GEPL Teens Blog

GEPL Teens: What I Just Read – Ink and Ashes

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By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

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

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

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

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

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

Do I Like It: I couldn’t put it down!

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

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

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

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

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GEPL Teens: What I Just Read – See No Color

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By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

See No Color by Shannon Gibney Book CoverI seem to be on a kick lately of reading books featuring baseball, which is strange, since I don’t really like watching baseball all that much. Lately though, it seems to be an indicator of a book that I definitely will like!

What I Just Read: See No Color by Shannon Gibney

What’s It About (Jacket Description): For as long as she can remember, sixteen-year-old Alex Kirtridge has known two things:

  1. She has always been Little Kirtridge, a stellar baseball player, just like her father.
  2. She’s adopted.

These facts have always been part of Alex’s life. Despite some teasing, being a biracial girl in a white family didn’t make much of a difference as long as she was a star on the diamond where her father her baseball coach and a former pro player counted on her. But now, things are changing: she meets Reggie, the first black guy who’s wanted to get to know her; she discovers the letters from her biological father that her adoptive parents have kept from her; and her body starts to grow into a woman’s, affecting her game.

Alex begins to question who she really is. She’s always dreamed of playing pro baseball just like her father, but can she really do it? Does she truly fit in with her white family? Who were her biological parents? What does it mean to be black? If she’s going to find answers, Alex has to come to terms with her adoption, her race, and the dreams she thought would always guide her.

Do I Like It: Absolutely! Despite (or because of?) the baseball.

Thoughts: See No Color was one of the first books I read in 2016, and boy did it start the year off right!
This was a fast read, but I felt like I really go to know Alex and understand some of what she was going through. After all, all of us can understand what it feels like to question who we are and where we fit in – it’s just that for Alex, these issues are even more overwhelming and impossible to avoid.

One thing I loved about Alex as a character was that she started out not even thinking about the issues she faces of race and identity – she buries them under academic excellence, baseball, and her family. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t there, and it’s clear from little things she thinks even right from the beginning that burying these things in her subconscious hasn’t made them disappear. It’s such a realistic discovery, that these things were bothering her that she didn’t even know were bothering her, and it makes it cathartic to read about her finally trying to figure things out, even when it’s tough as well. I also love that she was a hugely flawed character. There are reasons for the things she does (mostly notably, lying – a lot – to people who don’t deserve it) but that doesn’t make them right, and that doesn’t stop them from having consequences.

I thought Alex was incredibly compelling and relatable to read about, even though I have never been in her position. Again, part of this is that issues of identity and finding your place are so relatable to anyone, but also because I loved getting a glimpse into an experience that was so totally different from my own. From adoption to baseball to race to Alex’s impulsive personality, there was so much there that was different from my lived experience, and it was great to have a chance to empathize with her. And the parts that I could relate to – Alex’s anxiety, her relationships with her parents and siblings, her struggle to figure out who she is – just made it easier to slip into her world. Add in a swoony romance, and this book was a home run for me (bad pun totally intended.)

See No Color is fantastic realistic fiction that I recommend for any high school age teens. Between sports, self-identity, self-discovery, romance, and family, there’s something in this book for everyone.

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GEPL Teens: Morris Awards 2016

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By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

As you may or may not know, earlier this month, the American Library Association announced the winners of their Youth Media Awards – famous awards like the Newberry and Caldecott, or the Printz award for young adult literature. But they also announced the winner of a slightly less famous award, but my own personal favorite: the William C. Morris YA Debut Award. I love that this award honors new authors in YA, and I’ve rarely read a finalist or winner of this award that hasn’t been fantastic.

This year’s finalists were no exception – five excellent books, each of which I loved for different reasons. I truly cannot wait to see what each of these authors does next. I’ve already written about the winner, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, but I did read all four of the others before the announcement of the winner, so I wanted to share some mini thoughts on each of the other finalists.

Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas Book CoverBecause You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas

Description (from goodreads.com): Ollie and Moritz are best friends, but they can never meet. Ollie is allergic to electricity. Contact with it causes debilitating seizures. Moritz’s weak heart is kept pumping by an electronic pacemaker. If they ever did meet, Ollie would seize. But Moritz would die without his pacemaker. Both hermits from society, the boys develop a fierce bond through letters that become a lifeline during dark times—as Ollie loses his only friend, Liz, to the normalcy of high school and Moritz deals with a bully set on destroying him.

