Fall is an excellent time to get into some spooky, haunty, ghoulish titles, and there are a variety of new books to tantalize teens. Horror isn’t so much a genre with a specific set of rules, but a mood that comes into a variety of other genres whether it is fantasy, paranormal, mystery, historical, or realistic and can contain elements of slasher, body horror, gothic, dark fantasy, or folk horror just to name a few. There are a variety of short story collections and novels for teens, and some adult crossovers to suggest that will be sure to give teens thrills and chills in whatever their genre inclinations are.Continue reading Genre Spotlight: Horror for Teens
Category: Genre Guide
Celebrate and Understand with YA: Juneteenth
As summer begins for libraries everywhere, it marks a time to celebrate and understand Juneteenth. Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19th, marks the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Texas were first informed of their freedom as a result of Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. Now a national day of observance , it is a perfect time to celebrate and understand Juneteenth with YA titles featuring black voices. Check out some of the Hub’s title selections that spotlight family, identity, and history which are cornerstones of Juneteenth celebrations as noted in this New York Times article.
Title Spotlight: Family
Brittney Morris’ The Cost of Knowing is a powerful story of two brothers, Alex and Isaiah, and their experiences as young Black men in America. The story highlights the power of the past, the ability of the future to overwhelm, the strength of familial bonds across generations, and the joy that is possible.
The saga of the Logan family is one that spans across generations of readers. The family’s story by Mildred D. Taylor began with Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry in 1976 and concluded with All the Days Past, All the Days to Come in 2021. Following Cassie Logan and her family, the saga is compelling and showcases how time, history, and the promise of the future can shape a family’s story that leaves an impact on the world.
One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite follows the story of sisters Happi and Genny as they grapple with the death of their sister Kezi under suspicious circumstances after attending a social justice rally. As Happi and Genny go on a road trip using the original Green Book as their guide they rediscover the importance of family and sisterhood with a story interwoven with flashbacks and alternating perspectives.Continue reading Celebrate and Understand with YA: Juneteenth
Down With Love: Romance-Free Y.A. Books
Even though teens are being bombarded with tons of hormones, it doesn’t mean they want a romantic barrage in their book choices. There have been plenty of teens crossing my path who request romance-free Y.A. books. They always feel the need to defend their decision for some reason though – not ready, culture, religion, or just don’t like it.
As with the teens who ask for books filled with romance, I don’t judge the teens who want romance-free. It is merely another subgenre of books. The only issue is that “romance-free” is not really a sortable genre on book searches (even though romance is – unfair!). To make things easy for you, here are my quick picks for those wanting to avoid anything lovey-dovey.
Foodie Companions for With the Fire On High
2019 Printz Winner for The Poet X, Elizabeth Acevedo’s much anticipated sophomore novel With the Fire On High, is a book about embracing your passions, and charting your future. Emoni Santiago, an Afro-Boricua high school senior has had a gift for cooking since she was young. She and her toddler daughter live with her supportive grandmother, but Emoni needs to decide where she wants to go to school and what she wants to do after graduation. When her school offers a new class, “Culinary Arts: Spain Immersion,” Emoni has a chance to immerse herself in cooking in a way that she can start to see what is possible with her gift.
Foodie readers will swoon over Acevedo’s writing on food and cooking, and it will leave them hungering for more. Here are a few delicious titles about food and cooking to pair With the Fire On High:
Continue reading Foodie Companions for With the Fire On High
Booklist: Romantic Comedies
There is nothing like escaping into a fun-filled romantic comedy, especially when the pressures of real life loom large, and one could use a little levity, love, and fun. Diving into a romantic escapade can be incredibly satisfying, especially if it is one that can provide “all the feels.”
Rom-coms are often predictable in the best sort of way. If the story is true to the genre, you know the most likely ending…the romantic interests will end up together, but it is the journey to that end that brings us in. There are also other key elements that every rom-com has:
- Two Main Protagonists – one, if not both, is adorkable and charming. They will be easy to root for in love and in life.
- Side Characters – the tapestry of people that surround our hopeful lovers. They can be supportive, offer comic guffaws, or are the ones helping create obstacles and/or distractions that keep our lovers apart or push hem together.
