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Category: Book Review

Reality Scoop: Depression in Young Adult Literature

Mental Health Month may be over, but it’s still worth shining a spotlight on teen depression, because it effects people year round. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, recent surveys demonstrate that as many as one in five teens suffers from clinical depression. At this rate, teen depression has become a critical issue that calls for immediate attention and action. There are many different forms of depression, which include major depression, dysthymia, psychosis, situational depression, and bipolar disorder, a condition that alternates between periods of high spirits and then drops to a low or melancholy state of mind.

Depression can sometimes be tough to diagnose in teens because it is frequently normal for teens to act moody or upset. Adolescence is often a time when teens don’t know how to explain how they are feeling or what they are going through. It can be difficult to determine if they experiencing normal feelings of adolescence or actually displaying symptoms of depression.

Mental Health America (MHA) states that it is not unusual for teens to experience “the blues” or feel “down in the dumps” occasionally. Adolescence is always an unsettling time, with the many physical, emotional, psychological and social changes that accompany this stage of life.

According to the Mayo Clinic there are some common emotional changes that could be possible symptoms of teen depression

  • Feelings of sadness, which can include crying spells for no apparent reason
  • Feeling hopeless or empty
  • Irritable or annoyed mood
  • Frustration or feelings of anger, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
  • Loss of interest in, or conflict with, family and friends
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Fixation on past failures or exaggerated self-blame or self-criticism
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure, and the need for excessive reassurance
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Ongoing sense that life and the future are grim and bleak
  • Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide

When depressed teens realize that they need help with depression, this can be a major step in the direction of recovery.  However, MHA notes that very few teens seek help on their own accord.  Teens will need support and encouragement from family and friends to seek out help and follow treatment recommendations.  Listed below are a number of resources to facilitate getting more information about teens and depression.

American Psychiatric Association – Healthy Minds

Erika’s Lighthouse

Mental Health America (MHA)

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

Here is a list of teen realistic fiction books that focus on teens suffering from depression or mental illness and how this affects their lives and the lives of others.

What Would They Read?: Hermione Granger

I will always be a fan of the Harry Potter series and will forever fondly remember how obsessed I was to read all of the books and watch all of the movies.  Now that the Sorcerer’s Stone is almost twenty years old, J.K. Rowling’s characters still ignite my mind.

hermione honestly
source

One of my favorite characters is Hermione Granger.  We all know Hermione as the smart and studious muggle-born witch from the Harry Potter series, but after reading the series, I think that there is much more to Hermione all together.  To sum it up, Hermione is driven to be the best and the smartest student at Hogwarts.  She has a brilliant mind, is very gifted at spells, and may have a photographic memory.  She is a loyal friend with strong convictions and somewhat of a rule follower.  She doesn’t like bullies and she stands up to those that are cruel and indecent.  Hermione’s parents are both dentists, so she know all about teeth.  She wants to feel pretty sometimes and she longs for the love and attention of someone special.

Spock’s Legacy: Teens, YA, and (not) Belonging

Image courtesy of Sonny Abesamis
Image courtesy of Sonny Abesamis

I’ve never been much of a fangirl. Or a teenybopper. Or shipped my name with a fictional character. My celebrity crushes have been few and far between and fleeting at best. But there is one notable exception, my lifelong (well, since I was ten) adoration of Spock and the man that brought him to life, Leonard Nimoy. Clearly I am not alone in this, as evidenced by the recent outpouring of love and acclaim in response to Nimoy’s death earlier this year.

For some, it’s Spock’s cool composure and his unerring devotion to logic that’s so compelling. For others, his unspoken depths coupled with his pointy ears that inspire. For myself, though, it is his inherent contradictions, his very Otherness that caused my ten-year-old soul to soar with recognition and my heart to flutter with tweenly adulation. Spock was the first character I’d encountered who, like myself, was mixed race. He embodied similar struggles and desires and his Otherness, like mine, was physically visible in the world–a constant source of commentary, curiosity, and derision. And though Nimoy himself was not mixed race, he clearly understood the tensions of that identity as he so movingly illustrates in his 1968 letter to a biracial teen fan.

