As library workers, especially those of us who work with teens, our role can shift to “social worker” in an instant. Our teen patrons visit the library everyday and they begin to trust and confide in us. Because most of us don’t have the training to work with at-risk youth, we can feel a little helpless but we don’t have to because we have the power of a good book.
About a year ago, a member of my book discussion group seemed to be questioning his sexuality and he never talked about it. I gave him Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith to read because I thought the ending was perfect for his situation. He loved the book and now he’s very open with his sexuality and he accepts who he is. Did my recommendation help him? I don’t really know but I like to think it gave him some perspective. When I see a teen who I think or know is struggling with a personal problem, I’ll strike up a book conversation on their next library visit asking them what they like to read. If they are a reader, I’ll find a book from their favorite genre that deals with the subject they are struggling with.
In my library, I see homeless teens, teens with alcoholic parents, teens living with a dying parent, and teens dealing with gender identity and body image. I used to feel powerless but after I recommended Grasshopper Jungle, I realized that I could be an effective adult in the lives of teens. Below are a list of good books that blend popular genres with social issues. Gone are the days of feeling helpless. Say goodbye to sifting through numerous Google results. You now possess the power of reader’s advisory in a flash. You are the newest member of the Social Justice League!
Continue reading Diversify YA Life: Social Justice League-Reader’s Advisory for Teens Dealing with Social Issues
Instead of reading for the Morris/Non-Fiction Challenge, I was reading other books. Ooops. But one of the books I read spawned this month’s contemporary theme: parental abandonment. These books don’t necessarily address homelessness (Molly Wetta already tackled that subject), but teens that were left on their own by their parents for whatever reasons. I know there has to be more, so let me know in the comments! First up, the book that inspired this list:
If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch (2014 BFYA Nominee)
Carey and her younger sister Janessa live in a broken down trailer in the woods. They don’t go to school, they don’t go into town much (if at all), and they are anxiously awaiting the return of their mother. Instead they are met with a stranger and someone who Carey recalls being her father. They have come to take the girls away since their mother has informed the state she is unable to take of them anymore. What seems like a nightmare to Carey is actually a blessing in disguise as she is forced to come to terms of what really happened in the woods and adjusts to living in civilization.
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (2009 Printz Award Winner)
Taylor was abandoned by her mother at 11 at a 7/11 and was found by Hannah. Now, at 17, she is the leader of the boarders at Jellicoe School. Amidst the struggle of trying to keep the upper hand in a territory war at her school, Taylor has to deal with the disappearance of Hannah who was the adult she came to rely on. All that is left of Hannah is a manuscript that she had written. Taylor needs to find out more but this means she will have to confront her own story and find her own mother. Continue reading Is This the Real Life? Parental Abandonment