GEPL Teens Blog

GEPL Teens: Banned Books

Teens Blog BannerOnce again, it’s time for a new display in the Teen Scene to highlight a new set of books.  And because September is when the American Library Association celebrates Banned Books Week (September 21-27), this month’s display is showcasing some of the books that have been challenged and banned over the years.

Blog Entry 90 - Image 2The American Library Association and libraries all over the country are defenders of First Amendment free speech rights.  This means that while everyone can probably find something in the library that offends them, it all stays on the shelves so that readers can make their own judgments.  We don’t defend or condemn content, we just make sure that everyone has access to books and information and can make their own decisions.  Banned Books week is a time when the American Library Association, libraries, and booksellers can celebrate their commitment to the First Amendment and access to information.

Books are challenged and banned for a variety of reasons.  According to the American Library Association, here are some books that have been challenged or banned by schools and other organizations in the United States, and the reasons these books have been challenged:

  • The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling – Most challenged book(s) in 2001 and 2002, on the basis of anti-family content, occult/Satanism, religious viewpoint, and violence.
  • The Captain Underpants Series by Dav Pilkey– Most challenged books(s) in 2012 and 2013, on the basis of Offensive language, unsuitability for age group, and violence.
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain – Challenged on the basis of offensive language.
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson – Challenged on the basis of occult/Satanism, offensive language, and violence.
  • The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer – Challenged on the basis of religious viewpoint, sexual content, and unsuitability for age group.
  • The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins – Challenged on the basis of sexual content, unsuitability for age group, and violence.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Challenged on the basis of offensive language and racism.
  • The TTYL Series by Lauren Myracle – Challenged on the basis of offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexual content, and unsuitability for age group.
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck – Challenged on the basis of offensive language, racism, unsuitability for age group, and violence.
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger – Challenged on the basis of offensive language, sexual content, and unsuitability for age group.

This is just a small sample of books that haveBlog Entry 90 - Image 1 been challenged or banned since 2001, according to the American Library Association.  The thing about banned or challenged books is that, in many cases, reading those books is not the right choice for a child, a teenager, or a family.  But fortunately, we live in a country where families are trusted to make their own decisions about what suitable reading material is, and a country where all these books stay on the shelves of public libraries so anyone can read them.

So this month, pick up a banned or challenged book (discuss it with a parent or librarian if you’re concerned about content), remember that libraries are here to provide access to information for everyone, and decide for yourself what you think of these banned books.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Teens Write – Books Are for Everyone

Teens Blog BannerThe Slate Book Review recently wrote an article by Ruth Graham on how adults should be ashamed about reading books written for teenagers. These types of books include realistic fiction such as the well favored novels The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park. However I disagree with this judgmental article, and the author seems to be the wannabe dictator of books. Last time I walked into a library, there were no gates blocking off different sections in the library.

Blog Entry 89 - Image 1A quote from the article reads: “But the YA and ‘new adult’ boom may mean fewer teens aspire to grown-up reading, because the grown-ups they know are reading their books.” Honestly, books are meant for your pure enjoyment. Coming from a teen, I don’t care who reads what novels and how old they are because it really doesn’t matter. Why should it? I think the adults lashing out using this ridiculous argument are just getting grouchy from reading too much of their so sophisticated and realistic adult books. Why are some adults angered by other adults reading young adult novels when grown-ups are the ones who write these books!

“I’m surrounded by YA-loving adults, both in real life and online. Today’s YA, we are constantly reminded, is worldly and adult-worthy. That has kept me bashful about expressing my own fuddy-duddy opinion: Adults should feel embarrassed about reading literature written for children.” -Ruth Graham

First of all Mr. Graham, there is a difference between childrenBlog Entry 89 - Image 2 and young adults. Young adults are teens that have progressively begun to mature into an adult, whereas children are still in their content little world. Literature written for children would be The Cat in the Hat or The Magic School Bus.

