m Reading Now: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

What’s It About (Jacket Description): Note: I personally think this jacket description is really bad.  Please give the book a chance, despite the terrible description!

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris–until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all…including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?

Do I Like It: Much, much more than I ever expected to!

Thoughts: I admit, I resisted this book for a long time.  I won’t say I judged the book by its cover, but I definitely judged it by its title, which I still maintain is terrible, and the concept, which I might have been mistaken in judging so harshly.  Clearly, I was wrong about this book.  So, so wrong.  Anna and the French Kiss is delightful.  I was not prepared for how much I am loving this book.

For starters, there’s Anna – easily the best part of the book.  She feels like a friend already.  I love her slightly germaphobic and hyper-neat quirks, her love of movies, her language difficulties (which, at least as far as modern languages go, I can totally sympathize with.)  I even love the bleached streak in her hair.  And Kim Mai Guest, the narrator of my audiobook, absolutely brings Anna to life.  If I didn’t know better, I’d think an actual teenager was narrating this book.  I know it comes up over and over again in my reviews, but in a book with a first person narrator, liking the narrator –or at least feeling like the narrator is a real, interesting person – is so important.  Luckily, Stephanie Perkins nails it with Anna.

I was also resistant to Anna and the French Kiss on the basis of the romance.  Now, I love a good romantic arc in a book as much as the next person, but the plot description made the love story sound super cheesy and melodramatic, and like romance would be all there was to the book.  But as it turns out, the plot description – like the title – is kind of terrible.  Yes, there’s a meet-cute, and St. Clair is impossibly dreamy, but this romance has some legs to it.  Anna and St. Clair are fully fleshed out, flawed, and fabulous characters.  The factors that separate them ring true, rather than feeling forced, and the sparks between them practically shoot off the page (or out of the speakers, in this case.)  So far, the swoons are increasing along with the frustration of their separation, and I am enjoying every minute of it.

But romance certainly isn’t the only thing going on in Anna’s life.  I’m loving getting to know her group of friends in France (and wishing I could see more of her Atlanta BFF Bridget!) and I’m desperately wishing I could be in Paris and getting to know the city at the same time as Anna.  Her whole world comes alive, and I’m finding myself dying to read more just to get into the setting.  I think I’d be happy to read a whole book just about Anna’s Parisian meals with her friends (which is good, because mealtimes are kind of a big thing so far in this book.)

I cannot tell you how happy I am that I grabbed Anna and the French Kiss.  Once again, taking a chance and trying something new has paid off in a big way.  If you like great characters, or stories about someone finding their way in a new place, or great romances, or great narration, or any combination of those things, I highly recommend ignoring the lousy title and the cheesy description, and picking up Anna and the French Kiss.  I myself can’t wait to get back in my car and hear more about Anna, St. Clair, their friends, and Paris.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Teens Write – Epistolary Novels Display

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 72 - ImageWhether we’re on vacation, away at summer camp, or heading off to college in the fall, summer is the time when we are constantly texting, writing, and emailing our closest friends and family to keep in touch. Whether it’s a heartfelt letter from a pen-pal, a hilarious text from your parents, or a gossip-filled diary that you’re trying to hide from your siblings, each of these messages can hold so much meaning. A tear jerking breakup can be received from a ping on your phone, and so can that text from your friend that makes it all feel better.

So it makes sense that the stories told by these messages have been put into some amazing Young Adult novels! For July we are showcasing some of these great epistolary novels. Epistolary novels are books written from a collection of documents: such as emails, IM messages, letters, or diary entries.

Recently published was Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira about Laurel, who starts writing letters to people who have passed away after an assignment in English class. She gets a little carried away and soon these letters tell her life story and help her accept her sister May’s death.

Do you still fantasize about being the next Princess Kate? If so, then you can also follow the diary of a high school teenager turned royalty (Mia) in The Princess Diaries, by Meg Cabot, which was made into a movie starring Anne Hathaway. Or what about the amazing coming-of-age novel Perks of Being a Wallflower by Steven Chobsky? These journal entries showcase Charlie experiencing the difficulties of his freshman year of high school (and it was also made into a movie starring the one and only Emma Watson).

In a more modern setting, you’ll fall in love with the friendship of “zoegirl”, “SnowAngel” and “madmaddie” simply through IM messages in Lauren Myracle’s TTYL. Or journey to the future in Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, where you can read the journal entries of Miranda as she watches the world end when a meteor knocks the moon closer to the earth.

