GEPL Teens Blog

GEPL Teens: What I Just Read – All American Boys

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By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely Book CoverSometimes, you read a book that instantly grabs you, holds you, wrings your emotions, and in the end, makes you want to do it all over again because it was that good. This book was one of those for me.

What I Just Read: All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

What’s It About (Jacket Description): In an unforgettable new novel from award-winning authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, two teens—one black, one white—grapple with the repercussions of a single violent act that leaves their school, their community, and, ultimately, the country bitterly divided by racial tension.

A bag of chips. That’s all sixteen-year-old Rashad is looking for at the corner bodega. What he finds instead is a fist-happy cop, Paul Galuzzi, who mistakes Rashad for a shoplifter, mistakes Rashad’s pleadings that he’s stolen nothing for belligerence, mistakes Rashad’s resistance to leave the bodega as resisting arrest, mistakes Rashad’s every flinch at every punch the cop throws as further resistance and refusal to STAY STILL as ordered. But how can you stay still when someone is pounding your face into the concrete pavement?

But there were witnesses: Quinn Collins—a varsity basketball player and Rashad’s classmate who has been raised by Paul since his own father died in Afghanistan—and a video camera. Soon the beating is all over the news and Paul is getting threatened with accusations of prejudice and racial brutality. Quinn refuses to believe that the man who has basically been his savior could possibly be guilty. But then Rashad is absent. And absent again. And again. And the basketball team—half of whom are Rashad’s best friends—start to take sides. As does the school. And the town. Simmering tensions threaten to explode as Rashad and Quinn are forced to face decisions and consequences they had never considered before.

Written in tandem by two award-winning authors, this tour de force shares the alternating perspectives of Rashad and Quinn as the complications from that single violent moment, the type taken from the headlines, unfold and reverberate to highlight an unwelcome truth.

Do I Like It: I already bought a copy for myself, that’s how much I loved it!

Thoughts: I read All American Boys in one day – most of it in one sitting on a plane trip. Once I started, I couldn’t put it down. Rashad, Quinn, the real-world events, and the powerful prose all kept me glued to the page. But that description doesn’t really describe experience of reading All American Boys. I loved it so much that when I did have to take a break from reading it, I took the opportunity of a bookstore stop to buy it, before I had even finished reading it.

One of the biggest strengths of the book is that both Rashad and Quinn are great and compelling narrators and characters. Neither outshines the other, though of course, Rashad’s experiences take center stage in the book. Rashad’s anger, fear, and sense of injustice are palpable and understandable, but it is his relationship with his family and friends, his difficulty processing what has been done to him, and his courage to face up to injustice that really make him relatable and an outstanding character. And much like Rashad, Quinn is also defined more by his strong loyalty to his family and moral convictions than by his confusion and distress, though he struggles throughout the book with what his morals are and mean, and where his loyalties really lie.

Both boys are smart, unique characters struggling with issues we see every day in the news. But for Rashad and Quinn, the issues aren’t just in the news – they are in their lives, in their bodies, in the community they have grown up in and loved. And that’s what makes All American Boys so powerful. It makes huge, important issues deeply personal for the characters, and by extension, for the readers. And not only do Reynolds and Kiely not sacrifice characterization, plot, or good writing to do this, but in fact go above and beyond with all of these elements. Even without thinking about the big issues, All American Boys is a wonderful book about growing up, strength of character, friendship, family, and community.

Ultimately, I’m finding it hard to write about this book. I still don’t feel like I’m doing justice to what reading this book was like for me. What I will say is that if you want a book that deals with current issues, this is your book. If you want a book with fully fleshed out and appealing main characters, this is your book. If you want a book featuring strong relationships between characters, this is your book. If you want a book that explores a community, this is your book. And if you want a compelling, page-turning read, this is your book. All American Boys was one of my absolutely favorites reads of 2015, and I hope you all get as much out of it as I did!

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Teens Write – No Mythologies to Follow Review

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By: Sabrina A., Teen Blogger

MO: No Mythologies To Follow CD CoverYou wake up at 5 a.m. and go to school. Finally, school is over at 2:35 p.m. but now you have to go to work. After a long day of school and work you find yourself at home, staring at a pile of unfinished homework. You finally finish all your homework and eventually you fall asleep by midnight. You wake up again at 5 a.m. and follow the same steps again. What’s wrong with this routine? There is no time given to yourself. I think a great way to dedicate time to yourself is to listen to music that you enjoy. I personally am a fan of alternative music and enjoy listening to an artist named MØ. I absolutely love the lyrics in her music and her voice is very soothing. My favorite album by her is No Mythologies to Follow, and I believe it holds a lot of emotion.

