Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2025) Featured Review: SWARN by Jennifer D. Lyle

  • SWARM by Jennifer D. Lyle
  • Narrated by Krystal Hammond
  • Blackstone Publishing
  • Release date: November 7, 2023
  • ASIN: B0CCSVDLPP
  • ISBN: 978-1728270913

A super intense story of survival. 

Thanks to climate change the world has warmed and a swarm which has laid dormant for centuries has resurfaced and they are hungry! 

This plot driven story begins as an average school day for 16 year old Shur and her classmates, until she notices an unusually large butterfly outside of her classroom window. Soon after her discovery, cell phones begin buzzing with a flood of emergency reports that these butterfly-like monsters have invaded all 7 continents and people should stay indoors or shelter in place.

As the confusion and tension mounts, Shur, her twin brother Keene, and their 2 best friends, Jennifer and Nathan, flee the high school parking lot in an attempt to make it to their respective homes, but first they must pick up Shur’s brother Sean, aka “Little” from daycare. Terrified, they finally make it to Shur’s suburban home unscathed, only to find this will be their last stop. The Swarm is rapidly increasing and the teens must hole up alone and are forced to fend for themselves.  Shur, the protagonist, is riddled with extreme anxiety and panicked thoughts resulting from the death of her father a few years earlier. What the teens don’t  know is that the butterflies are only the beginning; the next onslaught will be deadlier, and even closer to home.

Krystal Hammond’s narration captures all the fear, anxiety and resolve of each character’s voice. Shur’s coping skills are strained to the max, and yet she is not as fragile as the others think. Hammond’s believable performance conveys Shur’s inner thoughts showcasing her unique perspective on how to navigate this apocalyptic setting to keep them all safe. The angst-filled narration propels the plot forward causing listeners to anticipate what could possibly happen next and to wonder if the world could actually survive such a swarm.

Jennifer D. Lyle has written a vivid portrayal of terror made all the more exhilarating by Krystal Hammond’s narration. Part apocalyptic science-fiction, part horror survival story with a sprinkle of teen crush, makes SWARM an audiobook with a little something for everyone.

Recommend for ages 13 & up.

-Ellen E. McTyre

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.

Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2025) Featured Review: Under This Red Rock by Mindy McGinnis

  • Under This Red Rock
  • by Mindy McGinnis
  • Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
  • Release date: March 19, 2024
  • ISBN: 9780063230415

Neely knows the voices she hears are hallucinations, but she’s afraid to burden her family by telling them about her schizophrenia, especially in the aftermath of her brother’s suicide. She finds comfort and stability in the local cavern attraction and is even lucky enough to get a job there as a guide. However, her stability upends after she tries drugs at a party and her coworker and crush, Mila, is found brutally murdered in the caverns. Neely can’t shake the fear that she was the one who did it. 

Under this Red Rock isn’t just a mind-bending psychological thriller. It’s also an open-ended invitation for the reader to reflect on their biases about mental illness, as well as a reminder that it’s okay to ask for help. Hypnotic and harrowing, this book will stay with you long after you put it down.

This book is for teens who like twisty mysteries that remain grounded in realism. Give it to fans of Courtney Summers and Kathleen Glasgow, but note that the story contains depictions of drug use and violent imagery, including a graphic description of a suicide.

-Yona Yurwit

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.
The Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee appreciates teen feedback as members evaluate the nominated titles. Teen librarians are encouraged to share the List of Potential Nominees under consideration with their patrons and solicit feedback using the link: https://bit.ly/BFYA25TeenFB

Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2025) Featured Review: Shut Up, This is Serious by Carolina Ixta

  • Shut Up, This is Serious
  • by Carolina Ixta
  • Publisher: Quill Tree Books
  • Release date: January 9, 2024
  • ISBN: 9780063287860

Belén is trying to break cycles. It’s her senior year of high school which she may not pass, she’s navigating the loss of her father, and her best friend is pregnant. All she wants is normal. Her family to talk to each other. A boyfriend. She’s struggling with depression and isolates herself from her mother and sister, starts skipping classes, escapes into books, and seeks attention and casual sex from a boy who doesn’t feel anything for her. 

