The Teen Scene: GEPL High School Blog

#WNDB Fantasy and Sci-Fi Edition

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

This week we have our second #WeNeedDiverseBooks booklist, and it’s made up of two genres that have always been near and dear to me: fantasy and sci-fi! I’m a huge fan of anything speculative fiction, and if you can throw a dragon in there, I might just swoon. But these are also genres that are often even less diverse than others, so it’s always exciting to me when I can pick up a book that fits in my beloved fantasy category, but that also moves beyond the usual genre landscape. See if one of these books will satisfy your fantasy/sci-fi cravings! Descriptions are from goodreads.com.

Check Out the Book A Hero at the End of the World by Erin Claiborne A Hero at the End of the World by Erin Claiborne – Sixteen year-old Ewan Mao knows one thing for certain: according to prophecy, it’s his destiny to kill the evil tyrant whose dark reign has terrorized Britain. Although he’s just a normal boy, deep down Ewan is confident that he has exactly what it takes to be a hero. But when Ewan’s big moment comes, he freezes. His best friend, the clever and talented Oliver Abrams, defeats the villain for him, and Ewan’s bright future crumbles before his eyes.

Five years later, Oliver has a job as an Unusual in the government’s Serious Magical Crimes Agency, the life he and Ewan always dreamed of. But a routine investigation leads him and his partner, Sophie Stuart, to uncover a dangerous and powerful cult… one that seems to have drawn his former best friend into a plot to end the world.

A deftly plotted, hysterically funny take on Chosen One narratives, A Hero at the End of the World expertly walks the fine line between satire and sincerity. Its sensitive depiction of a broken friendship and wry take-down of unfairly great expectations will appeal to all readers of modern fantasy.

Check Out Huntress by Malinda Lo Huntress by Malinda Lo – Nature is out of balance in the human world. The sun hasn’t shone in years, and crops are failing. Worse yet, strange and hostile creatures have begun to appear. The people’s survival hangs in the balance.

To solve the crisis, the oracle stones are cast, and Kaede and Taisin, two seventeen-year-old girls, are picked to go on a dangerous and unheard-of journey to Tanlili, the city of the Fairy Queen. Taisin is a sage, thrumming with magic, and Kaede is of the earth, without a speck of the otherworldly. And yet the two girls’ destinies are drawn together during the mission. As members of their party succumb to unearthly attacks and fairy tricks, the two come to rely on each other and even begin to fall in love. But the Kingdom needs only one huntress to save it, and what it takes could tear Kaede and Taisin apart forever.

The exciting adventure prequel to Malinda Lo’s highly acclaimed novel Ash is overflowing with lush Chinese influences and details inspired by the I Ching, and is filled with action and romance.

Check Out Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac – Years ago, seventeen-year-old Apache hunter Lozen and her family lived in a world of haves and have-nots. There were the Ones — people so augmented with technology and genetic enhancements that they were barely human — and there was everyone else who served them. Then the Cloud came, and everything changed. Tech stopped working. The world plunged back into a new steam age. The Ones’ pets — genetically engineered monsters — turned on them and are now loose on the world.

Lozen was not one of the lucky ones pre-C, but fate has given her a unique set of survival skills and magical abilities. She hunts monsters for the Ones who survived the apocalyptic events of the Cloud, which ensures the safety of her kidnapped family. But with every monster she takes down, Lozen’s powers grow, and she connects those powers to an ancient legend of her people. It soon becomes clear to Lozen that she is not just a hired gun. As the legendary Killer of Enemies was in the ancient days of the Apache people, Lozen is meant to be a more than a hunter. Lozen is meant to be a hero.

Check Out Pantomime by Laura LamPantomime by Laura Lam – In a land of lost wonders, the past is stirring once more.

Gene’s life resembles a debutante’s dream. Yet she hides a secret that would see her shunned by the nobility. Gene is both male and female. Then she displays unwanted magical abilities – last seen in mysterious beings from an almost-forgotten age. Matters escalate further when her parents plan a devastating betrayal, so she flees home, dressed as a boy.