The songs included in this album are, “Fire Rides,” “Maiden,” “Never Wanna Know,” “Red in the Grey,” “Pilgrim,” “Don’t Wanna Dance,” “Waste of Time,” “Dust Is Gone,” “XXX 88,” “Walk This Way,” “Slow Love,” “Glass,” “No Mythologies to Follow,” “Dummy Head,” “The Sea,” and “Gone and Found.” No Mythologies to Follow is emotionally diverse which means it’s an album you can listen to after a rough day or when you want something upbeat to dance to. I think MØ’s voice is exceptionally relaxing and soothing in No Mythologies to Follow. Also I think MØ has a very unique perspective in her music. The newer music that is on the radio is often about drugs, alcohol, and other risky behaviors, but MØ strays far from those topics and brings a refreshing twist to her songs. I believe anyone can find themselves enjoying MØ’s album No Mythologies to Follow and take something away from her lyrics.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Meeting Authors

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By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

I’ve mentioned before that being a librarian, especially a teen librarian, occasionally comes with fun perks (like getting advanced reader copies of books!) And of course, there’s my favorite perk, of getting to hang out with and talk to awesome teenagers on a regular basis (seriously folks, best part of my job.) But another part of my job that I always get super excited about is the chance to meet authors! Thanks to the library conferences and professional development that I attend, plus the occasional bookstore signing, I have been lucky enough to meet some incredible authors. And you might think that, after the first couple authors, I would have learned to play it cool and not act like a besotted fangirl, but you would be wrong.

Hannah and The Fault in Our Stars Author John GreenSo even though I am still somebody who stammers and occasionally sweats and can barely garble out an “OMG I loved your book so much and you are so cool,” and therefore hardly an expert on meeting authors, I wanted to share the wealth, and make some suggestions for meeting and respecting authors when you get the chance.

The first step, of course, is finding authors! Bookstores are a great place for this – authors will often go to a bookstore to sign books, or even do a reading from their books. We are fortunate to be near enough to Anderson’s Books to see some of the incredible range of authors who visit their store, but smaller stores and libraries in the area will often host visits from authors as well, so keep your eyes open. If there’s a particular author you want to meet, check their website – most authors will post their appearances well in advance, which gives you time to plan a trip to Chicago or a road trip if you really want to. Hannah and The Weight of Feathers Author Anna-Marie McLemore

Once you’re there, the most important thing to do is respect the author. In my experience, most authors are thrilled to meet fans, sign books, and even take pictures. But everyone is different. Some people prefer not to shake hands, because they are averse to physical contact (or sick!) Some prefer not to take pictures, whether because they don’t like pictures or because they don’t want to hold up the signing line. Some are happy to personalize a book, some have to sign so many books at once that their name is all their tired hand can manage. So by all means, ask away, but be sure to respect what an author says!

Hannah and American Born Chinese Author Gene Luen YangThe second most important thing is, don’t be afraid to talk to the author! Even if you only have a minute or two, it can be really rewarding to tell an author what you liked about their book, or ask a question, or share what made you connect so powerfully to their work. Telling Dhonielle Clayton how reading Tiny, Pretty Things made me realize how much I like reading about cut-throat, ambitious, sometimes mean characters, and having her respond and agree that mean people are indeed super fun to read about, was completely awesome. Even though it was a short interaction so I didn’t hold up the line behind me, it’s something I’ll remember, and an individual moment with an author that belongs to just to the two of us! Along those lines, don’t be afraid to ask for things like a picture, a hand-shake, or a personalized signature. Just remember the most important thing (respect the author!), and don’t push it.

Lastly, enjoy yourself! You’re getting to meet someone who has created a work that you love (or like, or are interested in.) That’s something that should be savored, and remembered. Don’t worry about being nervous or red-faced or awkward. Even if you are, the authors will be thrilled that you are there, interested in their work. Plus, there’s no way you’ll be more flustered than I was when I met Tamora Pierce. Seriously, NO WAY.

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GEPL Teens: The Hobbit Book to Movie Review

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By: Elizabeth W., Teen Blogger

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien Book CoverBook to movie adaptations are usually pretty hit or miss. These movies often have to stand up to a large fan base that is strongly attached to everything about the original book. But of course you can’t include everything from a book in a movie, and the casting of the movie may not live up to everyone’s expectations. So does a book to movie adaptation have to be by the book to be good?

