YA Literary Tropes: I Have to Take Care of My Parent(s)

Welcome back readers! We are continuing our discussion of tropes (commonly used  themes) in YA literature.  So far, we have explored The Old Clunker I Drive and The I Already Know You Introduction.  This week let us jump right into one of my favorites!

The I Have to Take Care of my Parent(s) Trope

YA literary tropes i have to take care of my parents

We read it time and time again. These teens have a lot of responsibility and are oftentimes more capable than their parents.  Why is this plot line so often used?  Well, parents are not perfect so this is a realistic human experience for many readers.  I also think that some wise words J.K. Rowling once said about the unhelpful librarian Madam Pince are relevant here.  Sometimes, when you get the assistance you need the story is over.  So, let us keep the story going by taking a look at some of the most inept parents (and their very capable children) in YA lit.
Continue reading YA Literary Tropes: I Have to Take Care of My Parent(s)

What Would They Read?: Emma from Red Band Society

red_band_societyThe television show Red Band Society premiered in the fall of 2014.  It was not renewed for a second season; however, I found the premise intriguing: a group of teens who live in the hospital, each trying to outlive their disease and attempt a semblance of normal teenage life.  They sneak out of the hospital, cover for each other, date and break up and have struggles with their families just like any other teens.

Emma is one of the teen patients in the hospital.  She struggles with anorexia, and near the end of the season she’s released from the hospital, only to relapse and end up back in her room a short while later. Emma is quiet and smart and has a lot of time on her hands, so if she asked me for something to read, these are the books I would recommend to her:

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (2010 Best Books for Young Adults, 2010 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers)

This story of Lia and Cassie’s descent into anorexia and Lia’s struggle to survive would resonate with Emma and her own battle against anorexia. It isn’t a happy story, but it’s an important one. Emma is ready to fight against her disease, and Wintergirls might encourage her to keep fighting.

my best friend maybeMy Best Friend Maybe by Caela Carter

Colette and Sadie used to be best friends until Sadie suddenly stopped speaking to Colette. Now Sadie wants Colette to join her and her family on an international vacation. Emma would identify with Colette’s need to appear perfect to everyone in her life, and also with her confusion when past  secrets become known.

45 Pounds (More or Less) by K.A. Barson

Ann’s mother is obsessed with her weight, and Ann has followed in her footsteps. She is trying to lose weight before her aunt’s wedding, until she realizes the effect her obsession is having on her family.  Emma would     identify with Ann, especially as Ann notices her obsession effecting her younger siblings. Emma’s younger sister is definitely effected by Emma’s long-term hospital stay and struggle with anorexia, so this is a book I’d give Emma to read.  Continue reading What Would They Read?: Emma from Red Band Society

Flashback Friday: Books from the ’90s

The Hub Loves the '90sIt’s Flashback Friday and The Hub is taking you back to the 1990s! Last week, Jessica Lind discussed the ’90s nostalgia emerging in contemporary pop culture in her post titles The Hub Loves the ’90s. Now we’re going to be flashing back to what young adults were reading in the ’90s. The inspiration for this post was the television show Fresh off the Boat. The show based on Eddie Huang’s best-selling memoir, is about a Taiwanese-American family living in the suburbs of Orlando, FL during the ’90s. The show gave me a very funny librarian thought: what if the tweenage Eddie went to the library on Fresh off the Boat– what would the librarian recommend to him? This thought caused me to crack open the librarian vault and take a journey back to the decade that had us rolling with the homies….

So it’s time to break out your flannel, find those old shoe-lace hair clips, put on Wannabe by the Spice Girls and grab your favorite Pogs, because we’re going to the 90’s!

Continue reading Flashback Friday: Books from the ’90s

Black Lives Matter: Building Empathy Through Reading (Part I)

Martin Luther King Jr. March on WashingtonLibrarians are peddlers of empathy. We understand that reading is a chemical reaction between reader and writer producing a visceral engagement with the characters that allows us to live the lives of others, if only for for the space of a novel. We know that when we give a book to a patron, it can be at once an act of revolution, a strike against ignorance, a catalyst for change, a necessary escape, a life-saving event, a clarion call, a moment of peace, or simply a riveting read. Whatever it turns out to be though, it is always founded in empathy. As readers, each book allows us to, at turns, discover, reaffirm or reimagine what it means to be human.