- Location – often as much as a character as our side characters. Our lovers are often traipsing over an area creating memories in key spots.
- The “Meet-Cute” or the person next door – how our characters come into contact with each. The meet-cute will often be awkward or filled with tension where the characters do not like each other at first, or it can be charming. Sometimes, often in YA fiction, our soon-to-be lovers have been friends since childhood, and it is just seeing them each other in a new light.
- The Challenge – often a false start where there is a misunderstanding, other potential love interest, or obstacle that seems to big to surmount comes into play separating our would be lovers.
- The Grand Epiphany – what brings them together in the end. One or both will have a revelation that they can not be without the other, and usually a grand gesture will be involved in declaring love.
Women in Comics: Mysteries
A truly great mystery that can keep you guessing until the last page is tough to create but very satisfying to read. While this genre isn’t particularly common in recent comics, there are some great examples of mystery stories and a biography of one of the most famous authors in this genre that will appeal to mystery fans who also love comics.
Agatha: The Real Life of Agatha Christie by Anne Martinetti and Guillaume Lebeau with art by Alexandre Franc – In addition to writing a long list of famous mystery novels, Agatha Christie led a fascinating life that involved world travel, a stint as a wartime nurse, and multiple archeological trips. This graphic novel tells the story of her life with her most famous creation, Hercule Poirot, popping in several times to provide commentary on her choices and life events. This is a great read for those interested in an introduction to Christie’s life, though at some points the book jumps through time in an abrupt manner that leaves the reader wanting more. The book includes a timeline of Christie’s life and a bibliography of her books. Continue reading Women in Comics: Mysteries
Memoirs and Biographies of Those Who Broke Equal Rights Boundaries
When I think of social justice and equal rights, the first person who comes to mind is Martin Luther King. But, we all know that he wasn’t fighting alone. His I Have a Dream Speech is one of the most familiar speeches ever heard, but, Congressman John Lewis can deliver a powerful and memorable one as well, as you will discover if you read March: Book Two. I’ve selected a few recently published memoirs or biographies by or about significant African-Americans, some more familiar to me than others. What they all have in common is a drive to excel and a belief in what they were striving for – something that will resonate with today’s readers of all ages.
Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina (Young Readers Edition) by Misty Copeland (The 2014 edition has been nominated for YALSA’s 2017 Popular Paperback for Young Adults in the biography category)
This is a recently published young readers’ adaptation of Copeland’s 2014 memoir about her becoming the first African-American principal dancer in American Ballet Theatre history. Despite not having started dancing until age 13, Misty’s talent allowed her to transcend her rough home life. Her family didn’t have much money, and she had a series of stepfathers growing up. As her talent brought her notice, she became embroiled in a custody battle between her mother and her ballet teacher, leading her to go to court to petition for emancipation. She is also frank about the prejudice she experienced as a black dancer, including the belief by some who said that black dancers had no place in classical ballet. “This is for the little brown girls,” Copeland says, but her inspiring story will be embraced by readers of all races.
Hidden Figures Young Readers’ Edition by Margot Lee Shetterly
The author’s father worked at NASA as did so many others in her community that she just assumed that “that’s just what black folks did.” She profiles four black women (Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden) who during World War II, were hired as “computers” – or female mathematicians by Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, in VA under NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) – later to expand to become NASA. At a time when educated black women good in math were only expected to become math teachers, these women helped the U.S.’s successes in space aeronautics. Women hired at Langley were as good or better at computing than the men but few were classified as mathematicians because that would mean they’d be on equal footing as the men. Instead, they were classified as “sub professional” and paid less than the men. The Fair Employment Practices Committee under President Roosevelt had opened up job opportunities for African Americans, desegregating the work force during the war.
Dorothy Vaughan joined the NACA in 1943 and was the first to be promoted into a management position. Mary Jackson was the first black women to become an engineer at NACA. Katherine Johnson’s math skills helped put the first American in orbit around the Earth. Christine Darden became an expert on supersonic flight and her groundbreaking research on predicting sonic booms continues to be used today. These women opened the door for other women to become mathematicians as a career. This book, and the adult version, are the basis of the upcoming film Hidden Figures starring Octavia Spencer (as Dorothy Vaughan), Taraji P. Henson (as Katherine Johnson), Janelle Monáe (as Mary Johnson) but doesn’t include a portrayal of Christine Darden because the film focuses on the years before she started at NASA.
