The Hate U Give Is A Must Read For Helping Teens To Understand The Black Lives Matter Movement.

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I could not put this book down!  Angie Thomas is an excellent writer and I hope she continues telling stories.  Starr is a girl who juggles her life in two different words.  She and her brothers attend a private school which is a 45 minute drive away while she lives in an area known for drug dealers and gang violence called Garden Heights.  Starr grew up with Khalil.  They were family but she hadn’t seen him in a while. When they met up at a party someone started shooting and Khalil drove her home.  On the way home he is pulled over and shot by the police officer for no reason.  This is a story about Starr’s journey and about gang culture.  How much should she speak out.  The kids in her school heard about the shooting but have no idea that she was the other teen in the car. Was Khalil a drug dealer? The answer isn’t a simple one.  This is Angie Thomas’s first novel and it is a great one!  Her characters are well developed, especially her imposing father, Big Mav who used to deal drugs but became a business owner in the community.   It is a story of how a movement begins and how family is more than just your blood relatives.  It is a story about hard choices and doing the right thing even if that can get you killed.  I loved the way Thomas weaved the story of Tupac throughout the theme.   This is a must read for both teens and adults in 2017!
Some ideas for discussing with teens:
Discuss Tupac’s THUG LIFE and how it pertains to society.
Discuss how Starr has to become two versions of herself to navigate her different worlds.
Discuss Starr’s relationship with her wealthy boyfriend.
Discuss family and how Starr’s family is complicated with her brother Seven straddling two families.
Discuss Starr’s relationship with Khalil and the roller coaster of feelings she has about their relationship.
Discuss the choice Khalil had to make.
What do you know about the Black Lives Matter movement?
Discuss the differences between Starr’s father, Maverick and Seven’s stepfather, King.

Jay Asher’s Latest Novel Is Perfect For The Holiday Season

29093326I loved Jay Asher’s two previous books so I couldn’t wait to dig into his new novel, What Light.  One of the things I noticed right off the bat is that the story has an incredible sense of place.  I feel like I am at the gorgeous Christmas tree farm in Oregon and in her family’s trailer when they sell their trees during the holiday season in California.  Sierra has two lives in a sense.  She lives in Oregon on her parent’s Christmas tree farm.  Each year at Thanksgiving they move to California for the holiday season to sell their trees at the same lot her grandparents ran many years ago.  Sierra has a best friend in California she looks forward to seeing every year.  Heather decides that Sierra needs a winter romance, but Sierra wants no part of it until she sees Caleb.  Caleb has a dark past that has made him a bit of a pariah in his small town.  But Sierra knows there is more to his story and sees the sadness in his eyes.  At the same time Sierra’s parents are struggling with the economic challenges of opening the tree lot each year which would end their holiday tradition.  This is a beautiful story of love and forgiveness.  It gave me the warm fuzzies with its holiday atmosphere.  I highly recommend this one on your holiday reading list.  This is one of my favorite reads of 2016.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss how Sierra’s life is different in Oregon her time in California.

What makes Caleb more appealing to Sierra than Andrew?

Discuss what it would mean to have a vocation that you loved the way Sierra’s parents love their farm and seeing the customers faces as they pick out their favorite tree.

Discuss that moment where Caleb realizes Sierra has heard something about him.

Discuss how their relationship unfolds.  How did Sierra and Caleb change each other’s lives?

Discuss how rumors can affect someone’s life.

Discuss Caleb’s relationship with his former best friend and how his family acted around him.

What do you think is next for Caleb and Sierra?

 

 

Save Me, Kurt Cobain is one of my favorite reads this year.

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Nico lives with her dad and mom is missing.  She has a few memories but doesn’t understand why her mother would just leave her.  She comes up with the idea that her mother had an affair with Kurt Cobain and maybe he is her real father.  Nico searches for Kurt, convinced he is still alive and will lead her to her mother.  This book has such vibrant characters.  The cover jumped off the shelf for me and I was instantly hooked.  Just like I did as a teen, Nico uses music to escape and make her stronger.  I recently read The Carnival At Bray and Love Letters From The Dead which are teen books that feature the Nirvana front man.  It’s been quite a while since I was a teen but listening to the music always brings me back to senior year when Nevermind rocked my world.  But I digress, back to the book.  Nico dangerously follows a man she is convinced is Kurt Cobain hiding away from the world.  Nico discovers much about herself during this journey and learns what really happened all of those years ago.  Along with well developed characters, Manzer writes with a fantastic sense of place in Canada.  I highly recommend this book for both teens and adults who remember what it was like to be a teen.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss Nico’s friendship with Obe.

