Aug 30, 2013

Friday Five: Taking a Stand Books that Aren't Dystopias

I'm reading Partials, by Dan Wells, right now because the teens kept telling me that they loved it.  And I agree with them. The addition of a scientific focus has been refreshing, and I'm really enjoying the book.  But...I'm getting dystopia fatigue.  I've been reading and keeping up with dystopias over the past 2 years because that's where my students show a ton of interest.  They're all jumbled up inside my head and keeping up with the sequels has become exhausting.  Which reminds me, whatever happened to the single serving novel?

So here are five books that share the dystopian spirit of challenging institutions and/or the norm and taking a stand, but that aren't classified as dystopian.

1. The Miseducation of Cameron Post, by Emily M. Danforth

Cameron is a closeted lesbian growing up in the 90s in the middle of America. On top of that, she lives with the guilt that her sexuality is the reason her parents were killed in an accident. Her religious guardian sends her to a conversion camp where Cameron decides to stand up for her feelings and demand respect.

2. The Loud Silence of Francine Green, by Karen Cushman

Set in Hollywood during the Red Scare, Francine Green focuses on how people need to look for the truth and not just accept the news as delivered by others. Francine was a meek and timid girl, always following the instructions of the nuns at her Catholic School. Then she meets Sophie, a loudmouthed girl who can't control herself and her desires to hold impromptu anti-bomb protests, and suddenly she questions why she has always been so accepting of what she is told.

3. The White Bicycle, by Beverly Brenna

In this novel, the institution is Taylor Jane's mother, a woman who doesn't believe teenage Taylor is capable of taking care of herself because of her Asberger's Syndrome. The mother is also representative of all who doubt the abilities of those with developmental disorders.  Taylor takes control of her life, going out on adventures without her mother's permission, and learns more about herself along the way.

4. Does My Head Look Big in This?, by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Amal makes the decision to wear the hijab full-time as a reflection of her faith. Her family, friends, and school aren't sure this is the right move. As the only Muslim at her school, a school that has a strict uniform policy, it's hard to find understanding. Her family and friends worry that Amal's decision will alienate her and attract problems. Regardless, Amal stays true to her decision and embraces her faith in the eyes of the public.

5. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly

It's the end of the nineteenth century in Texas, and Calpurnia is more interested in charting the differences between grasshopper types than learning how to sew.  The society she lives in requires her to be more feminine, after all, she's going to be someone's wife one day.  However, Calpurnia puts that aside and joins her grandfather in his scientific endeavors.

Aug 28, 2013

Before I Fall

Samantha Kingston dies in a car crash...then she wakes up in the morning and relives her last day on earth. It happens again and again without reason. Even changing her behavior and patterns doesn't prevent her from reliving "Cupid Day," the Friday before Valentine's Day where students send roses to one another as a sign of popularity (think "Four for you Glen Coco, you go Glen Coco!"). Reliving Cupid Day shines a new light on Samantha's outlook on her friends, her less than affectionate boyfriend, her family, and the outcasts she looks down on. She's quite literally forced to face herself and make changes before she can move on, whether or not it's in life or death.

Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall is pretty popular with the teens at my school.  I can see why. The cover is attractive, and it has an interesting premise, good lessons, and high school drama from varying angles that any tween/teen can connect with.  Originally I felt that it wasn't the best written book - as the day repeats, characters seemingly change motivations - but when I realized this was happening as a reflection of Samantha's maturing, I had a lot more respect for the work. It still feels clumsy here and there, but for teens looking for a realistic plot about self discovery and life lessons, it's a respectable choice.

And yes, it is a less funny Groundhog's Day in YA novel form.

Because I mentioned it above: 

Aug 18, 2013

Poker Face

I'm still working on my quest to become a real live (read: full-time) librarian.  In the meantime, I've been reading everything I can get my hands on, forcing myself to stop reading the books I'm not enjoying, adding more and more to my list of books to read one day when time stands still and I can finally finish the list, and working as a temporary teen librarian! Woot!

Working in a public library has been a vastly different experience than the school libraries that I'm accustomed to.  For starters, teens are far more willing to tell you that they love 50 Shades of Grey in a public library than they are in a school setting.  And for that, I am grateful.  Why? Because it gives me a lot of practice using my non-judgmental poker face.

Scenario: Teen wants a book that's "a little dark, a little romancey...and I read 50 Shades already"

Me on the outside:

Me on the inside:

Scenario: Teen is trying to figure out how many books she should check out for her vacation. She decides on 4 because she's "a fast reader because [she] was able to read the entire 50 Shades series in 3 weeks."

Me on the outside:

Me on the inside: 

But real talk. I love when teens check out the books that they want to read, even if I'm not a personal fan of those titles. I also love that they have no shame (and they shouldn't) about what they've read and that they want to share what they've read with me. It's awesome.

Aug 1, 2013

Library Books With More Than Stories

My favorite website/list-generator Buzzfeed just posted a list called "15 Curious Things Found in Library Books."

It's pretty great.  It's true that you never know what's going to fall out of a library book (though the cash one still hasn't happened to me...).  But none of the 15 items hold a candle to what happened to me on my third day of working as a school library assistant.

Two 5th-grade students asked for permission to go to the high school library to check out a book of poetry. They came back, Emily Dickinson book in hand, with completely red faces.  They said they saw something they shouldn't have and I noticed a piece of paper sticking out of the book.  I opened up to it and lo and behold, it's an ad for male enhancement complete with visuals! Genitals everywhere.  EVERYWHERE.  My first thought was "THIS WASN'T COVERED IN TRAINING!"

They were fine and just wanted the book, but yeah I wasn't prepared for that one. Have you ever found something completely unexpected in a library book?