GEPL Teens Blog

GEPL Teens: What I’m Reading Now – Temeraire Series

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 64 - ImageSince I was a little kid, I have been in love with dragons.  Just ask my mother, who read me The Paperbag Princess approximately one thousand times.  As I got older, I graduated from picture books and found a subset of dragon books that I was even more obsessed with than what I’d been reading –  novels featuring dragon/human companionship and friendship.  Anne McCaffrey was my queen throughout my teen years, and as an adult, I’ve struggled to find any book or series that packs the same emotional punch for me.  I’m pleased to say that I have – finally – found one!

What I’m Reading Now: The Temeraire series by Naomi Novik, starting with His Majesty’s Dragon

What’s It About (Jacket Description): Note: This is the jacket description for the first book in the series, His Majesty’s Dragon, but it serves as a good introduction to the series as a whole.

Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors ride mighty fighting dragons, bred for size or speed. When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes the precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Captain Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future – and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature.

Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.

Do I Like It: I am completely smitten!

Thoughts: For the dragon and dragon/human relationship-obsessed like me, let’s just put it this way: DRAGON BFF!  Temeraire is an incredible and incredibly loveable character, and his relationship with Laurence made me feel so warm and fuzzy inside I could hardly stand it.

For those of you more interested in some action or some alternate history, I’ll put it another way: Napoleonic wars.  With dragons.  

Much like Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series, the Temeraire series strikes a great balance between the character-driven focus of the relationship between dragons and their humans (as well as between humans and humans) and the more militaristic and action-filled excitement of war and battle.  Laurence and Temeraire’s growing relationship has been the highlight of the two books I’ve read so far, at least for me.  But there is also action and adventure, politics and politeness, and a trip halfway around the world.

One thing in particular that makes this series stand out – besides the fact that it absolutely nails a deep and affecting friendship between stiff-necked Laurence and the passionate Temeraire – is the extent to which Temeraire is a character in his own right.  He doesn’t just exist to be a pet of Laurence or help Laurence’s character develop.  Temeraire is just as much a protagonist as Laurence, and he is very different in many ways.  This makes the book better not only because it has two great characters at the heart of it, but because their relationship is so much more meaningful because of the differences between them and the deep affection they have anyways.

Although this isn’t a YA series, I highly recommend it anyways to anyone who likes dragons, excitement, and great characters.  The series is nine books long, and I’m only through the first two, so I’m excited to have more to read and to see where things go!

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: There Are Two Sides to Every Story

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 63 - ImageMany books, or even TV shows and movies these days, are centered on a particular character or a particular point of view.  Just look at how many books are published in the first person.  We see the dystopias of The Hunger Games and Divergent through Katniss and Tris’ eyes, and it is Hazel who tells us the story of her romance with Augustus in The Fault in Our Stars.  From Melinda in Speak to Titus in Feed, young adult literature is full of characters telling us their stories.

But for every story, there is another side.  Think of how altered The Fault in Our Stars would be if it were told by Gus instead of Hazel – we’d see a totally different take on the same story.  What if instead of Titus, we heard about the world of Feed from Violet?  While we would have to read or write some fan-fiction to answer those questions about these particular books, there are plenty of books out there that allow us to see two – or often, many more – sides to the stories they are telling.

So this month’s book display features books that have two or more points of view.  In Legend by Marie Lu, you can see June’s pursuit of Day from both their perspectives – letting us see why someone would pursue as doggedly as June, as well as why Day became the criminal he is.  Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry gives us a peek into the minds of both Echo and Noah as their romance develops, so we the audience know why Echo hides, why Noah is angry, and how they really feel about each other.  In Code Name Verity not only do we get to see Maddie and Julie’s friendship from both their points of view, but Maddie’s narration gives us insight into what Julie wasn’t saying in her confession, making the two person narration both important for the characters and their relationship as well as for the plot and mystery.

So whether you’re looking for a third person narration that delves into the minds of several characters, like The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, or are curious about how two boys with the same name come together like in Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan, whether you want to see what happens from the points of view of a whole group of beauty queens stranded on an island in Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, or simply want to see how two characters view their unfolding romance in He Said, She Said by Kwame Alexander, stop by the Teen Scene and experience for yourself both – or more – sides of the story!