A story of impossible friendship and hope under strange circumstances, this debut is powerful, dark and humorous in equal measure. These extraordinary voices bring readers into the hearts and minds of two special boys who, like many teens, are just waiting for their moment to shine. 

Thoughts: Because You’ll Never Meet Me was one of those books I might never have picked up if it hadn’t been a Morris finalist – and I would have been missing out! While I’m usually not drawn to epistolary novels, the unique voices of Ollie and Moritz, along with the length of their letters, made this book feel like a more traditional narrative. It still kept a lot of the fun of epistolary novels though, like how each boy getting to choose how much to reveal, and the back-and-forth of their interaction with each other. While Because You’ll Never Meet Me falls solidly into the sci-fi category, despite the fact that the world its set in is our own, it was its realism that particularly drew me. The way each boy dealt with their disabilities and their guilt differently, the relationships they had with their parents and friends, and the way they helped each other find the strength to discover the truth and explore the world around them. And to top it all off, this book was funny, as well as sincere, emotional, and impactful.

Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert Book Cover Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert

Description (from goodreads.com): Ten years ago, God gave Braden a sign, a promise that his family wouldn’t fall apart the way he feared.

But Braden got it wrong: his older brother, Trey, has been estranged from the family for almost as long, and his father, the only parent Braden has ever known, has been accused of murder. The arrest of Braden’s father, a well-known Christian radio host, has sparked national media attention. His fate lies in his son’s hands; Braden is the key witness in the upcoming trial.

Braden has always measured himself through baseball. He is the star pitcher in his small town of Ornette, and his ninety-four-mile-per-hour pitch al- ready has minor league scouts buzzing in his junior year. Now the rules of the sport that has always been Braden’s saving grace are blurred in ways he never realized, and the prospect of playing against Alex Reyes, the nephew of the police officer his father is accused of killing, is haunting his every pitch.

Braden faces an impossible choice, one that will define him for the rest of his life, in this brutally honest debut novel about family, faith, and the ultimate test of conviction.

Thoughts: This is another title that I would probably never have chosen to read without the Morris, and I am so grateful that I had a reason to pick this up. Conviction was a stunning story, and so masterfully created that I could hardly believe that it was Gilbert’s first novel. It was exciting, captivating, powerful, and character-driven. I was hooked on the plot, waiting to see what else Braden would reveal, even as I started to put the pieces together. I was riveted by Braden’s struggles with his religion, his guilt, his game, and his relationships. I found Braden, Troy, and their father such realistic, complicated characters. Gilbert expertly revealed bits from the family’s past, as well as the events of the night of the accident, that never contradicted each other, built tension, and slowly made me realize what lay beneath the surface. I already know I want to read this novel again, just to see what details and complexities I missed the first time around. But don’t think that means it was a difficult read – I raced through Conviction. I’m not usually drawn to stories about sports, religion, or father/son relationships, but Conviction was probably one of my favorite reads of 2015, despite being all those things (and so much more as well.)

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes Book Cover The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

Description (from goodreads.com): The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, her ability to trust.

And when she rebelled, they took away her hands, too.

Now their Prophet has been murdered and their camp set aflame, and it’s clear that Minnow knows something—but she’s not talking. As she languishes in juvenile detention, she struggles to un-learn everything she has been taught to believe, adjusting to a life behind bars and recounting the events that led up to her incarceration. But when an FBI detective approaches her about making a deal, Minnow sees she can have the freedom she always dreamed of—if she’s willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is a hard-hitting and hopeful story about the dangers of blind faith—and the power of having faith in oneself. 

Thoughts: This book was getting a lot of buzz from other librarians I know even before the Morris nomination, and when I started reading, it was immediately clear why. From the very first words – “I am a blood-soaked girl” – Minnow Bly kept me riveted. I expected to find the flashbacks to Minnow’s past in the Kevinian cult fascinating, but as it turns out, I was almost equally interested in the pages dealing with Minnow’s life in prison and her adjustment to the world away from the Kevinians. Watching Minnow’s growth as a character – through her youth and in her prison life – was one of the highlights for me. There were also a lot of interesting elements dealing with being a woman, religion, finding meaning in life, and so much more, but the book never felt preachy or dull. Rather, I was completely gripped and couldn’t wait to turn the next page. And despite how different Minnow’s life was from mine, her story felt relatable and relevant.