Why should adults feel the need to be embarrassed by what they read? Does this mean that once you grow up and become a woman/man that you can never again entertain yourself with sprightful tales that remind people of their youthful days? There is no age limit on books. Some adults might find some novels fitting their age boring or old. Reading YA books can transform the oldest man into the young boy that he once was and captivate the minds of any age. As Chili Davis once said: ” Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.”


Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Teens Review – The Giver, Book to Movie

teens-blog-bannerRecently, I went to see The Giver and shortly after, read the book. Both were very different in many ways. Yet, both were very amazing and enjoyable works of art.

The Giver is a thought provoking movie with cool visual arts, a great cast and questioning themes. However, did it stick very close to the book? Unfortunately, no. But before you cross the movie off your list, let me tell you these differences and why I think the movie was still pretty decent.

Blog Entry 88 - Image 1In Lois Lowry’s The Giver, the book takes place in a dystopian community where 12 year old Jonas is growing up in a world of “Sameness.” Everyone is completely and totally equal and the world is in black and white, void of emotions. Each year there are ceremonies to celebrate the lives of children. For some examples, there is the Newborn ceremony where babies are assigned to families. When you are Nine you receive a bike, when you are Twelve, you are assigned a job. Jonas’ friend Asher is goofy and fun, assigned to work in the Recreation center, while his quiet and polite friend, Fiona, is assigned to work with the Elderly. Jonas is assigned to be the Receiver of memories, where he is given old memories of the world before this community by an old man called the Giver. He begins to experience a world of color, emotions and liveliness, along with cruelty and war.

The movie takes place in a similar black and white setting, but the characters and story are slightly changed. There are less ceremonies, and the ages of the characters are raised from 12 to 18. This slightly frustrated me, because I felt one of the central themes of the book was the fact that Blog Entry 88 - Image 2Jonas was just a child. There is also a love story in the movie centered around Jonas and Fiona. At first this did slightly bother me as well, in a world where there is no emotions and the characters are only supposed to be 12, it’s not like a love story is even practical. I do understand why the directors did it: these days it feels like to be a successful teen movie there has to be some central romance. I find this slightly unrealistic in many of these dystopian settings. However, the actress who plays Fiona in The Giver does a wonderful job of portraying a strong female character and in watching the movie you grow to like her and her character. Towards the end I even felt myself rooting for the love story. Jonas’s friend Asher also plays a much larger role in the movie. The movie is also filled with more action and a very different ending that focuses less on Jonas and more on hope for the entire community. I felt the ending and its whole focus on a “boundary of memories” was also slightly unrealistic, but I did like the sense of hope you got at the end. Although as you can see there are a lot of differences, the movie is exciting and action packed and raises many interesting questions about humanity.

Overall, I thought that despite quite a few differences between the book and the movie, I still love both. I felt like the directors just tried turning Lois Lowry’s thought-provoking teen novel into just another dystopian thriller, however, I can’t deny that I did enjoy watching the movie. It makes you laugh, think and fall in love. It is incredibly heart-wrenching to watch some scenes, especially those with Jonas and the Giver and seeing him react to feeling emotions or hearing music for the first time. My recommendation is that first you read Lois Lowry’s book, because it in itself is amazing.  Nothing can truly match the power of that book. Then, go see the movie, but don’t go in with expectations that it stays true to the book. Because although the two differ greatly, The Giver is still a very enjoyable movie that delivers a great thriller for a Friday night at the theater!


Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Moving Up

Teens Blog BannerYou may have noticed a conspicuous absence of raving about books, reviews and musings from teens, and photos (funny or otherwise) in this space in the last week.  That’s because in the midst of some chaos, the blog was on break for a bit.  If you’ve stopped by the library this week, you have certainly noticed some changes to the second floor, in the form of a large construction zone and sometimes a bit of noise.  This is because we’re doing construction to create more study rooms, a study lounge, and a soundproof media lab in the library.  Which will be awesome.  But in order to accommodate that, we’ve had to move the offices of adult department staff – like me – from our second floor to our third floor.  Even moving up one floor in the same building was hard, and anyone who has moved further than that knows it can be scary, exciting, difficult, terrible, wonderful, or most often, some combination of all those things.  So in honor of our very small move, I wanted to highlight a few books featuring some more large scale moves!

