GEPL Teens Blog

GEPL Teens: Great Character Alert – Willowdean Dickson

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By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

Dumplin by Julie MurphyYou guys, if you haven’t already heard of this book, it is officially time to get super excited about Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. This book has been getting a lot of buzz, and I was able to score and advanced copy for my ereader. As of the time I’m writing this, I’m about 20% in, so I won’t be reviewing the book as a whole. But at 20% in, I can tell you for sure that the main character, Willowdean Dickson, is worthy of a top level Great Character Alert, because she is FABULOUS.

Willowdean lives in a small town in Texas famous for its teen beauty pageant, which her mom (a former winner) helps run every. Willowdean, however, is more interested in her best friend Ellen, music, and her work crush Bo than she is in beauty pageants. She is also, in her own words, a “resident fat girl.” As far into the book as I am, I already love Will. She is unapologetic about her size, her ideas, the fact that she has a crush on a jock, or anything else. She loves her best friend more than almost anything, puts up with her mom’s pageant diets and criticisms while still loving her, and sticks up for a girl at school getting teased.

All of which is not to say that Will is perfect, or that everything is going perfectly for her. She does get insecure sometimes, especially when it seems like Bo might be interested in her. She is also insecure about her friendship with Ellen, which comes out when Ellen starts talking more with a work friend from the trendy boutique she works at. She is not immune to being frustrated with her mother, or apathetic about school. She misses her aunt Lucy, who died before the start of the book, and sometimes takes this out on others.

But Will is smart, funny, confident, thoughtful, and witty. She loves to sing to Dolly Parton, spends mornings and afternoons at the pool with Ellen, and jumps at a chance to try on one of the hallowed pageant crowns, despite her disinterest in the competition overall. Her realness and fun makes her someone that I can not only picture knowing in real life, but someone I wish I knew in real life! I’m sure I’ll continue to love Dumplin’ as I follow the rest of Willowdean’s story, and if you place your holds now, you can find out ASAP when the book comes out in September if you feel the same!

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: What I Just Read – All The Bright Places

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By: Allison G.

What I Just Read: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Jacket Description: An exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death. Every day he thinks of ways he might die, but every day he also searches for—and manages to find—something to keep him here, and alive, and awake.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her small Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school—six stories above the ground—it’s unclear who saves whom. And when the unlikely pair teams up on a class project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, they go, as Finch says, where the road takes them: the grand, the small, the bizarre, the beautiful, the ugly, the surprising—just life live.

Soon it’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a bold, funny, live-out-loud guy, who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet forgets to count away the days and starts living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

This is a heart-wrenching, unflinching story of love shared, life lived, and two teens who find one another while standing on the edge.

Did I Like It: Definitely one of my favorite books now, I couldn’t put it down!

Thoughts: Having just finished this book, I’m still thinking about it and feeling all the emotions that books like this make you feel. I was hesitant to start reading this book because I was afraid it would be solely focused on the fact that both main characters had contemplated suicide, which wasn’t the sort of book I wanted to read. But I finally started to read it and I became pleasantly surprised. Once I got into it, I loved reading about how their relationship was progressing. As Finch and Violet went on adventures and got themselves into all kinds of mischief, they learned more about each other and I learned more about myself. This book gave me different perspectives on life since it’s told from the viewpoints of both Finch and Violet, who obviously live very different lives.

Nothing about this book disappointed me, I loved every single page. This quote from the School Library Journal perfectly sums up my feelings on this book: “The writing in this heartrending novel is fluid, despite the difficult topics… Finch in particular will linger in readers’ minds long after the last page is turned.” Just as the quote says, Finch’s character and his personality have stayed with me (as weird as that might sound). I find myself seeing parts of his personality in other people and parts of Violet’s personality in myself. Lastly, I was excited to learn that All the Bright Places is going to become a movie starring Elle Fanning as Violet and it’s set to be released in 2017.


Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Summer Reading Wrap-Up

Teens Blog BannerBy: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

Much to everyone’s dismay, the end of summer is finally almost here. School starts next week, the weather is getting cooler, and of course, summer reading is over – though the humiliation for me is not!

