First Test, by Tamora Pierce

I’ve never been a fan of fantasy so I’m not really surprised that I couldn’t really get into this book. I’m not interested in the “magic” and supernatural aspects of this genre and was even less enthusiastic about the immortal characters (both good and evil). Not only that, but the battles, violence and detailed combat scenes had my mind wandering. I really had a hard time staying focused.

Despite all of that, I couldn’t help but love Keladry (Kel). She is strong, confidant and self assured. Actually she’s pretty brilliant all around, never quitting, using positive self talk and never feels she needs to indulge in self pity.

After planning to “fit in” with the boys and wear her usual clothes, she changes her mind and decides that she’ll dress like a girl “They may as well get used to it”, she reasons. She rejects the general stereotyping of women (delicately reared women), recalling her strong mother and admiring Alana, her idol, and all of her accomplishments.

Her greatest motivation is that she cannot tolerate bullies. Her strength is shown early standing up for the weak and combating injustice. Even though she does not possess any magical powers, she is goal oriented and quite competent, determined to achieve everything she chooses to do.

It is very easy to admire her. Clearly, she is singled out and treated unfairly, but it never makes her second guess what she knows she wants. She stands by her convictions. And her love for the animals, Peachblossom specially, who she also rescues, her friends and family is extremely endearing.

The feminism aspect was clear. And if the reader didn’t catch that while reading, it is spelled out by Lord Wyldon, who was her greatest nemesis. Questions of what she wants from life? How being a warrior will affect the ideals of what is considered womanhood. How her contrary, unconventional choices could hinder her future. And as it is in today’s society, like this fantasy, females are underestimated and underappreciated by most but a select few. The smart ones – they know better.

 

 

Just a quick thought

I may be embarrassing myself but what the hell- I enjoyed glee; yes, even with all it’s failings. It was ridiculous at times, it was over-the-top-beyond-cheesy, sometimes it was great; but besides all of that, it undeniably brought important topics to prime-time-network television.  Serious issues addressed: high school status and social stereotypes, body image, bullies/cyber bullying, teen pregnancy, OCD, discrimination, LGBT teens, physical and educational disabilities, public school funding for the arts, alcohol and drug abuse, modern families, homelessness, just to name a few. And while I admit that the show SERIOUSLY fell short in exploring and portraying a lot of these, at least they were there, in the public consciousness. Doesn’t that start the conversations, even if to discuss how it’s being done wrong? Isn’t discourse of any kind better than no discourse at all? Especially now, teens have unlimited access to air their thoughts and opinions via social networks (and they did), isn’t that a good thing? I’m not sure if oversimplifying any popular teen media is fair to do, especially if it promotes belonging to a community. Fans became artists, fanfiction writers, charity organizers; sometimes not terribly successful, but hey, everyone has to start somewhere. Besides, isn’t it a good thing if teens see people that look like themselves on the screen? The jock that goes with the unpopular girl, the bad ass who winds up in glee club and best friends with the wheel chair kid, gay couples kissing. That should ALL be commonplace, so I think it’s important that it was shown on our TVs. Anyway, that’s my two cents. 🙂 What do you all think?

 

Cool YA reads, ONE stop shopping.

In my previous post, I described all my favorite ways to find out what’s popular in teen literature. I misunderstood that we were to choose just one (oops). This is a tall order since I do tend to want to know everything, but I’ve decided on NoveList Plus. I have referred to this site many times since I “discovered” it in early LBSCI classes.  Because I consider myself such an avid reader, I am often browsing the possibilities of this resource. So much to read, so little time.

At first glance and covering most of the page is what I am drawn to. And almost center is the sentence “I’m in the mood for books that are…” I love this site for its buzz words, keeps it interesting. Some descriptors for adult are gossipy & witty, heart wrenching, reflective; things like that. Teens uses character driven, amusing, bleak, issue oriented. Two younger categories have their own tag words.  There’s something now that I think is new, it’s a clickable link that says “try our appeal mixer”. In here there are three category drop-down boxes that correlate with a second corresponding descriptor. Pretty cool! You must try it. Meanwhile, there are rows of book covers that you can hover over for a quick peak, or, obviously, click on for more details, including reviews and specs. At the bottom of that page, they’ve added a  “search for more”, which includes tone, genre, subject, writing, style, location, subject, etc. and based on the boxes the user checks, more suggestions will come back.

The very top of the page has a very standard search bar, offering keyword, title, author, etc. I find this to be the best way to find similar books based on individual taste. For instance, I chose “The Storyteller”. After clicking it open, I narrowed the appeal terms only once, by checking “disturbing” in tone.  I should not have been surprised that there were so many titles there that I had already read. It may be the old fashioned way, but it works.