The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey DVD CoverThe Hobbit is a much beloved novel by J.R.R. Tolkien that was recently made into three movies: An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug, and The Battle of the Five Armies. The story follows Bilbo, a hobbit, who goes on a quest with 13 dwarves to reclaim their homeland from a dragon. Although the major plot line was the same there were a lot of differences between the book and the movies. These allowed an average-sized book to be stretched out into three movies. For instance, Tauriel, an elf woman, and Legolas, a character from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, weren’t in the original book but were a big part of the last two films. There were also orcs chasing the travelers throughout the movie that were not in the book. These added tension, urgency, and more battle scenes to the movie. There was also characters such as Bard, an inhabitant of the human village of Laketown, who got a bigger back story in the movie.

Despite these differences the movies included most if not all of the adventures found in the book. There was also a great cast of characters that either followed directly with the novel or were created in the spirit of Tolkien’s world. Tauriel isn’t a character created by Tolkien but her character fits very well with his elves and their culture. Legolas wasn’t in the original book but hypothetically could have been because his father is in it. There was a subplot added about wizards fighting a necromancer that wasn’t in the book but in other works about Middle Earth we find out that it did happen at the same time as the novel. Although the movies added subplots, they did follow the same plot-line and reach the same conclusion as the book.

The Hobbit movies didn’t directly follow the book. However, they were still enjoyable to the viewer whether or not they had read the original novel. Although it probably could have been better if it had followed more closely to Tolkien’s work, the creators of The Hobbit movies clearly went to great lengths to capture the world, characters, and general feel of The Hobbit. The emphasis on following the plot of the novel and the feel of Tolkien’s the world made these movies fun to watch even if they were different. Respecting the author’s original work while adapting that work to a movie is the greatest challenge of a book to movie adaptation. Despite their failings I believe the creators of The Hobbit trilogy met this challenge, allowing them to produce an enjoyable series of films.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: What I Just Read – Rethinking Normal

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By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

Rethinking Normal by Katie Rain Hill Book CoverI’ve been trying this year to read more non-fiction. Given that I normally read very little, I feel like I’m doing really well with a grand total of seven so far (but hopefully one or two more before the year is out!) The latest non-fiction to make it into my hands is part of a pair of memoirs by two teens, Katie Rain Hill and Arin Andrews, documenting their experiences as transgender kids and teens as well as their relationship with each other.

What I Just Read: Rethinking Normal by Katie Rain Hill

What’s It About (Jacket Description): In her unique, generous, and affecting voice, nineteen-year-old Katie Hill shares her personal journey of undergoing gender reassignment.

Have you ever worried that you’d never be able to live up to your parents’ expectations? Have you ever imagined that life would be better if you were just invisible? Have you ever thought you would do anything – anything – to make the teasing stop? Katie Hill had and it nearly tore her apart.

Katie never felt comfortable in her own skin. She realized very young that a serious mistake had been made; she was a girl who had been born in the body of a boy. Suffocating under her peers’ bullying and the mounting pressure to be “normal,” Katie tried to take her life at the age of eight years old. After several other failed attempts, she finally understood that “Katie”–the girl trapped within her–was determined to live.

In this first-person account, Katie reflects on her pain-filled childhood and the events leading up to the life-changing decision to undergo gender reassignment as a teenager. She reveals the unique challenges she faced while unlearning how to be a boy and shares what it was like to navigate the dating world and experience heartbreak for the first time in a body that matched her gender identity. Told in an unwaveringly honest voice, Rethinking Normal is a coming-of-age story about transcending physical appearances and redefining the parameters of “normalcy” to embody one’s true self.

Do I Like It: So much that now I want to read Arin’s memoir as well!

Thoughts: I’ve rarely read anything by someone as young as Katie Rain Hill, and even less non-fiction, and her youth really struck me in reading this. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but to me, it was one of the defining characteristics of the book. All of the experiences Katie talks about are not only relatively recent (yes, even the ones when she was a kid!) but she is still experiencing them as a teenager, without the removed perspective of an adult. I think in the case of Rethinking Normal that’s a plus – though I would also love to read more from Katie in five, ten, or even twenty years.