Blog Entry 87 - Image 1Across the Universe by Beth Revis – Amy is seventeen when she and her family decide to move to another planet.  They are frozen in preparation for a 300 years voyage, but something goes wrong, and Amy is unfrozen fifty years early.  She finds herself on a spaceship that might as well be another planet itself, populated by the descendants of the original crew. And once awake, she meets Elder, tapped as the next captain and to lead the ship to its final destination.  Together, Elder and Amy start to uncover the secrets of the ship as they travel through the endless space.

Style: "Porcelain vivid"Over You by Amy Reed – It is for her best friend Sadie that Max agrees to move to Nebraska for a summer on a commune.  There they find themselves surrounded by yurts and hippie farmers, and expected to work hard to earn their keep.  Max has always taken care of Sadie, but when Sadie gets sick and pushes her away, she is forced to spend more and more time alone in her new surroundings.  And when Dylan is added to the mix, the friendship between Max and Sadie is put to the test, and Max is left wondering what she is – or should be – willing to give up for her friend.

Blog Entry 87 - Image 3In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters – Mary Shelley Black (yes, named after the author) is forced to move to San Diego with her aunt when her father is arrested for treason in the paranoia of the fall of 1918.  In this dark time, the war and a horrific epidemic are wreaking havoc on the American people.  Preying on fearful and grieving population are “spiritualists,” who falsify pictures of ghosts and séances for those missing loved ones.  But when Mary Shelley, a firm non-believer, starts seeing the spirit of her dead sweetheart, she must question everything she thought she knew about ghosts and the supernatural.

Blog Entry 87 - Image 4The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson – In the wake of her father’s death in a coup, Laila, her mother, and her brother are moved by the CIA to a new life in the United States.  Laila must cope with a new country, a new school, and new friends.  But much worse, she must cope with the growing realization that everything she thought she knew might be false.  That her father, instead of being a beloved king, might have been a dictator and a tyrant.  Add to that the intrigue she sees her mother and a hovering CIA agent getting caught up in, and Laila has a lot to handle as she adjusts to her new home.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: What I’m Watching Now – The Simpsons

teens-blog-bannerBlog Entry 86 - Image 1Today’s What I’m Watching Now, consisting largely of episodes I’ve already seen, is brought to you by the wonders of cable TV and a DVR.

What I’m Watching Now: The Simpsons

What’s It About: Honestly, do I really even need to fill this out? It’s The Simpsons!

Do I Like It: Duh.

Thoughts: So I realize that probably everyone is currently watching the Every Simpsons Ever marathon, but oh man, am I enjoying it!  Every time I turn on the TV, Simpsons!  Every time I’m not sure what to watch on my DVR, Simpsons!  Bad mood?  Simpsons.  Good mood?  Simpsons.  Sushi for dinner?  Simpsons, duh.  This has easily been one of the best TV watching weekends/weeks of my life, and I hope it has been for you.

And all this Simpsons-watching has gotten me thinking…what is it about this show that makes us love it so darn much? That keeps it on the air year after year after year, despite all the complaints about the show going downhill after the 10th season (of 25, mind you) and keeps us watching it?  Well honestly, much smarter more TV-critic minds than mine have already addressed that issue.  So I’m going to settle for just a small list of some of my own favorite things about The Simpsons.

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Lisa – If it were not already abundantly clear, I am a huge nerd.  And a bookworm.  And sometimes an armchair activist (and sometimes an effective one.)  And, although I hope this is slightly less obvious, a know-it-all.  In short, before I had Hermione Granger in my life, there was no fictional character I could relate to as much as Lisa Simpson, right down to the annoying brother (or brothers, in my case.)  As far as I’m concerned, everything about Lisa is perfection, and many of my favorite episodes center on her.