The left side bar is designed first by age group. After you enter “Teens”, there are twenty one options to click. Each one of those gives the user suggestions based on that first choice. Then there are further limitors and the list results are clickable as described above.

The easiest way to search that I found is going down to the bottom of the page. In the “Keeping up” section, you not only get the titles, but they have related articles, booklists, award information, read alikes and more.

This site is easy to maneuver and yet there is a lot of information within.

Everyday, by David Levithan

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This is another book that I have always wanted to read and didn’t get around to.

And may I just say -wow! I am blown away by this. Everyday “A” wakes up in a different body and is immersed into a different life. There’s no explanation of why this happens, but to me, it didn’t seem to matter. It is the ideas that this brings about that are so intriguing. As the reader, we get to meet all these characters, we get to delve a little into their personal stories. The book starts at day 5994 and the first person we meet is Justin. A sizes him up and we get to experience the phenomenon of what’s it like to “learn” who you are. But the real story starts when A falls in love with her body’s girlfriend Rhiannon.

The story is a quick read and the chapters, titled by day numbers, flow very easily into one another. I was so wrapped up, that I was surprised when I took note of the day at 6019. All those different teens, each with their own story. It brings attention to the philosophy of body vs. soul. A is a genderless, raceless (sometimes other languages), shapeless form; the ideas of love, goodness, reason, jealousy, sadness and many other emotions are portrayed through the individual personality of the soul, but lived through the body that has been inhibited. In the many individual bodies that are affected, we see a very diverse group of teens, yet they are all the same age and in a pretty close parameter distance. In each situation, A is present but tries to keep the personality authentic to the individual. There have never been visits to previous scenarios until Rhiannon.

While this is a love story, filled with longing, and that is the main plot; we get another plot when A, as another character, crosses town to visit Rhiannon, and the idea of demonic possession is introduced.

I enjoyed this book so much! It’s been awhile since a story has kept me guessing. Still, the real draw is the issues addressed. Some situations were emotional abuse, suicide, sex, cliques, bullies, homeschoolers, exploited immigrants, and drunk driving (one of the saddest things to me was the girl who inadvertently causes her brother’s death). We saw teen emotions in various forms. Some were happy, satisfied, ambivalent, suicidal, healthy, overweight, drug users, scholastic, reckless, blind, afraid, considerate, compassionate, and mean. We, along with A, got to experience their feelings and situations. Relationship dynamics are explored (parents, siblings, other teens). And of course, we get to feel first love, with all it’s joy and heartache.

The reader is witness to the securities and insecurities of just being alive.

As the story evolves, we have no choice but to consider underlying philosophy about good vs. evil, and light vs. dark, and even the examination of separation in technological interactions, in person experiences vs. technological experiences, and to try to just understand the simple idea of being. It made me want to be more aware of time and its passing, noticing the individual moments and their importance.

All and all, a great read! Five stars from me! Oh, and they mentioned my very favorite childhood book, Harold and the Purple Crayon.

YA: What to read?

Even though I work in a community college, you’d be surprised how much fiction we have, often young adult fiction. Unfortunately, I don’t really have much input on the collection development where I work. The librarians work in conjunction with one staff member and only very occasionally (if they have an unexpected windfall of funding) will they even ask any of the rest of us.

Despite the fact that I have little to no influence on what we purchase, I do find myself flipping through the mailings we receive. If I had to choose, I’d say my favorites are Booklist and Library Journal. I like them because the section cataloging is very organized and provides book lists, reviews, awards, discussions and the individual writer’s recommendations. It’s nice to browse. I find that internet searches are more detail oriented and focused. My on-line source favorite is NovelList Plus (EbscoHost) through CUNY libraries. I love this site for its buzz words such as gossipy & witty, heart wrenching, reflective; you don’t find these creative descriptors elsewhere. Its detailed filtering tactics, the categories, the sub-categories; I could go on and on about it.

To be honest though, I do look at a lot at shopping pages. Amazon and Barnes & Noble are frequented very often by me, just to see what’s new and exciting. They display New York Times bestsellers and detailed book categories. After the user clicks into YA, there are other subcategories to browse as well. In this way, the choice is narrowed by genre, best books, book clubs, award winners and editor’s choice.

Another website, I really enjoy is the Strand. Check out three of their creative category labels: Books So Diverse, Stay Home Club, Badass Woman in Literature; those search labels are attention grabbers. If I can, I like to go there for my personal purchases. It feels good to support an establishment with so much history behind it. And they really love books! Everyone should go there at least once.