So if you can relate to writing love letters to your crushes like Lara Jean in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, DJ’s love of football in Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, or if you love classics like Dracula by Bram Stoker then be sure to check out the Teen Scene’s display of epistolary books!

-Amanda

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Fangirling about Fangirl

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 71 - ImageIt’s possible that I’ve mentioned (once or twice…or over and over…) my love for and obsession with Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.  Yes, it’s true – I’m a fangirl for Fangirl.  This is a book that literally left me dreaming about the characters.  There are tons of reasons for someone to love this book of course – Rainbow Rowell is a remarkably talented author, as anyone who has read Eleanor & Park knows, and there’s not much more explanation than that needed for why someone would feel affectionate towards her work.  And when it comes down to it, I loved Fangirl for the same reasons anyone loves a great book.

But Fangirl for me is something special, and I haven’t quite been able to figure out why.  Sometimes you just find a book that speaks to you, and Fangirl was one of those books for me.  Part of it comes from actual shared experiences with the characters.  Cath, the main character, writes fan-fiction set in the world of Simon Snow (a Harry Potter-type series of books).  It’s her way of escaping what’s wrong in her life, exploring a world she loves in new ways, and honing her writing skills.  I spent many of my teenager years, yup, writing fan-fiction – to escape what I didn’t like about my life, to explore worlds (mostly just one world) I loved in new ways, and to hone my writing skills.  Obviously, I identify with Cath in some pretty key ways.

But that’s certainly not all that made Fangirl touch me so much.  After all, I’m very unlike Cath in a lot of ways too.  She spends the first part of her freshman year of college feeling steadily more betrayed by her sister Wren’s distance, coping with her social anxiety, cautiously making a very small amount of new friends, and discovering the joys and pains of interacting with other writers.  And none of these things is anything like my college freshman experience.  But the beauty of a good book is that it can be just as powerful in terms of people, characters, and experiences that are new to us as those that are comfortable and identifiable.  And for me, Fangirl was a pretty perfect combination of the familiar and the new.

I also loved the way Rainbow Rowell didn’t vilify anybody, didn’t give any easy answers, and explored all kinds of morals and experiences.  Cath certainly makes plenty of missteps, including some in her relationship with Wren.  But then, so does Wren – sometimes I wanted to slap her.  When a potential love interest does something that hurts Cath, I understood her pain – but I also felt like I understood him a little, and couldn’t blame him entirely.  And that’s what’s beautiful about the world Rainbow Rowell has created in Fangirl – just like real life, nothing is black and white, everything has nuances and layers.  I think this, as much as anything else, is what allowed me to immerse myself completely in Fangirl, not just once, but twice in the span of a month.

Of course, I can’t discount everything else that’s wonderful about Fangirl.  The supporting characters are fantastic, and I’m pretty sure I would read a book with any of them as the main character.  The excerpts from the Simon Snow books and Cath’s fan-fiction are delightful, and I know I would read the Simon Snow series if it were real.  The romance is completely and utterly swoon-worthy – I could not get enough of it.   What it comes down to is that I love Fangirl for all the reasons you love a really great book – I loved the characters, the writing, and the world-building, and all I wanted when I finished was to go back immediately and start reading it again.

So whether you’re about to start college and want to read about Cath’s experiences, whether you loved Eleanor & Park and want more, or whether you’re just looking for a great summer read, find Fangirin our catalog and place a hold ASAP!  While you wait for it to come in, let us know – what books are you fangirling about this summer?

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Teens Review – Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Teens Blog BannerSabrina A Blog 1 ImageReviewer: Sabrina

Book Title: Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Description: Connor, Risa, and Lev are running for their lives.

The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child “unwound,” whereby all of the child’s organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn’t technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive. (Description from Goodreads.com)

Review: Unwind by Neal Shusterman is a book that will make you feel chills down your spine. There are two teenage boys, Lev and Connor and a teenage girl, Risa. Connor is a really hot-headed boy but starts to change throughout the book. Lev thinks he’s going to be tithe, which is a donation to the church. Risa has been sent to be “unwound” because teachers and the school thinks her potential is done and she is no longer needed in their society.   Risa is also an orphan. They’re all being sent to a harvest camp to be have their body parts taken apart while the teens are alive (“unwinding”). After these body parts are taken apart, they’re given to other people. Everything from their arms, brains, toes, fingers, eyes, and legs can be taken from them. These teens can be sent to be unwound because people can think the kid is not needed anymore. They can also be sent for tithes and behavioral issues.