Ixta’s writing is lyrical and poetic, giving Belen such a strong and authentic voice that many teens will relate to. This book explores many important themes such as antiblack racism, colorism, sex/virginity and the ebbs and flows of female friendship. 

While Belén is frustrating at times and in no way perfect, readers will be drawn to her journey of self discovery and acceptance, especially those familiar with existing in a body that they didn’t ask for and what that invites from others.  Offer this to teens who enjoyed I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L Sanchez or Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado. 

-Alicia Kalan

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.

The Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee appreciates teen feedback as members evaluate the nominated titles. Teen librarians are encouraged to share the List of Potential Nominees under consideration with their patrons and solicit feedback using the link: https://bit.ly/BFYA25TeenFB

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2024) Feature Review: Hungry Ghost by Victoria Ying

  • Hungry Ghost
  • By Victoria Ying  
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
  • Imprint: First Second
  • Release date: April 25, 2023 
  • ISBN: 9781250766991

Valerie Chu is the perfect daughter: obedient, quiet, studious, and thin. When tragic circumstances cause her to lose her carefully controlled grip on her life, she must question her relationship with her mother and what future she really wants for herself. Content warning for eating disorders and death of a loved one.

This is a very short, issue-oriented graphic novel that will appeal to many teens. Even if readers have not struggled with an eating disorder, they will likely relate to the pressure that Valerie feels to fit in to other’s expectations of her. Some of the characters could have benefited from deeper development, but the relationship between Valerie and her best friend, Jordan, seemed very real and relatable.

 For more body dysmorphia books consider titles like Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green or The Impossible Light by Lily Myers.

-Julianne Novetsky

Other Nominated Titles

January 3, 2023
Release Date: March 7, 2023

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.

Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers (#QP2024) Feature Review: Nervosa by Haley Gold

  • Nervosa
  • by Hayley Gold
  • Publisher: Street Noise Books
  • Release date: April 4, 2023
  • ISBN: 9781951491246

Hayley Gold gives the inside story of what it is like to suffer from Anorexia Nervosa. She was a teen who was put into a program for her survival. There, she learned tricks to hide weight loss and stave off weight gain, even though counselors were all over her for her own health and safety. A realistic peek at the compulsions someone suffering from Anorexia must battle.

This graphic novel fits the criteria for quick picks because it is easy to read, and the color coordination of the different characters talking, as well as the extreme honesty she writes with, will make this a compelling read for anyone. 

This novel might also appeal to readers who are struggling with body image who might be considering dieting or calorie counting. For read-alikes consider Wintergirls by Laurie Halse-Anderson or Elena Vanishing by Elena Dunkle.

-Michael Fleming

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: December 6, 2022
Release Date: February 28, 2023

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.

YA Nonfiction for New Year’s Resolutions!

Nonfiction books for New Year’s resolutions is a great way to pull individuals back into the library every January. Adults aren’t the only ones wanting to better themselves for the new year. Teens can join in on the action as well. Take a look at these YA nonfiction selections for teens to start the year by putting their best foot forward.

Continue reading YA Nonfiction for New Year’s Resolutions!

You’re Not Alone: Mental Health Nonfiction Picks for Teens

As mental health struggles get more time in the spotlight, mental health nonfiction books have been cropping up aimed a variety of demographics. In fact, many options are now available just for teens. This list looks at great resources for those who are struggling with mental health issues or want to help someone that is.

Now, I want to be clear in saying that I was very conscious of readability when pulling these titles. A good book in this area is useless if the writing is akin to banging your head against a wall. It is more important for these books to be engaging than even a standard Y.A. fiction offering that you recommend.

Also, while these selections mostly cater to teens, the high readability makes them good for anyone interested in improving mental health without being insanely bored. Without further ado, let’s get ready to be mentally healthy!

