The Teen Scene: GEPL High School Blog


By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

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

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

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

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

What I Just Read – X: A Novel

By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do I Like It: Yes!

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

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

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

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

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

The College Search

By: Britta J., Teen Blogger

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

School size

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


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


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


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

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

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

We’re Listening!

By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Mortal Instruments Has Returned to the Screen – Time to Cringe or Fangirl?

By: Ashley H., Teen Blogger

Shadow Hunters TV Show PosterYour favorite book is being turned into a movie or TV show. Your reaction will probably be between ? and ?. Most of us in a book fandom haven’t found a movie adaption that has lived up to our expectations. The director either totally changed the plot, added in unneeded romance, created a new character or, fandoms forbid, deleted your favorite character so they never existed!

So when I learned that The Mortal Instruments was getting rebooted after its movie flop I was a little wary. But It looks like I had nothing to worry about! The TV show, called Shadowhunters, is one of my new favorites and it seems that most of the fandom agrees with me. The show is airing on Freeform (formerly ABC Family) is produced by McG (Supernatural and The Duff) and had the creative input by the big kahuna herself, Cassandra Clare!

With the big names and the influence of Cassie I had pretty high hopes for the show. When I watched the premier I was glad that it did NOT disappoint. Though the show did change a few details like Clary and Simon being in college and making Luke a cop, I thought that it kept the characters true to themselves and the whole mystical and even gruesome feel that is the Shadow World. The changes kept me, who loves and has read the Mortal Instruments more times than I can count, on my toes! I even found myself fangirling over the tiniest details in the show that I knew were part of the original book series. Though I can see why some book lovers do not like the TV show for the same reasons why I love it, I do believe that the overall fandom loves the show and has grown even larger because of it.

I can honestly tell you that I have not missed a single episode and love how on every Tuesday night the cast and crew bring to life my favorite shadowhunters, downworlders and even mundanes.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Full STEAM Ahead

STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art Math) Header

By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

If you’ve been by the library recently, you may have heard or seen something about our 3rd annual S.T.E.A.M. Fair, going on tomorrow. If you haven’t, or aren’t sure what that is, here’s the quick version: organizations from all over Illinois will be bringing in activities and exhibits relating in some way to science, technology, engineering, arts and math; and we’ll be showing off some of the library resources as well. The whole library will be all STEAM from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm, and hundreds of people will show up to see everything.

But, I know many of you may be thinking: “man, that sounds an awful lot like school and not what I want to be doing on my weekend” or “isn’t that for kids?”  And yes, there is quite a bit of educational content, and yes, there will be a lot of kids around. But there’s plenty of stuff that’s fun for teens and adults as well, and I promise that if you really want to avoid the educational stuff, you can. Here’s a few things that might make it worth your while to stop by tomorrow!

The Elgin Paranormal Investigators will be showing the technology they use to investigate and review claims of paranormal activity. Yes, this does mean there will be ghost hunters at the STEAM Fair.

The NASA Solar System Ambassadors Program (SSA) will be here to talk about the solar system and space exploration missions from NASA. And if Neil DeGrasse Tyson has taught us anything, it’s that space is awesome.

Kids Watching the Making of Ice Cream with Liquid NitrogenChemical Reaction: A Chemistry Magic Show (10:30, 12:30 and 2:30) is pretty much exactly what’s on the box. Magic, but with science. This may sound like it’s aimed at kids (I’ll admit, the kids are pretty amazed) but it’s a super fun show for everyone. Also, if you’re under 18, you’ll need a parent signature to attend, and anything that requires a waiver has to have a certain cool factor, right?

ChiBots-Chicago Area Robotics will have robots. I mean, I could say more, but I don’t think it’s necessary, because robots.

GEPL’s Digital Media Lab will be on display, and we’ll be highlighting our green screen. You’ll be able to take a picture and choose a background, or record a video talking about how great the library is (because we are great…right? Right?)

These are just a few of the displays, exhibits and activities that will be at the library tomorrow – we have a total of 17 different exhibitors. Even if you don’t want to make a day of it, you should definitely stop by and see what all the fuss is about!

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Pros and Cons of AP Classes

By: Britta J., Teen Blogger

You Mean To Tell Me You Studied All Year And Didn't Take the AP Test?It’s that time of year! AP test registration time! I know that most of us AP students are pretty pumped about taking multiple 3-hour long tests, which could decide our future academic paths, in the middle of May. But, for those of you who aren’t completely sold, or don’t know what AP classes really are, here’s a breakdown of the whole AP situation.