Arguably, Spock’s half Vulcan/half human heritage is what makes his character so enduring and endearing to millions of fans. In this regard, Spock can be seen as the predecessor and inspiration for a number of contemporary YA sci-fi/fantasy characters whose otherness is based in their mixed race (or mixed species as the case may be) identity. From the Half-blood Prince to Percy Jackson to Seraphina, YA abounds with sensitive souls alternately emboldened and embittered by their uncommon parentage. Considering the popularity of these books, the appeal of these characters extends far beyond the mixed race readers who can relate to them. So, what is so universally appealing about these “hybrid” characters?

Schneider Family Book Award Winner: Girls Like Us

Schneider Family Book Award SealLast week at ALA’s Midwinter Meeting, the ALA Youth Media Awards were announced. This list includes a wide range of types of media, ranging from the Andrew Carnegie Medal for “outstanding video productions for children” to the Alex Awards for “books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.” You can find the full list of YA Awards in The Hub’s earlier post, but today I want to take a look at one specific award, the Schneider Family Book Award. This award “honor[s] an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.” Up to three awards are given each year: one for a children’s book, one for a middle grade book, and one for a young adult book. This year, Girls Like Us by Gail Giles won the teen book award.

Diverse Books, Diverse Families

Image courtesy of Flickr user theirhistory
Image courtesy of Flickr user theirhistory

As the holiday season enters into full-swing and all my friends are discussing vacation plans with their families far and wide, I got to thinking about the ways in which families are depicted in YA literature. In particular, the surprising lack of diversity in how family units are portrayed as a general rule. More often that not, YA main characters come from “traditional” heterosexual nuclear families with birth parents who are not divorced. That said, as families across the nation become increasingly more diverse on all sorts of levels, so too are fictional families in YA and adult literature. In honor, then, of diverse families, both the ones we are born into and the ones we find, I’ve rounded up a wide array of titles celebrating the love we give and receive from the most important people in our lives.

Counting by 7s
Counting by 7s

Holly Goldberg Sloan’s book Counting by 7s is a favorite at my school with both students and teachers alike. It centers on the life of the endearingly quirky 12-year-old genius Willow Chance, the adopted multiracial daughter of loving white parents. When her adoptive parents tragically die in a car crash, Willow finds herself taken in by her Vietnamese friends and their single mom. What I really appreciated about this book is that it emphasizes that family, although always imperfect, is something that can be created and that is ultimately transformative. Featuring a truly unusual and unique set of misfit characters, this is an uplifting book that reads something like a fable or fairy tale come true.

Beta Books: Teens Review Advance Reading Copies

ARCIt’s time for another post from the Beta Books club at my library, which reads, reviews, and generally has a grand time discussing ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) of upcoming teen books. Our review form includes a cover discussion, space to share thoughts on the book, and 1-5 star rating. Thanks to today’s reviewers for agreeing to share their thoughts on The Hub! SPOILER ALERT: Some reviews mention plot points.

gospel of winterReviewer: Piper

Book: The Gospel of Winter, by Brendan Kiely

What did you think of the cover? I really liked the cover, I really think it fit the story quite well. Also I would change nothing about the cover.

What did you think of the book? I enjoyed the overall storyline but at times it could be slow and a bit dragged on. Yes, I would tell a friend to read this book.

How would you rate this book? 3 stars: Pretty good. I wanted to see how it ended.

* * * * * * * *

splinteredReviewer: Izzy

BookSplintered, by A. G. Howard

What did you think of the cover? I liked the cover, I think it matched the story. No, I would not change anything about the cover.

What did you think of the book? I thought it was really good. I liked the romance. I wish it described more with better details. My favorite part was when her mom got better. Yes, I would recommend this to a friend!

How would you rate this book? 5 stars. Unbelievable! I’d rather read this book than sleep!

Transgender Teens Take Center Stage

genderqueer
by flickr user celesteh

Earlier this year, TIME magazine made history by putting Laverne Cox on its cover, declaring that America is in the midst of a “Transgender Tipping Point.”  While many would argue we’re not quite at that point yet, given the long way we still need to go to achieve the equal rights, protection, and respect transgender people deserve, there is no denying the definite increase in visibility and support of the this community. Indeed, the past year alone has seen Laverne Cox not only on the cover of TIME magazine but also the first openly transgender person nominated for an Emmy, Barney’s unveiled a trail-blazing spring ad campaign featuring 17 transgender models from all walks of life, and Comic Con had its first panel devoted exclusively to transgender issues…and that’s just in popular culture.

