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Tag: Dana Reinhardt

Booklist: Extreme Weather in YA Lit

You know the saying, “April showers bring may flowers!” As we experience some changing weather this month, let’s take a look at some teen novels that center on extreme weather to drive their plots.



Torn Awayhowtobuildahousehurricane song coverempty

Torn Away by Jennifer Brown (2015 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers)

How to Build a House by Dana Reinhardt (2009 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults, 2009 Best Books for Young Adults)

Hurricane Song by Paul Volponi (2010 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)

Empty by Suzanne Weyn

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Adoption in YA Lit


I’ve been thinking about the books I’ve read over the years about adoption.

I was adopted (domestic, transracial, closed, as an infant – just because you  may have questions, and just because there are so many ways to be adopted and I want to explain that I can in no way speak competently about all types of experiences). I read books about adoption growing up when I could find them, but that was not often, especially as I grew out of picture books and early readers.

I was always surprised there were not more books that dealt with adoption, since people like to think that it’s something that is fraught with drama (people like to exaggerate what they don’t understand), and nothing works better in a book than drama. Another reason there should be books about adoption is because adoption customs and laws have changed SO MUCH in the two and a half decades since I was adopted. More domestic adoptions are open now than were in the 1970s, 1980s, or even the 1990s. Laws about who can search for whom and when change every five minutes and vary from state to state. Record keeping changes. Cultural taboos change.

And that’s to say nothing about people whose lives are touched by adoption, whether it is as adoptees, adoptive parents, siblings, or birthparents. Some adoptees have zero interest in seeking out their birthparents. Others want a relationship with their birthparents. Still others are more interested in a “Hi, now we both know the other exists” type of interaction. Some children are adopted as babies, others when they are older. Others stay in the foster care system a long time. From the 1960s to the 1970s, giving up a baby for adoption was probably something you did quietly or because you were forced to. Now it is more likely that a birthparent might meet with prospective parents and involve them in the baby’s life before it is born. Even as I try to think of different types of situations, it hits me that there are probably a lot more books than I think there are. Here are some books, old and new, that might be interesting to look at in duos.


Memorial Day

May is National Photography Month, so as part of a Memorial Day tribute, we’ve paired fictional books about war with photographs of US soldiers. Without…

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The Big Five (+1) in YA: Atheism and Agnosticism

When I began this series on religion in YA literature, I wasn’t quite sure what I would find. I started with the noble ambition to read as widely as I could in YA literature for every religion, and I managed to do that for Buddhism and Hinduism (at least in part because there were so few choices). Needless to say, I had to reign in those expectations for myself as school got into full swing, and as I delved into Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The bad news is that I didn’t read nearly as many books as I had hoped. The good news is that I now have a TBR list dedicated solely to YA books, both fiction and non-fiction, that feature religion. (If you’d like to view that list of books, click here.)

I am wrapping up this series today with a look at Atheism and Agnosticism, which, as I suspected, are not easy to find in the world of YA literature. While there are tons of books that don’t mention God or faith in any way, there appear to be few that tackle the beliefs of Atheism and Agnosticism head on. In fact, I hesitated to include a few of the books I found because it seemed that they were telling a conversion story, rather than the story of young people who consider themselves to be Atheist or Agnostic. While I understand and appreciate the importance of stories that feature teenage characters searching for faith and finding new beliefs, those aren’t the stories I hoped to include here. Any such qualms about the titles below are included in their descriptions.

apocalypseEverything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse by Lucas Klauss
Phillip’s father is a hard-core Atheist, but the girl he falls for is active in a Christian church. What’s a “vaguely atheist” boy to do but start going to her youth group? A number of reviews comment on Phillip’s conversion from Agnosticism to Christianity, which made me hesitant to include it in this post.


Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: A Day On, Not A Day Off

Most of us spend our days off by sleeping in and lounging around the house in our PJs. But on this day, Monday, January 21st, it is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. In his honor, this holiday is a day of service. There are lots of ways to volunteer your time for MLK Day. Many volunteer opportunities can grow into a year-round commitment with broad sweeping influence. “In 1994, Congress designated the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday as a national day of service and charged the Corporation for National and Community Service with leading this effort.” Dr. King believed that service strengthened our relationship with neighbors and broke down prejudices, all of which got us closer to his ideal “Beloved Community.”


