The Teen Scene: GEPL High School Blog

Invincible by Robert Kirkman

By: Peter F., Teen Blogger

Invincible: Volume One Family MattersAs a person who mostly only reads novels or “actual books,” I normally forget to read any graphic novels or comics. They can seem less important or just not as engrossing/intriguing due to the shorter stories and the lack of words. However, due to newer stories and authors that create amazing worlds brought to life through illustrations, the more recent generation of comic books have certainly caught my attention.

The graphic novel titled Invincible tells the story of a teenage boy, Mark, going through high school and living a normal life when all of a sudden, the super-powered genes from his father start to kick in and bestow him with superman-like power. He meets with other high schoolers that, like him, have superhuman abilities and he begins to be a full-fledged superhero who saves the world and conquers evil. The first few issues seem to be a sort of cut and dried superhero story, but Robert Kirkman quickly upheaves the generic story of heroism and reveals a darker and more mature backstory.

The author, Robert Kirkman, was also the writer for the comics The Walking Dead, which had been adapted to TV with extreme success. The classic zombie storyline, intertwined with mature themes that are usually left forgotten, created a comic and TV show that were amazingly popular. I, along with many other people, found older comics to be generic and plain with tired storylines that showed little innovation or risk taking. Once comics turned into graphic novels, however, the stories became exotic and fresh.

Invincible is one of the comics that knows this transformation from generic to exotic, and pokes fun at it as well. The issues are full of humor and satire, yet the authors tackle controversial topics and explore them with a sense of understanding and maturity. The fact that the story is centered around a teenage boy doesn’t mean that the comic is only applicable for teenagers. The themes the story introduces are wonderfully open and accessible for anyone. This comic book series is already popular, and for good reason. This storyline is absolutely one of my favorite graphic novels ever written.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Re-Read Value

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

Check Out Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire by J.K. RowlingOne of my “reading resolutions” this year has been to allow myself to re-read more books. As much as I love doing this, it’s often hard – there are so many new books that I hear about (and usually, purchase for the library) that I want to read, it’s hard to make room even for my old favorites. But when I do take a moment to go back to something I love, I never regret it. Right now, I’m re-reading the Harry Potter series for the I-don’t-know-how-many-th time.

And while it’s certainly a different experience than the first time around, or even the first couple times around, it’s still fun. I may know exactly what’s going to happen when Harry faces the Hungarian Horntail or gets transported to a mysterious graveyard (why yes, I did just finish Goblet of Fire!) but somehow, I still find myself caught up in the moment and eager to turn the pages, even if they’re turning a little slower than they did the first time through.

Immersing myself not just in a re-read of a book, but of an entire series, has got me thinking about what exactly makes something re-readable. I’ve always said that re-read value is a huge factor in my favorite books. No matter how much I enjoy a book my first time through, if I can’t read it again (and again, and again, and again…) it’s not going to make it onto my list of favorites. But what exactly makes certain books so re-readable for me? One thing is for sure, it’s very personal – what I think of as great reasons for reading a book again may be totally different from anything other people look for in a book to return to. But I think I’ve identified a few things that many of my favorite re-readable books have in common.

1.) A happy ending. Look, I’m not saying everything should always be sunshine and roses, and there are a lot of great books that have dark or straight-up depressing endings. But the books I return to over and over all end with some level of cheer and hopefulness. Spoiler alert, Voldemort doesn’t win. Sure, there’s a battle, and some deaths that sometimes still reduce me to tears, but at the end of the series, I’m left feeling good about the outcome and the characters’ futures. Which brings me to my next point…

Check Out Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz2.) Great characters. I’m always drawn to good characters in books, but it’s an absolute necessity if I’m going to be re-reading something. After all, I know what events are going to happen in these books, so I’m not going to be quite as riveted by the plot the second or twelfth time around. But really great characters never get old. Reading about Aristotle and Dante, Cath Avery, Rae Seddon, Emma Woodhouse, Dorian Gray, Hermione Granger, Keladry of Mindelan, and other beloved characters is like visiting with old friends. I may know what I’m getting going in, but it’s comforting and delightful just to be in their company again. And in anything really well-written, I’m probably finding out new things about the characters and getting to know them better even after half a dozen readings.

3.) Companions/friendships/critters. This is a broad category, but what it really comes down to is the side characters. There is very little I like reading about better than a great friendship, a relationship that grows into respect and trust, or an animal BFF (“critter”). It’s what drew me to Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series so long ago, it’s what makes the main trio of Harry Potter so iconic, and it’s what makes me eager to read about the same characters, plot, and worlds over and over again.