Unwind has something for everyone. There’s a little bit of love and romance between the characters. This love grows as the book goes on and the teens face more struggles together. Characters in the book show true friendship in a couple scenarios, and show forgiveness. The story has a steady pace and keeps moving at an interesting rate. It is own world with a dystopian society and will keep you reading every second of the day. While reading this book you’ll be questioning about this type of world, and it’s almost terrifying to be thrown into their world while reading this book. Somewhere where you couldn’t imagine, but Neal Shusterman makes it real by painting a world like this for his readers.  I would really recommend this book because it will keep you on your feet.

-Sabrina

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Books to Fuel Your World Cup Fever

Teens Blog BannerThe World Cup is in full swing, and even though the U.S. has been eliminated (boo!) after surprising everyone by making it out of the group stages (yay!), it’s still an exciting time in sports.  Even people who normally don’t care (or pretend not to care) about soccer are invested.  So I thought I would pull together a great list of books and movies that focus on soccer or feature soccer players in honor of the World Cup 2014!

Blog Entry 69 - Image 1High and Dry, by Sarah Skilton – What do you get when you combine noir mystery, drug scandals, ex-girlfriends, and a star soccer player?  You get High and Dry by Sarah Skilton.  When Charlie Dixon, desperate to win back his ex-girlfriend, gets framed for causing a drug overdose at a party, he quickly finds himself embroiled in mystery after mystery, and scandal after scandal.  Between trying to find another ex-girlfriend’s stolen flash drive, being pressured by a friend into throwing a soccer game, and trying to discover what did happen the night he was framed, Charlie has a lot on his mind.  As a narrator, Charlie’s voice is distinct and appealing, and the excitement of High and Dry will keep you turning pages.

Blog Entry 69 - Image 2Bend it Like Beckham – Yes, this is super obvious, but who cares?  Bend it Like Beckham is one of my favorite movies.  It’s fantastic, combining friendship, relationships, family drama, classic coming-of-age, and all the excitement of a great sports movie.  Jess loves soccer, but when she joins a serious team in her suburban London neighborhood, her love of the sport comes into conflict with her traditional family, and her feelings for her new soccer coach comes into conflict with her new best friend’s feelings for him.  Although I personally love the focus on Jess and Jules’ friendship, there’s something here for everyone, no matter what you normally like in a movie.  This movie has it all and I highly recommend it!

Blog Entry 69 - Image 3Out of Nowhere, Maria Padian – Star soccer player Tom Bouchard barely notices when Somali refugees start flooding into his hometown after the events of 9/11.  But when four of them join his soccer team, he starts to notice.  Especially when Saeed starts dominating play and leading the team to victory.  But when Tom finds himself performing community service by tutoring some of the refugees, he gains a new perspective.  Tom must navigate his girlfriend, his budding friendship with Saeed despite his jealousy about the new player’s talent, his new cultural education, and of course, his on-field performance.

Blog Entry 69 - Image 4Akata Witch, Nnedi Okorafor – Sunny lives an in-between life.  She loves soccer, but her albinism means she can’t face the sun to play it.  She lives in Nigeria with Nigerian parents, but her American birth and upbringing make her feel like she is not at home.  She is African, but her albino white skin makes her subject to taunts at her school.  So when she discovers previously unknown magical talents, and a group of young magic-users all learning to use their skills, with her Sunny is excited to find a place where she belongs.  But as her knowledge increases, so do the dangers of the magical world she is now a part of.  Akata Witch is a hugely imaginative, exciting read, and Sunny is a releatable and likable main character.

Blog Entry 69 - Image 5She’s the Man – I pretty unashamedly love this movie, even as an adult.  Amanda Bynes is at her charming best.  The fun Shakespeare plot line is a classic for a reason.  The addition of a pre-21 Jump Street Channing Tatum and exciting soccer sequences complete the package.  When Viola finds out that her high school soccer team is being disbanded because of funding issues, she fights for her right to play on the boys’ team.  When she is denied that, she disguises herself and takes her twin brother’s place at an all-male boarding school, planning to prove that girls can play the sport just as well as boys.  Being a Shakespeare comedy plot, of course hijinks ensue, and they are delightful.  Seriously, this movie is just cheerful, entertaining fun, perfect for a hot summer afternoon!