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: A Finals Story

Teens Blog BannerOnce upon a time, finals were looming for the hard working high school students of Glen Ellyn.  At first, they made light of the situation, cracking sarcastic jokes.

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But all of a sudden, panic began to set in!

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Despite the panic, students found studying was nearly impossible.  They wanted to do well, but pressing matters like the next Dr. Who episode, an important text message from a friend, trips to get ice cream, beautiful weather and more kept popping up!

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The students were at a loss, when suddenly, they remembered – the library!  The Glen Ellyn Public Library, committed to high school students and pizza, was on a mission to help.  With delicious eats from Barone’s, caffeine all night long, and extended hours for cramming, studying became almost bearable!

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Fortified by their hard work and the support of their librarians, Glen Ellyn students went to finals and avoided the dreaded fate of guessing (or worse, failing)!

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Finally, it was summer, school was over, and the students could rest peacefully!


The end.

If you want this happy ending for your own finals story, be sure to come to the library on June 9, 10, and 11!  Pizza will be at 4:30 on June 9th and 5:30 on June 10th and 11th, coffee will be all night, and the library will stay open till 10:00 for high school students all three nights.  Good luck, and remember – summer break is just around the corner!

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Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Celebrates New Harry Potter Exhibit with Ice Cream Social on June 9th

news-blog-bannerharrypotterbannerSix weeks of wizarding wonder are coming to Glen Ellyn and Muggles of all ages are invited to experience the magic of Harry Potter as the Glen Ellyn Public Library hosts the National Library of Medicine’s touring exhibit: “Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic and Medicine.”

The exhibit features beautifully rendered and informative panels detailing the world of Harry Potter and its roots in Renaissance science, medicine, history and culture.

Although perceived as fantasy, the magic depicted in the popular Harry Potter novels and films can be traced to Renaissance traditions that played a pivotal role in the development of modern science and medicine.

Using materials from the National Library of Medicine’s “History of Medicine” collection, the exhibition explores Harry Potter’s wizarding world, its roots in Renaissance science and the ethical questions that affect not only the wizards in JK Rowling’s books, but also the historical thinkers featured in the series. Featuring fifteenth and sixteenth-century works from the period’s leading thinkers, alchemists, naturalists and occultists, the exhibition panels explore the intersection between the Harry Potter novels and Renaissance thinkers, lore and practices.

An opening reception for Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic and Medicine will take place during the Glen Ellyn Public Library’s Ice Cream Social on Monday, June 9th from 7-8:30pm and will feature free ice cream, ice pops, fresh fruit, a Harry Potter magic show, Quittich matches and a platform 9 ¾ Scavenger Hunt. The event is free and open to the public. Attendees are encouraged to dress as a Harry Potter character for an opportunity to win a special prize.

The exhibition can be viewed through July 14 during library hours, which can be found at

Posted in GEPL Kids, GEPL News, GEPL Teens, GEPL Tweens

GEPL Teens: TFiOS Release Party

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 61 - ImageAfter months of waiting, the time is finally upon us.  Ready your tissues, because The Fault in Our Stars movie is coming out this week!  With the talented Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort (both last seen in the Divergent movie) as the leads, a killer soundtrack, and previews that have reduced many of us to tears, expectations are high for this movie.  Luckily, The Fault in Our Stars was a fantastic book, and its fantastic author is all about this movie.  If John Green approves, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be awesome.

Whether you’re planning on catching a midnight release on Thursday, waiting it out till the official opening on Friday, or catching it this weekend, you probably want to get psyched.  In fact, you pretty much need to get psyched if you want to be emotionally ready for this movie.  At GEPL, we want to help you get prepared for the joy of finally getting to see the movie, the inevitable heartbreak that will come with watching it, and all the other feels that might sneak in.

And so for all these reasons, we have prepared a The Fault in Our Stars Release Party for you!  Come to the library tomorrow night (Thursday, June 5) from 5:00-8:00 for all things TFiOS.  We’ll have a door prize, food, TFiOS trivia, book and movie related activities, and – most importantly – other TFiOS fans for you to talk with, commiserate with, and get excited with!  We can’t wait to see you there.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: What I Just Read – Ask the Passengers

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 60 - ImageSometimes you hear about an author over and over again and for some reason are never inspired to pick up their books until much later.  I find that usually when I do this, I regret how long it took me to read an author and am so glad I finally did get started.  So it is with today’s “What I Just Read”!