I do have to mention that I sometimes check in at YouTube when searching for something cool to read. If I am interested in a certain title, I’ll search that way, always noting ‘spoiler free’! But for more broad ideas about what’s out there and popular, there are users who have channels for just that. I find that’s always an interesting way to see what’s up. Here are a few popular reviewer channels:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGeNhLPJHs8kJ9VfM35Okqg
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCefMLMp72_P35UYl31ZuBCA
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtTBwUBtW9KtYLTcOSTO7_Q

And since John Green came up in class, I just figured that I’d mention that I will read anything that he writes or recommends. 🙂

Forever, by Judy Blume

I may as well admit this right now, I read Forever (and other Blume fics) at the library MANY years ago. I think I was about 14 years old and I felt very scandalous and mischievous about it. I don’t necessarily remember banned or challenged books, but I mean, I knew what was considered appropriate and what was not. I’m not even really sure if there were limits on borrowing, for example, now, parents have to choose for their child what can and cannot be taken out of the library. It really didn’t matter to me because I usually didn’t look to take it out; I did most of my reading there in the quiet.  I am the oldest of six siblings, so at that time, I “escaped” in stories often.

I remember loving Forever! It was risque and used some language I’d never heard (which I would ultimately explore further) and it was romantic. I never considered myself a romantic, in fact in contrast, I was a bit of a tomboy, and often angry that I was a girl. This was a time when sports for girls were basically swimming and tennis, which I played, and the glass ceiling was in full force. That’s not to say that it isn’t now; it’s just, what I mean is, that gender lines and roles were widely accepted, known and the “norm”. So I remember really getting rapped up in the romance of it all. I was at a point in my life where my girl friends were starting to like boys, but YUCK! I don’t like any boys! And I was also very impressed with the way female independence was depicted in the story. The grown women had careers! Yes, it was the late 70’s; things were different.

Rereading it now made me realize that even the young girls were self sufficient. They knew what they wanted, for the most part, and looked to make it happen. There weren’t any self image issues, like so and so won’t like me because I’m too fat. Even the little sister had a special talent. I enjoyed seeing strong, supportive female relationships. And they spoke freely about sex! Actually, there were many teen issues addressed, even though, one would think it is only about first love. Things I kind of remembered, but not really: Artie’s depression and attempted suicide, child/parent relationships and teenage angst, senior year, friendships, teen pregnancy.

Ultimately though, it’s relevant because it’s real. I feel like, it just tells it how it is. Especially “the sex part”. I mean that is what the challenges and banning is all about. Virginity and how it feels (physically and emotionally), the passion and intimacy of first love, without the wine and roses, but rather the desire and jealousy. Accepting that feelings change and sometimes you just don’t know what you think you know.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this as adult, though in some aspects, it’s just a little too easy and wrapped up very neatly. It left enough open for the young reader to want to know more, which is obviously what we would what a teen to do! I believe it is still very relevant and of course is why I believe it has stood the test of time.

 

Teenage

I watched it on Netflix and I really enjoyed it! I loved the history and all the old clips, the contrasts between America and elsewhere; and especially the Nazi coverage. The images of PTSD were so candid, wow. The accurate portrayal of the making of teenagers as a social construct was amazing. From the early days (and early in the film), it’s clear that “youth”, were being trained, modeled, may I use the word exploited, to serve the elders. It was for profit, it was for servitude in the workplace, it was for national service (armed forces). The thing is, all the while, the younger generation is observing and learning, and forming their own opinions and stands on things. It’s obvious that their abilities are underestimated (and still are). It was interesting how they showed the distrust and divide between the generations and how it developed and exists. It’s been awhile since I was in the “I hate my parents” stage so this really made me reflect on my own teen years.

Every decade of teens had their “issues” and what society labeled them.  And to me it seemed that there were only two ways this could go. Either they were trouble-drug addicts and criminals or conformists. And even in stating that, we’d have to determine what is a conformist, criminal or revolutionary. The film made me think.

However, to be perfectly honest, I can’t say that I believe TOTALLY in free rein. Yes, obviously, teens have their ideas and opinions, but they need direction. Sometimes they think they know it all when they really just don’t. But then that was the whole idea of this film, wasn’t it? Too mature to be a child, but too immature to be an adult.

The most important thing I took from this, I think, was that the young adults, in every generation portrayed, did not have anywhere to channel their desires, creativity and energy, nowhere they could just be without being judged or labeled. Why is this? I’m pretty sure that mass media just wants us to generally be distrustful of any challenge to authority, which, as we know, comes in all ages (but teens make an easy target). Besides worrying about the future, based on younger generations recklessness,

And in answer to your comment – I love the idea of can-teens- sort of compares to what a youth advisory group in libraries could be. I wish there ACTUALLY was more input from teens about their wants and needs.