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Bart and Lisa’s Relationship – I know I just made a dig at annoying brothers, but here’s the thing:  My brothers are awesome.  They are among my best friends in the world.  They can make me laugh like nobody else, but they can push my buttons like nobody else too, because they know me better than almost anyone else in the world.  Growing up, we fought like cats and dogs sometimes, but we also had a ton of fun together, banded together when we needed to, and looked out for each other – just like Bart and Lisa.  Although they fight, they also enjoy making prank calls together, often work together against Sideshow Bob, watch Itchy & Scratchy together, and just get each other when no-one else does.  It’s such a great, realistic picture of so many sibling relationships, and it makes me happy.

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The Catchphrases – Though Bart’s in particular were mocked by Ned Flanders in the “Hurricane Neddy” episode, there’s no denying that the catchphrases are part of what makes The Simpsons so enduring.  I can’t even tell you how many times a day phrases like “d’oh” “woo-hoo!” “okily-dokily” “worst [blank] ever” and other catchphrases, even Marge’s signature disapproving “hmmm,” come out of my mouth.  And I love it.  I love the familiarity of the phrases, their recurrence episode after episode, and the fact that they are a shared language with most anyone in the millennial generation.

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All the Amazing Side Characters – I mean, is there really any need to elaborate on this?  Springfield is just chock full of amazing characters, and it’s awesome!\

What about you?  Have you been watching some of the Simpsons ultra-marathon?  What keeps you watching the show?

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Teens Review – Every Day by David Levithan

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 85 - ImageReviewer: Sabrina

Book Title: Every Day by David Levithan

Description: There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day (Description from

Review: Every Day is an extremely unique book and has unique aspects that other books don’t have. It’s about this person who is named “A.” A wakes up in a new body each day; sometimes as a girl and sometimes as a boy. A doesn’t have a specific body, gender, look, and race. Each day, A has to wake up and live as a new person. This character doesn’t mind until he falls in love with Rhiannon, a girlfriend of one of the bodies A had been in.  No matter what body A is in, the love for Rhiannon never changes, it just gets more difficult to be around her. A secretly emails her from the computers of all the bodies A has been in, but always from A’s personal email account. When someone finds out that their computer has been used by a stranger everything gets tricky. And someone is on the hunt to find A.

Every Day is unlike anything out there because it’s so brilliant and beautiful. A is such an amazing character and I fell in love with this character just by everything that they did and how they reacted to each day and how their personality and internal characteristics never changed even when their outside persons did. I think that has some lessons written in there for us like even when life constantly changes and things don’t go how we would like them to, we should keep our morals the same. There so many more lessons in the book, if you really try to look for them. For readers who were in love with The Fault in Our Stars and Augustus Waters, I guarantee you all that you will love this book. A is just a beautifully complicated character and you can never judge this character because you don’t really know who they are but you feel like you’ve known them forever. I absolutely loved this book and I would recommend it for any age.


Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Summer Reading’s Big Winners


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Drawing Winner Rebekah

Summer reading is over, and most of you are about to dive back in to reading for classes.  But before we forget all about reading for fun, I wanted to take a moment to congratulate our summer reading winners and summer reading top readers!  In our drawing for two $200 Ticketmaster gift certificates, the winners were Rebekah (pictured left) and Jana.  Although it was a random drawing based on one entry for every five books read, Rebekah and Jana both managed multiple entries – Rebekah read 25 books this summer, and Jana read 16!

I also wanted to acknowledge our biggest readers, even if they didn’t luck out on the drawing.  Noelle (pictured below right) read 37 books this summer – more than I did! And Sabrina was our second biggest reader this summer with 31 books, but she was so involved in tweeting about what she read and writing books reviews that her grand total at the end of the summer came out to an equivalent of 51 books read!