These are just a few of the reasons I re-read a book (it should go without saying that “dragons” is also a good reason to return to any book), and I’m guessing they differ from your reasons. Do you re-read? If so, what do your favorites have in common? What keeps you coming back to the same books time and again?

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Korean Dramas

By: Hafsa A., Teen Blogger

Korean Drama W - Two Worlds PosterMany people might not watch Korean dramas, but for me it’s like enjoying any other TV Show. Korean dramas don’t usually have multiple seasons and typically have around 16 to 20 episodes. A drama’s episode is 1 hour, or even more, depending on which show you watch.

The reason I like watching Korean dramas is because they are interesting and also they have subtitles. I’m not much of a reader, but I like reading subtitles because it helps me improve my reading. There are many genres of Korean dramas but I mostly watch some fantasy shows, and a lot of comedy, romance, romantic comedy, and suspense.

The Korean drama that I recently watched and that I recommend to others is called W – Two Worlds. The genre of the drama is fantasy plus romance. The drama starts off with a young boy who is an Olympic Gold medalist. After a small celebration of the main character (Kang Chul – Actor: Lee Jong-Suk), he goes home to his family but experiences a tragic accident. Through ups and downs in his life, Kang Chul tries to get revenge. But, the only thing wrong is that the character is made up and he is part of a web cartoon created by the main girl lead’s (Oh Yeon-Joo – Actress: Han Hyo-Joo) father. Throughout the drama the fantasy plays a role by having two worlds, a web toon world and a real world. Both characters are dragged together by fate and romance and suspense builds on. It gives a perfect but confusing twist that makes you want to watch more.

I recommend others to watch Korean dramas if they have nothing else to watch because they are really interesting and have various plots that differ from American TV Shows. Many people might think that they wouldn’t be interested in watching foreign dramas. For instance, my first reaction to the idea of watching Korean dramas was, “Ew, why would I watch something foreign that I can’t even understand?” But one day, I told myself I would try to watch a drama, and ever since then I love them.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

What I Just Read – The Girl From Everywhere

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

Check Out The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig.Sometimes, you find a book that is just what you need right at that moment. In this case, it was a blend of action, drama, and great supporting characters (with a little dragon thrown in for good measure). Who knows if I would have loved this book as much at another time, but one thing is for sure: when I was in the mood for a great adventure story, this was the perfect choice!

What I Just Read: The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

What’s It About (Jacket Description): Nix has spent her entire life aboard her father’s ship, sailing across the centuries, across the world, across myth and imagination.

As long as her father has a map for it, he can sail to any time, any place, real or imagined: nineteenth-century China, the land from One Thousand and One Nights, a mythic version of Africa. Along the way they have found crewmates and friends, and even a disarming thief who could come to mean much more to Nix.

But the end to it all looms closer every day.

Her father is obsessed with obtaining the one map, 1868 Honolulu, that could take him back to his lost love, Nix’s mother. Even though getting it—and going there—could erase Nix’s very existence.

For the first time, Nix is entering unknown waters.

She could find herself, find her family, find her own fantastical ability, her own epic love.

Or she could disappear.

Do I Like It: Absolutely

Thoughts: I’d been hearing some buzz about this book for a long time before I read it. But to be honest, Doctor Who aside, time travel is not usually my thing. I like visiting the different periods, but I get frustrated trying to wrap my head around the rules governing time travel. But when I was looking for an audiobook that would be exciting, populated with good characters, and something that wouldn’t make me cry, The Girl From Everywhere stood out for me and I am so glad I gave it a chance.

This may sound weird after talking about action, adventure, and excitement, but one of my favorite things about The Girl From Everywhere is that it takes time for quiet moments. Yes, there’s tense scenes, pounding waves, attacks and fighting. But there’s also time for characters to talk, for their relationships to grow, for the setting and scenery to sink in, and for the story to breathe. Sometimes I find it exhausting to go through a story at breakneck speed, always worrying about what’s happening next, but I didn’t have to do that with this book. The pacing was amazing, and a perfect balance of quieter moments and exciting scenes.

Nix herself, while a relatable main character, definitely didn’t stand out to me as much as the amazing supporting characters. Every crew member on The Temptation was at least as interesting as Nix, and I would gladly read a book about any one of them. But Nix was perfect for bringing them all together, and acting as an entry for the reader to get to know them. She had distinct relationships with each character that all rang true, even her complicated relationship with her father. Even the characters Nix meets off the ship all glowed for me, except one that I could have done without (partially because I thought he introduced a totally unnecessary love triangle element). But overall, the characters managed to outshine the incredible world-building and settings, which is saying a lot.