While many of the issues Katie discusses in Rethinking Normal are extremely serious and painful to read about, including suicide attempts, alienation from family and friends, bullying, and more, she also devotes plenty of page space to her friendships, crushes, romantic relationships, and freshman year college experiences. I liked that the memoir addressed both the pain and difficult experiences of gender dysphoria as well as the other important parts of being a teenager – specifically, relationships with peers and romantic interests. I often find adults, especially those with enduring friendships and long-term relationships as fixed part of their lives, forget just how important our relationships with other people are, and how exciting, or difficult, or engrossing they can be as they begin, progress, and end. Katie giving them a decent amount of page space next to her emotional, mental, and medical experiences, really made me remember what it was like to be a teenager. And since much of this discussion of relationships focuses on Katie’s ex-boyfriend and fellow transgender teen, Arin, I’m finding myself eager to hear things from his perspective in his memoir Some Assembly Required.

But aside from Katie herself, and the joy of reading something really written by and about a teenager, it was also immensely powerful to read about Katie’s experiences. She has been through some difficult, even traumatizing things, and I teared up a few times reading the book. But ultimately, I found Rethinking Normal to be a feel-good experience, an example of how people can change and support us even after they’ve let us down, a testament to the joy of feeling comfortable with yourself and at home in your body, and a statement about the bravery it sometimes takes to go after who we are and what we want. I think Rethinking Normal is a great read for anyone who is curious about transgender issues, inspired or uplifted by stories of resilience and triumph, or just ready to get inside the mind of a teen girl. And as an added bonus, if you’re looking to up your non-fiction reading, Rethinking Normal is an easy way to do that, since it’s readable, accessible, and true!

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GEPL Teens: Teens Write – Technology & Teenagers Take 5 (Technology and Education)

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By: Jonathan A., Teen Blogger

DIYLOL.Com Drawing Of Person Crying "Can't Live Without Technology"Today’s teenagers are surrounded by technology everywhere they look. With smartphones and tablets bringing the wondrous expanse of the Internet to their fingertips, teenagers’ brains are almost always being stimulated by a new video or article. This constant barrage of technology has led to many adults worrying about the effect that this trend of increased “screen time” is having on teenagers’ ability to learn.

In a new study published by the Pew Internet Project, researchers asked 2,462 teachers how they believe technology is affecting the education of teenagers. 90% of the teachers said that technology is creating “an easily distracted generation with short attention spans.” 76% of teachers also said that students have been “conditioned by the Internet to find quick answers.” While these findings may seem to indicate that technology has had a negative impact on teenagers, the teachers also pointed out that “students were improving in subjects like math, science, and reading” (Technology is Changing How Students Learn, Teachers Say, NY Times).

While this seems contradictory, the researchers believe that the reason students’ test scores have not been suffering is that teachers have improved their ability to capture students’ attention and hold it for a long period of time. In the end, no matter how one feels about it, technology is here to stay. Both students and teachers will have to continue to adjust the ways with which they interact with, and use technology in order for teenagers to be able to succeed in a world that relies more and more on technology every day.

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GEPL Teens: Adaptions

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By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

I recently heard about an exciting series of books, all written by different (often famous and high-profile) authors, that will all be retellings of Shakespeare plays. My first experience with Shakespeare (that I remember) was in a kid’s book featuring a bunch of Shakespeare plays in story form. Now, these were (mostly) true to the plays, just with simplified language and some streamlining to make them accessible. But ever since then, I’ve had a deep affection for retellings. Whether it’s a new version of an old myth, a modernized version of a classic novel, or the always-popular book based on a fairy tale, I inhale stories like this. Somehow, the shared language of whatever the myth/classic/fairy tale is makes reading an adaptation almost like having a conversation with an author, because you can see where their interpretation of the source material lined up with yours, or where their ideas and analysis of the original is different from your own.

Because of this, as well as the fun of seeing something familiar go in a new direction, I’ve read a lot of adaptations. But also because there are three layers of personal preferences at play when talking about an adaptation – preferences about the actual book/writing, preferences about the source material, and preferences about how the source material was re-imagined – liking or disliking an adaptation is a hugely personal thing. So rather than sharing “great adaptations” with you all and risking some righteous anger, I’m going to share some of my own personal favorite adaptations. Most of these come from source material that I’m fond of, and I find each of these an entertaining, astute, and enjoyable version of an already beloved original. There are tons more, of course, but these are some of my favorites!

10 Things I Hate About You Movie Poster 10 Things I Hate About You – Since it was reading about Shakespeare retellings that inspired this list, it seems appropriate to start with a version of a Shakespeare play. 10 Things has the fun and humor of The Taming of the Shrew, deals well with some of the more problematic aspects, and has an all-star cast of incredible actors. What’s not to love?