Top Reader Noelle

I was so impressed with how much Noelle (a senior at St. Francis) and Sabrina (a sophomore at Glenbard West) read this summer that I sat down and asked them a few questions about themselves.  Turns out big readers have quite a bit in common – but a quite a few differences too.  Both Sabrina and Noelle said that they usually binge read in the summer, since they are too busy during the school year to read as much.  And both of them said their favorite place to read is curled up in bed in their own rooms.

But this summer’s biggest readers differed on what their favorite things to read were.  Noelle couldn’t decide on just one favorite type of book, but said she loves dystopias.  And Sabrina though that realistic fiction was her favorite type of book to read.  Interestingly enough though, when asked about their favorite book of the summer, they both went outside these genres.  Sabrina didn’t want to pick a favorite, but said that if she had to choose, probably What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang, a novel that falls more into the dystopia or sci-fi categories than realistic.  And Noelle was a big fan of the Lux series by Jennifer Armentrout (starting with Obsidian), which features an alien love interest that puts it more into the sci-fi or paranormal category than her beloved dystopias.  It just goes to show that it’s always worth reading outside your preferred genre – you never know when you might find a new favorite.  Sabrina also said that tweeting and writing reviews made her really think about and engage more with what she read – which wasn’t necessarily better than reading on its own, but certainly affected her reading and made the experience different.

So now you know a little more about our top readers, and can congratulate Jana, Noelle, Rebekah or Sabrina if you ever see them in the library.  As for me, I want to congratulate everyone who participated in summer reading!  You read a lot of great books this summer, and I bet you had fun doing it.  Here at GEPL, we’re already looking forward to next summer’s reading challenge, and I hope you are too!

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Teens Write – What Makes a “Good” Reading List?

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Nearly every library runs summer reading programs and creates summer reading lists. Some libraries do this to maintain business when school isn’t in session. Others
compile lists to combat the loss of knowledge kids experience over the summer. Still others just want people to read! Whatever the reason, patrons expect a “good” list of Blog Entry 83 - Image 1literature. Of course, this begs the question:  what makes a book list “good”? Is it a quality inherent in the pieces chosen? Is it the wide variety suggested? Is a good list one that simply encourages reading? Teaches life lessons? Is it thought-provoking? Are the books classics? New books? I could go on, but the bottom line is that people not only have expectations but those ideals are all different. Personally, my idea of a reading list is one that has a lot of different books that are fun, challenging, and thought-provoking. Some might agree, but others want books that help pass the time or that reflect either their daily lives or what they want out of life. I’d venture to say that most like a mix between the two I outlined. So how should a library go about making this perfect summer reading list? Well, this has been a subject of hot debate surrounding the New York Public Library summer reading challenge.

An opinion piece written for the New York Post attacks Blog Entry 83 - Image 2the NYPL list, calling it silly and pathetic. The article claims that it is full of “fluff” books that don’t delve into real issues. Every piece is cookie-cutter and immature.  Angrily, the article points out that the list lacks any classic stories that move people and teach them about good literature. Everything is recent, and they show that the NYPL is desperately trying to feed kids any books, not bothering to go beyond limits of mean girls and high school drama. Somewhat controversially, the article also argues that the list is ridiculously politically correct, trying too hard to please people of every ethnicity.

On the other side of the argument, an article on Book Riot defends the NYPL, saying that the books are relatable to teen audiences. It also states that the idea of timeless literature is debatable; a book written recently could prove to be classic in its own right, and it’s a lot more relatable than old books. The Book Riot article also argues that the depth of literature is not important because the libraries who made the list simply want to encourage any reading that will stop kids from forgetting school material over the summer. Additionally, the article points out that YA literature tends to lack diversity, so the NYPL’s suggestions are warranted and helpful. Both articles have strong stands and support their claims, so who’s right?

