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Teen Book Clubs in Your Library

Book clubs are one of the intersections between collection development and programming. There are an infinite number of ways to organize a book club in a school or public library, and it’s interesting to see the various ways that they operate. Ever wanted to start a teen book club at your library? Check out what several of us at The Hub have to say about ours!

teen book clubs

  • What was the impetus behind starting a teen book club at your library?

Dawn: Our library hasn’t had a book club for youth/teens in a very long time.  We of course have a lot of readers, so why not.

Sarah: I am a Middle School and High School librarian and my MS students are HUGE readers.  They often suggest books to me and are happy to talk about books with one another and me.  The 5th and 6th grade literature teachers and I all promote, book talk, and are eager to support reading so there was an obvious audience.

Jennifer: This is the second book club I have inherited! For my current library our Teen Advisory Board asked to start up the group before I started in this position. Although based on the number of folks who attend meetings but have not read (or even checked out) the book, I think that maybe they just wanted another chance to come and talk.

Traci: I inherited my book group from the previous teen librarian, but I’ve been here for 8 years now, so I think I can safely say it’s definitely my book group now!  My book groupers are so passionate about reading and talking about books, so I’m thrilled to give them the ability to do so.

Diana: I also inherited a teen book group from a previous teen librarian, but as the teens began to hit junior or senior year of high school, they began to stop coming. It was harder to recruit new teens after the original set of core teens were aging out of the group. Thus, we took a break, but after some discussion, we are bringing back a teen book club in the spring. Currently, my library (out of 5 locations) is the only one to offer a teen book club. We also opened up the age group to 6th-12th grade (so junior high and high school could be represented).

Emily: Our Teen Book Club was started to expand programming and spark more interest with teens in the community.

Molly: There was resistance from the youth services manager years ago when we first began our book club because they thought it wouldn’t be a program that teens would attend. If it hadn’t been for a a core group of regular teen patrons who were lobbying for one, we never would have started. It’s been going for 5 years now, and this group will be seniors next year. While others have attended a few meetings over the years, it’s mostly been the original group. I think these book clubs (like many programs) will be most successful when they are teen driven and something that they want. There’s no reason to feel like you have to have a book club if it’s not the most valuable program for the teens you serve. 

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!

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!

Beta Books: Teens Review Advanced Reading Copies

ARCToday’s post comes 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. 

Reviewer: Jayla

BookThe Dream Thieves: Book II of the Raven Cycle, by Maggie Stiefvater

What did you think of the cover? I love the cover, and I definitely think it matches the story. Ravens are a major part of the book, so I think it’s great that they’re included too.

dream thieves coverWhat did you think of the book? This sequel actually surpassed my expectations. The first book, The Raven Boys (a 2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults Top Ten winner), was actually more of a mediocre read for me, so I was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved the second one. While the beginning did start off a bit slow, and took some time getting into it, The Dream Thieves is worth sticking with and reading to the very end. It’s too hard to talk about this book without giving anything away, but I can say that it was filled with an intricate plot, complex characters and beautiful writing. There was so much more depth to the raven boys – Ronan, Noah, Adam and Gansey – this time around. We’re given more insight into how they feel and think, and all of the secrets they possess. The Gray Man was also one of my favorite aspects of the story. He was complicated, fascinating, and just really grew on me. He was the best villain I’ve read in a story in a long time.

I would recommend The Dream Thieves to a friend, especially to someone who was disappointed with the first book, because this book will make you look at the series with a new eye.

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

Great Historical YA for Book Clubs

Great Historical YA for Book ClubsWhether your book club is full of fans of historical fiction who love getting lost in different time periods or the members groaned all through high school history classes, there is a historical YA novel that will generate great discussion for your group. Historical fiction can be as immersive as fantasy or science fiction by transporting the reader to a completely different place and time, but it can also provide context and prompt discussion of issues that are still relevant today. Since historical fiction can focus on a specific historical event, such as a war, or speak to larger cultural trends, such as the the rise of the mix tape, there is enough variety within historical fiction that any group should be able to select a historical title.