Continue reading You’re Not Alone: Mental Health Nonfiction Picks for Teens

Social Justice and Disability – Evaluating Materials and Media with Characters with Disabilities

When we talk about social justice, one of the most often overlooked populations are people with disabilities. The 2014 Disability Status Report for the United States from Cornell University reported that, “In 2014, the overall percentage (prevalence rate) of people with a disability of all ages in the US was 12.6 percent.” The National Health Institute of Mental Health reported in 2015, “Fully 20 percent—1 in 5—of children ages 13-18 currently have and/or previously had a seriously debilitating mental disorder.” These percentages are not reflected in publishing trends.

Social Justice and Disability - Evaluating Materials and Media with Characters with Disabilities

Representation of any marginalized groups accurately and sympathetically can remove some of the prejudice surrounding them, so including books and media with these characters in our collections is essential. Everyone deserves to see their experiences reflected, as well as studies have shown that reading literary fiction improves empathy. People with disabilities experience some of the highest rates of discrimination and microaggressions. Intersect being disabled with also being a person of color, First/Native Nations, LGBTQ, and/or female and the transgressions can increase. Activist and Vlogger Annie Elainey discusses here in a video Why is Disability Representation So White? #DisabilityTooWhite the many issues that people are experiencing because of lack of representation. (Also, be sure to check out her sources.)

Accurate representation can be a tricky thing, especially if it is not a story or experience that is being written by a person with a similar disability. In January, Lee & Low Books reported results of a 2015 Diversity Baseline Survey about the social makeup of the publishing and book reviewing in North America. In the industry overall, 92% identified as nondisabled, so we can assess that a good portion of the writing, editing, and reviewing books with disabled characters are being done by nondisabled folks. Alaina Leary wrote a great piece for The Establishment titled Why The Publishing Industry Can’t Get Disability Right that is also a must read.

Readers, writers, and advocates of young adult literature should be paying attention to the site Disability in Kidlit. Continue reading Social Justice and Disability – Evaluating Materials and Media with Characters with Disabilities

Readers’ Advisory, Bibliotherapy, and Grief in YA Literature

The benefits of reading go beyond entertainment and into therapeutic tools when focusing on loss and grief in young adult literature. This year, the practice of bibliotherapy celebrates 100 years* in assisting mental health professionals and readers cope with many issues through informed choices about reading material. It is especially relevant to young adult readers in understanding loss and the grief process.

readers' advisory, bibliotherapy, and grief

Teenagers today are said to have higher levels of anxiety and depression and informed readers’ advisory creates an opportunity to help teens by using the comfort and familiarity of reading. However, it is not to be misunderstood or considered as true therapy unless a therapist is involved.   Through readers’ advisory, especially in a school setting, adults can both assist in book recommendations and also listen to teenagers (and possibly notice when teens need to speak to a school counselor).  Just as librarians do not parent or restrict readers, we also do not assume any professional opinion about therapy or mental illness. See this article on the difference between bibliotherapy and readers’ advisory.  The actual practice of bibliotherapy includes a skilled therapist, but adults who are familiar with stories of loss can assist with recommendations.  After all, we already know the interest of our readers (and reading levels) and can offer novels that address grief and coping. Continue reading Readers’ Advisory, Bibliotherapy, and Grief in YA Literature

Reality Scoop: Promoting Mental Wellness with YA Literature

There are no shortages of books for young adults that tackle mental illness; The Hub has focused on books for Mental Health Awareness Month and also written about the trend of suicide and depression in Young Adult literature in just the last year. But today for Reality Scoop, we’re focusing on characters in YA novels who develop coping mechanisms for dealing with depression and anxiety throughout the course of the story.

YALSA realistic fiction column

Fiction According to National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), about 20% of teens suffer from mental health issues and nearly 30% have depression before adulthood.  The impact on teens is more than just statistics, it’s the feelings and the emotions that they deal with that hurt the most.  Mental health problems just make things so much harder for teens.  It makes their home life, school and socializing much more difficult than it should be.   Continue reading Reality Scoop: Promoting Mental Wellness with YA Literature