Weekly round-up of book-related links

*Did you see our news at Teen Librarian Toolbox? We’re joining the School Library Journal blog network! So excited about this new partnership.


*It’s Halloween! How about “175 of Your Favorite Horror Novels” from Book Riot?


*At The Toast, “A Wrinkle in Time: Dirtbag Mrs. Whatsit.”


*At The Horn Book, John Green‘s Zena Sutherland lecture, “Does YA Mean Anything Anymore?: Genre in a Digitized World.” 


*At Stacked, “Guest Post: Victorian Signorelli and Kathleen Willard of Gay YA.”  We all know how amazing their website is, right? Did you know that it’s run by two very dedicated and brilliant teens? Yep–pretty cool. Here, ruminate on this snippet:

“We realized there was a huge demand for representation of the people, and no one organizing to talk about it past some hashtags on Twitter. We were only sixteen and twelve at the time, but it wasn’t even really a question in our minds: we knew how to do websites, and we knew social media.”


*At Diversity in YA, a fantastic “Diversity Digest” with a TON of great links. Go click on through to everything. Really.


*Your job today is to set aside a few minutes to read Kelly Barnhill‘s lovely post “Read All the Things–it’s not WHAT we read, it’s HOW we read that matters.” A bit from her post:

“And when we talk about books – and our relationships with those books – we are not just talking about the books. We are talking about ourselves. And our loved ones. And the world.

When we ask one another, “What are you reading these days?” it should never be an occasion for judgement or assessment or assignment into any sort of pecking order. That would be missing the point. Instead, what we should say is this: Tell me what you felt. Tell me how you cared. Tell me what you carried with you – both toward and away. Tell me why we matter.”


This month’s writing soundtrack

Still listening to mostly things I got into as a teenager or in college. I kinda picture myself at like age 85 listening to these same songs on whatever future device we’ll listen to songs on. My music taste doesn’t change much. What do you listen to when you write? You can check out my post from last month on my writing soundtrack (and my dedication to listening to the music I first fell in love with as a teenager, and why that might be) and also Karen’s post on Teen Librarian Toolbox about the soundtrack of our lives. 





















Waiting on Wednesday: My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga



Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.


If I committed to reading all of the library books currently in my house and in my hold queue, all of my purchased but not yet read books, and all of the ebooks on my Kindle, I probably wouldn’t need to go in search of a book for 2 months. At least. But what fun would that be? Irrationally large TBR lists are the only way to go. One of the books waiting for me on my Kindle, thanks to Edelweiss, is My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga.


Summary from bn.com:myheart

A stunning novel about the transformative power of love, perfect for fans of Jay Asher and Laurie Halse Anderson.

Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.

There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution—Roman, a teenage boy who’s haunted by a family tragedy, is looking for a partner. Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other’s broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together.


Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 2/10/2015


Why I’m excited: Look, if it’s a suicide book, I’m going to read it. Plain and simple. I love the title, too.

Review: Wildlife by Fiona Wood


wildlifeAbout the book 
Title: Wildlife

Author: Fiona Wood

Age level: YA

Genre: Contemporary

Subjects: Australia, wilderness, grief, friendship, sex, relationships, high schools, outdoor education,

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication date: 9/16/2014

Format read in: Hardcover

Source of book: Library

Pages: 400

Cover: Pretty, and while not really interesting, still interesting enough that I want to know what those kids are doing in the wilderness.

Why review this book?: I have yet to read a YA book by an Australian author that I didn’t really enjoy. Also, Melina Marchetta has a blurb on the cover, so I’m in!


Summary (via Goodreads)

Life? It’s simple: be true to yourself.
The tricky part is finding out exactly who you are…

In the holidays before the dreaded term at Crowthorne Grammar’s outdoor education camp two things out of the ordinary happened.
A picture of me was plastered all over a twenty-metre billboard.
And I kissed Ben Capaldi.

Boarding for a term in the wilderness, sixteen-year-old Sibylla expects the gruesome outdoor education program – but friendship complications, and love that goes wrong? They’re extra-curricula.

Enter Lou from Six Impossible Things – the reluctant new girl for this term in the great outdoors. Fragile behind an implacable mask, she is grieving a death that occurred almost a year ago. Despite herself, Lou becomes intrigued by the unfolding drama between her housemates Sibylla and Holly, and has to decide whether to end her self-imposed detachment and join the fray.