The Good Braider by Terry Farish“Historical” doesn’t have to signify the distant past; novels inspired by recent historical events can be a great introduction to the genre. The Good Braider by Terry Farish is a story told in verse of a family fleeing the Second Sudanese Civil War and emigrating to America during the early years of the 21st century. Its startling and gripping depiction of the horrifying conflict that killed and displaced millions of civilians and the struggles of new immigrants to adjust to a new culture will captivate readers. The events are only a little over a decade in the past, but they are centered around a specific moment in time. Of course, for teen readers that’s a lifetime ago, but for adult fans of YA, it can read more like contemporary or realistic fiction.

Great Sci-Fi YA Novels for Book Clubs

sci-fi The genre of science fiction is both wide and deep. It encompasses everything from hard science fiction that focuses on technology and strictly adheres to the rules of physics and chemistry to space operas set in the imaginative worlds of other planets. Most dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels also fall under this umbrella term, but so do some alternate histories and time travel stories.

Even readers who claim to not enjoy the genre most likely have just not met the right sci-fi book to suit their tastes. What makes book clubs fun is pushing yourself outside of your reading comfort zone and trying books you might not have otherwise given a chance. Even if your book club usually reads historical fiction or romances, I guarantee there is a YA sci-fi title to add to your club’s reading list. One of the sci-fi titles on this list is guaranteed to suit any reader’s taste.

Great Fantasy YA Novels for Book Clubs

ya fantasy novels for book clubsLast fall I wrote a post on great contemporary YA novels for book clubs, but realistic fiction set in today’s world doesn’t grab every reader, and in my opinion, the best book clubs seek variety in their reading choices. The following titles will appeal to longtime fantasy fans and might hook readers who shy away from fantasy in their normal reading. Some of these are new, some are old, some are more obvious choices, and others are easily overlooked. What they have in common is thought-provoking premises and compelling characters — just what you need for a good book club discussion.

Vessel by Sarah Beth DurstWhen I think of fantasy novels, I typically imagine a lush forest or vaguely medieval setting, but Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst takes place in a stark and harsh desert environment. This unique fantasy follows Liyana as she works with the Trickster god, Korbyn, to rescue five gods who have been kidnapped and prevented from joining their tribes, thus assuring the continued survival of their people. This is a novel about challenging what one has always been told and making room for a new paradigm or worldview. It’s about the nature of sacrifice and standing up for what one believes in. It’s about tradition and faith as much as about adaptation and instinct. The antagonist isn’t an evil villain, but rather a sympathetic character trying to do what is right. Fantastically written with amazing world-building, this novel will delight long-time fantasy fans but is still accessible to those less accustomed to the realm of fantasy.

Rediscovering a Classic: Black Boy

Recently, a teen from my Young Adult Advisory Council, McKenzey asked me to be her adult partner for a summer project.  Her upcoming advanced English class had assigned all students the book Black Boy by Richard Wright to read over the summer and discuss (over the course of three meetings) with an adult, not a parent or relative.  Then, at the end of summer, all teen and adult participants would get together for a large group discussion of the book and to talk about their individual conversations.

I had read Black Boy when I was in high school, and, as I have found with most required reading, having it assigned sucked all the joy out of the book.  So I was really looking forward to rereading it, and enjoying it!  But the greatest reward has been in my discussions with McKenzey.

When I was a teen I rarely felt the urge or the freedom to candidly talk about assigned reading.  I spent much of my time trying to think “deep thoughts” about characters or metaphors and when we were out of class, our assigned books were the last things on my friends’ conversation lists.  So having the opportunity to talk with McKenzey about what we liked and didn’t like about the book, with no right or wrong answers, was refreshing.  We talked about what it was like to grow up in the deep South in the 1920’s and 30’s.  We talked about racial prejudice, and where we saw its influence today.

Really? That’s What They Are Reading?

I’ve been hearing recently about some of the title choices of teen book discussion groups and I’ve said to myself, “Really? “That’s what they are reading?” For example, I found out that a middle school book group recently read 2006 Alex Award title Never Let Me G0 by Kazuo Ishiguro and next on the group’s list was Emma Donoghue’s Room. I was slightly flabbergasted, well maybe totally flabbergasted, to learn that these were the two most recent books for the group.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with teens – middle school or high school – reading either or both of these books. But, I do wonder, why would they be the books that are selected for a middle school book group? And, I wonder, are they books that teens of the middle school age can really talk about in a facilitated discussion? What would they talk about? Of course, the plot could easily be discussed, but there is so much more to each of the books, why discuss them in middle school? Why not wait until high school where the value of the book will be so much more recognized. (At least for some teens.)