What I’m Reading Now: Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

What’s It About (Jacket Description): Astrid Jones desperately wants to confide in someone, but her mother’s pushiness and her father’s lack of interest tell her they’re the last people she can trust. Instead, Astrid spends hours lying on the backyard picnic table watching airplanes fly overhead. She doesn’t know the passengers inside, but they’re the only people who won’t judge her when she asks them her most personal questions–like what it means that she’s falling in love with a girl.

As her secret relationship becomes more intense and her friends demand answers, Astrid has nowhere left to turn. She can’t share the truth with anyone except the people at thirty thousand feet, and they don’t even know she’s there. But little does Astrid know just how much even the tiniest connection will affect these strangers’ lives–and her own–for the better.

In this truly original portrayal of a girl struggling to break free of society’s definitions, Printz Honor author A.S. King asks readers to question everything–and offers hope to those who will never stop seeking real love.

Do I Like It: LOVED IT

Thoughts: I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Ask the Passengers when I checked out the audiobook, but this definitely wasn’t quite what I expected.  For starters, I was expecting a lot more of Astrid having conversations with the passengers/herself.  Really though, what Astrid does at the beginning of the book is just send her love to the passengers on the planes flying overhead.  Which admittedly sounds weird, but is also kind of beautiful – she wants to give her love unconditionally to people who don’t expect anything of her, who don’t love her conditionally.

But make no mistake, for all the beauty of sending her love to plane passengers, Astrid is also unapologetically weird and pretty nerdy.  She gets a little obsessive about her philosophy class, and plans on becoming an editor someday.  In fact, at one point, she corrects the grammar on an extremely mean-spirited sign in school.  I kind of love Astrid’s brand of philosophical nerd, the kind that leads her to reject the labels people place on her and question approximately everything anyone tells her.

There’s a lot I could say about this book, but really, it all comes down to Astrid.  This book is about how she learns to navigate the world around her, and navigate herself.  How she learns to balance the demands placed on her by everyone in her life, including her best friend and her maybe girlfriend.  How she figures out who she is, and how she chooses to convey that to the people around her.  Her relationships are a hugely important part of that, but just as important is what goes on in Astrid’s head.  Now, since this includes conversations with airplane passengers thousands of feet in the air and a personal relationship with Socrates (nicknamed “Frank” to make him more modern), Astrid’s head is a pretty interesting place to be.

This book has family, friendship, romance, school politics, and a thread of magical realism, so there’s a lot there.  But ultimately, if you like reading about Astrid, you’ll love this book.  And I think Astrid is a fascinating, likeable, relatable character, and I highly recommend you give her – and Ask the Passengers – a chance.  As for me, I won’t be waiting long to pick up another book by A.S. King.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: When Things End Badly

Teens Blog BannerWhen a great book – or especially a great series – ends, it is always difficult in a way.  Even when we go back and re-read or re-watch a favorite, it will never be the same as reading or viewing something for the first time, desperate to find out what happens next, breathless to know where our beloved characters and storylines will end up.  It’s intoxicating and wonderful.  And it also makes it really hard to deal with it when we reach the end, and instead of being satisfied, end up feeling betrayed and abandoned by authors or show-runners or movie makers.

Blog Entry 59 - Image 6I’ve experienced this twice recently, with varying levels of emotional involvement.  The first time was when I read Allegiant.  I read it over the course of one day, on a long flight, so I was completely immersed.  Despite some things I noticed in retrospect that made me love the book a little less than I might have otherwise, I was totally swept up in the experience.  And then I reached the end – or at least, that thing that happens near the end that defines the ending of the story – and it was like I was stopped mid-stream.  It was jolting and jarring, it was not what I expected, and it didn’t seem right to me.  It took away the end result that I had been counting on, the thing that had made everything that happens in the book and everything the characters went through worth it.  It took me a while to decide how I actually felt.  In the end, I’ve come around to believing that Veronica Roth planned this event from the start of the series, and to understanding why she made that choice.  But at the same time, what happened, and especially how it happened, still upset me.  I felt almost like I had wasted my time on the whole series.  If I couldn’t at least have that ending I was counting on, what was the point?