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Teens Write – Books and Musicals

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 68 - ImageWith summer getting into full swing, some of us may find ourselves humming tunes like “Summer Nights” from Grease and “Our Last Summer” from Mamma Mia! or, for those hardcore theatre geeks, “Too Darn Hot” from Kiss me, Kate and “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess. Yes, the sun has made many have musical theatre on our minds.

However, what a lot of people don’t realize is that so many of our favorite musicals are actually based on books. Generally, most know that Les Miserables, the tragic Broadway show and now award-winning movie, is based on the novel of the same name by Victor Hugo. But even I, a show tunes aficionado, just recently learned that Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats is based on T.S. Eliot’s  Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. We’re talking about the second longest-running show in Broadway history here!

These are some of the highlights of literature-based musicals:

  • Wicked – from Gregory Maguire’s Wicked
  • Oliver! – from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist
  • Man of La Mancha – from Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote
  • The Phantom of the Opera – from Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera
  • The Mystery of Edwin Drood – from Charles Dickens’ unfinished The Mystery of Edwin Drood
  • My Fair Lady – from George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion
  • Kiss me, Kate – from William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew

There are, of course, too many to list here (some hits, some flops), but some digging around should lead you to the realm where music meets books. What all of these shows did, regardless of quality, is amazing: they took literature that may be tough to swallow and turned the books into fun, music-filled shows that clock in at about two hours while maintaining incredible emotional depth.

For those of you hooked in by musical adventures and show tunes, I definitely recommend checking out the books that inspired the theatrical masterpieces. You already love the story, so take time to explore it in another medium. Naturally, composers have taken liberties and smoothed the sharper corners of the novels, but don’t let this stop you. Just keep an open mind. Happy hunting!

(Cue humming of “Do you Hear the People Sing?”)

-Rafaela

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Book Speed Dating

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 67 - ImageWhile there is still a whole lazy summer stretching ahead, I know many of you already have plans for your summer break.  And I suspect that in those plans, there’s a lot of space for books – long car rides or airports are made for reading, hot days by the pool or on the beach practically require a good book, and occasionally it’s nice to break up the Netflix binges with something a little easier on the eyes.  But with so many books out there, it’s often hard to figure out what to read next, or easy to miss something great just because the cover didn’t “pop.”

And that’s why I want to invite you to come to the library at 4:00 today to find some great new reads, and to make sure you’re not missing something wonderful just because it has a boring cover.  So our theme for today’s Book Speed Dating is “Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover!”

We’ve pulled together a collection of books with boring, nondescript, or just plain bad covers.  But after spending just a minute or two with each of them, you may find that you really like some of them!  We’ll evaluate books based on cover alone, cover and description, and actually reading the very beginning.  And at the end of the event, you’ll have your very own custom-made reading list!

Everyone who comes to book speed dating will be entered into a drawing for an advanced copy of a not-yet-published book, and even if you don’t win the book, you can still leave with a pile of to-be-read books that you can check out on the spot.  Happy book dating!

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: What To Do Post-Finals

Teens Blog BannerFinals have been over for a week now, and it’s finally starting to hit everyone – summer is here!  Before you reach the state of summer boredom that some people eventually get to, we here at the library have a few ideas about what you can do to fill your time now that it’s finally warm and school is finally over.

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1.) Come to the library.  Obviously.  We have books for you to read, AC for when it gets too hot, and awesome programs like: Book Speed Dating (next week on Wednesday!); the National Teen Lock-In with author visits and Nerf wars (August 1); and of course, SUMMER READING!

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2.) Volunteer at an animal shelter or wildlife rescue so you can spend time with adorable (or at least lovable) animals all summer.  They could use the help, you’ll feel good about giving back, and everyone could use some extra cute in their life.

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3.) Spend a whole afternoon lying outside, preferably in a park or under a tree, reading or writing or daydreaming.  You’ll have the whole school year to spend inside – it’s worth a little heat to enjoy the outdoors.

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4.) Sleep in often!

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5.) Go to a beach for sand and swimming.  If you can’t go on vacation, you can go to Chicago and enjoy one of the Lake Michigan beaches.  If you can’t get to Chicago, go to Centennial Beach in Naperville.  There’s always a way to enjoy the water!

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6.) Go see The Fault in Our Stars movie over and over.  Cry and until there are no more tears left, and then watch ANTM and wallow in all your feels until your mother starts to worry that you’re depressed and sends you to a support group.