Blog Entry 83 - Image 3As with every debate, there are two sides, and rarely is one entirely correct. The Post article makes a good point: the NYPL list lacks challenging books that sophisticatedly present mature themes. In my opinion, it is a pretty lame list. However, they are books that teens want to read. I’ve never met someone whose interest isn’t piqued by a bit of drama. Furthermore, why attack ethnic diversity in literature? Just because it’s more PC to represent cultural books doesn’t mean it’s bad.

However, these faults in the NY Post article don’t make the Book Riot post right either. It does defend the book choices fairly, stating that they’re books that encourage any and all reading for everyone, but most of this article attacks the NY Post article rather than defending the book list. It picks apart every NY Post point rather than forming a coherent argument for the NYPL.

Therefore, neither editorial clarifies the issue fairly, so it’s up to teen readers to decide whether or not the NYPL summer reading list is “good”.


Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: What I Just Read – We Were Liars

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 82 - ImageHave you ever seen that movie or read that book that everyone was talking about, but nobody would actually say anything about?  I’m talking about books and movies with A Twist.  All you know is that there’s a twist coming, but nobody will say much because they don’t want to spoil it.  And then you read it, and despite knowing it’s coming, you’re still totally shocked by The Twist.  Well, I just read that book.

What I Just Read: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

What’s It About (Jacket Description): A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

Did I Like It: I thought this was a really fantastic book, and it had an intense emotional and mental effect on me.  But I’m not sure that “liked” is exactly the right word, since it also kind of destroyed me.

Thoughts: I really didn’t know what to expect going into this.  Initially, I avoided We Were Liars because I wasn’t sure how I felt about a private island full of over-privileged people.  But I kept hearing how great the book was, how it had this big twist, and since nobody was saying much beyond that, I got super curious.  So naturally, I spent most of the book trying to figure out the twist.  Wondering what it could be, what secrets the narrator Cadence’s faulty memory and migraines were hiding, what it was that nobody else in the book would talk about.

I did not figure it out.

I know some readers have, and I don’t know if that would have made a difference in how I felt about the book, but I had no idea what was coming.  Which made the big reveal impact me just that much more.  The best words I can come up with for it are “gut punch.”  Apparently when I got to that part of the book, my jaw literally dropped.  There was definitely an extreme emotional response.  This book, and this twist, definitely got to me in a big sort of way.

So that’s the twist.  But there is a little more to say about this book than that!  The characters are, yes, over-privileged and on a private island.  But all of them, especially the Liars, still manage to be interesting and complex.  The writing and story itself has almost a fairy tale quality, though a very dark fairy tale, and echoes of King Lear abound.  The fairy tale and King Lear qualities are helped along by the snippets of retellings that Cadence intersperses with her narration.  It lends everything an almost mythic quality, and keeps the mystery and tension from getting overwhelming, while still enhancing the story.  I don’t want to say more for fear of the dreaded spoiler, but I’ll finish with this: We Were Liars got under my skin in a very big way – and that’s not something I can say about every book I read.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Teens Write – Fantasy Series Display

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 81 - ImageAs we near the end of August, that can mean only one thing: it’s time to go back to school. Most of us want to leave the world of school, continue sleeping till noon and watching season marathons on Netflix. Unfortunately, that probably will not happen, and instead we can leave the world of school by taking a trip to the worlds of werewolves, vampires, demons, and magic. These fantasy book series will give you hours and hours in these magical worlds, dragging you into dangerous quests, dark secrets, and true love.

So whether you like action and adventure, romance, mysteries, or something else entirely, fantasy has something for everyone. Vampire fans should check out Twilight by Stephenie Meyer or The Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead. Those more interested in human and wolf hybrids, aka werewolves, should check out Grace and Sam’s heartwarming relationship in Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. If dragons are your thing, you might like Seraphina by Rachel Hartman or Firelight by Sophie Jordan.  And magic is everywhere in books like Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins and Witch Eyes by Scott Tracey. No matter what you’re interested in, come into the teen scene and meet some werewolves and witches, within books of course!


Posted in GEPL Teens