The most important thing about this year’s summer reading is that you guys rocked it! Seriously, seriously rocked it. All told, you read 1,170 books, compared to 649 books last year. That’s about 180% of what you read last year, which is amazing. You nearly doubled your number of books read, even though there were actually two less people participating than last year, and averaged about 8 books per person. CONGRATULATIONS! Our top reader got through an impressive 110 books, and the two winners of our grand prize drawing read 122 books between the both of them.

And of course, with that incredible reading, came incredible embarrassment for me! You reached all your goals, which means I have:

Shown you a picture of me at 18

Exhausted Hannah, Age 18

Been pelted with Nerf darts

Worn ridiculous outfits to work for a week, like this one (the rest are here)\

Hannah Monday

Done a three-legged race with Christina, our Middle School Librarian

Faced off with Christina in a break dance competition

And there’s more!

Because you reached your goal (in record time!), Christina and I will be doing a live performance at the library’s open mic night on September 2, 6:30 p.m., at Shannon’s Irish Pub. We’ll be videotaping it of course, so I can share my shame with the world, but I highly recommend the in-person experience. And because you beat out the Middle School students and reached your goal first, I will also be lip-syncing my heart out sometime soon. Probably to a song from the 80s.

So all in all, I think this was a fantastic year for teen summer reading – you smashed your reading goals, you helped the library achieve our overall goals and raise money for the police and fire departments in town, and you forced me to do embarrassing things which are now on the internet forever. It doesn’t get much better than that, but we’re already making plans for next year!

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Teens Write – Summer Homework

Teens Blog BannerBy: Britta J., Teen Blogger

Blog Entry 172 - ImageSummer Homework. The bane of all students’ existence, and if you’re like me, you hadn’t even thought about it until today. It seems each year, more and more busy work is piled on us until we have a project or reading assignment in almost every class. Let’s be honest, it’s really hard to motivate yourself to work on schoolwork in the summer. So I thought I could lighten the burden by giving you a few tips on how to knock out some of those assignments instead of staying up past midnight the night before school starts like I did last year

1. Make a Schedule

All that work can be daunting, so if you plan out what to get done each day, not only will it seem more manageable, but you will make sure that nothing is forgotten. Make sure you stick with it. Even if you only have a week left, better late than never!

2. Find a space without distractions

This advice applies to any work, but is especially important when there are so many more distractions and less structure than during the school year. Try to avoid your bedroom and find a place like the office or a guest bedroom. Turn off the notices on your phone, put away any non-school books, and buckle down.

3. Find a specific time

For me, if I don’t give myself a time frame to work, I will drag it out all day. No one wants to spend what little break they have left on homework, so try to really focus for a couple hours instead of half-trying all day long. You can even set an alarm for yourself. When you’re done, reward yourself. You deserve it!

4. Find a study group

Find friends in the same classes as you and get together. You can help each other, and keep each other on track. If you’re hanging out with your friends at the same time, you might even trick yourself into thinking that summer homework is fun. Your parents will also be all over letting you hang out with friends if schoolwork is even slightly involved.

5. Assemble your materials before sitting down

Don’t give yourself an excuse to get back up, because once you do, there is no going back to boring old homework. Make sure you have all the calculators, pencils, paper, and erasers you need. This tip includes food! Bring a couple of snacks with you, and make sure you have something to drink too. Dehydration can cause tiredness, and homework already does enough of that.

Just do it. Nike has a point, there is no easy way to do summer homework, but by pacing yourself, you can get your work done to freely enjoy your last moments of freedom. I can only assume that as someone reading the library blog, you either have already done all their schoolwork, or you are in a lot of difficult classes and are procrastinating. If you are in the latter group then this message is for you. I believe in you. Get ‘er done!

-Britta J.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: What I Just Read – The Summer of Chasing Mermaids

Teens Blog BannerBy: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

Blog Entry 171 - ImageI’ve been doing a lot of good reading this summer (we have a staff summer reading program too!) so once again, you get to hear my thoughts on another great, summery read!