In the wake of the Ferguson verdict and in solidarity with the growing #BlackLivesMatter movement, it is empathy that we need more than ever. Indeed, as I reflect on Dr. King’s legacy, I am reminded of this quote by him: “People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” Ideally, this communication would happen face-to-face, two individuals in dialogue discovering what it means to be the other. However, in certain cases whether due to lack of representation, access, or will, this is simply not possible. What then? Continue reading Black Lives Matter: Building Empathy Through Reading (Part I)

Being A Teen in the Fight Against Book Censorship

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October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Abby Hendrickson from Minnesota.

When I was a freshmen in high school, a parent in my town decided that the book that we would be reading in class that year, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (which discusses sexual abuse), was explicit and therefore should be banned and removed from shelves.  Immediately English teachers and librarians were up in arms, ready to strike out the looming book censorship. They were prepared to defend the right of the students and everyone else to read freely.

Not wanting it to become a big fight, the school board quickly came to the decision that the book wouldn’t be banned but instead would be pulled from the required reading list. Under the new rules, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was kept at the school where teachers would read aloud from it only when the passages were necessary for the lesson. Continue reading Being A Teen in the Fight Against Book Censorship

Banned Books Week: Why Do People Try to Ban Books Again?

Part of a previous year's Banned Book Week display . . . made with an old copy of Fanrenhiet 451. For irony. Photo by Anna Tschetter
Part of a previous year’s Banned Book Week display . . . made with an old copy of Fahrenheit 451. For irony. Photo by Anna Tschetter

I love Banned Books Week. I find that every year it comes around, there is always a new population of people who have no idea what it is. They look at our displays in our libraries and bookstores and wonder what it is all about. I’ve even had some teens look at my display one year  and then ask if they could actually check them out.

I think that is the best part of Banned Book Week: it gives you a way to have a conversation with patrons and readers about censorship, the freedom to read, and the nature of ideas.

Every year the American Library Association releases their list of the most frequently banned or challenged books in the United States. For 2013 to 2014 there are a lot of great YA novels on the list. Looking for Alaska (2006 Printz winner), I Hunt Killers, The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2002 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults), The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian (2008 Best Books for Young Adults), and Eleanor & Park (2014 Printz honor book) all grace the list.

It’s always fascinating to see the reasons why a book has been challenged or removed from a school or library. Personally, some of the reasons the books are challenged are the same reasons I think those books are great. Take the challenge in 2013 for Alexie’s Part-Time Indian: it was challenged because it presented the “crude, obscene, and unfiltered viewpoint of a ninth-grader growing up on the reservation.” That’s what makes the book so funny, accessible, and important to other teenagers!  Continue reading Banned Books Week: Why Do People Try to Ban Books Again?

Portrait of The Artist As a Young Adult: Celebrating Youth Art Month in YA Lit

youth art month post .jpgA variety of scientific studies have proposed that scent is a powerful trigger for memory, and for me, that has certainly been true.  Cinnamon and ginger will always kindle the warm anticipation associated with my family’s Christmas cookie baking. Similarly, there’s a particular combination of musky hairspray, sweat, & dust that immediately brings back the nerves and adrenaline of theatrical performances.  And finally, the smell of fresh drawing paper, pencil shavings, and paint fumes will always be thrilling and soothing for me.  Why?  Because those scents symbolize a key aspect of my adolescent identity: being an artist.

By high school, art was embedded into my daily life.  I took classes at school and at a local art studio, where I also worked as a teaching assistant for a couple hours every Saturday.  I doodled during play practices and spent hours agonizing over pieces for local shows.  When I drew, my intense focus could be alternatively relaxing, exciting, or frustrating–especially if the piece wasn’t working out.  However, it was always a transporting experience–a time to escape my life and be more present in myself.