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore Book Cover The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

Description (from goodreads.com): For twenty years, the Palomas and the Corbeaus have been rivals and enemies, locked in an escalating feud for over a generation. Both families make their living as traveling performers in competing shows—the Palomas swimming in mermaid exhibitions, the Corbeaus, former tightrope walkers, performing in the tallest trees they can find.

Lace Paloma may be new to her family’s show, but she knows as well as anyone that the Corbeaus are pure magia negra, black magic from the devil himself. Simply touching one could mean death, and she’s been taught from birth to keep away. But when disaster strikes the small town where both families are performing, it’s a Corbeau boy, Cluck, who saves Lace’s life. And his touch immerses her in the world of the Corbeaus, where falling for him could turn his own family against him, and one misstep can be just as dangerous on the ground as it is in the trees.

Beautifully written, and richly imaginative, The Weight of Feathers is an utterly captivating young adult novel by a talented new voice.

Thoughts: I was lucky enough to see Anna-Marie McLemore at the conference I attended in November, and saw her speak on two different panels. So I was thrilled to hear she had been nominated for the Morris Award and had high expectations for The Weight of Feathers. While the book wasn’t exactly what I expected, it was wonderful. The book was magical, and not just because of characters with feathers growing out of their heads or scales on their backs. The Weight of Feathers beautifully illustrated how our lives are shaped by our stories and our families, and how that can be both a good and a bad thing. Both Lace and Cluck find some of their strongest support and wonderful friends within their traveling families, but they also both suffer from the weight of those families’ expectations. On top of that, both must learn to separate the truths of their own – and each other’s – families from what they have been told their whole lives. But this book isn’t just literary themes and philosophies. It is also a beautiful love story, a simultaneously modern and timeless take on a classic story of forbidden romance, and an incredibly immersive world of magic – whether faked by talented performers, real and surrounding the main characters, or the magic of love and family.

 

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GEPL Teens: What To Do With Your Four Day Weekend

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By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

If you go to Glenbard West or Glenbard South, by the time you read this, you’ll be done with your finals. Congratulations! Before you go back to face your second semester, you have a glorious four day weekend of awesomeness. Many of you will be spending this weekend traveling with your family, but for those who are staying at home, here’s a few ways you could enjoy this wonderful, homework-free four day weekend:

Dog Sleeping in Bed with Stuffed AnimalSleep approximately 50% of the time. Let’s be honest, you probably need a few 12 hour nights of sleep to get caught up, and who doesn’t like sleeping?

Binge watch Jessica Jones or another Netflix series. One of the great things about Netflix (or other streaming services) is that you don’t have to wait for each episode of a series to come out – you can just start and go. Jessica Jones is just one of many new streaming series that you could easily knock out in a four day weekend.

Empire Poster Catch up on your favorite traditional TV show! I haven’t even had finals, but with the holiday craziness still in the recent past, I still haven’t caught up on all the Empire episodes from last fall, but you can bet that if I had a four day weekend at home, I’d get totally up to date!

Visit somewhere close by. Whether it’s a trip into Chicago with your friends to see the sights, shop, or catch a show, or just visiting your friend who moved two towns away, those distances and time spent in transit are a little easier to take without the looming threat of homework.

Ms. Marvel Poster Read a book or three that’s not for class. Class reading takes a lot of time – we get that. But it’s easy to forget how much fun reading is when it’s all assigned. Four days is plenty of time to barrel through a book, or even a few books, on your own. Not feeling big blocks of text? Try picking up a new comic book series like Ms. Marvel and getting yourself up to date.

Play video games until your thumbs hurt. I mean, how often do you have a chance to just immerse yourself in a story-based game, or spend a day improving your first person shooter skills? Take advantage of it!

Picture of Girl Laying On Couch with Three Dogs Surrounding Her Lie on the couch surrounded by comforts. Make a nest with books, TV remotes, blankets, hot drinks, pets (if available), and of course, comfy pants. Curl up and enjoy not having anything you need to be doing.

Any or all of these are not only great ways to enjoy the weekend, but will help you recharge before school starts up again. Have a relaxing weekend, and good luck next semester!

 

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GEPL Teens: Great Character Alert – Adelina Amouteru

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By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

The Young Elites by Marie Lu Book CoverOnce again, it’s time for a great character alert! Today’s great character appears in some equally great books, but I really want to focus just on her wonderful, relatable, anti-hero/villain awesomeness. This will come as no surprise to those of you who have read The Young Elites and The Rose Society, but I’m talking today about Adelina Amouteru.