And as Sibylla confronts a tangle of betrayal, she needs to renegotiate everything she thought she knew about surviving in the wild.

A story about first love, friendship and NOT fitting in.


The details

Characters: Sib, Lou, and Michael are fantastic characters. Sib is complicated. She knows her best friend, Holly, pretty much treats her like crap, but she sticks around and puts up with it (for the most part). She is in turns insecure and confident. She makes choices that she isn’t entirely sure are the right choices. She tries to figure out ways to say the things that she wants to say, but isn’t sure how to do so. Lou is the new girl, showing up at the school just in time for this outdoor education unit. She’s grieving but doing her best to hide this fact, keeping most of her new classmates at a distance, but observing everything that’s going on. The girls take turns narrating chapters, and while Michael isn’t a narrator, he plays a large role in both of their lives. He’s Sib’s lifelong closest friend and the person who Lou chooses to open up to. He’s odd, unique, awkward, and kind. The characters are allowed to interact in these very real ways—like snippy girls trading barbs, and alleged friends scheming, manipulating, and hurting each other. The characters have real flaws, the kind that make them more engaging and interesting, and are multidimensional.


Writing: Someone please get to the bottom of how Australia keeps churning out such great YA, okay? Just fantastic.


Plot: Here’s a version of the plot: some teenagers go into the woods and act like teenagers. You’re in, right? Because you just know that plenty of interesting things will happen. This is another book where the characters completely carry the small plot. Pretty much every emotion a person could feel is wrapped up in the weeks these characters spend in the wilderness. Another version of the plot could be: some teenagers discover that love, sex, friendship, and grief are complicated beasts.


Ending: Achingly lovely. Also, I want to see more of these characters.


Liked: The look at the many ways female friendships are complicated. The level of grief that Lou feels (that it’s deep and doesn’t just go away). The wonderfully candid approach to the sexual lives of teenage girls. The unique setting. Multiple references to feminism.


In summary

Verdict: Read it. The start is a little bit slow, as we get to know the main characters before they arrive in the woods for school, but stick with it. You won’t be disappointed.



Author’s website

Author’s Twitter

Review: Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes


About the book: 
Title: Anatomy of a Misfit anatomy of a misfit

Author: Andrea Portes

Age level: YA

Genre: Realistic

Subjects: High school, social status, mean girls, abuse, lies

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 9/2/2014

Format read in: hardcover

Source of book: library

Pages: 336

Series: No

Cover: From the Rainbow Rowell School of Minimalism. Doesn’t really tell me anything about the book, but I liked the title, so that may help get it plucked off the shelf.

Why review this book?: The title drew me in—well, mostly the word “misfit” did. I like a good misfit.


Summary (via bn.com):

Outside, Anika Dragomir is all lip gloss and blond hair—the third most popular girl in school.

Inside, she’s a freak. A mix of dark thoughts, diabolical plots, and, if local chatter is to be believed, vampire DNA. After all, her father is from Romania. Everyone else in Nebraska is about as American as an apple pie . . . wrapped in a flag . . . on the Fourth of July.

Spider stew. That’s what Anika is made of. But she keeps it under wraps to maintain her social position. One step out of line and Becky Vilhauser, first most popular girl in school, will make her life a living hell.

So when former loner Logan McDonough shows up one September hotter, smarter, and more mysterious than ever, Anika knows she can’t get involved. It would be insane to throw away her social safety for a nerd. So what if that nerd is now a black-leather-jacket-wearing dreamboat, and his loner status is clearly the result of his troubled home life?

Who cares if the right girl could help him with all that, maybe even save him from it . . . ?

Logan. Who needs him when Jared Kline, the bad boy every girl dreams of, is asking her on dates?


Andrea Portes’s emotionally devastating debut YA novel lays bare the futility in pretending to be something we’re not and the value in finally celebrating all that we are—inside.