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8 Books for Hanukkah

by RonAlmog via Flickr

Happy Mid-Hanukkah! First off, I’d like to clarify that the title of this post is a tad misleading. The 8 books below are not really about Hanukkah explicitly. They are simply a wide-swath selection of books that represent the YA Jewish experience, or might be of interest to Jewish teens for various reasons. You could potentially give them as gifts for Hanukkah! But that’s about where the association ends. Whitney has been doing a great series of posts about YA books and religion, so consider this one a piggyback.

As a Jewish person, my ears always prick up when the books I’m reading have something to do with the faith, history, or modern experience of Jews. Especially because even though I wasn’t the only Jewish kid in my classes at school, I was usually one of very few — maybe 2 or 3 of us. As a result, it will always be somewhat of a novelty for me to have Judaism in common with others. I find that YA books sometimes contain just a passing mention of the fact that the protagonist is Jewish, as in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and that fact doesn’t have a lot of bearing on the story. Even when this happens, I still take note of it. Sometimes Judaism is the focal point of the whole book. Either way, I enjoy having that identifiable dimension. Wanting to see yourself reflected in literature, or finding commonalities with the characters we read about, remains important at any age whether you’re 15 or 50. Conversely, some books featuring Jewish teens portray experiences that are very foreign to a Jew such as myself. For instance, growing up Orthodox is almost totally unfamiliar to me, but within these portrayals there is still that kernel of sameness that I find fascinating. So, without further ado, here are some good books to consider for yourself, or for that Jewish teen in your life. Book summaries provided by their respective publishers.


Teens as Caregivers in YA Novels

November is National Caregiver Month, a time to celebrate the caregivers in our lives. Who do you think of? I’m from a pretty traditional background, so I think of my parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles. But I also was cared for by friends and mentors along the way. Just as each of us knows the importance of these people in our lives, so do many authors, and the theme of caregiving resounds from the pages of YA literature.

In many cases the teen characters of YA books are caregivers to each other. A group of friends (or enemies in some cases) will band together to survive against long odds or battle a tyrannical government. This is especially the case with many dystopian novels and is one of the reasons we love YA so. We see this in books like the Ashfall (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults) series by Mike Mullin, the Chaos Walking (2009 Best Books for Young Adults) series by Patrick Ness, the Ship Breaker (2011 Printz Award) series by Paolo Bacigalupi, the Lost (2011 Teens’ Top Ten Nominee) novels by Michael Grant, and the Unwind trilogy (2011 Top Ten Popular Paperbacks) by Neal Shusterman.

However, there some other ways in which teen characters are presented as caregivers.

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All I Need to Know I Learned from YA Fiction: Summer Job Tips from Your Favorite Books

By now you’re probably tired of every adult in your life asking you what you’re doing this summer. You’ve gone around to your favorite stores two or three times and are finally coming to the stark realization that all the best mall jobs were snatched up some time in April by kids who have more job experience than you. And there’s no way you’re babysitting again. So it’s time to get serious and take some much-needed advice from the most trustworthy source around: young adult fiction.

If a job sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Say you’re looking for fast cash the year before college and someone offers you $10,000 to help sail a boat from the Virgin Islands to New York City. What should you do? Just say no. The boat is clearly filled with drugs, and chances are you’ll end up in jail and won’t be lucky enough to turn yourself into a Newbery-Award-winning author later in life. —Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos

Jobs that seem like the worst are sometimes the best. Not everyone has their pick of jobs, so sometimes you have to take what you can get, even if it sounds like pure misery—like working in a women’s clothing boutique run by your Barbie-esque new stepmother. But how do you know you don’t like designer jeans, the color pink, and the 9 o’clock dance party unless you at least try them? —Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

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Veterans Day booklist

Every November 11th, the United States celebrates Veterans Day. The holiday honors living veterans as well as those who gave their lives in service to their country. According to Wikipedia, there are almost 25 million veterans living in the US today. In honor of Veterans Day, I’ve compiled a list of great young adult reads that depict life as a soldier or the consequences of war. These novels cover a huge range of American conflicts, from the Revolutionary War to the current conflict in Iraq. They portray battles and life as a soldier well as the after effects of war. This is just small sample of the great books out there!

The Things A Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt

This book, one of YALSA’s 2011 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults, is a contemporary novel that tells the story of two brothers. The older borther, Boaz, has just returned home after a long tour of duty in the Middle East. He’s a hero to people in his hometown, but his younger brother Levi can see that Boaz has changed. He’s not the same cheerful, charming guy he was when he enlisted three years ago. When Boaz disappears, Levi goes after him, vowing to bring him home for good this time.