I had a similar experience this spring with the Blog Entry 59 - Image 5series finale of How I Met Your Mother (henceforth referred to as HIMYM because I am lazy).  I’ve been a huge fan of the show for years.  I saved up episodes on my DVR, and binge-watched almost the whole second half of the final season.  When I arrived at the penultimate episode, I was happy.  I had been warned that I would be disappointed in the finale, but I told myself “as long as this and this and this” – three things that added up to my personal worst-case scenario – “don’t all happen, I can live with some disappointment.”  And then I watched the finale.  And this and this and this all happened.  I couldn’t even believe it, at first, as the episode unfolded.  I watched seasons worth of character development and plot movement disintegrate before my eyes, leading to an ending that just didn’t make sense to me, based on everything I knew about these characters that I had spent years with.  I was beyond upset.  I will neither confirm nor deny the rumor that there was couch-punching involved, but I took it hard.  I felt like all the change and development that had happened in the show had been wasted.  I felt completely betrayed.

Blog Entry 59 - Image 3Obviously, not everyone feels the same way about how these two series ended.  Heck, I’m in the minority when it comes to another controversial ending to a beloved series – I felt that Mockingjay was exactly the ending The Hunger Games needed.  Make no mistake, there were tears (and, I’m only a little ashamed to admit, a call to my mom to sob about it a little).  But overall, it seemed like an earned and appropriate ending.  But I suspect many people – even some people reading this – experienced the same sense of betrayal over that ending as I did over the endings to Allegiant and HIMYM.  So did those creators really betray their audiences?  Or is the betrayal only in the eye of the beholder?  I can make some solid scholarly type arguments about why, especially in the case of HIMYM, these endings simply weren’t good storytelling.  But really, that doesn’t justify the sense of personal betrayal I felt at these conclusions.  That, I’m afraid, is a personal problem.

That of course leads to the question, “what should I doBlog Entry 59 - Image 1 about this?”  Unfortunately, I have no answer.  In these two cases, I will likely never read Allegiant or watch the HIMYM finale again.  I’ve even mentally removed the last episode of HIMYM from my “head canon” and mostly pretend it doesn’t exist.  But that doesn’t make me any happier, really, with how these things ended.  It doesn’t make me feel less betrayed.

There is one thing that does help a little though.  And that is thinking about how invested I was and am in these books and shows, how invested I have to be, to feel that strongly about an ending.  I know plenty of people who would laugh at me if I told them about this, and make fun of me for being so invested in things that are “just fiction” or “just made up.”  But to me, it says something wonderful about the power of stories that I can be that invested.  I’ve talked about it before, and I’ll probably always keep coming back to it – there is something really magical about stories, whatever format they are told in, and the way they can transport us and envelop us and come to seem so real.  And I think that’s a wonderful thing.  So I can comfort myself just a bit about how upsetting I found these endings by thinking of how that emotional response is really a kind of magic.  And I love having magic in my life, no matter how it gets there.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Fictional BFFs Round Two

Teens Blog BannerOnce again, I’ve been losing myself in books, and fantasizing about days spent in the company of my fictional BFFs.  Now, my fictional best friends are much more numerous than my real life best friends.  Mostly because ultimately, these friendships are much less time consuming and require much less reciprocity than real life friendships.  Plus, I read a lot more books than I meet real people, so I get many more chances to meet these fictional friends.  Today I thought I’d share a few more of my fictional BFFs – please chime in at the end and let me know which fictional characters YOU would love to hang out with all day and have adventures with!

Blog Entry 58 - Image 1Mel from Team Human by Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine Larbalestier – Mel is an incredible best friend.  Let’s just get that out of the way right now.  For all her many flaws, she is genuinely devoted to her friends.  Even when this is what causes her to screw up or even hurt them, it’s so much more forgivable than it might be otherwise because she really does mean to do the best she can by the people she cares about.  So right there, Mel is clearly someone anyone should want as a friend.  Not everyone has that kind of devotion.  On top of that she’s fun, funny, athletic, and smart, which would make her just straight-up enjoyable to be around, plus we would have shared interests and things to talk about.  As far as I’m concerned, Mel and I are basically BFFs already.