I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot, but if you’re looking for an exciting, well-paced adventure with great characters and well-realized settings, this is the book for you. Plus, there’s that small dragon I mentioned…

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

“Scars to Your Beautiful” by Alessia Cara

By: Hannah S., Teen Blogger

Alessia Cara Scars to Your BeautifulAlessia Cara’s song “Scars to Your Beautiful” is a song promoting self-love and addressing the dangers of trying to fit in with everyone else. It includes many powerful lyrics and a catchy beat, all while sending an amazing message to people everywhere. The song overall talks about not being able to see your inner beauty and trying to conform to society’s ideals.

It stresses the importance of there being a future of happiness for everyone and an inner beauty within you. One particularly powerful lyrics says “there is hope that’s waiting for you in the dark. You should know you are beautiful just the way you are”. These two lines stress the importance of hope being present even in the darkest of moments and not needing to change for anyone.

This song is amazing for anyone who is self-conscious or needs some encouragement. Anyone with self-doubt or self-consciousness could find great comfort in this song, because it repeatedly reminds the listener of their beauty and ability to have a successful and happy future.

More songs are starting to develop this message and promoting self-love. Some songs like this include Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” and Hailee Steinfeld’s “Love Myself”. These songs encourage people to be confident and embrace who they are. These songs have an important role in helping people become more comfortable with themselves. These really shine a beacon of hope for the listener through the inspiring lyrics.

 

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Fright Fest

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

Black Cat Peaking Out of a Plastic Halloween PumpkinToday’s fun fact about your teen librarian: I scare very easily. You may think I’m kidding, but I assure you, it’s true. I change the channel when trailers for scary movies come on. I was actually creeped out by parts of Scary Movie. I could barely get through Goosebumps books as a kid. I have genuinely worried about getting nightmares from an episode of Rick and Morty. Believe me when I say, it doesn’t take much.

And yet, something about October, or about Halloween, colder days, and longer nights, actually makes me crave a little thrill of terror (emphasis on little). And I find that a good scary book or thriller is my favorite way to dip my toes in the waters of fright while still giving myself the option of closing the book and taking a break if I venture too close to “unable to sleep and terrifying nightmares” territory.

My personal tastes run towards creepy mysteries or thrillers, but the great thing about books is that there’s so much to choose from. Maybe you find ghosts utterly petrifying, but get just the right tingle of fear from books about zombies. Or maybe you don’t even get a glimmer of dread from vampires, but are petrified at the thought of supernatural powers. Whatever scares you, and however much or little you choose to be frightened, I bet you can find something that will get you into the Halloween spirit on our Fright Fest display, or in the rest of our collection.

If you don’t have time for a full novel, you could go classic with some Edgar Allen Poe short stories and poems, or explore a more recent anthology like Slasher Girls and Monster Boys. If, like me, you prefer subtle chills and psychological thrillers, you might love The Third Twin by C.J. Omolulu or The Killer in Me by Margot Harrison. If you find yourself drawn to the classics, you could check out Dracula by Bram Stoker or a re-telling of a classic with Of Metal and Wishes. Whether you prefer graphic novels like Through the Woods or a dose of humor with your horror like in Tantalize, there’s something a little frightening for everyone on our shelves. Find a vengeful ghost in Anna Dressed in Blood, a vampiric dystopia in The Immortal Rules, supernatural powers in Witch Eyes, a terrifying apocalypse in Bleeding Earth, or the horror of a real life human being in Scowler.

Dog Peaking Out From Underneath a Bunch of Blankets Creep yourself out a little or go all-in for a month-long fright-fest. Whatever scares you or however scared you choose to be, rest assured that I certainly will not be judging you from my blanket fort, but I will be able to help you find the perfect scary (or not-so-scary) book for the season.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

What I Just Watched – Boy and the Beast

By: Ashley H., Teen Blogger

TV Show Boy and the BeastWhat I just watched: Boy and the Beast  

What is it about?  The tale of a boy and a beast: both lonely, both stubborn, and both strong. For nine-year-old Ren, things could hardly be worse. His mother has passed away in a traffic accident, his father is nowhere to be found, and his extended family is cold and distant. Desperate, Ren runs away to the mean streets of Shibuya to try and survive on his own.

In the beast realm of Shibuten, the fierce warrior Kumatetsu is certainly feared, but not especially liked or respected. When the Lord decides to retire and become a God, Kumatetsu would be a natural candidate to replace him; he and the noble Lord Iouzan are the two strongest in the land. But Kumatetsu is so anti-social he’s never even managed to hold on to a disciple. And until he proves he can, he’ll never be a serious contender.