What I Just Read: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

What’s It About (Jacket Description): The youngest of six talented sisters, Elyse d’Abreau was destined for stardom—until a boating accident took everything from her. Now, the most beautiful singer in Tobago can’t sing. She can’t even speak.

Seeking quiet solitude, Elyse accepts a friend’s invitation to Atargatis Cove. Named for the mythical first mermaid, the Oregon seaside town is everything Elyse’s home in the Caribbean isn’t: An ocean too cold for swimming, parties too tame for singing, and people too polite to pry—except for one.

Christian Kane is a notorious playboy—insolent, arrogant, and completely charming. He’s also the only person in Atargatis Cove who doesn’t treat Elyse like a glass statue. He challenges her to express herself, and he admires the way she treats his younger brother Sebastian, who believes Elyse is the legendary mermaid come to life.

When Christian needs a first mate for the Cove’s high-stakes Pirate Regatta, Elyse reluctantly stows her fear of the sea and climbs aboard. The ocean isn’t the only thing making waves, though—swept up in Christian’s seductive tide and entranced by the Cove’s charms, Elyse begins to wonder if a life of solitude isn’t what she needs. But changing course again means facing her past. It means finding her inner voice. And scariest of all, it means opening her heart to a boy who’s best known for breaking them . . .

Did I Like It: It had depth, a summer feel, and an engaging story, so obviously YES!

Thoughts: Despite the fact that The Summer of Chasing Mermaids is actually set in a pretty chilly town in Oregon, rather than someplace warm, it still felt like a good summer read to me. There was an ocean, beaches, no school, outdoor activities, romance, friendship – all the things I associate with the best summer reads (like Sarah Dessen’s Colby books!) So despite the hoodies and the freezing ocean, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids definitely satisfied my desire for a good seasonal read. But it dealt with some heavier issues as well, so don’t mistake “summery” for “frivolous” – the best summer books are never totally frivolous.

Elyse is dealing with some pretty heavy issues in this book. Literally losing the power to speak and – just as bad for her – to sing is a tough, tough thing, and is very recent in Elyse’s past. She’s dealing with the grief of losing something she loved, and the pain of trying to figure out whole new ways to communicate, whole new ways to be. Add into that the threat of her beloved aunt and cousin losing their home, right as it is becoming her home, and Elyse has lots on her mind. But despite that, she still finds time to laugh, to love, to make new friends, and to feel good about herself. Grief is complicated, and Elyse’s grieving and living showcase that beautifully.

This is a book where the details, the side characters, and the smaller plots really add up to more than the sum of their parts. Which is impressive, because each of those parts is pretty great. A highlight of the side plots and characters is Christian’s younger brother Sebastian, who must hold on to his sense of self despite the shaming he receives from others for not fitting in to the box of “normal little boy” that they want him to fit into. And he does – it’s not easy, and he gets down sometimes, but Sebastian never lets go of his love for mermaids and pretty things, his sweetness and affection for Elyse and Christian, or his love of Atargatis Cove itself. Other side elements are equally as rich, like the nuanced portrayal of non-physical abuse, the proud “feminist killjoy” friend Elyse makes, Elyse’s aunt Lemon and her coven, the stormy, cold Pacific, and more.

Overall, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids was a layered, complex read that still managed to feel perfectly in season with the summer. It’s a book that makes me want to read it again, so I can get more of the nuance, find things I didn’t see before, and have a chance to know the characters even better. And if that doesn’t convince you to pick it up, maybe one of Elyse’s poems that plays a key role in the story will make you want to hear more of her voice on the page.

plan B
plan Battered and Broken
plan Boxed in
plan Bailed on and Back from the dead
plan Better luck next time
plan Balled up
plan Backtracked
plan Backhanded
plan Backward steps
plan Blackballed, Black-marked, and Blacklisted
plan B-side, Bye Bye Baby
plan Belly up and Beat down
plan Bad days ahead and Best are far Behind”

-From The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Teens Write – Fandoms

Teens Blog BannerBy: Elizabeth W., Teen Blogger

Blog Entry 170 - ImageFandoms have recently become a major part of how people interact with a book, movie, or TV show. In many ways a fandom is just a place to talk about a work you like with other fans. However, fandoms do have some serious negative aspects that we don’t often realize.