The details:

Characters: I don’t really care if a character is likable or not. I do care if I feel invested in them—be as unlikable as you want, but make me care about your story, you know? I had a hard time wanting to know about Anika or where her story went. I wanted to be drawn in, really! Anika, who’s made of spider soup and grew up in a castle in Romania with a father she refers to as Count Chocula, is interesting. She’s dark, moody, and has a biting wit. And though she’s well-rendered, I felt like the distance she tries to keep everyone at bled over to the reader. The many secondary characters are not nearly as well-developed. Anika has many sisters and brothers, none of whom seem necessary to the story, one milquetoast best friend, and one stereotypically mean/Alpha best friend. I kept waiting for Logan, the nerd turned mod, to become a larger part of the story, but we only saw him in bits and pieces, and hardly get to know him at all.


Writing: The writing is great. Portes is funny and does droll and dark humor very well. Sometimes it felt self-consciously clever though—like Anika sometimes felt far more witty and observant than she had any right to be. But even though the writing was good, I still couldn’t get into this one.
Plot: Was there a plot? You all know I could care less if there’s no plot, as long as the characters carry the story for me.


Ending: I felt like the last many pages were a completely different book than the first 90% of the story. The twist at the end was gut-wrenching, sure, but I wanted more to have led up to it (instead of just the interspersed bits that indicate that something horrible is about to come). And while I think the very ending scenes at the high school would be a great way to finally speak out and give certain people their comeuppance, they were not at all believable.


Liked: Great one-liners. Anika’s stories about and interactions with Count Chocula. Premise.


Disliked: Premise did not deliver. Slut-shaming. Homophobia (“that’s so gay” kind of stuff). Becky (the alpha best friend) who seemed to exist just to call Anika “immigrant” every once in a while. Plot holes. Weird racism/commentary on racism (Tiffany, the black girl who starts working where Anika works, and exists to teach lessons and point out prejudices). Lack of plot. Also, was this set in the 80s? Constant Trapper Keeper references and other pop culture name-dropping makes me think so, but a lot of the language and the overall feel of the story is modern. Does it really matter? Probably not. But it bothered me and every time I came across something that reminded me that it might be set in the 80s, it pulled me out of the story.


In summary: 

Verdict: This one didn’t work for me. That said, I just looked online at some reviews and see that I am in the minority with that opinion. I set it down twice and considered DNFing it, because my TBR pile is towering and did I really want to continue with a book that I was struggling to get into? I’m really curious to hear from someone why they may have liked it. The potential for this one was great—a capable and clever writer had an interesting premise, but the execution fell completely flat for me.



Author’s Twitter

Weekly round-up of book-related links

*When I’m reviewing things for School Library Journal, or the Horn Book Guide, or Voice of Youth Advocates, I stay quiet about them on social media. However, when I notice those reviews are published, I like to share them here because a lot of the books are great. Check out what I thought about Double Exposure by Bridget Birdsall, a book with an intersex main character. 


*At Teen Librarian Toolbox this past weekend, I wrote about “Why I’m a GLBTQ Ally.”  I also have a post rounding up new GLBTQ YA books this fall. 


*In further self-promotion, Refinery29 picked up a piece I wrote that originally appeared on Modern Loss earlier this year. I wrote about my father’s death and grief in the age of social media.


*One of my extremely smart and talented teen book club members, Abby, was a guest blogger this week at YALSA’s The Hub. Check out her post about censorship. So proud of that girl!


*Kelly Jensen at Book Riot rounds up lots of new and forthcoming titles in “45 YA Titles for Your October -December Radar.” 


*Build your 2015 reading list with this “Official Summer 2015 HarperTeen Cover Roundup.” 


*At The Guardian, Corinne Duyvis on the decline of “issue” books.


*At Edge on the Net, “LGBT Comic Book Characters Going Mainstream.”


*At Epic Reads, you HAVE to check out this infographic “The Age of YA: A Timeline of Historical Fiction.” 


*At Bookshelves of Doom, “Morning Links: The Author-as-Stalker Edition.” Good roundup of last weekend’s drama. Also check out Carrie Mesrobian’s “An Open Letter to Online Book Reviewers & Bloggers.”  And Liz B’s “Yes, I am Afraid.”  And at Stacked, “7 Steps to Protecting Your Privacy as a Blogger (Or as a Person on the Internet, Period.)”


*At The New Yorker, “The Endangered Bookstores of New York.”  Just lovely.


*At Bookish, Christine Heppermann writes about “Once Upon a Time: Modern YA Books and Their Fairy Tale Counterparts.” 


*Robin Talley has a guest post up at Books, Biscuits, and Tea, “Top 7 LGBTQ Characters of Color from YA.” 