Discuss how Nico guards her memories and does not want to hurt her brain so her memories of her mother won’t fade away.

Discuss how Nico uses music from Nirvana to deal with difficult moments like when the girls in the bathroom made fun of her.  How did the music make her stronger?

Have you ever used a Ouija Board?  What did you ask it?

Discuss when Nico says, “Nirvana’s music made me feel better even though it was dark.  I had never heard music before that sounded like I felt.”

Discuss when Nico says, “People were always hopeful that I was a normal girl, and I always let them down.”

Talk about Kurt Cobain’s journal and how it said, “If you read, you’ll judge” on the cover.

Discuss how Nico and Obe’s relationship changed.

Discuss this line, “There is a comfort in being sad.  But I am ready to give it up.”

 

A Season For Fireflies Is One Of My Favorite Teen Reads Of 2016

 This book is easily my favorite teen read of 2016.  In the past year Penny has lives two lives.  The problem is, she doesn’t remember one of 26869838them.  One day she is a drama geek with her group of friends and falling in love with Wes, next she wakes up in the hospital and none of them are her friends anymore.  Instead she is the best friend of the popular Kylie.  How did this happen?   Before being struck by lightning, Penny is dealing with the public embarrassment her mother’s drinking has become. It is too painful to talk about, even with her best friends.  The storytelling is excellent with a great slow reveal of what really happened.

I love that even though Penny struggles to win back her old friends, Kylie fights for her and shares the pain that she is also losing a friend. It is painful for Kylie to watch Penny not remember their friendship.  Popular girls are often the villain of teen books.  It is refreshing to see that character played a different way.  I love that Penny can be friends with all of them.  What a great message to send to teens.  Why can’t we all be friends?

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Describe why Kylie is a “safe” friend for Penny.

Discuss why penny rejected May and Wes when things became painful with her mom.

Discuss when Penny wonders “why guys have to make fun of a girl in order to interact with her.”

Discuss how Penny impacts May, Wes, Kylie and her mom.

Discuss why Penny’s mom blames her for everything.

Discuss how penny can be friends with everyone and not have to have one or the other.

Discuss the Shakespeare quote, “Hear my soul speak: The very instant that I saw you, did my heart fly to your service.”

Teen Mean Girl Drama And Wonderful Vengeance In New Teen Read, Winning!

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Alexandra is the worst stereotype of a popular girl.  Lara Deloza’s portrayal of a pageant winning beauty queen is wonderfully complex and engaging.  Alexandra is a shoe in for Homecoming Queen.  It is one of the steps in her plan to become miss Indiana and get out of her small town and have a life.  Her mother had the same plan but got knocked up with her so the pressure was passed onto Alexandra.  This story is told in varying view points.  Alexandra doesn’t care who she hurts on her way to get that crown.  Her best friend, Sam, has a crush on her.  Sam is not out and doesn’t want anyone to know.  A new girl named Erin moves to town and isn’t intimidated by Alexandra’s popularity status.  What’s more, this girl is actually nice and cute and students like her.  Alexandra has a fear that Erin knows more about her than she should.  When the nominations for Homecoming Queen come out, Erin and a girl very few people will associate with are on the list with enough votes to make Alexandra nervous.  The second girl’s name is Ivy and a while back she had an outburst and then disappeared.  People think she is a freak.  Alexandra decides to play a game of her own and “befriend” Ivy, making her over and bowing out of the race to make sure Ivy becomes queen and Erin’s chances at popularity are squashed.  But when you are mean to everyone at some point your enemies will rally against you.  Sam and Ivy are the other two view points in the book.  I like the theme that runs through the book that girls like Alexandra are not born that way.  They are made by not so great circumstances and often have something painful to hide behind their aggressive and manipulative ways.  Both Sam and Ivy evolve quite a bit through the book.  I thought the back story about why Sam is so devoted to Alexandra is interesting.  This book was a quick and enjoyable read.  Many teenage girls and adults who remember high school all too well will relate to these characters.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss the friendship between Alexandra and Sam.  Are they truly friends in your opinion?  Talk about how their friendship began.