For those unfamiliar with Marie Lu’s dark fantasy series, The Young Elites takes place in a world where a terrible blood fever has ravaged the land, leaving many survivors – called “malfettos” – marked with scars or strangely colored hair or other signs of their ordeal. And a select few of these malfettos, the young elites, have also developed strange powers. Adelina is one of these young elites, although she doesn’t know it at the beginning of her own story. What she does know is that as a malfetto she is hated, despised, and persecuted, even by those who should love and protect her.

Part of what makes Adelina such an incredible character is her growth over the course of the two novels. She starts out bullied by her father, envious of her sister, and desperately seeking to escape an arranged marriage. But soon after, Adelina’s powers start to show, and she must completely redefine how she views herself. Her slowly growing confidence, her internal struggles as she deals with a power that feeds on fear and hatred, and her changing relationship with her sister and her country are amazing to watch, and completely believable.

It’s not just her growth that makes Adelina such a great character though – it is her flaws. And she has many flaws. Even at the beginning when she is struggling to overcome her victimization at the hands of her father, Adelina is far from perfect. She resents her sister to an extreme degree, despite loving her. She hates her father, but still somehow craves his affection and approval. She is mistrustful of everyone, not smart enough or confident enough to outwit an enemy who blackmails her, and still afraid of her growing powers. As the story unfolds, some of Adelina’s faults magnify – her desire for power, her grudge holding, and her mistrust lead her down a dark path. But because we are in her head, because we see why she does what she does, it’s hard for us readers to hate Adelina. It’s obvious early on in the series that Adelina will never be a hero, but whether she will be an anti-hero or a villain is a question that makes her addicting to read about.

A great character isn’t always a hero. Often, they aren’t even people we would want to be friends with. Adelina is one such person – while I admire her love for her sister, her sense of the injustices against malfettos in her world, and her fierce determination and independence, I wouldn’t want to be dealing with her jealousies, her ambition, and her cruelty in my life. But the way she rings so true as a character, and struggles with a variety of physical, moral, and emotional dilemmas, and the incredibly realistic growing and changing of her character make her one of my favorite characters I’ve read about this year. The end of The Rose Society left me desperate for the next installment of the series – and desperate to know what will happen next to Adelina.

If you love anti-heroes, realistic character growth, or complicated, difficult, compelling characters, this great character alert is meant for you! Check out The Young Elites and get to know Adelina Amouteru for yourself.

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GEPL Teens: 2016 Reading Resolutions

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By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

Calvin and Hobbes Commic: "Resolutions? Me?? Just What Are You Implying? That I Need To Change?? Well, Buddy, As Far As I'm Concerened, I'm Perfect The Way I Am!Once again, it’s the end of the year and time to look forward to something new. As you may recall, I made three reading resolutions for 2015: Diversify my reading, don’t waste time on books I don’t like, and make time to read. Before I go into new resolutions, I wanted to update you on how I did.

As far as “diversify my reading” and “don’t waste time on books I don’t like” went, I nailed it. My reading this year was more diverse in terms of authors, characters, and genres than I can remember. Through doing this, I found incredible new authors and books, was exposed to new experiences, found out I enjoy a whole new genre (memoir), and generally expanded my horizons. And because I succeeded with “don’t waste time on books I don’t like,” I managed to read over 120 books that I really enjoyed this year. They weren’t all five star reads, but with only one exception (an award winner, thus why I forced myself to finish,) I enjoyed them all.

Where I fell short was on “make time to read.” Yes, I read a lot of books. But there were times when I would go days without physically reading a book. Just a couple weeks ago, I had a whole day off with pretty limited chores or plans, and I didn’t once pick up a book to read. So that’s why this year, my very first resolution is a repeat!

If you need inspiration for your own reading resolutions, or are just curious about what kind of goals another read has set, here are my 2016 reading resolutions:

  1. Make Time to Read

As I mentioned last year, audiobooks are great, but there is something about physically reading a book that I miss when I don’t do it. I read faster, my imagination gets to play a little more, and it’s relaxing and immersive in a way that audiobooks just never quite achieve. So this year, I’m going to try once more to not only read at least a few pages every single day, but also make the choice to read rather than watch the BBC Pride & Prejudice for the 100th time, or instead of turning on whatever silly movie is on the SyFy network, or instead of hanging out with friends, just once or twice. Reading is one of my favorite things, and it’s important to me to make time for it!

