GEPL Teens Blog

GEPL Teens: Teens Write – What You Need to Know about the We Need Diverse Books Campaign

Teens Blog BannerGrowing up it was always frustrating that many book characters I aspired to be like were often nothing like me. Say, for example, the pretty, popular girl who got the guy of her dreams in a romantic novel, or the handsome white boy who saved the day in an action story. None of these protagonists showed much diversity of any kind. Now, don’t get me wrong, many of these characters are still funny, strong, and inspiring heroes. Plus, there are definitely many authors whose characters defied this standard. However, there’s no denying that there is a lack of diversity in today’s young adult novels. A majority of the lead characters are white, showcasing few other ethnic backgrounds. Many characters are described with flawless appearances and feel unrealistic and un-relatable. While the personalities of these characters are great, it is hard for the diverse youth of today to find someone to relate to within their favorite teen books.

This year, a group on Tumblr sought to change that. Their blog titled “We Need Diverse Books” talks about the lack of diversity in youth novels inaccurately representing the world’s population. That’s why they decided to create the twitter movement that swept the world. They decided that on May 2nd, people on twitter could tweet using the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks because _______ and then fill in the blank with why diverse books are important to them.

What started as a small movement ended up trending worldwide (tweeted 160 million times) and starting a brand new phenomenon with many of your favorite YA authors.

Check out some pictures below that people tweeted about why they think “We Need Diverse Books”!

Blog Entry 100 - Image 1    Blog Entry 100 - Image 3  Blog Entry 100 - Image 2

The movement not only promotes the use of racially diverse characters, but characters who aren’t afraid to be themselves, who aren’t just “popular”, who are of different religions or gay. Teens have responded with how diversity representation has made a difference: In Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series, she introduced one of YA’s favorite couples “Malec”. By writing about a gay couple, Clare received messages from gay readers who have told her about how she has helped them be more comfortable about themselves. There’s also Sharon M. Draper’s novel Romiette and Julio about the struggles faced by a racially diverse couple that many couples can relate to today. Icons by Margaret Stohl tells the story of a Latino protagonist. Not only do these great books give diverse teens someone to relate to, but they also expose people to other cultures. They allow teens to be more accepting, and learn to stand up against discrimination and bullying.

Many authors fear about writing about characters that aren’t like them. Author Malinda Lo gives this advice, “Want to write a character of color, but scared you’ll get it wrong? Do it anyway.” It’s better to write about diverse characters and make a few mistakes then not write about them at all, that is what research is for. Part of the job that comes with writing is writing about things you don’t know- that’s what makes writing so fun!

So this is a call to authors and readers: read/write about something new, something different. Step out of your boundaries and expose yourself to the diversity that makes this world such an amazing, unique place! And go on Twitter to share with the world why you think “We Need Diverse Books”.

If you want to check out the campaign or find out about some diverse books in YA check out the official website for We Need Diverse Books:

To find more statistics about diversity representation in children’s novels and to read some people’s tweets check out this article by the Huffington Post.


Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: One Year Later

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 99 - ImageGuess what?  As of last week, I have officially been your teen librarian for a year now!  I hope some of you are excited about that – I know I certainly am.  It’s been a wonderful year for me here at GEPL, and my favorite part (by far!) has been getting to know some of the awesome teens in and around Glen Ellyn.  There’s not much I enjoy more than talking books, movies, fandoms, and more with you all, and I feel so lucky that I get to come to work every day and do just that.  It’s amazing.

So now that I’ve been here a while, I wanted to take a minute to talk about some of the awesome stuff the library has done with and for Glen Ellyn teens in the last year, and some of what we hope to accomplish in the next year.

For starters, we’ve had some really great programs this past year!  From Late Night Study to Homework Cafe to practice tests and college prep workshops, we’re really trying hard to support your education and your future, and hopefully make studying more fun.  So don’t forget to come get pizza when you study for finals, or coffee and hot chocolate on Thursday afternoons in the Teen Scene.  And keep your eyes open for programs from our community partners that will help you improve your ACT scores, write a great college application essay, and get some solid advice on planning for the future.