The city beyond contains glowing glass relics from a lost civilization. They call to her, but she wants freedom not mysteries. So, reinvented as ‘Micah Grey’, Gene joins the circus. As an aerialist, she discovers the joy of flight – but the circus has a dark side. She’s also plagued by visions foretelling danger. A storm is howling in from the past, but will she heed its roar?

Check Out Proxy by Alex London Proxy by Alex London – Knox was born into one of the City’s wealthiest families. A Patron, he has everything a boy could possibly want—the latest tech, the coolest clothes, and a Proxy to take all his punishments. When Knox breaks a vase, Syd is beaten. When Knox plays a practical joke, Syd is forced to haul rocks. And when Knox crashes a car, killing one of his friends, Syd is branded and sentenced to death.

Syd is a Proxy. His life is not his own.

Then again, neither is Knox’s. Knox and Syd have more in common than either would guess. So when Knox and Syd realize that the only way to beat the system is to save each other, they flee. Yet Knox’s father is no ordinary Patron, and Syd is no ordinary Proxy. The ensuing cross-country chase will uncover a secret society of rebels, test both boys’ resolve and shine a blinding light onto a world of those who owe and those who pay. Some debts, it turns out, cannot be repaid.

Check Out The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness – What if you aren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.

Award-winning writer Patrick Ness’s bold and irreverent novel powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable.

Check Out The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi The Star Touched Queen by Roshani ChokshiFate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire.

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

Check Out Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee Zeroboxer by Fonda LeeA Sci-Fi Thrill Ride Set in the Action-Packed Sports Arena of the Future.

A rising star in the weightless combat sport of zeroboxing, Carr “the Raptor” Luka dreams of winning the championship title. Recognizing his talent, the Zero Gravity Fighting Association assigns Risha, an ambitious and beautiful Martian colonist, to be his brandhelm––a personal marketing strategist. It isn’t long before she’s made Carr into a popular celebrity and stolen his heart along the way.

As his fame grows, Carr becomes an inspirational hero on Earth, a once-great planet that’s fallen into the shadow of its more prosperous colonies. But when Carr discovers a far-reaching criminal scheme, he becomes the keeper of a devastating secret. Not only will his choices place everything he cares about in jeopardy, but they may also spill the violence from the sports arena into the solar system.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

#WNDB Action and Adventure Edition

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

As We Need Diverse Books celebrates two years of doing good work this spring, I thought we’d go one step further than just a display. After all, a display doesn’t tell you how to find the perfect book within your preferred genre. But you know what can do that? A great booklist! So for the rest of the month, we’ll highlight great titles in some popular genres. For this week’s list, action and adventure fans can try one of the books below (descriptions from goodreads.com) to find a great, exciting read!

Breaking Sky by Cori McCarthy Book CoverBreaking Sky by Cori McCarthy

In this high-flying, adrenaline-fueled debut thriller, America’s best hope is the elite teen fighter pilots of the United Star Academy.Chase Harcourt, call sign “Nyx,” is one of only two pilots chosen to fly the experimental “Streaker” jets at the junior Air Force Academy in the year 2048.

She’s tough and impulsive with lightning-fast reactions, but few know the pain and loneliness of her past or the dark secret about her father. All anyone cares about is that Chase aces the upcoming Streaker trials, proving the prototype jet can knock the enemy out of the sky.

But as the world tilts toward war, Chase cracks open a military secret. There’s a third Streaker jet, whose young hotshot pilot, Tristan, can match her on the ground and in the clouds. Chase doesn’t play well with others, but to save her country she may just have to put her life in the hands of the competition.

Fake ID by Lamar Giles Book CoverFake ID by Lamar Giles

Nick Pearson is hiding in plain sight…My name isn’t really Nick Pearson.

I shouldn’t tell you where I’m from or why my family moved to Stepton, Virginia.

I shouldn’t tell you who I really am, or my hair, eye and skin color.

And I definitely shouldn’t tell you about my friend Eli Cruz and the major conspiracy he was about to uncover when he died—right after I moved to town. About how I had to choose between solving his murder with his hot sister, Reya, and “staying low-key” like the Program has taught me. About how moving to Stepon changed my life forever.