Across A Star Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund Book Cover Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund – This is the only item on this list where I read the adaptation first, and loved it so much I read the source material. This book is a futuristic fantasy-like version of The Scarlet Pimpernel, and features the politics as well as the fun of the source material, plus incredible world-building and some seriously cool imagery.

Ash by Malinda Lo Book Cover Ash by Malinda Lo – This is a cool, atmospheric, almost creepy version of Cinderella. Malinda Lo manages to make this old (like seriously, REALLY OLD) fairy tale seem modern, but without sacrificing the magic or the fairy tale feel.

Clueless DVD Cover Clueless Emma is my favorite Jane Austen novel, and Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors. So I’m pretty critical of adaptations and retellings of her work, and to this day, Clueless is my favorite modern version of an Austen novel I’ve ever read or seen. Cher just embodies Emma’s best qualities (her kindness, her devotion to her father, her fun and charm) as well as her worst (her selfishness, her conceitedness, her spoiled-ness), and Clueless retains the humor as well as the character development of its original. I love it.

Mack the Knife performed by Bobby Darrin – This song is a classic, an incredibly appealing example of some of the best of 50s music. The lyrics and music capture the smarmy, dangerous Mack the Knife (from The Threepenny Opera) perfectly, and Bobby Darrin’s entrancingly smooth voice brings the highwayman to life.

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler Book Cover The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler – This recently published book brings The Little Mermaid into modern times, complete with the loss of her voice and large family of sisters. Simultaneously true to the source material and its own unique story, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids takes the emphasis away from a mermaid pining after a lost love, and instead focuses on a character trying to find herself, and her voice, in a whole new world.

Who Wrote Holden Caulfield by Green Day – Yes, even snot-nosed punk kids (snot-nosed punk kids that I love, for the record) can create some great literary adaptations. From their pre-fame album Kerplunk, Who Wrote Holden Caulfield gets at why so many teenagers empathize with Holden in The Catcher in the Rye. I think all of us have at some point felt like the Holden Green Day writes about when they say “There’s a boy who fogs his world and now he’s getting lazy/There’s no motivation and frustration makes him crazy/He makes a plan to take a stand but always ends up sitting/Someone help him up or he is gonna end up quitting.”

Those are just some of my favorite retellings and modernizations of classics, fairy tales, and more. What are some of yours?

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GEPL Teens: Readers Are Forcing Bad Books

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By: Maia G., Teen Blogger

The Diviners by Libba Bray Book CoverOne of my favorite authors, Libba Bray, who wrote the books The Diviners, Beauty Queens, Going Bovine, and the Gemma Doyle Trilogy, recently finished her new book, Lair of Dreams (the second book in The Diviners series). I know, you have absolutely no idea what the heck The Diviners is. Before I go on with the rest of this blog entry, I recommend this book to anyone who loves fantasy, romance, mystery, murder, or basically anything else for that matter. I recommend this to everyone!

Going on, her book is coming out this August! Most people who have read any of her books know how great of an author she is. Every one of the fans of The Diviners has been anxiously awaiting the release of this (hopefully) fantastic book. A LOT of people have been emailing her with questions that ask when this book is coming out, pressuring her to write faster. What most people don’t know is Libba Bray has depression. As all those emails flooded her inbox, according to Libba Bray, she wanted to say “I’m sorry that I haven’t returned your email but you can see the huge hole in the center of me, and I’m afraid it has made such dialogue impossible” (Libba Bray’s blog entry- Miles and Miles of No-Man’s Land). So, she finished her book with intense depression, but the release date was pushed back so far, over a year, because of her depression, and close to no one even noticed or maybe even cared why the date was pushed back so far.

Moving to more brought up book series, many people think the Divergent, Hunger Games, Maze Runner, Twilight, and Harry Potter series (to name a few)had pretty bad endings compared to the rest of the series. Is it just me, or is there a pattern of bad book series endings? These extremely popular authors almost certainly had their share of harmful, pressuring emails about the release date of their most recent books. Authors are pressured into writing faster, no matter the circumstance, and I believe that is why the most recent books that are part of a series are considered “bad” and “rushed”. Fan boy and girls are pressuring authors to write their books at a fast pace, and once the books finally come out, they shoot the authors’ books down because they’re rushed. Of course they’re going to be rushed! They’re basically being forced to abandon every plan they had for their books, and they need to end them with a fast-paced, cut-off ending.