Discuss Ivy’s observation that Alexandra doesn’t have many friends.

Discuss Ivy’s comment about Alexandra wearing Matt “like a human accessory.”

Talk about dance proposals.  Would you want one or would it be embarrassing?

What do you think of pageants?

Discuss Alexandra’s relationship with her mother?  How did that create the person Alexandra is?

Discuss how Erin says “poor girl” and how that is learned behavior when she talks about Alexandra.

Discuss Ivy’s evolution in the book.  Also Sam’s.

Discuss what you think Alexandra’s next move could be?

 

Creepy, fun read with great teen LGBQ character.

22370796I loved Adam Selzer’s I Kissed A Zombie And I Liked It. So I was jazzed to get my hands on the ARC of his latest book, Just Kill Me.  Megan has an interesting job opportunity.  Her former babysitter, Cynthia and her boyfriend run a ghost tour company in Chicago.  Cynthia thinks Megan would be a natural.  Megan tries to hide it from her mom and quickly starts training.  To up their game, Cynthia decides to create ghosts of her own by murdering people on the sites of the tour.  This for some reason does not scare Megan away.  Selzer tells a great story.  Megan is a good female character and a good one for teens looking for great LGBQ characters.  Megan has an online relationship with a girl that won’t reveal what she looks like.  This can spark great discussions with teens on whether or not that is a good idea. Cynthia may have sinister plans for Megan as well.   I am not familiar with Chicago but I trust with an author like Selzer that it is authentic. The history and research makes the book even more interesting.  Selzer now has a Ghost Tours company in Chicago based on the book.  This is a fun read with a hint of creepy and fantastic characters.  Selzer knocks it out of the park again.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Do you believe in ghosts?

For teens that live in Chicago.  Do they ever go to these places?

What would you do if you caught on to Cynthia’s plan to make ghosts?

Discuss Megan’s online relationship.  Is this something you would do?  Why or why not?

Discuss what happens with the lady from the nursing home.  Was it mercy?

Discuss her interaction with the girl who may or may not be a ghost.

What do you think happened at the end when Cynthia wanted to make a stop on the way to see the girl?

Readers Who Love Music Will Love Red Velvet Crush

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Teddy Lee’s somewhat deadbeat brother, Winston, has an idea.  If he built a band around her talent and songwriting, he and the radio station where he works could make some money.  Enter Ty, Ginger Baker and Jay.  They come from another school which might as well be a different world.  They have great musical skills and money.  But when it comes time for Teddy Lee to sing, her sister Billie jumps in.  Billie is her younger sister who is everything Teddy Lee is not.  She is wispy, blond and sings in a smoky voice that Teddy Lee knows is better than hers.  Billie exudes confidence and sex appeal where Teddy Lee feels more awkward.  When adorable Ty starts to show interest, Teddy Lee hopes it is for real.  The two start a budding romance that involves their shared love of music.  Teddy Lee is a songwriter but she doesn’t want her sister to sing the songs she poured her heart into.  When the band goes on a summer tour things happen that can cause permanent damage.  This story is about both love and sisterly rivalry and the horrible wounds that only sisters can inflict on each other.  This book is a great read alike for fans of Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist.    I highly recommend this one as a great summer read.  It comes out in June.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss this passage, “She bumps along with a smile on her face, knocking into everyday shit, unknowingly changes the trajectory of everything around her.  Lives, furniture, even things that appear to be set in stone are nudged into another dimension when she bounces up against them:  poor unprepared world.”

Discuss this passage, “I am kind of amazed that he is telling: flat out, up front, admitting to something that most people would try to push under the rug or pretend never happened until some unforeseen situation forces it to light later on and by then it seems even bigger and uglier because of the wait.  The truth always finds its way out.”

Discuss this passage, “Sometimes smashing the guitar to bits is more important than the song.”

Discuss with Teddy Lee says she can’t let Billie have everything.  Discuss their relationship and how she felt when Billie took over singing in the garage.

Discuss Teddy Lee and Ty’s experience at The Wall Of Sound.

Talk about how Teddy Lee’s relationship changes with Billie.

Discuss when Teddy Lee says to her father, “He could have been everything.” And her father says “Nobody else should be everything, then where are you?”

Discuss how Teddy Lee’s relationship with Ginger Beard changes.

What do you think will happen between Teddy Lee and Ty?