Accordingly, I’m always keen to find stories that explore and celebrate the varied roles of visual art in the lives of young adults.   And as March is Youth Art Month, it seems like the perfect time to share some novels featuring young artists.

page by paigePage by Paige – Laura Lee Gulledge (2012 Great Graphic Novels for Teens)  When her family moves from Virginia to Brooklyn, Paige’s only friend and solace is her trusty sketchbook.  Through her drawings, Paige can be her adventurous, clever artist self– but taking that identity into the big, overwhelming world is a whole different story.  Spanning her first eight months in New York, Paige’s journey of new friendships, tentative romance, and growing artistic confidence unfurls through imaginative & organic images.  Continue reading Portrait of The Artist As a Young Adult: Celebrating Youth Art Month in YA Lit

Get Creative with YA Lit

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image by flickr user Lorraine Santana

Do you know the feeling that comes sometimes when you finish reading a really great book, the one in which you don’t want the story to end? You can always hope for a sequel or a companion novel. If there is a film adaptation, you can experience the world, again, there. Or you can keep the world alive by creating something yourself.

I recently attended the DML2014 conference in Boston and found myself surrounded by people passionately talking about ways to interact with digital media. As a blogger for The Hub, I immediately focused on the ways that people were using these programs and communities to create content based on YA books. This also tied in well with last week’s Teen Tech Week  theme of DIY @ your library. Below, I have listed a handful of ways that youth and adults are taking their favorite stories and making something new.

Create a Program

One of the tools that was frequently mentioned at DML2014 is Scratch, a web-based programming tool that allows users to create and share games, videos, and stories. I searched Scratch for projects related to popular YA titles and found a wide variety of program types including interactive quizzes and games, slideshows, and still image fanart. A few examples include a Divergent Aptitude Test Simulation, Snape’s Potion Game (Harry Potter), and The Mortal Instruments: Downworld Attack game. These users have found a way to continue interacting with books that they enjoyed while also learning how to code computer programs. Scratch is only one of a number of options available in this area, too. Continue reading Get Creative with YA Lit

Different Types of Strong: Female Characters in YA Lit

Women’s History Month is celebrated during March, and there’s a lot of information about strong, motivated, amazing women in history being shared right now. We have strong, motivated, amazing female characters in YA literature, too, and even though they aren’t real, they do influence readers. Here’s a list of five female characters I admire in Young Adult Literature. You may agree with some, you may heartily disagree with others, so feel free to add to the discussion in the comments! (Also, there are spoilers ahead, so be warned!)

twilight-cover 5. Bella Swan in the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. I know a lot of people cannot stand Bella and believe she is a whiny, annoying, weak example of womanhood, but I honestly do not think anyone gives Bella enough credit. To begin with, she is the level headed parent figure in both of her relationships with her actual parents. When thrust into a supernatural world where death seems to come after her at every turn, she is more concerned with saving and protecting her family and friends than she is with protecting herself- and her friends include vampires and werewolves who can take care of themselves very well. Bella makes some boneheaded decisions, but she’s always true to herself, and while she’s not the most kick-butt female on this list in a physical sense, I think she has both an inner strength and a loving heart that are admirable. (Twilight is a 2006 Teens’ Top Ten winner.) Continue reading Different Types of Strong: Female Characters in YA Lit

Crafting and Creative Pursuits in YA Nonfiction and Fiction

photo by flickr user Tammy Strobel
photo by flickr user Tammy Strobel

March is National Craft Month!  I love crafting in many forms and have led craft workshops at the library system where I work.  Apart from reading, crafting is one of the few things that I can get completely lost in.  I think for me it started in middle school.  I had a bit of a rough time in eighth grade (a situation partly of my own creation), but always felt grounded by our arts and crafts class, where we explored several different art forms without being judged on the “quality” of our finished products.  In high school, I took a class in drawing and painting, sure at first that I would just eke by with a barely passing grade.  Instead, I ended up very pleasantly surprised at the sketches that I was able to make as the result of patient instruction and a little concentration.  As an adult I’ve taken jewelry-making and other craft classes, and have realized that crafting for me is almost a form of meditation, and I need to make more time for it in my life.  So to inspire myself as much as you, our Hub readers, I’ve put together a list of YA crafting guides and YA novels whose main characters craft in some form.

Continue reading Crafting and Creative Pursuits in YA Nonfiction and Fiction