Recently in an interview Young Adult authors Cassandra Clare and Maggie Stiefvater explained the negative aspects of their fandoms. Each said that they had been insulted by fans or felt dehumanized by them. Their fans sometimes seemed to care more about the characters in their novels than about them as people. They have received threats from fans of their work who care deeply about their books but don’t seem to respect them. Both authors feel that they are particularly targeted like this as women authors.

It all comes down to respecting people online. In a fandom, it’s easy for someone to say things that they wouldn’t say to someone face to face. Although fans love the work that their authors create they sometimes don’t seem to respect that author as a fellow human being. In the interview, Stiefvater said, “I’m seen as either a demon or a queen, and the reality is somewhere in between.” People in fandoms often don’t realize that their overzealous emotional responses to books and movies can seriously hurt people’s feelings. Fans should support authors and creators, not tear them down. Fandoms unfortunately produce strong emotions and an anonymous online environment where people feel they can say whatever they want without repercussions.

I know that this revelation about the darker side of fandoms has impacted my view of them. It’s important to always stay polite and respectful of other people, both authors and other fans, when we are participating in a fandom. While authors love when people engage with their work in interesting ways and enjoy their books and movies, they certainly do not appreciate the hate that often comes with it. All of us need to make sure that we are interacting with others online in a way that is courteous and kind. Even if someone wants to critique an author or disagree with them, there are ways of doing that without hurting that author’s feelings or making them feel unsafe. I’m not saying to stop interacting with fandoms. Fandoms can be a really great way of connecting with other people and appreciating a work of fiction, a movie, or a TV series. However, I do believe that we can make fandoms an even more positive environment by respecting and appreciating each other online.

-Elizabeth W.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: What I Just Read – Honey Girl

Teens Blog BannerBy: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

Blog Entry 169 - ImageI’ve been on a kick this summer of reading (big surprise) summery books! This season has been full of flip-flops, beaches, water, and lazy days for me – at least when I’m reading! This latest What I Just Read was definitely a highlight of all that seasonal reading.

What I Just Read: Honey Girl by Lisa Freeman

What’s It About (Jacket Description): How to survive California’s hottest surf spot: Never go anywhere without a bathing suit. Never cut your hair. Never let them see you panic.

The year is 1972. Fifteen-year-old Haunani “Nani” Grace Nuuhiwa is transplanted from her home in Hawaii to Santa Monica, California after her father’s fatal heart attack. Now the proverbial fish-out-of-water, Nani struggles to adjust to her new life with her alcoholic white (haole) mother and the lineup of mean girls who rule State Beach.

Following “The Rules”—an unspoken list of dos and don’ts—Nani makes contact with Rox, the leader of the lineup. Through a harrowing series of initiations, Nani not only gets accepted into the lineup, she gains the attention of surf god, Nigel McBride. But maintaining stardom is harder than achieving it. Nani is keeping several secrets that, if revealed, could ruin everything she’s worked so hard to achieve. Secret #1: She’s stolen her dad’s ashes and hidden them from her mom. Secret #2: In order to get in with Rox and her crew, she spied on them and now knows far more than they could ever let her get away with. And most deadly of all, Secret #3: She likes girls, and may very well be in love with Rox.

Did I Like It: It was the perfect summer read. Do I need to say more?

Thoughts: There’s so much to unpack in Honey Girl, which is impressive for a relatively quick and beachy read. First of all, I really got into the historical fiction aspect. I’ve never known much about the 70s, beyond watching That 70s Show, and not surprisingly, surfer culture in southern California was definitely different than the small-town Midwest culture portrayed on that show. I didn’t have to believe in astrology to be interested in how Nani embraced it, I didn’t need to own a mis-matched crochet bikini to picture how perfectly 70s it was, and I certainly didn’t need to know how to surf to become completely immersed in the culture portrayed. Because it really was a whole culture – the rules, the hierarchies, the divisions. Reading about the beach culture Nani lives in was almost like reading a fantasy or sci-fi novel, because it was such a completely different world than any that I’ve lived in. The novel is semi-autobiographical, so I believe most of the vivid cultural details. And this surf/beach culture was so much fun to read about that I hardly would have cared if parts of the book weren’t quite accurate.