This week at Teen Librarian Toolbox


This week at Teen Librarian Toolbox, I have two posts.


In the first one, I talk about why being a GLBTQ ally is important to me. 


In the second post, I’ve rounded up a bunch of GLBTQ YA books that are out this fall.


Someone’s working on finding more hours in the day that we can use just for reading, right?

Waiting on Wednesday: Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff



Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.


This week I’m once again looking ahead to a January release. Remember that show Out of This World where Evie could stop time? No? Okay, remember how Zack Morris could stop time on Saved by the Bell? That’s right–yeah, you do. I want that. I want to be able to stop time for a few weeks, just so I can catch up on my endless TBR list. One of the books on that list is Playlist for the Dead by Michell Falkoff.


Summary from bn.com:playlist

Part mystery, part love story, and part coming-of-age tale in the vein of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Spectacular Now.

There was a party. There was a fight. The next morning, Sam’s best friend, Hayden, was dead. And all he left Sam was a playlist of songs and a suicide note: For Sam—listen and you’ll understand. To figure out what happened, Sam has to rely on the playlist and his own memory. But the more he listens, the more he realizes that his memory isn’t as reliable as he thought. And it might only be by taking out his earbuds and opening his eyes to the people around him that he’ll finally be able to piece together his best friend’s story. And maybe have a chance to change his own.

Playlist for the Dead is an honest and gut-wrenching first novel about loss, rage, what it feels like to outgrow a friendship that’s always defined you—and the struggle to redefine yourself. But above all, it’s about finding hope when hope seems like the hardest thing to find.


Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 1/27/2015


Why I’m excited: Suicide book + music = guaranteed I’ll pick this up without any more information than that. Add an eye-catching cover and an interesting-sounding plot (plus some positive buzz around it), and I’m in for sure.


What school can be like for LGBTQ teens

GLSENThis post originally appeared on my blog on October 2, 2013. The 2013 survey results are supposed to come out at some point this fall. Reposting this entry because it’s so important to know what’s really going on in schools. 



National School Climate Survey results about LGBTQ students’ experiences in high school

GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, released itsNational School Climate Survey, which documents the experiences of LGBT students from across the country.  If these numbers shock you, you clearly haven’t spent much time talking to gay students or hanging out in a high school.  It’s still ugly out there.

Findings of the 2011 National School Climate Survey include:

Biased Remarks at School

• 84.9% of students heard “gay” used in a negative way (e.g., “that’s so gay”) frequently or often at school, and 91.4% reported that they felt distressed because of this language.

• 71.3% heard other homophobic remarks (e.g., “dyke” or “faggot”) frequently or often.

• 61.4% heard negative remarks about gender expression (not acting “masculine enough” or “feminine enough”) frequently or often.

• 56.9% of students reported hearing homophobic remarks from their teachers or other school staff, and 56.9% of students reported hearing negative remarks about gender expression from teachers or other school staff.

Safety and Victimization at School

• 63.5% felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation, and 43.9% because of their gender expression.

• 81.9% were verbally harassed (e.g., called names or threatened) in the past year because of their sexual orientation, and 63.9% because of their gender expression.

• 38.3% were physically harassed (e.g., pushed or shoved) in the past year because of their sexual orientation, and 27.1% because of their gender expression.

• 18.3% were physically assaulted (e.g., punched, kicked, injured with a weapon) in the past year because of their sexual orientation, and 12.4% because of their gender expression.

• 55.2% of LGBT students experienced electronic harassment in the past year (via text messages or postings on Facebook), often known as cyberbullying.

The high incidence of harassment and assault is exacerbated by school staff who rarely, if ever, intervene on behalf of LGBT students.

• 60.4% of students who were harassed or assaulted in school did not report the incident to school staff, most often believing little to no action would be taken or the situation could become worse if reported.

• 36.7% of the students who did report an incident said that school staff did nothing in response.

The report goes on to discuss:

*absenteeism (“Many LGBT students avoid classes or miss entire days of school rather than face a hostile school climate. An unsafe school environment denies these students their right to an education.”)

*academic achievement (“School safety affects student success. Experiencing victimization in school hinders LGBT students’ academic success and educational aspirations.”)

*psychological well-being (“Experiences of harassment and assault in school are related to poorer psychological well-being for LGBT students.”).

