Feb 25, 2013

The Pregnancy Project

Gaby Rodriguez faked a teen pregnancy as a school project. That is awesome and amazing. She went 6 months with this ruse, aiming to keep track of the stereotypes people shoehorned her into, demonstrate that teens can accomplish things even when they're in difficult situations and, most importantly, show that it's a situation teens should take active steps to enjoy.  Her memoir documents the trials she and her family have faced that led her to make this decision to give up half of her senior year to a fake baby.  It also accounts what others said and did to her and her family during this fake pregnancy and the crazy response of the entire nation (and apparently the crazy stalker staff of Good Morning America) when she revealed that she was wearing a fake belly.  I'm on board with all of this.

I've wanted to read this memoir for a long time.  I just finished it and wanted to throw it against the wall like I did with Twilight.  Basically, it wasn't what I was expecting.

To be fair, Gaby makes some good points.  There ARE many successful teen parents and children of teen parents (Hello President Obama!?), and yes, the media and society tend to revere pregnant teens as they are glamorized in MTV shows.  There needs to be more support for teens who go through pregnancies that does not involve magazine covers and free rides for acting like a fool on national television.

However, her tone in this book (and this could be the fault of the ghostwriter) is so condescending and full of superiority that I almost couldn't stand to finish reading her story. She raises points throughout the book about how it's difficult to live as a pregnant teen, yet completely dismisses these realizations of hardships when discussing her family's history of teen pregnancy, holding her family up to ridiculous standards. I get that she's trying to make the point that they shouldn't give up and should take responsibility for their lives and their children, but she comes off as petty and childish herself.

Then she acts superior in a Planned Parenthood where she's on the prowl for a project mentor.  Suddenly she's scared everyone there thinks she's there for an abortion and she makes a point to insist that she is way above that, being pro-life and all.  Okay, you're allowed to be.  But what makes her better than the others in the room who may or may not be about to go through with that procedure?   One of the points of the book is to highlight how people stereotype pregnant teens, and here she is making assumptions about their situations. For a book concerning the hardships teen pregnancies, I would assume that abortions should be discussed as a viable option for some people, regardless of your personal beliefs about the procedure.

Overall, the project was definitely interesting and teens may find the subject matter intriguing.  The writing, however, is just too haughty for my taste. 

Feb 24, 2013

The Fault in Our Stars

This novel.

It's received(ing) all the awards.  Everyone is reading it.  Everyone is saying the same thing. "I bawled like a baby."  Naturally, I go in to the book thinking, I'm going to beat it.  I'm going to beat the book. It's not gonna make ME cry.


I felt all the feelings.

Tears came out of my eyes as I texted everyone that I loved them. (I couldn't call, that's just dramatic.  Plus...the crying).

There's not even much left to say that hasn't already been said about this YA novel.  But I'll try.

Hazel, a 16 year old with terminal cancer, meets and falls in love with Augustus at a cancer support group.  They are immediately hilarious, existential, pretentious teens speaking the way only teens can in novels and in The Gilmore Girls.  You find yourself wanting to be friends with them.  At the very least, you want to follow them around and observe the way they interact.  But of course, the two have cancer and know others who have terminal/debilitating illnesses, so it's not all happy-go-lucky.  But their relationship establishes the importance of fleeting moments. AND MAKES YOU CRY.

The plot there sounds nothing more than a teen romance story, or worse, a formulaic cancer novel (akin to a Lurlene McDaniel book), but it's much, much more.  It explores teen relationships, sure, but it also gives more than a 2D glance at others who are impacted by someone's illness.  And, more importantly, it gives a realistic vision of what a teen with a terminal illness is experiencing.

I will admit that I was nervous about the emphasis on the characters' favorite novel.  Without giving away too much, I thought it would have a significant impact on how The Fault in Our Stars would end.  I was relieved that it did not.  It just ends with all the tears streaming down your face.

I want this shirt:

Feb 22, 2013

Throwback: The Great Gilly Hopkins

I found The Great Gilly Hopkins amongst my pile of books I own but have yet to read.  It's shiny Newbery Honor gleamed up at me, guilting me into finally reading it.  I'm glad I did.

Gilly's the stereotypical "I don't care about anyone but myself" foster child, moved from house to house and just wanting to go back to her mother in California because she's convinced herself that her mother wants her back.  Spoiler alert, she doesn't.  Gilly is brought to Ms. Trotter, a woman who makes it her mission to right the lives of poor foster children.  Yes, it seems like it's setting itself up to be a modern Little Orphan Annie, but then Katherine Paterson jerks the rug out from beneath you.