We’ve also had some programs that are just plain fun, and I think those are important too!  Whether it’s immersing yourself in a fandom, enjoying a book that wasn’t an assignment, or even shooting some Nerf darts, we think you deserve some relaxation.  So we’ve had release parties for some fan-favorite movies like Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars (and have another for Mockingjay coming up!), we’ve rewarded you for reading your favorite books over the summer during summer reading, and in August, we took over the second floor of the library during the National Teen and Tween Lock-In for some after-hours Nerf games.

On top of these great programs, I’m always reading books reviews and ordering great books for our Teen Scene.  We’re also doing our best to help you all find fantastic new reads, through online booklists, one-on-one recommendations, and reviews right here on this blog.  We’re keeping in touch with you on Twitter and Tumblr, and staying connected in a bit more depth in this blog space.

For the next year, we’re hoping to keep up the good work – and then some.  We’ll continue supporting your education with great programs throughout the year, but plan to keep having fun as well with programs like a Frozen watch party and sing-along in November, building marshmallow guns in December, and in the spring, another after-hours Nerf wars program.  After the remodeling on the second floor is done, we’ll be re-decorating the teen space with a teen art contest this winter.  As the school year ends, we’ll welcome new and returning volunteers over the summer to give you a chance to get involved in the library, and give us a chance to get more great feedback and ideas from teens.

Overall, I’ve had a wonderful time my first year here at GEPL!  I have loved getting to know this community, especially the teens here, and I hope to get to know you better over this next year.  So next time you’re at the library, stop by and say hi.

I can’t wait to for my next year with you!

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Teens Review – Tuesdays with Morrie

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 98 - ImageReviewer: Sabrina

Book Title: Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Description: Maybe it was a grandparent, or a teacher or a colleague. Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and searching, and gave you sound advice to help you make your way through it. For Mitch Albom, that person was Morrie Schwartz, his college professor from nearly 20 years ago. Maybe, like Mitch, you lost track of this mentor as you made your way, and the insights faded. Wouldn’t you like to see that person again, ask the bigger questions that still haunt you? Mitch Albom had that second chance. He rediscovered Morrie in the last months of the older man’s life. Knowing he was dying of ALS – or motor neurone disease – Morrie visited Mitch in his study every Tuesday, just as they used to back in college. Their rekindled relationship turned into one final class: lessons in how to live. This is a chronicle of their time together, through which Mitch shares Morrie’s lasting gift with the world. (Description from

Review: Tuesdays with Morrie beautifully shows the pain of losing someone. Mitch, a young adult, is completely caught up in his life of career, love, and money until he meets his former teacher, Morrie. During the last few weeks of Morrie’s life, Mitch and Morrie are again united. Every Tuesday Mitch comes to Morrie and brings him food and company. Morrie teaches him a new life lesson every week which changes Mitch’s life forever. These lessons are his final class from Morrie and they occur exactly when and where they used to in his college times, which I thought was very cool. Some of the lessons were: Regrets, death, aging, and forgiveness.

I think this story shows how the love between two people sometimes never changes over time, and there’s that tiny bit of hope for love. Morrie’s insight on some of the things are really hard to get now a days, so I believe that everyone needs this book in their lives. The lessons are so deep and it would be very hard for a person to get these thoughts and ideas from any other place. It really opens up this whole new world where feelings, thoughts, emotions, and internal love is more powerful than materialistic things. It teaches us that we shouldn’t let simple things get away from us because of life.

Tuesdays with Morrie is heavy and heartfelt, but also there’s a little bit of humor. Morrie teaches us to view the world from a completely different perspective. He makes us realize that we should be blessed for all the things in our lives. Every second is precious for Morrie because he never knows when his last second is. Honestly, that’s true for every human being because we never really know when our last breath is going to be. Emotions from the book are so easily felt. It’s hard not to be completely speechless after the book. The type of speechless where you feel like no word can compare to how you feel, where you feel a brighter spark inside of you. Every word is love, broken, empty, joy, and everything in between. I really recommend this book to every person out there because everyone has some lessons to learn from Morrie, and everyone deserves to have a word from Morrie.


Posted in GEPL Teens

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.


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.


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

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.


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