  1. Allow Myself to Re-Read More

Diversifying my reading last year was great. I intend to keep doing it throughout 2016, because it paid off big time. But I also miss some of my old favorites. I’ve always been a re-reader, and I did very little of it in 2015. I want to read new things, but I also want to allow myself time to re-visit old favorites without feeling guilty.

  1. Only Buy Books I Love

I work at a library, so this only makes sense. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for buying books, gifting books, more books in general. But if you’re on a limited budget (like me) or working with limited space (like me) it doesn’t make sense to spend money on books you don’t absolutely love. After all, that’s part of what libraries are for – giving us access to things without having to buy them ourselves. And if I limit my book buying only to really fantastic books, I save myself money and space, and make sure that what I do spend on books is going to support authors whose work I really care about. It’s a win-win!

Are you making any resolutions for 2016? Do you have any specifically book-related resolutions?

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GEPL Teens: Teens Write – Straaange Comic Book Characters

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By: Justin A., Teen Blogger

We all know that comic books are the one of the largest sources of weird and unexplainable events. While that is very true, comic books host even weirder characters. Both DC and Marvel have characters that make you question why they exist, why they were made in the first place. I personally love these characters and their strange backgrounds.

Here are my favorites.

  1. Throg (MARVEL)

Picutre of Throg (Marvel Character)At first he was Simon Walterson, a former college football player and widow. So in order to bring his wife back to life he used magic, a source he didn’t understand. A mystic woman offered him a chance to talk to his wife one last time, which he accepted. When he finished the woman asked for payment but he had none. For this, she turned him into a frog. He wandered about and found himself in the middle of a war where he found a chip of Thor’s hammer. When he picked it up he transformed into Throg. (basically a frog Thor)

  1. The Hate Monger (MARVEL)

In WWII Adolf Hitler led the Nazis in the Holocaust. In our world there are many conspiracies over Hitler and his death, but in the Marvel universe, a clone of Adolf Hitler was made and preserved. This clone later traveled the world and came across a hate ray, which, if fired at a person, could raise the hate in that person and make them do bad things out of rage.

  1. Captain Boomerang (DC)

A young boy born of an American soldier and an Australian woman grew up loving and creating boomerangs. He eventually adopted the persona of Captain Boomerang and used his abilities to fight the Flash and commit crimes. While he has no particular powers he is still a tough villain.
Picture of Arm Fall Off Boy (DC Character)

  1. Arm-Fall-Off-Boy (DC)

There isn’t much history to Arm-fall-off-boy. He is an alien known as Floyd Belki. He can detach his arms and use them as club. That’s his only power. Weird right?

  1. Danny the Street (DC)

Picture of Danny The Street (DC Character)Now this is my favorite character of this list. Formally a female, Danny is a street who teleports and has other powers that are very unspecific. He communicates by forming words out of the signs that are on the stores on him. He houses many people and a few heroes. Danny is a very flamboyant street, often found with military and sports streets decorated in pink and other bright colors. He mostly greets people with the phrase “bona to vada,” (“good to see you.”) That’s right, he is a street. A teleporting street that is often found assisting the Teen Titans by spying on people for Robin. And still a street.

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GEPL Teens: Book Gifts

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By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

I don’t know about you, but I love to give people books. After all, what can be better than sharing my love of books with others, and finding the perfect gift for someone? But it can be hard to come up with the right book for the right person. You don’t want to give a book someone’s already read or already owns, but you want to get a book they’ll like. So here’s a few quick, easy, and (somewhat) lesser known titles you could give book lovers in your life!

Endangered by Lamar GilesFor Mystery Fans – Endangered by Lamar Giles or A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

For those who can’t get enough of thrillers and modern mysteries, try Endangered, which focuses on the cat and mouse game that teen Panda plays with a stalker who’s caught her stalking. It’s fast paced, has great character development for Panda, and rushes towards an exciting and surprising conclusion. If your mystery lover is more interested in the past, try A Spy in the House, the first in a series of historical mysteries featuring orphan-turned-spy Mary Quinn as she infiltrates the upper levels of society in Victorian London.

For Sports Lovers: Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee or Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

For a sci-fi twist on a sports story, pick up Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee, about a zero gravity MMA fighter who rises to fame and the top of his profession, amidst revelations about his past and growing tensions between Earth and Mars. For a more current take on a sports story, gift Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. The story focuses on teen athlete D.J. as she tries to manage her family’s farm, train the quarterback from a rival high school, find her voice, and of course, keep up with her own sports dreams.