AP stands for Advanced Placement, and consists of year-long classes and a cumulative test that is administered and regulated by College Board, the institution that also administers the PSAT and SAT tests your junior year. Of course, support for the AP program is varied, so here is a good old-fashioned pros and cons list on the topic (my favorite way to deal with complex subjects):


  • AP classes often are taught with the best resources and teachers, so if you take an AP class it will likely be of high quality
  • AP classes often create a challenging environment sought by academically ambitious students
  • On a 1-5 scale, if a student gets a 3 or higher they could possibly receive college credit for their class, or test out of introductory courses in college
  • If a student scores a 3 or higher on an AP class, they will definitely receive college credit if they attend any public college in Illinois
  • Even if students don’t score well on the AP test, the class is still is great preparation for future college courses
  • There are programs that can help pay for the AP tests if you are financially incapable
  • AP classes are a great way to challenge yourself in subjects you find interesting


  • Like I said above, AP classes are taught with the best resources and by the best teachers, creating an exclusive environment that could limit the opportunities of other students
  • Many colleges don’t accept AP credits anymore, which is slightly aggravating, if you’ve worked hard for an entire year to earn the credit
  • The College Board has some fishy financial records. Americans for Educational Testing Reform’s “report card” on the College Board awarded them a grade of D and cited numerous “areas of misconduct” by the College Board
  • This relates to the above point. Each test is 89 dollars. Add that up a few times for the average AP kid, and you’ve got a hefty sum
  • When schools push the AP curriculum on students so much, students often end up in classes that are too difficult for them, or in too many challenging classes, and the result is stressed out, sleep deprived teenagers (who are no fun)

So those are some basic arguments for and against AP classes. I am currently registered to take 5 AP tests this year. I love the classes I’m taking, find them very interesting, and plan to use them to further my college education. But I also rarely have free time to pursue projects I want to, and am currently running on 5 hours of sleep. There’s a balance you have to maintain regarding AP classes, so my advice is this: If you have already taken the AP class, register for the test, you might as well take your chances.

If you don’t know whether to enroll in an AP class, make sure it’s about a subject you’re actually interested in, and make sure you have the time to also have a life outside of school (I tried it once, it was pretty nice). But most of all, choose the class that you think will most benefit your overall education. That maybe an AP class, and it may not. Either way, remember that in high school, you’re just getting started. Don’t burn out just yet.

Yours truly,

– An AP student in a slight existential crisis

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

YA Audiobooks

By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

The Young Elites by Marie Lu Audiobook CoverAs many of you already know, I have a long commute. I spend at least an hour, often more, each way to and from work here at the library. A lot of times when people hear this, I get some variation of the question “How do you stand it?” There are a few answers, of course, including the fact that I love my job, and I love where I live, so it’s worth it. But there’s one huge factor that really makes the commute better – audiobooks!

I spend the vast majority of the time in my car listening to audiobooks, and they don’t just make my commute alright, they often make it really fun. And I’m here to tell you that even if you don’t spend hours and hours every week in a car, you should still pick up an audiobook every now and then. We’ve just purchased a whole bunch of young adult audiobooks here at the library, so you can find a great selection of great YA books on CD all in one place. Not feeling the CDs? Try using one of our ebook and eaudiobook apps like Hoopla or Overdrive on your phone. And as for why you should go through all this?

Unwind by Neal Shusterman Audiobook CoverHere’s three reasons to add audiobooks to your reading repertoire:

They allow you to multitask. Now, I’m not saying you’ll be able to do homework while you listen – you’ll definitely lose concentration on one or the other if you try. But audiobooks are great while you’re cleaning, walking, running, or doing anything that doesn’t require a ton of mental effort. They can even be good for some of your hobbies. I know a professional photographer who listens to audiobooks while he edits photos, and they can make a great background for while you’re doing things like cooking, art, crafting, coloring, etc.

They bring something new to the reading experience. Some books I really love I’ve both read physically and listened to on audiobook, and it’s amazing how many things I caught on the audio that I missed reading. Whether it’s nuances of phrasing or tone, details that I catch when I’m forced to slow down and comprehend every word, or just a different interpretation of a character, listening to a book can sometimes be a totally different experience than reading it. But don’t worry – it still counts as reading!