Blog Entry 58 - Image 2Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling – I admit, I don’t talk about the Harry Potter books too much on this blog.  Mostly because I assume you’ve all read all of them already.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t think about them extensively, even excessively.  And the thing I think about most is how awesome Hermione Granger is.  I can’t decide if I’d rather be her BFF or just BE her, but either one would be amazing.  Hermione is everything a nerdy bookworm like me can admire and want to be friends with.  She’s awkward at first, but does learn how to loosen up.  She loves books, so we would have lots to talk about.  She’s extremely kind and compassionate.  She’s a great friend, sometimes despite herself.  She’s loyal and trustworthy.  She’s smart enough to get me out of any jam.  I could go on and on, but I’ll end with this: Hermione Granger has already been a great friend to me just by existing in books.  How much better of a friend would she be if she were my awesome real life best friend?

Blog Entry 58 - Image 3Bertie Wooster from the Jeeves & Wooster books by P.G. Wodehouse – Bertie might be a little lesser known than Hermione Granger these days, and he is certainly of lesser intelligence, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be a blast to have as a friend.  Bertie is cheerful, fun-loving, generous, and willing to do almost anything – no matter how much he might hate it, no matter how much he might screw it up – for his friends.  We could go to the club together, throw dinner rolls and prank our other friends, play some sweet piano duets (with Bertie singing – my voice isn’t that good,) stroll around a country estate, and bond over just how much we love great food and a good night’s sleep in a comfortable bed.  Plus, Bertie comes with bonus Jeeves.  Not only would he be a fun BFF, but his valet is there waiting to solve any scrape you get yourself into with poise, elegance, and dry humor.  They are the perfect duo, and I would certainly love to have BOTH of them in my life.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: That One Night

Teens Blog BannerAs the weather has been reminding us lately, sometimes things can change really fast.  One day it can be eighty degrees and sunny, the next it can be 40 degrees and rainy.  And the same sudden changes can happen in our lives.  For better or for worse, sometimes just one night can change everything.  Sometimes it’s scary or overwhelming to think of this happening to us, but I’ve found it’s almost always exciting to read about.  So below are four books that feature one important night that changes everything for the main characters.

Blog Entry 57 - Image 1Charm & Strange, by Stephanie Kuehn – “A lonely teenager exiled to a remote Vermont boarding school in the wake of a family tragedy must either surrender his sanity to the wild wolves inside his mind or learn that surviving means more than not dying.” (Description from the catalog)

Stephanie Kuehn won the Morris Award for best debut author for a reason.  Charm & Strange is exciting and suspenseful, and the main character is an extremely interesting – if extremely flawed – person with a fascinating point of view.

Blog Entry 57 - Image 2Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan – “High school student Nick O’Leary, member of a rock band, meets college-bound Norah Silverberg and asks her to be his girlfriend for five minutes in order to avoid his ex-sweetheart.” (Description from the catalog)

Whether or not you’re a big music person, whether or not you’ve seen the movie, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playslist has a lot to recommend it.  The title characters are endearing, and watching them get to know each other is a delight.  It’s no surprise that this book still keeps getting checked out, eight years after it was first published.

Blog Entry 57 - Image 3Bright Before Sunrise, by Tiffany Schmidt – “Jonah and Brighton are about to have the most awkwardly awful night of their lives. For Jonah, every aspect of his new life reminds him of what he has had to give up. All he wants is to be left alone. Brighton is popular, pretty, and always there to help anyone, but has no idea of what she wants for herself.”  (Description from the catalog)

I haven’t had a chance to read this brand new book, but it was well-reviewed, and the description sounds enticing.  I’m a sucker for watching two flawed characters help each other learn and grow, and by all accounts, that’s exactly what I can expect when I get a chance to read Bright Before Sunrise!