First, Gilly doesn't go through the formulaic routine of acting like a brat, encountering a magical moment where someone believes in her, and then becoming an angelic figure.  She still acts like a rotten brat, but Paterson fleshes out her leading lady. Despite maintaining her tough exterior, Gilly internalizes the expectations she assumes others have of her and does the opposite. Simple example: Trotter doesn't tell her to brush her hair and Gilly interprets this as Trotter thinking Gilly incapable of looking presentable.  To combat this, Gilly brushes her hair and goes to school to show that she can be presentable.  This pattern occurs throughout the novel, turning Gilly into more than a grouchy foster child despite her every intention to remain one.

Secondly, and spoiler alert, there's no happy ending. Gilly doesn't have a happy reunion with her mother, nor does she get to stay with Trotter and the makeshift family she could finally define as home.  Gilly is forced to live with her grandmother (due to Gilly's previous actions) and despite her vociferous protesting, she can't beat the system.  Despite this unhappy ending, Trotter reassures Gilly, and by proxy, the reader, that it's just how life works.  There are ups and downs, but you have to make the most of everything.

Apparently, a movie is in the works with Kathy Bates and Danny Glover, presumably playing the parts of Trotter and Mr. Randolph (the blind neighbor) respectively.

Feb 14, 2013

Last Minute Valentines!

Need a quick Valentine's Day Card? Want to avoid the lines at pharmacies as the other procrastinators fight over too red and sappy impersonal stuff that other people wrote?

500 Days of Summer
Everyone knows that homemade is from the heart.  And what luck, really all you need to be able to do is cut out a heart from construction paper.  It really is THAT simple. 

But if you really can't do that, you could print out a Valentine and cut it out.  That's at least a half-hearted (heh!) attempt.  And what better cards to cut out than the ones I made for the library* based on YA literature? Everyone loves that stuff.  So here you go, you're welcome.

*The students had to guess what book they were referencing. 

Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You, by Ally Carter
(Yes, literally the easiest one to figure out).
Matched, by Ally Condie
(The second easiest)
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
Heist Society, by Ally Carter

Twilight, by Stephanie Meyers

Feb 13, 2013

2013 Hub Reading Challenge

At this moment, there are 107 books on my official reading list, with an additional 100 or so books on my bookshelf waiting to be read.  Despite this, I feel like I need to read more.  After all, I've only read 20 books so far this year. 

From now until June 22, I will be participating in YALSA's 2013 Hub Reading Challenge which means reading 25 out of 83 award winning YA books from the past year.  Piece of cake.

Feb 12, 2013

Book Review: The One and Only Ivan

All of the amazing children's and young adult literature awards were recently announced and like every children/teen librarian and teacher, I'm in the rush to read all of them to be able to answer the questions patrons have.  I've found that most people will read books if they're popular, become movies, or win awards.

Today I finished 2013 Newbery Medal winner, The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate, a verse novel in the voice of Ivan, a gorilla who is the main attraction of the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. 

Ivan is used to living his life behind his glass walls: watching the people who watch him and watching Westerns on his TV.  It's not enough; he yearns for his natural life, but at the same time can't remember it clearly.  He loves the other animals at the Arcade, but misses his family.  What can he do?

It would be easy to make this novel strictly an anti-animal cruelty PSA.  But Applegate doesn't just attack the type of animal show depicted in the novel.  While she does emphasize the severe problems, through Ivan's voice we also see the positives.  Mack is clearly the villain of the story, but he is a three dimensional villain.  As School Library Journal far more eloquently states in their review"There are a lot of Macks in this world and I think it’s worth letting a kid know that they can feel sorry for someone but still hold them accountable for their actions."  Applegate makes the conflict that much more powerful and trusts the intended children audience to process this conflict from both angles.

I'll be honest, when I first began the novel my immediate thought was "This is a book you give to kids when you want to weaken their spirits and destroy their love for the circus and zoos...Like a Water for Elephants for kids."  It's not.  Ivan actually describes zoos as a place where good humans attempt to "make amends."  But even if Ivan didn't describe zoos this way, children shouldn't be shielded from the pains of life.  These types of books are important in the children's literature canon.  

All in all, the voice of this novel is powerful, it's well-written, emotional and drives its message forward throughout.  Even without the Newbery Medal, it's a must-read.