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell Audiobook CoverThe narrators! Sometimes, audiobooks are narrated by celebrities we love, like Lin-Manuel Miranda reading Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, or the range of celebrities including Mae Whitman and Sophie Turner who narrate Cassandra Clare’s books, or Jesse Eisenberg’s rendition of White Cat by Holly Black. You can also find celebrities narrating their own books, like Tyler Oakley’s Binge or Mindy Kaling reading her essays in Why Not Me? And even when the narrators aren’t celebrities, they can make an audiobook something spectacular. Two different narrators give each section a unique feel in Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Rebecca Soler does a wonderful job with each entry in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, and an entire cast brings The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman to life.

So next time you’re at the library, peruse our selection of YA audiobooks to find a new great listen, or ask at the information desk about eaudiobooks. Speaking from personal experience, listening to a book can add something special to your reading life!

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

GEPL Teens: Women’s History Month

Teens Blog Orange Banner

By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

Yes, we understand – you get history all the time in classes, on TV, and even these days, on Broadway (see a previous blog entry on the smash hit Hamilton.) But there’s a reason for the ubiquity of history in our world. It’s full of exciting, moving stories, not to mention connections to our current world and foreshadowing of events happening and that might happen in our future. History is what our civilization is based on, and that makes it great for learning, watching, and of course, reading!

Women's History Month Image With Rosie the RiveterWomen’s History Month specifically celebrates the contribution women have made to history. Women have been often-overlooked driving forces in our country’s history and the history of the world, contributing to everything from science to religion to politics to war. So this March, celebrate women’s history by reading some historical fiction (and maybe a little non-fiction!) centered on the famous and not-so-famous, the real and not-so-real, women who helped shape our world.

If you’ve always been fascinated by World War II, pick up one of Elizabeth Wein’s stunning books, Code Name Verity or Rose Under Fire. Prefer your history tinged with mythology? Check out The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. If you love a good friendship and adventure story, or are just a fan of the Oregon Trail games, you’ll enjoy Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee. If you’re usually more into magic or the supernatural, you can find a combination of both fantasy and history in Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger.

Graphic novel fans can find history and stunning artwork combined in Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang. Ready for a heart-wrenching love story and a good cry centered around a historical event? Printz Honor book Out of Darkness might be for you. Whether you want a good mystery like A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee, a look at the early history of our country like Copper Sun by Sharon Draper, or an early 20th century drama like Cinders & Sapphires, our Women’s History Month display is sure to have something for every reader.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

GEPL Teens: Abe Lincoln Awards

Teens Blog Orange Banner

By: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

Abraham Lincoln Illinois High School Book Award LogoIf you’re a reader, you may remember voting for the Bluestem and Caudill awards as an elementary or middle school student. If you don’t remember, here’s a quick primer: these awards are given by the Illinois School Library Media Association (ISLMA) to authors of great books, based on votes from students around the state. It’s a great way to get kids actually involved in choosing what books win awards and accolades.

What you may not remember, or may never have known, is that there is a similar ISLMA award based on votes from high school students – the Abraham Lincoln Award. Like the other ISLMA awards, the Abe Lincoln Award is given to the author of a book deemed the best, based on the votes of high school students. In order to vote, teens just need to have read four of the nominated titles (there are twenty nominees this year). Titles are nominated by teachers, librarians, and students, so the award is centered around high schools and high school students right from the start.

Why am I telling you all this? Because voting for the Abraham Lincoln Awards is going on now, and will end on March 15, and I want you all to vote! You still have time to read more, if you haven’t read quite enough to qualify – you can see all the nominees here. And you can vote by checking in with your high school librarian, or attending Abe’s Books in the Glenbard West library during PLC on March 14.

This of course leads me to Abe’s Books! Abe’s Books is a reading club sponsored by the library’s Teen Leadership Council and the Elliott Library at Glenbard West. Teens read and discuss the nominated books, and the year will culminate with a voting party on March 14 (yes, there will be snacks!) You can learn more about the awards and how to vote at the school here.

So what’s the takeaway from all this?

TL;DR: You can vote on which books win a big prestigious award! Just read four of the nominated titles (some of which you may already have read) and check in with your high school librarian. It’s that easy to give a book or author some love!

If you have any questions, check in with me (Hannah) at GEPL, or with one if your high school librarians. And, because you read this whole blog entry without getting one stupid joke or picture of a cute animal, I’ll conclude with a kitten cuddling with a fawn.

Cat Laying On Top of a Fawn

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School