Blog Entry 57 - Image 4Rose Sees Red, by Cecil Castellucci – “In the 1980s, two teenaged ballet dancers–one American, one Russian–spend an unforgettable night in New York City, forming a lasting friendship despite their cultural and political differences.”  (Description from the catalog)

Rose Sees Red takes the drama of the Cold War down to the level of two individuals.  This is always an interesting way to immerse oneself into a time and place, and this book is a fantastic lens for viewing what the Cold War meant for those just trying to pursue their art despite everything around them.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: What I’m Reading Now – When I Was the Greatest

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 56 - ImageEarlier this year, I went to a library conference where I was lucky enough to meet a lot of wonderful young adult authors.  One of the brand new authors I had a chance to meet was Jason Reynolds, whose first book was just published in January.  I finally got around to breaking out my (signed!) copy of his book, which brings me to…

What I’m Reading Now: When I Was the Greatest, by Jason Reynolds

What’s It About (Jacket Description): In Bed Stuy, New York, a small misunderstanding can escalate into having a price on your head—even if you’re totally clean. This gritty, triumphant debut captures the heart and the hardship of life for an urban teen.

“A lot of the stuff that gives my neighborhood a bad name, I don’t really mess with. The guns and drugs and all that, not really my thing.”

Nah, not his thing. Ali’s got enough going on, between school and boxing and helping out at home. His best friend Noodles, though. Now there’s a dude looking for trouble—and, somehow, it’s always Ali around to pick up the pieces. But, hey, a guy’s gotta look out for his boys, right? Besides, it’s all small potatoes; it’s not like anyone’s getting hurt.

And then there’s Needles. Needles is Noodles’s brother. He’s got a syndrome, and gets these ticks and blurts out the wildest, craziest things. It’s cool, though: everyone on their street knows he doesn’t mean anything by it.

Yeah, it’s cool…until Ali and Noodles and Needles find themselves somewhere they never expected to be…somewhere they never should’ve been—where the people aren’t so friendly, and even less forgiving.


Thoughts: I grew up in the middle of nowhere in Northern Illinois.  I hated sports as a teenager, and my best (and geographically closest) friend was a ten minute drive away.  So believe me when I say that reading about Ali growing up in the middle of Brooklyn, boxing, and with his best friend living next door is something that is utterly and completely outside my experience.  But I am so glad I’m reading it, because this book is great.

It’s a short book, so I’m over halfway through it already, and I’ve realized that it’s definitely going to be a book that doesn’t have a ton of action or fast-paced plot.  It’s not a quest or an adventure or even a traditional coming of age story.  It’s more a slice of life, with just a little excitement to keep the tension up.  Not a lot has happened so far except getting to know the characters, and the boys preparing to go to a big party.  But it’s a slice of life of a really endearing character, surrounded by a fully realized and engaging neighborhood of realistic characters.

The narrator Ali is such a likeable guy.  He loves his family, is fiercely protective of his little sister, is devoted to his best friend Noodles, and almost equally devoted to Noodles’ brother Needles.  Reading about the three of them – Ali, Noodles, and Needles – is completely immersive and engaging, even when not that much is going on.  They are all so much more complicated than “the boxer,” “the comic geek,” and “the knitter with a syndrome” (yes, Needles knits,) but each of these descriptors really does tell you a lot about each character.  I feel like they are all real people, like I’m actually reading about real events in a memoir or something.  And Ali’s voice is so good – he’s smart, but he’s also a part of his neighborhood and the world he grew up in.  He seamlessly integrates slang and the mind of a teenage boy focused on girls and partying with a the thoughts of a kid working hard to be the best he can be, take care of his family, and be engaged with the world around him.  He feels even more real than every other character, which is saying something.

I think my favorite part of this book so far though has been reading about Ali and his sister, Jazz.  Mostly because Jazz is so great.  I kind of want to read a book from her point of view.  She’s younger than Ali, 10 or 11, and simultaneously mature beyond her years and still a lovable little kid.  She loves to cook and braids Ali’s hair and has the same caretaking instincts he does.  But she also loves to watch trashy, Jerry Springer-esque TV shows and talk on the phone every night to her friends.  And she and Ali are clearly super devoted to each other, even when they get on each other’s nerves like siblings do.  It’s a joy to read about.

So I highly recommend When I Was the Greatest, even if it doesn’t seem like the kind of book you would normally relate to or pick up.  It’s the greatest – really!

Posted in GEPL Teens