Feb 11, 2013

Cabin Fever

Nemo hit us and there's about 3 feet of snow on the ground all around my apartment.  Actually, it's about 6 and above feet all around the apartment thanks to the dangerously high snow mounds.  As a result, I got 3 days holed in my room with nothing to do.  You would assume that a librarian with over 100 books on her "to-read" list (and that's just for recently released books), that I would take that opportunity to knock out a few books.  Well unless the penultimate Gossip Girl novel counts (it doesn't), I did not do this. 

Instead, I tried to whittle down my Netflix Queue.  To be fair, I had every intention of watching the titles that the students frequently discuss at the library, but then I watched Serenity, 9 to 5, The Artist, and the entirety of the show Better Off Ted instead.


Feb 5, 2013

Series Woes

As a child, I absolutely adored series books.  Nancy Drew, The Baby-sitters Club (and all the spinoffs), Sweet Valley Twins (and all the spinoffs), Encyclopedia Brown, Cam Jansen, etc. etc. etc.  Whenever I'd go to the library, I would just head over to the familiar shelf full of yellow Nancy Drews and grab a couple at random.  Same with the other series.  There was a seemingly infinite amount of books at my disposal.

Then I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.  Then I FLEW through Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban.  Then, when I went back to the library for the next book.  I couldn't find it.  So, I asked the librarian if I could put a hold on it.  She gave me that "oh honey" look and told me it wasn't even written yet.  This was me:

This had NEVER happened to me before.  Consequently, it's one of the top 3 library moments from my childhood (the other 2 are better memories). 

Last week, I was the librarian in this situation and let me tell you, it was heartbreaking on this end too.  A student who recently began Veronica Roth's Divergent trilogy came in to return Insurgent and pick up the third (unwritten) installment.  When she couldn't find it, she asked if anyone had checked it out or if it was maybe part of the new books display.  Throughout her entire question, I was reliving this in my head:

So I told her, as delicately as possible, that the book isn't finished yet and is due out next year.  Yes, she was devastated (and I can't blame her, it's a great series).  But to keep her spirits up, I gave her recommendations for other series she might enjoy while she waits for the final Divergent installment: Graceling, by Kristin Cashore (the first in The Seven Kingdoms trilogy), Matched, by Allie Condie (the first in the Matched trilogy), and The Alchemyst, by Michael Scott (the first in The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series). 

She ended up selecting Graceling and loved it.  That trilogy is complete (phew), so it was great when I got to hand her the second book when she finished Graceling

Moral of the story: always be prepared to comfort a saddened patron who just wants to know what happens next. 

Feb 1, 2013

Friday Five: 30 Rock

30 Rock ended last night and I am feeling ALL THE EMOTIONS.  So, to satisfy my need for the show to forever remain in existence, here are five awesome, but sadly fake, books used in one of the best television comedies ever:

1. Dealbreakers: A Girl's Guide to Shutting it Down

Liz Lemon's self-help book that she unknowingly based on the ridiculous men in her workplace.  It includes gems like: "If your man asks you to pay for chicken wings, that's a dealbreaker, ladies!" and "He thinks he deserves a vajayjay upgrade. He doesn't; he's not Tom Brady. Shut it down." It eventually leads to her getting her own talk show, which in turn leads to her developing crazy actor tendencies which leads to this treasure:

2. Jack Attack: The Art of Aggression in Business

Jack's book first makes it's appearance in Season 1, when Liz's boyfriend, Floyd references it before meeting the legendary businessman.  It then makes an appearance when a 14 year old uses it to take down Jack in her pursuit of becoming CEO of Kabletown. With a K.  Pearls of wisdom: Never let someone arrive first (Chapter 2 of the book), "I want to kiss your boyfriend on the mouth" (Chapter 12), and I'm sure there's some reference in there about your hair being your head suit.

3. You're Doing It Wrong!

Dr. Spaceman gives this to Liz when she mentions having a boyfriend. "It's about having a satisfying love life. For life!" Also, his techniques guarantee male orgasm.  You could pair with it his compilation album: Love Storm.

4. Geiss Cubes
This would also be a great book
"It means the book is full of cubes of knowledge. It's a good title." - Jack on CEO Don Geiss' book, where he provides "timeless" wisdom like: "Because a woman's brain has fewer folds."  It's good stuff.

5.  Tracy's Autobiography

Tracy realizes that the deadline to write his autobiography is the following day.  The TGS writers quickly attempt to write out the story of Tracy's life, looking to Wikipedia when the man himself is of no help. They come close to pulling off the massive project, but then Tracy remembers the publisher passed on his book and the whole day was a waste.  Okay, so this never actually exists as a book, but work is done to complete it.

Oh 30 Rock. How I will miss your ridiculousness.