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.”

Got Girl Problems and Bully Problems? You Are Not Alone. The Students At Misfit Academy Have Seen It All!

Misfit AcademyThis is a debut young adult novel by Lisa R. Petty.  She is well known for her contributions to Huffington Post and her blog, lisarpetty.com.  Scott lives in Hollywood, Florida.  He feels like a dork at his private school for kids who had trouble in public school.  He and his best friend, Bailey are constantly bullied by a kid named Wolfgang.  Wolfgang’s dad owns the pizza place right next to his family’s deli so there is no escaping this guy.  His home life isn’t perfect.  His dad is always at the deli while his mom’s many ailments turned her into a hermit.  Girls are a constant source of confusion.  There’s a new girl named Ashley. He makes a fool of himself any time she is around.  He thinks his school is a joke so many young readers will relate to that feeling.  It doesn’t help that his principal thinks the bully, Wolfgang can do no wrong.  When something happens to the bully it is hard to decide if justice was served or was Wolfgang a victim.  It makes for a great discussion with teens.

This is a great guy read.  He has embarrassing biology moments where he is grateful for a towel to cover up the evidence.  Many young readers will see themselves in Scott and his friends.  Being a teen is a royal pain and for most people it is a time to survive instead of thrive.

I loved all of the South Florida references.  I lived in Plantation for a couple of years which is near Hollywood, Florida.  Reading this book made me feel nostalgic for the beach and the mall of all places.  Petty does a great job keeping it authentic.  It was a fun read!

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Would you rather attend a school with 25 students in your whole grade or hundreds of people you don’t know?

How would you handle Wolfgang if you were Scott?

Why do you think people act weird around people they have a crush on?

Discuss Bailey’s possible drinking problem.  Why do you think Scott didn’t know?

What did you think was going on with Ashley and her pills?

Discuss what happened between Bailey and Wolfgang.

Discuss Scott’s relationship with his parents.

Discuss Scott’s relationship with Ashley.

What do you think Ashley sees in Wolfgang?

Discuss Scott’s first card he made for Wolfgang.

Discuss how Scott could have responded to Mrs. Luger’s comment about being nice to Wolfgang on page 185.

How do you feel about birthday parties.





Lauren Myracles’ yolo Tackles Tough Issues For College Freshman In Funny, Heartfelt Teen Read

yoloI had not read the first three Internet Girls books, ttyl, ttfn, or l8r g8r.  It was fine because yolo is strong enough to stand on its own.  Best friends, Maddie, Angela and Zoe are starting college at three different universities.  Maddie goes the furthest to California, Zoe at Kenyon College in Ohio, and Angela stays home in Georgia and gets involved in the Greek scene.  Like the first three books, the story is told through texts, phone calls and chats.  The friends deal with many first year of college issues, making new friends, painful breakups, hazing, taking classes you don’t like, dealing with roommates and date rape. I had some crappy roommate experiences in college and this book brought back memories.  The girls share very real problems in a realistic way, staying in constant communication even though they are many miles away from one another.  I enjoyed this book very much!  Fans of the series will love it, and it is a solid novel even if you have not read the other books.  I enjoyed the journey of Zoe as she turns to running and writing to deal with her pain.  I loved watching Angela evolve and make a good boyfriend choice instead of following the sorority herd.  Maddie does what many young people do, hide what is going on with them with a super positive social media image.  Many young readers will relate to these girls and find inspiration on how do deal with their own problems.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss Zoe’s worries about Doug not wanting her to visit.

Discuss Doug’s breakup with Zoe.  How would you have handled it?

Discuss Angela’s relationship with Reid.

Discuss the yolo plan, saying yes to new experiences.

Discuss the verbal abuse and expectations from the Zetas.  Would you stay or depledge.  Discuss the date rape.

What do you think of Canyon?

Talk about what happens with Angela, Lucy and the homeless man.

What do you think is going on with Maddie when she deletes her Facebook page?  What did you think was really going on?  What would you do if you were going through that?


Can A Book From 1951 Make You The Most Popular Girl In School? One Eighth Grader Decided To Find Out.

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern GeekMaya Van Wagenen knows what it is like to be unpopular.  She is bullied and has very little self esteem.  I can certainly relate to this girl.  That was me at that age.  Maya discovers a book written in 1951 on how to be popular.  Maya is an excellent writer and her mother suggests she follow the book’s advice during her eighth grade year.  Maya follows advice such as how to constantly change her hairstyle to keep them guessing, how Vaseline is better than eye shadow and how to wear a girdle. The harder part comes when Maya must try to be more sociable and try to talk to people.  What she learns during that rather difficult lesson surprised her and me.  I was deeply moved by this book.  Maya is such a brave young lady.  Middle school is a painful ordeal that must be survived for most people.  But that wasn’t enough for Maya.  She wanted to thrive!  This book is an excellent lesson in social skills and how a little kindness can make all the difference.  My favorite moment of discovery for Maya was when she learned,   “I wanted popularity; I wanted other people to like me.  But it turns out most people are waiting to be discovered too.”   I highly recommend this book for everyone from 4th grade and up.  Taking the advice just might make your life a little better, not just for you but for others as well.  I laughed, cried and mostly remembered what it was like to be 13.  It was freaking hard!

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss this passage on pg. 147, “Maybe real popularity comes from when you take time to listen to someone else.  When you actually care about them.”

Discuss how school can be an armpit.

Discuss, “Now I want to flourish, not just survive.”

Discuss when she rambles on about The Hobbit in front of her crush, Ethan.

Discuss page 152 when Maya says popularity has “more to do with kindness than keeping a wiggly backside in check.”

Discuss her relationship with Leon.

Discuss this passage on pg. 183, “I’d always thought I was alone in my suffering, but tons of other people are shy too.”

Discuss her plan to sit with different people at different lunch tables and try to make new friends.  Would you be willing to do this?  What would your plan be?

Discuss “I wanted popularity; I wanted other people to like me.  But it turns out most people are waiting to be discovered too.” (pg. 191)