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7.) Go see every summer action blockbuster movie there is.  Spend the whole summer feeling like you can conquer the world.  Try not to let this feeling go to your head though, as jumping off buildings will not work for you the way it works for Spiderman.

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8.) Eat all the ice cream.  Because ice cream is wonderful and delicious all year round, but especially when it’s hot out.

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Or, if you want, just binge read, binge watch, and enjoy the laziness of the season.  Happy summer everyone!

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Teens Write – Is TFiOS a YA Savior?

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 65 - Image                       I recently read an article (link below) about John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (TFiOS) and how it is not young-adult fiction’s savior. YA literature is not in need of saving, there are books read by thousands of teens and adults every year. These books match, or are even better than Green’s novel and deserve to be admired as well. Many sources that praise TFiOS also degrade other YA books. From The Atlantic:

New York Times bestselling author Ally Carter expressed frustration on Twitter last week: “Gonna have to stop reading articles that (rightfully) praise #Tfios, but then denigrate all other YA hits. Sadly, it’s all the articles. Really, the overall tenor of ‘Finally, WORTHY books for girls’ is about to get me. I’m about to SNAP.” Fellow bestselling author Maureen Johnson agreed, venting that “the last few weeks has been so much joy for the good that is #tfios, but a lot of sadness too. I have to admit to one moment, where I’d read yet another takedown of all the good work of women writers where I said, ‘What’s the point?’”

The article states that even Green believes that the system is flawed. One book shouldn’t describe the success of an entire genre.

Personally, I believe The Fault in Our Stars has a very predictable plot. Two people with cancer fall in love and since there is no cure for most cancers, it’s inevitable that one, or even both, are going to die. That said, TFiOS is a great book, and it differs from many YA books due to the unhappy ending and the realistic mood of the character’s situation. This is a book I personally think every teen should read.

Check out the original article: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/06/why-fault-in-our-stars-is-not-ya-fictions-savior/372441/

-Rebekah

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: What I’m Reading Now – Temeraire Series

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 64 - ImageSince I was a little kid, I have been in love with dragons.  Just ask my mother, who read me The Paperbag Princess approximately one thousand times.  As I got older, I graduated from picture books and found a subset of dragon books that I was even more obsessed with than what I’d been reading –  novels featuring dragon/human companionship and friendship.  Anne McCaffrey was my queen throughout my teen years, and as an adult, I’ve struggled to find any book or series that packs the same emotional punch for me.  I’m pleased to say that I have – finally – found one!

What I’m Reading Now: The Temeraire series by Naomi Novik, starting with His Majesty’s Dragon

What’s It About (Jacket Description): Note: This is the jacket description for the first book in the series, His Majesty’s Dragon, but it serves as a good introduction to the series as a whole.

Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors ride mighty fighting dragons, bred for size or speed. When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes the precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Captain Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future – and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature.

Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.

Do I Like It: I am completely smitten!

Thoughts: For the dragon and dragon/human relationship-obsessed like me, let’s just put it this way: DRAGON BFF!  Temeraire is an incredible and incredibly loveable character, and his relationship with Laurence made me feel so warm and fuzzy inside I could hardly stand it.

For those of you more interested in some action or some alternate history, I’ll put it another way: Napoleonic wars.  With dragons.  

Much like Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series, the Temeraire series strikes a great balance between the character-driven focus of the relationship between dragons and their humans (as well as between humans and humans) and the more militaristic and action-filled excitement of war and battle.  Laurence and Temeraire’s growing relationship has been the highlight of the two books I’ve read so far, at least for me.  But there is also action and adventure, politics and politeness, and a trip halfway around the world.

One thing in particular that makes this series stand out – besides the fact that it absolutely nails a deep and affecting friendship between stiff-necked Laurence and the passionate Temeraire – is the extent to which Temeraire is a character in his own right.  He doesn’t just exist to be a pet of Laurence or help Laurence’s character develop.  Temeraire is just as much a protagonist as Laurence, and he is very different in many ways.  This makes the book better not only because it has two great characters at the heart of it, but because their relationship is so much more meaningful because of the differences between them and the deep affection they have anyways.

Although this isn’t a YA series, I highly recommend it anyways to anyone who likes dragons, excitement, and great characters.  The series is nine books long, and I’m only through the first two, so I’m excited to have more to read and to see where things go!

Posted in GEPL Teens