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee Book CoverFor Your Sister/Best Friend: This Side of Home by Renee Watson, Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee, or Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

If you have a sister, especially a twin, she might enjoy reading about twin sisters who have to negotiate a new relationship with each other as they find themselves disagreeing about the gentrification of their neighborhood in This Side of Home. In Under a Painted Sky, Samantha and Annamarie are thrown together as they each escape from a dangerous situation and test their luck on the Oregon Trail, and develop a deep friendship along the way. Gabi in Gabi, A Girl In Pieces is dealing with a lot in her life, as are her two best friends. But they are all three there for each other every step of the way, making even the most painful experiences bearable for each other.

For the Romance Fan: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCouer

In To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before Lara Jean Covey must untangle the threads of her romantic life after every letter she has written – but not sent – get delivered to her previous and current crushes. Along the way, she has to navigate family, friendships, and her own self confidence. If your romance-loving friend is a little more excited by Hollywood glamour, they might enjoy Everything Leads to You about 18 year old set designer Emi, who spends the summer after graduation rooming with her best friend – and getting to know the beautiful and talented Ava.

Huntress by Malinda Lo Book CoverFor Fantasy Lovers: Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho or Huntress by Malinda Lo

If your fantasy loving friend or family member goes for the more light-hearted side of reading, they’ll probably love Sorcerer to the Crown, set in an alternate historical England. This book features title character Zacharias trying to solve England’s magical crisis, with the help (or hindrance) of the powerfully magical and powerfully determined Prunella. The combination of hijinks, spells, manner, and mayhem is irresistible. For the more serious-minded, Huntress takes inspiration from Chinese mythology, and follows the quest of Kaede and Taisin, who must try to end the endless winter their country is suffering with a visit to the fairy court and the undertaking of a quest.

For Those Who Follow Current Events: All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely or All the Rage by Courtney Summers

Neither of these books is for the faint of heart, but both tackle some of the big issues we’ve seen in the news and discussed with our friends over the last few years, and both of them are powerful, maybe life-changing reads. In All American Boys, Rashad is brutally beaten by a police officer while trying to buy a bag of chips at a convenience store, and must struggle to recover in body and mind. In the meantime Quinn, who witnessed the beating and thinks of the police officer as family, must determine where his loyalties lie and what his conscience tells him. In All the Rage, Romy is bullied and ostracized after accusing a town golden boy of rape. While she is desperately trying to recover from her trauma and keep her life going, another girl in town goes missing, and Romy must decide whether to come forward all over again.

Pointe by Brandy Colbert Book CoverFor the Dancer in Your Life: Pointe by Brandy Colbert, Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz, or Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

Pointe shoes, rivalries, eating disorders, auditions – these elements and more appear in all three of these ballet books. In Pointe, Theo is on track for a promising ballet career after high school, when her best friend returns after being abducted three years ago, and Theo must once again face their shared past. Etta in Not Otherwise Specified has quit ballet, is recovering from her eating disorder, and struggling to find her place in the world. When on top of it all she is rejected by her lesbian friends for not being lesbian enough, she starts to think she might not fit in anywhere. In Tiny Pretty Things, three elite high school ballerinas struggle and scheme for top roles and a chance to make it at the world-famous American Ballet Theatre. Revenge, drama, ambition, and romance abound.

For the Non-Fiction Fan: Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw, Rethinking Normal by Katie Rain Hill, or Taking Flight by Michaela DePrince and Elaine DePrince

All three of these memoirs feature someone overcoming the odds to fulfill their dreams, but that’s a pretty reductive way to describe these great reads. Laughing at My Nightmare truly is a laugh, and Shane Burcaw describes his life with muscular atrophy with wit, grace, and a fair amount of bathroom humor that many will enjoy. In Rethinking Normal, Katie Rain Hill tells readers, in her real teen voice, of her childhood struggling to fit in and feel at home in her skin, and her eventual realization that she was transgender and transition to show her true gender. Taking Flight chronicles the life of ballerina Michaela DePrince, who was orphaned in the war ravaged Sierra Leone at a young age, but adopted at four by an American couple and given the chance to develop her immense talent and passion for dance.

No matter who you have in your life to buy for, you can probably find a great gift for any reader in these suggestions. If none of them seem quite right for your bookish friends and family, don’t hesitate to visit the library for more suggestions!