On the legal front, Washington state just opted to provide transgender-inclusive healthcare for all public employees, the Department of Labor is now including transgender workers under its non-discrimination policy, and Maryland passed the Fairness for All Marylanders Act prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Progress indeed and heartening news for anyone who advocates for and supports equal rights and social justice.

As someone who works with youth, it’s equally exciting that this increase in visibility extends to young adult literature. Indeed, YA has been ahead of the curve. Luna, the first YA book to feature a transgender protagonist, was published over a decade ago to wide critical acclaim.  In the ten years since then, the number of novels with transgender characters have been slowly but steadily increasing (for a well researched list of titles, see Talya Sokoll’s booklist published in YALS and Malinda Lo’s list on her tumblr “Diversity in YA”.)  Which leads us to 2014, where in YA as well as larger society, there is a noticeable shift in terms of sheer visibility and volume.  That said, I’ll focus the rest of my post on recently published and soon-to-be-published books that feature characters of all genders.

Recent Titles

I was lucky enough to attend the Stonewall Awards Brunch this year at the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas and saw Kristin Cronn-Mills BeautifulMusicforUglyChildrenaccept her award for Beautiful Music for Ugly Children (2014 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults). She spoke passionately about the need for allies, about the power of music to transcend differences, and the need for cisgendered people to take the initiative to educate themselves about the transgender experience. (Interestingly, hers was the not the only book focused on gender identity issues to win a Stonewall Award this year, Lori Duron also won for her memoir Raising My Rainbow.)

If you haven’t read Beautiful Music for Ugly Children yet, the book tells the story of Gabe, who is in the early stages of transitioning, much to the dismay of his family. He finds solace in his passion for music and with the help of his close friend and elderly neighbor, John, becomes a DJ on the local radio station. His sudden rise to local fame as a DJ results in a number of confrontations that result in both tragedy and redemption. What I enjoyed most about Cronn-Mills’ novel is the fact that it does not solely revolve around Gabe’s gender identity. It’s obviously at the heart of the novel but, equally so, is his passion for music. In that sense, he felt more fully developed as a character–lending the novel a depth often lacking in other books about trans teens. 

Is This the Real Life? Road Trips

It has felt like summer in California for a while, but the end of school is usually when summer really begins. When I was younger and just needed to kill time between school years my friends and I would take road trips. Here are some realistic YA fiction titles (I know I probably missed a few) that are all about road trips!

Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson (2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults)
After the death of her father, Amy sets out on a road trip with Roger. It’s supposed to be a carefully planned trip from California to Connecticut, but plans change and Amy ends up having to face her fears and deal with her grief.

How My Summer Went Up in Flames by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski
After accidentally setting her ex-boyfriend’s car on fire, Rosie is slapped with a temporary restraining order and embarks on a road trip from New Jersey to Arizona.

The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder
Hannah and Zoe leave New Jersey and head west and seeking for all the things they think their lives lack.

Beta Books: Teens Review Advance Reading Copies

ARCIt’s time for another post from the Beta Books club at my library, which reads, reviews, and generally has a grand time discussing ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) of upcoming teen books. Our review form includes a cover discussion, space to share thoughts on the book, and 1-5 star rating. Thanks to today’s reviewers for agreeing to share their thoughts on The Hub! SPOILER ALERT: Some reviews mention plot points.

united-we-spy_612x918Reviewer: Julie

Book: United We Spy (Gallagher Girls, #6), by Ally Carter

What did you think of the cover? Matches the other covers in the series — Cam, in her Gallagher girl uniform, with her face — or at least her eyes — hidden. The graduation robe & scroll she has hints this is the last book in the series.

What did you think of the book? It was AWESOME of course. I’ve been waiting for it to come out. My favorite parts of these books are always the parts with Zach — my favorite character. Unfortunately, he’s not in the excerpt I read although he is mentioned. I suppose my favorite part is when they go to rescue Preston. I would recommend this book to a friend. It’s one of my favorite series. :)

How would you rate this book? 5 stars: Unbelievable! I’d rather read this book than sleep!