Continue reading Memoirs and Biographies of Those Who Broke Equal Rights Boundaries
YA Fiction about Overcoming Adversity
Teenagers choose what to read for a variety of reasons – topic, what their friends read, favorite author, or page number. Often I am asked to recommend books for a similar type of story, theme, or genre. This is a collection of YA fiction that deals with overcoming adversity encompassing any trait, illness, disease, or life event. In other words – books portray life. It’s a fitting topic for preteens and teenagers as they are not only facing obstacles in their own lives, but also developing their own thoughts and opinions as young adults.
Every book where there is a new challenge, readers not only gain experience, but also courage to battle their own challenges and empathy towards others facing their own challenges. The Wall Street Journal recently published an article showing how reading different types of fiction affects the reader’s behavior and ability to emphasize. Here are some struggles in fiction, and here are some characters who are brave, vulnerable, strong, and overcome hardships. In other words, characters who portray a diverse group of people. Continue reading YA Fiction about Overcoming Adversity
How to Help Teens Discover Poetry
Halfway through college, I still hated poetry.
I kept it hidden pretty well. You’re not supposed to hate poetry if you’re an English Education major. You’re supposed to love anything to do with writing and uphold all of these classic poets and authors who have been upheld since (what feels like) the beginning of time.
But mostly, I got bored reading poetry. Sure, it was something I was capable of doing, but it definitely wasn’t something I enjoyed. Like most students, I looked at poems as a short piece a writer double-dipped in things like “metaphors” and “conceits” before giving them to teachers to use as a way to make their students’ heads hurt as they tried to figure out the “deeper meaning” of each poem. Poetry just seemed like a lot of work.
Then Ted Kooser came to do a reading at my college.
I only went because my English professors were providing extra credit for those who attended. Then I promptly squeezed the arms of my chair as hard as possible for the next hour or so as Ted Kooser read a variety of his works.
I did not realize poetry could be like this, I thought to myself. See, Ted didn’t really seem to worry about rhyme or meter or that type of thing. His sole concern seemed to be finding ways to relate everyday moments in ways that made you stop and think. To recognize something and describe it in a way that you didn’t expect but made you blurt out “Exactly! That’s exactly right!” once you heard or read it.
And that’s when I realized that I didn’t hate poetry. I just hadn’t found the right poet until that moment. I proceeded to buy and eat up all of Ted’s books. I talked with professors and researched online and found other poets who wrote in a similar vein that I liked. Poets like Billy Collins, Donald Hall, Naomi Shihab Nye, Taylor Mali, and Tania Runyan.
Many young adults don’t enjoy poetry, but you can help them find find “their” poet and discover the joys of poetry.
I started writing poems and sending them out in the hopes of getting published. I sang the praises of poetry wherever I went. Here are some ways I’ve tried to promote poetry in my classroom and library: Continue reading How to Help Teens Discover Poetry
Diversify YA Life: Islamic Mythology & Middle Eastern Folktales
Jinns have made a remarkable appearance in YA fiction in the last couple of years and with it comes diverse characters.
A Jinn is any of a class of spirits, lower than the angels, capable of appearingin human and animal forms and influencing humankind for either good or evil.
Below, you’ll find a list of YA fiction about Jinns.
- Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury
When Zahara is released from her lamp she finds herself in a world where her magic is forbidden but when the King offers her permanent release, she must decide between freedom from the lamp or love.
- Whole New World by Liz Braswell
This twisted tale changes one plot detail from popular Disney stories. Whole New World asks what would happen if Jafar was the first one to summon the genie.
- Becoming Jinn (Becoming Jinn Series) by Lori Goldstein
Azra, a Jinn, is evading her Jinn duties and masquerades as a human but when she discovers her powers are different from her Jinn friends, she must find out if her new powers will save or endanger her friends. Continue reading Diversify YA Life: Islamic Mythology & Middle Eastern Folktales