 

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Teens Write – Hamilton

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By: Britta J., Teen Blogger

Hamilton An American Musical PosterIf you ever want to sound well cultured and slightly pretentious all you have to do is mention one of Braodway’s most successful original musicals: Hamilton. I personally am completely fangirling over this musical, and I’m not even involved in theatre. Just this past week the soundtrack of this hip hop interpretation of the life and accomplishments of Alexander Hamilton has topped Billboard’s rap charts.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Hamilton’s story here is a quick summary. He was born in poverty in the Caribbean and by the age of 10, he was orphaned. He was super smart and hardworking, so he earned passage on a ship to New York where he earned a scholarship to what is today known as Columbia. He was Washington’s right hand man in the Revolutionary War and later during his presidency. Hamilton created our first National Bank and Financial system and married Elizabeth Schuyler, a woman of social prominence.

Hamilton has everything a great musical could need: war, epic rivalries, an interesting love story, scandals, and murder. Even better, it’s all set to catchy hip hop themed music – an intentional choice according to its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda. He claims that Alexander Hamilton’s rise to power embodies the rise to success that defines the Hip-hop genre. After all, Hamilton “got a lot farther/ by being a smarter/ by being a self-starter.”

And it’s not just about catchy rhymes, although those are enough to make you listen through the entire soundtrack. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who also plays Hamilton on Broadway, explained the intricacies of the relationship between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, the man who eventually kills him: “The engine of my new musical is the fact that Hamilton and Burr both hear that ticking clock of mortality at a very young age, and the way in which they choose to live in the FACE of that knowledge puts them in a collision course from the moment they meet.” Hamilton chooses to charge forward and take what he wants while Burr waits for the perfect opportunity. In a commencement speech at Wesleyan, Miranda told his audience that Burr and Hamilton represent two radical responses to life which eventually causes their downfall. In reality we’ll “be rushing and waiting at the same time,” and through Hamilton, Miranda teaches us the importance of this balance.

So, go listen to the Hamilton soundtrack and maybe after, you won’t think I’m so crazy when I tell you that the only thing I want for Christmas are Hamilton Tickets. With such an entertaining yet deeply intricate musical, who wouldn’t want to see it? I’d say that I can’t wait, but Aaron Burr has taught me better.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: What I Just Read – Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

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By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli Book CoverI often worry when reading a much-buzzed about book that it will disappoint – especially if I’m late to the game and have been hearing about it for months. Luckily for me, that wasn’t the case with this edition of What I Just Read!

What I Just Read: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

What’s It About (Jacket Description): Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

Do I Like It: To a squeeing and hugging my Kindle degree

Thoughts: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – sometimes it’s good to read something a little lighter (though not without its depth) and something that makes me super happy in the end. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda was exactly that book for me. It was SO CUTE. Simon was hilarious, and the romance made me melt a little. The conflicts were real and meaningful, even if they weren’t exactly life-threatening. While I never went through exactly what Simon does during the book, I could sympathize with so much of his story. I think anyone who is a teenager or has been a teenager, anyone who has had a crush, who has balanced new friendships with old, anyone who has loved their family but struggled with them as well, anyone who has experienced any number of normal life experiences could connect with this book. The relatability of Simon’s experiences is what makes this book so special. Well, that and the adorableness.

Simon of course is wonderful, but I actually thought the secondary characters equaled him, and occasionally even outshone him in some ways. Which isn’t a bad thing – after all, we’re supposed to relate to Simon, so it makes sense that the people around him would shine a little brighter than himself from his perspective. The dynamic between Simon and his best friends Leah and Nick was comfortable and familiar, and the intensity of his new friendship with Abby was almost like a romance, though completely platonic. Simon’s family members were all likable as well – his parents and sisters all had distinct personalities, and as someone close to my siblings, the relationship between Simon and his sisters delighted me. And of course, there’s Blue – a good romance is nothing without a good romantic interest, and Blue was great. His e-mails were quirky, smart, funny, and showed off his personality so well. It was easy to see why Simon would fall for him, even before we knew who Blue was.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda has a lot going on in its pages – friendships, character growth, drama, family, and, of course, romance. But despite the ups and downs within it, Simon was a very up book for me, and I loved that. So if you’re looking for something to keep you engaged and warm your heart during this cold December, I highly recommend Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda!

Posted in GEPL Teens