The report also looks at solutions, including GSA groups, inclusive curriculum, supportive educations, bullying policies, and more.

The report is long (160 pages), but filled with statistics, charts, and graphs that drive home the point that LGBTQ students face a lot of opposition at school and frequently don’t feel safe or supported.  Being knowledgeable of their potential struggles and understanding where they (and you!) can go to find useful resources (books, websites, helplines, etc) is a major step in the right direction.

LGBTQ resources:

The Trevor Project—A 24-hour toll free confidential hotline for gay and questioning youth.   844-4-U-TREVOR

The It Gets Better Project—Suicide prevention video project and website to give hope to LGBTQ teens that high school and its bullies will not last forever, that it DOES get better.

GLSEN—Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network

HRC—Human Rights Campaign


GSA Network

Book review: The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy


About the book: 
Title: The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher

Author: Dana Alison Levy

Age level: Middle grade

Genre: Realistic

Subjects: Schools, families, LGBTQ, adoption, siblings

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books

Publication date: 7/22/2014

Format read in: Hardcover

Source of book: my friendly neighborhood library

Pages: 272

Series: Yes! Sequel coming spring 2016

Cover: I love it. So much going on! Who are all these kids and creatures? Also, I love the style of the artwork.

Why review this book?: I am a sucker for a good family story.


Summary (via Goodreads):

Meet the Fletchers. Their year will be filled with new schools, old friends, a grouchy neighbor, hungry skunks, leaking ice rinks, school plays, wet cats, and scary tales told in the dark!

There’s Sam, age twelve, who’s mostly interested in soccer, food, and his phone; Jax, age ten, who’s psyched for fourth grade and thinks the new neighbor stinks, and not just because of the skunk; Eli, age ten (but younger than Jax), who’s thrilled to be starting this year at the Pinnacle School, where everyone’s the smart kid; and Frog (not his real name), age six, who wants everyone in kindergarten to save a seat for his invisible cheetah. Also Dad and Papa.

WARNING: This book contains cat barf, turtle pee, and some really annoying homework assignments.


The details:

Characters: Mr. Nelson, the crotchety neighbor, can’t stand the Fletchers. They’re always kicking balls into his yard or being too loud. Me? I’d LOVE to live next to the family Fletcher. One of the common problems with a large cast of characters, particularly in a family, is that often they blend together. You don’t need to worry about that here. Sam, Jax, Eli, and Frog are distinctive and memorable characters. Their interests are wide-ranging, helping them stand out even further. The best thing about the characters is the diversity. The boys are white, African-American, and Indian. They are Jewish, Christian, and Hindu. They celebrate a variety of religious holidays. The boys have two dads and it is never once a “thing,” as in there isn’t any weirdness or judging going on. The dads are great, too–supportive but with different strengths, and they play strong roles in the book (not just fading into the background). I pretty much wanted to be able to jump into the pages of this book and find myself at the Fletchers’ busy house.


Writing: Levy has an ear for dialogue and clever banter. There is a lot going on in this story (with so many main characters and a large, well-developed cast of secondary characters, too), but Levy easily juggles all of the pieces of the story, keeping things moving at a good pace without ever overwhelming the plot. This is an easy one to read in one sitting because it chugs along so nicely.


Plot: So much happens! The book never lags, and how could it? Each of the boys always have something going on, whether that’s an activity (like soccer, play practice, a school report, etc), or an issue with a friend (old friends making fun of new interests, new friends coming into their lives, the family thinking a new friend is imaginary, etc). The plot could probably be summed up as “here is a family doing all the things a family of 6 would do.” And all of their “things” are so interesting. I want to go to their Halloween party, or visit Frog’s kindergarten open house, or sit at the table with all of them and Mr. Nelson. A packed plot, but in the best way.


Ending: The major pieces of the story tie up nicely (and believably). I’m left wanting to read more.


Liked: The diversity, the love and support the family shows, the standout characters, the problems that felt real and meaningful (without being too big or horrible).
Disliked: That the book ended. Is that an acceptable answer?




In summary: 

Verdict: I’ll be rereading this one out loud to my son. This is an absolute must for anyone who enjoys family stories (think The Penderwicks). The large cast of characters ensures that there will be something or someone that will draw in a reader. Just a thoroughly enjoyable look at one family’s busy and happy life.



Author’s website

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