It sounds like I’m writing an essay, but there is a solution! Stop pressuring authors to finish their books earlier than they want to!!!!!! I know, it’s super hard to wait for a book to come out. I keep checking the days off the calendar, anxiously counting down until the day my hopefully (crossing my fingers!!) new favorite book comes out. But honestly, would you want your favorite character to be killed off because the author was pressured into writing an alternate ending? It’s hard to believe, but the longer you wait, the greater chance the book you so desperately need is going to be AMAZING!!


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GEPL Teens: Last Minute Halloween Costumes

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By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

Halloween is tomorrow, and if you’re a chronic procrastinator/non-crafty person like me, you may not have a costume yet. That’s okay! There are plenty of costumes that can be whipped up at the last minute, and we’re here to help with some ideas. If you’re still struggling for a Halloween costume, try one of these easy, book-ish ideas:

Take a large white sheet and cut out eye holes for a traditional ghost costume. Using a sharpie, write “Lily Potter” or “James Potter” on the front.

A Kid Wearing a Halloween Ghost Costume

Get the largest paper bag (or two) you can find. Cut out armholes, and wear it like a dress. Make a crown out of yellow construction paper. You are now the Paperbag Princess (and if you haven’t read the book, revert to being a kid again and check it out ASAP!)

Paperbag Princess

Put a red “A” onto literally any item of clothing and go as Olive from Easy A (this totally counts as literary because it’s based on a book.) Or just use a giant red A and go as “The Scarlet Letter!”

Red Letter A

Use a giant towel as a toga, go as a house elf (Harry Potter is just full of easy costume ideas!)

Towel Toga Drawing

Get a “Hello, my name is…” nametag. Write “Ishmael.” Introduce yourself by saying “call me Ishmael.”

Hello My Name Is Ishmael Name Tag

Draw a Camp Half-Blood logo on an orange t-shirt, enjoy being a demi-god.

Camp Half-Blood Logo On Orange TSshirt

Dress like an awesome person, carry a book or ten around with you, and be a librarian!

Picture of Rupert Giles from Buffy The Vampire Slayer TV Show

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Before I Fall Review

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By: Andrea G., Teen Blogger

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver Book CoverBefore I Fall is a book I’d easily recommend to everyone, even though it might seem girly. The lessons this book taught made me sit and think about life after finishing it. This book deals with extremely pertinent issues such as: sacrifice, love, suicide, acceptance, high school popularity, and self-identity. Despite the fact that some of the lessons may seem cliché, like not caring about what others think, the way these themes are illustrated makes Before I Fall a book that’s impossible to put down.

The book is written from the viewpoint of Samantha Kingston, a seemingly perfect, popular high school senior. It begins on her school’s “Cupid’s Day,” a day she looks forward to every year. In the morning, her biggest concern is how many “Valograms” (roses with notes attached to them) she will get that day. She rules over the school, carelessly bullying others. Her favorite target is a girl named Juliet Skyes, a girl she’s been teasing since the 6th grade. After school she ends up at a house party where her horribly shallow personality shows through. At the party, Juliet Skyes confronts her and finally stands up for herself. However, with Samantha’s powerful reign on the school, she gets everyone to pour beer all over her and start chanting “psycho”. On Samantha’s and her friend’s way home from the party, something crashes into them and Samantha abruptly dies. But then she awakes to the exact same scene she woke up to the day before. This book has a kind of Groundhog Day vibe, every day Samantha wakes up reliving the last day of her life. Each time she wakes up she has another day, and another chance to change her fate.

Throughout the story, Samantha grows as a person and her mindset starts to change. On the second day, she survives past 12:39am (the time the car crash occurred). However, her mom comes in and tells her Juliet Skyes has killed herself. Samantha then understands that her actions definitely affected Juliet’s suicide. Knowing this, she starts the next day trying to find a way to save both of their lives. As she continuously keeps repeating this day, she becomes aware of the value of love and the importance of accepting others. Samantha grows to reevaluate her old morals and learns what her life’s purpose is.

I love this book because it pursues the question of what the meaning of life is. Although it’s obviously too big of a question for one book to solve, it really made me reflect on what the pinnacles a fulfilled life should be based upon. Before I Fall taught me that life is about sacrifices. It’s not always easy to make sacrifices to benefit others, especially in Samantha’s case where it’s a life or death situation, but it’s necessary. Although Samantha had to learn these lessons in a completely undesirable situation, it doesn’t mean the rest of us have to.

Posted in GEPL Teens