Another thing that really stood out to me about Honey Girl was how different and refreshing it was to see a sympathetic protagonist who was unabashedly interested in being popular. So often in the books I’ve read, the popular group are portrayed as bad, and the people who want to be popular as misguided or desperate. Freeman certainly didn’t shy away from showing the ugly sides of the popular and competitive world that Nani is entering. But she also showed the good sides of the popular teens, and didn’t seem to be judging Nani for her desire to be part of their group, and to be popular. Her desire to be part of the ruling clique didn’t make her bad, although it sometimes made her behave badly, and it was easy to empathize with Nani’s goals. Despite, or perhaps because of, the personal struggles and grief Nani was dealing with, her interactions with “the lineup” of popular girls and with surf culture in general still seemed important and worthwhile to read about. To me, that really demonstrates Freeman’s ability as a writer, and the incredible, believable complexity and depth of Nani as a character.

Honey Girl was the ideal summer read for me – high enough stakes and serious enough issues to make it engrossing to read, but with a lightness as well, and a beach setting so well described that I could practically feel the sun, sand, and ocean. It’s not necessarily the best or even my favorite book that I read this summer, but of all the books I’ve binged on lately, I think Honey Girl is the one I’m most likely to pick up again another summer. I highly recommend grabbing it while the sun is still out (or in a few months when you need to pretend it is!)

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Teens Review – Before I Die

Teens Blog BannerBy: Alison O., Teen Blogger

Blog Entry 168 - ImageI recently read and enjoyed the book Before I Die by Jenny Downham. This book follows a teenage girl who is battling terminal cancer.  She decides to create a list with her best friend of things she wants to experience before it’s too late. Throughout the story, the main character Tessa discovers many things about herself as she falls in love and checks off each task from her list.

I enjoyed Jenny Downham’s writing style and considered it to fit young adult level because it was in between fairly easy and just right for me.  It was easy for me to read for a longer period of time as opposed to other books because the book was easy to comprehend, which was a plus for me personally, due to the fact that I sometimes find myself having trouble reading for long periods of time because I struggle with either concentrating or lacking to understand what is really going on in the book.  I think that the author’s writing style was relatable to teens in the way that all the thoughts and ideas were narrated by Tessa herself.

This book also has amazing characters in it.  The main character Tessa really flourishes throughout the book as she discovers the importance of the little things in life. As a reader, it’s encouraging to read a book when you see the main character changing into a better person as the story progresses.  Tessa’s dad also had a strong impact in the story because he was Tessa’s backbone throughout her journey.  He gave up everything to be there for Tessa in her time of need, and I think that relationship brought real feelings to the book because it showed how much a parent is willing to give up to just be there for their children. Lastly, Tessa’s best friend Zoey plays a huge part in this book.  She represents bravery and fearlessness, which she also teaches to Tessa throughout the story.  She helped Tessa complete her list and carried her through the hard times when all Tessa wanted to do was give up.

This book brings out real emotions and makes you stop to evaluate your own life.  It makes you appreciate not only your health, but also the little things in life that in the long run actually mean a lot more than we take for granted.  This book is full of hope and the writing is amazing, which is why this book is one of my all-time favorites.

-Alison O.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Sequels

Teens Blog BannerBy: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

Blog Entry 167 - ImageSequels often get a lot of grief, especially when they fail to live up to the expectations we’ve formed since the first book (or movie, or whatever.) Look at how fans reacted to the final entries into The Hunger Games and Divergent series, or the criticism heaped on the second two Matrix movies. And don’t even get anyone started on the Star Wars prequels. To be fair, often this criticism is warranted – I doubt anyone would argue that the second to Matrix installments were better than the original, and there were plenty of valid criticisms of Allegiant. But often, it comes down to a combination of quality and personal taste. For instance, there were also many of valid criticisms of Mockingjay, but I loved it and thought it was a great conclusion to the trilogy.