When Ren gets lost in a maze of alleyways and finds himself in the strange land of Shibuten, fate brings these two stubborn and fierce-willed souls together, and Kumatestu re-names the boy “Kyuuta.” Each of them has much they can teach the other, but where these two are concerned, nothing is going to be easy. As Kyuuta adjusts to his new home he finds himself torn between two worlds—two worlds that are far less separate than either the Boy or the Beast realizes. (description from MyAnimeList)

Do I like it? Absolutely

Thoughts: As an anime lover, Mamoru Hosoda is a legend with his original and very creative movies. Summer Wars, Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Wolf Children are some of his past works. All are amazing in their own right, but I absolutely fell in love with his most recent film, Boy and the Beast. Not only is the animation beautiful but the story itself deserves 5 gold stars. Ren, who is an orphaned child, runs away and finds himself in this fantastical world of beasts, a world where humans should not reside because they possess hearts that can fall into darkness. Unable to find his way back to the human world, Ren becomes the apprentice to the beast Kumatetsu. Hosoda created a coming of age movie that explores the idea of belonging somewhere and finding who you are, as well as addressing that everyone has darkness inside and that’s okay. It just means that you need to find the sword in your soul and fight against it.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

What I Just Read – When the Moon Was Ours

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

Check Out When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemoreToday’s “What I Just Read” has received a lot of love from a lot of places, and even earned a spot on the National Book Award longlist before it was published. Add that to the fact that I met the author last fall at a conference (and thought she was awesome!) and it was enough to get me to request an advanced copy of a book in a genre I don’t typically care for. Add one more to the win column for “reading outside my comfort zone!”

What I Just Read: When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

What’s It About (Jacket Description): To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town.

But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

Do I Like It: This is one of the only times I’ve ever loved magical realism so much

Thoughts: As I alluded to above, magical realism is one of those genres that I typically am not a fan of. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but for some reason, I have a hard time immersing myself in magical realism books, and a harder time connecting to characters than normal. Usually. But When the Moon Was Ours definitely was the exception to that rule, and I adored it.

It’s hard to describe the experience of reading this book. The prose is stunningly gorgeous – the images, sensations, and feelings are conveyed not just powerfully but elegantly. Reading this was a little bit like reading a painting, or a sunset, or a ballet. It was visual and gorgeous and powerful. But I think part of what made me love this book so much is that McLemore never sacrificed character for prose. Sam and Miel are both extremely well-rounded characters, with their own backstories and development that happens in relation to each other as well as independently. Neither of them are perfect, but their kindness, their love for each other, and the level to which they both try to be better is really compelling. And it’s not just Sam and Miel – from the Bonner sisters to Miel’s guardian, from Sam’s mom to the school administrator with only a couple of scenes, all the side characters were equally well-rounded, and they all had some unique traits or moments that made them stick with me after I had finished this book.

While the characters and the prose are definitely the standouts of this novel, another part of why it appealed to me is that it also has an exciting plot, with secrets, betrayals, danger, and excitement. The plot helped bring all the elements together coherently, and even had me on the edge of my seat a couple of times – not what I expected from such a lyrical, almost dream-like novel.

I wish I could say more about When the Moon Was Ours, but I’m still thinking it through. So I’ll just sum up by saying that this is a beautifully written, character-driven, emotional novel, and I highly recommend it. And if that’s not enough, it’s also the novel that made me love and recommend a genre I usually avoid. Maybe it will do the same for you!

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

New Trends in Young Adult Literature

By: Ayesha F., Teen Blogger

Hunger Games: Now Everyone Knows How to Use "Dystopian" in a Sentence.In the past decade, young adult literature has evolved from trend to trend, and it continues to change with time. However, these trends that gained much fame are starting to lose the position they once held.

It could be because there are too many novels of its kind, but readers are looking elsewhere for an enjoyable book. Dystopian and fantasy are two genres that gained much attention in past years, but their recent decline in fame could be for multiple reasons.

Dystopian novels all seem to be alike these days. The trend started off with books such as The Giver and The Hunger Games, but soon, hundreds of dystopian books came out with the same concept, only slightly changed. Most have strict governments that limit the citizens’ rights and hold hidden secrets, and a rebellion takes place by the main character to reveal these secrets and to gain freedom. Some books hold a heavier and more unique concept, as seen in Divergent and Cinder. With only some exceptions, dystopian books seem to be very similar and can get repetitive after a while.