But I’m going to.

Far From You by Tess Sharpe Book CoverFar From You by Tess Sharpe

Nine months. Two weeks. Six days.

That’s how long recovering addict Sophie’s been drug-free. Four months ago her best friend, Mina, died in what everyone believes was a drug deal gone wrong – a deal they think Sophie set up. Only Sophie knows the truth. She and Mina shared a secret, but there was no drug deal. Mina was deliberately murdered.

Forced into rehab for an addiction she’d already beaten, Sophie’s finally out and on the trail of the killer—but can she track them down before they come for her?

Ms. Marvel PosterMs. Marvel vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson

Marvel Comics presents the new Ms. Marvel, the groundbreaking heroine that has become an international sensation!

Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City — until she’s suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman?

Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm! When Kamala discovers the dangers of her newfound powers, she unlocks a secret behind them, as well. Is Kamala ready to wield these immense new gifts? Or will the weight of the legacy before her be too much to bear? Kamala has no idea, either. But she’s comin’ for you, Jersey!

On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis Book CoverOn the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

January 29, 2035.

That’s the day the comet is scheduled to hit—the big one. Denise and her mother and sister, Iris, have been assigned to a temporary shelter near their hometown of Amsterdam to wait out the blast, but Iris is nowhere to be found, and at the rate Denise’s drug-addicted mother is going, they’ll never reach the shelter in time.

Then a last-minute encounter leads them to something better than a temporary shelter: a generation ship that’s scheduled to leave Earth behind and colonize new worlds after the comet hits. But each passenger must have a practical skill to contribute. Denise is autistic and fears that she’ll never be allowed to stay. Can she obtain a spot before the ship takes flight? What about her mother and sister?

When the future of the human race is at stake, whose lives matter most?

Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Book CoverThe Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans

My name is Michael Vey, and the story I’m about to tell you is strange. Very strange. It’s my story.

To everyone at Meridian High School, Michael Vey is an ordinary fourteen-year-old. In fact, the only thing that seems to set him apart is the fact that he has Tourette’s syndrome. But Michael is anything but ordinary. Michael has special powers. Electric powers.

Michael thinks he’s unique until he discovers that a cheerleader named Taylor also has special powers. With the help of Michael’s friend, Ostin, the three of them set out to discover how Michael and Taylor ended up this way, but their investigation brings them to the attention of a powerful group who wants to control the electric children – and through them the world. Michael will have to rely on his wits, powers and friends if he’s to survive.

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older Book CoverShadowshaper by Daniel José Older

Sierra Santiago was looking forward to a fun summer of making art, hanging out with her friends and skating around Brooklyn. But then a weird zombie guy crashes the first party of the season. Sierra’s near-comatose abuelo begins to say “No importa” over and over. And when the graffiti murals in Bed-Stuy start to weep…. Well, something stranger than the usual New York mayhem is going on.

Sierra soon discovers a supernatural order called the Shadowshapers, who connect with spirits via paintings, music and stories. Her grandfather once shared the order’s secrets with an anthropologist, Dr. Jonathan Wick, who turned the Caribbean magic to his own foul ends. Now Wick wants to become the ultimate Shadowshaper by killing all the others, one by one. With the help of her friends and the hot graffiti artist Robbie, Sierra must dodge Wick’s supernatural creations, harness her own Shadowshaping abilities, and save her family’s past, present and future.

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee Book CoverUnder a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier.

But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.

This beautifully written debut is an exciting adventure and heart-wrenching survival tale. But above all else, it’s a story about perseverance and trust that will restore your faith in the power of friendship.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

#WeNeedDiverseBooks

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

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

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

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

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

What I Just Read – The Memory of Light

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do I Like It: It’s amazing!

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

What I Just Read – More Happy Than Not

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

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

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

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

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

Why does happiness have to be so hard?

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Throwbacks

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

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

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

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

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

What I Just Read – X: A Novel

By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do I Like It: Yes!

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

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

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

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

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

The College Search

By: Britta J., Teen Blogger

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

School size

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

Location

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

Majors

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

Cost

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

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

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

We’re Listening!

By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School