But sometimes, there is a sequel that really does rise above, in terms of critical acclaim or personal opinion (and sometimes both.) I read one of these recently. After really liking To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, I was looking forward to P.S. I Still Love You, and I was excited to finally have a chance to read it this month. To my surprise and delight, P.S. I Still Love You exceeded my expectations, and I ended up loving it even more than the original. This, I suspect, comes down to that magic combination of a skilled writer and my own preferences. Reading about the relationship issues Lara Jean faces as part of an existing relationship appealed to me, as did the treatment of bullying, female friendship, and double standards, among many other things. It felt like a fuller, richer, and more mature book than its predecessor. Obviously, loving a sequel even more than the original doesn’t detract from the first though – I would never have read the sequel if I hadn’t really enjoyed To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, and I still recommend it all the time!

This experience got me thinking about those times when sequels equal or even outstrip their predecessors. Critics and fans alike agreed that Toy Story II and Toy Story III were at least as good as the original, and I’ve never met anyone who thinks Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the best of the series. Sequels have great potential to improve on the original, since less time needs to be devoted to scene-setting or exposition, and more time and energy can be spent on plot, character development, and issues. But it depends on authors, screenwriters, producers, and more understanding their characters and their world, staying consistent with what they set up in the original, and making their sequel go beyond simply repeating what was successful originally. Plus, of course, that all-important personal taste aspect!

Do you have any sequels that you prefer to the original? Have you ever been surprised by a sequel? Do you like a sequel that is widely disliked? Or dislike a sequel that is widely liked?

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Teens Write – Technology & Teenagers Take 4

Teens Blog BannerBy: Roy M., Teen Blogger

Blog Entry 166 - ImageA big debate that people are having today is whether or not technology is a good or bad thing for teens to have.

Attachment to smartphones can be a good and bad thing. Some good things about smartphones are that you can keep in touch with your friends no matter where you are. You can also look up anything on the internet at any point in time instead of wondering about it until you can get to a computer. Smartphones can also keep you from getting bored. Some bad things about smartphones are that they can be a distraction. Another bad thing is that if you lose it you are out a lot of money. Those are some good and bad things about teens’ attachments to smartphones.

But there are some problems with technology. It could distract a teen during class or even driving because he/she might have an urge to text one of their friends during class or when driving. Another problem is that it could distract a student from doing his/her homework because he/she might not want to do it and he/she would much rather play on his/her phone or watch TV.

Technology can contribute a lot to education and socialization. A lot of schools are adding in more technology to their courses. I remember one time when I was in 3rd grade, my district and my high school district got smart boards in almost all the rooms. Now that smart boards have been around so long, teachers are using smart boards in their lesson plans, whether it’s to take notes on it or watch videos or show projects. Technology has also made it easier to do out of school projects because you can use a phone to plan everything, or video chat, and you can do all the work you need to do over the internet together. Now, my school is getting iPads for some grades so the grades that get iPads no longer have to carry around as many books and can do most of their homework on their iPads. Technology also allows you to be more social with your friends. You can plan where you want to go out or you can just plain talk to each other through text. Technology can also allow you to talk to people from all around the world even if they don’t speak your language. As you can see, technology has played a big part in education and socialization.

Adults who think teens aren’t experiencing the “real world” because of technology are wrong. They are wrong because we are growing up in a time where technology is everywhere. They grew up in a time where not every household had a TV and they didn’t need technology as much, but nowadays most households have a TV, computer, and probably some kind of gaming console. Technology is part of everything now, so adults who don’t think teens learn how to exist in the “real world” because of technology are wrong because technology is everywhere and it’s just part of our lives and culture now.

Overall I’d say that technology is a pretty good thing for teens to have because it makes education and socialization easier, and it keeps teens up to date on how to use all the new technology that comes out.

-Roy M.

Posted in GEPL Teens