Fantasy has always been popular in young adult literature. Since Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, readers have been hooked to the idea of having superhuman abilities and living in different realms. Many fantasy novels have been released, and many have hit big. Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments is a more recent fantasy series that has gained many fans. A common plot in recent fantasy novels is having a hidden society of humans with powers, living on Earth. However, it could be that there’s so many novels to read and less originality, but lately it seems readers have begun searching for a new genre they will enjoy.

Once, young adult readers favored dystopian, fantasy, and realistic fiction, but nowadays, it seems they’re looking for new concepts. As of now, it seems that readers are looking forward to novels that hold ideas of the past, and bring them to modern day. For example, the medieval idea of a kingdom and royalty is seen more in popular novels such as Throne of Glass and The Shadow Queen. There are many memorable books that were published earlier, but are extremely underrated. With the coming of new trends, these books can gain fame.

One trend I predict is the return of classics, but with a modern twist. To make classics more interesting, authors have taken the original story and combined it with modern day concepts to make it more engaging and relatable. Novels that focus on strong friendships and internal struggles will also again popularity in the next few years. Trends I would like to see would be books that focus on Arthurian fiction, with Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table. I would also like to see the return of realistic fiction novels that are easy to relate to. New books will continue to be published, and trends will continue to change. Of course, there will always be dystopian novels for those who enjoy them, but alongside them, there will be novels with new concepts and themes for someone who wants a change.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Revisiting Classics

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

(more) abridged classics: The Odyssey - War veteran takes forever to get home then kills everyone. Wuthering Heights - A sort-of brother and sister fall in love. It's foggy. Walden - Man sits outside for two years. Nothing happens. Crime and Punishment - Murderer feels bad. Confesses. Goes to jail. Feels better. Beowulf - Hero kills monster. Blah, blah, blah, blah. Dragon kills hero. Dante's Inferno - All hell breaks loose.A couple of weeks ago, I spent a wonderful day in Spring Green, Wisconsin, watching two excellent productions of classic theater. The American Player’s Theater (APT) is a theater in the woods, so isolated I couldn’t get service on my phone there, and they produce a wide variety of plays every summer performed on an outdoor stage. But the setting is just the icing on the cake–the real magic of APT has always been phenomenal acting and iconic and brilliant plays.

I did a comedy and tragedy double feature, with An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde in the afternoon sun, and King Lear in the dark of night. This was my first time seeing classic theater in a few years, and it was such a joy to re-discover just why these plays are considered so great. King Lear has been my favorite Shakespeare play (or at least, tragedy) since I was a teenager, but somehow I still didn’t remember how powerful, and how timeless, it really is. And although I love Oscar Wilde, I was still surprised by the depth of characters, the hilarity, and once again, the timelessness of An Ideal Husband. It made me think about the other classics that it might be time to re-visit.

I know, I know–as students, you’re assigned classics all the time, and have to force your way through them whether you like them or not. But I’m going to make a case for giving classics–maybe go for those that aren’t assigned?–another chance. Because there are a lot of great reasons that they’re considered classics. And I know I, for one, often get so caught up with new releases and the latest book everyone is talking about that sometimes I forget how much I love Jane Austen, or I never quite get around to giving Toni Morrison a shot, and that’s a shame.

One thing that was clear to me watching the plays earlier this month is that a classic, a true classic, has a timelessness that makes it easy for us to connect with things written decades or even centuries before our time. Who hasn’t experienced what it’s like to see a family fall to pieces, or a loved one come apart in old age? Who doesn’t understand the power secrets hold in our lives, and the worry of disappointing those we love best? Shakespeare and Wilde, respectively, understood those themes in centuries before us, and wrote them in such an accessible way that even today they ring true, despite the differences in language or clothing when we see them performed. And similarly, J.D. Salinger understood what it’s like to be a depressed, grieving, anxious teenager, and wrote truths that ring true today (whether or not you love Holden Caulfield); Zora Neale Hurston understood what it’s like to try and become your own person and make your own life in the face of societal and personal pressures long before the present day, and wrote a character whose struggles we can still relate to; ancient poets like Catullus and Sappho experienced the same feelings of love, heartache, betrayal, and anger that we do today, and gave those feelings a voice that still sounds familiar.

So whether it’s something you’ve read before and want to re-visit, or a classic you’ve heard of but that hasn’t been assigned yet, give yourself a chance to find timeless truths from another era. And don’t worry, this isn’t required reading–if you don’t like what you pick up, you have my official librarian approval for putting the book down and trying another classic. There’s plenty to choose from!

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School